ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Xoloitzcuintli

Xoloitzcuintli dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Xoloitzcuintli (/zoʊloʊ.iːtsˈkwiːntli/ zoh-loh-eets-kweent-lee in Nahuatl) is a very old dog breed native to modern day Mexico, which dates back thousands of years ago. It is also called Xolo or Mexican Hairless Dog because most dogs don’t have any coat on their bodies.

This breed managed to keep its popularity throughout the ages and is nowadays the national dog of Mexico, well-known in its homeland as a great family companion and excellent hunting helper.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityHigh
Health and GroomingHigh
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Companion Dogs
Height:1 foot, 6 inches to 1 foot, 11 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:10 to 50 pounds
Life Span:14 to 20 years

The name Xoloitzcuintli comes from Nahuatl, from the god Xolotl and the term itzcuīntli, meaning «dog». According to native legends, this breed was created directly by the god Xolotl to guard people through the dangers of the underworld, so we can call it «Xolotl’s dog». Even native people regarded it as a holy dog.

This is a very graceful and athletic breed, originally used for hunting and guarding people and their homes. They are always very alert and protective, but they would never release a useless bark. This is why you should always watch out if you notice your Xolo is anxious. This breed is also very affectionate and would be a great companion towards his entire life.

Being a primitive dog with little selective breeding, the Xolo would only accept a stable and quiet environment. Abuse and rough treatment won’t be tolerated, as he usually acts based on his instinct rather than education and has very quick reflexes.

These hairless dogs require a little more attention and grooming, although brushing is mostly out of the question with them. This is why novice owners should always ask a vet for indications on how to care for them. Also, because of their sensitivity to extreme temperatures, Xolos are not suitable for living in cold or very hot climates, unless they have an appropriate shelter. This means being able to stay indoors during cold seasons, and having a cool and shady place during summer.

Main Highlights
  • This is a hairless dog breed, thus quite sensitive to harsh weather conditions. Make sure he is protected from the sun and cold;
  • Despite being hairless, some Xolos also come in a coated version;
  • Also, his hairlessness doesn’t make this dog hypoallergenic. Though, he is much less likely to trigger allergies in sensitive people;
  • These dogs come in three different sizes, so you don’t need to worry about your home being too small for them;
  • Xoloitzcuintli dogs are great companions and are very attached to their human family;
  • Xolos are quite emotional dogs and won’t do well if left alone for too long. They need constant human companionship and are likely to develop separation anxiety;
  • They are smart, sensitive and high-spirited and also keen watchdogs. Please note that this doesn’t necessarily make them good watchdogs;
  • This is a very old breed, known since pre-Columbian times;
  • Xolos have a strong prey drive and would easily chase away smaller animals.
Breed History

Xolos have been dated about 3500 years ago due to remains found in Zapotec, Toltec, Mayan, Aztec and Colima burial sites. Mesoamerican art also depicts these dogs throughout the ages, so we have strong evidence of the breed’s continuity.

According to native legends, Xolo dogs were created by the god Xolotl from the same Bone of life of which humans were also made. Xolotl then gave the dog to men to guard it no matter what, and the Xolo would guard men throughout the underworld, Mictlan. This is what made this breed sacred to the Maya, Aztecs and Toltecs, as well as other peoples in Mesoamerican and Southern American areas. Even nowadays they are regarded as great guardians and are very appreciated by Mexican people, and some still believe they have healing qualities.

These dogs were also regarded as a great delicacy, being ritually sacrificed for important banquets, like funeral and marriage ceremonies. This only used to happen some hundred years ago until little after the 16th century and very few people still eat dog meat in the area.

Xolos began being imported to Europe after Christopher Columbus noted the existence of strange hairless dogs in the Caribbean. Strangely though, they are still not a very popular breed in the U.S, but Mexican people did keep a special place in their hearts for this breed, which has become the national dog of Mexico.

Size

This breed cannot be classified in a single category, as Xolos come in three different sizes:

  • Toy: 10 – 14 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 5 — 15 lbs;
  • Miniature: 14 – 18 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 15 — 30 lbs;
  • Standard: 18 -23 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 25 — 50 lbs.
Personality and Character

These are intelligent dogs with a mind of their own and an independent attitude. They need proper leadership from all family members, or they would run the house if they are not shown who is the pack leader. Otherwise, they are very loyal and loving to their family, thus making a great companion. Their strong guarding instincts also recommend Xolos as excellent guard dogs. They won’t bark without a reason, so you should be careful when your dog alerts you.

They are considered Velcro dogs, who bond closely with their family and need constant human attention. All family members must connect with the dog and be present in its upbringing and education, otherwise your Xolo would only bond with the members who do. They are not the kind of dog you can let alone for too long, as they may suffer from separation anxiety.

Xolos are very easily trained, but only positive reinforcement should be applied. They never tolerate abuse and rough talking, so they would simply refuse to do anything anymore. Their athletic skills may be a bit tricky to manage without a stable job, as these dogs love to climb, jump and escape enclosed areas. Make sure your Xolo has something to focus his attention on most of the time. These dogs are becoming really popular nowadays in agility and obedience competitions, as well as therapy jobs.

Do not let toy Xolos develop the Small Dog Syndrome: this set of behavioral issues usually appears in small dog breeds, as many owners ignore or mistake domination behavior as «displays of affection»: at first, your little buddy learns that it’s all right to jump on your lap or next to you on the couch, but in his mind, the pack leader always places himself above others. Next, he would guard his toys, chair, blanket or any other things in the house and begin barking and growling at anyone approaching those objects. He now sees them as belonging to his territory, while people may think it’s a cute attitude. These are the main features of  the syndrome, and it’s easy to see why it only happens to small dogs: you won’t allow a large dog like a Cane Corso jump on you for obvious reasons!

Health and Potential Problems

Xolos are generally very healthy and hardy because humans have barely interfered with the natural selection in the development of the breed. This is why they are not really susceptible to genetic disease, as only the strongest and healthiest genes managed to stay in line. Though, because of being hairless, these dogs do have their weak points as well:

  • Skin sensitivity: being hairless pets, Xolos are very sensitive to extreme heat or cold. This is why they should wear a sweater during extreme weather, as well as occasional sunscreen for lighter colored dogs. Dark colored Xolos’ skin is a bit harder, so they may need a little  less care. Just pay great attention to what your dog’s body and attitude are telling you;
  • Acne and irritations: these particular skin conditions may develop because of blocked pores. Always keep your dog’s skin clean and free of debris to avoid any skin issues. Also, never over-bathe or put a lot of lotion and skin products on your Xolo, as his skin may not take it very well. Only use the products he really needs at the time, like sunscreen when walking outside during summer time. Of course, you should choose a mild dog shampoo, suitable for this breed’s skin.

You must always make sure you get your puppy from a responsible breeder, who is able to show you health clearance of his breeding stock. For some diseases, health clearance won’t be issued until the dog reaches two years of age, because this is the moment they begin showing any signs. This is why no Xolo should be bred before being two or three years old.

Care Features

Being hairless, Xolo dogs need some extra attention regarding their skin. They need the extra protection usually given by coat to most dogs. They are quite sensitive to extreme weather conditions, so they should wear a sweater to protect them from cold air, as well as sunscreen during hot, sunny days. Light colored dogs are the most sensitive to sun damage. They are, as well, more exposed to skin injury and scratches, so look carefully for any signs of skin damage as often as you can.

Be careful not to overcoat him in lotions or skin care products. It’s true that hairless Xolos need extra protection, but lotions and excessive bathing can do more harm than good. Basically, just keep his skin and paws clean by wiping them with a clean cloth, and wipe out any sunscreen after returning home from a walk. Only bathe them as necessary to avoid stripping the skin of its natural oils.

These active dogs always need to have their attention focused on something, so provide them with a lot of toys and stuff to do. Also, they need at least a medium yard to run around, but don’t just assume this would be enough for this breed. They do need to exercise daily for at least 30 minutes, so it would be great to take them for a brisk walk, jog, biking or hiking.

Feeding Schedule

You can save a lot of money by feeding your dog high-quality food that suits his particular needs. Energetic dogs, especially those from working lines, need a high-calorie diet, to help them keep up with their activities. Feeding an adequate diet will prevent them from developing food-related health issues like obesity (which is not a serious threat in this breed, though), allergies, hot spots, etc.

Some say Xolos are vegetarian, but of course this is just a  myth. They do  like veggies, however, as it won’t be such a bad idea to give them a carrot or something to munch on occasionally. Depending on your Xolo’s size, he may require between 5/8 to 1.75 cups of dry kibble per day. Always read the feeding instructions on the food package and adjust it to your specific dog’s age, physical activity and dietary needs.

Females that are pregnant in late stages or breastfeeding should be given as much food as they want, to allow for proper development of the puppies and to make sure they have enough milk. Puppy kibble is best for them during this time, as it holds more nutrients than regular adult food.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Most Xolos are hairless but some of them also come in coated varieties. Even these varieties shed very little, though we cannot say that these dogs are indeed hypoallergenic. The fact that they have nothing to shed and spread around the house makes it less likely for allergic people to develop any reactions.

Coated Xolos should have short, sleek hair, like that of a Doberman. These dogs usually come in a wide variety of shades, like bronze, gray, brindle, slate, fawn or red, and can be either solid colored or spotted. Most hairless Xolos are blue-ish gray or black, but some can also display a tan coloration.

Grooming depends on whether your dog is hairless or not. Coated dog’s fur is relatively easy to maintain, as it is naturally clean and sheds very little. These dogs only require a regular brushing once every few days to remove dead hair and debris. On the other hand, hairless Xolos are a bit trickier to care for: they are more vulnerable to skin injury, as well as extreme weather conditions. This is why you should apply sunscreen especially on tan dogs’ bodies to protect them from the sun.

Bathing is not a frequent requirement and it is best to only wash these dogs as necessary. Excessive bathing and use of chemicals would remove natural oils from the skin, resulting in more skin irritations, acne or other skin conditions.

Teeth should be brushed at least two or three times a week to prevent bacteria and tartar from accumulating and to avoid gum disease. Trim his nails as needed, usually once or twice per month if your dog doesn’t wear them down naturally. Usually, you can guess the time to trim them when you hear them clicking on the floor as your dog walks by the house.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Xolos’ active and energetic temperament makes them good playmates for children, especially if they were brought up together. Though, always supervise young children while playing with the dog to avoid accidental biting because of kids pulling their tails, paws and ears, especially in very young dogs. Teach them never to touch a dog while sleeping or eating, and especially to not try to take away his food, no matter how good friends they usually are. Food is food and dogs never bargain about it!

Depending on how well socialized they are, Xolos usually get along well with most dogs and cats they grew up with. They may, however, be reserved towards strange dogs. This is why it is very important to socialize young puppies as much as you can and to introduce them to a lot of other dogs, people, places and smells.

Because of their hunting instincts, these dogs may want to chase away smaller pets, so pay great attention around the home.

Xolo dogs are special pets with a wonderful personality and unique, dignified look. Establishing a great relationship with them won’t be hard, as long as you show them respect and gentle leadership. These independent dogs need a firm leader to show them their place in the pack order and to train them in a positive manner. With a little bit of extra care for their hairless skin, these hardy dogs would surely have a happy and healthy life until their last years. Just show them you are the friend you would like to have yourself!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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