The Xoloitzcuintli, also called Mexican Hairless or Xolo, is an affectionate and loyal breed, best known for its exotic appearance and ancient lineage. The breed is at least 3,000 years old and originated in ancient Aztec civilizations, having been described in the journals of many European explorers, including Columbus. They were considered sacred creatures by the Aztecs, who used them for sacrifices and buried them with their owners to act as watchdogs during their journey into the afterlife.
Still prized in Mexico, the breed has gained modern prominence as alert watchdogs and devoted companion dogs. The Xoloitzcuintli ranks number 140 out of 193 in the AKC’s most popular breeds ranking.
Characteristics of the Xoloitzcuintli
Here we will go into more detail about the appearance and temperament of the Xoloitzcuintli.
The Xoloitzcuintli comes in three sizes: toy, miniature and standard. Toy Xolos are 10-14 inches in height and weigh 10-15 pounds. Miniature Xolos are 14-18 inches in height and weigh 15-30 pounds. Standard Xolos are 18-23 inches in height and weigh 30-55 pounds. They are a long-lived breed with a lifespan of 13-18 years.
Xoloitzcuintli come in hairless and coated varieties, with the hairless variety being more common. Hairless Xolos have a smooth, tough skin, while coated Xolos have a very short coat that lies flat against the skin. Each variety comes in multiple colors, including shades of black, grey, red and brown. Their pointed ears and visible forehead wrinkles give them an intelligent expression. Their coat, or lack thereof, is low-maintenance, requiring only occasional brushing and baths. They are non-shedding and a recommended breed for owners with allergies. Younger Xolos can develop acne, and their exposed skin necessitates sunscreen for prolonged sun exposure throughout their lives.
The Xoloitzcuintli is a smart, independent and high-spirited breed. They form strong bonds with their owners and are calm and cuddly at home. They are highly alert of their surroundings and make suitable watchdogs, but their small stature will not do much to scare off invaders. Xolos are polite with strangers if properly socialized, but can be timid and high-strung if not. They are prone to separation anxiety and will exhibit destructive behavior and barking if left alone for too long. However, they will get along well with other dogs and cats in the household, and animal companions can help minimize their separation anxiety. Xolos are also highly sensitive to tension, anger and stress in their household, and may exhibit neurotic behaviors if not in a peaceful home. The Xoloitzcuintli can make a great companion for longer car rides and even plane trips if properly crate-trained. Check out our recommendations for dog crates.
Caring for a Xoloitzcuintli
To ensure you are providing your Xoloitzcuintli with everything it needs to live a long and happy life, it is essential to understand the quirks of the breed and what works best for them. Following are preliminary tips on health and training your Xoloitzcuintli so you know what to expect. However, remember that each dog is unique, even within a specific breed.
A high-quality dog food specific to the Xoloitzcuintli and the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will fulfil all of the dog’s nutritional needs. However, even small increases in caloric intake can lead to weight gain over time, so consistency is key. Avoid feeding your Xolo table scraps or an excessive amount of treats, which can lead to weight gain and related health problems. As a smaller dog, the Xoloitzcuintli will require relatively few calories, but its good health and longevity still demands a balanced diet filled with vitamins and nutrients.
The Xoloitzcuintli has moderate to high exercise needs. While generally calm around the house, they have lots of energy to expend, especially as puppies and young dogs. They will enjoy long walks with their owners or time to run freely in a fenced area such as a backyard or park. Keep in mind that Xolos are skilled at both digging and jumping, so extra precautions are necessary to keep them fenced in. Interactive toys and puzzle toys will help keep your Xolo’s mind occupied. Meeting their needs for physical and mental activity is vital to ensure your Xolo stays fit, happy and well-behaved.
Xolos are moderately difficult to train. A consistent and dominant owner is important to ensure they grow into a well-trained companion. Xolos respond best to reward-based training and positive reinforcement. They will become fearful and nervous in response to aggressive or harsh commands, and any sort of negative-reinforcement is best avoided. They are notoriously difficult to house-train and doggy doors are often used to minimize accidents in the house. While being serious watchdogs, they generally only bark when something is truly amiss. Early socialization is recommended to avoid shyness around strangers and new situations later in life.
The Xoloitzcuintli is a typically heathy dog, though several genetic diseases are known to occur in the breed. Hip dysplasia, patellar luxation and eye disorders are some of the most common afflictions seen in the breed. The National Breed Club recommends certain tests for Xoloitzcuintlis, including a hip evaluation, ophthalmologist evaluation, cardiac exam and patella evaluation.
The Wirehaired Pointing Griffon’s nails should be clipped monthly if not worn down naturally. Their ears should be checked weekly and any excess dirt or wax should be removed. Teeth should be brushed often with a dog-specific toothpaste.
Be sure to choose a dog from a responsible, certified breeder, preferably one who is a member of the Xoloitzcuintli Club of America. This club has a detailed code of ethics in breeding and will be able to provide owners with helpful information on heath and care for the breed. Careful selection of a puppy or adult dog will give you the highest chance of having a long-lived and healthy Xoloitzcuintli.