This year, Thanksgiving dinner was at my house, and I have to say that it went pretty well. I had family and friends over, and everyone got along. There was only one slight little wrinkle, which happened when my sister Colleen’s mother-in-law made a comment about Boxers. “They’re such sweet dogs,” she said. “It’s a shame they’re so ugly.”
Well, right about then I started wondering if she’d look prettier with cranberry sauce all over her face, but I managed to control myself. I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ugly dog, and, of course, I believe that Boxers are the most beautiful dogs in the world.
Regular readers know, though, that sometimes the most off-the-cuff comment can pique my curiosity, so I started wondering about how we see beauty in dogs, and whether there really are any breeds that most people consider ugly. That led me to this breed of the week: the Chinese Crested dog.
I guess I’m just a total sucker for dogs, because I don’t find this breed, the winner of more “Ugly Dog” contests than I could even begin to tell you, at all ugly. Different, yes, but not ugly. And, in fact, the more I read about the breed, the more I felt that whatever the Chinese Crested might lack in conventional beauty, it makes up for in uniqueness and personality.
Interestingly enough, the Chinese Crested didn’t originate in China.The actual origin, as far as anyone knows, is placed somewhere in Africa, probably Egypt. This is a small dog that is often hairless with the exception of a silky plume on the head and tail, and socks on the feet. There is also a “Powderpuff” variant, which is fully coated, and interestingly enough, you can find both varieties in the same litter.
Chinese Cresteds can be possessed of amazing loyalty, but they are typically aloof with strangers.In fact, if they don’t know you and like you, they can be pretty nippy. Fortunately, since they’re fairly small, a bite won’t usually do much harm. Owners have to be sure to properly socialize the Chinese Crested, though.
There are a couple of myths about the Chinese Crested, so let’s put those to rest right away. First of all, they don’t need sunscreen when they’re outside.In fact, applying sunscreen can cause skin irritation. Second, it’s not true that they don’t shed.Owners often report sweeping enough dog hair over the course of a week to “manufacture” a puppy or two. And it’s actually not a good idea to let the hair grow out – it doesn’t keep the dog warm and, again, can result in irritation. You’re better off shaving your Chinese Crested and providing him with a sweater in cold weather.
One really good thing about Chinese Cresteds is that because of the general absence of hair, there’s not much for fleas or ticks to hide in. When fleas and ticks are shopping around for a home, the Chinese Crested is going to be one of the last choices, so owners don’t typically have to worry too much about pest control.
Chinese Cresteds make good family dogs. They love people of all ages, but if you have kids, you should make sure they know how to be careful.This is a fairly small breed (usually topping out at about 12 pounds), and can be easily hurt if kids are rambunctious.
The Chinese Crested is typically a “needy” dog that requires a lot of attention, and can be more prone than other breeds to suffering from separation anxiety. If left alone for too long, Chinese Cresteds can become destructive.
Chinese Cresteds make good “apartment” dogs. In fact, they’re often recommended as the perfect breed for shut-ins. Don’t make the mistake, though, of thinking that they won’t “go on walkabout” if given an opportunity. In fact, they can be amazing escape artists and can often leap over a fence that isn’t at least six feet tall. They’re good climbers, too, so if you’re keeping a Chinese Crested in a fenced-in-yard, you would do well to consider a board fence as opposed to something like a chain link that they could get their little paws into.
If a Chinese Crested does make it outside the fence, you might as well just sit down and wait for him to come back.They’re worse than beagles when it comes to recall. Keep in mind, too, that the Chinese Crested’s size will make him vulnerable to other, bigger dogs if he should happen to escape.
Although the Chinese Crested did not originate in China, the name likely comes from the fact that this breed is known to have sailed on Chinese ships as far back as 1530. At that point, the Chinese began to refine the breed for further use on their ships, where the dogs were prized for their ability to chase down and kill rats. Later on, Europeans discovered the breed when trading with the Chinese.
The Chinese also used the dogs as “living heating pads,” snuggling up with them when cold or ill. Well, don’t we still do that with most of our dogs today? We don’t credit our dogs with “magical” healing powers (at least most of us don’t!), though, the way the Chinese did with these dogs.
No one really knows when the breed reached North America, but what is known is that the first American breed club is pretty recent, going back to only 1974. Oddly enough, in China, the Chinese Crested is now quite rare.
As previously mentioned, Chinese Cresteds are loyal but not particularly interested in interacting with strangers, so if you are considering this breed, you will need to pay particular attention to temperament. After all, most people want a dog who will be able to get along well with others. When you visit the litter, look for a puppy who seems playful and curious and doesn’t mind being handled. Try to avoid extremes, though.You don’t want the puppy who is bullying his littermates or hanging off in a corner of the pen.
As is the case with any puppy purchase, you should also make sure that you can meet the mother first. It’s great if you can meet the father as well, but this isn’t always going to be practical. The breeder may very well have taken the bitch to an offsite stud. If you can’t see the mother, though, there’s something the breeder doesn’t want you to know, so run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction and find another breeder. Otherwise, you’ll end up with huge problems in the long-run.
Generally speaking, Chinese Cresteds are healthy dogs, but as is the case with virtually any breed you might be considering, there are some conditions that could occur. Chinese Cresteds can be vulnerable to hip or elbow dysplasia, Von Willebrand’sdisease and hypothyroidism. They also tend to be vulnerable to dental issues, and many Chinese Cresteds (especially the hairless variety) can end up losing several teeth at just a few years of age.
Chinese Cresteds are also vulnerable to retinal deterioration, and may lose a good bit of their vision. They will, however, adapt fairly well as long as you work to keep their environment free of surprises, in much the same way as you would for a human with vision issues.
One of the reasons that Chinese Cresteds are such great dogs for shut-ins is that they really don’t need a whole lot of exercise. For that matter, they don’t really want it either, so if your idea of a good time with your dog is heading out for a run, the Chinese Crested may not be the right breed for you.
That said, though, the Chinese Crested does need a lot of mental stimulation, so you’re going to have to provide him with toys and games that will exercise his mind.
When it comes to training, you’ll find that Chinese Cresteds can be pretty stubborn. That means that you’ll need patience. Also, Chinese Cresteds can be sensitive and timid, so the last thing you should do is shout or be overly dominant.Positive reinforcement is the only thing that is going to work with a Chinese Crested.
Because of their natural sensitivity, you’ll probably find that you get better results with training (especially house training) if you crate your dog. As is the case with many of the smaller breeds, house training can take a while and a crate can be very helpful, because dogs typically do not like to mess in what they see as their “den.”
Make sure, though, that you don’t leave your dog in the crate for long periods of time; it’s supposed to be sort of a “home within a home,” not a jail.
Regular readers know that I “free feed” Janice and Leroy, and that I am a big believer in free feeding as a way of controlling food aggression and forestalling weight problems. That said, my vet, Stephen, disagrees with me. So, if you’re going to feed on a schedule, give your Chinese Crested anywhere from 1/8 cup to 1/2 cup of dry dog food each day, served twice daily. Take note of how much he eats, and remember that your dog is an individual; if he’s very active, he might need more food.
You might think that a Chinese Crested doesn’t need a whole lot of grooming, but the fact is that where there is hair, there is quite a lot of it. So you will need to brush out the crest regularly, as well as the hair on the tail and feet. If you have a “Powderpuff” Crested, then you’ll be in for a bit more work, because they’re double-coated. This means that they have an undercoat that can be prone to matting. Powderpuffs really should be combed and brushed daily.
Nails should be trimmed regularly if they’re not worn down during the course of daily activities. Of course this is the case with pretty much any breed of dog, so you won’t be in for extra work nail-wise with your Chinese Crested.
Also, check the ears every so often, and wipe them out with an appropriate ear cleaner (not alcohol or baby oil). Check for any redness, sores or tenderness, and if you see anything that appears unusual, see your veterinarian.
There’s really nothing out of the ordinary here. Chinese Cresteds are like most other dogs in that they will get along well with kids and also with other animals, assuming that they’re properly introduced to one another. You’ll generally do better introducing a Chinese Crested puppy to another animal than you will if you bring an adult dog into the household, but again, that’s pretty much the case across all breeds.
As for kids, the only thing you really need to worry about is the size of the dog. Because Chinese Cresteds are small, kids must understand that they need to be handled with care. It’s simple respect and common sense, and most kids will grasp the concept quickly and easily.
Ugly dogs? I don’t think so. Chinese Cresteds are definitely unusual, but personally, I think that they are beautiful. It’s just a different type of beauty than what we usually think of. I find the idea of “Ugly Dog” contests abhorrent, because, to me, there is no such thing as an ugly dog – just dogs who are beautiful in different ways.
I’d imagine that if Colleen’s mother-in-law thought my Janice and Leroy were ugly, the look of a Chinese Crested would send her running for cover. She’s entitled to her opinion, I suppose, but I think beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and more. And if you don’t see beauty in a dog – any dog – then that’s your problem. Chinese Cresteds are dogs, and therefore, they are beautiful. That’s all.