Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

Japanese Chin

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

The Japanese Chin is a small (toy) purebred bred thousands of years ago to be a lap dog and companion. It could be found in Japanese and Chinese royal courts favored for its daintiness, elegant looks, playfulness and gentleness. Today there are two classes of Japanese Chin, those over 7 pounds and those under.

The Japanese Chin at A Glance
Name Japanese Chin
Other names Japanese Spaniel
Nicknames Chin
Origin Japan, China
Average size Small (toy)
Average weight 4 to 7 pounds
Average height 8 to 11 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Coat type Silky, fine
Hypoallergenic No
Color Tan, yellow, red, white, black
Popularity Not very popular – ranked 97th by the AKC
Intelligence Average – training will be gradual
Tolerance to heat Moderate – can deal with warm weather but nothing more
Tolerance to cold Good – can handle cold weather but nothing too cold or extreme
Shedding Average – does shed so there will be some hair around the home to clean up
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – not especially prone to weight gain but without exercise and if overfed it is possible
Grooming/brushing Regular care is needed but it is not a difficult dog to groom
Barking Rare – not prone to much barking
Exercise needs Slightly active – does not need a lot of exercise
Trainability Moderately hard
Friendliness Good with socialization
Good first dog Very good – most new owners would be fine with this breed
Good family pet Good with socialization but perhaps best as a companion to a single or couple
Good with children Good but need socialization – best with older children
Good with other dogs Good but needs socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Excellent – good size and does not bark too often
Handles alone time well Low – not good at being alone and can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Not a very healthy breed – issues include heart problems, eye problems, patellar luxation, Legg Calve Perthes disease
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $195 for miscellaneous items, basic training, license and toys
Average annual expenses $705 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including the Japanese Chin Care and Rescue Effort and the Luv-A-Chin Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Japanese Chin’s Beginnings

The Japanese Chin actually comes from China but when it came to Japan a lot of development to the breed was done. How and when the Chin came from China to Japan is somewhat of a debate, some saying they were gifts to Japanese royalty in 732 AD and some saying it was before that, around the 6th century. Some even suggest it was much later in the 11th century.

The breed was originally known as the Japanese Spaniel and was bred and developed to be the perfect companion and lap dog. This was quite a unique thing to happen as in Japan dogs were seen as being helpers or workers, they had a role to play other than just a companion. But instead of being viewed as an inu, (dog) it was seen as a chin, a (separate being). Because the Japanese royalty loved the breed it become a breed only those of noble or royal blood could own. Noble houses had their own breeding standards so there came to be several different varieties of Japanese Chin changes size, eyes, coat, body type and even personality.

New Lease on Life

For many year the Chin remained in Asia apart from when gifted to visiting dignitaries and diplomats. While some suggest that sailors from Portugal brought the breed to Europe in the 1600s most evidence suggest it came to Europe and then the US in the 19th century. For example in 1853 a pair came to Queen Victoria from Commodore Perry who had gone to Japan to open up trade, and some were also sent to the President of the USA. Most owners in Europe and in the US were wealthy and there was a desire for the dog to be small, under 10lbs. In 1977 the AKC changed its name from Japanese Spaniel to Japanese Chin. Today it is ranked 97th most popular registered purebred by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Japanese Chin is a very small dog weighing 4 to 7 pounds making it one of the lightest breeds around. It stands just 8 to 11 inches tall. It has a moderately long single coat that is fine and silky and common colors are yellow, black, red, tan and white. Around the head, forelegs and face the hair is shorter. There is feathering on the ears, the back of the legs and the back legs, and it has a mane. Its height is about the same as its length and it has straight legs, fine bones, a high set arched tail that is plumed and held over its back.

Its head is broad and large and its muzzle is broad and short, because of this it can have breathing problems. Its eyes are large, protruding and wide set. It has small ears that are set widely apart and are V shaped. The nose is wide and it has facial markings and a somewhat flat face.

The Inner Japanese Chin


Chins are alert and can be great watchdogs that will bark to let you know of any intruder, though being so small there is not a lot it can do to defend you. It is mostly fine with new owners just remember it is a dog not a baby, spoiling it can cause large behavioral issues and small dog syndrome. It is a cheerful and brave breed, friendly though socialization is needed, and it is also an independent thinker. It loves to play, is gentle and charming and a lively little dog that is devoted to its owners and will bond more closely with one person.

It does not bark often and is reserved with strangers and when in places or situations it is not comfortable with, so socialization is important for this too. It likes being the center of attention and needs lots of it. It does not like being left alone for long periods and can suffer from separation anxiety. It is really best in a home with a retired person or couple or someone who is not out all the time at work. It is a sensitive breed so would not be happy in boisterous and loud homes where there is a lot of shouting.

It is quite cat like in some regards, its independent nature, its cleaning itself and its enjoyment of getting up into high places. But this is a fragile dog so care must be taken that they do not fall, and you will need to be extra aware not to kick it, sit on it or that play does not get too rough. Some are very entertaining, performing little tricks for you or singing for you. They are not yappy like a lot of toy breeds but it is a great lap dog and loves to snuggle. It tends to adapt somewhat to how you are, if you and the home is lively it will be more lively, if you have a peaceful and quiet home, it will lean more towards that.

Living with a Japanese Chin

What will training look like?

Japanese Chin are not super easy to train because of their independent nature. You will need to have a lot of patience, experience is certainly a help and you need to be consistent, positive but firm. Set rules for it and make sure it knows them and follows them. Just because it is small does not mean it should be allowed to get away with bad behavior. Show it you are the pack leader and use praise, encouragement and treats to reward and motivate. Remember it is sensitive so harsh tones are not going to be effective. It can also be hard to house train, as with other small dogs they find it easy to sneak away and do their business before you even notice. Stick with it and you should start seeing better results around 4 to 6 months. Early socialization will also need to be started when you get it home so that it grows into a more trustworthy and more confident dog.

How active is the Japanese Chin?

This is just a slightly active dog so is a great apartment dog though of course any dog would love a yard to go out in, it is not something essential to its needs. Some of its physical needs will be taken care of with its indoor play time and then it should be taken for a short walk each day and that will be sufficient. Because of its muzzle and nose it does not do well in hot weather or when it is over exerted so make sure you keep an eye on it. This means people who are not able to be that active themselves could own a Chin and still have it be happy and healthy. If there is a yard make sure it is well fenced as it does like to go off chasing birds and butterflies. Keep in mind when taking him out for a walk rather than using a leash and collar and harness is safer for it as it does have a delicate neck.

Caring for the Japanese Chin

Grooming needs

There are some grooming requirements and needs for the Chin but it is not overly involved or time consuming. It helps that it is small and that it is naturally clean, it is almost cat like in that it will even clean itself. It sheds an average amount so there will be some hair but its size means it is very manageable, though it does have heavier blow outs once or twice a year. Brush or comb for just a few minutes daily, paying particular attention to the legs, skirt and ears where there is longer feathering. This will take care of tangles and debris and keep the coat in good shape. Bathe it just when it is needed to avoid drying out its skin, you can always do dry shampoo cleans in between if needed.

Because of the skin folds around the nose moisture can get trapped there leading to skin infections. Wipe the face with a damp cloth and clean the folds with a cotton swab and make sure the folds are kept as dry as possible. Brush its teeth two to three times a week. Check its ears for infection and wipe them clean once a week. When its nails get too long have them clipped. If you are not familiar with this have a groomer do it, or have a vet show you. There are vessels and nerves in the lower section of their nails so nicking that will hurt your dog and cause bleeding.

Feeding Time

Chins need about ¼ to ½ a cup of a good quality dry dog food a day, and that should be divided into at least two meals. The exact amount though does vary depending on size, metabolism, health, age and level of activity. Chin tend to be allergic or sensitive to corn so check the ingredients before you choose a brand. Since it can suffer from impacted anal glands make sure the food is high in fiber.

How is the Japanese Chin with children and other animals?

The Chin can be good with children with socialization and if raised with them, but really it is best in homes that are child free or at least with only older children. This is a delicate dog and small children do not understand how careful they need to be, also being sensitive if teased, tugged or played with too roughly the Chin will be stressed and scared and may snap to defend itself. If children are around teach them that care has to be taken with Chin and supervision is a good idea. It is friendly with other pets and other dogs but needs to be supervised as dogs may treat it as a chew toy and cats could easily scratch their prominent eyes.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Japanese Chin have a life span of 10 to 14 years but do have several health issues which include breathing problems and overheating due to their short face, eye problems and injuries, heart problems, patella luxation, hypoglycemia, allergies, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism and von Willebrand’s disease.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports in Canada and the US of dogs attacking people over the last 34 years there is no mention of the Japanese Chin. However it should not be judged as a completely safe dog just because it is small and has no records. It is possible for any dog to snap and attack a person under certain pressure and in certain circumstances. So while this is not a dog likely to be aggressive towards people keep in mind there are still something a responsible owner can do to continue to minimize the risk. Make sure the dog has the attention, stimulation and care it needs and make sure it well socialized and well trained.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Japanese Chin puppies will cost somewhere around $1000 for a pet quality dog from a good breeder. For something of show standards those top breeders are going to ask for more, up into the several thousands in fact. From a shelter or rescue you might get one though it is more likely to be an adult rather than a puppy and it will cost around $50 to $300. Avoid backyard breeders, pet stores, puppy mills selling via ads online and other untrustworthy or ignorant breeders. Dogs are mistreated, their health is questionable and prices vary widely for no good reason.

Once you have found a good breeder and have your dog you will have some initial costs to take care of. It will need some things like bedding, a harness, bowls, crate and carrier. These will cost about $120. Medical needs will also be there like vaccinations, blood tests, a physical exam, deworming, neutering or spaying and micro chipping. These will cost about $260.

Other yearly costs are also a factor when choosing to become a pet owner. For a Chin you can expect to pay about $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and some dog treats. Medical basic needs like flea and tick prevention, shots and check ups as well as pet insurance is going to cost about $435 a year. Other miscellaneous costs like license, basic training, items and toys are going to cost about $195 a year. This gives a starting figure of $705 a year.


Japanese Chin are small and very attractive and unique in appearance so they attract a lot of people who maybe do not realize what it means to own a fragile dog like this. You will need to get into the habit of checking around your legs before you step forwards, checking under pillows and blankets before sitting on them and so on. Extra care has to be taken with it when it is hot too. It is a great lap dog and is perfect for people looking for a companion to snuggle with that is not too needy when it comes to exercise. It does need owners who are home more often than not though. It is a very loyal and affectionate dog and does better in homes that are child free.

Popular Japanese Chin Mixes

Japanese Chin and Chihuahua Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height Up to 11 inches
Weight 4 to 8 pounds
Life span 10 to 12 years
Touchiness Somewhat sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits

Great family dog
Eager to please



Dachshund, Japanese Chin Mix
General Information
Size Small to medium sized
Height Up to 11 inches
Weight 10 to 25 pounds
Life span 12 to 14 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits

Good with Children
Hard to train



Japanese Chin, Shih Tzu Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height Up to 11 inches
Weight 8 to 20 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Somewhat sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Social and friendly
Alert and loyal
Great companion dog
Apartment Dweller



Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.