The Japanese Chin is an ancient breed that probably originated in the Chinese imperial court. Highly prized, he was often given as a gift to emissaries from other lands, and it was probably as a gift to the emperor of Japan that he made his way to that island nation which gave him his name. In Japan, the Chin was regarded not as a dog (inu) but as a separate being (chin). There, he was probably crossed with small spaniel-type dogs and eventually achieved the look he has today. The Japanese Chin remained unknown to the outside world until 1853 when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Uraga Harbor near Edo — now modern-day Tokyo — and introduced Japan to international trade. The Japanese Chin became a popular commodity and many were imported into Britain and the United States.
Among the first American owners of the breed were President Franklin Pierce, then-Secretary-of-War Jefferson Davis, and Perry’s daughter, Caroline Perry Belmont. They became popular with people of wealth and nobility. In the United States, the Japanese Chin was known as the Japanese Spaniel and he kept that name until 1977.
The Japanese Chin is sturdily built but with a refined appearance. He stands 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 4 and 9 pounds.
The personality of the Japanese Chin is a true indicator of the depth that these dogs possess. In general, he’s a happy and charming dog who is affectionate and intelligent. He’s talkative, but not barky. Chin people say their dogs like to “sing” and will chatter to announce the arrival of guests or strangers.
Chin are so sensitive to their environments and the emotions of their people that they have been known to shape their personality around them. If he lives in a home that is quiet and somber, the Japanese Chin will become reserved. If he lives in an active home, he will do his part to keep the action lively.
The Japanese Chin is always devoted to his people and may suffer from separation anxiety. He is a pleasant dog who shows love and affection to everyone in his life, but he can be shy when exposed to new people or situations.
Chin are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Not all Chin will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed. If you’re buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy’s parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Chin, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Atrioventricular Endocardiosis: This degenerative disease affects the mitral and tricuspid valves of the heart. It occurs when polysaccharide deposits distort the shape of the valves and cause them to leak. This can lead to heart failure. A change in diet and exercise may be necessary.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness. Blindness caused by PRA is a slow process resulting from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. A reputable breeder will have dogs’ eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as “slipped stifles,” this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts — the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) — is not properly lined up. This causes a lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait in the dog. It is a disease that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, which is an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
- Heart Murmurs: Heart murmurs are caused by a disturbance in the blood flow through the chambers of the heart. They’re an indicator that there may be a disease or condition of the heart that will need to be monitored and treated. Heart murmurs are graded on their loudness, with one being very soft and five being very loud. If disease is evident, as diagnosed through x-rays and an echocardiogram, the dog may require medication, a special diet, and a reduction in the amount of exercise he gets.
- Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: This is another disease involving the hip joint. Many toy breeds are prone to this condition. When your Japanese Chin has Legg-Perthes, the blood supply to the head of the femur (the large rear leg bone) is decreased, and the head of the femur that connects to the pelvis begins to disintegrate. Usually, the first signs of Legg-Perthes, limping and atrophy of the leg muscle, occur when puppies are 4 to 6 months old. The condition can be corrected with surgery to cut off the diseased femur so that it isn’t attached to the pelvis any longer. The scar tissue that results from the surgery creates a false joint and the puppy is usually pain free.
- Cataracts: A cataract is an opacity on the lens of the eye, which causes difficulty in seeing. The eye(s) of the dog will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur with old age and can be treated by surgically removing the cataract.
Japanese Chin require very little exercise. They are happy with a daily walk or a nice play session but they tend to require little else. Training can be slightly difficult since they have a mind of their own and become bored with repetitious training. When they like you, however, they’ll work hard to please you. When they do wrong, a firm tone of voice is all you need to set them straight. Stronger corrections will only backfire and cause your Chin to stubbornly stand his ground.They can be difficult to housetrain but with patience and consistency, you can generally expect them to be housetrained by 4 months of age.
Japanese Chin are companion dogs and should not live outdoors or in kennels. They become very attached to their people, and many suffer from separation anxiety. With their low exercise needs, Japanese Chin make wonderful apartment residents.
The neck of the Japanese Chin is very delicate and it is strongly suggested that you use a harness instead of a collar when walking him.
Recommended daily amount: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
It is important when you are feeding your Japanese Chin that use choose a food that is high in fiber. Japanese Chin can suffer from impacted anal glands when their diet lacks good dietary fiber.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl. For more on feeding your Chin, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat, Color and Grooming
The Japanese Chin has an abundant coat that’s silky to the touch. It’s moderately long with a thick mane, feathered ears, a plumed tail, feathering on the back of the front legs, and light feathering that resembles culottes on the rear legs. The head, face, and forelegs are covered with short hair. Japanese Chin can have coats that are black and white, red and white, or black and white with tan points. Japanese Chin are a very clean breed and do not require regular baths. Once a month is plenty. Dry shampoos will generally keep them looking and smelling great. You can also use a mild shampoo, towel them until they’re almost dry, brush the coat upward and outward with a pin brush, and voila! They’re good to go. Chin do shed, but weekly brushing will help keep the hair from flying around your house. A quick daily brushing with a pin brush will help keep hair from tangling.
Brush your Japanese Chin’s teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn’t wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they’re too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you’re not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog’s ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don’t insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Japanese Chin to being brushed and examined when he’s a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you’ll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he’s an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children and other pets
Although the Japanese Chin is a gentle dog, he is not recommended for homes where there are young children. He can be easily hurt by an overexuberant child. The breed does well with older children who understand how to properly handle a dog.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Japanese Chin get along well with other dogs and cats, but they must be protected from larger dogs who could accidentally injure them in play. A cat’s claws can injure their large eyes, so it’s important to make sure everyone plays nicely together.
22 Apr, 2016
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