Small lovely cream-colored chihuahua

Apple Head Chihuauas: What Owners Should Know

Chihuahuas are a dog breed originating from Mexico and are commonly known for their extra small size yet extra-large attitude. In fact, Chihuahuas are so tiny, they are usually considered a teacup bread since they tend to weigh around five pounds or less! Despite being the smallest breed in the world, Chihuahuas are still known to be incredibly capable in sports and training and are a loving addition to any home. 

The Basics About Chihuahuas

A highly diverse breed, Chihuahuas can come in black, chocolate, white, gold, cream, and fawn, as well as various types of markings. Rare Chihuahua colorings include blue, silver, red, tan, or sable. This little dog can also have a long coat or a short coat (referred to as “smooth coat” by the American Kennel Club) and is easy to maintain even when they are of the long coat variety.

What you might not be aware of is that in addition to color and coat length, Chihuahuas can also be categorized by their head shape. The Chihuahua, commonly shortened to “Chi”, can have two distinct head shapes, an apple head shape or a deer head shape. As peculiar as an “apple head” may sound, you are probably more familiar with the look of an apple-headed Chihuahua than you are aware as they are generally the more desired of the two head shapes.

This preference stems from size concerns as the apple head Chihuahua is smaller than their deer head counterpart, still, both varieties are incredibly small. Furthermore, the American Kennel Club only recognizes the apple head shape Chi as the breed standard, making them the more popular choice amongst dog owners.

Small lovely cream-colored chihuahua

The breed is named after one of Mexico’s northern states.

The Chihuahua’s Interesting History

The history of the Chihuahua is almost as intriguing and unique as its appearance. Chihuahuas are known to be a descendent of the Techichi, a South American dog breed bred by the Toltecs. The Toltecs were an advanced ancient civilization from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. This dates the Chihuahua lineage back to around the 10th century CE.

The name “Chihuahua” comes from Chihuahua, Mexico, a large state located in the north bordering North America. This is where the breed as we know it was first recorded in the 19th century. It was not until the 1800s that Americans became familiarized with the breed and began keeping them as household pets.

The Chihuahua’s ancient ancestor, the Techichi, was bred for several purposes. Typically used for their devout loyalty and companionship, this Chihuahua predecessor was also believed to have a connection with the spiritual world. Oftentimes, they were buried with their owners as it was thought the Techichi could guide them into the afterlife.

What Exactly is an Apple Head Chihuahua?

It might be odd to describe a dog as having an apple-shaped head but there truly is no other way to title this unique trait. The apple head Chi is characterized as having a rounded skull, typically larger towards the top of the head and tapering smaller towards the bottom. According to the American Kennel Club, an apple head Chi should have “a well rounded ‘apple dome’ skull”.

An apple head Chi will have a distinctly large and round forehead and sometimes protruding eyes. However, the American Kennel Club does not actually accept the bulging-eye trait in its description of the breed’s standard appearance. Another prominent feature of the apple head Chi is their short muzzle, which will meet their skull at a 90-degree angle, giving them an “L”-shaped profile.

Additionally, their jawline will be short and their overall face structure will be slightly compact. An apple head Chi may also have a molera, or an opening in their skull. This opening is typically located somewhere in the middle of a Chi’s forehead. As scary as it may sound, this trait is perfectly fine and is not unlike a human baby’s soft spot.

Also referred to as “fontanel”, a Chi’s molera can vary in size and shape, but may only be present for the first few months of their life, fusing together as they grow older. However, some Chis have a molera their entire lives. Having a molera used to mean that a Chi was purebred but this trait is becoming less common as time goes on and is no longer believed to be a necessary characteristic for purebreds.

How Do Apple Head Chihuahuas Differ from Deer Head Chihuahuas? 

The American Kennel Club began recognizing Chihuahuas in 1904, nearly half a century after the breed became popular in America. This recognition means nothing more than the breed being able to compete in dog shows. Still, recognition by the American Kennel Club tends to boost a breed’s reputation and popularity.

Sometime after becoming recognized, the Chihuahua Club of America released a description of what is considered attractive for the breed, which does not include the deer head Chihuahua’s characteristics. A deer head Chi is typically described as having a longer muzzle, bigger ears, and eyes that don’t protrude as much.

The main differences between the apple head Chihuahua and the deer head Chihuahua, besides the obvious head shape, are height, proportions, and weight. Typically, the deer head Chi will have neck and legs that are longer than the apple head Chi’s, contributing to its overall larger height and weight.

In fact, the deer head Chi can stand at nearly double an apple head Chi’s height as well as nearly double the weight. While both types of Chihuahuas are considered a toy breed, it is usually only the apple head kind that qualifies as a teacup Chihuahua. A toy breed is anything under fifteen pounds while a teacup breed is anything between two and five pounds. 

Despite the differences in physical appearance, the deer head Chi and the apple head Chi are typically identical in almost every other way. This includes coloring, temperament, and care. So do not assume a deer head Chi is any less worthy of care, love, and attention. In fact, the deer head Chihuahua has been portrayed in the media numerous times and is not unpopular by any means. The famous Taco Bell dog, Gidget, is a deer head Chihuahua, as well as Elle Woods’ pup in the movie Legally Blonde. 

Apple Head Chihuahuas Cuddling

Photo: I Love My Chi

Potential Health Issues 

Although Chis have a decently long lifespan of fourteen to sixteen years, the apple head Chi is prone to several health problems, such as: 

  • Heart problems: Chihuahuas are known to have heart issues, especially in their old age. Specifically, a disease called patent ductus ateriosis (PDA) is a common cause of their heart issues. This disease involves a blood vessel that does not form properly at birth and can usually be detected by a heart murmur. Luckily, this can normally be fixed by surgery. 
  • Eye issues: Chis are susceptible to glaucoma, chronic dry eye, and cataracts. The apple head Chi are especially prone to eye issues, such as infection and injury, since their eyes tend to protrude more than a deer head Chi. 
  • Neurological disease: Chihuahuas can also suffer from neurological diseases such as epilepsy. 
  • Bone issues: Because apple head Chis are so small, they are at a higher risk for bone fractures. Even something as simple as jumping off a tall sofa can have a negative impact on their frail bones. 
  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome: Due to their unique profile shape, apple head chihuahuas are prone to breathing problems such as Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, which is caused by a build-up in pressure. In addition to this syndrome, apple head Chis can suffer from a collapsed trachea, which also affects their airways.
  • Dental issues: Chis can easily fall victim to retained puppy teeth which occurs when puppy teeth fail to fall out as adult teeth grow in. This causes a plethora of dental health problems, including severe tooth crowding and cavities. 
  • Bladder problems: Chihuahuas and other tiny dog breeds are infamous for bladder issues and frequent accidents due to their small bladders. 
  • Hypoglycemia: Little dogs, like the apple head Chi, are prone to hypoglycemia because of their fast metabolisms.
  • Birthing complications: Chihuahuas tend to have a large head yet small frame, making it difficult for pregnant Chis to go through birth. 

In addition to these health problems, Chis are still susceptible to health issues and conditions that often affect dogs, such as parvo or obesity. Some common dog diseases are perhaps even more likely to happen to Chihuahuas because of their small size, so it is important to properly care for your pint-sized friend.  

How to Care for Your Apple Head Chihuahua

If you already own a Chihuahua, then you know the reward of caring for such a loving creature. A lot of what your Chi needs is not unlike any other dog. Though Chis do require a low level of maintenance, it is important to pay close attention to your Chi’s teeth, coat, diet, and exercise. To prevent cavities or infection caused by retained puppy teeth, it may be worthwhile to brush your Chi’s teeth or get them professionally cleaned often. 

Furthermore, Chis, like a lot of dogs, can develop obesity if not provided with a proper diet or exercise. To combat this, it is essential to steer clear of feeding your Chi human foods, especially junk foods such as Cheetos. Because of your Chi’s small size, they are far more affected by their diet than a larger pup, so be sure to find healthy dog food.

However, keep in mind their susceptibility to hypoglycemia, meaning it is that much more important for your Chi to have a good diet. In terms of excercise, physical activity does not need to be lengthy or rigorous due to their small size. Keeping your tiny friend warm is also very imperative, both for their comfort and for their health.

Pay attention to the weather and be sure your Chi is extra bundled on chilly days. This may be easily forgotten since what may seem comfortable to you may be extremely cold to your Chi. Similarly, your Chi’s small size means keeping a close eye on them and keeping them out of harm’s way. 

In addition to their physical health, it is important to properly socialize and train Chihuahuas. Because of their infamous aggressive behavior, these pups require a comforting environment free of any potential stress-inducers. Despite common misconceptions, the Chihuahua is incredibly smart and receptive to training, so providing them with this mental stimulation may help combat their sometimes hostile behavior.

Getting your Chi acquainted with the presence of other dogs and other people is also likely to help with aggression caused by anxiety. You may also know that Chihuahuas are notoriously hard to house train. This is due to their small bladder size and is something that can only be improved with the proper attention and teaching. Patience is important and try to remember they cannot help their accidents. 

If you own a long-haired Chihuahua, it may be obvious that this variety will require a bit more grooming and care. Typically, the long coat Chi will shed less than the short-haired ones but will need brushing daily to avoid matting and tangling. Furthermore, keeping your pup clean is extremely important to reduce their chances of having a flea infestation.

A blobd girl with her Chihuahua.

If you plan on having kids or already have young children, it’s best to wait until they are older before getting a Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas Make Great Companions

If you are in the market for a small dog, a Chihuahua is a great option. The good news is, despite the desires people have for the apple head Chi, there is no shortage of them and they can be quite affordable. In fact, they are so common it is likely you will find them in an animal shelter. However, if you are looking for an apple head to compete in dog shows, those can be quite a bit more expensive as they tend to be specially bred for this purpose. 

Being such a little dog, Chis do not require a lot of space or physical activity, making them the perfect apartment companion. Chis are also known to be highly affectionate to people they know and require very little maintenance. They are also known for showing intense loyalty to their guardians. 

Due to their incredibly small size, the Chihuahua breed is not typically recommended for families with young or rough children or other large pets. Chis are not a good dog for “rough play” as their bones are small and frail. This is especially true for the apple head variety since they tend to be the smallest of the two head shapes.

Chihuahuas with moleras are even more at risk for injury since they essentially have a hole in their skull, but a molera poses no real threats to your pup other than the need to be careful with that area. Sadly, Chihuahuas sometimes have a bad reputation for their occasional aggressive behavior and the struggles they have with house training.

However, Chis are highly intelligent when trained to behave. Typically, though not always, a Chi’s aggression stems from their innate need for defense since they are so small in size. Chihuahua owners tend to report that any downsides to owning a Chi are far overshadowed by all the love, affection, and intelligence Chis provide. 

The Final Word

Apple head Chihuahuas have unique and exaggerated features making them a cute option for many potential dog owners. In addition to their endearing looks, their size and low maintenance make the apple head Chihuahua a very desirable breed. Despite being known for low maintenance and little need to exercise, having any small dog sometimes requires more attention to detail.

This includes being sure to stick to a healthy diet free of fatty foods and human snacks, such as pretzels. Though it is the apple head variety that has been listed as the more preferable of the two head shapes, it is important to know there are no real differences between the apple head and the deer head besides their physical characteristics.

A deer head Chi will give any family the same fun experience of owning a Chihuahua dog. Chihuahuas are incredibly brilliant animals, having one of the largest brains of any dog relative to its body size, so they are enjoyable to train and spend time with.

Additionally, owning a Chihuahua is a great way to have a purebred pup with an intriguing history at a commonly low cost. Chihuahuas, even the apple head ones, can sometimes even be available for adoption, a preferred route for many pup buyers. 

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Sarah Wagner

Sarah Wagner

Sarah Wagner is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.