The Japanese Chin – my love and my concern

Olga Linikh

Mivaku Kennel


Translated by Yevgeniy Tochilkin


What does the Japanese Chin mean to me? I asked myself this question and pondered. How to tell about my feelings towards this breed, about the excitement Chins stir up in me, about the joy over Chins having entered my life, about the concern over the breed of the Japanese Chin, which constantly keeps resurfacing due to further outstanding issues in the breed.


Apparently, it was the concern over the breed that made me try to define a range of issues that, in my unobtrusive opinion, need to be jointly addressed by the owners of the Japanese Chins from all over the world so our beloved breed can successfully continue its centuries-old history.


In and of itself, the origin of the Japanese Chin is as unique as this dog breed itself.


The community of the Japanese Chin fanciers is grateful to Japan for source breeding such a gem. However, there is an extreme necessity for Japan to protect its own national treasure – the Japanese Chin – abroad.


Since the world learned about the Japanese Chin 150 years ago, it has won the hearts of the breeders worldwide. Over the years, there have been changes in the breed, sometimes for worse, outside Japan.


The realities of today show that there are issues interfering with further breed development. There is one breed – the Japanese Chin, but the respective standards differ from country to country. There is also a difference in interpretation of these very standards.


Japan should be the main interested party as regards to protection of the Japanese Chin. However, the Japan’s breeders have unfortunately dodged solving the issues of its national breed abroad. The issues emerging in the breed cannot be solved without Japan’s involvement. According to the FCI system, Great Britain is an overseer of the breed.


The surprising thing is that Japan Kennel Club does not protest against the changes to the Japanese Chin’s appearance being introduced by other kennel clubs. 


Neither introduction of new colors (a result of breeding of the Japanese Chin with other breeds), while keeping the “Japanese Chin” name, nor amendments to the standards, which ruin a one-of-a-kind appearance  of the Japanese Chin,  have raised a protest from Japan Kennel Club!


Such indifference is difficult to comprehend.


Eyes of the Japanese Chin


Historical records of the Japanese Chin breeding have remained extant in Japan since the 14-th century. The lion-dog sculptures of the Japanese Chin have remained intact in Japan since the 7-th century. The appearance of the Japanese Chin, captured by these ancient sculptures, attests to the fact that as early as the 7-th century the Japanese Chin had the same unparalleled looks as today.


For almost 14 centuries of its existence, the Japanese Chin has had its unique, unparalleled eyes. And it hasn’t ceased to exist, hasn’t died out. The Japanese Chin has hereby proved its right to exist as it was source bred in Japan.


This time is sufficient, as stated by genetics, to prove vitality of these amazing eyes and their right to exist. It was with these very eyes that the outside world saw the Japanese Chin 150 years ago.


For 14 centuries, these beautiful eyes have presented a problem neither for the Chin itself, nor for their owners. What was required was just to have a careful attitude towards both the breed itself - to preserve these unique eyes during breeding - and the big eyes themselves, to keep them from harm.


And to think that the science of genetics didn’t exist back then, but the Japanese Chin breed was still developed and has been thriving from the 14-th century to this day, keeping all its breed characteristics! So what now, after 150 years of the Japanese Chin’s existence outside Japan the breeders have started to have issues with the eyes of the Japanese Chin and these wonderful eyes have become a problem for the breed?


Over the last years, a number of standards for our breed, including the FCI standard, has been amended and does not specify a small amount of white showing in the inner corners of the eyes. This will result in eventual extinction of this breed characteristic of the Japanese Chin, which is what makes it a Japanese Chin, and, subsequently, the breed as such will become extinct as well. As without these unique eyes the Japanese Chin will just turn into nothing more than just a cute little dog.


Standards are written by people, not by gods.  People do not always go by the truth but all too often play cunning.


“Thoughtless” breeding results in loss of the unique eyes of the Japanese Chin in third generation. Today there are plenty of distinguished kennels, whose dogs have virtually lost these wonderful eyes. The eyes have become small and medium-sized, with almost no white in the inner corners of the eyes, and their shape has changed from round to oval.


It was the influence of these kennels that pushed amendments to the standards and legalized what they bred, whereas the motive behind these amendments was claimed to be noble – to foster health care.


Genuine health care is introduction of mandatory testing of the dogs selected for breeding for genetic deceases, including the ones encountered in the Chin after mating it with other breeds to obtain new colors.


Only testing and strict control on the part of the kennel clubs can be called a genuine dog health care!           


When it comes to the wonderful eyes of the Japanese Chin, this is not about extreme setting the eyeballs apart to the outer corners of the socket, nor is this about the eyeballs overly protruding out of the sockets (bulging); this is about beautiful big round dark eyes, set sufficiently and aesthetically beautiful rather than extremely apart.


These things must not be confused by any means!!! However, these two issues (eyes set extremely apart and bulging, which, in fact, is often encountered in other small-dog breeds), which sometimes happen to occur, seem to have prompted a ban on the breed-characteristic eyes of the Japanese Chin.


Surprisingly, it has become recurrent when a judge in the ring looks at the wonderful eyes of the Japanese Chin and starts saying nonsense about its allegedly bulging and extreme eyes, which this exhibited Chin does not have. What can this be attributed to? Incompetence of a judge? Or maybe he or she is doing so for personal reasons?


How nice yet sad it is to hear when a judge in the ring tells the owner of the exhibited Japanese Chin with regret and in a whisper, as if it were a secret, for fear of being heard by others, that he, the judge, wishes that the beautiful eyes of the Japanese Chin had not been lost.


It is not enough to complain about the murderous amendments to the standards for the Japanese Chin while communicating on the Internet, in face-to-face conversations, or whisper about this in the ring.  We need to unite to protect the Japanese Chin and its beautiful and wonderful eyes!


The issue of non-standard colors and their recognition


Considering today’s reality, one should admit that there are already some colors in the breed that are not recognized by a number of kennel clubs, including the FCI. There is no getting around this fact.


The paradox is that the FCI recognizes the pedigrees of the American Kennel Club and clears the Japanese Chins from America for breeding but does not recognize American colors, which arrive with these dogs andare then inherited by the Chinsborn in these pedigrees in the kennels, the FCI members. How is it that the pedigrees are recognized but the colors are not??? This is absolutely illogical!


It was the FCI that encouragedthat puppies with non-standard colors be born in kennels. This issue requires solution.


There are two possible solutions here:

- The first one is to have all kennel clubs worldwide recognize all the colors existing in the breed.

- The second one is to bring the Japanese Chin non-standard colors under a separate breed and give it a different name, possibly – “the American Chin” (in a similar way to the American Akita) and to have the FCI recognize it.


However, if the second solution is applied, the question arises as to what to do, if puppies of two Chin’s breed variations – the Japanese Chin and “the American Chin” - are born at once in one and the same litter???


Necessity of indicating two FCI-recognized colors – white & red (sable) and white & red (lemon) – in pedigrees for Japanese Chins with the FCI standard color revisited


The FCI Standard identifies two colors, “COLOUR: White with markings of black or red.”


In their pedigrees, the white & red (lemon) (ee gene) and white & red (sable) dogs are indicated only as “white & red”, with no specific indication, whether they are white & red (sable) or white & red (lemon).


This separation is called for by the very purpose of the document – a pedigree, which must provide true information on the origin of a dog based on its ancestors, including their colors.


Given that these two colors - white & red (sable) and white & red (lemon), currently existing in the Japanese Chin breed in one standard color, specified as white & red, are inherited differently, it is necessary to indicate directly a specific color in a pedigree.


Breeders have the right to breed the standard color they like, in which case the breeding documents (a pedigree) must reflect true information on the ancestry, including their colors.


I think the issue at this point is about the need to have FCI make a decision that the two alternate colors - white & red (sable) and white & red (lemon), - already existing in the standard white & red Japanese Chin breed, be indicated in pedigrees.


This is not about changing the standard, as these two color variations of the standard (FCI) white & red – white & red (sable) and white & red (lemon) – are permanently represented  at FCI exhibitions and certified by judges, which is confirmed by the legitimate presence of the two variations of the FCI standard white & red color in the Japanese Chin breed.


So why then has not each of them been yet specified in pedigrees?


This situation with the white & red color cannot continue – in for a penny, in for a pound. If they are recognized in a ring, they must be recognized in pedigrees, too!!!


It is all these half-measures by FCI with colors that create issues. Everything has to be followed through. However, this has not yet been done.


On top of that, the ring judges sometimes tell breeders that the white & red (sable) is a non-standard color and the white & red (sable) Chins with no explicit and visible presence of black at the hair ends, but having a black nose, are certified by judges as white & red (lemon) (ee gene), even though the nose must not be black, if the Chin is white & red (lemon) (ee gene).


Furthermore, according to the standard, the nose color must be in accordance with the dog’s markings - “Nose : Nasal bridge very short and wide, the nose on a straight line with the eyes; the nose colour black or deep flesh colour, according to dog’s markings. Well opened nostrils.”


How should one regard such controversies in the ring?


In other words, there are different interpretations of the standard in this white & red color of the Japanese Chins even among the FCI judges.


It is odd that such obvious discrepancies in the standard (lack of indication of existence of two color variations – white & red (sable) and white & red (lemon) -  of the standard white & red color), resulting in controversies in the ring, have not yet been brought up with FCI by the judges, nor have they been resolved.


Therefore, it is extremely important to specify clearly two variations of the white & red color in the FCI standard. This is not a modification of the standard as such, but rather a clarification of colors in the Japanese Chin breed existing in and recognized by the FCI.


It is time to clarify and put in order all these issues in the standards, and come to an acceptable agreement with all kennel clubs on the Japanese Chin worldwide.


A standard must be explicitly written and provide no opportunity for anyone to interpret it as they please.


Next on the issue of movement


The FCI standard does not give a clear description of the Japanese Chin’s movements. The lack of indication of characteristic movement of the Japanese Chin’s forequarters provides an opportunity to breed dogs with lost breed characteristic movements. The British Standard covers this issue and this is how it should be.


Moderate angulation of hindlegs, specified in the FCI Standard, should also be encountered in the bred dogs. The Japanese Chin is not a greyhound, a gundog, a Shar-Pei or a German shepherd. The Japanese Chin’s fore and hindquarters have their characteristic movements, which are getting lost, too.


When I hear breeders conversing about the fact that “in my kennel the Chins have properanatomy and movements” and see the dogs of this kennel move, I cannot help but wonder, “What kind of dog breed has the anatomy this breeder is talking about?” It is obvious that there is nothing but a general understanding of the word “anatomy” behind these words.


The health issue is the most important one


The health issue is the most important one with any dog breed. You may ask me, why I have put this one the last.


The answer is rather simple –the issue of health of the bred dogs, which depends solely on good conscience and honesty of the kennel owners.


Breeder must not use the dogs with genetic diseases for breeding. There’s testing to diagnose such issues.


However, no mandatory testing will prevent dishonest breeders from forging the documents. Only good conscience and honesty of breeders are going to keep the dogs of all breeds, including the Japanese Chin, healthy.  


The problems of genetic health in the dog breeds are virtually irreversible at our day-to-day level of breeding. That is how genetically impure the dog breeds are today. So all we have to do is just admit it.


Only the strictest and honest selection can possibly reduce the probability of a particular genetic problem in descendants, and this is applicable to all breeds.


The breeders will not change, no matter how much they are encouraged to be honest in breeding. Concealment of health problems of their dogs has been and will be the case.This is that vicious circle that, unfortunately, might prevent once-and-for-all solution of the dogs’ genetic health problems.


As of today, complete eradication of many genetic diseases in the dog breeds is possible only at the level of genetic intervention, genetic engineering and through elimination of harmful genes. The Japanese scientists have made some progress in solving this problem with productive animals.


Health and color


There are both supporters and opponents of the two variations – white & red (sable) and white & red (lemon) – of the white & red color. There is a host of arguments for and against them.


One of the arguments for the white & red (sable) in the Japanese Chin breed is a high level of immunodefence developed in the wild animals by nature and preserved in the dogs of a solid sable color.


Undoubtedly, nature is wiser than we are, and the dominant white & red (sable) color, which is present in the whole class Mammalia, is a part of the necessary traits of the animals’ bodies, ensuring the best health and survival in nature.


It is beyond dispute that the white & red (sable) dogs must have a better immune system than the dogs with other colors. This statement is true in regards to the immune system. However, this statement would be true only in regards to wild animals, as they have not experienced the consequences of human intervention.


This color is recognized in many dog breeds - Canis lupus familiaris.


The existing dog breeds are the result of methodical breeding and selection done by the people pursuing their own interests.


People have replaced nature’s wisdom in Canis lupus familiaris with their desire to breed a dog meeting their domestic and vainglorious needs. That is how numerous dog breeds of different types and colors came about.


Genetics states that the dogs with the spottinggene - the Chins with this gene are white & red (sable) - have far worse immunodefence than the dogs with a solid sable exactly because of this gene.


Moreover, the statement that the sable color in the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris– the domestic dog is still a sign of good health raises doubts due to the accumulation of genetic health issues in the process of dog breeding. If using these breeds for breeding new breeds or interbreed colors, as it was the case in the Japanese Chin breed, the genetic diseases in the dogs’ breeds result in mutual adding to the list of genetic health issues, if using these breeds for breeding new breeds or interbreed colors, as it was the case in the Japanese Chin breed.


Incidence of a whole bunch of genetic diseases in the breeds of the domestic dog and their migration from one breed to another due to “the efforts of unwitting” breeders, reduces immunodefence, no matter how strong, and, unfortunately, because of this the sable color, especially combined with the spotting gene, loses its protective trait.


We could talk about the strict and thorough selection with such breeding practices.


We could talk, why not? Many breeders know the correct things to say and like doing it in public, holding themselves out as advocates of the dogs’ health, but not all of them are correct and honest in their own breeding practices. Easier said than done!!!


The result of such “through selection” can be observed during work with different breed lines, the breeders of which have not removed the dogs with health issues from breeding. The closets are opening and the skeletons are falling out!!!


There is a vast number such breeders all over the world! The breeders’ motives for such harmful breeding differ but, in any case, it did not and does do them credit and has done catastrophic harm to all dog breeds. 


The results of such irresponsible breeding are plain to see –the dogs with natural sable color currently have the same genetic health issues as the dogs with breed colors, and a far worse level of immunodefence than their wild ancestors with the solid sable color.  That is a given fact, that is how things really are today with dogs’ health in all breeds, including the Japanese Chin.  


How to solve these issues?


It is necessary to understand that these issues do exist and hinder the breed. Therefore, these issues need to be urgently tackled.


From what I can see, these issues can be resolved only by combined efforts of the breeders from all over the world.


It is practical though? Personal interest, fear of losing a well-established reputation, ambition and vanity is what hinders solution of these issues.


I so want to believe that long after we and many future generations of our descendants are gone, the Japanese Chin will continue to fascinate the dog fanciers with its sophisticated beauty and unparalleled wonderful eyes and keep its centuries-old history going.