Japanese Chin: The Royal Snob of the Dog World

Are you searching for a fun and unique small dog? Look no further than the Japanese Chin. This snobby little dog will steal your heart with soulful eyes and a quirky temperament.

Nov 7, 2023By Holly Ramsey
japanese chin royal snob of dog world

Royal snob is not a far-reaching moniker for the Japanese Chin. They have an aloof personality and an expectation to be waited on by their people. Anyone who owns a Chin will tell you these dogs believe they are royalty. The American Kennel Club (AKC) even calls the Japanese Chin “Japan’s Royal Spaniel”, and their eccentric nature keeps you on your toes.

A Brief History

japanese chin leaves
Image credit: Animalbreeds.com

They may be called Japanese Chin, but these royal little dogs originated in China. This remarkable Toy dog can be traced back through records from temple paintings, monastery records, and historic artifacts to the 4th Century. There is even an ancestral link between Shih Tzu, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Spaniel, and Japanese Chin. These breeds were honored by royalty for their symbolic religious ties to the “lion dog” of the Buddhists.

Interesting fact: All dogs in Japan are known to use inu (such as Shiba Inu, Akita Inu, and Tosa Inu) in their name except the Japanese Chin.

For Nobility Only

japanese chin standing ribbon
Image credit: Seattlehelpers.org

Japanese nobility was given ancestors of the Japanese Chin by Chinese Emperors, and these dogs were held in very high esteem. Their care was given with an exaggerated sense of reverence, and were pampered so much that they were warmed in silk-pillowed beds and fed delicacies. When the weather turned hot, they were hand-fed ice. Servants had strict instructions to never disturb a Chin when they were sleeping.

Only royalty was allowed to own a Japanese Chin, peasants were not allowed to own these precious dogs making them even more valuable than gold. The Chin was refined by the Japanese with a definite emphasis on size, the smaller, the better. Adult Chins that weighed less than 3 pounds were highly prized, these smaller Chin were able to be carried in the sleeves of their kimonos or small baskets. Size was so important that the Japanese gave puppies Saki to stunt their growth.

The Japanese Chin Lands in England

red white japanese chin
Image credit: Daily Paws

When Westerners visited the Japanese Royal family, the Chins were kept hidden away. This was relatively easy since Japan isolated itself from Western civilization in the 1600s after the Tokugawa shogunate had control of Japan. Isolation ended in 1854 when the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed. The first Chin was exported out of Japan in 1854 when Commodore Perry of England brought a pair of Chins to Queen Victoria.

Queen Alexandra was also gifted a Japanese Chin when she married King Edward VII in 1863. After that, Alexandra imported several Chins from China and Japan. Her treasured Japanese Chins are seen in photographs and paintings. Because of her interest in the breed, the Japanese Chin gained popularity in England and eventually throughout Europe.

The Chin Appears in the United States

black white japanese chin
Image credit: Classic Kennels

The Japanese Chin came to the United States in 1888 and was called a Japanese Spaniel. The breed was quickly recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and the first Japanese Spaniel registered with AKC was named “Jap.”

America’s upper crust and Hollywood elites fell in love with this royal little dog, and by 1940 was very popular among the rich and famous. The American Kennel Club officially changed the breed’s name to Japanese Chin in 1977.

Today, the Japanese Chin is gaining popularity throughout the United States, and while still considered somewhat rare by some, you can find a well-bred Japanese Chin at an affordable price from an ethical breeder.

Look and Temperament of the Japanese Chin

red white japanese chin puppies
Image credit: Petzlover

Being a typical brachycephalic breed, they have a smooshed, flat face with big round eyes and a high forehead. Their long, flowing coat is white with black, red, or lemon spots. According to the Japanese Chin Club of America breed standard, they should have an “astonished” look with a small amount of white in the inner corners of their eyes.

The Japanese Chin should be small and refined and somewhat aloof, with many people describing them as cat-like. While not a barky breed, the Chin does like to trill at you when they are excited or want attention. Stubbornness can be an endearing trait when they have selective hearing and look down their nose at your attempts to make them do something.

How to Find a Japanese Chin

japanese chin puppies
Image credit: Classic Kennels

It can be difficult to find a reputable Japanese Chin breeder among all the backyard breeders, commercial breeders, puppy mills, and scammers. Take your time when researching a breeder, and do not be afraid to ask questions.

Ethical breeders will be more than willing to share their knowledge. On the flip side, ethical breeders will also ask you a lot of questions about your home and family before placing a Chin with you.

Once you find your new Chin puppy or adult, you will quickly learn their reputation of being a snob is not exaggerated. While training a Japanese Chin is possible, it is not always easy. Try some of these training tricks with your new Chin to mold a delightful companion.

You will find that once you own a Japanese Chin, you will want to add even more to your family. They keep you on your toes, provide endless entertainment, and are just snobby enough to make them endearing.

Holly Ramsey
By Holly Ramsey

Holly is a 2nd generation dog breeder/trainer and has over 25 years of experience with several different breeds. She enjoys working with her Japanese Chin and Rough Collies and helping her mom and daughter with their chosen breeds. Most evenings, Holly is hanging out with her daughter watching movies, crafting, or playing with the fur-kids.