Chinese Crested: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Female pure breed Chinese Crested dog
tsik / Getty Images

The Chinese crested is a small breed in the toy group that somewhat resembles the well-known Chihuahua, however, these native Chinese dogs have mostly hairless bodies with large poufs of hair on their heads, paws, and tails. Not many breeds turn more heads than this one thanks to its eye-catching appearance. About half of Chinese crested dogs are actually “powderpuffs," a variation of the breed that has fur throughout their bodies.

When considering which pet to bring home, it's important to go beyond looks. The Chinese crested is also a bright, affectionate little dog with a cheerful personality. These compact canines are 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

Weight: 8 to 12 pounds

Coat: Soft, silky hair only present on the head, feet, and tail (or "powderpuff" fully-coated variety)

Coat Color: White, gray, or black hair and gray, pink, or brown skin with white patches

Life Span: 13 to 18 years

Temperament: Lively, playful, cheerful, intelligent, social, companionable

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Origin: China

Characteristics of the Chinese Crested Dog

These little dogs are known for being smart, cheerful, and friendly. Their playful personalities are helpful when it comes to getting their exercise in, though this dog does not require as much physical activity as sporting or hunting breeds of similar size. Your Chinese crested dog will likely be satisfied with a decent walk and a few play sessions each day. Since this breed is highly intelligent, it also excels with training and enjoys participating in day-to-day household life. Its small size and moderate exercise requirements make the Chinese crested an excellent choice for apartment living.

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 it was minimized 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 can be found worldwide. European travelers 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

Since they're small, smart, and easygoing, Chinese crested dogs can suit a variety of lifestyles. They don't require much exercise in comparison to many popular breeds, and they're relatively easy to train. Your Chinese crested will, however, require specific grooming care for its silky fur and hairless skin.


Chinese crested dogs do best with some mental and physical activity every day. A few short walks each day will offer enough exercise to keep this breed healthy. Although they're athletic and enjoy playing, they are very small and can be quite delicate. They are not sturdy enough for most young children, but they can be an excellent match for gentle families or older kids interested in learning how to train dogs.


Aside from proper exercise, these dogs require some extra support and care in the grooming department. The powderpuff variety needs plenty of brushing like other long-haired breeds, and both types of Chinese crested dogs require regular nail trimming and teeth cleaning.

The hairless variety of these dogs requires more careful attention outdoors. They need sunscreen or clothing to prevent sunburn, and their skin is likely to experience rashes, irritation, scrapes, and more. If you are looking for a dog to play with outside, this is not the most low-maintenance breed option.


Chinese crested dogs are smart and respond quickly to positive reinforcement-based training when it comes to obedience. Avoid correction-based training with this breed, as their intelligence also means that they are sensitive to various emotions and can become anxious with harsh training.

These dogs also excel at canine sports like agility, flyball, and lure coursing. 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.

Chinese crested dog
onetouchspark / Getty Images / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Like most purebred dogs, the Chinese crested is susceptible to several genetic ailments. If you're purchasing a puppy from a breeder, it's essential to see results from medical tests on the parents (and each puppy, if possible). If your breeder does not provide these important tests, it's best to search for another that does. Here are common health issues that Chinese crested dogs may experience:

  • Luxating Patella: This condition affects the knee joint, causing it to pop out of place when the dog moves around.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an eye disorder that causes the dog's retina to deteriorate, eventually causing blindness.
  • Glaucoma: This disorder is painful, affecting the natural pressure levels inside the dog's eye. Glaucoma is usually treatable with medication (or in severe cases, surgery).
  • Primary Lens Luxation (PLL): PLL causes the lens of the dog's eye to move from its usual fixed position, and can lead to glaucoma and other problems.
  • Epilepsy: This neurological condition causes dogs to have seizures. It can usually be treated with medication that needs to be administered throughout the dog's life.

The AKC recommends that, at a minimum, breeders screen their dogs 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.

Supporting breeders who maintain 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 medical imagery, DNA tests, and specific exams performed 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, healthy life together.

Diet and Nutrition

Like all dogs, Chinese crested dogs require good nutrition. A high-quality dog food specific to small breeds should do the trick. Since this breed is prone to rashes and skin inflammation, many owners also opt for allergy-specific food along with maintaining regular grooming. Some Chinese crested dogs even benefit from acne medication.

With the hairless variety of this breed, it is relatively easy to tell if your dog puts 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.

For 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 are a great option (in addition to smaller portions) to help slow your dog down during mealtimes and burn off a little extra energy.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Chinese Crested Dog

Is a Chinese crested right for you? Before you bring home a new dog, it's helpful to explore whether their personalities and needs are a good match for your home. Speak to owners, breeders, and rescue groups along with meeting this breed in person to learn more. If there are no Chinese crested dogs available in local shelters, research responsible breeders in your local area. Puppies typically cost between $1,000 and $2,000, while the powderpuff variety can cost upwards of $4,000.

If you have decided a Chinese crested is right for you, look to the national breed club and AKC adoptable dogs as resources:

Chinese Crested Dog Overview

  • Athletic and agile

  • Intelligent, easy to train

  • Unique appearance

  • Requires special grooming and skin care

  • Not the best breed for families with young children

  • Prone to several diseases common in smaller dogs

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

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

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are Chinese Crested Dogs Good Pets?

    Depending on your lifestyle, the Chinese crested dog might be a great pet for you. This breed is intelligent, playful, and only needs moderate exercise, but grooming is specific and important for its wellbeing.

  • Are Chinese Crested Dogs Rare?

    This breed is typically harder to find in the United States than other popular dogs, but it's still possible to adopt a Chinese Crested through local rescues and responsible breeders.

  • Do Chinese Crested Dogs Smell?

    The Chinese crested is known for having low odor compared to most dog breeds thanks to its hairless skin and hypoallergenic nature. However, its signature bare skin also makes it prone to irritation and sunburn.

  • Are Chinese Crested Dogs High-Maintenance?

    While they are relatively low-maintenance in exercise needs, Chinese crested dogs require consistent grooming. This breed needs to have its long patches of hair brushed regularly, and its skin is prone to burns if it goes without sunscreen outdoors.