Japanese Chin

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 11, 2009

Small, lively and lovable, this Oriental toy dog has a distinctive expression and a happy, bouncy gait. The entire look of the Japanese Chin, in fact, is nothing short of Oriental aristocracy.

Physical Characteristics

The inquisitive and sharp expression of the Japanese Chin gives it a clear Oriental appearance. The inner corners of its eyes have a little bit of white that lends it an expression of amazement. This aristocratic and lively dog has a small and square-proportioned body. It moves with a light, sprightly, and stylish gait.

The dog’s single coat, meanwhile, is straight, silky, abundant, and tends to stand away from its body; its color variations include black and white, red and white, or black and white with tan points.

Personality and Temperament

As a very dedicated companion, the Japanese Chin is fond of a warm lap. It is always willing to please, very sensitive, and obendient to its owner. This dog is amicable to everyone, whether dogs, pets, or strangers. Often known to be cat-like, some Chins may climb. The Japanese Chin loves to play a boisterous game and is gentle enough to become a child's companion.


The Chin cannot live in very hot and humid weather, and is not suited for outdoor living. Its long coat requires combing about twice a week. A fun game, a romp, or a short walk can fulfill the exercise needs of the small but very energetic Japanese Chin. Be aware that some Japanese Chins have a tendency to wheeze.


The Japanese Chin, with an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, is prone to minor ailments like patellar luxation, cataract, heart murmur, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), and entropion. Achondroplasia, portacaval shunt, and epilepsy are sometimes seen in this breed. The Japanese Chin is also susceptible to corneal abrasions and cannot tolerate anesthesia or heat. Knee and eye tests are recommended for this breed.

History and Background

The Japanese Chin is closely related to the Pekingese, both of which were popular among the Chinese aristocracy and given as presents for visiting nobility on occasion. The name of the Japanese Chin may be misleading, as it is widely believed the Chin actually originated in China.

There are many tales that relate the manner in which the Chin was introduced to Japan. For instance, Zen Buddhist instructors may have brought the breed to Japan after 520 A.D., or a Korean prince in 732 A.D. may have carried them to Japan; others say a Chinese ruler gifted two dogs to a Japanese emperor many thousand of years ago. No matter what the true story is, however, the Japanese Imperial family was very fond of the breed and kept the dogs as lapdogs or for the simple purpose of ornamentation. Some very small Chins were even said to be kept in hanging cages, generally used for birds.

As Portuguese sailors were the first to trade with Japan in the 1500s, they may have been instrumental in bringing the dogs to Europe. According to official records, however, the first Chin arrived in 1853, when Commodore Perry presented Queen Victoria with a pair of Chins from his journey to Japan. In following years, traders and merchants brought more Chins to sell them in America and Europe.

The American Kennel Club offically recognized the breed in the late 19th century as the Japanese Spaniel. The earliest imports were bigger than the present day Chins, and were probably crossed with English Toy Spaniels in order to create a smaller breed. The imports of the dogs ended with World War I, but by then the breed had already been accepted.

Although it is modestly popular in the United States, it is in Japan where the Chin has the most fans.

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