Chion

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Chion
evan p. cordes / Flickr.com

The Chion, also known as the Papihuahua, Chi-a-Pap, or Pap-Chi, may be a tiny dog, but it packs a big personality. A Chihuahua and Papillon cross-breed, it takes after its parents in being bold, abrasive, and opinionated, but is also an affectionate and loyal companion. Blind to its size, it is a courageous guardian, and will readily defend its owner or territory with a show of defiance and noise. Because of its fine bone structure, it is not a suitable pet for young children who might accidentally injure it. The Chion is also very quick to use its teeth when upset, and lacks the patience or resilience to deal with inquisitive young fingers.

Although it is a highly energetic dog, it does not need much exercise, as its tiny legs must work very hard to cover long distances. Not only does it not require a lot of walking, but its coat is easier to care for than that of many hybrids; however, it does shed moderately. Chions are noted for being difficult to train, as they can be stubborn and uninterested, but they do need discipline. Overly pampered individuals are likely to become domineering with their owners and irritable and aggressive with strangers. Healthy, well-bred Chions have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, but, like their parents, they are prone to certain health problems.

About & History

The Chion, under its various names, has been bred as a designer dog for around the last 20 years, becoming popular as the Chihuahua rose to prominence as the “handbag dog” of the 1990s. The crossing of the Chihuahua and Papillon is, in many ways, a marriage of equals, as both are toy breeds, and share many similarities in temperament and behaviour. That being said, they are not necessarily dogs that are suited to everybody, for both are feisty, independent characters who are known for being quick to bark when excited and nip when annoyed.

Both parents are also known for their disproportionate confidence, coupled with a sometimes abrasive approach to other (usually larger) dogs. These traits can be clearly seen in Chions, who need to be controlled when in canine company to prevent them starting fights they are not equipped for. All these characteristics combine to create a dog that is sure to entertain and amuse, and one that can never be accused of being shy and retiring. It is this strength of personality that has been the basis of the Chion’s enduring popularity as a hybrid.

Appearance

Chion Large Photo
evan p. cordes / Flickr.com

There is no breed standard for the Chion: as a hybrid, all individuals are expected to be different. However, the Chihuahua and Papillon are close enough in size and appearance to allow one to make certain generalisations about their offspring. Chions are tiny dogs of slender build that stand between 22 and 27 cm (9–11 in) tall at the withers, and weigh between 2 and 4 kg (4–9 lb).

They have large, triangular ears that most often stand upright like the Papillon’s, and prominent, protruding eyes like the Chihuahua. The skull is markedly domed, has a pronounced stop, and runs down to a short, slender muzzle. The jaw bone is often very fine. The neck and back are lean and narrow. The chest is reasonably well-sprung, and the abdomen is tightly tucked. The plumed tail is similarly slender, and is often carried just above horizontal.

The coat is silky, moderately long, and has a noticeable curl. It is longer on the ears, throat, tail, and backs of the legs, where it forms flowing fringes. A range of colours are possible:

  • Black
  • Chocolate
  • Black and brown
  • Black and white
  • Cream
  • Fawn
  • Golden
  • Tricolour

Most Chions have a symmetrical facial mask, although some are solid-coloured.

Character & Temperament

Although it is a spunky and sometimes argumentative hybrid, the Chion is also an extremely loving companion that visibly lights up when spoken to, and will return its owner’s affection with interest. This is an energetic and playful dog that will bounce around the house in excitement, but can also curl up on someone’s lap when everybody is tired and wants to relax. It is noted for its protective instincts. Despite the fact that it is unlikely to strike fear in anyone’s heart, it will readily stand guard against an intruder or put itself between its owner and the opposing party whenever it hears raised voices.

Chions are also very useful watch dogs. They have keen hearing, and will bark on hearing anything out of the ordinary. This can get a little out of hand however, and apartment dwellers might find the neighbours banging the ceiling in frustration – something that is only likely to fuel the Chion’s urge to make noise. They are naturally suspicious of strangers, and can be somewhat snappy and defensive, especially if inadequately socialised. With other dogs, they tend to be overly confident and sometimes abrasive, and are more often the aggressor than the innocent victim in fights. Because of their very light build, they are delicate and easily injured, and do not make good play mates for children.

Trainability

The Chion is amongst the most challenging of dogs to train. Most have little or no interest in formal training sessions, so lessons must instead be disguised as part of the daily routine. Teaching “sit” and “stay” before putting the food bowl down, or teaching “cease” to stop the excited barking before opening the door to go for the morning walk are two examples of how this can be accomplished. Chions are naturally stubborn, and will rebel if they suspect anyone of having the temerity to try to educate them!

They are also known to be slow to house-break, so crate training is often necessary. Intensive socialisation is a must for young Chions, as they are naturally wary of strangers, and without lots of early, positive experiences with people other than their owners, they can be defensive and snappy.

Health

Apart from being prone to injury, most Chions are healthy dogs. Their protruding eyes and delicate limbs do give the potential for trouble, though, and the pedigree parents of pups should always be viewed and handled by potential buyers to assess their own health and behaviour.

  • Addison’s disease – A hormone deficiency usually first noticed in young adults as a cause of bloody vomiting and diarrhoea, although it can also cause more severe signs such as collapse. Readily treated once diagnosed, but does mimic other disorders, so can take some time to identify.
  • Collapsing trachea – Common in several of the toy breeds. Causes a harsh, choking cough, often when exercising or excited.
  • Corneal ulceration – Injury to the clear surface of the eye. The Chion is prone to such injuries because the eyes are very exposed. Can even be caused by hair rubbing on the cornea, and may take some time to heal.
  • Hydrocephalus – Build-up of fluid on the brain causing neurological signs; for example, mental dullness or seizures. Affected pups will have exaggerated doming of the skull.
  • Hypoglycaemia – Critically low blood sugar levels, seen in young toy breed pups because of inadequate body stores of glycogen. Pups need to be encouraged to eat small, frequent meals, especially around the time of weaning, when signs of lethargy, coma, or seizuring are most often seen.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease – Decay of the head of the thigh bone (the femur). Occurs in toy breeds when the blood vessels supplying this area of bone fail to develop normally.
  • Patellar luxation – Slipping of the kneecap out of position due to shallowness of the bony groove at the end of the femur. This is seen in many breeds that have slender, fine bones, and may need to be surgically corrected if seriously affecting the dog’s mobility.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The tiny legs of the Chion generally get most of the exercise they need inside the home, but, like all dogs, they should still be taken out for regular walks as part of their daily routine. The outdoors provides a mental workout as much as a physical one, and provides opportunities for socialisation. Two ten to fifteen minute walks every day should be more than enough to keep this little dog in good shape.

Grooming

The Chion’s fine coat should not require much grooming. Twice-weekly brushing should be enough to prevent it from knotting, and will help to remove loose hair. Being a dog that prefers to spend its time indoors, it needs washing only occasionally, perhaps once every six to eight weeks, and most owners will be able to keep their Chion looking good without the need for professional grooming. Because they are prone to dental overcrowding and tooth loosening, they should have their teeth brushed daily. Specific dental products for use in dogs are readily available from veterinary clinics and pet shops.

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