Information about the Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin, also known as the Japanese Spaniel, is the dog of Japanese royalty. A lap dog and companion dog, this toy breed has a distinctive heritage.

Japanese Chin stand about 20 to 27 cm (8 to 11 in) in height at the withers and weight can vary from a low of 3 lbs to a high of 15 lbs, with an average of 7 to 9 pounds being the most common. The American Kennel Club and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale give no weight requirement for the Chin. The distinctive Oriental expression is characterized by the large broad head, large wide-set eyes, short broad muzzle, ear feathering, and the evenly patterned facial markings.

The coat is low maintenance, long, and smooth/silky to the touch. They are distinctively black & white and red & white in color and have variations in color intensity (lemon & white, mahogany & white, etc.). As of November 11, 2011, any color not listed in the breed standard is grounds for disqualification in competitions.

This breed is considered one of the most cat-like of the dog breeds in attitude: it is alert, intelligent, and independent, and it uses its paws to wash and wipe its face. Other cat-like traits include their preference for resting on high surfaces such as the backs of sofas and chairs, their ability to walk across a coffee table without disturbing an item, and some of the surprising places their owners often find them in. They rank 62nd in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, being of fair working/obedience intelligence. A companion dog, it is loving and loyal to its owner and typically happy to see other people, though a few are distrustful of strangers. Chin prefer familiar surroundings, but do quite well in new situations and are often used as therapy dogs because of this trait and their love of people. Very early socialization of Chin puppies leads to a more emotionally well-balanced Chin that is more accepting of different situations and people.

The Chin will bark for the purpose of alerting the household to the arrival of a visitor or something out of the ordinary, but are otherwise very quiet.

Chin were bred for the purpose of loving and entertaining their people. While typically a calm little dog, they are well known for performing many enjoyable antics such as the “Chin Spin”, in which they turn around in rapid circles; dancing on their hind legs while pawing their front feet, clasped together, in the air; and, some even “sing”, a noise that can range from a low trill to a higher, almost operatic quality noise, and which sounds much like “woooo”.

This breed’s flattened face contributes to a few Chin suffering from breathing and heart problems, as is common with brachycephalic breeds. Because they are a brachycephalic breed, temperature extremes (particularly heat) should be avoided. Luxating patellas (knees) and heart murmurs are other genetically predisposed conditions. The oversized eyes are easily scratched and corneal scratches or more serious ulcerations can result. Mild scratches benefit from topical canine antibacterial ointment specifically for eye application; more serious injury or ulcerations require urgent medical care. The Chin, as with most small breed dogs, can also have a risk of hypoglycemia when under the age of 6 months; this concern can continue in Chin that mature at 4 to 5 pounds or less. Some Chin do have seasonal allergies.

The Chin’s coat requires nothing more than brushing or combing once every day or two to maintain its appearance, with special attention being given to the area under the ears and legs and to the skirt; they have no coat odor and do not require frequent bathing. Chin are single-coated and single-hair shedders, much like people, and it is very seldom one will find a Chin with an undercoat. Occasionally, a Chin will have a light blowing of their coat once a year. Without fiber in the diet, they may need to have their anal glands expressed. The oversized eye orbits contribute to moisture about the face and the skin folds in and around the nose and flattened facial area can trap moisture and cause fungal problems. The face should be occasionally wiped with a damp cloth and the folds cleaned with a cotton swab.

Diet is an important factor in the health and condition of the Chin, with many Chin being very sensitive or allergic to corn. Maintaining a Chin on a high quality kibble that contains no corn will do much to avoid skin and allergy conditions.

The true origin of the Chin is widely debated. It is widely agreed that the source breed for the Japanese Chin originated in China.

These dogs were brought over to Japan around 732. Some maintain the ancestors of these dogs first appeared in Japan around the year 732, as gifts from the rulers of Korea, while others maintain that they were given as gifts to the Empress of Japan as early as the mid-6th century to 7th century, and even some saying they came to Japan as recently as around the year 1000.

The Japanese created a breed so distinct from other dogs, that in Japan it was considered something different, distinct from a “dog” which was considered a working/helper animal whereas the Japanese Chin was considered strictly for pleasurable companionship.

Its distinct appearance and personality eventually captured the hearts of Japanese Royalty and resulted in ownership being restricted to those of royal and noble blood.

Each noble house bred to their own standards. Because of this, there are many variations of the Chin in any area from size to coat density, eye set, personality, whether they are compact and well-muscled or slender-boned and fragile in appearance, etc.

Once introduced to the West, a strong desire for the smaller 10 lbs or less version of the Japanese Chin came to dominate and become the standard of various kennel clubs around the world.