Japanese Chin – The Samurai Way

the japanese chin

The Japanese chin is also known as Japanese Spaniel or simply as Chin. The breed was a favorite of Buddhist monks. This can be attributed to its cool demeanor and playful nature. It’s a doll sized bundle of fur which is affectionate and very responsive to commands. The breed is a good addition to your family especially if you are looking for a mix of mischief, stubbornness and style. The breed’s small size makes it best suited to live indoors as a house pet.

Physical Traits of The Japanese Chin

Dog Breed Group: Companion Dogs
Weight: 7 lbs(3 kg)-11 pounds(5 kg)
Height: 8 inches(18 cm)- 11 inches(28 cm)
Color: Black and Red, Red and white, or White with Tan Coloring
Coat: Heavy, Straight, Silky
Legs: Hare Shaped, Straight and Fine Boned
Ears:Long Haired and Flowing to the sides
Eyes: Round, Dark
Life Span of Japanese Chin: 10-12 Years

The Japanese Chin is a tiny dog with balanced features. It has a compact body with an overall square look. One of its most distinct features is an oriental expression, accompanied by an alert and intelligent look. It is also hard not to notice the silky long coat. Its small size makes it light and elegant; giving it cat-like tendencies.

The Chin is brachycephalic, which means ‘shortened head’. This also comes with a small nose and flat face. Its upturned nose is almost at the same level with the eyes. Inside the corners of the eyes, a slight amount of white gives the dog a look of astonishment. The small ears flop on the sides of the head but when alert, they are moved forward and downward. The jaw is slightly undershot.

The Chin’s tail is usually curled on one side of its lower back. The small cat-like feet makes it graceful with a gait that can be seen as elegant.


The Japanese Chin is a small dog that can grow obese with overfeeding and lack of exercise. 

Its grooming needs include a bath, brushing, a little nail clipping plus ear, eye and dental care.

They relate well with all members of the family, showering them with affection and expect them to reciprocate.

They are suited for people with lots of time to share with them since they can easily get separation anxiety.

They are predisposed to several health issues; it is paramount that you get yours from reputable breeders.

A Chin is generally an indoor dog and should only venture outside under supervision.

Health care practices include vaccination, deworming, and neutering or spaying.

They are intelligent and easily trainable; this should be done early enough to keep them from picking bad habits.

They get along with kids and other pets on condition that introductions are done early. However, they should not be left under the mercies of children below 7 years of age.

Breed History

Regardless of what its name suggests, the Japanese Chin traces its origin back to China as far back as 1500 years ago. It was common among the Chinese aristocracy. Several theories have been put forward to explain how the breed ended up in Japan. It is associated with Zen Buddhist teachers, introduction by a Korean prince, while still another theory claims that a pair was given to a Japanese Emperor as a gift from a Chinese Emperor.

The Chin were highly regarded and would often be given to nobles and other dignified emissaries. Once in Japan, they are believed to have been cross-bred with continental toy spaniels to achieve their distinct look.

The Westerners grew interested in the Chin in the mid-19th Century. Commodore Matthew Perry was instrumental in forcibly stopping Japan’s isolation from the rest of the world in 1954. From Japan, he brought with him a pair of Chin and another single one for as a gift for Franklin Pierce, the 14th US President

The president gifted his to his friend and secretary of war Jefferson Davis while Perry gave his to his daughter. With time, some more Chin were introduced to US and Europe where they were a prized possession for the noble and wealthy. Even England’s queen Alexandra owned one.

The Chin was recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1888. By then it was known as the Japanese Spaniel until 1977 when the name was changed. Chin means ‘cat-like’. Among all the breeds registered under AKC, the Japanese Chin has held on to #75 for the last 10 years.


The Japanese Chin stands at 8-11 inches and weighs from 4-11 pounds. This is comparable to the average size of an adult domestic feline.

Personality and Temperament

The dog is smart, gentle and sensitive. It suits the role of a companion due to its affectionate nature and the fact that Chins are not independent. The Chin also gives lots of love and expects some in return. This however only goes to the people that it is familiar with. It tends to be shy with strangers or in unfamiliar environment.

Chins love to play and they do so with mischief. They like climbing and perching as high as they can. This is made possible by their natural agility and feline-like elegance. They are also good with toys and enjoy batting on things within their reach.

They are great companions for the elderly or families with lots of time to share with them. This is because they are not good own company. If left alone, they can easily get anxious.

The way of the Japanese Chin


Like all other dogs, the Japanese Chin has potential to develop genetic health problems. It is hard to detect or predict all of these in a growing puppy. This is where the services of a reputable breeder come in; he/she should be in a position to provide proof that the dogs used for breeding have been approved as healthy and fit. Here are some of the health problems that a Chin is genetically predisposed to;

Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway syndrome (BOAS)

Being brachycephalic makes the Chin prone to BOAS. The conformation interferes with its airways. The shorter and compressed skull contains the same amount of soft tissue as a long muzzled dog. This can compress the airways and the inability to get sufficient air to the lungs may lead to other changes in the dog’s anatomy.

Some of the issues that can arise from this include labored breathing, excessive snoring, inability to keep on with exercise, collapsing episodes, and secondary heart problems. In severe cases, your dog may need surgery to help manage the situation.

Eye problems

The Chin have protruded eyes. They are therefore susceptible to getting corneal abrasions and eye infections. They also have a predisposition to Keratoconjuctivis Sicca (KCS) which is also referred to as dry eye. This is caused by insufficient tear production.

Heart problems

The breed is predisposed to Miral-valve disease (MVD) and may get heart murmurs. This may progress to congestive heart failure (CHF) as the heart strains to function normally.

Heat intolerance

Dogs cool down by panting. This is because they only sweat through their paws. The brachycephalic conformation of the chin interferes with its breathing hence affecting the panting process. This can lead to life threatening overheating. It is therefore advisable to keep the Japanese Chin away from the sun especially during the warm and hot season to keep away heatstroke. Also, toning down exercise during these seasons can go a long way in keeping them vibrant.

Patella Luxation

This is a congenital condition that may lead to knee cap problems. It is caused by a shallow patella-grove which makes the knee to constantly slip out of place. It can cause minor problems like a little pain or it can lead to total dislocation of the knee cap. Other problems caused by the excess movement in and out of the glove can be damage to the cartilage and eventual osteoarthritis.


Caring for your Japanese Chin will ensure that it lives a happy and fulfilled life. A little activity keeps your dog healthy, fit and active. Due to their heat intolerance, play and exercise should be scheduled in the mornings and evenings during hot weather.

Since they love playing, toys come in handy to keep them engaged. These toys should be made of materials that can withstand chewing because puppies will start teething between 3-8 months.

Chin puppies have a high prey drive. This can make them run off the lead. They should always be supervised especially when outdoors to ensure that they do not run into other animals or other forms of danger. You can also do this beforehand by ensuring that you puppy proof your home and compound before the puppy arrives.

Your pug needs constant company. If left unattended for too long they can develop separation anxiety which can make them destructive. While you are at it, factor in the fact that a puppy requires to sleep a lot. This calls for the provision of a quiet sleeping area.

A Chin picks up habits easily. This, coupled with its energy levels can make it boisterous around the house. You can take care of this by keeping indoor play calm and outdoor one active.

Puppies are usually given initial vaccinations before being sold. It is up to you to follow up the next ones with your pet or according to directions. In case you want to spay or neuter your Chin, it is recommended to wait until the dog is at least 6 months. Be sure to give dewormers at 6, 8, 10 and 12 months.

Other things that you will need include blankets for warmth, dog crate for use in the car or home, a comfortable bed, play pen, quality feeding and water bowls; preferably made of ceramic for easy cleaning, and a well-made dog collar and harness.


Your Chin requires regular grooming to keep it clean and presentable. The tools that your require include; bristle brush, round tipped scissors or clippers, canine tooth paste and tooth brush, nail clippers, puppy shampoo and conditioner, and grooming area.

The coat: Chins have a profuse coat which needs medium maintenance. Brushing it daily should keep the hair from knotting and tangling. Keep your eye especially on the longer hair on the ears, legs, belly and tail.

Shedding goes on all year round but more occurs during spring and autumn, hence the need for more brushing to get rid of loose hair.


Your Chin requires bathing once a week to once every 6 weeks depending on life style and your own assessment. Use only puppy/dog recommended shampoo to achieve the best results and keep your dog safe. The final rinse should be done with cooler water to avoid dehydrating the skin.

Apply a conditioner to replenish the skin with oils lost during the bathing process. It also protects the coat from damage by sealing the ends. Finally, comb out the hair with more attention to thicker areas. Trimming should only be done on the pads, hocks and the rear end so that waste doesn’t accumulate. We made a guide of good bathing options for owners to check out. 


When it comes to ear care you should be careful not to overdo it. The hair in the ear canal acts as barrier to dirt and debris hence should be trimmed sparingly or by a trained professional. You should however ensure that the hair is not matted or knotted.


Overgrown nails can be unsightly and lead to injuries both on children, other pets and scratches on your furniture. Trim them depending on re-growth with care not to nick the quick; the pink part of the nail which contains blood vessels and nerve endings. If left to run wild, nails can ruin the feet’s shape as well. Pads should also be checked for cracks and abrasions which can be reduced by careful trimming and treatment by a vet.

Mouth Care

From the age of 3 months you have to give more attention to their oral car. This is the time teething starts and Chins will be nibbling and exercising their teeth on new foods. Use a canine-friendly tooth brush and tooth paste to brush his teeth and gums to keep his oral hygiene on the right track.      


During baths, soapy water should not be left to enter the eyes. Staining due to tear-flow should be cleaned using a moist cloth. The discharge can also be taken care of using dog wipes from your local pet store. If the staining and facial moisture is left in place, it provides a rich medium for bacteria to develop. This can lead to adverse eye infections.


Like most small dog breeds, Chins are prone to obesity if they overfeed. Ensure that you feed them on highly nutritious food. Buying dog food in general manner may be misleading hence you should engage your vet to know which nutritional combination to go for. Food should be accompanied by water at all times. Ensure there is a fresh bowl of water within his reach; both indoors and outdoors.

That said a puppy will generally feed much more and frequently compared to older dogs. Introduce your puppy to exercises and play; this will help in burning the extra calories and keep obesity at bay.

From 2 – 5 months, puppies should not be fed more than 2.60z (75g) and not less than 1.52oz (43g) a day. The meal should be in small portions spread throughout the day. Depending on the pug’s weight, from 6-10 months 1.2oz (33g) – 1.9oz (54g) of food will do. From 11 months they can be fed as adults; twice a day depending on weight and level of activity.

Trainability and Intelligence

Chins are quite intelligent and each has a unique personality. Puppies need to be introduced to training the moment they are introduced to the household. Failure to do so will result in adoption of bad habits. These behaviors can be hard to reverse once they reach adulthood.  

Their desire to discover new things can be used as a tool in house training. Introduce new short commands aimed at exercises that keep them engaged for short durations. Such include; sit, stay, down, heel, come and bed. Train your dog with a firm voice to let him know that you are the alpha in the home. Failure to do so will lead him to venture into more independent behavior making him unruly and difficult to live with.

Chins are quick witted and may find repetitions boring. To keep them engaged, mix up the training, play and exercise a bit; when you notice them turning their back or becoming bored in an activity switch to another.

Children and Other Pets

Chins are playful and get along with children. They are easy to engage in activities and can be a very good addition to your children’s play and other activities. Their toy-like size can however present a problem in a household with much younger kids.

They can be mistaken for playthings which can lead to injuries. The breed will thrive best in a household where the kid’s age bracket is about 7yrs and more. Kids need to be taught not to pick up or engage with the dog as they would and inanimate toy.

Chins socialize well with other pets. This is more so when they are introduced when they are just puppies. However, you should be on the lookout when they are in the company of much larger canines; Chins will pick fights and stand their ground which can be disadvantageous if the rival is more powerful.


A Japanese Chin is a pug that traces its origin back to China. It was common among the wealthy and noble before it made its way into other homes. The oriental looking dog is an indoor pet that thrives with affection, attention and company. It is medium maintenance and fits in any family setting. If you are looking for a dog to play or train with, you’ve got yourself a winner! It is intelligent and highly trainable. It is also elegant, cute and just adorable.

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