The Chi-Chi is a cross between a Chinese Crested and a Chihuahua. Dogs such as Chi-Chis are known as hybrids, or cross-breeds. Sometimes they are called designer dogs to differentiate them from mixes of unknown heritage. Opening your heart and home to a hybrid dog is like opening a beautifully wrapped package on your birthday: you never know what’s going to be inside. It’s often assumed that a hybrid will combine the best of two or more breeds, but genetics doesn’t always work that way. The way genes combine and express themselves is not always subject to a breeder’s control, even less so when two different breeds are crossed. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering adopting a Chi-Chi.
Is the Chi-Chi the Right Dog for You?
At their best, Chi-Chis are friendly and affectionate, although some may have the suspicious nature of the Chihuahua. They are intensely devoted to their families. Chi-Chis generally weigh 5 to 12 pounds, depending on the size of their parent breeds. They make excellent watchdogs but can be on the yappy side.
Choose a Chi-Chi if you have older children who understand how to handle a dog carefully. Toddlers can be clumsy and may hurt a Chi-Chi unless you can always be there to supervise their interactions.
Chi-Chis are smart and learn quickly if you make the effort to train them. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards. Socialize them early and often throughout their life to prevent timidity or shyness.
Chi-Chis have a low to moderate activity level that is adaptable to their owner’s lifestyle. They need a short walk or playtime each day. Some Chi-Chis love being in the limelight, and they do well in such dog sports as agility, obedience and rally.
Chihuahuas and Chinese Cresteds sometimes have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, meaning that they can be tolerated by people who have allergies to dogs. For this reason, Chi-Chis are sometimes promoted as being hypoallergenic. But allergies are caused not by a particular dog coat type but by dander, the dead skin cells that are shed by all dogs (and people, for that matter). There is no scientific evidence that any breed or cross breed is more or less allergenic than any other dog. Some people with allergies react less severely to particular dogs, but no reputable breeder will guarantee that her dogs are hypoallergenic. Spend plenty of time with several different Chi-Chis before deciding whether you can tolerate being around this cross breed.
A hairless Chi-Chi will need daily moisturizing to keep his skin healthy. Be sure to apply sunblock any time you let him go outdoors. It’s best to keep him indoors on sunny days, though. If your Chi-Chi has hair, brush or comb the coat every couple of days to prevent or remove mats and tangles.
Chi-Chis are companion dogs meant to live in the house. They can sunburn easily and should never be left outdoors in hot weather. They may also become chilled easily. There’s nothing wrong with buying your Chi-Chi a t-shirt or sweater to help keep him warm in air-conditioned or other cold environments.
In addition, trim his nails at least monthly—more frequently if necessary—keep his ears clean and dry to prevent ear infections and brush his teeth as often as possible. Small dogs are especially prone to periodontal disease.
Chi-Chi puppies are adorable, and it’s one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Chi-Chi a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. But there’s no need to pay big bucks for a Chi-Chi. You can often find a wonderful example of this hybrid dog at your local shelter or through adoption organizations.
If you do choose to buy one, however, select a breeder who has done the health testing to ensure that her puppies won’t carry the genetic diseases common to both Chinese Cresteds and Chihuahuas. And while there are no guarantees in life, it’s also a good way to minimize the possibility of big veterinary bills in the future.
Variations of the Chi-Chi
Chi-Chis can come in different looks, with the potential to be hairless like the Crested, with only a few tufts of fur on his head, ears, neck, feet and tail; smooth-coated like the Chihuahua; or longhaired like the powderpuff Chinese Crested or longhaired Chihuahua. Like his parent breeds, the Chi-Chi can come in a multitude of solid colors or in a particolor pattern (a color plus white). No matter what he looks like, he’s always saucy and alert.
5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Chi-Chi Puppy
- Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Chi-Chis aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Chi-Chis can live 15 or more years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
- Puppy or adult, take your Chi-Chi to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Chi-Chis
All hybrid dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as purebred dogs can and just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the Chi-Chi is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the Chi-Chi and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Chi-Chis may develop health conditions common to both Chinese Cresteds and Chihuahuas, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include luxating patellas and eye diseases such progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, keratoconjunctivis sicca (dry eye) and lens luxation.
Many toy breeds and small dogs have a condition known as luxating patellas, in which one or both knees are unstable and occasionally slip out of place. Depending on the level of severity (1 being mild and 4 being severe), luxating patellas can be a minor issue that cause the dog little problem or pain or serious enough to require surgical correction.
Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have OFA patella (knee) clearances as well as certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that their eyes are healthy. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Pet Insurance for Chi-Chis
Pet insurance for Chi-Chis costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Chi-Chis are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
* Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Chi-Chis are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Chi-Chi is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.