Of all the breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Chihuahua is the tiniest, but these little dogs come with a full-sized personality. They make ideal apartment dogs and easily fit into busy lifestyles. Before you choose to adopt a Chihuahua, be sure you are willing to make a lifetime commitment to a loyal little dog who may live nearly 20 years.
Decide whether you want a mixed breed or purebred Chihuahua. Unless you are planning to show the dog, a mixed-breed dog makes a fine pet, and often has fewer genetic diseases and problems than a purebred dog. The initial cost of a mixed-breed Chihuahua is usually less than that of a purebred dog, but the cost of purchasing any dog is small compared with what you will spend on him over his lifetime. If you have your heart set on a tiny lapdog, it's best to choose a purebred Chihuahua, because it is hard to predict the ultimate size of a mixed-breed Chihuahua.
Decide whether you want a long- or short-haired Chihuahua. Long-haired Chihuahuas need more frequent brushing and they need their hindquarters and the hair between their pads trimmed monthly. Chihuahuas shed a lot of hair continuously, and long-haired dogs have a lot more hair to shed.
Decide whether you want a male or female Chihuahua. If you already have a dog at home, a new dog of the opposite sex is easier to introduce to your pet, and they will get along better in the long run. Males may have more socially unacceptable habits than females, such as humping and marking territory, although neutering helps to alleviate such issues. Females go through estrus at least twice a year unless they are spayed.
Decide whether you want an adult or a puppy. Adult dogs don't need as much attention and probably already are housebroken. Contrary to what many people believe, older dogs form strong bonds with their new owners.
Consider adopting a Chihuahua from an animal shelter or a Chihuahua breed rescue. When you adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue organization, you can be sure that your money goes toward caring for homeless dogs and does not support puppy mills. Visit local shelters, and if you don't find a dog on your first visit, ask them to call you when they have a Chihuahua available. They may also help you locate a Chihuahua breed rescue in your area. Many dogs in the care of breed rescues live in foster homes, so it's best to call ahead and make an appointment to visit with a dog.
Observe a Chihuahua in the presence of other dogs, if possible. The breed is naturally feisty and outgoing. Dogs that are shy and cowering may not overcome this problem even in the most loving home, but such a dog may make a good pet for someone who wants a quiet lap dog. People with active lifestyles and families with children should choose a dog that eagerly comes forward to greet you the first time you meet her. Avoid aggressive dogs and those that try to bite when you reach out to them.
Look for an active dog with big, bright eyes and a shiny coat. These are indications that the dog is in good health.
Ask about the dog's medical history. Responsible pet owners, as well as reputable shelters and rescues, keep all shots up to date and have their dogs checked by a veterinarian and wormed.
Purchasing a Purebred Chihuahua
Ask to see the dog's paperwork, including documentation of shots and medical history. If this dog is a purebred, make sure the owner has the paperwork to transfer ownership and register the dog.
Become familiar with the AKC breed standard for Chihuahuas. The standards evolve over time, but you can always find the current standard on the AKC website. These characteristics aren't always apparent in puppies. If you are purchasing a puppy, ask to see the parents.
Ask to see the dog's pedigree. A pedigree is the dog's family tree. Although it isn't a guarantee of a show-quality dog, the pedigree will show you the successful show dogs in his family history. Even if you are not buying a puppy to show, the pedigree is an important key to tracing genetic health information for the litter.
Look for characteristics that will disqualify a Chihuahua from shows. These include dogs over 6 pounds, cropped ears or ears that don't stand in an upright position, cropped tails or tails that don't either stand upright or curl back over the body, and thin coats in long-haired Chihuahuas.
Don't choose the first dog you see. Take your time, visit with several dogs and compare their merits.
When examining a puppy's health record, be aware that Chihuahuas are often older than other breeds when they are spayed or neutered because of the dangers of anesthesia in very small dogs.
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