Chinese Dog Breeds – 13 Amazing Animals
by Jessi Larson
The world is full of so many different types of dogs, and without a doubt, Chinese dog breeds stand out for their unique appearances, distinct personalities and incredible histories.
Chinese dog breeds have historical roots but still enjoy plenty of popularity today. In fact, some of the most beloved modern dog breeds originated from the country.
From miniature toy lapdogs to giant specimens of force, chances are there’s a Chinese dog breed out there to match the characteristics you’re looking for.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular Chinese dog breeds available today.
Breed Guide: Chinese Dog Breeds
This guide to Chinese dog breeds explores 13 of the most notable dog breeds hailing from the country.
Some are popular pets you see regularly around the world while others are breeds more known in China.
This extremely popular Chinese dog breed is one of the oldest in the world – dating back to 206 B.C. when the Han dynasty ruled the land.
Pugs were bred to keep emperors company and lived pampered lives surrounded by people, so it’s no wonder their lovable personality and friendliness makes them the perfect breed for families.
It’s been said that the Pug is the ideal house dog. They’re happy just about anywhere they go and will win over everyone they meet with their charming, loving personality and silly, mischievous antics.
The Pekingese was bred for companionship for the Chinese royal family and later introduced into Britain in the 1860s.
Though small in stature, these tenacious dogs were incorporated into Chinese legends as a breed that was shrunken down from a lion by Buddha himself.
There’s a reason why for thousands of years, these affectionate and loyal dogs remained the favorites of Chinese royalty.
Today, the Pekingese is a popular pet known for its charming, confident personality and close bond with its owners. They will tolerate children, but don’t expect them to put up with a lot of rowdiness.
3. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is a small toy dog with a big, playful personality. Translating to “little lion” in Mandarin, the Shih Tzu is thought to have originated in Tibet and brought to China as a gift for the royals. The breed was then mixed with the Pekingese to create the modern Shih Tzu.
These adorable dogs are very affectionate and do especially well with children. Despite their lapdog appearances, this breed is actually more closely related to wolves than other dog breeds!
Given their sweet, playful personality and ability to get along with everyone, the Shih Tzu is a popular pick for people of all ages and family types.
4. Shar Pei
Shar Pei is an extremely rare breed originating from ancient China. Its distinct wrinkles are actually a result of a rare hereditary disorder caused by an overproduction of hyaluronic acid in the skin.
These strong, regal and independent dogs are loyal to their owners but can be standoffish when it comes to strangers. Though mellow in their nature, Shar Peis will react strongly if they sense a threat, so early training and socialization are necessary.
5. Chow Chow
Chow Chows are one of the most ancient Chinese dog breeds and were frequently owned by members of the imperial family.
This surprisingly powerful breed is probably best known for its distinct “floofy” appearance and blue/black tongue.
Chow Chows are serene and somewhat aloof around strangers, but extremely loyal to their loved ones.
The intelligent and dignified breed is known to be extremely clean and easy to housetrain. Some owners report their Chow Chows being as cleanly as their cats. With proper training and socialization, your Chow Chow should never become aggressive.
6. Chinese Crested
This playful, super-affectionate companion dog is truly a unique specimen. With its distinct pink skin, “crested” hairstyle, and furry socks and tail, there’s really no mistaking the Chinese Crested for any other breed!
Due to its extremely early origins, nobody knows for certain how this breed first originated. It is said, however, that they were introduced to China from Africa and were subsequently bred with toy dog varieties. These affectionate and lively pups were often taken aboard Chinese ships to eradicate pests.
7. Japanese Chin
Although it is called the Japanese Chin, this breed is widely thought to have originated in China, where they were kept by emperors.
These tiny, cat-like companions are a part of a royal line of lapdogs and have a distinctly short muzzle and large eyes that convey a look of astonishment. They are extremely affectionate and make for great human companions.
8. Lhasa Apso
The Lhasa Apso first originated in Tibet thousands of years ago and served in Buddhist monasteries in remote Himalayan regions. These small, aristocratic dogs are known for their distinct coats that drape down to the floor on the sides of their body.
The comical and at times mischievous, Lhasa Apsos are extremely friendly and a perfect companion for families. They are very loving towards their owners, but can be standoffish to strangers.
9. Tibetan Terrier
Despite its name, the Tibetan Terrier is actually not a terrier, but a non-sporting breed. First originating in Tibet, they are sometimes called the “holy dog of Tibet” and were bred to protect monasteries.
They resemble the Lhasa Apso in appearance, but are slightly larger in build. These dogs also have uniquely large “snowshoe” feet, developed over centuries of navigating steep, mountainous terrains.
Tibetan Terriers are the perfect balance between playfulness and calmness. These dogs are family friendly due to their even temperament and make for great companions both in rural settings as well as cities.
10. Kunming Wolfdog
These wolf-like dogs are relatives of the old German Shepherds, which were introduced to China in the 1950s.
Like their predecessors, these highly-intelligent dogs are often trained for police units, military assistance and rescue missions. They are also highly popular family dogs across China.
11. Xiasi Quan
The lean and muscular Xiasi Quan is an efficient guard dog and a perfect hunting companion. The breed originated in China around 1080 and is prized for its hunting and guard-dog skills.
It was also thought that a Xiasi Quan is a good luck charm and is said to bring wealth to its owner’s home.
12. Tibetan Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff has served as a protector for centuries. They allegedly protected Alexander the Great years ago and today the breed continues to guard the current Dalai Lama.
The ultra-strong Tibetan Mastiff is as powerfully built as a leopard, with a bite that can be just as lethal, and is fiercely loyal to its owner.
This breed has a distinct mane-like coat and is regarded as the most expensive dogs in the world.
13. Tibetan Spaniel
The Tibetan Spaniel is one of the oldest Chinese dog breeds and is said to have originated in the Himalayan region almost 2,500 years ago.
Though named a “spaniel,” these dogs don’t actually belong to the spaniel group, but were given the name due to their physical resemblance to some spaniel breeds.
Measuring about 10 inches in height, these small playful dogs don’t lack in confidence or intellect and form a very tight-knit bond with their humans.
Since they are keen alert dogs, they sometimes worked in tandem with the larger Tibetan Mastiff to protect against intruders.
Conclusion: Chinese Dog Breeds
As you can tell, China is home to some of the most unique, storied dogs in the world.
Remarkably, Chinese dog breeds have been around for centuries and possess backgrounds that make for fascinating reading. It’s incredible to think how much history these breeds have been part of.
Chinese dog breeds also include some of the most unique-looking canines on the planet. Just look at the Shar Pei or the Chinese Crested and you’ll understand what we mean.
Some of these Chinese dog breeds, like the Shih Tzu or the Pug, are popular pets in countries around the world, while others like the Kunming Wolfdog and Xiasi Quan are still more regionalized.
Ultimately, many amazing canines have come out of the country, and the world is a better place for it.
Chinese Dog Breeds Bonus Tip: How to Pick the Right Dog
When you’re looking for a dog but don’t know what breed to get, these nine easy questions can help quickly narrow down your search and find a four-legged friend who perfectly fits your lifestyle.
1. Why Do You Want a Dog?
First things first, let’s talk about why you want a dog. This will guide you more than you realize!
For example, do you love cuddling up on the couch and want a tiny furball to curl up in your lap and keep you company? Or do you want an energetic and enthusiastic dog who fits your active lifestyle?
Stop for a minute, close your eyes and think about it.
2. What Type of Dog Did You Have Growing up?
Believe it or not, the dog (or dogs) you grew up with often have an impact on what type of dog you want when you’re older.
That’s certainly not to say you couldn’t pick a different type of dog by any means. It’s just that people often have a comfort level with the type of canine they were conditioned to growing up.
3. Do You Have Any Allergies?
Dogs can be awful for allergies. But fortunately, there are many hypoallergenic dog breeds that make it easier for allergies sufferers.
If you’re looking at Chinese dog breeds and suffer from allergies, always learn more about the breed before bringing it into your home.
4. Who’s in Your Household?
Another important thing to think about is who is in your household.
Is it just you? Or do you have a partner? Roommates? Children?
This is incredibly important to consider. Especially if you have little ones in the household.
5. Where Do You Live?
As you think about which dog breed is right for you, where you live is incredibly important.
It goes without saying that certain breeds just aren’t cut out for small spaces. For example, a Mastiff in a tiny apartment would be a disaster!
Also, certain dogs need space and a yard to run and exercise.
6. How Much Time and Energy Do You Have?
Dogs are A LOT of work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But some dogs require much more effort than others.
Potential pup parents should always make sure they have the time, energy and resources to care for a dog, no matter what the breed. But that level of care can increase depending on the dog.
Before committing to one of these Chinese dog breeds, make sure you understand the breed’s instincts and how much mental and physical stimulation they’ll require.
7. What is the Dog’s Temperament?
Just like appearance, a pup’s temperament can vary greatly by breed. And it’s absolutely critical to find out how a dog will act based on their breed instincts.
Chinese dog breeds can vary greatly. Some have easy-going, affable personalities while others are more aloof. Ultimately, it all depends on what you’re looking for.
8. How Much Does the Breed Cost?
Owning a dog isn’t cheap, but some breeds are more expensive than others. Especially for some of the rarer Chinese dog breeds on the list.
Cost is a consideration, and it’s always a good idea to understand the full picture before making a commitment.
Things to consider include the initial expense, vet bills, food, grooming and other expenses like daycare or boarding.
9. Breed Finder
And finally, try out our online breed selector and get a list of the best breeds for you and your lifestyle.
It allows you to enter details like where you live, who’s in your house, your climate, what size of dog you’re looking for and more. You’ll receive a list of breeds that will work for you.