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Breeder Buzzwords – The Japanese Chin

Breeders of purebred dogs speak a language all their own. Wherever they gather, at dog shows, seminars or in chat rooms, words and phrases are used that have very narrow definitions. Their usage makes it difficult for a novice to fully participate in the conversation, and all but impossible for the general public to follow along.

Much of the breeder’s language is derived from domesticated livestock or veterinary science. Veterans who’ve spent a lifetime perfecting their own family of purebreds use agricultural and medical terms with confidence. When noted breed authorities get together, the dialog that results can effortlessly span the broadest topics, although the words spoken will often have the narrowest of definitions.

Those words are quite often derived from the breed standards. As guide for both breeder and judge, the standard describes those characteristics of make, shape and behavior that define a breed, distinguishing it from all the rest. Distinctions between breeds can be subtle, so standards use very specific words to illustrate singular traits. These buzzwords become part of every breeder’s dog show dialect, guiding both conversations with peers and decisions made in the whelping box.

The astonishing Japanese Chin.

The Japanese Chin is bred strictly as a companion. The AKC breed standard describes it as “a sensitive and intelligent dog whose only purpose is to serve man as a companion.” That’s a tall order for this little parti-colored imp.

In many ways, the breed is considered a bit like a cat. The parent club’s Interpretive Comments state, “They are extremely catlike in deportment and like nothing better than to rule their household and those whom they let share that home.” Chin prefer to rest on high places just as cats do, and they can maneuver crowded coffee tables with ease. Alert and independent, the breed may at times be more feline than canine. Their tendency to use front paws to wash their faces supports this opinion.

But make no mistake, this is a Toy dog, bred to provide love and to be loved. The calm Chin nature masks a lively little entertainer, capable of singing and dancing its way into any dog – or cat – lover’s heart.

An ‘Oriental’ Expression

The Japanese Chin is a “head” breed. The qualities of size, shape and finish of head separate the breed from its many Toy cousins. Perhaps its most marked characteristic is a uniquely Chin expression. “Bright, inquisitive, alert, and intelligent,” according to the breed standard, the expression is considered distinctly, “Oriental.” Although the term may best be used these days to describe a wool rug, hand-made in Asia or the Middle East, when referring to the Japanese Chin, the term refers to the “large broad head, large wide-set eyes, short broad muzzle, ear feathering, and the evenly patterned facial markings.” The breed’s detailing of head are as distinctive as that of any Persian carpet.

Look of Astonishment

The slightest detail can make all the difference when it comes to establishing breed type. The “Oriental” expression of the Japanese Chin is made all the more extraordinary by eyes that are “set wide apart, large, round, dark in color, and lustrous.” What makes the breed’s expression unlike that of any other breed is the presence of “a small amount of white showing in the inner corners of the eyes.” This detail is a breed characteristic, giving the little dogs an “Oh, my gosh!” look of astonishment.

Resilient Coat Texture

The coat of the Japanese Chin is a contradiction. It is at once beautiful, even glamorous, yet it is truly “wash-and-wear.” Described in the standard as “abundant, straight, single, and silky,” the coat has a tendency to stand out, away from the body. This condition gives the coat its “resilient texture” and is exaggerated on the neck, shoulders, and chest. The resulting mane is complemented by a profusely coated plume of a tail and dramatic culottes over the rump. The parent club’s Interpretive Comments emphasize the care-free nature of the coat, stressing that although profuse, the coat must possess a resilient quality that does not obscure the dog’s shape.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.
  • Nancy Mellott April 2, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    Well done as a breeder of Japanese Chin for more than 30 years, this article is well written.
    Mishamai Chin
    Nancy Mellott

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