Japanese Chin

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Japanese Chin
Japanese Chin adult.jpg
An adult male Japanese Chin. A fully mature Chin's coat is long and full.
Other namesJapanese Spaniel
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
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Japanese Chin
Japanese Chin adult.jpg
An adult male Japanese Chin. A fully mature Chin's coat is long and full.
Other namesJapanese Spaniel
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Japanese Chin (Japanese: 狆, chin), also known as the Japanese Spaniel,[1] is the dog of Japanese royalty. A lap dog and companion dog, this toy breed has a distinctive heritage.


Japanese Chins from 1915.


Japanese Chin have a distinctive expression and face.

Japanese Chin stand about 20 to 27 cm (8 to 11 in) in height at the withers. Weight can vary from a low of 1.4 kg (3 lb) to a high of 6.8 kg (15 lb), with an average of 3.2–4.1 kg (7–9 lb) being the most common. The American Kennel Club and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale give no weight requirement for the Chin. Its distinctive expression is characterized by the large broad head, large wide-set eyes, short broad muzzle, ear feathering, and the evenly patterned facial markings.

Coat and color[edit]

The coat is low maintenance, long, and smooth/silky to the touch. The coat is distinctively black & white or red & white in color and have variations in color intensity (lemon & white, mahogany & white, etc.). As of November 11, 2011, the colors not listed in the breed standard[2] are grounds for disqualification in competitions.

Japanese Chin are very cat-like in both appearance and traits


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. 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".


A Japanese Chin puppy with an adult Japanese Chin.

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 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.[3]

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.

Japanese Chin were the dogs of Japanese royalty.

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. Professor Ludwig von Schulmuth studied canine origins by studying the skeletal remains of dogs found in human settlements as long as the 8th millennium BC. The Professor created a genealogical tree of Tibetan dogs that shows the "Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog", a scavenger, evolved into the "Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog". From this dog evolved the Tibetan Spaniel, Pekingese, and Japanese Chin`. Another branch coming down from the "Kitchen Midden Dog" gave rise to the Papillon and Long-haired Chihuahua and yet another "Kitchen Midden Dog" branch to the Pug and Shih Tzu.

Though there is some documentation that indicates Portuguese sailors introduced the breed to Europe in the 17th century by presenting some to Catherine of Braganza, Queen Consort to King Charles II of England, there is more credible evidence that the first Chin were given as gifts by the Emperor of Japan to an American naval officer, Matthew Calbraith Perry, when Perry visited the Orient in 1853 to open trade with the East. Perry was given a total of seven Chin; however, only two survived the passage back. Again, there is controversy over whether Perry gave the two to Franklin Pierce, President of the United States, gave them to James Stirling, Rear admiral of the Royal Navy to take to Queen Victoria, or gave them to his daughter, Caroline Slidell, after returning from Japan. Caroline was the wife of August Belmont.


A red and white Japanese Chin
A 6 month old Japanese Chin
A Japanese Chin

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 have seasonal allergies.

A UK Kennel Club survey puts their median lifespan at 9.25 years[4] though some have been known to live into their 20s.


The Chin's coat requires nothing more than brushing or combing twice every week to maintain its appearance, with special attention being given to the area under the ears and legs and to the skirt, and they 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.



  1. ^ Tietjen, Sari Brewster. "History of the Japanese Chin". Japanese Chin Club of America. Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "Breed standard". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Morris, Desmond (2008). Dogs: The Ultimate Dictionary of Over 1,000 Dog Breeds. Trafalgar Square. ISBN 978-1-57076-410-3. 
  4. ^ "Individual Breed Results for Purebred Dog Health Survey". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 

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