The American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted the Japanese Chin, known as the Japanese Spaniel until 1977, into the toy group in 1888. The Japanese Chin Club of America is the official club representative for the AKC. In 2009, the Chin ranked 71 in most popular AKC breeds.
According to writer and breeder Sari Brewster Tietjen, the breed originated in China, not Japan. The breed was originally the same as the Pekingese. It is probably a mix of the Chinese Chin and imperial Chin. The first Chins in the United States were gifts from Japan to Commodore Matthew C. Perry, says Tietjen.
According to AKC standards, the Japanese Chin standard height at the shoulder is between 8 to 11 inches tall. The coat is silky and straight. Most Chins are white with black markings. Other colors are red and white or black and white with tan markings, including on the cheeks, over the eyes and inside the ears. Adult Chins weigh between 4 and 15 pounds.
Japanese Chins live to approximately 10 to 12 years; however, some may live 15 years or longer. The Chin has three common health issues, according to the Japanese Chin Club of America. About 15 percent of Chins have cataracts, including juvenile or early onset form. Cataract surgery may help improve vision. Early onset heart murmurs and cataracts are genetic. Heart murmurs require close monitoring as they may be mild or cause early death. Luxating patellas (kneecaps slip) are common. VeterinaryPartner educational director Wendy C. Brooks, D.V.M., says depending on severity, surgery may be required. The short muzzle results in snorts or wheezing (reverse sneezing). Unless the reverse sneezing is frequent or lasts longer than a few minutes each episode, it is not a health issue.
Adopting a puppy from a rescue shelter may require a long wait since few Japanese Chin puppies are available. For those who are not interested in adopting an older dog, finding the right breeder is important due to the genetic health issues. According to the Humane Society of the United States, good breeders do not sell to pet stores and do not sell a puppy simply because the buyer has the money. Expect the breeder to ask for veterinary references, a home visit and proof you own your home or permission from landlord to have a puppy. Visit breeders at a dog show or contact the breed club or AKC to find potential litters. Japanese Chin litters are typically only one to three puppies, therefore the waiting list may be a year for a well-bred puppy.
The Japanese Chin puppy is tiny and requires keeping it warm and providing appropriate nutrition. Feed it at least three times a day until the puppy is 6 to 8 months old to keep its blood sugar level stable. Early grooming, including brushing, trimming footpad hair and nail clipping, helps reduce resistance later. According to Tietjen, the breed is easy to bathe and needs no special grooming or coat trimming. The single layer coat rarely acquires mats and is easy to brush. Regular grooming will reduce shedding hair in the house and on furniture.