So You Want a Chihuahua

What I have to say here

Here, I tell our experiences in getting our Chihuahuas.  Then, I have a few paragraphs on what we learned as a result of these experiences.  Finally, I have our recommendations -- go through your local Chihuahua Club of America or American Kennel Club to find reputable breeders or rescue referral sources.  You can get to these on our links page.

Where did we get our Chihuahuas?

My first Chihuahua, Enchilada, was basically left on my doorstep, a few weeks old, with no shots and lots of worms.  Her head configuration shows that she likely was casually bred.  The story I heard was that her mother was owned by someone in a mobile home and had been run over.  If true, her two litter mates almost certainly died because she was in very poor health when a veterinarian examined her the next day.  If you come into a dog this way you just do the best you can.

I was very, very lucky with Enchilada.  She had an exceptional temperament, and would approach new people with a shy wag of the tail and big smiling eyes.  Every time, she would cozy up to very small children and wag her tail, and they would invariably chase her, shouting "poopee... poopee..." over and over, but she would do it again next time.  She was never turned down by a landlord or a hotel, no matter what the policy, if I had her along when I asked.  She was always very special to boarding kennels and veterinarians.  She made a new friend with every encounter.  When I would travel on business, the kennel would greet Enchilada enthusiastically, by name, then ask me my name.  She was used for pet therapy with developmentally disabled and dual diagnosed -- developmentally disabled and mentally ill -- populations.

My mother got Princess, the white and tan longhair that you see in the pictures section, from a breeder through an ad in the paper.  Princess also was friendly to new people.  Her configuration is fair to good but her coat doesn't meet either standard.  After she came to us at age 8, Princess also did her part in pet therapy.

Taco was a pet store dog.  He was deep in relocation stress when we got him and might have died if he had not been adopted.  The particular store that had him was staffed by people who would take dogs like that home if they started to go downhill, as Taco was doing, but we got him first.  His configuration was close to the standard, except that he had a large chest and a more pronounced tuck, and his pedigree showed that he had several Champions in the previous few generations.  Again, we were lucky with Taco, as he turned out to be extremely intelligent and had a nurturing urge that was marvelous to behold

We got Demitasse from a "breeder."  Se was sold to us as a "teacup" but turned out to be very, very large for a Chihuahua.  Her configuration shows other significant deviation from the standard.  Again, we were lucky with Demi.  She has a gentleness and wisdom that is difficult to believe.  When she was two and a half, I saw a pre-toddler in a walker give her a cracker -- and Demi gave it back.  The baby and the dog gave that cracker back and forth several times before Demi finally ate it.  When Papillon misbehaves, Demi gets a Jack Benny pained expression -- see our pictures.

Mocha and Manon, the two chocolate Chihuahuas you see on this site, were litter mates that we bought from a breeder.  Manon is probably show quality, but Mocha's ears never came up.  They have a fine pedigree and conform to the Chihuahua configuration, except for Mocha's lop ears.  They both have fine dispositions and are treasures.

Papillon was a pet store dog that we got from the original owners at the age of 7 months.  He has a fine pedigree and is a delight.  He loves new people and will want to play with anyone he sees.  He plays constantly, and will entertain himself when he wears down us and the other Chihuahuas.  Demi plays with him almost constantly, but at the age of nine, Demi must rest occasionally.  He has a fine pedigree and conforms to the standard.  He is our smallest Chihuahua at four pounds.  His unending energy is his trademark.

BeauGeste was sold to us by a breeder as a pet.  This particular breeder is primarily a developer of a set of Chihuahua bloodlines and breed primarily for disposition and intelligence first, then for configuration.  BeauGeste was a bit expensive -- his middle name is Krugerrand -- but he is well worth every penny.  His intelligence, charm, and gentleness were in full bloom when we took him home at two months.  Everyone falls in love with BeauGeste at first sight.

What did we learn?

Things that are innate in a dog when he is born include size, configuration, color, coat, and general disposition.  The disposition, including friendliness with strangers and obedience, are very strongly affected by how you raise your Chihuahua.  Chihuahuas and other dogs are very sensitive and perceptive and they will reflect your personality to a depth that goes beyond your self perception as you raise them.

Pet store dogs can have disposition problems.  Love and patience can overcome them.  A pedigree with champions two generations back is no guarantee that a Chihuahua puppy will be gentle and welcome strangers.

A young puppy from a casual breeder or a puppy mill is a total shot in the dark for configuration and disposition.  You can get the best dog in the world that way, or you can get a personality that requires a lot of investment of your time and love or even professional help to make a good citizen and totally positive member of the household.  Good configuration is very rare from casually bred dogs of any breed, and disposition is unpredictable until the dog is several months of age.  Your odds of getting both a good configuration and an excellent disposition in one dog from a casual breeder or puppy mill are, simply put, zero.

A dog from a serious breeder will almost certainly have good configuration and a sweet disposition.  Breeders sell off their puppies that are not show quality as pets.  Any little thing that will mean nothing to you will make a puppy a pet quality dog -- slightly small ears, tiny body proportion differences, a tail that is too long or too short or too thick or curves too little or too much, a coat that is too long for smooth coat and too short for long coat, etc.  The most common "defect" is oversize -- the AKC standard disqualifies a Chihuahua if it weighs over 6 pounds.  These are your best bets for a fine pet with little to do except love it and take good care of it.  But, how do you tell which breeders are committed to fine dogs and which breeders are basically doing it for the money?

A word about moleras

None of our dogs have moleras, or fontanels -- soft spots in the skull at the top of the head -- as adults.  All puppies of any breed  have moleras until they are several months old.  A molera in the adult is common in any toy breed and doesn't indicate a problem with the dog.  A molera in the adult is within the Chihuahua AKC standard.  Moleras are often believed to be common or universal in Chihuahuas.  But, my observation is that, in recent years, moleras in adult Chihuahuas are rare.  However, don't turn a dog down if one or both of his parents have a molera, because a breeder will breed dogs with moleras only if they have strong desirable characteristics such as intelligence, character, or superior configuration.  If you are that rare person that wants to work your Chihuahua or give him agility training -- they can show personality traits similar to those of hounds, terriers or shepherds and are very easily trained -- then perhaps you should make sure that it's parent's don't have moleras.

What are the most obvious signs of a good breeder and a casual breeder?

What we say here is simply common sense.  As with any generalizations, there will be exceptions that prove the rule, and any resemblance to any person or persons is unintended and coincidental -- and is no indication of any particular individual being a bad -- or good -- breeder to buy a puppy from.  Also, you can get fine puppies from a casual breeder or puppy farm, and you can get real problems from a fine breeder, because that's just the way offspring are.

First, caveat emptor -- you can't tell much by asking.  But, as Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot just by watching."  All breeders love their dogs, but what you are looking for is total knowledgeable commitment to quality dogs as well as love of the dogs and the breed.  Here are a few of the simpler signs:

An ad in the paper without AKC papers is a dead ringer for... who knows what.  I know of one case where someone did that, and the tiny little puppy grew up to become a yellow Lab.  It happens all the time.

A good Chihuahua breeder with have only toy or miniature breeds.  If a breeder has more than one type of dog that is a bizarre or incompatible combination, such as Chihuahuas and Rottweilers, then they are likely raising dogs that sell well with no knowledgeable commitment to configuration and disposition.

A good breeder will have champions, and will have sold dogs to others that are champions.  You might ask to see the champion dogs, and their AKC credentials as such.  A casual breeder will not.  You can tell from looking at several puppy pedigrees -- if there are no champion parents or grandparents in a puppy, the last two or three generations were likely casually bred to sell the puppies.

A word about arrogant breeders -- all breeders are proud of their dogs and love them.  Some are precipitous and overbearing to the point of being controlling and are difficult to deal with when you want to control your relationship with them and the transaction of selecting and buying a puppy.  Some good breeders are difficult and can be overbearing, and some of them don't appreciate that if Jonas Salk, Linus Pauling or Mother Theresa wanted to buy a puppy, they would deserve respect, courtesy, and patience.  This doesn't mean that they are a bad breeder, but the fact that it makes it harder to tell is a red flag.  You should watch for affecting an overbearing manner as a cover for other warning signs.

If the breeder is in a household where the sale of puppies seems to be a source of income or support, then they probably are.  A serious breeder can't make money because it just costs more to raise, take care, train, and show fine dogs as a breeder than puppy sales can ever offset.  Breeding fine dogs of any breed is a labor of love, and is a major career commitment.  The return on investment is the dogs, and the nature of the situation is that you can't make money that way.  They charge for puppies for two reasons -- to help offset the costs of breeding, raising, and showing Chihuahuas, and because they want the puppies' new owners to take them very, very seriously.

Puppy If the breeder doesn't have the pedigree handy or can't find it, or won't weigh the dog, or otherwise is evasive about simple matters of information about a puppy, they aren't a serious breeder.  A serious breeder will know the names and AKC credentials of the first two generations of every puppy and possibly much, much more.  They will proudly provide you with the written pedigree and medical information, often without asking, and will want you to stay in touch after you take the dog.  Don't buy a dog without seeing the pedigree or if simple questions, such as the dog's weight, get you evasions instead of answers.

Last, check the registration agency.  Yes, a dog can be registered without an AKC registration.  There are agencies that will register dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, and other pets, even lizards and snakes.  Some reputable sounding agencies are available on the WWW that offer "hassle free" registration of your pet, and will recognize the breed of your pet, and will register your pet for a few dollars online.  I was thinking of registering my leather Davenport, or perhaps the funny looking kid across the street, just to have the satisfaction of a gilt edged certificate on the wall.  Remember, if you don't get an AKC registration for your pet, it isn't an AKC registered dog.  If someone doesn't have AKC papers, that very likely means that the dogs aren't really purebred.  Sure, some purebreds aren't AKC registered, but it's simple and inexpensive to keep AKC papers on your bloodline, even if you choose to join another club and register your dogs there.  If the AKC won't certify a bloodline as purebred, it almost certainly isn't, no matter how imaginative the breeder's story is.  Some breeders have two bloodlines -- one bloodline of good configuration and another for puppies for sale -- and the "pet" line is selected for larger mothers and more puppies per litter (Chihuahuas have only two or three to a litter) to lower costs per puppy.  This is actually quite common.  Watch for it -- it's a sure sign of a bad breeder.  One or both bloodlines may have another breed in the mix such as Italian greyhound or whippet to increase the number of puppies per litter and decrease whelping costs.

The puppy in the illustration above is obviously a fine animal and will make someone an outstanding pet, possibly the pet of a lifetime.  But, it is a Chihuahua?  This may not be important, and once integrated into your family life it certainly won't matter much.  But, if you expect a new arrival to fit in with other Chihuahuas or have traits that you have come to expect in other Chihuahuas, then it is important.  The best time to deal with that is before you take the dog home, not after.

Where to get a Chihuahua?

The Chihuahua Club of America (CCA) and the AKC have rescue referral agencies that they recommend.  There are other excellent rescue referral agencies on the WWW.  The Chihuahua Club of America and AKC can also provide you with lists of breeders that they recommend in your area.

We recently did a national search for a puppy and turned up one in an animal shelter a short distance from the house.  You might try the obvious first.

If you want a new puppy and you want to see the parents, or you want a really fine configuration, your only alternative is a good breeder.  You can get recommendations from the AKC or the CCA.

Links to the Chihuahua Club of America and the AKC, and to rescue referral agencies are on our links page:
Chihuahua Links

This page last updated  July 21, 2002.