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Shiba Inu & Japanese Chin

What Is A Japanese Chin?

The Chin is a toy breed originating in China, but refined in Japan. Their sole function is that of companion, and they do that exceptionally well.

This is not an outdoor, rough & tumble type of dog. They are small, delicate creatures that do not like either cold or damp, and must not overheat. A Chin will appeal to maternal instincts - in both men and women. They require protection (from ravens, other dogs, and large cats) , careful monitoring of diet (just like birds, they need several small meals a day, not just one big bowl at night), and regular maintenance of that lovely silky coat.

This breed is NOT recommended for small children.

A Brief History of the Japanese Chin

There is evidence of a "short" dog in Asia as far back as 1760 BC, with artistic renditions and supply records of small dogs in dynastys up to 255 BC. By the first century AD, Buddhism had come to China, and with it the reverence for the Lion. The Chinese cultivated in the dog a similiarity to the lion of Buddha, and soon the Lion Dog became the symbol of the Emperor's link to Buddha. The precious Lion Dogs were strictly secluded in the Imperial Palace, and exalted to almost religious veneration.

It is believed that the Chin, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu and Tibetan Spaniel have a common ancestor, probably prior to the development of the Lion Dog, and developed into individual breeds according to geographical distribution and favour in the various royal courts and temples.

By 538 AD Buddhism had reached Japan, and the cult of the Lion and the Lion Dog as well. Imperial gifts to the Japanese court included dogs, and for centuries the Japanese noble houses maintained and bred these dogs, jealously guarded and bred only within their own bloodlines. Thus, several sizes/types of Chin were developed, ranging in size from a mere 1 pound to the so-called Giant Chin of 40 lbs.

In 1613, a Captain Saris travelled from Japan back to England, and it is believed that among the gifts sent from the Emperor were several Chin. It is likely that the Russian Captain Putiatin also took the breed to Russia. In 1854, Commodore Perry visited Japan, and with great ceremony gave and accepted gifts, which this time were recorded and did indeed include 5 Chin.

More Chin arrived in North America during the 1880's, and were known by a variety of names: Peking Spaniel, Jap, Japanese Pug, etc etc. The breed is well established all over the world, but thankfully has avoided the mass popularity that can lead to irresponsible breeding.

Physical Characteristics

There is no indication that these breeds were "bred down" from larger dogs - they are not miniatures of anything.

The Chin is of square proportions: height at shoulder is equal to length of body. Height is 8 - 11" at the shoulder, but most fanciers use weight as the comparison. Six pounds is considered ideal.

This is a fine boned, lively, elegant dog. The head is distinctive: round skull, large dark eyes, short muzzle. The chest is wide, the topline (back) level. The tail is highset and curls over the back.

The coat is abundant, straight and silky. The face is clean (short hair). There is a thick mane over the neck and shoulder area, the rump is heavily coated and forms pants. The tail hair is profuse, and forms a plume that drapes over the back. The colour is a white background, with black or red patches.


Sensitive, intelligent, responsive and affectionate. Often reserved with strangers or when in new situations. Not terribly easy to obedience train! A delicate touch is needed - too heavy a hand or rough a voice will create a fearful, nervous dog. And they never forget.

A Chin's greatest joy is to be with its owner - they love to sleep in on the weekend, and snuggle by the fire on a cold winter night. When you are down, they do their best to make you laugh again. When you are stressed, they slow the heart and lessen the blood pressure.


As with many of the Toy breeds, there are some health issues. Surprisingly, eye disease is not one of them. Heart and patella (knee) problems are probably the biggest health issues. For their size, the breed is fairly sturdy. Note that "for their size".... while they love to climb up on things, getting down can be difficult and hazardous.

There is some snoring.

The long profuse coat is something to consider - it requires frequent bathing, conditioning, and combing. They do shed on a somewhat continuous basis, but those frequent baths help considerably.