The Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin is a small dog perfectly suited for sitting happily on its owner’s lap, because unlike most dogs who were bred for hunting or herding, this breed was created specifically to be a companion. Despite its name, the breed originated in China and is closely related to other Asian dogs like the Tibetan Spaniel and the Pekingese. This close relation shows in the Japanese Chin’s small size, at about ten pounds maximum but usually from four to seven, and standing at only eight to eleven inches.

Descended from the lapdogs of Chinese royalty, the Japanese Chin became popular in Japan after its arrival in Japan in the sixth or seventh century, most likely as a gift to Japanese royalty.

A beautiful example of the Japanese Chin dog breed
A beautiful black and white Japanese Chin dog.

Appearance and grooming

The breed has a smooth and silky coat with a tufted tail it carries curled along its back. Its fur colorings are also distinct: the Japanese Chin is either black and white or red and white. Its head is broad with a flat face and wide-set eyes. Depictions of dogs with the same unique shape and coloring of the Japanese Chin have been found on ancient Chinese art, including embroidery, paintings, and pottery.

The elegant coat requires weekly brushing and occasional trimming, in addition to the Japanese Chin’s careful habit of cleaning its own coat.

Personality and temperament

This breed’s behavior and mannerisms are often described as cat-like. It is usually friendly to new animals and people, although it may at first appear standoffish and may be timid.

Even when socialized well a Japanese Chin may remain independent, seeking solace on top of a high place like a couch or a mantle. In addition, Chins are also friendly dogs, and they seem to bask in the love of their owners if offered a warm lap or a fun and gentle game.

Different expert sources differ on whether the Japanese Chin is a good fit for children, but all agree that gentleness is key, making them perfect for ageing adults or as a therapy dog.

Like other toy breeds, the Japanese Chin is fragile and requires supervision and awareness, and may be gravely injured or killed if sat on, dropped, or played with too roughly.

They may also be spooked and become shy from loud noises, and this must be taken into account before bringing a Japanese Chin into your home.


Due to its cat-like nature, Chins may also be opinionated about training, often described as “too smart” for traditional training, but are quick to learn as long as it is, in the words of one expert, “their idea.”

However, once trained, they love to show off tricks like the “Chin Spin” and may even sing for guests or family.

Health and diet

The Japanese Chin’s health is usually steadfast. They may be prone to patellar luxation, cataracts, and heart murmurs. Hypoglycemia may also occur in dogs on the lighter end of the weight spectrum.

Additionally, their unique flattened face shape makes them vulnerable to breathing and eye complications, and their oversized eyes are easily scratched, which requires medical care. The skin folds around their eyes may hold moisture and develop fungal problems.

Careful consideration of a Japanese Chin’s diet is also paramount. If their diet does not contain fiber, they will need to have their anal glands expressed to prevent impaction.

Japanese Chins range from sensitive to completely allergic to corn, and they therefore must be fed a high quality kibble or meal that contains no corn to avoid allergy and skin problems.

The Japanese Chin does not do well with heat or anesthesia.

Japanese chin life expectancy

Japanese Chin life expectancy is approximately twelve to fifteen years.


A Japanese Chin’s ideal day would be one spent with its loving family, complete with quick naps on their laps and walks outside to expend its energy. It would love to learn a new trick or practice old tricks with delicious treats, pets, and snuggles as its reward. It would never leave its owner’s side, as it doesn’t do exceedingly well at home alone. Not suited to living outdoors or in a kennel, the Japanese Chin loves sleeping inside, near its owners.

A Japanese Chin would make an excellent family dog for those who understand its unique temperament, and certified and reliable breeders will have the best stock of puppies and dogs who should have bred out its sometimes timid nature, resulting in a friendly, loving dog which will only become happier with proper training and socialization.

Additionally, adopting an adult Japanese Chin will allow you to know its temperament and plan accordingly to see if it will be a good fit in your home.

However you acquire a Japanese Chin, like all of its ancestors before it, it should be a happy and loving lap dog and companion for you and your family.

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