Tiny Chihuahuas don't hunt or herd, and -- while they're decent watchdogs for their size -- they aren't much in the protection department. They're often one-person dogs, fiercely devoted to that individual. While the type of environment Chihuahuas live in depends on the individual dog, the best environment for this toy pooch is beside his doting owner.
Chihuahuas originated in Mexico, but might have arrived in Europe on the ships of Christopher Columbus himself. Chihuahuas descend from the ancient Techichi, companion dogs of the Toltec civilization. These dogs were larger than modern Chihuahuas. It's theorized that another small breed -- the Chinese crested, arriving from Asia -- was used to reduce the size of Chihuahua ancestors. Chinese cresteds would have been brought by explorers across the Bering Strait, who then trekked thousands of miles to Mexico. The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed recognized by the American Kennel Club, and also of the AKC's earlier registrations, dating from 1904.
Chihuahuas are definitely indoor dogs. That's true whether your Chi is a short- or long-haired variety. In cold weather, short-haired Chis require a coat or sweater when going for a walk, and it's probably a good idea for long-haired Chis as well. Chihuahuas are notoriously hard to housebreak. With patience, it can be done, but your Chi might never be 100 percent dependable in that area. For that reason, it's best not to let your Chi have the run of the house when you're not there to supervise him. He might decide an out-of-the-way place is perfect for doing his business, especially if the weather's cold or wet.
Kids and Other Pets
A home with young children usually isn't the best environment for a Chi. Because these dogs are so small and fragile, a young child can easily hurt a Chi. A little dog might respond to a child's attempts to pick him up or pet him with fear biting. Chihuahuas can do well with older kids, who know how to properly handle a little dog. While Chis usually get along with felines, other dogs might pose a problem, especially if they are significantly larger. Even if the dogs get along, a bigger animal can easily hurt a Chi while playing. Because they're feisty, a Chi might challenge a larger canine -- with unfortunate results.
Protecting Your Chihuahua
It's your responsibility to protect your little pal. These delicate dogs get hurt easily. Use a harness rather than a collar when walking him, to protect his windpipe if he should start straining. Don't permit your pet to jump from furniture. If he's going to share your bed, easy chair or sofa, install little ramps allowing him access. Frequently going up and down stairs takes a toll on tiny joints over time. Carry him up and down stairs as often as possible.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.