The Japanese Chin, otherwise known as the Japanese Spaniel, is a tiny, cat-like companion dog in both appearance and temperament. The breed’s beginnings have been long debated, but most people agree that the Japanese Chin originated in China and was eventually brought over to Japan as a gift to the Empress of Japan in the 6th or 7th century. Part of the Toy group, the breed became a companion lapdog of Japanese noblemen, and unlike most other dog breeds in Japan at the time, the Japanese Chin was bred exclusively for companionship to Japanese nobility, rather than being used as a work dog for peasants. The breed was brought over to the West in 1854.
Characteristics of the Japanese Chin
The Japanese Chin is a very unique breed with distinct features in both appearance and personality. Let’s take a look at some of these features.
Part of the Toy dog group, the Japanese Chin is extremely small, measuring between 8 and 11 inches tall and weighing between 7 and 11 pounds. Despite the appearance of its long, silky coat, the coat of the Japanese Chin is actually very easy to maintain because it is composed of only an overcoat- rather than an overcoat and undercoat- which can be black and white, red (including sable, lemon, or orange) and white, or tricolor (black and white with reddish tan parts).
Having a distinctly oriental appearance and expression- which is sometimes referred to by fans of the breed as “an expression of astonishment”- the Japanese Chin is known for its large head, short muzzle, and small, dark, beady eyes. The breed also has a long, plumed tail arching over its back.
The temperament of the Japanese Chin is extremely unique in that this dog breed acts more like a cat than a dog. Some of its observed feline behaviors include using paws to wipe its face, enjoying high surfaces, utilizing its great sense of balance, and hiding in unexpected places. Like a cat, the Japanese Chin is aristocratic, graceful, alert, fastidious, intelligent, and independent. In Japan, the Japanese Chin was actually not regarded as a dog, but as a higher species of its own.
The Japanese Chin are usually quiet dogs that bark occasionally, but they are very adaptable and will therefore behave livelier if they live in a rambunctious home, or more quietly if they live in a relaxed home. The Japanese Chin prefers to be at home with family but can still travel well so long as he is with his beloved family. Japanese Chin are known for having separation anxiety, and if you take your pet along during travel you can expect him to act a little shy in his new environment at first. Being that the Japanese Chin is very adaptable and sensitive to the emotions around him, the Japanese Chin can make an excellent therapy dog, and live in the tiniest of apartments.
The Japanese Chin is extremely loyal to his owners and, though shyer around strangers, is still very friendly to everyone, making him a poor guard dog. This breed is good with older children, but smaller children may accidentally hurt him as this breed is extremely fragile. Japanese Chin are good with cats, unsurprisingly, and good with smaller dogs, but larger dogs may frighten the Japanese Chin or accidentally cause injury. You can expect your Japanese Chin to live between 10 and 12 years of age.
Caring for the Japanese Chin
The Japanese Chin is no ordinary breed, and therefore requires extraordinary care. Let’s take a look at the proper way to care for a Japanese Chin.
Your Japanese Chin will need to be fed a high-quality dog food – wet or dry – that is appropriate for its age – puppy, adult, senior, etc. Treats can be a valuable tool to use during training but avoid feeding your pet too many treats as this can cause obesity, which can lead to many other problems. Table scraps should also be given sparingly and avoid especially those table scraps containing bones and contents rich in fat. Always consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet’s diet or weight.
Being extremely tiny, the Japanese Chin won’t need as much exercise, or as much space for exercise, as a large dog, but this breed is still fairly active. Japanese Chins will love to run around a fenced-in backyard or simply play with their family in an apartment- this breed is great for apartment living. When you take your Japanese Chin on a walk, make sure you put him on a leash or harness. Because this breed can be curious and stubborn, like a cat, they may stray off the path to explore something- and not listen to your commands to return- when not on a leash. Also, Japanese Chins can be very prone to overheating as they do not handle heat well. Always monitor your Japanese Chin for heat exhaustion and provide plenty of water.
Previously belonging only to Japanese nobility, the Japanese Chin was bred to entertain. This breed can be trained to perform tricks such as the “Chin Spin” in which the dog will turn around in circles on his hind legs while clasping his front paws together. The Japanese Chin is self-confident, amusing, and bright during training and will be eager to please his trainer. However, the Japanese Chin will require fun, engaging training sessions, lest he get bored and focus on something else. As mentioned before, the Japanese Chin is an extremely adaptable and friendly breed, but he will be even more so when provided with early socialization and training.
The long, silky coat of the Japanese Chin is surprisingly easy to maintain and requires only a weekly brushing and monthly bath. Your Japanese Chin may need to be bathed more or less frequently depending on his environment and what mischief he finds himself getting into. The nails of the Japanese Chin grow very fast, and therefore will need frequent attention as well. To avoid a buildup of wax and debris that can cause ear infections, your pet’s ears should be examined regularly. To avoid dental problems, the teeth of the Japanese Chin should be brushed frequently.
The Japanese Chin is a generally healthy breed, but, like any breed, can be prone to particular health ailments. Common health issues in the Japanese Chin include patellar luxations, eye cataracts, corneal scratches (because of the breed’s relatively large eyes), and early-onset heart murmurs. The Japanese Chin can also be prone to a fatal neurological condition called GM2 gangliosidosis, otherwise known as Tay-Sachs disease, which is also a disease among humans. Due to the flattened face of the Japanese Chin, this breed can also be prone to breathing problems that can become exaggerated in the heat.