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Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin (Japanese: 狆, chin), also known as the Japanese Spaniel, is a dog known for its importance to Japanese nobility. A lap dog and companion dog, this toy breed has a distinctive heritage.


While most believe that the source breed for the Japanese Chin originated in China, the route by which the Chin arrived in Japan is a widely debated topic. One story claims that the dogs were given to the Japanese royalty in 732 A.D. as gifts from the rulers of Korea. Others maintain that they were given as gifts to the Empress of Japan as early as the mid-6th century to the 7th century. Still others claim that the Chin first arrived in Japan around the year 1000. In Japan, dogs are usually viewed as working or helper animals. The Japanese Chin is distinct in that they are owned strictly for companionship. Their distinct appearance and personality eventually captured the hearts of Japanese royalty and resulted in ownership being restricted to those of royal and noble blood. Each noble house bred to their own standards. Because of this, there are many variations of the Japanese Chin from size to coat density, eye set, personality, body type, etc. Once introduced to the West, a strong desire for the Japanese Chin that were 10 lbs or less led to this becoming the standard of various kennel clubs around the world. Professor Ludwig von Schulmuth studied canine origins by looking at the skeletal remains of dogs found in human settlements as early as the 8th millennium BC. The professor created a genealogical tree of Tibetan dogs that shows the "Gobi Desert Kitchen Midden Dog", a scavenger, which evolved into the "Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog". From this evolved the Tibetan Spaniel, Pekingese, and the Japanese Chin. Another branch coming down from the "Kitchen Midden Dog" gave rise to the Papillon and long-haired Chihuahua and yet another "Kitchen Midden Dog" branch to the pug and Shih Tzu. Though there is some documentation that indicates Portuguese sailors introduced the breed to Europe in the 17th century by presenting them to Catherine of Braganza, Queen Consort to King Charles II of England, there is more credible evidence that the first Japanese Chin were given as gifts by the Emperor of Japan to an American naval officer, Matthew Calbraith Perry, when Perry visited the Orient in 1853 to open trade with the East. Perry was given a total of seven Japanese Chin, but only two survived the passage back to the USA. It is disputed whether Perry gave the two to Franklin Pierce, President of the United States, James Stirling, Rear admiral of the Royal Navy, to take to Queen Victoria, or his daughter, Caroline Slidell, after returning from Japan.


Appearance Japanese Chin stand about 20 to 27cm (8 to 11 inches) in height at the withers. Weight can vary from a low of 1.4 kg (3 lb) to a high of 6.8 kg (15 lb), with an average of 3.2 to 4.1 kg (7 to 9 lb) being the most common. The American Kennel Club and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale give no weight requirement for the Chin. Its distinctive expression is characterized by a large broad head, large wide-set eyes, short broad muzzle, ear feathering, and evenly patterned facial markings.

Coat and color

The Japanese Chin's coat is very smooth. Most dogs have two types of hair in their coat: an under and over coat. However, the Japanese Chin has only one coat that is referred to as "silky". An adult coat can take up to two years to completely grow in. The coat can be either black and white, sable (black and white with tan points), or red and white. These colors can vary in intensity (such as lemon and white, mahogany and white). As of November 11, 2011, the colors not listed in the breed standard are grounds for disqualification in competitions.

Temperament This breed is considered one of the most cat-like of the dog breeds in attitude: it is alert, intelligent, and independent, and it uses its paws to wash and wipe its face. Other cat-like traits include their preference for resting on high surfaces, their good sense of balance, and their tendency to hide in unexpected places. A companion dog, the Japanese Chin is loving and loyal to its owner and typically happy to see others, though a few are distrustful of strangers. While Japanese Chin prefer familiar surroundings, they also do quite well in new situations. This, combined with their love of people, make them good therapy dogs. Very early socialization of Japanese Chin puppies leads to a more emotionally well-balanced Chin that is more accepting of different situations and people. Japanese Chin are usually very quiet, but will bark to alert a household to the arrival of a visitor or something out of the ordinary. Japanese Chin were bred for the purpose of loving and entertaining their owners. While typically calm, they are well known for performing many tricks such as the "Chin Spin", in which they turn around in rapid circles; dancing on their hind legs while pawing their front feet, clasped together, in the air; and some even "sing", a noise that can range from a low trill to a higher, almost operatic noise.

Health Common health issues in the Japanese Chin include luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps), cataracts and early-onset heart murmurs. The Chin, as with most small breed dogs, can also have a risk of hypoglycemia when aged under 6 months or weighing 4 to 5 pounds or less. Some Japanese Chin have seasonal allergies. The Japanese Chin's flattened brachycephalic face can lead to breathing and eye problems. Temperature extremes (particularly heat) should therefore be avoided. Its oversized eyes are easily scratched and corneal scratches or more serious ulcerations can result. Mild scratches benefit from topical canine antibacterial ointment specifically for eye application; more serious injury or ulcerations require urgent medical care. The Japanese Chin Club of America estimates Chins have a typical lifespan of 10-12 years, with some living to 15 or more. A UK Kennel Club survey puts their median lifespan at 9.25 years.

Care The Japanese Chin's coat requires nothing more than weekly brushing or combing, with special attention being given to the skirt and the area under the ears and legs. They do not require frequent bathing. These dogs are single-coated and single-hair shedders, much like people, and it is very seldom one will find a Chin with an undercoat. Occasionally, a Japanese Chin will have a light blowing of their coat once a year. Without fiber in the diet, they may need to have their anal glands expressed. The skin folds in and around the nose and flattened facial area of a Japanese Chin can trap moisture from its oversized eyes and cause fungal problems. The face should be occasionally wiped with a damp cloth and the folds cleaned with a cotton swab. Diet is an important factor in the health and condition of the Japanese Chin, with many of these dogs being very sensitive or allergic to corn. Maintaining a Japanese Chin on a high quality kibble that contains no corn will prevent skin and allergy conditions.