When most people think of the chihuahua, they think of the Taco Bell dog. That certainly made the breed a lot more famous, and I heard it unfortunately created an oversupply of the breed which still exists today.
But Taco Bell wasn't the only place in pop culture that featured this rat dog. Consider Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Though the movie definitely jokes about ultra-luxurious living for dogs (comfy suntanning lounges by the swimming pool, manicures and massages -- how could a modern dog live without these necessities?), it actually does do a bit of justice to the long history and richness of the breed that eludes the eye (which is usually just overwhelmed by the cuteness of the face).
There's a scene in the movie where the dogs meet the powerful, wild chihuahuas that represent the grace, beauty, and fearlessness that the chihuahua contains inside. This is obviously for cinematic effect, but there is some truth to this. Every time my chihuahua is annoyed (such as by being put into a rabbit costume or by having its teeth brushed), it displays the meanest and fiercest set of fangs that are better suited for a lion than a rat.
It is true that the breed possesses a long history and is named after the state in Mexico of the same name. Chihuahuas were the favorite companion of the Toltec royalty and were bred to be small and cute. They are perfect examples of the "toy dog" category.
When I first interacted with a chihuahua, I thought it would be a stupid, small dog (for chicks to carry in their purse). As I spent more time with the breed and got to bond with one closely, I realized that the cuteness was a front, a facade. They use their cuteness to get into your heart and your arms and use you for food, shelter, warmth, and love. Chihuahuas are in fact devilishly clever; I was surprised to see how incredibly smart they are. Their love for people and social nature makes them happy to meet anybody and to play, but each dog has a very unique personality. I can say that there are only 2 things in the world that my chihuahua cares about, so making her happy is very easy: food and being petted. She has mastered several circus animal tricks (she reminds us of Abu sometimes) which she uses to be rewarded with extra treats and petting.
Another part of the animal that I think is neat is its ears. Though they're not as soft, large, and easy to pet as a Neapolitan Mastiffs, they are clearly strategic tools in the limited arsenal of self-defense mechanisms of the chihuahua. When the dog hears something, one or both ears can turn to help it analyze the sound. When it runs, it can slide its ears back into what I call "aerodynamic mode" sort of like a Batmobile changing shape to minimize air friction/drag. This is obviously instinctual and unconscious, but I still think it's cool.
I also think the dog's eyes are deep and full of life. At first, it may appear that they are black, lifeless orbs. In fact, the dog's face and eyes look very similar to monkeys', rats', and even camels'. In this way, every facial expression the dog makes immediately invokes a smile due to its cuteness. However, upon closer inspection, it's clear how deep and complex its eyes can be and how it uses its eyes to convey emotion and excitement (like for food).
Overall, I've enjoyed getting to know this breed and appreciate its more subtle points much more than when I first met it.