Certain breeds have a certain reputation about them, and some are less flattering than others. When it comes to the Chihuahua, the image most people still have is one of a spoiled little pup carried around in a purse. It’s not hard to see why; back in the ’00s especially, the Chihuahua was a favorite among rich, young socialites. But with the Chihuahua’s long history and particular temperament, there is so much more to this dog than meets the eye.

Small but mighty

The prevailing theory is that the Chihuahua hails from what today is Mexico. As far back as 1000 years ago, a larger ancestor of theirs was highly praised by the Toltecs. This dog was known as the Techichi. The Aztecs conquered the Toltecs in the 12th century, and they were likely the ones who refined the dog into a smaller, lighter breed. By the time the Spanish came along and toppled the Aztec civilization in the 1500s, the Techichi was an integral part of Aztec culture. It was considered one of Montezuma’s fabled treasures.

The little dog lived on in remote villages. When Americans became interested in the breed in the 1850s, they were mostly found in the State of Chihuahua, and the breed was recognized by the AKC in 1908. This little dog, a survivor of two lost civilizations, suddenly became popular overnight. Its long-haired varieties most likely came to be through crossbreeding with breeds like the Papillon and the Pomeranian.

Size and appearance of the Chihuahua

The Chihuahua is famous for being the world’s smallest dog breed. At a height of only 5-8 inches, this little dog isn’t exactly intimidating, and the round head and large eyes make it even more adorable. The two types of Chihuahua coat are smooth and long, but the colors and markings come in many varieties. You’ll find them in solid colors such as black, fawn, white, chocolate, silver, and gray. Then there’s tricolor (chocolate, black, or blue with tan and white, for instance), as well as merle, brindled, spotted, other markings. There are a lot of versions, basically. In terms of grooming, the Chihuahua is rather low-maintenance, requiring only weekly brushing or combing. Keep an eye out for ear issues and tear stains, as well as too-long nails and poor dental health.

It’s hard to resist the adorable look of a Chihuahua, but remember that this tiny dog comes with a big personality.

Temperament and personality

Despite its renown as a purse dog, the Chihuahua is not a natural doormat. They have a big personality, and demand to be challenged and entertained at all times. Don’t expect them to just go along with whatever you want without question. That said, they do like spending a lot of time with their human. In other words, they won’t mind joining you on errands and adventures, however big or small. On top of that, the Chihuahua tends to bond closely to one person. You need to be careful to make sure they’re not overindulged ― they can get pretty demanding, if they are.

The Chihuahua is an intelligent dog, fun-loving and affectionate, and they take well to obedience and agility training. Positive reinforcement is the best approach, as they don’t respond well to harsh words and reprimands. Given their curious and active nature, this pup’s small size needs to be taken into consideration, as well; they can explore and squeeze into places most other dogs can’t. Make sure to keep an eye on your Chi, so they don’t get into trouble.

Things to consider

Aside from being the smallest breed in the world, the Chihuahua is also considered one of the healthiest and longest-living. A Chihuahua can easily live well into their teens, and it’s not uncommon to meet one past 14 years old. A big thing to remember, however, is that this dog does not do well in homes with small children, mostly due to its size. It’s easy for a clumsy child to inadvertently hurt such a small animal, so this pup is definitely not one for roughhousing with kids. If you don’t have that issue, though, and you’re prepared to provide the attention and dedication to keep this little Napoleon happy, the Chihuahua might just be the dog for you.