Exploring the Japanese Chin Breed Standard

Japanese Chin standing on grass

 

Education about our breed is important not only to judges (new and old) but also to our fancy. There are certain things in a Japanese Chin breed standard that you must think about and read between the lines to understand why they are important. Structure of the body and mind of anything bred by man should be of the utmost importance. We should breed responsibly to give our “creations” long and healthy lives, and clear and fit minds. We should then think of the “job” our dogs do. Just what job does a Japanese Chin do anyway?

Exploring the Japanese Chin Breed Standard

All purebred dogs were made or produced to perform some kind of job, be it working on the farm, guarding, or hunting. But Toy breeds came about for travel and convenience and were bred down from larger breeds. The ancestors behind our modern-day Toys had working, hunting, and guarding backgrounds. All, that is, except the Japanese Chin. They came about only for the pleasure of royalty. Japanese Chins were guarded secrets behind the palace walls of the emperor’s large estate. They were “given” as highly prized gifts. There were laws and proclamations stipulating that only royalty was to even touch this ancient breed. Servants were assigned to each of these dogs in the ancient courts, and if a commoner was found to have even touched one of these treasures, their hand would be amputated!

Through the centuries, and even now, the air of these little canines proves this as you’ll see most sit and wait for you to serve them. This is where “cat-like” comes into our standard. Not only do Chin clean themselves and others around them, they are also like cats in that they are either all over you or, when a stranger comes into a room, they may quietly slip out. They like to perch or lie on the backs of sofas or chairs so that they can survey the lay of their land, so to speak. In a nutshell, the Japanese Chin was, and still is, an adornment or decoration.

I wrote the following articles for the AKC Gazette when I was the Breed Columnist for the Japanese Chin Club of America for three years. I hope you enjoy some of my insights.

The second sentence under the General Appearance section of the Japanese Chin standard reads: “It is light and stylish in action.” The Japanese Chin breed standard does not go into great detail on the light and stylish action of the Japanese Chin as much as gait is discussed in the standards of some other breeds, but one should assume that soundness in structure should be foremost. It is with utter shock that I still hear exhibitors of this breed say that they are a Toy, thus, they do not need to move.

True, they do not have to move to work, other than getting to a soft pillow or at your side on the couch, but they should be free of debilitating pain and constant wear & tear on their bones and joints. This can only be accomplished through good structure. In order to have a light and stylish action, one must not have patellas so loose as to cross over in the rear, which can cause rolling or stumbling. Neither should such straight shoulders cause a stilted and marching gait.

The Japanese Chin should move fluidly without obstruction in movement, and should flow so that it does not have to work at walking or gaiting. The words “lively” and “stylish” are in several Toy breed standards, but nothing moves like a well-structured Japanese Chin; the flowing, silky coat waving behind the movement enhances the structure. The front legs can reach with well-angled shoulders and the rear can drive with a good bend of stifle and short hocks. Lively also shows in the face of the Chin as he moves across the floor. His face lights up and his head is held high—he is of royalty, and nothing should stand in the way of this picture.

Stylish shows in the swishing of the coat and tail as it hangs over the hip and flows behind the little dog, and this shows fashionable elegance as only the Japanese Chin can. It is not “jaunty” like the Pug, “rolling” like the Pekingese, or “hackney-like” as in the Miniature Pinscher. A Chin should not be shown at a run or hurried as to look like a Maltese, but rather, at a steady, moderate gait to show off the topline and curve of the neck.

The Japanese Chin is full of life and energy. He is ready for action and excited with his handler. Japanese Chin is comfortable in his own skin, and this should be seen in his gait. He is full of spirit and animation, and this should be seen in his eyes. With the combination of sound construction and good spirit, one then easily can understand the idea of “light and stylish in action.” (Reprinted from the Japanese Chin Club of America Breed Column, December 2011 AKC Gazette, by Carla Jo Ryan.)

The third sentence in the “General Appearance” section of the standard for the Japanese Chin reads: “The plumed tail is carried over the back, curving to either side.” In the section “Neck, Topline, Body,” the standard further says the tail is…set on high, carried arched up over the back and flowing to either side of the body.”

These two statements seem fairly clear, but to a breeder they are crucial to understand, as any deviation from the standard ruins the whole appearance of the dog, and thus, his breed type. A poorly set tail gives a Japanese Chin a totally different outline. Too low gives the outline of a longer-bodied dog, while too tight can give the appearance of no loin at all or a high topline.

So, what is meant by set on high? In canine terminology, it means the tail is high in that, if it were docked, the base of the tail would point up—not out straight, and not pointing low. A Japanese Chin’s tail is his pride and joy. It helps him to show himself off as it flows when he gaits. It is a beautiful sight when his tail is up and over the hip, with the tail-fringe flowing behind him. Tail is a decoration, plain and simple.

Japanese Chin standing on a rock on beach

The Japanese Chin’s tail is not used as are the tails of some Working or Sporting breeds—he does not use it to point birds, nor as a rudder when he swims, nor to balance as he runs, nor does he use his tail for insulation to keep his nose warm when he is curled up in a snowdrift, as an Arctic breed does. For this breed, the tail’s sole purpose is as an adornment and a barometer of his feelings. If timid, he will drop it low, or drag it, and anyone can tell that he is not happy; if happy, his tail is up and over and can be quivering, which seems to be his way of wagging. He also uses it as all dogs do, as a way to communicate to us and other dogs.

The Japanese Chin’s tail should not curl up like that of a Pug, nor come up and point straight toward the head like that of a Pomeranian or Pekingese, nor even stand straight up pointing to the sky, and it should certainly not be dragged behind so as to make him look unhappy. The Papillon and the Japanese Chin have the same type and carriage of tail, which is up and over the topline, sweeping either side of the hip. It does not matter which side the tail falls, left or right. It doesn’t count against him when it is not on the show side.

For a judge to see that mental picture of the sweeping tail up and over, one only has to turn the dog to the opposite side, so the full beauty of the Japanese Chin can be seen. The tail and its carriage and set are very important to the overall look and outline of a Japanese Chin, as this gives him a unique outline and type in the dog world. (Reprinted from the Japanese Chin Club of America Breed Column, June 2012 AKC Gazette, by Carla Jo Ryan.)

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