Japanese Chin

Japanese Chin
John Walton
Written by John Walton

This toy breed originated in China and was highly regarded in the imperial courts of Japan and China where they were bred for companionship and entertainment of the royals.

The Japanese Chin breed is very devoted to their people and enjoys spending time with their families more than anything else. They love everyone they meet and get along with other dogs and cats. They are fairly known for their cat-like behaviour such as perching in high places and batting at objects. The Japanese Chins are very much so lap dogs and love nothing more than cuddling with their people and being pampered.

They don’t require much exercise, but they do need plenty of people interaction. They are better suited in homes where the owner can spend the majority of the day with them.

Being as fragile and dainty as they are, they do better in homes with older children who understand proper animal handling etiquette. They adapt fairly quickly to their environments and do very well in apartments.

Breed characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingBelow Average
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsBelow Average

Dog breed group:Companion dogs.
Height:8-11 inches tall at the shoulder.
Weight:3-15 lb.
Life span:10-14 years.
Main Highlights
  • The breed is famous for their feline like behavior.
  • One of the most ancient breeds in existence today.
  • They are still most popular in Asia and Japan more so than in Europe and the United States.
  • They were given as highly prized gifts to nobles, royalty and diplomats when they visited China and Japan.
  • They were highly regarded and loved in the Japanese and Chinese imperial courts.
  • Many Chins display allergies and high sensitivity to corn.
  • The toy breed is prone to separation anxiety and small dog syndrome.
  • Their abundant coat is fairly easy to maintain.
  • They don’t do well in extreme weather.
  • It is recommended to use a harness when walking them as their necks are extremely delicate.
  • They can be difficult to house train and crate training proves highly efficient in that regard.
Breed History

Despite the name, it is largely believed that the Japanese Chins originated in China, but further developed in Japan. They are thought to be related to the Pekingese and they were bred to be companion dogs and for entertainment of their owners with parlor tricks.

The Chins were highly regarded as valued members of the Japanese and Chinese imperial courts and were given as gifts to important diplomats and royal members from foreign lands. The Japanese Chins have been around for more than a thousand years and there are a few different schools of thought on how they ended up in Japan. Some believe that they were presented as gifts to the Japanese royalty by the rulers of Korea in 732 AD. Others believe that they were presented to the Empress of Japan in the middle of the 6th century. Some claim they have arrived in Japan around 1000 AD. There are also those who believe that Buddhist instructors brought them to Japan after 520 AD. Whichever theory is true (if any) the breed is one of the most ancient dogs around.

It is also believed that Commodore Perry presented the breed to Queen Victoria in 1853 after a Journey to Japan to open trade with the country, and that is how they became widely known in the United Kingdom and later in the United States. They were considered an exotic breed in the West and were sought after by the rich and famous. Among the famous owners were Jefferson Davis and Franklin Pierce.

The breed was known as the Japanese Spaniel up until 1977 when their present name was adopted.

To this date, they are perhaps the most popular breed in Asia and especially in Japan. The Japanese Chins rank as the 101st most popular breed according to the AKC.


The Japanese Chin weighs in at 3-15 lb., most Chins usually weigh from 4 to 9 lb and measure at 8-11 inches tall at the shoulder. The females are generally slightly smaller.

Personality and Character

The Japanese Chins were bred to be companion dogs and that is still what they enjoy to do most — being with their families. They are a dainty toy breed that is extremely loyal and devoted and they don’t like to be left alone and are prone to develop separation anxiety. The Chins are not the most suitable breed for working people as they require quite a bit of companionship and attention. They enjoy being in the center of attention and being cuddled and pampered. They might not be a royal dog anymore but they haven’t forgotten where they originated.

The breed will do best in a home where they can spend most of their days with their people such as empty nesters or senior citizens.

They don’t require much exercise and are satisfied with daily walks or casual play sessions in the yard. They don’t become frustrated like many other breeds if they miss out on their daily exercise. Due to their tiny frame and low energy levels, they are well suited for apartment living.

The Japanese Chins also make great therapy dogs as they are very sensitive to their owners’ moods, wants, and needs. They adapt well to the active owner but they also do well in a quiet environment. The Chins can be playful and energetic but also calm and reserved depending on the mood in their home.

One of the breed’s signature marks is their feline behavior, many of them often display behaviors typical to cats such as batting at objects, bathing themselves and lounging on high perches.

Health and Potential Problems

The Japanese Chins are usually a healthy breed, although irresponsible breeding has left them vulnerable to health and temperament issues. Most reputable breeders and shelters make sure the puppy or dog has received a clean bill of health by a vet prior to the purchase or adoption. Never purchase a dog from a puppy mill as these operations are more concerned with financial gain than the physical and mental well-being of the animals in their care. More often than not the animals are kept in terrible conditions.

This toy breed is more prone to wheezing, sneezing and sniffling due to the flat shape of their faces. Other conditions are:

  • Atrioventricular Endocardiosis: It is a degenerative disorder that affects the shape of the heart valves, causing them to leak and possibly lead to a heart failure. The condition is usually managed with limited exercise and dietary adjustments.
  • Cataracts: An eye condition, usually occurring in old age and can be found in humans and dogs. The condition causes opacity on the eye lens, resulting in limited vision or blindness. The condition can be corrected with surgery in severe cases.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease: A common disorder among small dogs, it occurs when the blood flow to the head of the rear leg decreases and may result in the bone beginning to disintegrate. It can cause lameness and discomfort, the condition can be surgically treated in severe cases.
  • Heart murmurs- A heart condition that occurs due to irregularities in the blood flow to the heart. The condition is usually managed with medication, limited exercise and dietary adjustments.
  • Patellar Luxation: A common issue in small dog breeds, caused when the calf, knee cap and the thigh bone are not properly aliened resulting in the dislocation of the knee cap. The condition may cause lameness and discomfort and is usually treated with pain medication or surgery in severe cases.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: An eye disorder that causes a slow deterioration of the retina, often leads to limited vision or blindness.

With a proper diet, sufficient exercise and regular visits to the vet, your tiny companion will remain by your side for many years to come.

Care Features

The Japanese Chins tend to be naturally wary and shy around strangers, so early socialization is very important for their development and emotional balance as an adult. The introduction of the Chins to new people, children, different animals, multiple scenarios and environment should begin as soon as possible and preferably begin in puppy hood. Enrolling the puppy in puppy kindergarten is highly recommended as the introduction to the world would be guided by a professional and help the owner develop a bond with the puppy as well.

The Chins are very attached to their people and are prone to develop separation anxiety as a result. Crate training has proven to be a highly efficient tool in alleviating the dog’s or puppy’s stress and anxiety levels when their humans leave.

Training starts by leaving the dog in the crate for an hour or two while the owner is home. It shows the dog or puppy that although the human left, they always return. Another thing crate training is highly effective with is house training, which proves slightly more difficult with the Japanese Chins than other breeds. The dog considers the crate as its den and is less likely to soil it as long as he gets consistent bathroom breaks at the same spot and at the same time, followed by plenty of praise and treats.

Although, crate training is a highly efficient tool, it is important to remember not to use it for punishment or leave the dog or puppy in the crate for extended periods of time. The Japanese Chins especially don’t do well with being kennelled or left outside for long durations of time as they are very attached to their people and are sensitive to extreme climates.

The breed is very intelligent and is very easy to train as they are eager to please their people, that being said, they do have a stubborn streak and a mind of their own. Training sessions need to be kept short and interesting as they might lose interest if the training is too repetitive. They don’t respond well to harsh treatment and usually only require firm corrections as they are responsive to the handler’s tone of voice.

They also require clear boundaries and rules and a handler who can be calm and consistent. Like many other toy breeds, the Japanese Chins are also prone to the small dog syndrome. It is a human induced behavioral condition which occurs when the handler lets the little dog get away with behaviors larger breeds can’t get away with, resulting in the dog assuming the role of the pack leader. Without set boundaries, the dog may develop dominance issues as well as aggression and other bad manners and ill temper.

The Chins don’t require much physical exercise and often times, daily walks are sufficient. It is highly recommended to use a harness when walking the Chins as their necks are very delicate.

Being as sensitive as they are, a home where stress levels are high and voices are often raised might prove too overwhelming for the sweet breed and cause them to become too timid and reserved. The Chins flourish in a harmonious and calm environment.

Feeding Schedule

The toy breed will benefit from 1/4-1/2 cups of high-quality dog food a day, divided into two meals.

Each dog’s nutritional needs are different and depend on their age, size and activity levels. Also, high-quality food, free of unnecessary additives like grain, goes a long way in maintaining your companion’s healthy skin and coat as well as their physical and mental vitality.

One thing to remember is that many dogs of the Japanese Chin breed are allergic or severely sensitive to corn.

Due to their small size and low levels of activity, the Japanese Chins may be prone to obesity. So, it is highly recommended to provide them with a high-quality diet that fits their needs and encourage them to exercise.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Japanese Chins have a silky coat that is fairly easy to groom; it is long with a thick mane. The abundant coat requires weekly brushing to avoid mats and tangles and is simple to maintain. They don’t shed much either. Common colours are brindle, red and white, black and white, orange and sable.

The ears also require weekly attention due to their shape which makes it easy for moisture to be trapped in the ear canal and cause ear infections.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Chins are very good with children. They are sweet and gentle and are very devoted to the younger members of the family. Their fragile frame makes them more suitable for homes with older children as any roughhousing may cause harm to the little breed.

Children of all ages need to be taught space and respect when it comes to animals. Any tail or ear pulling should be immediately discouraged. Each year, many dogs are being put down, surrendered to shelters and abandoned due to the adults not having reinforced or taught proper dog handling etiquette to the younger members of the family. Play time between dogs and children should be supervised by an adult at all times.

The breed is very good with dogs, cats and other companions. They get along with most critters and are mostly friendly and peaceful towards them, especially if they have been socialized properly or raised with them. The breed temperament depends largely on breeding, proper socialization, handler and training as well as the environment.

The Japanese Chins were bred to be a companion dogs. They love nothing better than lounging around with humans, cuddling and being pampered. It seems that the elegant breed still remembers their days at the Chinese and Japanese courts when they were in the centre of attention, adored by many and spoiled with tasty treats and devotion.

They are very sensitive and make great therapy dogs as well as a four legged friend to senior citizens and empty nesters. They require plenty of attention and companionship. The breed does well in apartments and gets along with people, children, dogs, cats and other critters.

If you are looking for a low maintenance companion that would like nothing more than to keep you company and entertain you with their cat antic, this is the breed for you.

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.