Chinese Dog Breeds: A Canine Friend of An Oriental Origin

China Tibetan Mastiffs
John Walton
Written by John Walton

It would be a fair understatement to say that we all love dogs. We admire them, appreciate them, love them, train them and more or less see ourselves within them. Indeed every single dog owner’s personality is reflected directly through the dog that he or she owns, and just as we have our own heritages and origins, with distinctive characteristics that belong to said regions, so do our canine companions.

We are all too familiar with European breeds, American breeds, however we are not exactly informed when it comes to Asian breeds, Chinese breeds to be more specific. What’s interesting is the fact that even though we might not be all that informed about them, the culture that these dogs come from have personified and, in some cases, worshiped them as being guardians of gods, warders of spirits, and even spiritual protectors of the land and all its inhabitants.

Chow Chow dog-breeds

Indeed this might sound a bit too romantic of a vision, but even to this day certain dog breeds are held in high regards in Chinese culture, and we get to see that as well as the role that these breeds have played in this culture through all the statues, depictions and writings that have survived the test of time, some of them being dated as far back as 5000 years.

Initially China, as well as the vast majority of the Asian states, existed in an isolated state from the rest of the world, with a culture and a long list of ideologies unchanged by European influences. It was only after these states agreed on trading with European countries that the divide started closing more and more, and both sides started growing more and more aware of each other.

IT was through these trades that certain dog breeds have been introduced in Europe and the rest of the world subsequently, however it was not an easy thing to accomplish. Today, the vast majority of these breeds can be found headlining dog shows and winning by incredible margins due to their beauty, grace and overall cuteness. Leaving all that aside, there are some things that makes these breeds stand out, a set of characteristics that define them, however most of them are not exactly everyone’s cup of tea.


It might seem unfair at first to say that all these breeds have a set pattern of characteristics that are set in stone, and it is unfair in all other cases except this one.

12 Dog breed from China

Indeed each and every dog is his or her own individual, with his or her own likes and dislikes, however these breeds are an exception. They still have their fair share of individualism, however the baseline traits and characteristics are more or less set in stone.

  • These dogs are only small and medium sized dogs. There are all kinds of dog lovers out there, and if you happen to love really big dogs and you are looking for a Chinese alternative, you are out of luck. The vast majority of the Chinese canine breeds are small dogs, with only a few exceptions which are medium sized dogs.
  • These dogs are very vocal. It is exactly how it sounds, these dogs have a mind of their own, and they will never miss a chance to remind you. If they don’t like something, of if they encounter something new, if they hear a slightly louder noise, or if they see someone at the door, if they are excited, or just downright bored, they will start barking, and they tend to get on everyone else’s nerves. So a piece of advice to anyone that wants to own a Chinese dog breed, you might want to consider soundproofing your apartment.
  • These dogs have a temper problem. Not to be confused with general aggression, these dogs are very temperamental little beasts. They will bark at anyone and anything apart from his or her owners, they will display aggression, become riled up over nothing and will generally try to impose their dominance, especially in front of bigger dogs and humans.
  • They are very pretentious when it comes down to the food they eat. Again, each and every dog has his or her likes and dislikes, however Chinese dogs are a bit more strict when it comes to this factor. Indeed, if they don’t like some types of food, they will downright refuse to eat it regardless of what you try and do to it. Oddly enough, most of them have a taste for human food rather than dog food, however human food is actually bad for them. It’s not all bad though, there are a lot of positive characteristics as well.
  • These are some of the most loving dogs that you will ever have. These dogs will love you to death. If a Chinese dog gets attached to his or her master, then they will do everything in order to at least reciprocate the love that they receive. These are the kind of dogs that will try and cuddle with you constantly, try and play with you even when they don’t feel like it, try everything under the sun to cheer you up if you are down.
  • These dogs are very loyal. These dogs will stick with you and stand by your side literally though the worst of times without ever demanding anything in return. On a side note here, they make for very good watch dogs. Not that they could injure a potential intruder or save your life, what they can and will do is let out a flurry of barks and annoyances at the intruder and proceed to alarm the entire neighborhood that someone is trespassing on your property.
    This might seem as a joke at first glance, however one such dog in a combination with a more dangerous dog like a Rottweiler, a Doberman or a German Shepherd would make for a solid defense team. One spots the intruder and sounds the alarm while the other proceeds to making the poor guy wish he was never born in the first place.
  • These dogs are simply hilarious. These dogs are very clownish, and can sometimes resort to clownish antics in order to make you feel better or to simply draw your attention towards them. There have been a lot of people that have reported their Chinese dogs doing things like imitating the small toddler, chase their tail at impressive speeds, hop up from under the table in order to scare people, or simply doing a lot of crazy tricks in order to get attention.

Owning such a dog

Owning an individual of a Chinese dog breed is not exactly hard, it’s in fact very easy.

Ok, granted, the food obstacle requires a bit of time to get over, however once that is the only challenge that you will face while owning such a dog. First off they do quite well in apartments, provided you take them out for a walk 2 or 3 times a day.

HDB Approved dog breads

They don’t require much space, and they don’t live a particularly active lifestyle. Sure they enjoy frolicking every now and again, however the required level of exercise does not even come close to the exercise that a Pit Bull or a Blood Hound needs on a daily basis. Simply put, walking at a leisurely pace will suffice.

These are rather small dogs, so they don’t really eat much, and even though they tend to be a little iffy when it comes to food, they don’t really have an expensive pallet. Do be advised though, these dogs will bark, and if you live in an apartment and you plan on owning such a dog, you might want to consider either sound proofing your home, or getting used to complaints.

Something to keep in mind is the fact that these dogs are easily distracted and easily scared. Not by other dogs or people, they tend to act aggressive towards them, but rather by loud noises, impacts and even vibrations. So it might not be a good idea to take your dog with you to see a fireworks display or at a race track, not to mention the fact that crowds tent to freak them out.


This one is a rather tough one, because even though each and every dog breed out there can be trained, some easier than others, Chinese dogs are a bit weird when it comes to training. First off, most of these dogs are stubborn. Not strong willed like a Bulldog, not Mischievous like a Husky, not intelligent like a German Shepherd, downright stubborn and you will have your work cut out for yourself in order to train these dogs to actually do tricks.

House training them is easy, because in essence all dogs prefer not to do their business in their territory, however if you want your dog to jump through hoops, walk backwards and other such tricks, and your dog does not see the point in this, you will have your work cut out for yourself.

Train your Chinese Hairless Crested dog

Something that should be noted here is the fact that these dogs are not known to have a violent nature, nor aggression towards humans. These are basically the dogs that bark a lot but don’t bite.

There are training programs that can and will help your dog stave off his or her desire to affirm himself or herself in front of other humans and dogs, however generally biting or actual aggression is not on the list of things to worry about. That being said, let’s look at some of the most prominent, popular and all round famous Chinese dog breeds

The Chow Chow

Probably the first thing that we think about when we hear “Chinese dog breeds” is the Chow, and for good reason, because it is as popular in China as it is in the rest of the world, and it even has its own legend to back it up.

The Chow Chow

There was an emperor in Chinese history that was said to of have owned no less than 5000 chows which were trained to be war dogs. Some Chinese legends even mention the Chow by calling it “a black tongue lions that are actually dogs”. They were also used as sled dogs briefly in order to help get supplies in regions where traditional methods failed.

The Chow is known to have some temperament issues, by which I mean that a Chow tends to be very protective of his master and property.

There is a very good reason why these were war dogs in the past, and make no mistake about it, they have that thick jaw for a very good reason.

Chow Chow characteristics

Even so, today they are kept as pets, and with even the most basic of training the overprotective temperament tends to taper off. They are very lively, playful and clownish.

One thing to watch out for with Chows is their health. Chows are actually a very high risk breed for autoimmune diseases, among which skin melanoma is the usual culprit.

The Chinese Imperial dog

This actually resembles a fluffy little ball of curly black yarn than a dog.

Indeed, like the vast majority of Chinese dog breeds, the Imperial Dog is very small, so small that Chinese Nobility used to carry them in the sleeves of their robes as puppies.

Chinese Imperial dog

Make no mistake about it they are small, they are cute, they are cuddly, and they are probably the smallest lap dog in the world.

That’s right, these dogs can and will sit quietly on your lap for as long as you allow them to.

They are loving and playful, however they are also full of energy. So expect a lot of barking expect a lot of enthusiasm and expect some hassle in order to keep him or her under control.

The Xiasi dog

Like most Chinese dog breeds, the Xiasi has a small little legend behind it. It is said that the Xiasi bring general wealth and prosperity to the families that own them.

This might sound a bit odd, however it was discovered that they were initially bred in 1080 and trained to hunt, which meant that they did indeed bring wealth and prosperity, but indirectly.

Don’t let their small size full you, these are indeed hunting dogs. They possess the lean muscular bodies, the powerful legs, the hard padded paws and the sharp senses that they require. They excel at hunting small prey and they take advantage of their small size and the agility that it offers them.

The Xiasi Dog

They are loyal dogs, they make for great guard dogs, and they have ridiculous levels of stamina, meaning that if an intruder is indeed spotted, that intruder will never be able to outrun, outlast or outmaneuver a Xiasi.

The most difficult part of owning a Xiasi is the actual training. It is an adaptable dog and it is a great pet to have, however if you really want to make the dog reach his or her full potential, you will need to have a lot of patience and be willing to invest a lot of time, effort and resources into training your dog.

That being said, at the end of it all you will not only have a great pet, but also a loyal guard dog and a great and agile hunter by your side.

The Shar Pei

These are by far the most well-known and appreciated Chinese dogs, and not just locally.

You have undoubtedly encountered them throughout your life at least once. Those wrinkly, fuzzy, hyperactive dogs that simply keep on going.

The Shar Pei puppies

Shar Pei dogs were the guardians of temples in ancient China, and it was said that these dogs warded off spirits. Even today you can encounter the all famous statues at the entrance of temples with 2 lion-like dogs that have one of their paws on a small rock, looking ever-vigilant and alert.

Those are actually artistic depictions of the Shar Pei, and even today we can see why they were regarded as protectors.

They tend to be suspicious of new people or strangers in general, often opting to be reserved and to keep to themselves. That is not to say that they are not alert, and if they sense danger, they will pounce at it.

They require early training and early socialization, especially with small children, and they require quite a bit of washing and grooming, especially between the wrinkles. They make for great pets, they are loyal, devoted and loving not just to the master, but also towards every single member of the master’s family.

Shar Pei characteristics

Because of the wrinkles that these dogs sport, they require a lot of grooming and washing, otherwise they will develop rashes, yeast infections and other skin conditions. This particular breed is also known to have a vitamin B12 deficiency which can be supplemented with vitamin B12 rich food and a few supplements.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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