Japanese Chins were bred entirely for pleasure so their sole purpose in life was to give companionship and warm the laps of the nobles and the Imperial family. Those who were not of royal blood could not own a Chin, and the little dogs were considered more valuable than precious metals such as gold or silver.

Chins were never sold, but rather given as gifts. Their size was purposely kept small so the royal women could carry them in their sleeves. The dogs were closely guarded and each Imperial family maintained its own blood lines of Chins.

Commodore Perry was given several of the tiny dogs during his expedition to Japan, and two of the survivors of that sea voyage home were brought to America. Today, the Chin is one of the top ten smallest dog breeds. Now that we know some of the history of the Japanese Chins, let’s take a look at their breed profile.

Japanese ChinsCredit: alandennis under CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sachi.jpgCredit: alandennis under CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sachi.jpg

Fun Facts About Japanese Chins

Here are some specifics and interesting tidbits of information about this toy breed you may not have known:

  • Origin: China
  • Nickname/alternative names: Japanese Spaniel, Japanese Pug, the “wash-and-wear” breed
  • Group: Toy (AKC) - first registration was in 1888 as the Japanese Spaniel; official name change to Japanese Chin in 1977. The first registered dog was named Jap and the dog number was 9216.
  • Early Uses: Ladies’ companion dogs and lap warmers
  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years on average
  • Height/weight: Eight to eleven inches high; four to eleven pounds
  • Color/Coat: Coats should be full and silky but not curly or wooly; the Chin is a single coated dog. Acceptable colors are black and white, black and white with tan points, or red and white
  • Personality: Devoted and loving; often follows their owner from room to room
  • Eyes: Oversized, prominent dark eyes
  • Grooming: Brush them daily, and be sure to give the eyes and facial skin folds regular examinations and cleaning. While brushing will help to reduce some of the shedding, as a breed Chins are known to be heavy shedders.

Now that you understand the breed better and know how to properly care for a Japanese Chin, let's take a look at their unique characteristics.

What Do Chins Look Like?

In overall appearance, the Japanese Chin is a square-looking dog with an Oriental expression accented by large, almond-shaped eyes that look somewhat surprised. The square appearance comes from the large head, flattened face, and body that is roughly as long as it is tall.

The muzzle is short because this is a brachycephalic breed, which means that they have a disproportionately wide, short face. The nose color is dependent on coat coloration and the ears are small, wide-set and V-shaped.

The coat is silky and full with a neck ruff, plumed tail, and ear, leg and tail feathering. Their regal bearing is a signature characteristic that reminds one of their royal heritage, and they can be quite domineering prima donnas if given the opportunity. Owners should establish a firm role as pack leaders early on with Chins to avoid problems later.

Dog fanciers consider them to be the dog breed most like felines because of their highly developed climbing skills and propensity for lounging on chair or sofa backs. They are extremely clean animals and even groom themselves with their paws in the manner of a cat.

Chins at Play

Special Needs of This Tiny Breed

Because of their diminutive size, Japanese Chin dogs have several special needs and considerations. Here is what potential owners need to know about their new pet.

Some common health problems of Chins are

  • Back problems
  • Cataracts
  • Heart problems
  • Heat prostration
  • Luxating patellas
  • Canine idiopathic epilepsy
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Corneal abrasions

In addition, Chins are predisposed to corn allergies so when selecting their food be diligent to avoid any foods that contain corn or corn by-products.

Finally, Chins are delicate dogs and may not fare well in households with large or giant breed dogs or toddlers as they could be hurt inadvertently. Keep their fragility in mind when you are deciding whether this would be a good breed for your family.

Intelligence and Social Adaptation

Chins are low maintenance in terms of their needs for exercise but should be controlled during walks and other exercise sessions with a harness and not a collar to protect their fragile tracheae. These dogs adapt to their environment so you can expect your Chin to be extremely energetic if your household is high energy.

On the other hand, if yours is a more sedate household, your Chin will most likely be laid-back and relaxed. Regardless of their adjustment to the energy level of their environment, Chins are demanding pets with a high need for human interaction. They may suffer from separation anxiety if left alone too long or develop undesirable behaviors.

However, in spite of their overall good natures, Chins have high intelligence, excellent memories, and very strongly defined likes and dislikes. They interact well in most families and with other pets, but are wary and suspicious of strangers. Early socialization and obedience training will go a long way toward reducing their timidity.

Finding Your Chin

Now that you are more familiar with the Japanese Chin and their positive and negative traits, you may be interested in obtaining one. A good place to start your research is with the American Kennel Club or the Japanese Chin Club of America. These organizations should be able to point you in the direction of some reputable breeders. Another good option to consider is adopting a Chin from a rescue group or a local animal shelter.

If you already own a Chin, you may want to subscribe to  For-Chin, which is published by Margaret Schnarrenberger. This publication is dedicated to the Chin fancy and is an excellent way to stay updated with all the latest news and events related to these adorable dog dogs.