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Should You Get A Japanese Chin?

Updated on October 13, 2010

What is a Chin And Do I Want One?

Japanese Chins aren't for everyone but if you are the right family for them, they make the best dogs.


A Japanese Chin is actually a Chinese dog, they were so beloved they were given to Japanese emperors and dignitaries as gifts. For the most part, these dogs have remained true to the original version of the breed.


These dogs are always white with patches of black, sable, or lemon colored hair. The most common colors are black and white. The dogs range from eight pounds to twenty-two pounds. This size difference is not considered a fault in a Chin. Different lines breed different sizes.

Some breeders tout that the smaller Chin size is the true size but this just isn't true. Chins vary from one hereditary line to the next.

Leg length varies in a Chin. Some have quite long rabbit legs, others have proportional legs, others are a bit stubby legged. The proportional legs are usually preferred but I personally find the longer legged ones seem to have less knee problems.


Hair length can vary as well. Although all adult Chins should have hair past the ear tips, feathers of hair on each leg and no Chin should have hair less than an inch long unless it has been recently shaved. However, some Chins have hair that grows out several inches, some Chins hair only grows only about an inch and a half.

Hair texture varies slightly as well. Most Chins have very soft silky hair. Occasionally, you'll get a Chin with a slightly more coarse feeling to their hair at the ends. This is just another variation in the breed. The coarseness if it exists in your Chin should be slight. You'd only notice it if you have another Chin with the softer hair.

All Chins shed. If you can't handle shedding, then a Chin is not for you.

Brushing is required at least twice a week.


All Chins have a round head shape with a short snout with a flatter face and large engaging eyes. Because of the round head head shape, the eyes sit shallowly in the skull. This means eye injuries or popping out the eye is easier than with other breeds.

All Chins have small teeth with large gaps in-between each tooth. Most have a slight under bite. This bite can make dry kibble difficult for these dogs as they age and start losing their teeth. Because the teeth are smaller than teeth in a dog of a similar size and further apart, dental care is a must.


Chins are prone to bad knee caps. The gene that causes flat faces in dogs is also the same gene the can cause loose knee caps. Most of the time, this does not require surgery in a Chin because they aren't rowdy or overweight dogs. Knees should always be evaluated in a Chin you bring home.

They are prone to spinal arthritis as they age. This can cause the spine to curve slightly as they get older.

Because of their eye shape and position, they sometimes have poor depth perception. Many prefer a light be turned on when they go out at night as they age. This is due to a reduction in night vision as they get older.

Eye injuries are common if they are attacked by other dogs or unsupervised children.

The teeth I've already talked about. You will need to have a dental starting by age four and probably get a minimum of one every third year after that if not every year.

Some Chins do get allergies and are a bit sneezy. It doesn't really need treatment most of the time, just keep them inside right after you cut the grass.


Chins are so much fun. Although cautious about new things, once a Chin decides he/she likes it, they greet it with bouncy enthusiasm. With the cautious nature of Chin, forcing them to face their fears is never recommended. They work much better with patience and bribes. A Chin can always be bought. They are very food motivated.

They are very gentle dogs.

Chins like most people but they love their people. They are great cuddlers but aren't insecure. They don't need to be up your butt 24/7. They like being petted. They like snuggling on the couch but they don't mind sleeping on their dog bed alone either.

Occasionally a Chin will come into rescue that is a growling, snappy Chin.  This is usually a Chin that has come from near isolation in a puppy mill or one that lived with a family that did not socialize a Chin when he was young.  Chins require a steady owner that introduces them to new stimuli at their own pace. 

As I've said before and can't stress enough, Chins do not react well to violence, chaos or rough handling.  They react badly to being forced to do anything. Once trust breaks between you and your Chin, you will not get it back.

They are called the most cat-like dog. They will walk on the back of the couch. They will sleep curled up in a ball. They like long uninterrupted naps in the sun.


Chins don't bark very much. And when they do bark, it usually is in a woo-woo instead of a regular bark. It never gets very loud.


Chins don't require large amounts of exercise. A slow walk around the block is usually enough for a Chin. They can't handle heat so they need to be walked early in the morning or late in the evening during the summer months.

Most Chins love stuffed animals and toys. They aren't bigger chewers so put the Kongs up.


If you keep your Chin well brushed (especially behind the ears), you should be all right with having your Chin professionally groomed around twice a year.

You should bathe your chin at most once a month. Chins do not have a strong odor. They normally smell faintly of corn chips when they need a bath. They don't stink like some breeds so excessive bathing is not required.


Chins aren't all that bright. They are sweet and loving but you won't be winning awards for the complicated tricks you've taught your Chin.

They are quietly stubborn. If they don't want to do something, they often just ignore the request or item until it goes away.

They take longer to housebreak. You need to be consistent and positive. Never, ever, ever be harsh with a Chin. You can break a Chin's spirit or heart easily. Yelling and anger will make a Chin regress and you will not get the result you want.

Punishment almost always backfires with a Chin.

They do housebreak but they just need steady and reward based system.


Younger kids are a no-no for Chins. Why? Most Chins won't defend themselves from poking fingers or rough kids. A Chin won't run away. He'll sit there and take it. A Chin will often get hurt because if he loves you, he'll tolerate almost anything.

Chins don't like lots of noise and confusion. They like quiet orderly lives.

Young kids and them don't usually mix.


Japanese Chins are wonderful little dogs but they aren't the dog for everyone. They work best in quiet households with a steady and patient owner who doesn't mind a bit of hair on the furniture. You need to be prepared for health issues as they age and for their grooming and dental care.

I have had two Chins myself, Henry and Lolly. Henry is my male Chin and I've had him over ten years. My Chin, Lolly, had to be put down due to spinal issues. Henry is outgoing but cautious. Everyone loves him. Lolly was shy and timid but gentle in all the ways of a Chin. They are my favorite breed of dogs, followed by Papillions and Pugs.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for your reply Tirzah. I've gotten myself a Frenchie because there's no breeder in my country at all. (I live in Malaysia) But I've been thinking to import one from Singapore as my second dog. Love the Japanese Chin to bits!

    • Tirzah Laughs profile imageAUTHOR

      Tirzah Laughs 

      5 years ago from USA

      Chins are stubborn but sweet. They aren't very 'dog' like. They love their people. They are quite funny. They can be very sweet. They don't like people to raise their voices to them or yell. They can go all boneless like a cat and they are low-energy like a cat. A short trot around the block and a cuddle is about all the exercise they need. Some love toys, some don't. Chins aren't arrogant. They just have a larger sense of dignity than other dogs. Chins vary just like any breed. A chin is a very loving dog usually but they don't forget 'cruelty' toward toward them. Chins are rare because they (like Frenchies) come with a slew of health issues you need to keep aware of. Chins are clearly indoor dogs. Chins can have eye issues, arthritis, heart conditions...not all of them...but at a higher proportion. You add to that ...a flat face which means colds can be hard on them. Average Chin lives 10 to 14. JCCARE does rescue Chins all over the USA...and would be cheaper than a breeder.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I'm deciding between a Japanese chin or a French bulldog next year. Chin is my first choice but I'm really curious why are they so awesome and inexpensive but so rare?

      Are chin arrogant and independent like a cat? I'm hoping to get a lapdog so I'd be disappointed if my chin is aloof...

    • Tirzah Laughs profile imageAUTHOR

      Tirzah Laughs 

      5 years ago from USA

      Actually if your chin has a light coat (blonde, tan or sable) with any black hairs at the tips---they are considered a red or sable. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      don't know what you mean by red and white ones??? Chins come in black and white- lemon and white usually. I have a lemon/ white and black/ white. Mine are also show dog quality- just happened that way! Although chins are a rare breed- any dog can be a great dog if the owner is a great owner! Just like any child can be a great child if the parents are great parents! If a chin smells bad it will not be a happy chin. Chin generally don't like anything wet, cold, smelly, etc. - Like the royal chins that they are they don't like to get their paws dirty and they want to always "hit the ground running" so to speak! mine are very snobby and spoiled. I also have a chinhuahua and my chins won't include him in any chin games if he doesn't play the game the way they want it played! It is very entertaining to watch!

    • tmckim profile image


      9 years ago

      My chin is a sweet and loving boy. I think he is really smart. He can turn his head in the direction that he wants something, in effect communicating to me what he wants. He won't do tricks or sit or anything, because he is above all that crap. :)

    • Tirzah Laughs profile imageAUTHOR

      Tirzah Laughs 

      9 years ago from USA

      Ah the reds are the rarest of the Chins and usually the ones with the most 'difficult personalities' of all the colors. They are in bred more to get the coat color. They are worth more though.

      The smell can come from ear issues, teeth issues or gland issues. I know, I know. Chins are always big health problems. If yours have a bad smell bad and you had them shave off any matted or knotted hair, the choices are as follows:

      Chronic ear wax or ear infection. Chins get ear issues due to the allergies. Often the ears have to be cleaned daily. Sometimes the ear wax can cause a strong sweet waxy smell. Diligent ear cleaning can help.

      Rotten teeth or excess tartar. If they've been eating junk with the previous owner, they may have tartar build up or rotten teeth. Since Chins rarely do well with sedatives, teeth cleaning may not be possible with them being elderly. IF brushing isn't enough, you may try a medicated mouth rinse. It's like mouthwash for dogs. :) Use the doggie stuff because it can be swallowed.

      Incontinence--If your female dogs have been bred a lot or came from a puppy mill, a problem after multiple litters is mild incontenence. Best you can do is wet-wipes.

      Impacted glands--impacted anal glands can cause a smell. If your chins have a lot of allergies, glands will impact again and again. So even if you drain it, it can come back again.

      Poor diet can also cause dry skin or oily skin. Months on a better diet can help.

      Good luck. Chins are work but they are very sweet dogs.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have inherited five of the red and whites. Their previous owner fed them junk and candy. They have horrid teeth, horrendous breath and contrary to your comments above, they often stink. Not just one part of them, but all of them. Especially after having been outside, whether hot or cold day. Its like a stinky sweat. I wash them once a month or every six weeks when I do their nails. They are all over 11 years old and still essentially healthy and run around 3 or 4 times a day, otherwise they rest. Good dogs but I sure wish the previous owner hadn't kept ALL the puppies. Five is just too many.


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