Once popular Chinese and Japanese imperial courts members, the Japanese Chin is a small dog breed with distinct physical features. This dog is mild-mannered, elegant and fun-loving. Some Japanese Chin parents love this breed so much that they have two or three. 


This breed was treasured as a lap dog and companion in the Chinese imperial court. He was often gifted to emissaries, and this is how this breed found its way to Japan, was crossed with small spaniels and got the name Japanese Chin, where Chin means a separate being. 

It wasn’t until after 1853 that the Japanese Chin became popular outside the island nation. As a result, many dogs were imported to other parts of the world through international trade.

President Franklin Pierce was one of the famous Americans who owned a Japanese Chin. This dog became popular with the noble and wealthy. In the US, he was known as the Japanese Spaniel until 1977.

Physical Characteristics

The Japanese Chin is a tiny dog with a sturdy body and refined appearance. He has a distinct oriental expression with a large, broad head and flattish face. 

His ears are small, V-shaped and hang downwards—the dog’s plumed tail curves to the side over his back. The Chin has a coat with abundant silky fur and a thick mane. There is feathering on the ears, back of the front legs and rear legs. Short hair grows around the face, head and forelegs.

This dog breed has the following coat colors:

  • Black and white
  • Red and white
  • Black and white with tan points 


An adult Chin can stand 8 to 11 inches (20 to 28cm) at the shoulder with a weight between 4 to 9 pounds (1.5 to 4kg).

Character & abilities

The Japanese Chin has been observed to be cat-like. He likes to groom himself by licking his paws and wiping his head. Like cats, this dog likes to perch up high on furniture. 

Bred to be a human companion, this breed is devoted, happy and charming. He shapes his personality based on the environment and emotions of the people around him. 

The Chin has a pleasant personality and is affectionate to everyone. He is, however, shy when meeting new people or in strange situations. In contrast, this dog sings and chatters to announce the arrival of strangers. 

Trainability & Intelligence

This ancient dog breed is intelligent and wants to please. He is a quick learner with a mind of his own. Repetitive training can be boring, and the Japanese Chin does better with fun, exciting sessions. 

It can be challenging to housetrain the Chin. However, patience and consistency will lead to sensible results by four months of age.   

The Chin’s neck is very delicate, and it is best to walk him in a dog harness and not a collar. 

Exercise Needs & Nutrition

The Japanese Chin requires little exercise and is happy with regular walks and play. This makes this breed ideal for people who don’t get around quickly, like the elderly and physically challenged. 

The Chin is agile and enjoys playing. But, dainty as he is, it is remarkable how this breed can leap in a single bound. 

Mealtimes for the Chin should be rich in fibre because this breed suffers from impacted anal glands. The adult Chin needs two meals per day of ¼ to ½ cup of high-quality dry dog food. 


The Japanese Chin has feline characteristics that include licking his paws and wiping his head regularly. For this reason, this small dog is a clean breed and doesn’t require regular baths.

Despite the dog’s abundant coat, the Chin is an average shedder that only requires weekly brushing to remove dead hair. However, his ear fringes might need more care because of the hair matting sometimes. 

This companion dog breed needs daily brushing of the teeth to prevent the build-up of tartar and remove any bacteria in the mouth that causes disease and bad breath.

The Chin spends a lot of time on furniture. If his nails are not trimmed once or twice a month, they might get caught in the upholstery, tear and cause pain and bleeding. 

Living Conditions & Adaptability

The Japanese Chin adapts well to any living situation, including apartments, because of the breed’s small size. However, the dog loves human companionship and cannot live in a kennel or outdoors. 

This small dog is friendly toward other dogs and cats. Unfortunately, though he can be a good play companion for children, he might get accidentally injured by young children. 

Separation anxiety is common with this small dog breed. The Chin should not be left alone in the home for long hours. He needs lots of love and attention from his human companions. 


The Chin has a flat face and doesn’t handle heat well. On hot days, he should be supervised to ensure he doesn’t exert himself. The Chin also snorts, sniffles or reverse sneezes. Sometimes he may not breathe through this and might suffer a severe attack. 

Like other dogs, this small breed is generally healthy but predisposed to health conditions as follows:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – degenerative eye disorder that can lead to blindness
  • Eye cataracts – can be treated surgically 
  • Atrioventricular endocardiosis – a degenerative heart disease that can lead to cardiac arrest
  • Heart murmurs – disturbance on blood flow in the heart that requires medication, special diet or minimal physical exertion
  • Patellar luxation – causes lameness or abnormal gait that can lead to arthritis
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease – blood flow to the rear leg bone is reduced and causes disintegration of the femur, causing pain and limping

With excellent care, a healthy Japanese Chin can live from 10 to 14 years. 


The Japanese Chin is mild-mannered and ideal for first-time dog parents. This Oriental small dog has all the qualities of a good companion, especially for those who are not very active. Any family will fall in love and embrace life with this charming and fun-loving dog.

At All The Small Dog Breeds, we know how important it is to understand the diversity in dogs. Our small dog breed descriptions are comprehensive to assist in decision making for any novice or experienced dog parent. Whether you want to adopt or you choose to visit your reputable local breeder. 


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