Chinese Crested: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Female pure breed Chinese Crested dog
tsik / Getty Images

Not many dogs turn heads more than a Chinese crested will. These dainty little dogs are famously hairless with large poufs of hair on their heads, paws, and tails. But about half of Chinese crested dogs are actually “powderpuffs," a variation of the breed that has fur throughout their bodies. But when considering which pet to bring home, it is important to go beyond looks. The Chinese crested is also a bright, affectionate little dog with a cheerful personality. This breed is surprisingly energetic and quite trainable, giving them a winning personality to go with their unique looks.

Breed Overview

Group: Toy

Height: 11 to 13 inches at the shoulder

Weight: 8 to 12 pounds

Coat and Color: It has soft and silky hair that is only present on the head, feet, and tail. The less famous coated variety has a silky coat and is called a “powderpuff.” Its coloring is usually white and gray. Its hairless body is usually grayish-pink, often with white spots along the chest and belly.

Life Expectancy: 13 to 18 years

Characteristics of the Chinese Crested Dog

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Chinese Crested Dog

This breed is so old that very little is known about its history. The best historical guess is that a large hairless breed of dog was brought to China, where the Chinese minimized it into a new breed. These dogs quickly became famous as the rat exterminators of Chinese ships, much like the schipperke breed on Belgian ships.

The ship-going nature of this breed means that variations of the breed can be found worldwide. Europeans noted that there were little hairless dogs—probably Chinese crested pups—throughout Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America.

A pair of women in the late 1800s brought the breed to popularity in the United States. Ida Garrett was a prolific writer and speaker who brought fame and interest to the breed. Meanwhile, Debra Woods established a breeding program with well-kept studbooks.

in 1991, the Chinese crested was recognized as a member of the Toy Group in the American Kennel Club (AKC) and became a registerable breed.

Chinese Crested Dog Care

Chinese crested dogs do best with some mental and physical activity every day. They excel at dog sports like agility, flyball, lure coursing, and obedience. Despite their small stature and diva-like looks, they are formidable athletes. At the very least, puzzle toys and teaching new tricks are great ways to keep your dog’s mind and body in shape.

Aside from proper exercise, this breed requires some extra support and care in the grooming department. The powderpuff variety needs just as much grooming as many other long-haired dogs. The hairless variety requires sunscreen or clothing to prevent burns and is prone to rashes and skin irritation.

This breed’s predisposition to skin inflammation makes diet extra important. Feeding your dog high-quality food will help reduce the risk of rashes and inflammation. Some crested dogs even benefit from acne medication.

These little dogs are known for being smart, cheerful, and friendly. That said, they are very small and can be quite delicate. Though they are athletic, they are not sturdy enough for many small children. They are an excellent match for families with gentle kids or children interested in learning how to train dogs.

These dogs require more careful attention outdoors than many other breeds because their skin is prone to burns, scrapes, rashes, and more. If you are looking for a dog to play outside with children, this is not the most low-maintenance option.

Chinese crested dog
onetouchspark / Getty Images / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Chinese crested is susceptible to several ailments:

  • Luxating Patella (joint)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (eye)
  • Glaucoma (eye)
  • Primary Lens Luxation (eye)
  • Epilepsy (neurological)

The AKC recommends that, at a minimum, breeders screen their stock for eye problems, knee problems, heart problems, the PRA-RCD3 DNA Test, and the PLL DNA Test. When considering a puppy, be sure to ask if any of the puppy’s relatives have had epilepsy. If a breeder does not do these tests and cannot show you results, walk away.

Supporting breeders who do good health testing is much more than just asking if the puppies have seen a vet. The parent dogs (and grandparents and other relatives, ideally) should have had medical imagery, DNA tests, and specific exams are done to rule out common issues for this breed. Purchasing a puppy with health-tested parents means you have a better chance of spending a long life together.

Diet and Nutrition

Like all dogs, Chinese crested dogs require good nutrition. A small breed, high-quality dog food should do the trick. Many owners opt for limited ingredient diets to help reduce the risk of inflammation in this breed.

With the hairless variety of this breed, it is relatively easy to tell if they have put on too much weight. You should be able to see a narrowing of the waist between their hips and ribs. If you cannot see that, it is time to reduce your dog’s meal size.

In the powderpuff variety, feel along your dog’s ribs through the fur. You should be able to find the rib cage and hip bones easily, but the ribs should not protrude much.

Puzzle feeders help slow your dog down during mealtimes and burn off energy, and can really help your dog enjoy its food.

Pros

  • Athletic, agile dogs

  • Intelligent, easy-to-train breed

  • Unique look to them, turns heads

Cons

  • Requires special grooming and skin care

  • Not the best breed for families with young children

  • Susceptible to several diseases common in smaller dogs

Where to Buy or Adopt a Chinese Crested Dog

Is a Chinese crested right for you? Before you bring home a new dog, you might want to explore whether their personalities and needs are a good match for you. Be sure to speak to owners, breeders, and rescue groups and meet a few Chinese crested dogs in person to learn more. If you have decided a Chinese crested is right for you, look to the national breed club as a resource for finding the pet right for you.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you are interested in similar, smaller-sized breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed profiles. There is the perfect companion out there for everyone.