Chihuahua in profile: Characteristics, temperament, and training

As tiny as the average chihuahua is, it makes up for it in the realms of personality and exuberance. While that doesn't always make them the best pet, it certainly puts them in the running for the most amusing.

Some chihuahuas are almost regal, others are more scraggly.
Some chihuahuas are almost regal, others are more scraggly.  © Unsplash/Herbert Goetsch

There are few dogs more wacky and wonderful than your average chihuahua, but most adopters know frighteningly little about their wonderful new pooch.

You see, the chihuahua has an interesting backstory, and while their characteristics are far from ideal, it's important to understand why they are the way they are.

TAG24's dog guide is here to tell you everything you need to know about this famous dog breed.

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What are the characteristics of the chihuahua, what are their origins, and how do their personalities stack up against other pooches?

What are chihuahuas?

For the uninitiated, chihuahuas are small, pocket-sized toy dogs that have become incredibly popular across the US and the world.

Often quite fluffy and friendly, chihuahuas have become synonymous with the small dog stereotype which implies (often quite truthfully) that the smaller a canine, the louder its voice. This stereotype is somewhat unfair – chihuahuas are some of the most loving, safe, and people-friendly fluffy fellows around – and while they can be quite loud, that is by no means a reason to be anti-chihuahua.

Before we continue with our detailed breakdown of chihuahua kind, it's also worth noting that these little fellows are often used in dog shows and competitions. They are often quite regal, and easily groomed, and will be more than happy to wear funny outfits and learn amusing tricks for their audience.

There are few criticisms that can be sent in the direction of your average chihuahua, unless loudness is an absolute deal-breaker. These beautiful dogs are loyal companions, great around kids, and absolutely adorable.

Where do chihuahuas come from?

Chihuahuas are named after their place of origin, the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It is theorized that they evolved originally from native American dogs that had come to North America via the Bering land bridge between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago. While not the same dogs, genetic sequencing of the modern day Chihuahua show that they still have a small amount of that ancient DNA.

This would have been around the same time that the first humans took that same road from northeast Siberia to western Alaska and began the "peopling" of the Americas. Of course, it took a while for both to go as far south as Mexico and, as a result, it is likely that the dogs would have been very different by the point that humans made contact.

It wasn't until colonial times that records first emerge of the chihuahua. Originally, they were described as tiny and near-hairless doggos. In 1520, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés wrote about what would eventually become known as the chihuahua, and described that the indigenous Aztec people would sell them as food in their marketplaces.

As a result, the history and origin of the chihuahua is like the history and origin of anything - long and complex. They were officially registered as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1904, though, and are considered primarily to be a Mexican breed.

How to spell chihuahua

It's spelled "chihuahua" in English, but seeing as the breed of dog is actually Mexican, its proper name is the "chihuahueño" in Spanish. They are particularly popular in the Americas so it's good to know both the English and the Spanish name for these tiny little doggos.

Chihuahuas are quite interesting dogs, but can get pretty loud.
Chihuahuas are quite interesting dogs, but can get pretty loud.  © Unsplash/Ramin Talebi

Chihuahua characteristics

The chihuahua is one of, if not the smallest dog breed in the world. Classified as "toy dogs" they generally sit very close to the ground, don't have a very long body, and have teeny-tiny features that are so cute that they'll scratch your heart out. It's this smallness that makes the chihuahua quite an attractive pet – they are outstandingly convenient animals, and easily transported!

Here are the average physical characteristics of a chihuahua:

  • Height: 7–8 inches
  • Length: 10–15 inches
  • Weight: 4–5 pounds
  • Colors: Versatile
  • Coat type: Short single-coat, hairless

Chihuahuas are also susceptible to a predisposition to neurological diseases and a heightened risk of congenital deafness and heart disease.

How long does a chihuahua live?

The average chihuahua is expected to live for around 12–15 years, making it one of the longest living dog breeds in the world. In fact, for a very long time the oldest dog ever recorded was a Chihuahua named pebbles who lived to be 22 years of age before she passed away back in 2022.

In general, smaller and lighter dogs will live longer than bigger dogs. The strain put on bigger dogs' organs are likely to blame for their shorter lifespans, with smaller doggos having less pressure put on things like their heart. This is part of the reason why the chihuahua stands out in terms of life expectancy.

How fast can a chihuahua run?

Another impressive fact about the chihuahua is that it is considered one of the fastest dog breeds in the world, and is capable of running up to 15 miles per hour. This is an average, mind-you, with some particularly well-trained chihuahuas capable of up to 30 miles per hour at a pinch. It goes without saying that this is insanely fast, and much speedier than your average human.

Chihuahua personality, temperament, and behavior

Don't worry, not every chihuahua looks this sauced.
Don't worry, not every chihuahua looks this sauced.  © Unsplash/Danil Shostak

Your average chihuahua is a lively and friendly fellow, exceptionally affectionate, very playful, protective, and loud. They are some of the loudest barking dogs in the world, and like to make themselves known. Annoyingly, this is doubled with an extreme need for mental stimulation – if these dogs aren't exercised, they get naughtier than a salt and vinegar chip sandwich.

What's important to know is that the chihuahua is not open to strangers and is rather bad with children. In fact, the American Kennel Club gave them a 2/5 and a 1/5 star rating for each of those attributes respectively. They are alright with other dogs, though, but not exceptional.

You should be aware of the risks before adopting a chihuahua. They are not easy to look after, being a very demanding and vocal breed that requires a lot of care and an insane amount of training if you want them to be well-behaved and personable with your friends and family.

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Many believe chihuahuas to be less than ideal when it comes to the personality department. While there are elements of truth to the complaints, with a bit of work they can become excellent and loving pets that are well worth the hassle.

Why are chihuahuas so mean?

Like any dog, chihuahuas will behave badly if they are suffering from health issues or fear - what's more likely, though, is poor socialization. It is widely acknowledged that because chihuahuas are so small and non-threatening, many owners neglect to have them properly trained and disciplined.

As a result, this poor socialization leads to an increase in fear and insecurity that then translates into bad behavior. Such dogs often become more aggressive, will bark loudly and continuously, will constantly ask for food, and will make messes everywhere they go. It's a deadly combination, because an untrained chihuahua will be lively and completely without discipline.

It's a shame that this is such a norm, as it results in chihuahuas having a very bad reputation. Get your dogs trained, people, it's an absolute must even for small doggos!

Chihuahuas often suffer from severe existential dread - make sure to never let them read Sartre.
Chihuahuas often suffer from severe existential dread - make sure to never let them read Sartre.  © Unsplash/Mélanie THESE

How much is a chihuahua?

Chihuahuas generally go for between $1000-1500 when bought from a reputable breeder, but can also be adopted for less. They are some of the most popular dogs in the US, so it's unlikely that they'll go for particularly high prices if you look hard enough. You can also commonly find them available for adoption at pounds or animal shelters.

As a result, we'd recommend checking your local animal shelters first. Unless you want a really carefully bred doggo (for example, if you're going to be presenting it at competitions), there's no need to get one specifically from a breeder – pet shops (if there are no rescue dogs available) will be significantly cheaper.

Chihuahuas are some of the most beloved doggos

While not everyone's cup of tea, the chihuahua is certainly one of the world's most beloved and well respected doggos. Whether they deserve such an avid following is something we couldn't possibly speculate on, but what we can say is that many of the reasons behind people's love of these little dudes are well-founded, sensible, and reasonable.

Chihuahuas are strange animals. They can be loving, they can be cold, they can be loud, they can be calm, it all comes down to the dog in question. Keep this in mind when looking to adopt, and make sure you've got to know the pup before you take it home.

Cover photo: Unsplash/Herbert Goetsch

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