Japanese Chin Dog Breed: Pictures, Colors, Bark, Characteristics, and Diet

The Japanese Chin, also known as the Japanese Spaniel, is an ancient Asian dog breed.

They are a toy breed, standing at 8 to 11 inches (20.3 to 27.9 cm) tall and weighing 7 to 11 lbs (3.2 to 5 kg).

A Japanese Chin standing on the grass
The beautiful Japanese Chin

They’re born in litters of 1 to 5 puppies and grow to reach their full adult size by around nine months old.

Purebred Japanese Spaniels have small but well-proportioned bodies and moderately long, profuse coats with large feathery tails.

They have round, broad heads, floppy, feathery ears, a very short nose, and large, set wide, dark eyes. 

Their coats can be black and white, with or without tan points, and red and white, and they have evenly patterned markings on the face and body.

The breed is known to be “cat-like” in temperament because of its independent and reserved nature. They even like to climb onto high surfaces and have cat-like balance. 

Japanese Chins have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years with good care.

This includes a well-balanced diet that is age- and size-appropriate. Give them ¼ to ½ cups of food per day, and they will be satisfied.

They don’t need a lot of exercise or play, but they do need a lot of companionships. They also have a bite force of 300 PSI and do not bark a lot.

They can also run at a speed of 10 miles per hour

Keep reading for everything you need to know about taking care of a Japanese Chin dog. 

What is a Japanese Chin?

A Japanese Chin sitting on white background
The cat-like Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin is a lap dog and a companion dog, originally bred to be the companion of royalty in Asia.

Despite their name, they actually originated in China, and are widely believed to have been bred from the Tibetan Spaniel, hence their nickname.

Why are They Called Japanese Chin Dogs?

Although they are Chinese in heritage, the Japanese Chin dog is called by its name because Japan is the country in which they are most loved and prized by the people. 

Where Did the Japanese Chin Come From?

Despite what their name would suggest, the Japanese Chin originates in China.

Their precise history is unknown, but the most likely story of how they came to Japan is that they were given to Japanese royalty as a gift.

When Did the Japanese Chin Originate?

Two Japanese Chins walking on a gloomy day
Meet Noris and Golden, two Japanese Chins who like taking walks together – Image source

It’s not known or recorded exactly when the Japanese Chin was bred. However, their ancestors can be traced back to China and Korea more than 1000 years ago.

There are a few different stories that explain when they may have arrived in Japan. 

The most popular one is that they were given to Japanese royalty in 732 AD by Korean envoy Kim Jangson.

Another states that they were given as a gift to the Empress of Japan in the middle of the sixth century, and another claims that the Chin first arrived in Japan around the year 1000 AD. 

The breed was brought to England in 1613 and to America in 1853. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888. 

How Many Japanese Chins are There in the World?

There is no official recording of how many Japanese Chins there are worldwide.

However, they are known to be fairly rare. Their popularity ranking is 111th out of 195 dog breeds in the US as of 2020, according to the AKC. 

What are the Characteristics of Japanese Chins?

A Japanese Chin looking up
Kojima, a Japanese Chin, asks his hooman for cuddles – Image source

Japanese Chins are cute, fluffy dogs with complex temperaments.

Let’s take a look at their biggest personality traits and a table of their most important characteristics in terms of family life. 

  • Cat-like: The Japanese Chin is known to be one of the most cat-like of all the dog breeds.
  • Independent: They’re very independently minded, which can lead to stubbornness without firm training.
  • Loyal: Thanks to their history as companion animals, the Japanese Chin is devotedly faithful to their owners and families. 
  • Loving: The Japanese Chin is also a loving, affectionate breed that is prone to separation anxiety.
  • Reserved: The breed tends to be reserved around strangers and unfamiliar dogs and can become shy.
  • Calm: These dogs are very calm and don’t require a lot of daily exercise.
  • Intelligent: A clever breed, the Japanese Chin is bright and sensitive.
Japanese Chin Characteristics Rating 
Relation with Family 4
Good with Children 3
Friendly with Strangers 3
Friendly with Other Dogs 4
Easy to Train 3
Energy Level 3
Barking Level 2
Mental Stimulation Needs 3

What Does a Japanese Chin Look Like?

A Japanese Chin standing outdoors
The physique of the Japanese Chin

Japanese Chins have small bodies that are well proportioned and moderately long, profuse single coats that can be black and white, which can be with or without tan points, as well as red and white with evenly patterned markings. 

They have round, broad heads, floppy, feathery ears, very short noses, large, round eyes that are dark and set wide apart, and large feathery manes and tails. 

How big is the Japanese Chin?

The average Japanese Chin dog is 8 to 11 inches or 20.3 to 27.9 cm tall. Their exact size may depend on their sex and age. 

Thanks to their small size, Japanese Spaniels are also well suited for life in an apartment or other small space.

If you’re going to crate train your pet, you need to buy a 22” dog crate. 

Japanese Chin Physical Features Male Female
Height  8 to 11 inches
(20.3 to 27.9 cm) 
8 to 11 inches
(20.3 to 27.9 cm)
Weight 7 to 11 lbs
(3.2 to 5 kg)
7 to 11 lbs
(3.2 to 5 kg)

How long does a Japanese Chin dog grow?

Japanese Chin dogs generally begin to reach their full adult size by around nine months.

However, they may continue to fill out and add some muscle mass until they’re about 1 year old.

They should reach adolescence at 4 to 5 months of age, become sexually mature at 7 to 8 months, and reach full mental maturity at 12 months old. 

How much should a Japanese Chin weigh?

The average weight of the Japanese Chin dog is 7 to 11 lbs or 3.2 to 5 kg. Their specific weight will depend on their size, activity level, and the amount of food they eat.

If you’re considering getting a Japanese Chin dog, be sure to discuss its ideal weight and size with a breeder or veterinarian. 

How Long Does a Japanese Chin Dog Live?

The average life expectancy of a Japanese Chin dog is 10 to 12 years.

They are generally healthy dogs but can be prone to certain health issues, including heart murmurs, cataracts, and patellar luxation.

Japanese Chins are also vulnerable to GM2 gangliosidosis or Tay-Sachs disease. 

What Coat Type Do Japanese Chins Have?

A Japanese Chin lying down on black background
The fluffy Japanese Chin

The Japanese Chin has a moderately long, feathery single coat that is surprisingly low maintenance for its length.

It needs brushing at least once or twice a week with a pin or bristle brush to remove loose fur, tangles, and debris.

The dogs should also be bathed every 4 to 6 weeks to stay clean and healthy.

What is the Japanese Chin dog’s coat like?

The Japanese Chin’s coat consists of fur that is abundant, straight, and soft to touch.

It feathers the most on the ears, toes, and down the backs of the legs. 

How long is the Japanese Chin’s coat?

The Japanese Chin’s coat is moderately long, but maybe a little longer or shorter depending on the area of the coat.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t require regular cutting or clipping, but it may benefit from the occasional trim in longer areas to prevent tripping over matting or poor hygiene. 

What’s the coat density of a Japanese Chin dog?

The Japanese Chin is a single-coated breed, meaning they don’t have an undercoat or second layer to their coat like many other dogs.

However, it’s very thick and full, and even water resistant!

Do Japanese Chins shed much?

The Japanese Chin sheds moderately all year round.

They will blow their coat twice a year during the transition from spring to summer and fall to winter, in which they will shed much more heavily and require more regular grooming to keep it under control. 

Can Japanese Chins Live in Hot Weather?

A Japanese Chin sticking its tongue out
A Japanese Chin who prefers colder weather – Image source

The Japanese Chin does not tolerate the heat well. This is due to their thick coats.

Also, he is a brachycephalic breed. Its short nose and flat face make it challenging for him to breathe, especially in hot environments.

So, you should monitor your Japanese Chin in the hot weather and ensure they have constant access to water and shade. 

What Colors are Japanese Chins?

The Japanese Chin can be either black and white, with or without tan points, or red and white. The red can include shades such as red, orange, and lemon.

Sable and white are permissible as well.

What Markings Do Japanese Chins Have?

Japanese Chins may have tan or red spots over both eyes, on both cheeks, and inside the ears. If their coats have black, there may also be similar markings at the anal vent area.

Are Japanese Chins Good Family Dogs?

Japanese Chins are great companions for single owners and families alike, so long as they are provided with the right care.

With training and socialization, they can get on perfectly well with older children and other family pets. 

Japanese Chin Temperament Rating 
Adaptability 4
Friendliness 3
Mouthiness 4
Playfulness 4
Family-Oriented 4
Stranger Tolerance 3

Are Japanese Chins good with other dogs?

Some Japanese Chins are friendly towards dogs and even cats.

However, because of their size, dogs of this breed must be supervised around larger dogs who may accidentally injure them.

All dogs should be friendly towards other dogs that they have been raised or socialized with from an early age, but full socialization should be done to ensure friendliness towards other unfamiliar dogs. 

Are Japanese Chins friendly with people?

Japanese Chins are super friendly with people that they know, like, and trust.

They form very close bonds with their human family members and loved ones, but they may be reserved towards strangers at first. 

Can Japanese Chin dogs get along well with strangers?

As mentioned above, while Japanese Chin dogs are polite to strangers, they may show reservations and may take time to warm up to new people.

Without proper socialization, this can lead to shyness and unfriendly behavior in extreme cases.

Are Japanese Chins good with kids?

Japanese Chins have a natural affinity with children of all ages, making them good family dogs.

However, they’re not best suited to homes with young or smaller kids, as they’re easily knocked over because of their size. 

Can Japanese Chins Adapt Easily?

Japanese Chin dogs are pretty adaptable dogs because of their size. They can live in almost any environment, so long as it’s safe.

That said, they can become anxious around change if not handled sensitively. 

These dogs do well with apartment living. However, since they cannot handle heat very well, Japanese Spaniels best live in places that do not offer extreme climates.

Are Japanese Chin Dogs Aggressive?

A Japanese Chin sitting in a car
The friendly Japanese Chin – Image source

A well-trained and well-socialized Japanese Chin dog should not be aggressive without provocation.

Any breed of dog may become aggressive if mishandled, threatened, or if they feel the need to protect their home and family.

They can also be aggressive if they have not been socialized and are not able to interpret the behavior of others correctly. 

Are Japanese Chins Dangerous?

The Japanese Chin dog is not generally known to be a dangerous dog.

That being said, any breed of dog can become dangerous if they are mistreated and not approached or handled with care.

Do Japanese Chins Bite?

The Japanese Chin has a bite force of 300 PSI, but they shouldn’t bite as adults without provocation, as mentioned above.

They will bite as puppies, but this is a normal puppyhood behavior related to teething and is not related to aggression. 

Are Japanese Chin Dogs Protective?

Japanese Chin dogs are not necessarily a protective breed.

In fact, these lap dogs need protection from larger animals and children who may accidentally knock them off because of their size.

However, they will bark to let you know if there is some kind of disturbance in the home. 

Are Japanese Chins Affectionate?

A Japanese Chin resting its leg on its owner's foot
Meet Lemmy, a sweet Japanese Chin to his hooman – Image source

Japanese Chin dogs are very affectionate with their family members because of their history as companion dogs.

They love to cuddle up with their owners and spend quality time together. 

Are Japanese Chins Loyal?

Japanese Chins are devotedly loyal to their owners and families, as it is in their genes to be.

They prefer companionship to alone time and don’t do well on their own for too long. In fact, it’s recommended that they’re not left alone for more than a few hours at a time. 

Do Japanese Chins Like to Cuddle?

Japanese Chins love nothing more to cuddle up with their owners on the couch, as they’re classified as lap dogs as well as companion dogs, meaning that they fit perfectly on the laps of their loving owners – great for cuddling.

Does the Japanese Chin Love Freedom?

Like any dog, the Japanese Chin enjoys an adventure, but they’re a lot less active than most other toy breeds and have pretty low wanderlust potential.

This means most of them are not prone to trying to escape from the yard or wandering off on walks. 

Are Japanese Chin Dogs Easy to Train?

A white Japanese Chin sticking its tongue out
An adorable Japanese Chin waiting for its training treat – Image source

Japanese Chin dogs are fairly bright and eager to please their owners, but that doesn’t mean training is always easy.

They’re also very independently minded, so they have a tendency to get stubborn without clear and consistent training.

To avoid boredom and stubborn behaviors, keep your training sessions short and filled with rewards. 

Areas of focus should include socialization and separation training.

To socialize your dog, invite friendly people and pets over to your home to meet your pup.

Do it as early as possible, as this will allow them to learn the rules of interaction in a safe environment.

Due to the breed’s companionable nature, they have a tendency to suffer from social anxiety.

So, you should practice separation training by introducing time apart very gradually, slowly increasing the time that you spend away from each other. 

You should also create a positive association with alone time by providing them with a special treat or fun toy to play with while you’re gone.

How Smart is the Japanese Spaniel?

A Japanese Chin lying down in bed and holding a ball toy
Kojima, the Japanese Chin, won’t let go of his toy – Image source

Japanese Spaniels are fairly bright due to their vigilant nature; they pick things up quite easily, but they can be stubborn to follow orders. 

Professor of canine psychology Stanley Coren’s 1994 book “The Intelligence of Dogs” ranks 79 dog breeds on their intelligence following three tests; instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working/obedience intelligence.

His work is commonly referred to as the official ranking of dogs by intelligence and listed the breeds in six categories; brightest, excellent, above average, average, fair, and low intelligence. The Japanese Spaniel was ranked as “fair”. 

Can Japanese Chins be used as working dogs?

The Japanese Chin is a companion dog and does not have a history of working, so they’re not suitable for most kinds of service work, apart from therapy work, which they can be good for because they are lapdogs.

They can also make good family watchdogs and commonly compete in dog shows due to their fabulous coat. 

Do Japanese Chin Dogs Bark a Lot?

The Japanese Chin dog does not bark a lot, which is unusual for a smaller breed.

However, they will eagerly alert the home and family of a disturbance or threat and may growl during play. 

How does a Japanese Chin bark?

The Japanese Chin definitely has a toy breed’s bark. It is high-pitched without being “yappy” because of their tendency to only bark when necessary.

Check out the video below to hear a Japanese Chin’s bark. 

Do Japanese Chins Have High Energy Levels?

Japanese Chin dogs have a moderate energy level and aren’t hyperactive like a lot of toy breeds.

They don’t need a lot of exercise and although they need some mental stimulation, one or two short play sessions a day is usually enough. 

Are Japanese Chins Active?

Japanese Chins need around 15 to 20 minutes of exercise a day, which is best split into two walks, but the breed can be happy with just one.

Pups need 5 minutes of exercise per month of their life twice a day, and seniors should slow down gradually on the say-so of their vet.

How Fast Can a Japanese Spaniel Run?

The Japanese Spaniel can run up to 10 miles per hour at full speed.

Also, because of their brachycephalic nature, and like many Toy breeds, they aren’t particularly suited for swimming.

Are Japanese Chins Playful?

A Japanese Chin standing in a garden
Lemmy, the Japanese Chin, plays with his hooman outdoors – Image source

Japanese Chins love to play as much as any other kind of dog, but they can bore easily, so they need to play mentally stimulating games to engage their little brains.

Some popular choices for the breed include the following. 

  • Treat dispensers
  • Sensory toys
  • Hide and seek
  • Treasure hunt

Does the Japanese Chin Drool a Lot?

The Japanese Chin is not a particularly drooly dog.

They are what is known as a ‘clean-faced’ breed, meaning they do not have the same loose skin and folds around the muzzle that some other breeds do.

This anatomical feature helps to keep saliva from dripping out of their mouths and onto everything around them. 

However, that doesn’t mean the Japanese Chin never drools. They may drool when they’re excited or nervous, or when they’re eating or drinking.

But overall, they are not a breed that is known for excessive drooling.

If you’re considering adding a Japanese Chin to your family, you may not need to worry too much about the potential for drool stains on your furniture.

What Does the Family Life of Japanese Chin Dogs Like?

The family life of a Japanese Chin dog is calm and affectionate, with lots of fun.

They do well with moderately active families and single owners who can provide consistent companionship.

A Japanese Chin hiding under a table
Luna, a Japanese Chin, likes making her hooman laugh – Image source

What is the Average Cost of a Japanese Chin Puppy?

On average, a Japanese Chin puppy will cost between $1,000 and $2,500.

This can vary depending on a number of factors, including the breeder’s location, the pedigree of the dog, and whether the dog is show quality or not. 

In some cases, puppies from high-end breeders can cost upwards of $3,000.

If you’re looking for a Japanese Chin puppy, be prepared to spend some time and money on finding a reputable breeder. 

A good place to start your search is the American Kennel Club’s website, which offers a breeder directory.

Once you have found a few potential breeders, be sure to ask lots of questions and request references before making your decision.

What Kind of Food Should Japanese Chins Eat?

A Japanese Chin with food
A Japanese Chin who cannot wait to munch on his meal – Image source

Japanese Chins should eat food that is rich in lean meat and has complex carbohydrates. Always opt for options that are not highly processed.

A healthy adult Japanese Chin should eat ¼ to ½ cups of high-quality food daily, split into two or three meals.

Japanese Chins should eat a diet that is specifically designed for small breeds. This type of food is typically lower in calories and fat and contains additional nutrients that adult dogs need. 

Senior Japanese Chins may also need to switch to a senior formula food as they age to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need.

It’s important to talk to your veterinarian about what food is best for your Japanese Chin, based on their age and health status.

What are the Best Dog Foods for Japanese Chins?

Following the criteria mentioned above, we’ve come up with a small list of the best dry commercial foods for Japanese Chins.

Here are our top picks for Japanese Spaniel puppies and adults.

For Japanese Chin puppies:

For adult Japanese Chins:

What Other Dog Breeds Look Like the Japanese Chin? 

A white Pekingese standing outdoors
Pizza, a white Pekingese, having a walk at the park – Image source

The Japanese Chin’s stunning feathery coat is fairly similar to another couple of toy dog breeds.

Below, we’ve listed a few of the ones you could easily mistake for a Japanese Chin:

The Verdict: Should You Get a Japanese Chin?

If you’re looking for a gentle giant or a non-stop ball of energy, you may be better off with a Saint Bernard or a Border Collie.

However, if you’re interested in a pocket-sized, cuddly cat-like companion for some short walks and a few daily play sessions, consider a Japanese Chin – so long as you can provide them with all the love they need!

Although their lifestyle may not sound too high maintenance, every dog needs love and care, and these regal dogs require near-constant companionship. 

Do you have a Japanese Chin dog? Tell us what you love most about them in the comments down below.

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