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The Japanese Chin is best for people who live in apartments and are with them for most of the day. Cat lovers welcome.
Japanese Chin Traits
What makes the Japanese Chin a Japanese Chin? Let's find out how they stack up.
Japanese Chin Temperament
A noble companion with vocals only a parent could love is a great way to describe the personality of the Japanese Chin (aka the Japanese Spaniel). These dogs are relaxed and loving, and can be quite attached to their pet parent—all things that make them both perfect and overqualified for the position of lapdog. They don’t need a job to do; they just need to be with their people—especially when singing a duet with their person. Yes, these pups are singers, not barkers. They sing when the moment moves them, so make sure your karaoke machine is ready to roll. Born performers, they’re also known for doing the “Chin spin” dance when they get excited. (If you haven’t seen it, you should look that up. It’s adorable.)
Although playful and loyal, Chins can also be sassy and stubborn—they have a mind of their own, and they may not follow your directions like a Lab will. And while they aren’t known for being aggressive, they may play-bite as puppies. With proper training, however, these intelligent dogs can learn to be a well-behaved family member.
Chins are considered catlike in that they groom themselves like a cat, they like to climb, and you’ll often find them perched on top of things, like the back of a chair or sofa. (And let’s not forget about their independent streak …) Cats are actually their BFFs, but they’ll need proper introductions and socialization with other dogs in the home.
How to Care for a Japanese Chin
Caring for a Japanese Chin dog is not as high-maintenance as you might think. Their grooming routine is relatively simple, as is their exercise needs. However, you will need to be consistent with their training because of their stubborn streak—you can’t slack off because they’re just so darn cute.
Japanese Chin Health
While Japanese Chins have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, the breed is prone to a number of health issues. But knowledge is power. Being aware of these conditions can help your pup live a long and happy life.
Cataracts: With cataracts, your pup looks like they have cloudy eyes. Often hereditary or caused by diabetes, eye drops may be used as a treatment for dogs who can’t go under anesthesia; however, surgery is recommended to help your dog have the best vision possible.
- Epilepsy: If your dog suffers from seizures, be sure to talk with your vet about the type they have and how best you can assist your pup during the seizure. Long-term care usually consists of medication.
- Brachycephalic Syndrome: Also called short-headed syndrome, the breathing passage in these dogs is flattened or undersized. This makes it difficult to breathe, especially in warm and humid conditions. Treatment is through managing your dog’s environment (making sure they don’t get overheated) and keeping them at a healthy weight. Some dogs may require surgery.
- Early Onset Heart Murmur: This is more than likely caused by endocardiosis, a degenerative disease affecting the valves of the heart. Regular X-rays and maintaining a healthy weight are the first treatment option. Asymptomatic dogs can be treated with medication.
- Tay-Sachs Disease: This is a fatal neurological disorder. Reputable breeders will test potential parents to ensure this disease isn’t passed to future generations of Japanese Chins.
Japanese Chin History
Is it rude to call a dog a walking contradiction? First, we tell you that this dog is often described as cat-like. Now you’ll learn that they originated in China, not Japan. Here’s how that happened:
China bestowed this regal baby on Japanese dignitaries for their service to the country. Though descended from dogs of Chinese nobility, it was the Japanese who brought the canine into our consciousness and onto our laps.
Commodore Matthew Perry (no, not that Matthew Perry) was sent to Japan in the mid-1850s by then-United States President Franklin Pierce and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to establish trading posts with Japan on behalf of their respective countries. He returned with three sets of Imperial dogs as gifts for each of them (and a pair for himself). Two dogs survived, and he gave one to his daughter Caroline and her husband, August Belmont, Jr., who was the president of the American Kennel Club at the time.
But wait! Those two pups were never bred. It wasn’t until the trade treaty between America and Japan in 1858 that the pups started coming to America. Their novelty shot them to fame, and they became one of the most popular breeds of the time.
Though the AKC recognized the Japanese Chin in 1888, their popularity declined in the 20th century. They’re now ranked 104th out of 197 breeds recognized. But that just means when you bring a Chinese—oops—Japanese Chin puppy into your home, you will be one of few who can proudly proclaim that a member of your family descended from nobles.
Are you looking to add a Japanese Chin puppy to your family? You can find a reputable breeder on the AKC’s website. The average price for a puppy is $2,000. But for that, you’re getting a puppy who’s been screened for health and temperament issues and may come with pedigree papers. You can also contact a Japanese Chin rescue or watch for the breed at your local animal shelter.
Do Japanese Chins shed?
Japanese Chins don’t shed a lot. They’re great self-groomers, but they do shed seasonally. Chins need a good brushing once a week followed by a monthly bath to stay in tip-top shape.
Are Japanese Chins good family dogs?
Japanese Chins are great family dogs! Why? They were bred that way. It doesn’t matter if your family is one person or 10; they’re here to take it easy and hang out with you—preferably indoors and on your lap.
Are Japanese Chins aggressive dogs?
Japanese Chins are not aggressive dogs. It’s simply not part of their repertoire. They prefer to give their attention sweetly and pleasingly, but at the end of the day, they’re not perfect. Puppies will play-bite, because the world is their chew toy, but as they find their way, the only time you might see a nibble is if they’re put in a position where they feel they have to defend themselves.
What are the most popular Japanese Chin mixes?
The most common Japanese Chin mixes (and their nicknames) are:
- Japanese Chin-Chihuahua mix (Chin-Wa)
- Japanese Chin-Pomeranian mix (Chineranian)
- Japanese Chin-Dachshund mix (Doxie Chin)
- Japanese Chin-Pekingese mix (Japeke)
- Japanese Chin-Yorkie mix (Jarkie)
- Japanese Chin-Maltese mix (Jatese)
- Japanese Chin-Shih Tzu mix (Jatzu)
- Japanese Chin-Poodle mix (Poochin)
Do Japanese Chins bark a lot?
Japanese Chins do not bark a lot. In fact, these “Japanese Spaniels” are known to be great in condos or other multiple-dwelling housing structures because they keep their thoughts to themselves. This could be a lucrative promotional opportunity for rescues looking to find homes for the breed—a dog for every apartment.
The Japanese Chin breed has come a long way, both literally and figuratively. Once kept for the comfort of nobles, they’re now content to keep you company on a Saturday night. How lucky are you? Sure, there might be a little judgment, but you have to ask yourself: Did we get our walk today?
Expert input provided by Dr. Julie Steller, a contract veterinarian serving shelter and family pets in Minneapolis, Minn., and Megan Janning, CPDT-KA, the training director at Fusion Pet Retreat in Minnetonka, Minn.