The Smallest Dog in the World
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN MEXICO
ARE you looking for a companion that is an extrovert yet is content to lie quietly in your lap or by your side while you read? A companion that eats little, requires little space, and doesn’t need to be taken out every day for exercise? Then you may enjoy having a Chihuahua, the smallest recognized breed of dog in the world.*
Chihuahuas are good watchdogs, as they will sound the alarm. In fact, Chihuahuas are courageous. They aren’t intimidated in the least by larger dogs.
The Chihuahua is characterized by a well-rounded head, wide-set luminous eyes, a saucy expression, and erect ears, which flare to the sides when in repose. They have short soft hair or long silky hair, and some may be red, blond, blue, or chocolate-colored as well as solid, marked, or splashed. A unique feature of most Chihuahua puppies is the soft spot on the crown, similar to that of a newborn baby.
Origin of the Chihuahua
While there are different theories regarding the origin of the Chihuahua as a breed, it appears to have descended from a small dog called the Techichi. These were kept by the Toltec people of Mexico in the ninth century C.E. Evidence for this origin is provided by a monastery in Huejotzingo that was built by Franciscan monks with stones taken from the pyramids of Cholula. The stones have ancient carvings on them that closely resemble today’s Chihuahua.
Later, the Aztecs defeated the Toltec, and the aristocracy adopted these small dogs, particularly the blue ones, as objects of veneration. The dogs could reputedly guide the spirits of the dead in their journey through the underworld. Montezuma II, the last emperor of the Aztecs, was a fancier of the Chihuahua. It is said that he had hundreds of them, each with its keeper. Skeletons of Chihuahuas have been found in human graves on the Mexico/U.S. border.
Research done by the late Thelma Gray, a historian and an authority on Chihuahuas, led her to believe that the native dog of the Aztecs was crossed with a small terrier-type dog brought over by the Spanish conquistadores. Thus, the basis was laid for the even smaller modern-day Chihuahua. It is called the Chihuahua because in the mid-1800’s, American travelers to Mexico discovered the breed in the state of Chihuahua and took some of these dogs back to the United States. About the same time, Carlotta, wife of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, contributed to the Chihuahua’s international fame by taking the breed to Europe.
Having a Pet Chihuahua
Chihuahuas are indoor dogs, ideal for apartment living and for the elderly or handicapped or those confined to the home. They thrive on much attention and human contact. Nevertheless, since they are so small, precautions must be taken. They can be seriously injured or killed by being accidentally stepped on, sat on, or squeezed too hard. They should not be left unattended on high surfaces, such as beds and sofas, as they have no sense of height and could easily jump off and break a bone. For these reasons Chihuahuas are not recommended as pets for very young children.
Yet, the Chihuahua is hardier than you might think. In fact, it is one of the longest-lived breeds, living well into its teens. This dog is energetic and playful, yet it can get all the exercise it needs from daily romps with its toys. However, since it burns calories faster than the larger breeds and has a tiny digestive system, the Chihuahua is prone to hypoglycemia. Therefore, it needs small, frequent meals and plenty of rest. Shivering is a normal characteristic of this breed. In fact, a Chihuahua shivers when excited, apprehensive, discontented, or frightened—not just when it is cold.
The Chihuahua is loyal, eager to please, and highly trainable. According to the book A New Owner’s Guide to Chihuahuas, “if you are willing to make the necessary commitment that a Chihuahua requires, there are few breeds that are any more versatile, amiable, and adaptable.” Many people have found the diminutive Chihuahua to be an excellent companion.
The Chihuahua is the only “natural” toy breed, that is, the only small dog not bred down from larger versions of the same breed.
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A kitten and a Chihuahua puppy
© Tim Davis/CORBIS
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An adult Chihuahua