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Japanese Chin: Temperament, History & Care – Guide to the Japanese Spaniel

The Japanese Chin, sometimes referred to as the Japanese Spaniel, is a toy dog breed with a distinctive heritage. In Japan, they are recognized for their importance among the aristocrats of the country. The Japanese Chins are also closely related to Pekingese, which were immensely popular amongst the aristocrats of China.

These dogs have broad and large heads. Their most distinctive features are the wide-set eyes, along with the broad muzzle. The ears of this breed are V-shaped, small and located slightly below the crown of the skull.

The tail is arched over the back and is set high. The coat features colored patches that are often black in color but can also be orange, lemon, red, white or sable.

These dogs are smart, mischievous, playful, affectionate, stubborn and determined. They are immensely popular amongst people who are fond of small dogs. The vigilant nature of this breed makes them a super watchdog.

Their small size makes them apt for any home regardless of an apartment or a villa. The best thing about Chins is that they are quite unpredictable and always entertain their masters. They have a flair for mischief, which is quite pleasurable to experience. Overall, these dogs have a cheerful and happy personality.

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Japanese Chin Basic Profile

Friendliness: In terms of friendliness, the Japanese Chin is slightly above average. They get along great with families, small children and other dogs, but need socialization early on. Compared to other dogs, this breed gets along fairly well with strangers and guests.


Trainability: These dogs are extremely smart and learn relatively easily. They tend to nip and chew on things around the house, but early training can solve this issue. Off-leash training is not ideal for the Japanese Chin.


Grooming: The Japanese Chin has as fair amount of shedding compared to other dogs. However, it is not very difficult to groom these dogs.


Adaptability: Because they are such small dogs, they can adapt fairly easily to small or large spaces. A common problem is that they have a hard time adapting to extreme weather conditions – both cold and hot.


Activity: The Chin is companion dog breed, so they don’t require as much physical activity and exercise as some other breeds in other breed groups. Still, they require slightly less than average amount of exercise than your typical dog.

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<strong>Japanese Chin - </strong><strong>Vital Stats</strong>
  • Height: 8 – 11 inches
  • Weight: 7 – 11 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 – 12 years
  • Dog Breed Group: Toy Group 

Japanese Chin Highlights:

  • The Japanese Chin is believed to be a higher being than other dog breeds in Japan
  • They cannot tolerate inclement weather (cold and/or wet)
  • When they aren’t playing, they love perching on higher ground to observe their surroundings
  • The cheerful and happy nature of the Chins along with a range of sizes and adaptability makes them suitable for almost any home
  • Japanese Chins are often said to have a cat-like nature due to their climbing ability as well as their tendency to clean themselves.

History of Japanese Chin Dog

The Japanese Chin is a small working dog breed that may have originated from China.

Japanese Chins were bred about 1,500 years ago in Asia and were adored by the Chinese Imperial Court. They are referred to as ‘Imperial Chins’ and were highly prized. These dogs were often given as gifts to high ranking emissaries and visiting nobles.

The Chins in Japan

The Japanese Chin originated in the imperial court of China about 1,500 years ago. Despite popular belief, this breed originated in China and not in Japan. The name sounds misleading when it comes to their origin.

There are several tales about how the Chins were introduced to Japan. It is said that these dogs were introduced to Japan during 520 AD by Zen Buddhists. Another popular belief was that a Korean Prince carried them to Japan during 732 AD. Other people claim that two Chins were gifted to a Japanese emperor by a Chinese ruler. With all these stories and theories, there isn’t any solid evidence about how the Chins got their name and how they reached Japan. All we know is that the imperial family of Japan was quite fond of this breed and kept them as lap dogs.

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Japanese Chin in Western Countries

Japanese Chins were introduced to Europe by the Portuguese sailors who went to trade with Japan during the 1500s. As per official records, the dogs arrived in Europe during 1853 when they were presented to the Queen by Commodore Perry.

The Chins grabbed the attention of the United States during the 19th century when Commodore Matthew Perry entered Japan in 1854. A Chin was one of the gifts he took back to his country and presented to the then-President Franklin Pierce. He also gifted this dog to his good friend Jefferson Davis, who happened to be the Secretary of War. Chins soon became popular amongst the nobles, including Queen Alexandra of England.

They were recognized by the Kennel Club of America during the year 1888 and were identified to be the oldest known breeds. Their name was changed to Japanese Spaniels during 1977.

Physical characteristics

The Japanese Chin is a toy dog bursting full of lively energy.

Japanese Chins are quite inquisitive in nature and their sharp expression melts the hearts of any onlookers. Their appearance is Oriental, which is precisely what they are. And, their facial expressions are quite pronounced due to the bits of white in the inner corners of their eyes.

These dogs possess a proportioned body. They move with a stylish, sprightly and light gait. Their silky and straight coat is distinct and stands apart from their body color.

The single coat of these dogs is silky and straight. You can also observe feathering on the back of their legs. The skin sheds and has to be brushed on a weekly basis. With that said, they need to be bathed once in a month in order to maintain cleanliness.

Height & Weight

A Japanese Chin can potentially grow up to seven to eleven inches in height. Their weight is in the range of four to fifteen pounds. There are two common classes of Japanese Chins. One type weighs under seven pounds and the other above seven pounds.

Personality & temperament

If you are fond of toy dogs with an impish temperament and a sense of humor, then the Chins are perfect for you. They love pursuing their interests and wouldn’t fail to entertain you or make you laugh. Japanese Chins have a healthy dose of self-confidence, as they were bred for royalty. This sense of ‘higher self’ truly reflects in their nature.

They’re picky and choose whom they like and don’t like. They’ll also sulk when they don’t get their way. Some owners may even describe them as ‘bratty dogs.’ A Chin has good memory and exude a pleasant and polite exterior. If you give this dog a chance, you’ll get well acquainted with their clownish and mischievous personality. They enjoy doing what is forbidden, just to get a reaction from their owners.

The Playful Japanese Chin

If you place your belongings somewhere high, don’t assume that they are safe. Japanese Chins are believed to be ‘part cats’ as they have an incredible ability to leap to high places. Many owners have claimed that they can climb over a 6-feet wall. It’s no wonder they excel in agility trials.

Chins love spending time playing with all types of people. You’ll likely find them tearing around the yard or the house, leaving a small path of destruction. They really like playing. These dogs are known to bat around lightweight toys with their front paws and gnaw on sticks when in a contemplative mood.

They sometimes put up a great show by dancing, talking and singing. Yes, you read that correctly. In fact, their voices sound like killer bees. If you don’t show positive reinforcement for their special talents, they will end up repeating their performance.

They love chattering when there is a guest in the house, but they are not overly yappy.

Training & Obedience

Japanese Chins are extremely intelligent and can be well-trained. All you need to do is have a firm tone of voice while training. Punishment can prove to be counterproductive as they have a very good memory. Try your best not to lose trust with them. Remember, they’re picky on who they like.

It is advised that you start training them the day you bring them home. It should be the first thing you look into, in addition to proper puppy vaccinations. A Chin pup of ten weeks old can soak up a good amount of information. It is also important that they learn to socialize with others at an early age.

They perform exceedingly well when it comes to obedience and agility training. And best of all, they love doing it. Exercise is a must for every dog and not just for chins. You need to make sure that they get activity daily.

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Japanese Chin’s Health

This particular dog breed usually produces healthy dogs. However, every breed or a mix breed may have some issues that need to be taken care of. For instance, Chins have been known to develop knee problems, called Luxating Patellas. With this condition, one or both the kneecaps occasionally slip out of their original position. Depending on the severity of the situation, this can result in mild pain or require surgery.

Other health complications commonly noted in the Japanese Chin are the development of Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Cataracts after a certain age. Mitral Valve Disease, a condition affecting the heart, is also noted in some Chins.

Finding a Healthy Chin

Detecting the symptoms of these medical conditions as a Chin puppy develops is a difficult task. In fact, it is almost impossible to identify at such an early stage (puppy age). So, the best advice is to do your homework on breeders.

Rely on a breeder who can offer you a certificate. Make sure you can find accurate information regarding the parents of the puppies. All reputable breeders have their parent dogs screened for defects and illnesses before deeming them healthy enough to breed. Ask whether the breeding dogs are free from genetic diseases.

If a breeder can’t answer your complex questions about Japanese Chins, then they generally aren’t great breeders.

Health Vulnerabilities of the Chin

Japanese Chins are quite sensitive to heat and must never be left outdoors in hot and humid weather. They can quite easily succumb to heatstroke. If you are getting a puppy, you must remember that you can protect them from common ailments by providing them with a healthy lifestyle.

Obesity is yet other common problem among Japanese Chins. In order to extend their life as long as possible, you must maintain them at an appropriate weight.

The Japanese Chin has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years. They are prone to minor illnesses such as heart murmur, epilepsy, and corneal abrasions. It’s been said that they cannot tolerate anesthesia as well.

I would advise getting regular eye and knee tests to prevent minor ailments from transforming into something more significant and potentially fatal.

Grooming basics

Although it may seem like the Chin requires much grooming, they are just ‘wash-and-go dogs.’ You shouldn’t be intimidated by their silky coat, as it is easy to care for.

All that is required is you bathe them once every month to keep them clean and smelling nice. After washing them, you’ll need to dry them with a towel until near-dry. Always brush their coat upwards and then outwards. You can also brush your dog with a pin brush to prevent hair from flying around as you groom them.

Everything else is just primary care that you need to consider. You can trim their nails when they grow too long. This can be done once every two weeks, but is not absolutely mandatory for healthy living.

Periodontal diseases usually impact toy breeds. With that said, you need to make sure to brush their teeth frequently. Make sure to use toothpaste that has been recommended by a vet. It will keep their breath fresh and their teeth healthy.

Japanese Chin Care

Chins cannot survive in humid and hot weather. They are not suitable for outdoor living and should be kept indoors. Their long coat requires regular brushing and occasional baths.

A short walk or a fun game can fulfill their need for physical exercise. Chins are quite energetic and tend to wheeze. Hence, it is necessary to keep their activities in check.

Their face should be wiped occasionally with a damp cloth as their flat face can trap moisture and lead to fungal problems.

The Diet

One must include fiber in their diet otherwise their anal glands may become impacted. Diet is an extremely crucial aspect to consider when it comes to maintaining the health of Japanese Chins. I

t’s been reported that many of them are allergic and sensitive to corn. This means you need to feed them high-quality kibble that is free from corn. Always consult with your veterinarian.

The Coat

The coat of Japanese chin is quite silky to the touch and the head is covered with short hair. The tail features feathering as well as their ears. These dogs are generally a clean and do not require frequent baths. It is enough to bathe them once in a month.

You can also make use of dry shampoos in between if you want them to smell good. Using a mild shampoo is enough to keep their coats in good condition. They do shed and require brushing twice a week. Always use a pin brush on them which will prevent their long hair from tangling.

Japanese Chin’s Dental

Dental hygiene is a huge part of caring for Japanese Chins. Their teeth need to be brushed twice or thrice a week to prevent tartar buildup, which can lead to further complications. This healthy practice will keep all the mouth bacteria at bay. Some owners even do daily brushing to prevent bad breath and gum diseases.

The Nails

Trim their nails twice a month if your dog is not naturally wearing them down. In other words, trimming is necessary where outdoor activities are limited. Rule of thumb: if you hear the nails of your dog clicking on the floor, then it is time to trim them.

Keep in mind, toenails of dogs contain blood vessels. Hence, you need to cut them carefully to prevent bleeding. If you are not experienced or comfortable with this, then take your dog to a groomer or the vet.

Their Ears

Check the ears of your Japanese Chin on a weekly basis for bad odors and redness of the skin. It can indicate whether there is an infection or not. Wipe the ears with a cotton ball that has been dampened with a pH balancer or a commercial dog cleaner.

This practice will also prevent ear infections. Make sure not to insert anything in the ear canal of your pet. You need to ensure that the outer area is clean at all times.

Japanese Chin Care Tips

Start brushing your dog from the very first day. It will get them accustomed to the grooming schedule and make them more comfortable when it’s time to groom. You can inspect the paws for ticks or any infection but dogs are quite sensitive about their feet.

If you examine them regularly, they become accustomed to your examination routine. It’s best to make sure that their grooming routine is a positive experience. Make sure that it is filled with rewards and positive praises to help with the process.

This will lay a positive groundwork and make it easier for other groomers and vets to handle your dog in the future. Note, most groomers may require your dog have the Bordetella vaccination before servicing your dog. 

Do not forget to check for rashes, soreness or signs of infection while grooming them. You need to keep an eye on inflammation of the skin, tenderness, and redness. If there is discharge from their eyes or if there is redness, then make sure to take your pet to a vet immediately. A weekly examination done carefully will keep potential health problems at bay.

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