Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin is a toy breed native to Japan, although its ancestors originally came from China. This breed was for many years owned exclusively by the nobility, and it was illegal for commoners to possess them.  The Japanese Chin is known for being beautiful, refined, and elegant.  The Japanese Chin was originally known in America as the Japanese Spaniel, and some still call the breed by either this name or simply the Chin.

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
X-Small 4-8 lb
Small 8-15 lb
LifeSpan: 
10 to 12 Years
Trainability: 
Very Easy To Train
Energy Level: 
Medium Energy
Grooming: 
A Couple Times a Week
Protective Ability: 
Fairly Laid Back
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
Apartment Ok
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
Generally Good With Other Pets
Litter Size: 
3-6 Puppies
Names: 
Japanese Spaniel, Chin

Height/Weight

Males: 
4-15 lbs, 8-11 inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
Toy
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

The Japanese Chin was first introduced to the West as a result of Japan.  While the breed was developed and refined in that nation, its original ancestors were native to China.  For many centuries, Chinese and Tibetan monks and nobility created several varieties of very small dog, designed to be companions in palaces and monasteries.  Such breeds include the Pekingese, the Shih Tzu, and the Lhasa Apso.  In ancient times, China was the only nation in the world that produced silk, and the secrets of its production were jealously guarded.  Additionally, most of the world was completely unexplored, and reliable navigation routes from China to the Middle East and Europe did not exist.  This meant that the only way to transport this valuable cloth was overland, and the most commonly used routes across Central Asia became known as the Silk Road.  In addition to silk, one of the most commonly traded commodities across this road was the tiny companion dogs popular with the nobility.  These small dogs were some of the most highly prized and expensive goods available.

 

A number of monasteries developed along the Silk Road which catered to travelers.  These monasteries frequently traded with the silk-trading caravans.  Through trade and gifts, these monks acquired small companion dogs from across the entire Chinese Empire, as well as from many foreign lands.  The monks crossed these dogs together until they came up with the ancestors of the Japanese Chin.  While there is no conclusive proof, most experts believe that for many centuries the Pekingese and the Japanese Chin were the same breed.  Eventually, the monasteries themselves traded the dogs which they had created, and they ended up in the hands of the Chinese Royalty.  It is unclear when the Pekingese/Japanese Chin was first created, but it was certainly very long ago.  Recent DNA analysis has confirmed that the Pekingese is one of the oldest of all dog breeds, and archaeological and historical evidence seems to indicate that the breed has existed in some form for several thousand years.

 

The Pekingese/Japanese Chin quickly became extremely popular with the Chinese nobility and monks.  For many centuries, it was illegal for commoners to own these dogs, and it was also illegal for them to be sold.  They could only be given as gifts to those who were seen as the most worthy.  Through diplomacy and trade, these tiny dogs ended up in the various feudal kingdoms of Japan.  There is substantial dispute as to when the Pekingese/Japanese Chin first arrived in Japan.  The most common date given, as well as being the date which seems to be backed up by the strongest evidence is 732.  Those who propose this date seem to agree that the dogs were a gift to members of Japan’s ruling class from the rulers of Korea.  However, some evidence suggests that the breed arrived in Japan from Korea as early as the 400’s, while others claim that the dog arrived directly from China sometime around 1000.  Although the exact date is unknown, the Japanese Chin has certainly been present in Japan for well over a thousand years.

 

Prior to the arrival of the Pekingese, the Japanese nobility favored a small native breed which resembled the Continental Toy Spaniel of Europe.  This breed was mixed with the newly arrived brachycephalic (smushed-in-face) Pekingese of China.  The result of this crossing was the Japanese Chin.  Due to the similarity of the Japanese Chin to Chinese companion breeds, it is widely assumed that these dogs had a much greater impact on the ancestry of this breed than native Japanese dogs.  The Japanese Chin was very different from other Japanese dog breeds such as the Akita Inu, the Shiba Inu, and the Tosa Inu.  This dog was seen as being so apart from other dogs, that many didn’t really even consider it a dog.  There were many different feudal houses in Japan, each of which controlled its own territories and armies.  Each house began to breed its own line of Japanese Chin, leading to a substantial amount of diversity in the breed.  Dogs were of different colors, sizes, and body shapes across the islands, although all were considered to be of the same breed.  As was the case in China, in Japan the Japanese Chin was strictly a dog of the nobility and religious classes.  Similar ownership and sale restrictions were placed on these dogs as well.  This situation was maintained from the initial arrival of the Japanese Chin’s ancestors until the first Europeans arrived in Japan. 

 

After a brief period of initial contact with Portuguese and Dutch traders, Japan closed off its borders to prevent any further foreign influences on the Japanese culture, economy, and politics.  Only a few very small trading outposts were allowed.  Some claim that Portuguese traders brought back a few Japanese Chins to Portugal in either the 1700’s or 1800’s, but the evidence for this in inconclusive.  The first Japanese Chins which are definitely known to have left Japan did so in 1854, when the American Admiral Matthew C. Perry arrived in Japan with modern warships and forced the Japanese to open their borders to foreigners.  Perry is believed to have left the islands with six Japanese Chins, two for him, two for President Pierce, and two for the British Queen Victoria.  However, only the pair given to Perry is believed to have survived the voyage, and records indicate that the other four dogs never reached their destinations.  Perry gave his two dogs to his daughter Caroline Perry Belmont and her husband August Belmont, whose son August Belmont Junior would later serve as the president of the American Kennel Club (AKC).  According to the Belmont family, these first American Japanese Chins never bred and lived out their lives as treasured companions.

 

By 1858, trade treaties had been established between Japan and American and European nations.  The Japanese Chin became a popular trading commodity.  Some of these dogs were given as gifts in the traditional fashion, but perhaps more were stolen by palace workers and soldiers, eager to sell the dogs to desiring foreigners.  Although several varieties of Japanese Chin existed in Japan, only the smallest dogs were seen as desirable to export.  The long sea voyages were taxing on these delicate dogs, and many died onboard.  Such dogs were traditionally wrapped in silk for burial at sea.  The Japanese Chin became an incredibly fashionable breed among European nobility and American upper-classes.  However, this breed was not exclusively owned by the rich and powerful any longer.  A number of these dogs became prized pets of sailors and their wives.  Although relatively unknown now, for several decades in the late 1800’s, the Japanese Chin was one of the most famous and fashionable dog breeds in the world.  However, the breed had not yet acquired the name Japanese Chin.  Early fanciers noticed the similarity between these dogs and European Spaniels and called the breed the Japanese Spaniel even though it has no relationship to those gundog breeds.

 

The Japanese Chin was largely popularized by Queen Alexandra.  Originally a princess of Denmark, she married King Edward the VII of Great Britain.  She received her first Japanese Chin as a gift from the royal family shortly thereafter in 1863.  She became enamored of the breed and had several more imported from the Orient.  She popularized the breed among the upper classes of Britain, and her many relations on continental Europe.

 

While perhaps of slightly lower social status, the Japanese Chin was likely more numerous in America than Europe, as a result of a greater amount of trade between the Pacific Rim nations of America and Japan than between Europe and Japan.  The Japanese Chin was one of the earliest breed’s to be registered with the AKC, being registered in 1888, the same year that August Belmont Jr. became the club’s president.  The first Japanese Chin, still known as the Japanese Spaniel, to be registered with the AKC was a male of unknown parentage and breeder named Jap. 

 

Ancient restrictions on the breed’s ownership have been removed in Japan and Western nations, allowing the breed to develop a much larger following than ever before.  The Japanese Chin fell out of fashion by the year 1900, but the dog had already established sustainable populations and a sizable number of devoted followers by that point.  The Japanese Chin Club of America (JCCA), originally the Japanese Spaniel Club of America, was founded around 1912 to promote and protect the breed.  The Japanese Chin gradually rose in popularity in the United States until it reached the middle of the AKC’s registration statistics.  The Japanese Chin is certainly not a common breed, but they have not been especially rare for several decades.  This is most likely exactly as Japanese Chin fanciers would like it.  In 1977, the AKC officially renamed the Japanese Spaniel the Japanese Chin.  In 2010, the Japanese Chin ranked 75th out of 167 breeds in terms of AKC registrations, and the breed is also registered with the United Kennel Club (UKC).  The Japanese Chin and its ancestors have been exclusively companion dogs for several thousand years.  Essentially every Japanese Chin alive today is either a companion animal or a show dog.

 

The Japanese Chin has not been an overly fashionable and demanded breed for over a century, although most fanciers will tell you that they should be.  This has meant that the breed has largely escaped the worst effects of puppy mills or other irresponsible breeding.  However, in recent years the breed has been subjected to these poor breeding practices which lead to unhealthy and temperamentally unstable dogs.  It is important for owners to make sure that they carefully select a Japanese Chin breeder.

 

Appearance: 

 

The Japanese Chin looks like what one would expect the result of a Pekingese/Spaniel mix to look like.  This is a very elegant and refined breed, with a beautiful coat and brachycephalic (smushed) face.  As one would expect of a toy breed, the Japanese Chin is very small.  AKC standards call for a dog which is between 8 and 11 inches tall at the shoulders, while UKC standards call for a dog with and ideal height of 10 inches tall at the shoulders.  Males tend to be slightly taller than females although to a lesser extent than is the case with most breeds.  This breed ranges in weight from 4 to 15 pounds.  The Japanese Chin is a very square bodied breed, and has a moderately wide body.  The Japanese Chin is surely not an athletic looking breed, but it is not as frail in appearance as some toy breeds.  The tail of a Japanese Chin is of moderate length and is held on top of the dog, not exactly curled but generally hanging to one side.

 

The head and face of the Japanese Chin are perhaps the breed’s most defining features.  The head of a Japanese Chin is round and looks very small in comparison to body size.  These dogs have a brachycephalic face, meaning that it is pushed inwards in much the same way as an English Bulldog or Pug.  This face takes up virtually the entire head.  As is the case with all brachycephalic dogs, the Japanese Chin has a very short muzzle which points slightly inwards.  Many Japanese Chins have slight under bites.  Unlike some similar dogs, the Japanese Chin has lips which completely cover the mouth.  Additionally, the Japanese Chin would never be described as wrinkly or jowly, unlike a Pug.  This breed has very large eyes for the size of its head, and these eyes are very round.  Between the eyes and the muzzle, the Japanese Chin in some ways more closely resembles a doll than a dog.  The ears of a Japanese Chin are quite small and set far apart on the head.  These ears are v-shaped and droop down very close to the head.

 

The Japanese Chin has a very elegant coat.  This breed has a single coat comprised of straight, silky hairs.  The coat of the Japanese Chin has a tendency to stand slightly off of the body, especially on the neck, chest, and shoulders where many dogs develop a miniature mane.  The hair of the Japanese Chin is quite long, but it should not reach the floor.  This hair in only uniform in length over the dog’s body, with the head, face, and legs having considerably shorter hair.  Japanese Chins have very long feathery hair on their ears and tails, as well as feathering on the backs of their legs.  This breed is commonly thought of as being black and white in color, and in fact the majority of Japanese Chins are white dogs with black markings.  However, this breed may also be white with red markings, or white with black markings and tan points.  The size, placement, and pattern of these markings are not important.  However, it is preferable for these dogs to have clearly white muzzles and blaze markings on their faces rather than having a solidly colored head.  Additionally, the most highly prized dogs do not have an excessive amount of very small markings.


 

Temperament: 

 

The Japanese Chin is the ultimate companion dog in almost all aspects, and the breed’s temperament is no different.  This breed is supposed to be the treasured and delightful companion of royalty, and it certainly acts like it knows it.  Japanese Chins are incredibly affectionate with their owners, often fawningly so.  This breed is definitely a licker.  The Japanese Chin is not necessarily a one-person dog, and is more than capable of meeting new friends whom it will eventually greet just as affectionately as its master.  However, this breed does not make friends instantly, and many are suspicious of strangers.  Socialization is very important for the Japanese Chin, because if they are not exposed to new situations from a very young age they often become very timid and possibly fearful.

 

Japanese Chins are very gentle dogs, and are recommended as one of the most ideal breeds for senior citizens.  However, Japanese Chins generally do not get along well with young children.  This is an incredibly gentle and fragile dog, which is likely to be injured by the play of even the best meaning children.  Additionally, this breed does not enjoy any sort of roughhousing, and may respond very negatively to a child’s actions.  This breed craves human companionship and is very likely to develop severe separation anxiety.  If you have to leave a dog at home for long periods of time each day, the Japanese Chin may not be the ideal breed for you.  Japanese Chins are known for being relatively easy-going and comparatively submissive towards people, and would be an acceptable breed for a novice dog owner.

 

The Japanese Chin has been described as among the most catlike of all dog breeds.  This breed likes to climb and perch on furniture.  It is also self-cleaning and generally quiet.  A Japanese Chin would not be described as a yappy dog.  Although this breed will play an occasional game, they are much happier either wandering about on their own or snuggling next to their masters.  This is also one of the most relaxed of the toy breeds.  Although Japanese Chins which have not been properly socialized may develop anxiety issues, properly trained examples of this breed are probably not going to go loudly charging into every situation they encounter.  This breed prefers to take things in stride.

 

This breed is known for being very accepting and gentle with other animals.  The Japanese Chin is particularly accepting of other dogs.  This breed rarely has issues with other canines, and is rarely dominant or possessive.  Japanese Chins seem to especially enjoy the company of other Japanese Chins, and as many owners will tell you, one of these dogs is never enough.  It is probably inadvisable to keep a Japanese Chin with much larger dogs, as this breed is both fragile and disapproving of rough play.  This breed is also much better around other animals than most breeds.  Although any dog which has never encountered a cat is likely to give chase, when properly socialized the Japanese Chin will rarely bother cats, to which it shares many sensibilities.

 

While the Japanese Chin has a lively personality, this is definitely not a high energy breed.  This breed requires a regular daily walk and likes to have some time to run around in a safely enclosed space, but little more.  Japanese Chins adapt very well to comparatively inactive families.  This does not mean that a Japanese Chin can go without exercise, as all dogs may develop behavioral issues if their needs are not met.  It does mean that a Japanese Chin will require less exercise than most breeds to have its needs met.  Although Japanese Chin puppies will be no less exuberant than those of other dogs.  Japanese Chins have been known to compete in agility and obedience events.  However, most breed members probably prefer more relaxed and laid back activities.

 

The Japanese Chin is a generally trainable dog.  This breed easily learns good manners and is generally responsive.  This breed is also capable of learning some tricks.  Studies consistently rank the Japanese Chin in the middle of the pack in terms of doggie intelligence.  If you are looking for a breed that can easily be trained to be a well-mannered and pleasant pet, and that also might be willing to learn an entertaining trick or two, a Japanese Chin may be an excellent choice for you.  If you are looking for a dog which will excel in obedience trials or learn a complex series of behaviors, you may want to look for a dog which is better suited to these tasks.  Japanese Chins respond best to training regimens that involve treats and the positive reinforcements and affection from their owners that they so crave.  As is the case with all toy breeds, Japanese Chins can be somewhat challenging to housebreak.  However, this breed does not have the reputation for housebreaking difficulties of most toy breeds.

 

It is always important for owners to make sure that their little dogs do not develop Small Dog Syndrome.  This is a behavioral problem caused by owners who have not disciplined a small dog in the same way that they would a larger dog.  Although a two pound Japanese Chin puppy which angrily charges houseguests may seem much funnier than a thirty pound German Shepherd puppy doing the same, when unpunished the results are the same.  Dogs suffering from Small Dog Syndrome are generally hyper-dominant, aggressive, ill-behaved, vocal, and out-of-control.  The Japanese Chin is generally more relaxed and less dominant than most toy breeds, and is somewhat less likely to develop this condition.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

The Japanese Chin has considerable grooming requirements, but not excessive ones.  This breed does not necessarily require professional grooming, although many owners choose to take their dogs to the groomers to make it easier on themselves.  However, these must have a thorough brushing every day or at least every other day.  Mats and tangles should be brushed out and their hair should be placed out a little bit.  This breed should be bathed only when necessary.  However, this breed must have its eyes and ears cleaned regularly, as well as having its anal region to avoid the collection of excrement on the fur.

 

The Japanese Chin is not a hypoallergenic breed, and is definitely a shedder.  Most breeders believe that females shed more than males, although this difference is lessened in spayed dogs.  The Japanese Chin tends to shed long single hairs in much the same way that human beings do.


 

Health Issues: 

 

The Japanese Chin is a dog with a normal life expectancy of 10 to 12 years.  The Japanese Chin is known for suffering from having a number of health problems.  This breed commonly suffers from most health issues common to toy breeds, as well as most health problems associated with other brachycephalic breeds.

 

The pushed-in faces of brachycephalic dogs create a number of health issues for these dogs.  Most mildly, these dogs suffer from snoring and snorting.  More seriously, these dogs suffer breathing problems when they exercise, or sometimes when they are just lying around.  Japanese Chins have even greater breathing problems when it is hot outside, and are known to rapidly develop heat prostration.  Owners must be aware of these difficulties and make sure to protect their dogs.

 

It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed.  The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.

 

A list of health problems experienced by the Japanese Chin must include:

 

 

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