Japanese Chin

Breed Group: Toy

Temperament and Behavior

As a result of being similar, many people find themselves comparing the Japanese Chin with the English Toy Spaniel. The Chin is lighter in build, and most people consider him more athletic, and more outgoing than the English Toy Spaniel. Perky, bright, and playful, Chins want to trade affection with everyone. A great choice for seniors, they want nothing more than to receive attention, cuddle on laps, and snuggle into soft pillows. Even though playful, they are too fragile and easily injured for all but the most careful, older child. Although some are timid, typically they are at least polite with strangers and many accept them like family. They easily live in harmony with other pets. The only exercise they need is a short romp outside. Even though not very active there, don’t trust him off-leash. He is just enough of a hunter to chase after a chipmunk or butterfly. Inside they are no more active than an average dog but are always ready to chase a ball. They will also announce visitors with gusto but are not as prone to excessive barking as many breeds in the Toy group. Among the smallest dogs, he is non-aggressive and has no protective ability. Cat like, owners frequently comment on their ability to climb and sometimes find their Chins in unlikely places, in a bookcase or on the mantle for example. Also like felines, they have fastidious grooming habits.

Physical Characteristics

Tiny, a Japanese Chin should be 8 to 11 inches tall and weigh between 4 and 7 pounds. A fair number are oversized which disqualifies them from the show ring but makes them a sturdier pet. They are predominantly white with patches of red, black, or black with tan points. Their coat is medium to long, straight, and silky. Brush them weekly, but still expect continuous shedding with heavy shedding twice a year. Even with their long coat, they do not like cold weather. Use a sweater for winter outings in all but the warmest climates. However, caution must also be used by those living in warm climates. Their flat face makes them sensitive to heat and humidity. Always give them ample ventilation and plenty of cool water during Summer months and air conditioning during periods of high heat or humidity.

Trainer's Notes

To make sure they do not become fearful, socialize them well. A Japanese Chin is fun to train. But he is a sensitive companion who will not do well with physical training methods. Keep training lighthearted and playful. When dealt with kindly, he is an eager, responsive student. Housebreaking them is difficult. They do well in small apartments and with first-time owners. When leash training, avoid using a collar. Toy breeds have a fragile neck. This, when combined with the breathing problems that go with a short muzzle, results in a harness being a better choice.

Photo © by Joliot available under the CC BY-SA 3.0
Japanese Chin

Japanese Chin


The Japanese Chin is a relatively hardy breed. They most frequently suffer from Patellar Luxation and Cataracts whith each affecting about 1 dog in 8. Ask breeders about any early onset heart murmurs in their line. The typical Chin has a lifespan of between 10 and 12 years. However, it is not unusual for them to live to 15 years of age.


With between 1,400 and 1,500 dogs registered each year, the Japanese Chin rankes 68th in popularity of all breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Breed History

Despite their name, the Chin is not native to Japan. It originated in ancient China and was kept by the aristocracy. There are several explanations for its arrival in Japan. One holds Zen Buddhists may have brought them sometime after 520 A.D. Another says a Korean Prince may have taken them in 732 A.D. A third explanation contends that a pair may have been a gift from the Chinese Emperor to the Japanese Emperor about a thousand years ago. However the Chin got to Japan, it was highly prized by the Japanese Imperial family. Although Portuguese sailors may have brought the breed to Europe as early as the 16th century, the first official record was when a pair was presented to England’s Queen Victoria by Commodore Perry in 1853. The breed was first recognized by the AKC in 1888 under the name Japanese Spaniel. These early dogs were larger than today’s Chin. Many believe the Chin of the 1800’s was bred with the English Toy Spaniel to reduce the Chin’s size.

Additional Information

President of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Jefferson Davis owned a Japanese Chin. The Chin’s National (US) Breed Club is the Japanese Chin Club of America.

Is A Japanese Chin THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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