Is the Japanese Chin
Right For You?

The Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin is often described as a lively, affectionate, sweet and playful breed.  Known as just “Chin” for short, or if you have more than one, they are called “Chin” as the singular and plural of the word are the same.

While lively and playful, the Chin does not require much in the way of exercise.  Most of their requirements can be met by following you around the house.  They do enjoy a daily short walk and play session with their favorite human. 

They like the great outdoors but are very sensitive to temperature extremes, especially heat and humidity so it is important that they never be left outdoors. 

Some are finicky about rain and snow so if you have one of these, paper training is a must.  They make great apartment pets and are a good choice for seniors. 

If you’re looking for a dog to hunt, guard, pull or carry things, this is not the breed for you.  From early antiquity, these dogs were bred to be companions and that is what they do best. 

Most Chins are quiet which is a great big plus for those who do not like yappy dogs. They will bark to let their owners know that someone has arrived at the door.

Their coat is straight and silky and tends to stand out from the body, especially around the neck, shoulders and chest.  Their tail is high set and carried over their back with a massive plumb of hair. 

Don’t expect your puppy to have a full thick coat as sometimes it takes 2 or 3 years for the coat to full develop.  Oh, and did I mention, the Chin sheds?  The breed standard describes their appearance as having a “distinctive Oriental Expression” which refers to their large flat head and big dark eyes.

Quick Facts

Other Names Used:  Chin

Affiliation:  AKC Toy, UK: Companion


Height:  8-11 inches

Weight:  The standard does not specify weight but usually 4 pounds to 9 pounds

Coat Type:  single layer, semi-long, straight, and silky; they do shed

Colors black & white, red & white (the shading runs from lemon to sable to mahogany), and black & white with tan points (also referred to as tri colored).

Country of Origin:  China & Japan

Activity Level:  Moderate

Life Expectancy:  10-12 Years

Good with Children:  Older Children only

Good with other pets:  Yes, but must be dogs of similar size


Japanese Chin PortraitJapanese Chin

The Japanese Chin is a breed with roots deep in the royalty of both the Chinese and Japanese Courts. Most experts agree that this breed began in China and migrated to Japan with Buddhist Monks. It is also believed that Buddhist Monks had some involvement in breeding these dogs.  

It is likely that at one point in time, the Japanese Chin and the Pekingese was the same breed.  Later, the Pekingese was bred out and the Japanese Chin retained the original look. 

In antiquity, the dogs were bred to be small so they could be carried or fitted inside the sleeves of a Noble lady’s kimono.  It has been suggested that they were even kept in cages like birds!  As favorite of the Japanese court, this ancient breed could be owned by the members of the Japanese Imperial family only.

In 1853 the Japanese Chin became exceedingly popular when a pair of these dogs was given to the British Queen Alexandra.  She received these dogs as a gift after marrying into the British Royal family in 1863.  She became devoted to the breed and was said to have popularized it both in England and in Europe.

 Known then as the Japanese Spaniel, it became popular in America where it was registered in the AKC. In 1964 they were honored as one of Japan's national symbols. The AKC changed the name in 1977. Today the Japanese Chin has a small following in the United States, but remains highly adored in Japan. 

As of this writing, the Japanese Chin is ranked number 82 on the AKC list of Most Popular Dogs, down from its spot of number 71 in 2007. 


Japanese Chin Puppy

This breed is very intelligent and eager to please so training is usually easier with a Japanese Chin.  They are affectionate, mild mannered and love to keep your lap toasty warm.  Socialization is important and makes training much easier for this breed.  This is especially important if you don’t want your Chin to be too reserved with strangers. 

Some consider them to be highly adept at sensing the moods of their favorite humans and have an uncanny ability to mimic the family’s moods.  If your family is loud and boisterous, your Chin will be full of energy.  If you are quiet and solitary, you are likely to end up with a chin that is reserved.  Another unusual characteristic of the breed is their tendency to be cat-like.  You might end up with a chin perching on the back of your sofa, grooming themselves by licking their paws then rubbing their faces.  Hairballs anyone!   

The Chin has plenty of self-confidence and tends to decide for himself who will be friend and who will be foe and usually has a great way of letting his owner know what he needs.  The old saying that “I’m owned by my dog” couldn’t be truer for a Japanese Chin parent.

His self-confidence comes out in his clownish behaviors and this breed loves to perform, whether it’s dancing around on hind legs or singing.  Yes, singing—they have a rather distinct vocalization which is described as a snizzle or snort.  It’s is actually a reverse sneeze due to their face structure.


Your Chin will not have an adult coat until it is more than a year old.  While the puppy is growing the coat fluctuates and during their teenage stage (around 7 to 9 months old) they can be almost naked.

While their coat is long, they do not fall into the category of “high maintenance grooming.” Japanese Chins however, do require regular grooming to keep their gorgeous soft coat looking top notch.  At least 2 or 3 times a week is suggested for brushing and combing and a bath is recommended every couple of weeks. 

As with other long haired breeds, there are areas of concern that need to be addressed daily.  Some of these include excrement sticking to hair, mats behind the ears, and ears and eyes checked for debris or problems. Since they have a rather protruding eye, it is important to protect them by daily checks.  So, a daily once over will usually catch anything. 

Nails need to be clipped and teeth brushed.  The hair between the toe pads also needs to be clipped.   

Professional Grooming every two months will also help keep their flowing locks neat and tidy. 

Health Concerns

The Japanese Chin is a healthy breed living 10-12 years on average and up to 15 years.  The majority of problems seen in the Chin are common to many small dogs. 

Among the most common are:

Luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps)


Early-onset heart murmurs

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)



  • Good for people in apartments or condos
  • Quiet dogs
  • Relatively healthy breed
  • Less popular which means less inbreeding
  • Easy to train
  • Does not require much exercise


  • Sheds
  • Requires some grooming
  • Very sensitive to heat and humidity
  • Not a good breed for very small children

References & Resources

Japanese Chin Club of America

Japanese Chin Breed Rescue

UK Breed Club

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