The Japanese Chin, also known as the Japanese Spaniel, is a dog acknowledged for its importance to Japanese nobility. It is also known for its strabismus of the eyes. Being both a lap dog and a companion dog, this toy breed has a distinctive heritage.
While most believe that the source breed for the Japanese Chin originated in China. According to one story, the dogs were given to the Japanese royalty in AD 732, as gifts from the rulers of Korea. Others maintain that they were given as gifts to the Empress of Japan as early as the middle of the sixth century or by the seventh century. Still others claim that the Chin first arrived in Japan around the year AD 1000.
In 1613, the Japanese Chin was brought to England and in 1853 was acquired by American naval officer, Matthew Calbraith Perry. From 1868 they have been lap dogs to ladies of the upper class and today are companion dogs.
Japanese Chin stand about 20 to 27 cm (8 to 11 inches) in height at the withers. Weight can vary from a low of 1.4 kg (3 lb) to a high of 6.8 kg (15 lb), with an average of 3.2 to 4.1 kg (7 to 9 lb) being the most common. Its distinctive expression is characterized by a large rounded broad head, large wide-set dark eyes, a very short broad muzzle, ear feathering, and evenly patterned facial markings.
Common health issues in the Japanese Chin include luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps), cataracts, and early-onset heart murmurs. The Chin, as with most small breed dogs, can also have a risk of hypoglycemia when aged under six months or weighing four to five lbs or less. Some Japanese Chin have seasonal allergies.
The Japanese Chin’s flattened brachycephalic face can lead to breathing and eye problems. Temperature extremes (particularly heat) should therefore be avoided. Its oversized eyes are easily scratched and corneal scratches or more serious ulcerations can result.
Most dogs have two types of hair in their coat: an under and over coat. However, the Japanese Chin only has an over coat. An adult coat can take up to two years to completely grow in and can be either black and white, red and white, or tricolour.
This breed is considered one of the most cat-like of the dog breeds in attitude: it is alert, intelligent, and independent, and it uses its paws to wash and wipe its face. Other cat-like traits include their preference for resting on high surfaces, their good sense of balance, and their tendency to hide in unexpected places. Japanese Chin are loyal to their owners and are typically a friendly breed. While Japanese Chin prefer familiar surroundings, they also do well in new situations. This, alongside their friendly demeanour, makes them good therapy dogs.