Japanese Chin (Japanese Spaniel): Dog Breed Profile

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

Japanese Chin

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The Japanese Chin, also referred to as a Japanese Spaniel, is a relatively rare toy breed with a distinctly noble and ancient heritage. Despite the name, they were thought to originate in China before becoming popular in Japan. They are known for being even-tempered, loyal and affectionate. They are often described as being 'cat-like' and can be fond of curling up on an owners lap.

Breed Overview

Group: Toy

Height: 8 to 11 inches (to the withers)

Weight: 4 to 9 pounds

Coat and Color: Long, sleek and smooth coat. Chins come in a variety of colours including black and white, lemon and white, sable and white, and black, white and tan

Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Japanese Chin

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

History of the Japanese Chin

There is no doubting the longevity and aristocratic background of the Japanese Chin, but their earliest introductions are still debated amongst historians.

While they are believed to have originated in China (or possibly even Korea), it is widely recognized that it was the Japanese nobility that nurtured the highly-prized companion breed from perhaps as far back as 1000 years ago.

By the middle of the 19th century, when Japan began actively trading with other countries after over two centuries of self-imposed seclusion, the Chin was often offered as a highly prized gift to naval officers or sold to visiting traders and sailors. This led to their gradual introduction in Western Countries.

When future King Edward VII of Great Britain married his wife Alexandra in 1863, she received a Japanese Chin as a gift, and she became a life long lover of the breed, helping them to gain popularity in Great Britain and America.

The breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1888 and is often also referred to as a Japanese Spaniel. The Chin is closely related to the Pekingese.

Queen Alexandra with Japanese Chin
1904: Queen Alexandra at Mar Lodge with her Japanese Chin. W. & D. Downey/Getty Images

Japanese Chin Care

While the Japanese Chin has a long, smooth, soft and glossy coat, it is not as challenging to maintain as other long-haired breeds as they do not tend to mat. It is recommended that their coat is brushed out at least weekly though and this is especially important when they go through their seasonal shedding. Their coat will not require any clipping or scissoring.

The breed is known for having nails that grow very quickly, so it is important to ensure that they are always kept trimmed to an appropriate length.

The Chin is an intelligent breed but they can have a reputation for being stubborn, so a little patience and extra perseverance may be required when it comes to training.

They are not known for being one of the most active breeds but it is still important that they receive an appropriate amount of exercise. Just because they may enjoy snuggling on a lap, it doesn't mean they won't also relish a long walk too.

They are also renowned for their climbing abilities, and this is one of the reasons they are often described as being 'cat-like'. It is not unusual to find them perched on a high and cozy vantage point within the home.

While they can be reserved with new people and pets, they are generally incredibly social and very loyal companions when introductions are done appropriately.

Two Japanese Chin Puppies
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Japanese Chin Long, Silky Coat Type
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Japanese Chin walking with little boy
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Common Health Problems

The Japanese Chin is a relatively healthy breed, but they can be prone to a few congenital conditions, and because they are classed as a flat-faced/brachycephalic breed, care must be taken in hot weather and when exercising.

Good breeders health screen potential parents to minimise the risk of inherited issues being passed on. Some of the conditions that Chins can be prone to include:

  • Luxating Patella (slipping knee caps)
  • Ophthalmic problems including cataracts, dry eye (also known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca), entropion (when the eyelid can fold inwards) and corneal abrasions
  • Early on-set heart murmurs
  • Epilepsy
  • GM2 gangliosidosis, also known as Tay-Sachs disease, which is a neurological condition that can be fatal and has been known to affect the breed. DNA testing will ensure the disease would not be passed on

Because of their short snout, they can be more prone to heat intolerance and breathing difficulties, so extra vigilance is required in hot weather. Using a harness, rather than just a collar and leash, can take the strain away from their delicate neck area.

Diet and Nutrition

While it can be easy to fall into the habit of free-feeding or spoiling with table scraps, the Chin can be prone to obesity, and it is important that they are fed a healthy, high-quality diet that is appropriately portion controlled.

The amount fed will vary depending on the individual dog, their age and activity levels.

A fresh and plentiful water source should always be available, and this is all the more important because of the breeds heat intolerance issues.

Pros

  • The Japanese Chin is a great companion dog; they are generally sociable, loyal, and tactile.

  • Despite their long hair, a Chin's coat does not need intensive maintenance.

  • Because of their size, exercise requirements and quiet personality, they are often a breed recommended for apartment living.

Cons

  • The Japanese Chin has a strong-willed, independent personality. You may have to work extra hard on the training if you want to introduce them to competitive obedience or dog sports.

  • Because of their heat intolerance, the Chin may not be best suited to living in a region with extreme summer temperatures.

  • Chin can be prone to obesity, so it is important that they do not become too sedentary or eat too many unhealthy tidbits.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Japanese Chin

If you are buying a Japanese Chin puppy, it is incredibly important to do your research and seek out a reputable breeder. The breeder should perform the appropriate genetic health checks on the parents, and the puppies should have the best start, staying with mom in a nurturing home environment.

While the breed is not a common one, it is possible to adopt a Chin from a shelter or a breed specific rescue. Dog adoption can be a hugely rewarding experience.

Below are some useful Breed and Adoption links:

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

It is important that you do as much research as possible regarding whether you can offer the right type of home for a Japanese Chin, that you seek out a reputable breeder or consider the rewarding adoption route, and that you consider reaching out to other owners of the breed for a more in-depth insight too.

If you are interested in similar breeds, you may also wish to consider the following:

There’s a great variety of dog breeds out there with a host of different traits and characteristics—doing your research will help you understand which ones may be best suited to your lifestyle!