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
Common nicknamesChin
Classification / standards
FCI Group 9, Section 8 Japan Chin and Pekingese #206 standard
AKC standard
ANKC Group 1 (Toys) standard
CKC Group 5 (Toys) standard
KC (UK) Toy standard
NZKC Toy standard
UKC Companion Dogs standard
Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

The Japanese Chin (Japanese: 狆, chin), also known as the Japanese Spaniel,[1] is a dog acknowledged for its importance to Japanese nobility. It is also known for its strabismus of the eyes. Being both a lap dog and a companion dog, this toy breed has a distinctive heritage.


Alexandra of Denmark with her Japanese Chin, called Punch, original painted 1893.
A six-month-old Japanese Chin

While most believe that the source breed for the Japanese Chin originated in China, the route by which the Chin arrived in Japan is a widely debated topic. One story claims that the dogs were given to the Japanese royalty in AD 732 as gifts from the rulers of Korea. Others maintain that they were given as gifts to the Empress of Japan as early as the middle of the sixth century or by the seventh century. Still others claim that the Chin first arrived in Japan around the year AD 1000.[2]

In Japan, dogs are usually viewed as working or helper animals. The Japanese Chin is unique in that they are owned strictly for companionship. Their 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 Japanese Chin including size, coat density, eye set, personality, and body type.

Once introduced to the West, a strong desire for Japanese Chin that were ten lbs. or less led to this weight becoming the standard of various kennel clubs around the world. Professor Ludwig von Schulmuth studied canine origins by looking at the skeletal remains of dogs found in human settlements as early as the 8th millennium BC.[citation needed] The professor created a genealogical tree of Tibetan dogs that shows the "Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog", a scavenger, which evolved into the "Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog".[citation needed] From this evolved the Tibetan Spaniel, Pekingese, and the Japanese Chin.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Though there is some documentation[specify] that indicates Portuguese sailors introduced the breed to Europe in the 17th century by presenting them to Catherine of Braganza, Queen Consort to King Charles II of England, there is more credible evidence[specify] that the first Japanese 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 Japanese Chin, but only two survived the passage back to the USA.[citation needed] It is disputed whether Perry gave the two to Franklin Pierce, President of the United States, or to James Stirling, Rear admiral of the Royal Navy, to take to Queen Victoria or his daughter, Caroline Slidell, after returning from Japan.[citation needed]


Japanese Chin were the dogs of Japanese royalty.


Japanese Chin stand about 20 to 27 cm (8 to 11 inches) 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 to 4.1 kg (7 to 9 lb) being the most common. The American Kennel Club and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale give no weight requirement for the Chin, regardless of the aforementioned desire for lighter dogs. Its distinctive expression is characterized by a large rounded broad head, large wide-set dark eyes, a very short broad muzzle, ear feathering, and evenly patterned facial markings.

Coat and color[edit]

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

Most dogs have two types of hair in their coat: an under and over coat. However, the Japanese Chin only has an over coat. An adult coat can take up to two years to completely grow in and can be either black and white, red and white. (Red includes all shades of sable, lemon or orange) or tricolour ( Black and white with reddish tan points) As of 11 November 2011, the colors not listed in the breed standard[3] are grounds for disqualification in competitions.

The dogs have a dot or a line on their forehead, which is believed in Japanese history to be the touch of Buddha.[citation needed]


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, their good sense of balance, and their tendency to hide in unexpected places. Japanese Chin are loyal to their owners and are typically a friendly breed. While Japanese Chin prefer familiar surroundings, they also do well in new situations. This, alongside their friendly demeanor, makes them good therapy dogs. Early socialization of Japanese Chin puppies leads to a more emotionally well-balanced Chin that is more accepting of different situations and people.

Japanese Chin are defensive animals and thus although they are usually quiet, they will bark to alert the arrival of a visitor or to draw attention to something out of the ordinary.

Japanese Chin were also bred for the purpose of entertaining their owners. While typically calm, they are well known for performing many tricks 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 noise.[4]


Common health issues in the Japanese Chin include luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps), cataracts, and early-onset heart murmurs.[5] The Chin, as with most small breed dogs, can also have a risk of hypoglycemia when aged under six months or weighing four to five lbs or less. Some Japanese Chin have seasonal allergies.

The Japanese Chin's flattened brachycephalic face can lead to breathing and eye problems. Temperature extremes (particularly heat) should therefore be avoided. Its 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 Japanese Chin Club of America estimates Chins have a typical lifespan of 10–12 years, with some living to 15 or more.[5] A UK Kennel Club survey puts their median lifespan at 9.25 years.[6]


The Japanese Chin's coat requires weekly brushing or combing, with special attention being given to the skirt and the area under the ears and legs. They do not require frequent bathing. These dogs are single-coated and single-hair shedders, and it is very seldom one will find a Chin with an undercoat. A Japanese 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 due to them becoming impacted.[7] The skin folds in and around the nose and flattened facial area of a Japanese Chin can trap moisture from its oversized eyes 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 Japanese Chin, with many of these dogs being very sensitive or allergic to corn. Maintaining a Japanese Chin on a high quality kibble that contains no corn will prevent skin and allergy conditions.[8][9]


See also[edit]


  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. ^ Morris, Desmond (2008). Dogs: The Ultimate Dictionary of Over 1,000 Dog Breeds. Trafalgar Square. ISBN 978-1-57076-410-3.
  3. ^ "Breed standard". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  4. ^ "Japanese Chin: Temperament, Health Issues, Grooming, Behavior, Training, Exercise, Names". Dog Breed Plus. Dog Breed Plus. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Chin Health". Japanese Chin Club of America. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Individual Breed Results for Pure bred Dog Health Survey" (PDF). The Kennel Club. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Japanese Chin Dog Breed Information, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts". Dogtime. Dogtime. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Japanese Chin Breed Information". DOGGIES.com. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Japanese Chin". lovetoknow dogs: advice you can trust. Retrieved 9 November 2014.

External links[edit]