The Chihuahua (pronounced "chiwawa") is the smallest of all purebred dogs, maturing at six pounds or less. There are plenty of small dog breeds, and the Chihuahua is arguably one of the most popular.
Believe it or not, where Chihuahuas come from is actually cause for disagreement. Some say the Chihuahua originated in Central and South America. Others claim they were small dogs from China who were brought to Central America.
Regardless of the Chihuahua's origins, the Chihuahua gained popularity in the late 1800s and, by the mid-1960s, the Chihuahua was dubbed the most popular breed in America. There's good reason for that, too. Chihuahuas make great companions. They're loyal, usually to one person, and they're good with other pets. They tend to like being "the boss" of even the largest companion dogs, and this can sometimes get them into trouble.
Chihuahua and similar breeds are energetic and fast learners, but housebreaking can be a challenge. They are super alert and like to announce visitors with great fanfare.
If a Chihuahua isn't quite your cup of tea but you're looking for a similar — and slightly larger — breed, you have numerous choices. The American Kennel Club's toy group includes several small breeds that may fill the bill, but don't forget about Chihuahua mixes, too.
The papillon dog breed
Chihuahuas appear in short- and long-haired varieties, and the papillon somewhat resembles a long-haired Chihuahua. Like the Chihuahua, the papillon is a bright little dog, but usually has an overall better temperament than the Chihuahua.
The AKC describes the papillon as "happy, alert, and friendly." The breed receives its name from its telltale "butterfly" ears. Papillons reach a height of between 8 and 11 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 3 and 12 pounds.
The Chinese crested
The Chinese crested appears in two versions — hairless and powderpuff. The latter type sports a silky, soft double coat. If you choose the hairless type — who has hair on the head, feet, and tail, but not the body — you must take care that your dog doesn't sunburn. This friendly canine matures between 11 and 13 inches tall, weighing 10 to 13 pounds.
The miniature pinscher
The miniature pinscher resembles an athletic Chihuahua. The AKC describes the breed as "fearless, fun-loving, and proud."
The min pin, as they're commonly called, requires more exercise than the average toy breed, so he's a good choice for the person who wants a small canine ready for long walks or jogging. Min pins mature between 10 to 12.5 inches in height and weigh 8 to 11 pounds.
The toy fox terrier
Although not true terriers, Chihuahuas tend to be terrier-like in temperament. The toy fox terrier is both a small dog and a genuine terrier, with all the pluses and minuses of the type. He's very loyal to his person, and his short hair requires little grooming. He's a smart, alert, active little dog. The toy fox terrier stands 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall when full-grown, weighing 4 to 9 pounds.
Chihuahua dog mixes
It's been said that there's nothing better than a good, old-fashioned mutt. Finding Chihuahua-similar breeds and even Chihuahua mixes at a shelter or rescue can be a big score.
Depending on the breed mix, the dog you find could have the best of one or more breeds combined with the Chihuahua energy. A winning combination could turn out to be the best dog for your family.
Whether you get a smooth-coated Chihuahua mix or a long-haired mutt, these dogs are fairly easy to groom and shedding is minimal.
Chihuahuas do tend to have dental problems, so tooth care is a must. Also, their nails can grow rather long, so nail trimming should be started early in life so the dog is comfortable having her nails done regularly.