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Defining The Chihuahua Breed Standard

A Discussion Of Breed Type



Taking one word at a time from the very descriptive introduction ….  Graceful cannot be fat, clunky, cloddy, or overdone. The Chihuahua is a blend of lovely lines, and while he can have plenty of strength and muscle (a busy self-exerciser), he's a ballet dancer, not a wrestler.  If you open the Chihuahua Standard and alt-tab back and forth as you read, you may have an epiphany!


SMOOTH CHIHUAHUA CH. RIO,  TOP 5 ALL-TIME BIS WINNERAlert because he must avoid getting stepped on and be ever on the lookout for a swooping shadow on the ground. Which brings up something many judges do not understand. It is not shyness that causes a Chihuahua to become a “pancake” when the handler bends over to scoop him off the floor. It is part of the survival instinct that has allowed this tiny creature to survive! Alertness to the slightest movement or sound also insures food or flight, both very important in a time and place when food was scarce and predators were plentiful.


Swift-moving was necessary for all of the above reasons. To avoid being swooped up, to pounce on an insect, and to scoot across the burning sand! This little dog can “move” and while you only see him at the trot, breeders will tell you that he can outrun and outlast dogs ten times his size.


Saucy Expression is in equal part due to the eye size and the ever-playful nature of the breed. Since he first became canis familiaris, the Chihuahua has been a companion to man. Even cave-woman would have been drawn to and protective of the big-eyed (baby eyes) appeal of this little dog’s expression.


Compact would not define an overly delicate, tube-shaped body such as is frequently seen and passed off as “deer type.” While the tiny delicate ones often excel in head type, they must pass muster on chestiness, strength, firm, sturdy, and other words in the standard that all denote compact strength.


Terrier-like qualities as applies to this breed is a bit harder to define and is often misinterpreted depending on whether it’s explained by toy dog or terrier people. It does not mean  scrappy with other dogs. Remember from Developmental History, more than a pack dog, the Chihuahua craves his own kind and rarely squabbles. It does not mean the single-mindedness of most terriers - clearly evident when you call him. As Dan Greenwald points out, “A Chihuahua will leave anything, even a bitch in season, to come running to its owner. The ChiChi prefers a lap to food and is obsessive about only one thing. His person.” He is very terrier-like in bravery for his size, will challenge a larger dog in a minute. His terrier qualities of alertness, hardiness, vim and vigor, energy, are no doubt what has helped him survive for a few thousand years!


Applying Points in the Chihuahua Standard

If in doubt about the weight please call for the scales. This breed can fool you but you don’t want to look like it…. A long shelly muscular Chihuahua can weigh as much as a compact fat body because muscle weighs more than fat. Some exhibitors will starve the dog down to the weight limit. Do not reward the dog or the owner!


Chihuahua Proportion is “slightly longer” when measured from the “point of the shoulder” NOT from the sternum, SMOOTH CHIHUAHUAS, TOP U.K. CHAMPIONS which by the way, is quite pronounced in this breed.  Note the two dogs on the right.  If one were to measure from the front of a well-developed chest to the “point of the buttocks” the dog would be much longer than “slightly.” This is not open to interpretation. Slightly means just a little, and you know where the point of the shoulder is, so do not be misled by a person who cannot or will not read. The two dogs at left exemplify correct proportion, chest, and tail.


Head defines the Chihuahua as a breed! Behind the collar, he can get by with the body of a Papillion or even a Chin but you will always know this breed by its head. Even a pet will have a headpiece unlike any other dog. From the “apple dome skull” to the “full” and “luminous” eyes and the “large” ears, the ChiChi is unique in head.


EAR SET AND EYES DEFINE THE CHIHUAHUA!The eyes are like many nocturnal creatures and whether that has anything to do with the fennec fox will remain my personal speculation but gee, aren’t those eyes appealing? Note they are “not protruding” and never close together. The correct Chihuahua has baby eyes that melts the heart. This again discounts theory of a “hairless dog” ancestor as there are none with such large appealing eyes. We know from very old photos that Chihuahuas have always had an exceptionally large eye.


The ears are equally unique and many fear that outcrosses to certain other breeds has diminished original ear size and placement. In fact, it has been said that the “Taco Bell Dog” has better ears than most show Chihuahuas. Please, help us to protect the “large” (remember, he was a desert dweller) ears with the characteristic 10:00 and 2:00 flare so perfectly depicted in the materials kindly provided by Sallie Buckman and Martha Hooks. Bear in mind that the ears will be pulled higher on the skull when the dog is very interested and the smart handler will take a photo with either a bored dog or without the use of squeakies! Ch. “Goo Goo” has lovely ear set, large well placed eyes in a perfect head.  She's a bit loose in front, but great behind  and has a perfect topline.


The muzzle is not extreme. Please, it is “moderately” short, it is not just a button nose tacked on to the foreface. The latter invites problems that breeders will have to cope with for generations after you have selected for the “cute button nose.” Chihuahua Nose color is sensibly described so do not expect or select for a dark nose on a light colored dog. To do so may force exhibitors to dye the nose in direct contradiction to the standard! Think about this, if all the dogs in your ring have black noses, it says nothing good about your judging of this breed. Dilutes are “self colored” and in blondes a “pink nose is permissible.” It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway - eye and lip pigmentation will also correspond to coat color.


Bite is “level or scissors.” While overshot or undershot is to be “penalized as a serious fault” that does not mean that a level bite is not perfectly correct in the Chihuahua.  Teeth are not well anchored in such a tiny jaw so some may have fallen out.  Shameful but that's what exaggeration does to dogs.


IDEAL CHIHUAHUA PROFILE, ANGULATION, CH. RIO OWNED BY GREENWALD & ANDREWSNeck is “slightly arched” and slopes into “lean shoulders.”   A good Chihuahua that doesn't live in a crate will be muscled but again, think of a  ballet dancer and not a weight lifter. There should be no bulging muscle. Topline is “level” – period. It doesn’t say “should be” or “ideally” the Chihuahua Standard says it IS. Ribs are “well rounded and well sprung” so don’t accept a slab-sided dog but remember that the ribs should not be too “barrel-shaped.” At left, multi-Best In Show “Rio” shows arched neck, good topline, tail carriage, front and rear angulation, including well let down, strong hocks.


Tail seems to give breeders and judges a fit. It is “moderately long” so don’t go for those short little sickles that often accompany short little ears. The Chihuahua's tail is carried in a “sickle” which is an open curve, or “in a loop over the back” which is a much tighter curl because the “tip just touches the back.” So it is simple. Assuming “the tail is never tucked EXCELLENT TAIL ON IDEAL LONG COAT CHIHUAHUA between the legs,” and is either up or out behind the dog but not straight like a Pointer’s tail and it has enough length so that it can form a nice curve, or come on over and touch the back, it is correct.  The tail can’t stand straight up or out behind with no curve. A straight tail can’t loop over and touch the back. If you are judging Longs, you may have to feel for the tail or look closely to be sure that either way, the tail itself has a noticeable curve. Note that the hair on the Smooth’s tail is “furry” which, while not mentioned in the standard, causes it to fan a bit towards the tip when viewed in profile. If it is not curved, no matter how high it is or isn’t carried, it is wrong. There, now isn’t that simple?


THIS CHIHUAHUA HAS FAULTY FRONT AND LACKS TERRIER ATTITUDEShoulders are lean, widening from the top down when seen from the front. Forelegs are “straight” and “set well under” which in addition to allowing “free play at elbows” gives the characteristic “chestiness” but without appearing as a “Bulldog chest.”


Chihuahua Feet are either-or and neither–nor. The toes are “well split up” but they are “not spread.” It is “neither the hare nor the cat foot.” I hate to sound critical of the standard but methinks when they decided to do away with the original elongated finger-like feet, they must not have been able to agree on what should replace it. I do not feel qualified to elaborate on this. The best thing about the little guy above is that he demonstrates so many common faults. The ears are too low although they are of very nice size. His eyes look large enough but the head appears coarse. His front is a disaster including bowing of the long bones and Pasterns that are not “fine.” He has good forechest but the shoulders seem bulgy rather than “lean.”


SMOOTH COAT CHIHUAHUA, MULTI-GROUP WINNERHindquarters are “muscular” and the wording could be from any standard. You all know what a good rear is.  Note nice turn of stifle on Smooth Chihuahua at right.


Smooth Coats should be “soft” and “close.” Of course they will be glossy. Heavier coats may have undercoat about the ruff, which is “preferred.” Again, hair on the tail is “preferred furry” which is not an otter tail as on the Labrador but does tend to fan when seen in profile. Remember that the desert is one hot place – but at night it gets very cold so the Chihuahua should be equipped for both extremes.


SMOOTH AND LONG COAT CHIHUAHUASThese lovely dogs are two American champions exported to Britain where the Smooth Chihuahua became the first American dog to become a British champion!   Note the smooth glossy coat and tail set on the red dog and the wonderful texture and ruff on the Long.  We thank international judge and world-renowned Chihuahua Graham Foot for sharing these photos.


Long Coats should be of a “soft texture” which is not silky but may be flat or ”slightly curly” and an undercoat is “preferred.” A single coat that drapes is not correct. A double coat that stands off is not “soft” and therefore wrong. The Long Coat Chihuahua is man-made and therefore exempt from coat requirements for existence in the desert.


Ears are fringed and if heavily so, “may be tipped slightly” but not because the ear leather is weak! The Long Coat has a “plume” tail which should not be short. He has feathering and a “large ruff on the neck” is not only desired, it is “preferred” over one that lacks a ruff.


PERFECT CHIHUAHUA MOVEMENTColor could not be simpler. Anything goes and the three generations of Ballybroke breeding exhibit the wonderful coats for which the English dogs are known. The full ruffs, correct texture coat, and lovely domed heads are lovely examples of Graham Foote’s expertise as a breeder and popular U.K. Judge


Gait should be swift (you remember why) and should have a “firm, sturdy action” with good reach and drive. Did you see “hackney” there? CHIHUAHUAS REACH OUT & COVER GROUND QUICKLY No. In fact, the standard twice emphasizes “strong drive” and “plenty of reach in the front.” The striking, lifting front movement of the Minpin may look familiar to you but it would quickly sink this little guy in the sand and the stylish delay of the hackney action might be just the split second when he would be swooped up by a bird of prey. Note that the standard again calls attention to the Chihuahua's topline, stating it “should remain firm” and “level as the dog moves.” The black and tan dog at right has an incorrect topline but is reaching forward without hackney action.  The black bitch going away shows plenty of pad and rear legs driving in line.  They are toys but should move as sound as larger breeds.


Temperament again calls for “alert, with terrier-like qualities” so you can be pretty sure that a crouching, cringing, obviously shy Chihuahua or one that stands there like a dullard is either untypical, drugged, or has a reason to be so unhappy. Doesn’t matter. You cannot award it no matter how spectacular the dog is in other respects.


FAULTY CHIHUAHUA, TAIL SET, POOR REAR, NO BRISKETDisqualifications are there for a reason. The Chihuahua on the right has a multitude of faults. His front legs are set too far forward, therefore he lacks the forechest called for in the standard. He is flat ribbed, shallow in brisket, elbows are turned out; he has a wavy topline, low tail set; and weak quarters. Poor baby, he’s long in hock and lacks angulation front and rear.  The Chihuahua should have a proudly arched neck; this little guy does not.  He has nice a nicely domed head and good ears but is squinting (and not facing the sun) and he has a weak muzzle. But he is a Chihuahua, and therefore he is dearly loved.


The Chihuahua is a toy dog, the smallest AKC breed and indeed, the world's smallest canine. He must be able to curl easily in the lap and you should be able to fit four or five “on the arm” as we say. The Chihuahua is above all else, a companion and has been only that for as long as can be determined by the written word and artifacts of the Americas.


CHIHUAHUAS FIT ANYWHERE!Ears are a strong feature of type so we disqualify that which fails to identify the breed. A cropped or bobtail would also be ugly and untypical so we will just not allow it. After all the trouble breeders went to in order to create a Long Coat, we are going to insist that it the Longcoat Chihuahua has plenty of coat but not too much!


We hope this has served to clarify the Chihuahua Standard. It really is not a hard breed to judge if one applies the Rule of Fives. Chihuahua Type is exemplified by: #1 Size; #2 Apple dome skull; #3 Huge baby eyes; #4 Ears that are as proportionately large to the head as the eyes and which are “set” at 10 and 2 o’clock; #5 Terrier-like temperament.


You can do that with one hand behind your back because you only need five fingers!


Also see 9 important points of Defining breed type in the Chihuahua, for judges or breeders



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