Chihuahuas may be tiny, but they have just as much energy as Labradors, if not more.
They are natural runners, with powerful abdominal muscles and nimble legs.
Unfortunately, their size is their biggest obstacle to reaching the speeds of their larger-breed cousins.
Anatomy of a Runner
No matter the breed, all dogs are propelled on four, spring-like legs, with paws designed for grip and traction.
Their spines contract and expand with their movement, increasing their flexibility.
In addition, they tend to be streamlined in shape, with smooth, narrow noses and spade-like heads.
All of these traits work together to form an animal that was born to run.
How Fast Can Chihuahuas Run?
At full sprint, chihuahuas can reach speeds of 15-20 miles per hour.
They can only maintain that speed for short bursts, though.
Their squat legs don’t cover a lot of distance, so chihuahuas usually tire out by the time they’ve covered a city block or two.
By comparison, larger dog breeds like Rhodesian ridgebacks can run up to about 30 mph. Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds can run as fast as 35 mph.
Greyhounds top off at an astonishing 45 mph.
Considering these numbers, chihuahuas might seem relatively slow.
On the contrary, they are actually very high-energy dogs. Just ask any chihuahua owner!
The factors that influence a chihuahua’s running speed include diet, body fat percentage, and leg length, among others.
It’s possible to maximize a chihuahua’s running potential by making sure they get enough exercise.
Chihuahua Exercise Needs
Like all mammals, chihuahuas gain a health benefit from regular exercise.
A chihuahua’s metabolism is as small as its body, so it doesn’t take many extra calories for your Chi to pack on the pounds.
Along with maintaining heart, joint, and muscular health, exercise is important for preventing obesity in this breed.
Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise per day for adult chihuahuas.
Puppies between four and eight months will be happy with 15 minutes of daily exercises, such as a short walk on a leash.
Tips for Exercising Chihuahuas
Start with Leash-Training
Chihuahuas should learn how to walk on a leash as soon as possible.
Leash-trained chihuahuas have a whole category of public spaces outside the home where they can exercise.
Leash training is also the perfect daily exercise activity for a young puppy. We’ve previously covered how often should you walk a Golden Retriever puppy.
Use a Harness
Chihuahuas are prone to tracheal collapse, which occurs when the cartilage around the throat becomes weak and collapses, effectively obstructing the windpipe.
The best way to avoid the risk of developing this condition is to use a harness rather than a collar when the dog is on a leash.
Pay Attention to the Weather
With origins in sunny Mexico, chihuahuas aren’t built for the cold.
Usually, temperatures lower than 65°F will require that a chihuahua wear her sweater. Hot weather can be harmful too when sidewalk temperatures are likely to soar.
Chihuahua owners can test the sidewalk by holding their hand against it for seven seconds.
If they have to pull away before the seconds are up, then it’s too hot for their dog.
Begin at the dog’s own pace, then slowly increase the duration and speed of the activity with each passing week.
Even walking should be approached with a slow-start strategy.
Humans naturally have a wider stride than teeny, tiny chihuahuas, so it’s easy to overestimate what they’re capable of.
Stick to the Small Dog Park
Chihuahuas should play with dogs their own size.
Not only are they likely to be the smallest dog on the playground, but they can also be mistaken for delicious prey, such as a rabbit or fox.
A chihuahua with the zoomies can easily trigger a hunting dog.
To keep every dog safe, responsible owners should take their chihuahuas to small dog parks only.
Keep it Age-Appropriate
Just like humans, chihuahuas will begin to feel the aches and pains of advanced age. Chihuahuas are considered senior dogs at around eight years old.
At this point in their lifetime, exercise is still important, but their exercises should be low-impact, with plenty of rest between sessions.
Indoor Exercise Ideas
One huge advantage of having a small dog is that they don’t need a lot of space.
Even if they don’t have access to a backyard, a standard apartment might be all the space a chihuahua needs to get some exercise.
However, it takes the right amount of stimulation to turn any activity into an actual exercise.
A chihuahua that’s cooped up inside all day will need even more exercise to compensate for hours of boredom and inactivity.
Therefore, indoor exercises must be mentally and physically stimulating.
For rainy days or backyard-free homes, here are some ideas for exercising a chihuahua indoors.
Hide and Seek
This game requires mastery of the “stay” and “find it” commands.
The owner commands their chihuahua to stay in one room while they hide a toy or treats somewhere in the house.
Then, the chihuahua is ordered to “find it.”
Fetch is a great way to give a dog both mental and physical stimulation. It’s also the perfect indoor game to play on the staircase or in the hallway with a chihuahua.
Be sure to move any towering pieces of furniture out of the way.
DIY Obstacle Course
Using boxes, chairs, broomsticks, and sheets, try building a chihuahua-sized indoor agility course.
Think of how the chihuahua can be encouraged to go over, under, and through, using makeshift ramps and tunnels.
Utilize the “stay” command to post the chihuahua in one part of the home. Then, go to a different part of the home and instruct the chihuahua to “come.”
This game can be scaled up to include more than one human, or combined with hide-and-seek or an indoor obstacle course to provide extra mental stimulation.
Sometimes, all a chihuahua needs is a half-hour of focused playtime to get his energy out.
Whether it is fetch, tug-of-war, or simply blowing some bubbles, playing with a chihuahua is a great way to forge a bond, relieve boredom, and provide the exercise he needs.
Physical Limitations of Chihuahuas
As delightfully agile as they are, there is a limit to how much exercise a chihuahua can perform.
Due to their small stature and unique physical traits, certain activities should be limited or avoided by chihuahuas unless the owner is confident in their pet’s athletic abilities.
Be careful with exercise if your Chihuahua is pregnant.
Practice safe judgment when considering any of the following activities for a chihuahua.
This breed is especially prone to luxating patella, a condition in which the kneecap becomes dislocated.
Chihuahuas can be born with it, or the luxating patella can develop over time.
Jumping from large heights, such as the height of a standard chair, poses the risk of aggravating this condition.
Jogging with Humans
With an average height of six to nine inches, chihuahuas are especially likely to be kicked and stepped on.
Any activity that requires extended time around people’s feet should be limited until the chihuahua grows bigger and learns proper heeling.
Running on Asphalt or Concrete
Given their small frames and risk for luxating patella, chihuahuas should avoid doing rigorous exercises on concrete or asphalt surfaces.
Natural terrain, such as dirt and grass, will be much easier on their joints in the long term.
Apple-headed chihuahuas tend to have shorter snouts, which can make breathing difficult.
Therefore, short-snouted chihuahuas might have trouble doing very rigorous activities, such as running or hiking.
Owners who plan to exercise their chihuahuas for long periods of time should make time for extra breaks and hydration, and make sure to move at an achievable pace for their pet.
Fastest Dog on Two Legs
How fast can chihuahuas run on their front paws? Evidently, pretty fast.
The current record for the fastest 5 meters run on a dog’s front paws is held by Konjo, a female chihuahua mix.
Konjo covered the 5m distance in 2.39 seconds, setting the record officially on December 22, 2014, in Tustin, California.
Ironically, Konjo’s small size probably contributed most to her success.
This goes to show that chihuahuas might not be the fastest breed on earth, but their tiny bodies can hide a lot of surprises!