Welcome to your complete guide to the Chinese crested, a dog who may be slight in size and sometimes lacking in hair, but always filled to the brim with personality.
These eye-catching dogs turn heads wherever they go, thanks to their very sleek and commonly hairless bodies.
The hairless Chinese crested has just tufts of rather wild-looking fur growing from their heads and necks (the “crest”), ears, lower legs (also called “socks”) and tails (commonly referred to as the “plume”).
As you may or may not know, not all Chinese crested dogs are hairless. In fact, a Chinese crested with hair is known as a “powder puff.”
So if you’d like to learn more about this exotic breed, then you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything that you need to know about the Chinese crested hairless dog as well as the Chinese crested powder puff dog.
Including the breed’s general size, expected temperament, grooming requirements (or lack thereof).
We’ll also check out their suitability as a family pet, common health concerns and how to select your own Chinese crested puppy.
What Is the Chinese Crested Dog Breed?
As her name suggests, the Chinese crested dog was first developed in China.
It’s not known exactly when the breed initially made its debut, but some think that the Chinese crested is a miniature version of hairless dogs, which were imported from Africa during ancient times.
Once the Chinese had bred the hairless dogs down to size, traders began taking the dogs with them on ships to keep the vermin population under control during their voyages.
Once the traders and the dogs made port, the dogs were sometimes part of their barters.
This allowed the Chinese crested breed to make its way around the world, with the exception of North America.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s for the Chinese crested to reach American soil, and the American Kennel Club did not recognize the breed as a member of its toy group registry until 1991.
You won’t find too many Chinese cresteds being used as rat catchers anymore, but they are still extremely popular as pets, specifically lap-warming, snuggly dogs.
Chinese Crested Temperament and Personality
Generally speaking, the Chinese crested (hairless) and the Chinese crested (powder puff) is a friendly and loving dog.
He is usually easy to train, thanks to her intelligent and inquisitive nature, and she will most likely enjoy playing games with you and participating in obedience competitions.
Though the Chinese crested is known for her willingness and eagerness to learn, she can be a little bit on the sensitive side.
She will not respond well to loud vocal cues or any other type of harsh training aids; if she feels threatened by you, then she may lose her trust in you completely.
Since the Chinese crested is a toy-sized dog (more on that in the next section), a small child may not be very careful when handling the dog and could accidentally hurt her.
If you’re really set on a Chinese crested and you have small children, supervise play time between your two- and four-legged babies.
Other than that, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about a Chinese crested being grumpy around or unsure of new people.
They are typically outgoing dogs.
However, we recommend that you properly socialize any Chinese crested with new people and animals prior to letting them loose with strangers.
Chinese Crested Weight and Height
The Chinese crested is a toy breed, which is canine terminology for “tiny.”
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a Chinese crested will weigh a mere eight to 12 pounds and will only reach 11 to 13 inches tall at the withers.
Chinese Crested Coat, Grooming, and Shedding
All Chinese cresteds are known for the signature “crest” of hair on their head, neck and ears, as well as their fuzzy-looking “socks” and lovely flowing “plumes” of a tail.
If you get a hairless Chinese crested, then you obviously won’t have too much to worry about when it comes to grooming a coat or lots of shedding, since the aforementioned hair is all that’s on their bodies.
Their hairlessness, though intentional, is actually an inherited disorder called ectodermal dysplasia.
According to a 2012 study, the FOX13 gene in Chinese crested (and Mexican hairless and Peruvian hairless) dogs is responsible for the presence of ectodermal dysplasia in the aforementioned hairless breeds.
Chinese crested powder puff dogs do not have the FOX13 gene, interestingly enough.
Hairless Dog Care
Hairless Chinese crested dogs may not need much grooming, but they may need a bath from time to time. Be sure to use a mild shampoo.
It is less likely to irritate or unbalance their delicate skin.
Also, since hairless Chinese crested dogs do not have a fur coat to protect their skin from the elements, you will need to be extra vigilant about applying sunscreen when going outdoors and providing them.
It’s highly suggested to also dress them in warm dog clothes if their taken out for visiting or live in colder temperatures.
(This is a breed that thrives in warm temperatures, though, so keep that in mind.)
The hairless variety is also susceptible to such skin conditions as dry skin, skin allergies and other forms of dermatitis, so you’ll need to be prepared to handle any of those conditions.
It’ll help your pooch if you keep her away from abrasive materials (e.g., give her a soft place to sleep).
Powder Puff Care
On the flip side, a powder puff Chinese crested will have a short undercoat with a long, ultra-soft, somewhat thin outer coat.
The good news is that it won’t shed much at all, and you don’t have to worry about applying sunscreen because her skin is protected.
However, with a fluffy coat comes the need for daily brushing to keep it from tangling.
She should also have a few dog sweaters or vests for cold weather because her coat is more aesthetically pleasing than it is insulating.
Chinese Crested Coat Colors
Here are the coat and/or skin colors that the AKC recognizes for registerable Chinese cresteds:
- Black, white and tan
- Pink and chocolate (hairless)
- Pink and slate (hairless)
- Slate (hairless)
A Chinese crested may also be spotted or have white markings. In fact, the spotted or mottled skin is quite common.
Chinese Crested Health
As a pure dog breed that is commonly hairless, the Chinese crested has her fair share of health problems to contend with.
Some health conditions that frequently afflict many dogs, regardless of their breed and especially as they age, are hip and elbow dysplasia, vision and/or hearing loss, allergies, and obesity.
In terms of their genetics, Chinese crested dogs are also particularly prone to the following ailments:
According to the VCA Animal Hospital, follicular cysts, which are sometimes referred to as epidermoid cysts, are “dilated hair follicles containing fluid or dark-colored cheesy material.”
In the case of the Chinese crested, they are typically caused by follicular inactivity (the failure to grow, lose and regrow hair as normal(. Sunburn can also cause follicular cysts.
The cysts are usually benign and therefore are more of a cosmetic issue than anything, but they can develop a smelly secondary infection that will require veterinary attention.
Yes, dogs can get pimples just like people.
Hairless Chinese crested dogs are susceptible to acne in part because they do not have hair to block dirt and other particles from making their way to the skin and also because they may already be prone to oily skin in the first place.
If you spot a few pimples on your Chinese crested (or on yourself, for that matter), it’s best to leave them alone, no matter how tempting it may be to pop them.
In the case of both man and dog, opening pimples is a good way to invite infection.
This is a skin disease that causes your dog’s skin to have a very greasy feel to it and/or scaling, cracking or inflammation. Primary seborrhea is inherited.
Secondary seborrhea is usually caused by some other skin condition, such as allergies or even acne that has become infected.
If a Chinese crested develops seborrhea, you may need to treat her with medicated shampoos to help balance her skin’s oils.
It wouldn’t hurt to also feed her a diet that is rich in healthy fats to help promote good skin health from within.
As dogs with long fur on their ears are often want to, Chinese crested dogs may have nasty bacteria lurking in their ears that are usually the cause of painful ear infections.
Cleaning a Chinese crested’s ears often may help to prevent frequent ear infections.
Here is an article that explains how to safely and effectively clean your dog’s ears.
According to a 2003 study, Chinese crested dogs and other pigmented breeds with lots of white on them (and pink skin) may carry a gene that causes pigment-associated congenital sensorineural deafness.
In other words, it is not uncommon for white or partially white Chinese cresteds to be born partially or fully deaf.
Genetic testing may be able to pinpoint this gene in Chinese crested dogs before they are used in a breeding program to prevent the passage of this condition.
Progressive retinal atrophy
Eye and vision issues are unfortunately quite common in Chinese crested dogs.
According to a 2006 study, progressive retinal atrophy (also known as progressive rod-cone degeneration) appears to be an inherited condition in Chinese cresteds, as a form of the prcd (disease-causing) gene mutation was found in the breed representatives who participated in the study.
It causes gradual vision loss to the point of blindness. Fortunately, genetic testing is available to identify the mutation in breeding stock.
Primary lens luxation
This is another blinding eye condition that is often found in terriers and shar-peis, but is also common in Chinese crested dogs.
According to a 2007 study, the lens in the eye (typically both eyes, although one eye may be affected shortly before the other) is basically displaced such that it puts pressure on and damages the structures in the rear of the eyeball.
Surgical treatment once the disease has progressed will cause extreme farsightedness.
Without treatment, the dog will lose her eyesight if not her entire eye. Oftentimes, the vet will opt to remove both of the dog’s lenses as soon as one shows signs of luxation.
Canine multiple system degeneration (CMSD)
This inherited brain stem disorder has been found in Chinese crested dogs and Kerry blue terriers, and it is always deadly.
In a 2005 study, 11 Chinese crested puppies began to show signs of CMSD between three and six months of age, when they exhibited head tremors mostly while trying to eat.
The head tremors progressed to a strange lurching forward when trying to walk, which caused a lot of falling.
By a year to a year and a half of age, all but one of the dogs had to be euthanized due to their inability to walk; they could only sink forward and remain that way to not fall.
We cannot stress enough the importance of genetic testing to avoid distressing cases like this.
According to a 2010 study, there seems to be a correlation between hereditary hairlessness in dogs and teeth abnormalities.
It’s likely that you’ll deal with some dental health problems with a hairless Chinese crested, owners of powder puff Chinese crested dogs will not.
Possible problems for hairless Chinese cresteds include overcrowding, oddly shaped teeth, teeth that protrude out of the mouth, oddly angled teeth and missing teeth.
Some dental disorders can be corrected with surgery at a young age.
Chinese Crested Exercise Requirements
If you’re looking for a pup who likes to spend equal parts at play and cuddling with you, then a Chinese crested could be just the pooch for you.
They enjoy brief bursts of play and activity, and can even be taught some tricks.
There probably aren’t many things that are more adorable than a small dog with crazy hair standing on her hind legs while balancing a treat on her nose.
Or, she could just sit there being her cute self.
Just make sure you’re careful with how rambunctious play time is with a Chinese crested; toy dogs are a little bit more fragile than their larger counterparts.
Chinese Crested Life Expectancy
As toy dogs, Chinese cresteds typically live longer than other dogs. They commonly live to be between 13 and 18 years old.
Chinese Crested Breeders
Choosing a Chinese crested puppy should involve a bit of research on your part prior to actually selecting your new fur baby.
You should only consider purchasing a puppy from a breeder who employs genetic testing on all of their puppies and breeding stock.
This helps to prevent the passage of undesired traits, the sale of unhealthy puppies and to ensure the health of adoptable puppies.
You should also only purchase a puppy from a breeder who houses all of their animals in a clean, comfortable and well-ventilated environment.
Here are a couple of red flags to look out for when visiting a breeder’s facility:
- Breeding stock and/or puppies are housed in dirty, dark, cramped or otherwise foul conditions.
- The dogs do not have fresh water and/or they look starved.
- The dogs appear in poor physical and/or mental health. Healthy dogs are happy dogs.
If you come across any of the aforementioned red flags during your search for a puppy, then it might be a good idea to leave an anonymous tip with your local law enforcement office.
Chinese Crested Price
So, how much can you expect to pay for Chinese crested powder puff puppies? How about their hairless comrades?
The price you pay will depend on which crested you want (hairless or powder puff).
How many puppies are available, how much money the breeder has invested in the puppies, how valuable the parent dogs are to the breeder.
And whether or not the puppies are show quality (can be registered) or pet quality.
In general, though, a Chinese crested puppy may cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on the above criteria.
Chinese Crested Rescue
If you don’t wish to or cannot afford to purchase a Chinese crested from a breeder, then you may be able to find one at an animal shelter or Chinese crested rescue.
You’ll be less likely to get a puppy this way, unless perhaps a litter was confiscated from a bad living situation, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find your best friend.
Many Chinese cresteds that have been retired from showing or breeding wind up for sale or adoption, so by going the adoption route, you’ll be able to help one of these cuties live out the rest of their lives in much-deserved comfort.
The only thing that you may need to be leery of when adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue is her health history.
It may be unknown, especially if the dog was confiscated.
But, it’s also likely that an owner-surrendered dog will have at least some health records, of which can alert you to what may go into keeping your new dog healthy.
Is a Chinese Crested a Good Family Pet?
Absolutely. The Chinese crested was practically born to snuggle and play with a doting family.
They’re usually good with kids, but as we’ve mentioned already, it’s a good idea to supervise young children while they are handling a crested to ensure that they do not accidentally injure her little body.
But other than that, a Chinese crested will love alternating her time between sleeping and snuggling with you (and your babies) and running amok or playing games.
She’s not as active of a dog as, say, a husky, but she’s definitely not as lazy as, say, a pug.
So really, the Chinese crested’s energy-to-lazy ratio is akin to how Goldilocks likes her porridge—not too hot and not to cold, but just right.
Chinese Crested Summary
You won’t find a much “louder”-looking dog than a Chinese crested.
With their eye-catching appearance, a Crested is sure to garner lots of attention wherever she goes, but is one right for you?
For starters, if you want a Chinese crested (hairless or powder puff), then it’s pretty much a given that you live in a mild or warm climate.
Speaking of delicate skin, Chinese crested are prone to a number of health issues involving their skin, its lack of protection, and their propensity toward allergies and dermatitis.
If you wish to get a hairless crested, then it’s also likely that she will develop dental problems in addition to skin issues.
But, at least you won’t have to worry about much, if any shedding.
Powder puff Chinese cresteds shed minimally but do require daily brushing to prevent their very soft fur from matting.
Chinese cresteds make great family dogs because their temperament is a nice balance of energy and calm.
They are very smart and can be taught tricks, and are excellent at obedience trials.
If everything we’ve mentioned sounds good, then why not open your home to the lovely Chinese crested?
References and Further Reading:
Leeb, T., 2012, “Animal Models of Ectodermal Dysplasia,” Head & Face Medicine
Lewis, J., et al., 2010, “Dental Abnormalities Associated with X-Linked Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia in Dogs,” Orthodontics & Craniofacial Research
Moriello, K., et al., “Seborrhea in Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Journal
O’brien, D., et al., 2005, “Genetic Mapping of Canine Multiple System Degeneration and Ectodermal Dysplasia Loci,” Journal of Heredity
Rest, J. “Cysts,” VCA Animal Hospitals
Sargan, D., et al., 2007, “Mapping the Mutation Causing Lens Luxation in Several Terrier Breeds,” Journal of Heredity
Strain, G.M., 2003, “Deafness Prevalence and Pigmentation and Gender Associations in Dog Breeds at Risk,” The Veterinary Journal
Zangerl, B., et al., 2006, “Identical Mutation in a Novel Retinal Gene Causes Progressive Rod–Cone Degeneration in Dogs and Retinitis Pigmentosa in Humans,” Genomics