What to Know About Chinese Cresteds

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 09, 2022
7 min read

The Chinese Crested is a small dog breed in the toy group. They come in two varieties — with and without fur. The only real difference between these varieties is the amount of fur that the dogs have. Furred and hairless dogs can even be born in the same litter. 

Cresteds are an ancient dog breed that’s known for its playful adaptability and devotion to its family. 

Body size. The average Chinese Crested size is quite small. Both males and females are about the same size. 

Their average height is between 11 and 13 inches. Healthy weights for the breed range from 8 to 12 pounds. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your dog is under- or overweight

Its small size means that the Crested is a highly portable pet. These dogs were bred to travel in boats on the water but are content to go on adventures with you in all modes of transportation. They’re even small enough to fit into a bag. 

Body shape. Chinese Cresteds have fine-boned bodies. They have a rectangular shape, as they’re slightly longer than they are tall. 

Other Chinese Crested traits include wedge-shaped heads that cleanly transition into tapered muzzles. Their ears are large and upright.  

The dogs have a slender tail with a slight curve. When they’re active, their tail is alert and may curve over their back. It hangs low when they’re at rest in a gentle sickle shape. 

Lifespan. The average Chinese Crested lifespan is typical for a small dog. They can live anywhere from 13 to 18 years. This means that you should be prepared for a relatively long life with this pet — especially if you bring them home when they’re still a puppy. 

Coats. The hairless Crested variety has smooth, pink skin over most of its body. It can have tufts of fur on its head, tail, and ankles. The furred variety has an even coat over its entire body. It’s referred to as the “powderpuff” variety because of its silky, medium-length coat. 

The fur that’s present on these dogs can come in at least 20 different color combinations. These include: 

  • Apricot
  • Black
  • Black, white, and tan
  • Blue 
  • Chocolate
  • Cream
  • Slate
  • Pink and slate

They usually have either spots or white markings. The spots can be present on their skin as well as their fur. 

Eyes. They have almond-shaped eyes that are set far apart on their skulls. The color of their eyes depends on the color of their coats. Usually, dogs with lighter coat colors also have lighter eyes. Ones with darker coats have darker eye colors. 

Personality. The Chinese crested personality is incredibly playful and affectionate. They love attention from their families and will happily play with you whenever you want. 

They’re lively, energetic, and can be decent watchdogs. They’re very alert to their environments and are happy to keep an eye on things for their family. 

These dogs are very attuned to their emotional environment and know when their owners are angry or upset. They’ll likely be at their happiest when you're happy too. 

Grooming. Your pet's grooming requirements will depend on whether or not it has fur. You’ll need to brush a powderpuff’s coat daily to keep it healthy and tangle-free. It can mat easily — so try not to skip any days if possible. It will also develop a typical doggy smell. You'll need to give your dog a bath whenever you think the odor is too strong. 

In some ways, the hairless variety is easier to take care of. They don’t need to be brushed thoroughly because they have very little fur. But you should still run a brush through the patches of coat that they have every so often. They also only need baths if they’ve gotten into something dirty — they never develop the doggy smell that their furred siblings do. 

But the exposed skin on the hairless variety comes with its own challenges. You need to use sunscreen and acne lotions regularly to keep their skin soft and pain-free. Each dog’s skin can have slightly different needs. Talk to your vet to decide on the best salves and grooming routine for your pet. 

Also, all dogs need their nails trimmed regularly and their teeth brushed frequently — preferably on a daily basis. 

Feeding. You’ll need to feed your pet high-quality dog food that contains the right nutrient balance for a toy breed. You can either find a brand that your dog likes or make the food yourself. Make sure you talk to your vet about the proper foods to include in any homemade mixes. 

The amount that you feed your dog will depend on its age and size. Try to limit table scraps and avoid foods with high fat content. Make sure you know what human foods are safe for dogs to eat before sharing any of your meals with them. 

Always have a supply of clean water available for your pet. 

Exercise and mental stimulation. These small dogs don’t need a lot of exercise to stay happy and healthy. All they need is a short daily walk or a bit of playtime in the yard. 

Always pay attention when exercising with your small pet and give them a break if they show signs of exhaustion — like panting. 

The dogs have a moderate need for mental stimulation. Following you around and engaging in activities with you are great ways for them to satisfy their curiosity. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your vet is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs — but all dogs should get a core set. 

This includes vaccinations for:

There are also other noncore vaccinations that you can discuss with your veterinarian. 

Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors.

Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your vet to figure out the best one for you. These days, heartworm medication is also recommended year-round in all parts of the U.S.

Chinese Cresteds are relatively healthy dogs. They don’t carry many genetic abnormalities in their breeding stock. Most of their health problems are also common in other small breeds. 

Chinese Crested health issues include: 

  • Eye conditions. These include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), glaucoma, and primary lens luxation. You should have your pet’s eyes examined regularly by your veterinarian. 
  • Patellar luxation. This is a condition in your dog’s knee that can be painful and affect how they walk. 
  • Idiopathic epilepsyThis can cause unexplained seizures in dogs. Seek immediate medical help if you think that your dog has just had or is currently having a seizure. 

Chinese Cresteds are only moderately well-behaved with small children and other dogs. Make sure that kids are old enough to distinguish this toy breed from a real toy before you let them play with your pet. 

These dogs can also be very sensitive — so make sure that you take a gentle approach to their training. If you yell too much or use harsh training strategies, then you could permanently lose your pet’s trust and attention. Be calm and encouraging instead, and they’ll follow you to the ends of the Earth. 

On a positive note, these dogs rarely drool.  

The Chinese crested breed is so ancient that no one knows its exact origins. One theory is that much larger hairless dogs were brought from Africa to China at some point in ancient history. The Chinese then bred them down to their current size over the course of multiple generations. 

This could've happened in the broad time frame when the Chinese were mastering the art of miniaturizing dog breeds. They created Shih Tzus and Pekingese from similar breeding efforts.

The hairless varieties were specifically bred to thrive on ships and kill any vermin on board. They traveled all over the world and acquired the nickname “Chinese Ship Dog.” Sailors would trade them in port towns, which caused distinct lineages to spring up in multiple locations. 

By the time Europeans were beginning to thoroughly explore the world in the middle of the last millennium, these dogs could be found in countries as far apart as Turkey and South Africa.

These dogs became popular in America in the 1880s. This was mostly thanks to two women — Ida Garrett and Debra Woods. Garrett was a journalist who put a lot of effort into promoting the breed, and Woods was a breeder who was able to maintain a healthy population of these pets. 

The dogs had already been in the country for over a century when they were finally added to the AKC’s studbooks in 1991. 

These dogs have a worldwide fandom and have acquired a variety of nicknames throughout their history. One of the more recent nicknames is the “Dr. Seuss dog” — because they look like many of the fanciful creatures that this author created.