Japanese Chin breed: the noble little dog that kept in birdcage

László Enikő

2023. August 22 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

An elegant, yet playful and friendly dog that many people compare to cats. Some say the breed has a history going back over 1000 years!


He likes to nap on his owner’s lap, climb and balance on high places and cleans himself frequently. Indeed, it’s not just a cat that can be like this, as the Japanese Chin is also a cat that enjoys these favourite pastimes. But this elegantly paced little thing doesn’t always have its nose up its nose: it can be a lovely and playful companion for children.


There are several theories about the origin of Japanese Chin. The FCI standard, citing ancient documents, says that the ancestors of today’s Japanese Chin were given to Japan by the Koreans in 732, so that they could learn about the wonder of the breed. According to another theory, Pekingese dogs were brought to Japan by Buddhist monks in 520 and later evolved into the Japanese Chin. Others put the appearance of the breed at around 1000.

Interestingly, the word inu, meaning dog, is often found in the names of Japanese dog breeds. However, the word inu is not used in the name of the Japanese Chin, as it was considered such a special dog that it needed a unique name to distinguish it from other dogs. The word chin means cat-a-like; others believe that the word chin, was used to refer to the Chinese origin.

The breed was kept exclusively as a companion, a rarity centuries ago, when it was believed that a dog needed a job and could not be “useless”. And the Japanese Chin certainly did not feel useless, doing his share of the work by entertaining the nobility, lying on laps and nuzzling. According to some sources, they were given rice brandy to keep them so small and had their own servants. It is also reported that the smaller individuals were kept in cages hung up like birds. A Japanese emperor once decreed that all Japanese chinchillas should be worshipped.

And the Japanese held these dogs in very high esteem. They bred them with great care and paid staggering sums of money for them. They were depicted on porcelain, vases and fans, but life-size dogs were also often carved from ivory and wood.

In 1853, when naval commander Matthew Calbraith Perry opened Japan to the West, he took seven Chins as a gift to Queen Victoria, but only two survived the voyage. A huge wave of imports followed, and these special puppies became more and more widespread around the world.

Breed standard

The Japanese Chin, also known as the Japanese Spaniel, is a small breed of dog with a broad, flat head and abundant coat. It has an elegant, distinguished appearance. Its height at the withers is almost equal to the length of its body. The head is relatively large, the skull is broad and protruding. His muzzle is well defined. Eyes large, round, set apart and black. Ears small, angular, with long hairs. Slightly forward-hanging, spreading, pinned at the sides of the skull. The facial part is short. Nose broad, with well-open nostrils. The colour of the nose can be black or dark flesh-coloured, depending on the colour of the fur. Mandibles broad, short, forward-slanting; with a forward bite. Back is short and straight. Groin is broad and rounded. Tail with long hairs.

His chest is broad and deep, his belly is tucked up. The forelimbs are straight, thin and covered with long hair. Hind legs well directed, also covered with long hair. The paws are small rabbit feet. The coat is silky and soft, straight and long. Except for the head, the whole body is covered with abundant fur, even thicker on the neck, hips and tail. Its colour can be white, red or black with spots. Its movement is light and proud. Height at withers is about 25-30 cm. It weighs 2-3 kg. Life expectancy is 12-14 years.


His lanky, tall strides, wonderful coat and confidence could suggest a spoilt show dog, but we would be wrong to believe that. He is a playful, friendly dog, a real lapdog, but he is not afraid to have fun while he is lounging. Not afraid to get adventurous, he’ll climb on furniture like a cat, groom himself and then lie down in his owner’s lap. And after a rest, it’s time to play! He doesn’t need much exercise as he’s a small dog, so he’ll be happy with half an hour’s walk a day. However, he does need a lot of attention and can easily suffer from separation anxiety if he is alone a lot. He quickly picks up on his owner’s mood and is a true companion, always there for his family.

Ideal environment

Because of his size, he is comfortable in an apartment and gets along well with other dogs and cats. However, care must be taken as she is very fragile and could be unintentionally injured by a much larger dog. The same is true for children: it is not recommended with very young children because they may not be gentle enough. For slightly older children, however, the Japanese Chin is the perfect companion. However, they are only suitable for families where they are not left alone for long hours


Looking at his beautiful coat, many people might think that caring for this dog is extremely time-consuming. But this is not the case! Once a day, you should brush his coat with a soft bristle brush (during shedding season) and give him a bath if he gets messy. Her claws grow quickly, so they and the hair on her paws need to be trimmed from time to time. Regular care should also be taken to keep eyes and ears clean. Her face should be wiped with a damp cotton pad from time to time, as bacteria can hide in the tiny wrinkles. Teeth should be brushed to keep them intact. But apart from these, there is nothing else a pet owner can do to look after his pet.

Common health problems

The Japanese chin is prone to obesity, so care must be taken with its feeding. Luxating patella which is common in small dogs, can also occur. This can cause dislocation of the patella. Slightly bulging eyes may be prone to eye problems such as cataracts, various infections, and swelling of the eye nerve. The brachycephal face can cause breathing problems, especially when the dog has hot; for example, in summer or when overworked. As a consequence, he should not be moved too much and in hot weather he should be kept cool.

(Literature: János Szinák – István Veress: Kutyakalauz, János Szinák – István Veress: A világ kutyái I., David Alderton: Kutyák, Joan Palmer: Kutyákalauz, Dr. Pál Sárkány: International Dog Encyclopedia, Paul McGreevy: Dogs, Sarah Whitehead – Beverly Cuddy: Dogs,
– Zoological Papers, 1900 (Volume 2, Number 4)

companion dog dog breed dog breeds dog breeds breed description japanese small dog

Related articles

More articles

Are cats your favourite too?
Visit our Love my catz page too!