Other names: Japanese Spaniel, Chin
This peculiar little dog hails not from Japan, although the breed has certainly done well there, but from China. The word ‘chin’ signifies ‘cat-like,’ and indeed this lady is one of the cattiest of dogs. The Chin climbs like a cat (if she can’t quite match the cat’s agility) and is just as likely to snooze on the the back of your sofa as on the cushion ; she grooms herself with her paws, and can even be said to have a cat-like face, through which she snorts and sneezes in a disturbing but generally harmless manner.
Key facts about the Japanese Chin
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Origins and history
The Chin can trace her lineage back over hundreds of years, to when Chinese traders travelled the Silk Road with little dogs whom they would sometimes leave behind or give to the Buddhist monasteries they passed. The monks bred the animals so that they evolved into a similar creature to that we see today; her figure can be spotted on ancient pottery, embroidery, and on temple walls. Travelling dignitaries would acquire the dogs when they passed through the monasteries, and made gifts of them to royal courts, where they would be treated like royalty themselves, their every whim catered to by eunuchs. She first found her way to Europe in the mid-19th century; Queen Victoria had a fine pair. Today she has become very popular in the east and west alike.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs
Section 8 : Japan Chin and Pekingese
Physical characteristics of the Japanese Chin
Female : Between 9 and 9 in
Male : Between 9 and 10 in
Female : Between 7 and 9 lb
Male : Between 7 and 9 lb
White with black and/or red symmetrical markings.
Type of coat
The Japanese Chin's hair length is of medium length.
Its type of coat is silky and single coated.
A well-kept Chin is a sight to behold : she looks like she’s been drenched in a downpour of loveliness. Her silky white hair smooths out any hard angles and fills in much of the space between her legs, and a puffy tail curls up and over her back, evening up the gap behind her head, with the overall effect of making her a perfect fluffy square. Her snout is short and broad, her eyes big and wide apart, and they have the appearance of being slightly crossed due to a spread of white towards the middle. All in all, then, she looks every part the inbred aristocrat, precious and aloof, deluxe but undesirable.
Good to know
She likes to entertain with tricks, such as the ‘Chin Spin’ or windmill, and dancing on her back legs.
The Chin is a good-natured and affectionate companion who will expect to be treated right but will repay you with love and attention.
She likes to play although, given her size and self-opinion, games should not be too boisterous.
She is a calm and docile little dog.
The Chin is moderately intelligent and, if she won’t read you the daily news, will at least sit patiently and appear to acknowledge you as you read the papers to her.
Although, like many royals, she may have a little hunter in her from her deep prehistory, this is not likely to raise its head today.
Fearful / wary of strangers
She can be a bit shy around newcomers.
She is quite an independent type and will not take well to excessive bossing-about.
Behaviour of the Japanese Chin
This is not a dog who appreciates alone-time. She is a companion dog, which is to say she demands your companionship and is liable to sulk if deprived of your society.
Easy to train / obedience
If you’ve ever tried to train a cat, you can imagine what this little princess’s education is going to look like. While she’s bright enough to pick things up, her independent streak can make it tough to convey lessons to her. Patience and time are needed, and above all the pedagogue should be careful not to give in to suggestions that the dog, rather than the human, holds authority within the pack.
She does not bark often, and then mainly when she is uncomfortable in unfamiliar company or if she senses an intruder in the home. A poorly-trained Chin accustomed to being spoilt may also bark if she feels she is not getting the attention she deserves.
Tendency to run away
The princess is a dreamer, and left alone in a poorly-fenced garden is prone to wandering in pursuit of butterflies, birds, and the frogs she desperately hopes will prove to be royalty-in-disguise (or at the very least, delicious).
While this delicate creature does not have the physical power to create undue chaos, if left alone she may certainly signal her dissatisfaction through petulant acts of sabotage.
Greedy / Gluttony
In general, the Chin is no glutton.
The Chin does not appreciate uninvited company, and will bark to raise the alarm should an intruder appear ; however, the pack’s response had better be quick, as she is by no means equipped to tackle the fiend.
With her small footprint, incapacity to create much damage, and her affectionate behaviour, she can make a good first dog ; however, dog ownership virgins should be wary not to give in to her demanding side or to spoil her with attention and treats before she is properly trained.
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Japanese Chin in a flat
The Japanese Chin makes an ideal flat dog since she requires relatively little exercise and is easy to store. She is often considered to be a lap dog, and thus needs little more space than your portable computer.
Need for exercise / Sporty
She requires regular walks, but nothing too much, and will appreciate a garden if available, but the latter is hardly mandatory. Her anti-social side and tendency to wander make the freedom of a leash-less walk in the park less than ideal.
Travelling / easy to transport
She fits in your handbag and likes to be kept close, so travel is generally not a problem.
Japanese Chin and cats
She should tolerate the company of cats as long as she is raised alongside them. However, beware that cats may not tolerate her company – especially if she becomes centre of attention – and can easily damage the creature due to the ready accessibility of her bulging aristocratic eyeballs.
Japanese Chin and dogs
Again, if socialised well, she should not have a problem with other dogs ; however, caution should be heeded, especially around hunter-type dogs, who may see her as cat-like enough to be ‘fair game.’
Japanese Chin and children
Her delicate structure makes the Chin a little vulnerable around small or boisterous children. She may snap (break) or snap (nip) if handled with insufficient respect.
Japanese Chin and the elderly
The Chin is a good choice for an older person. She’s lightweight, requires only moderate exercise, and is happy to provide company and affection.
The average price for a Japanese Chin dog is between £570 - £735.
The Japanese Chin can cost around £25 - £40 per month to feed and maintain.
She may look grooming-intensive, but it doesn’t actually take too much work to keep the Chin looking and feeling handsome. Brush her once a week; bathe her once a month; and clip her nails regularly. More regular brushing or combing is to be encouraged if the owner has time, particularly to avoid tangles and to keep the feathered parts looking fresh and alluring. More regular baths, however, should only be taken if necessary, as they can dry out the princess’s delicate skin. Don’t forget that, in her catlike way, the Chin will attend to a certain level of personal hygiene herself. Special attentions should be paid to the ears and nose, which are prone to build up dirt, wax, and bacteria due to their foldy nature. This should be performed by the human, since dogs cannot generally operate cotton-buds.
Most of the time her fur does not cause as much litter as you might expect, but once or twice a year she will shed more severely, at which point you will be very grateful you bought that DustBuster that’s been under the stairs since the 1980s.
Nutrition of the Japanese Chin
Quality dry dog food with a tendency towards fibre is recommended for this dog, since her royal anal glands have a tendency to impact. Avoid corn, as the Chin is often allergic, and divide her intake across two daily meals to avoid bloating and other digestive issues.
Health of the Japanese Chin
Strong / robust
While no twiglet, the Chin was built for pleasure, not graft; she should not be put to work or left out overnight, and may snap in the hands of an anarchistic toddler.
Due to her brachycephalic face, the Chin will soon become uncomfortable in anything approaching hot weather. She should be kept somewhere cool, given plenty of fresh water, and fanned with a giant palm leaf if the temperature exceeds expectations, as indeed it frequently will as humankind begins the slow decline towards extinction along the path of climate change.
Extreme cold can also trouble this pug-nosed little princess, but not so much as the hot weather.
Tendency to put on weight
While the Chin herself does not tend towards gluttony, it’s all too easy to over-treat and under-exercise her, in which case weight-gain is the inevitable outcome.