UPDATED! Chihuahua: Breed of the Week

Are Chihuahuas Good City Dogs?

Judging from their presence in pop culture, you’d think Chihuahuas are the most popular dogs in America. From Paris Hilton to Beverly Hills Chihuahua to Taco Bell to Ren and Stimpy, these dogs are everywhere! (Actually, I was surprised to find out they come in 28th on the AKC’s list of the most popular dogs.)

Chihuahuas
Chihuahuas

Named after the city Chihuahua in Mexico, this is a very old breed. There are two theories on the beginnings of the Chihuahua. One is that it’s thought to be a descendant of the ancient South American Techichi dog. The second theory is that small hairless dogs from China were brought to Mexico by Spanish traders and then bred with native dogs.

Chihuahua
Chihuahua (Photo: Richard Phibbs)

Whatever their origin story is, according to the AKC, the Chihuahua dates back to the 9th century. There’s evidence of dogs resembling the Chihuahua found in materials from the Pyramids of Cholula, predating 1530 and in the ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. A very old breed.

Chihuahua (Photo: Ricahrd Phibbs)

Chihuahuas are tenacious, loveable, and loyal. They can be extremely protective of their owners and have been known to bite and attack when they feel their owners are threatened. They have very big personalities and do not know they’re so diminutive. This little guy has been known to attack dogs many times its size.

We always stress socializing your puppy but in the case of the Chihuahua it’s even more important. If not properly socialized, you could end up with a five pound terror! My best friend Robert has a Chihuahua named Paco. Paco, always having grown up around several dogs and many people is quite a social dog. But when a stranger approaches the house, he is first to sound the alarm! Chihuahuas, despite their tiny size make great watchdogs.

Paco the Chihuahua
Paco the Chihuahua

Chihuahuas come in a variety of colors and color combinations. They tend to weigh from 2-6 pounds with some being a bit larger, and are from six to nine inches tall. These little guys are also known for being big eaters. You should definitely monitor your Chihuahua’s food intake as an extra pound on a five pound is noticeable and can be unhealthy.

Do Chihuahuas Bark?

Because of their size and their role as good companions, Chihuahuas might be a good Urban Dog for you. But remember, just because they are small dogs, doesn’t mean they don’t require exercise. All the rules for training and exercising large dogs apply to small dogs. We tend to overlook bad behavior in small dogs that would not be tolerated in a larger dog. Also, keep in mind, that because of its small size, families with small children should be careful when considering a Chihuahua as a family pet, as it can be easily injured if not handled carefully.

It is important to train your city dog. You don’t want your pooch to misbehave in your building’s common areas. Chihuahuas are not that easy to train. They score only “Fair” when it comes to understanding new commands. They obey first commands about 30% of the time according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes 40 to 80 repetitions for them to learn new commands.

Chihuahuas are also pretty yappy! Your neighbors may take exception to that. UC Davis researchers Benjamin and Lynette Hart devised a chart ranking dogs by the likelihood of barking at inappropriate times. On a scale of one to ten — with one being the least offensive barkers and ten the most excessive barkers — they get a nine rating. Click here for more on Urban Dog’s take on barking.

Click here to visit the American Kennel Club’s page on the breed. And here’s a link to the Chihuahua Club of America. They can make great Urban Dogs, just make sure you keep them active and engaged.

Please note that the pictures taken by Richard Phibbs are of dogs who are up for adoption. Richard is a fashion photographer who takes pictures of rescue dogs on behalf of the Humane Society of New York. We’ll be doing a story on Richard soon. In the meantime, click here for the Humane Society and here for Richard’s website.

For tips on how to find a pet-friendly apartment in New York and other cities read Urban Dog’s guide.

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