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Chihuahua

Meet the world's smallest dog.

Chihuahua Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Companion Dogs
Height
Weight
Life Span
10 to 18 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


Summary

The Chihuahua dog breed's charms include his small size, outsize personality, and variety in coat types and colors. He's all dog, fully capable of competing in dog sports such as agility and obedience, and is among the top 10 watchdogs recommended by experts. He loves nothing more than being with his people and requires a minimum of grooming and exercise.

Additional articles you will be interested in:

Adoption
Chihuahua Dog Names
More Dog Names
Bringing Home Your Dog
Help with Training Puppies
Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
Dog games
Teaching your dog tricks
How to take pictures of your dog

  • Overview

    The Chihuahua is a saucy little hot tamale and not just because of his association with a certain fast-food Mexican restaurant. He's renowned for being the world's smallest dog, but he may well have the world's biggest personality stashed inside that tiny body. That larger-than-life persona makes him appealing to men and women alike.

    Fun loving and busy, Chihuahuas like nothing better than to be close to their people. They follow them everywhere in the house and ride along in tote bags when their people run errands or go shopping. It's not unusual for Chihuahuas to form a close bond with a single person, and they can become very demanding if they're overindulged.

    Besides being affectionate housemates, Chihuahuas are intelligent and fast learners. They can compete in agility and obedience trials with just as much enthusiasm and success as larger dogs. That said, they're willful little dogs. You'll be most successful if you can persuade them that competing — or simply doing as you ask — is fun. Use positive reinforcement in the form of praise and food rewards when training your Chihuahua. He won't respond to harsh treatment.

    It's important when considering the Chihuahua to take into account his small size. Chihuahuas are curious and bold explorers. They've escaped from yards through small gaps in the fence and can squeeze into places that other puppies and dogs wouldn't be able to fit. And even though they tend to rule the roost, they can be accidentally injured by rambunctious larger dogs.

    Chihuahuas are not recommended for homes with children under the age of eight, simply because of the chance of injury by a young child. Regardless of your family situation, it's important to remember to socialize your Chihuahua to children, adults, and other animals. Chihuahuas are mistrustful of strangers, which makes them good watchdogs, but they need to learn to meet people in a friendly manner. It's also important to remember that Chihuahuas tend to forget they are small and will stand up to a larger aggressive dog; as a result the Chihuahua needs vigilant supervision in new situations, while they're on walks, and when they're in the yard.

    The Chihuahua's personality and unique size make him a wonderful go-everywhere companion. People who live with Chihuahuas become devoted to them, and many say that once you share your life with one, there will be no other dog breed for you.

  • Highlights

    • Choose a Chihuahua breeder who provides health clearances for patellas and heart conditions.
    • The Chihuahua is a long-lived breed; expect to care for him for up to 18 years.
    • Chihuahuas are prone to shivering when they are cold, excited, or scared. Provide your Chihuahua with a sweater or coat when he goes outdoors in cold or wet weather.
    • Chihuahuas can be unfriendly toward other dogs if they're not socialized when young. Chihuahuas don't back down from other dogs and this can cause a problem if they encounter a large aggressive dog.
    • Don't leave your Chihuahua unattended in the yard. He could be attacked by a hawk, other birds of prey, or larger dogs or coyotes.
    • Chihuahuas can be reserved with strangers. Choose a puppy that was whelped and raised in a home with a lot of human interaction.
    • Chihuahuas are not the best dog to have when you have young children. Chihuahuas are fragile and a toddler may hurt the dog while playing. Most breeders won't sell puppies to homes with children younger than eight years.
    • The Chihuahua's ears can be prone to ear wax build up and dry skin.
    • Chihuahuas are happy as companions, but they do need 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily and can go for much longer than you might expect. Monitor your Chihuahua, especially when he's a puppy, so that he doesn't wear himself out.
    • Chihuahuas have larger than life personalities and will run your life if you let them. They can be destructive when bored and can become finicky eaters if their diet is fussed over. Establish ground rules and stick with them or you'll find yourself giving up your comfortable chair because your beloved pet has told you to move.
    • To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.
  • History

    As with so many breeds, the Chihuahua's origins are unclear, but there are two theories of how he came to be. The first is that he descended from a Central or South American dog known as the Techichi.

    When we look at the evidence of the Chihuahua coming from Central and South America, we find ourselves looking back to the Toltec civilization. There are Toltec carvings dating to the 9th century C.E. that depict a dog resembling the Chihuahua, with the same large ears and round head. These dogs were called Techichi, and their purpose in Toltec civilization is obscure.

    When the Aztecs conquered the Toltecs, they absorbed the Techichi into their society. Many of the dogs lived in temples and were used in Aztec rituals. The Aztecs believed that the Techichi had mystic powers, including the ability to see the future, heal the sick, and safely guide the souls of the dead to the underworld. It was customary to kill a red Techichi and cremate him with the remains of the deceased. The Aztecs also used the Techichi as a source of food and pelts. The Spanish conquered the Aztecs in the late 1500s and the Techichi faded into obscurity.

    The second theory is that small hairless dogs from China were brought to Mexico by Spanish traders and then bred with small native dogs.

    Regardless of which theory is accurate, the shorthaired Chihuahua we know today was discovered in the 1850s in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, from which he took his name. American visitors to Mexico brought the little dogs home with them. They began to be shown in 1890, and a Chihuahua named Midget became the first of his breed to be registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904. The longhaired variety was probably created through crosses with Papillons or Pomeranians. The breed's popularity took off in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was associated with dance king and Latin music bandleader Xavier Cugat.

    Since the 1960s, the Chihuahua has been one of the most popular breeds registered by the AKC. Today they rank 11th among the 155 breeds and varieties the AKC recognizes.

  • Size

    The typical Chihuahua weighs 3 to 6 pounds. There are Chihuahuas that are smaller, but they tend not to be very healthy. Chihuahuas can also be oversize, with some reaching 12 or more pounds. These can be good choices for families with children.

  • Personality

    The bold and confident Chihuahua is often described as being terrier-like. His alert nature and suspicion of strangers make him an excellent watchdog. He's sensitive and thrives on affection and companionship.

    Chihuahuas often bond to a single person, although they're usually willing to make friends with new people if properly introduced. Expect them to be a little reserved at first, though. Chihuahuas can be timid if they're not properly socialized as puppies.

    Like every dog, Chihuahuas need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Chihuahua puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

  • Health

    The Chihuahua doesn't have any major health problems, but like all breeds he can be born with or acquire certain conditions. Not all Chihuahuas will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them so you can be informed when you interview breeders and can know what to look for throughout your Chihuahua's life.

    Buying from a responsible breeder will help ensure that you get the healthiest Chihuahua possible. A puppy from a reputable Chihuahua breeder will be vaccinated and dewormed before you take him home. Responsible breeders use only physically sound, mature (at least 2 years or older) dogs, and test their breeding stock for genetic diseases pertinent to the breed, such as luxating patellas (bum knees) and heart disease.

    Both parents should have health clearances, documentation that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Chihuahuas, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for patellas and heart disease. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).

    Health clearances are not issued to dogs younger than 2 years of age. That's because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity. For this reason, it's often recommended that dogs not be bred until they are two or three years old.

    The following conditions may affect Chihuahuas:

    • Patellar Luxation: Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts-the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf)-is not properly lined up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
    • Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a possible problem with all toy breed puppies. [Note: I have left this as toy breed here. There is a difference between toy size and small dogs-the difference, say, between Chihuahuas and yorkies and beagles and mini dachshunds.] Hypoglycemia is easily treatable in the early stages but can be fatal if not treated. It is important that breeders and owners of toy breed puppies recognize the signs and symptoms because this condition can sometimes be misdiagnosed as viral hepatitis or encephalitis by veterinarians. A puppy with hypoglycemia will slow down and become listless, followed by trembling or shivering. Place some honey under his tongue and get him to the vet immediately. If the situation is allowed to continue, he'll eventually collapse, go into convulsions, fall into a coma, and die. Any time your Chihuahua is limp, with grayish-blue gums and tongue, it's an emergency. Hypoglycemia occurs in toy puppies when they don't have the fat reserves to supply adequate glucose in times of stress or when they don't eat regularly.
    • Heart Murmurs: Heart murmurs are caused by adisturbance in the blood flow through the chambers of the heart. They're an indicator that there may be a disease or condition of the heart that will need to be monitored and treated. Heart murmurs are graded on their loudness, with one being very soft and five being very loud. If disease is evident, as diagnosed through x-rays and an echocardiogram, the dog may require medication, a special diet, and a reduction in the amount of exercise he gets.
    • Pulmonic Stenosis: This congenital heart disease occurs when blood doesn't flow properly through the heart because the pulmonic valve is malformed, causing an obstruction. This means the heart must work harder and can become enlarged, leading to heart failure. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease. In mild cases, there's little or no obstruction and no treatment is necessary. If the dog is severely affected by the disease, surgery is recommended, but the procedure differs depending on the location of the blockage.
    • Collapsed Trachea: It is not completely understood how this occurs, but the rapid inhalation of air causes the trachea to flatten and makes it difficult for air to enter the lungs, much like a soda straw being drawn on too vigorously. This condition may be inherited; it occurs in certain breeds, and dogs with it show an abnormality in the chemical makeup of their tracheal rings in which the rings lose their stiffness and become unable to retain their circular shape.
    • Hydrocephalus: Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can accumulate in the brain because of a congenital defect, obstruction, or the result of trauma during birth, placing pressure on the brain. The head looks swollen or enlarged, but the diagnosis can be confirmed with an ultrasound if necessary. There's no cure for hydrocephalus, although in mild cases steroids can help reduce fluid pressure. A shunt can also be used to divert fluid from the brain to the abdomen. Puppies with severe cases usually die before they're four months old, which is a good reason to delay purchasing a Chihuahua until that age.
    • Open Fontanel: Chihuahuas are born with a soft spot on the top of their head. Usually the soft spot closes, much like a baby's will, but sometimes one will not close fully. Treat these dogs gingerly. An accidental blow to the head can kill them.
    • Shivering: Shivering is a common occurrence in Chihuahuas. The mechanics of why they shiver or tremble is unclear but it usually occurs when the dog is excited, stressed, or cold.
  • Care

    Despite the Chihuahua's small size, like all dogs he needs exercise and training. The amount of energy an adult Chihuahua has can be surprising. He'll endlessly chase squirrels in the backyard and is willing to play as long as you are. Chihuahuas enjoy walks, supervised romps around the yard, and retrieving toys. They'll go until they drop, so it's important to make sure they don't tire themselves out, especially on hot days.

    As much as they enjoy playing outdoors, Chihuahuas should never live outside. They aren't safe from raptors such as hawks, coyotes, or other larger dogs that could go into your yard. They are bred as companions, and the best place for a companion is with you.

    Training a Chihuahua can be an enjoyable task. They are successful in several different dog sports such as agility and obedience, but puppy kindergarten and basic obedience class are important even for a Chihuahua who's strictly a companion. Your Chihuahua will meet many different dogs and people in class, contributing to his socialization, and he'll learn the manners all dogs should know.

    Chihuahuas are as easy to housetrain as any other breed as long as you take them out frequently and on a consistent schedule. Puppies need to go out as soon as they wake up in the morning, after every meal, after naps, after playtime, and just before bedtime. Using a crate to confine them when you're unable to supervise them will teach them that they can control their bladder and prevent them from having accidents in the house. If they're not crated, plan to take them out every one to two hours, and don't crate them for more than two to four hours at a time except overnight.

    Beyond housetraining, crate training is a kind way to ensure that your Chihuahua doesn't get into things he shouldn't. Like every dog, Chihuahuas can be destructive as puppies. They might not do as much damage as a Lab puppy, but those little teeth can definitely leave their mark. Crate training at a young age will also help your Chihuahua accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized. Never stick your Chihuahua in a crate all day long, however. It's not a jail, and he shouldn't spend more than a few hours at a time in it except when he's sleeping at night. Chihuahuas are people dogs, and they aren't meant to spend their lives locked up in a crate or kennel.

    Train your Chihuahua using positive reinforcement techniques such as food rewards, praise, and play, and you will soon find that he can learn anything you can teach.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 1/4 to 1/2 cups of high-quality dry food a day

    NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

    For more on feeding your Chihuahua, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    Chihuahuas come in two different coat types: smooth and long. The smooth-coated Chihuahua has a smooth, shiny coat that fits close to the body with a ruff of thick, longer hair on the neck. The hair on the head and ears is thinner, and the tail is furry.

    The long-coated Chihuahua has a soft coat that's flat or slightly curly. On the body it's almost as smooth as that of a smooth-coated Chihuahua, but the ears have a fringe of hair, and the plumed tail spreads out like a fan over the back. He also has a ruff on the neck and longer hair called feathering on his feet. The hind legs are also covered with long hair that resembles pants — and that's what it's called. On the stomach is longer hair known as a frill.

    Besides coming in two coat types, Chihuahuas are found in a range of colors and markings. They can be solid colors such as black, white, fawn, chocolate, gray, and silver as well as tricolor (chocolate, black, or blue with tan and white, for instance), brindle, spotted, merle and a variety of other markings. Shades can be very pale to very dark for all the colors.

    The Chihuahua is a wash-and-go dog. Grooming him takes only a few minutes each week. Brush him weekly with a rubber grooming mitt or a brush with short, natural bristles for a shorthaired Chihuahua and a pin brush for a longhaired Chihuahua. A fine-toothed flea comb helps remove loose or dead hair.

    Chihuahuas shed small amounts year round and may shed somewhat more heavily — a relative term for a dog this small — in the spring and fall. The longhaired Chihuahua's undercoat may come out in little clumps. Regular brushing will help keep shedding under control.

    With regular brushing, a Chihuahua shouldn't need a bath more than every month or two. Use a shampoo formulated for dogs so you don't dry out the coat and skin.

    Ears are an important area to check when you are grooming your Chihuahua. If you smell an odor or see wax, clean the inner ear with a cotton ball, using a cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Avoid going into the depth of the ear, past where you can see. If the ears are dry along the edge, rub a little baby or coconut oil onto them.

    Some Chihuahuas develop tear stains beneath their eyes. You can carefully wipe the eyes to remove discharge, and there are products available to remove the stains.

    A Chihuahua's nails grow quickly. Keep them trimmed short. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. The earlier you introduce your Chihuahua to nail trimming the less stressful the experience is. At the same time, check the pads for any foreign objects or injuries.

    Like many small breeds, Chihuahuas are prone to poor dental health. Brushing their teeth can help their mouths stay healthy. Brush the teeth at least two or three times a week — daily is better — to remove tartar and bacteria. Start when your puppy is young so he'll be used to it.

    As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Ears should smell good, without too much wax or gunk inside, and eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.

  • Children and other pets

    Many Chihuahuas love children, but the combination of a tiny dog and a young child can be a recipe for disaster. A Chihuahua may leap from a child's hands and injure himself if he's not being held correctly, and he won't hesitate to defend himself if he's being mistreated. Many breeders won't sell puppies to families with toddlers for fear that the dog will be injured. Chihuahuas do best in families with quiet, older children who understand how to interact with them.

    Make it a rule that young children can only hold or pet the Chihuahua if they're sitting on the floor. Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.

    Even if your family doesn't have children, your Chihuahua should always be exposed to them when he's young so he won't be fearful of them if he encounters them later in life. Just be sure you supervise carefully.

    Chihuahuas get along well with other pets in the family, including cats, if introduced at a young age. The fearless Chihuahua will often boss around dogs much bigger than he is, and this may or may not cause problems. It's not unusual for the smallest dog to be the one in charge.

  • Rescue Groups

    Chihuahuas are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. Other Chihuahuas end up in rescue because their owners have divorced or died. Adopting an adult Chihuahua has many benefits. Adult dogs are often already housetrained and have some obedience training, and they've already gone through the destructive puppy stage. Because Chihuahuas have such a long life span, adopting an adult dog can bring you many years of pleasurable companionship.

  • Breed Organizations

    Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Chihuahua.

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Almost always

    Adapt well to apartment living

    Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

  • Extremely

    Affectionate with family

    Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

  • Less than average

    Amount of shedding

    If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

  • Not usually

    Dog friendly

    Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

  • Very low

    Drooling potential

    Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.

  • Extremely

    Easy to groom

    Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

  • Somewhat

    Easy to train

    Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

  • Moderate

    Energy level

    High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

  • Low

    Exercise needs

    Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

  • Not usually

    Friendly toward strangers

    Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

  • Fair

    General health

    Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

  • Usually

    Good for novice owners

    Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

  • Medium

    Intelligence

    Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

  • Low

    Intensity

    A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

  • Not usually

    Kid friendly

    Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

    **All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

  • Low

    Potential for mouthiness

    Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

  • Moderate

    Potential for playfulness

    Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

  • Moderate

    Potential for weight gain

    Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

  • Very high

    Prey drive

    Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

  • Very high

    Sensitivity level

    Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

  • Miniature

    Size

    Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.

  • Very high

    Tendency to bark or howl

    Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

  • Very poorly

    Tolerates being alone

    Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

  • Very poorly

    Tolerates cold weather

    Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

  • Not so well

    Tolerates hot weather

    Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

  • Low

    Wanderlust potential

    Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

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