Breed of the Week: The Japanese Chin (Video)


The Japanese Chin is, as you could tell from the name, an Asian breed of dog. This dog was prized for more than a thousand years in Chinese and Japanese royal courts, for his playful manner and elegant appearance.


You could think of the Japanese Chin as a “Superdog,” since he’s been known to be able to leap over tall furniture in one bound. He’s little, but he’s strong, and he has a tendency to want to be on high places. His ability to climb is renowned.

The Japanese Chin is also known for having qualities that are highly desirable in a companion dog – this breed loves people, and there are no strangers – just friends he hasn’t met yet. This breed does well in small spaces like apartments, and is very adaptable.

Despite his thick coat, the Japanese Chin is pretty much “wash and go,” and doesn’t need much more than weekly brushing to keep up his good looks.

Japanese Chins are smart and mannerly, and they learn quickly, but can be stubborn.

Generally speaking, though, this is a good dog that gets along well with pretty much anyone he encounters.

Japanese Chins are sensitive, though, so if there’s something going on in your household, you can bet that this dog will pick up on it. He’ll know if you’re upset, and he’ll pick up on your mood.


The Japanese Chin is a very old breed, having originated in the old courts of Chinese nobility. These dogs were so prized that they were often given as gifts to royalty from other countries. That said, the breed was largely unknown outside of Asian countries until the latter part of the 1800s when they were imported to America and became the favorites of such notables as US President Franklin Pierce.

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The Japanese Chin is generally a happy, affectionate, intelligent dog, but he can be a bit barky. The breed I also very sensitive, and picks up on human emotions quickly and easily. In other words, if you’re unhappy, your Japanese Chin will pick up on that and become reserved. If you’re in a good place in your life, your Japanese Chin will respond with joy.

Japanese Chins are very devoted to their humans, but might be a bit aloof with strangers.


Japanese Chins are generally healthy dogs, and in fact far less prone to the health issues that plague other breeds. That said, though, there are a few things to consider.

Atrioventricular Endocardiosis

This is a disorder that affects the heart. It’s progressive and degenerative, and it occurs when the heart valves begin to leak. This condition can lead to heart failure, but it can be managed with diet and exercise.

PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This is an incurable eye disorder that almost always leads to blindness. The thing to remember here, though, is that blind dogs can still have a very good quality of life. It’s not a death sentence! You wouldn’t say that a blind person couldn’t enjoy life, would you? You’d just adapt – stop moving the furniture around, for one thing. It’s the same with dogs.

Patellar Luxation

This is a condition where the knee, calf and thigh bone don’t line up properly. They end up rubbing together, and causing pain and lameness. Sometimes, this condition can be managed with pain medication. Sometimes, surgery might be needed to correct the condition.

Heart Murmurs

Heart murmurs show up most often in puppies, and much of the time, they’re nothing to worry about. Most often, a puppy will “outgrow” a heart murmur by the time he reaches the age of six months, If the heart murmur continues beyond that point, then the veterinarian might think that there’s something more serious at work. However, that hardly ever happens.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

This is another joint condition, usually common in toy breeds .With this condition, the femur doesn’t get enough blood, and it begins to disintegrate. The first signs of this disorder are limping and weakness in the leg muscles.Sometimes, the condition is easily managed with pain medication. Serious conditions might require surgery.


This is an eye condition in which tissue forms over the dog’s eyes, making it difficult for the dog to see properly. Usually, this condition occurs in older dogs.

Care and Feeding

Japanese Chins are one of the few breeds of dogs that don’t require a whole lot of exercise. Usually, a daily walk and a bit of play will suffice. These dogs do have a mind of their own, though, so you’ll need to make sure that you’re willing to be the boss when training.

It’s worth mentioning that Japanese Chins are not dogs that are happy being left outdoors – they want to be inside with their humans. Because of this, they’re very well suited to apartment living.


You can free feed your Japanese Chin if you like – they’re not gluttons. If you prefer scheduled feeding, though, give your Japanese Chin ¼ cup to ½ cup of good dry dog food every day, and space it out over two meals.

Japanese Chins are highly prone to impacted anal glands, so make sure that you’re feeding a dog food that’s high in fiber.

Japanese Chins aren’t prone to obesity, but you should keep in mind that every dog is different. If your dog is lazy, he won’t need as much food as a more active dog. If he’s very active, he’ll need more.

Coat and Grooming

The Japanese Chin has a silky, abundant, moderately long coat. His ears are feathered, and he has a mane and a plumed tail. As to color, the Japanese Chin can be black, red, white, white and black or red and white. Some might also have tan points.

This is a clean dog that will very seldom need to be bathed. Usually, you can keep your Japanese Chin looking good with nothing more than weekly brushing.

As to other grooming needs, it’s always wise to brush your dog’s teeth in order to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Daily brushing is best, but not all dogs will tolerate it. If you can’t brush your dog’s teeth every day, at least shoot for twice a week.

If you can’t brush at all, give your dog rawhide chews, and spread a bit of dog toothpaste on them. It’s better than nothing.

You should also trim your dog’s toenails regularly. Some dogs wear them down naturally, walking on hard surfaces, but if your dog doesn’t do that, you will need to trim. Some dogs are just as resistant to toenail trimming as they are to tooth brushing, so you might have to proceed cautiously. And if you’re not sure how close to trim, you might want to have the first session handled by a veterinarian or a groomer, so you can learn how to do it the right way.

The other thing that you should do is check your dog’s ears once a week. What you want to look for is redness, or a rash, or odor. Any of these symptoms could indicate an infection. Make sure that you don’t shoe anything into your dog’s ears, though –Q-tips and other sticks could end up puncturing your dog’s ear drum. All you want to do is clean the outer ear – you don’t want to go inside.

One of the most important things you can do when introducing your Japanese Chin to grooming or to visits to the veterinarian is get him used to being handled. Play with his toes, get him used to having his ears handled, and generally get him used to human touch. Not only will this help your dog to behave well at the vet’s office, it will enable you to spot health issues early on.

Kids and Other Pets

Japanese Chins are typically gentle dogs, but they’re not all that good with young kids. Sometimes, toddlers are overly exuberant, and can end up hurting a dog without meaning to. Japanese Chins are usually better with older children who know how to handle a dog the right way.

Again, as I’m always telling you, you should never leave a dog of any breed alone with a child. You could have the best-natured dog in the world, and the most responsible kid, but bad stuff could still happen. It’s very, very important to always supervise any interactions between dogs and children.

As to other pets, it’s best to introduce a Japanese Chin puppy to an adult animal rather than the other way around. That’s good policy with pretty much any breed.

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The Final Word

Japanese Chins are wonderfully loyal dogs, and they can make good family pets. They’re not necessarily the best dogs for novice owners, though, since they can be stubborn. If you’re thinking of introducing a Japanese Chin to your family, make sure that everyone is onside, and that the kids know how to behave.