Japanese Chin (Japanese Spaniel)

The Japanese Chin, also known as the Japanese Spaniel is the dog breed of Japanese royalty. A lap dog and companion dog, this toy breed has a distinctive heritage.


Japanese Chin stand about 20 to 27 cm (8 to 11 in) in height at the withers and weight can vary from a low of 4 lbs to a high of 20 lbs, with an average of 7 to 9 pounds being the most common. The American Kennel Club and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale give no weight requirement for the Chin.


This dog breed is considered one of the most cat-like of the dog breeds in attitude: it is alert, intelligent, and independent, and it uses its paws to wash and wipe its face. Other cat-like traits include their preference for resting on high surfaces such as the backs of sofas and chairs, their ability to walk across a coffee table without disturbing an item, and some of the surprising places their owners often find them in. They rank 62nd in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of fair working/obedience intelligence. A companion dog, it is loving and loyal to its owner and typically happy to see other people, though a few are distrustful of strangers. Chin prefer familiar surroundings, but do quite well in new situations and are often used as therapy dogs because of this trait and their love of people. Very early socialization of Chin puppies leads to a more emotionally well-balanced Chin that is more accepting of different situations and people.

The Japanese Spaniel will bark for the purpose of alerting the household to the arrival of a visitor or something out of the ordinary, but are otherwise very quiet.

Japanese Spaniel were bred for the purpose of loving and entertaining their people. While typically a calm little dog, they are well known for performing many enjoyable antics such as the “Chin Spin,” in which they turn in rapid circles; dancing on their hind legs while pawing their front feet, clasped together, in the air; and, some even “sing,” a noise that can range from a low trill to a higher, almost operatic quality noise, and which sounds much like “boooo.”

Dog Health

This breed's flattened face contributes to a few Chin suffering from breathing and heart problems, as is common with brachycephalic breeds. Because they are a brachycephalic breed, temperature extremes (particularly heat) should be avoided. Luxating patellas (knees) and heart murmurs are other genetically predisposed conditions. The oversized eyes are easily scratched and corneal scratches or more serious ulcerations can result. Mild scratches benefit from topical canine antibacterial ointment specifically for eye application; more serious injury or ulcerations require urgent medical care. The Chin, as with most small breed dogs, can also have a risk of hypoglycemia when under the age of 6 months; this concern can continue in Chin that mature at 4 to 5 pounds or less. Some Chin do have seasonal allergies.

Dog Care

The Japanese Spaniel's coat requires nothing more than brushing or combing once every day or two to maintain its appearance, with special attention being given to the area under the ears and legs and to the skirt; they have no coat odor and do not require frequent bathing. Chin are single-coated and single-hair shedders, much like people, and it is very seldom one will find a Chin with an undercoat. Occasionally, a Chin will have a light blowing of their coat once a year. Without fiber in the diet, they may need to have their anal glands expressed bimonthly. The oversized eye orbits contribute to moisture about the face and the skin folds in and around the nose and flattened facial area can trap moisture and cause fungal problems. The face should be occasionally wiped with a damp cloth and the folds cleaned with a cotton swab.

Diet is an important factor in the health and condition of the Chin, with many Chin being very sensitive or allergic to corn. Maintaining a Japanese Spaniel on a high quality kibble that contains no corn will do much to avoid skin and allergy conditions.

Due to low exercise requirements, the Chin makes a perfect condominium or apartment pet. The use of "housetraining pads" is recommended. The Chin is very easy to housetrain with many learning the use of a doggie door (some as young as 8 weeks old) in a day’s time with assistance from their person. Similarly, it is very easy to train them to the housetraining pads, or even a litter box, by limiting their area until they have mastered use of the pads or litter box.

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