Defining The Chihuahua Breed Standard
A Discussion Of Breed Type. This photo feature of the Chihuahua standard, from head, ears, eyes, to feet, coat, character, and movement makes judging the breed a breeze.
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
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 this strong instinct to
duck any movement overhead (eagle, hawk, or handler) that has allowed this tiny creature to survive!
Alertness to the
slightest movement or sound dictates food or flight, both vitally important in
a time when food was scarce and predators were plentiful.
Swift-moving was necessary for all of the above reasons - to pounce
on an insect or 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.
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.
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.”
The ChiChi is recklessly brave
and will challenge a larger dog in a minute. His terrier qualities of alertness, hardiness, vim, vigor, and energy
have 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 that owner!
Chihuahua Proportion is “slightly longer” when measured from the
“point of the shoulder” NOT from the sternum, which by the way, is quite pronounced in this breed. Note these two dogs. If
you 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. These two top winning champions 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.
eyes are like many nocturnal creatures and whether that has anything to
do with the fennec fox will remain my personal speculation. 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
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” (above) 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 little nose.”
Chihuahua Nose color is sensibly described so do not select
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, nose, and lip pigmentation
will correspond to natural coat color.
“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.
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.” Multi-Best In Show “Rio” shows arched neck, good
topline, tail carriage, front and rear angulation, including well let down,
Tail is “moderately
long” so don’t go for those short little tails 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. “The tail is
never tucked between the legs.” The tail is either up or out behind the dog but not straight like
a Pointer’s tail. The correct tail has enough length so that it can
form a nice curve, or come on over and touch the back, either is correct.
If you are judging Longs, you may have to feel for the tail or
look closely to be sure that the tail 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?
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
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
this 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.”
Hindquarters are “muscular” and the wording could be from any
standard. You all know what a good rear is. Note nice turn of stifle on
the 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.
lovely dogs are two American champions exported to Britain where the Smooth
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 authority Graham Foot for the 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.
could not be simpler. Anything goes and generations of Ballybroke
breeding (above left) 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 have “firm, sturdy action” with
good reach and drive. Did you see “hackney” there?
No. In fact, the standard twice emphasizes “strong drive” and “plenty of reach
in the front.” The 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 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.
are there for a reason. This Chihuahua 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 he is squint-eyed (and not facing the sun) and has a
weak muzzle. He is far from perfect but he's a Chihuahua and therefore dearly loved.
The Chihuahua is an AKC Toy breed and 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
so for as long as can be determined by the written word and artifacts of
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
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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