Japanese Chin

  • Japanese Chin Dog Breed

    Mary Bloom

  • Japanese Chin Dog Breed

    Mary Bloom

  • Japanese Chin Dog Breed

    Mary Bloom

  • Japanese Chin Dog Breed

    Mary Bloom

  • Japanese Chin Dog Breed

    Mary Bloom

  • Japanese Chin

    Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

  • Breed Group: Toy
  • Height: 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: 4 to 9 pounds
  • Life Span: 12 to 14 years

The Japanese Chin has definite likes and dislikes, and he can be reserved with strangers. His straight, silky coat is easy to care for but he is a shedder.

Breed Characteristics

Adaptability 5 stars Dog Friendly 3 stars Shedding Level 3 stars
Affection Level 5 stars Exercise Needs 1 star Social Needs 5 stars
Apartment Friendly 5 stars Grooming 2 stars Stranger Friendly 5 stars
Barking Tendencies 2 stars Health Issues 3 stars Territorial 4 stars
Cat Friendly 5 stars Intelligence 3 stars Trainability 3 stars
Child Friendly 2 stars Playfulness 3 stars Watchdog Ability 4 stars

Did You Know?

A Japanese Chin makes a cameo appearance in the 1984 Woody Allen film "Broadway Danny Rose."

The Japanese Chin is one of the many flat-faced toy breeds that originated in the novelty loving Chinese imperial court as far back as 1,500 years ago. His fans today laud him as playful, mischievous, smart, determined, stubborn, and affectionate. He is popular with anyone who loves a small dog with a sense of humor, an impish temperament, and endless cleverness in pursuit of his own interests. The Chin’s vigilant nature makes him a super watchdog and his size makes him suited to any home, whether apartment or palace.

The Chin's greatest virtue is that he makes people laugh. You never know what he will do next, but it’s always entertaining. The Chin has a real flair for mischief, and one of his greatest pleasures is watching the reaction he gets after doing something funny or forbidden. He has a happy, cheerful personality and larger Chin do well in families with older children who understand how to handle them carefully.

You might think that having a toy breed like the Chin -- who stands only 8 to 11 inches and weighs 4 to 9 pounds -- means you don’t have to worry as much, but the Chin can seemingly fly. There’s no other explanation for their ability to reach and then perch on high places, surveying their domain. Some Chin have been known to clear six feet. This is not a quiet, gentle lap dog. It’s not unusual to see a gang of Chin tearing around the house at full speed, leaping all obstacles.

Chin are smart when it comes to training. If they like you, they will work to please you and some do very well in agility and obedience trials. Use positive reinforcement techniques and no correction stronger than a firm tone.

The Chin’s single coat is straight and silky, with feathering on the backs of the legs. It rarely mats (although the ear fringes can get tangles), and there’s no need to trim it. The coat sheds and should be brushed weekly to keep loose hair under control. Bathe the Chin monthly to keep him clean.

Exercise is good for every dog, so make sure the Chin gets some activity daily. While it’s tempting to carry this ounce-size dog everywhere you go, resist the impulse and let him be a dog. He'll be happier and better behaved for it.

It goes without saying that since Chin were bred exclusively as companion dogs, they need to live in the house and never outdoors. With their flat faces, they are sensitive to high temperatures and can quickly succumb to heatstroke if not kept in air-conditioned surroundings.

Other Quick Facts

  • In Japan, the Chin is considered a higher being than other dogs.
  • Chin love to go for walks, but they’re not fond of inclement weather. It’s a good idea to papertrain a Chin if you live in an area with a lot of rain or snow.
  • When the Chin isn’t playing, he’s perching on a high point, observing everything going on around him.
  • The Chin’s happy, cheerful nature, adaptability and range of sizes make him suited to almost any home. Chin who weigh eight or nine pounds are best for families with children, but they must still be handled carefully.
  • The Chin’s abundant silky coat comes in black and white, red and white, or black and white with tan points (tricolor).
  • Because of his acrobatic nature, climbing ability, and tendency to clean himself, the Chin has been described as a cat in a dog suit.

More on Vetstreet.com:

Next: History ›

The History of the Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin is one of the many flat-faced, short-headed (brachycephalic) toy breeds that originated in Asia as far back as 1,500 years ago. A product of the novelty loving Chinese imperial court, it was referred to as the imperial Chin and was the part-colored version of what later became known as the Pekingese. Chin were highly prized and were often given as gifts to visiting nobles and high-ranking emissaries.

Chin were especially desirable in Japan, where they were not regarded as dogs (inu), but as their own distinct entity (chin). It was in Japan that the Chin developed their distinctive look after being crossed with Continental Toy Spaniels (which later became known as Papillons).

The Chin came to the attention of Westerners in the mid-19th century. When Commodore Matthew Perry forcibly ended Japan’s isolation from the rest of the world in 1854, a Chin was one of the gifts he brought back for President Franklin Pierce — who passed the dog on to his good friend and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Perry also took a pair of Chin for himself, which he gave to his daughter, Caroline Perry Belmont. Those Chin were never bred, but it wasn’t long before other Chin made their way to the United States and Europe, where they became popular among people of wealth and nobility, including England’s Queen Alexandra.

The American Kennel Club recognized the Japanese Chin in 1888, making it one of the oldest AKC-recognized breeds. Until 1977, when the name was changed, the breed was known as the Japanese Spaniel. Today the Chin ranks 75th among the breeds registered by the AKC, a position that it has maintained for a decade.

‹ Previous: Overview

Japanese Chin Temperament and Personality

If you like a tiny dog with a wicked sense of humor, an impish temperament and a talent for pursuing his own interests, the Chin is the dog for you. A Chin will always make you laugh, and you never know what entertainment is in store.

The Chin has a healthy amount of self-confidence. He was bred for royalty, and he knows it. He chooses who he will like and who he won’t like. He sulks when he doesn’t get his way, and woe betide the person who angers him. A Chin has a good memory and isn’t above taking revenge.

There’s no need for television or other forms of entertainment if you live with a Chin. Beneath his polite and pleasant surface beats a clownish heart with a definite love of mischief. He enjoys doing the forbidden and waiting for your reaction.

You might think that your belongings are safe from a tiny dog, especially if you put them in a high place, but don't make a mistake. People joke that Chin can fly, or that they are part cat, because of their incredible ability to reach high places. Some have been known to clear six feet. Not surprisingly, the Chin excels in agility trials.

The perfect day for a Chin involves spending as much time as possible with people, interspersed with bouts of play. He’ll tear around the house or yard, maybe try to scrounge a bite of toast or bacon, then play some more. Chin like to prance on their hind legs, toss around socks and shoes, and use their front paws to bat around lightweight toys. In a contemplative mood they’ll gnaw on a chew stick.

Sometimes Chin will even put on a show that involves singing, talking, and dancing. Their voices have been described as sounding like little killer bees. Be sure you praise them for their performance or you’ll never get another one.

The Chin is highly intelligent and can be trained — but only if he likes you. When you have his respect and love, all that’s needed to correct a Chin is a firm tone of voice. Punishment is counterproductive. Don’t forget that long memory. Think of the Chin as an ancient courtesan and use your diplomatic skills to persuade him to do what you want. Fortunately, the gentle Chin is mild-mannered and rarely does anything worthy of serious correction.

Chin are typically quiet dogs, but they are known for “singing” with their people or with each other, as well as chattering when someone arrives at the house. On the whole, though, they’re not yappy.

Start training your Chin the day you bring him home. Even at 10 to 12 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Chin, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.

‹ Previous: History
Next: Health ›

What You Need to Know About Japanese Chin Health


All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur.

The Chin is a reasonably healthy dog, but every breed and mix has some health issues. One of the health problems that can affect the Chin is a knee problem called luxating patellas, in which one or both knee caps are unstable and occasionally slip out of place. Depending on the level of severity (1 being mild and 4 being severe), luxating patellas can be a minor issue that cause the dog little pain or serious enough to require surgical correction. Other potential problems include cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy affecting the eyes, and mitral valve disease affecting the heart.

Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible.  They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.

The Japanese Chin Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Chin can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit knee and heart evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The eye exam must be performed at a minimum age of three years; the knee at one year; and the heart by a board-certified cardiologist at four years.

Breeders must agree to have all test results -- positive or negative -- published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease. But, all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.

Don't fall for a bad breeder's lies. If the breeder tells you tests aren't necessary because they've never had problems in her lines, the dogs have been "vet checked," or offers any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.

Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas. A puppy may develop one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what are the most common causes of death.

Be aware that the Chin’s flat face makes him sensitive to heat. Never leave him outdoors in hot weather. He can quickly succumb to heatstroke.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Chin at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.

‹ Previous: Personality
Next: Grooming ›

The Basics of Japanese Chin Grooming

The Chin might look like he needs a lot of grooming, but he’s a wash-and-go dog. His silky, abundant coat is easy to care for and rarely mats, with the occasional exception of the ear fringes. Brush him weekly with a pin brush to keep the hair from flying around the house (yes, the Chin sheds), and bathe him once a month to keep him smelling nice. After a bath, towel him off until he’s almost dry, brush the coat upward and outward with the pin brush, then smooth it down. You’re done!

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Toy breeds are especially prone to periodontal disease, so brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.

‹ Previous: Health
Next: Finding ›

Finding a Japanese Chin Breeder

Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing a Japanese Chin Breeder

Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run. Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Finding a quality breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.

Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.

Look for more information about the Chin and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Japanese Chin Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the JCCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to use appropriate screening protocols before breeding dogs.

A Japanese Chin should weigh between 9 and 16 pounds, but some breeders produce (and some misguided puppy buyers want) even smaller dogs. So-called Teacup or Imperial Japanese Chins are simply dogs below the minimum healthy size for the breed. They’re marketed as something special, but are plagued with health problems and often live very short lives. The code of ethics of the ASTC specifically bars its members from breeding undersize dogs or using those terms to describe their puppies.

Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will clear. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Japanese Chin might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult Japanese Chin may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.

With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog From a Japanese Chin Rescue or Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Japanese Chin in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Japanese Chins available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Japanese Chin. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescue

Most people who love Japanese Chins love all Japanese Chins. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Japanese Chin Club of America’s rescue networkcan help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Japanese Chin rescues in your area.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Japanese Chin home with you to see what the experience is like.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:

What is his energy level?

How is he around other animals?

How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?

What is his personality like?

What is his age?

Is he housetrained?

Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?

Are there any known health issues?

Wherever you acquire your Japanese Chin, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, take your Japanese Chin to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

‹ Previous: Grooming

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