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Two Chinese crested dogs sitting in a yard.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Toy Group  (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 9 to 14 inches
  • Weight — 5 to 13 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Silky, luxurious, full coat for the coated or “powderpuff” variety), or bare, spotted, and soft skin with a fur-coated “hat” and “socks” near the lower legs.
  • Coat color — Black, apricot, chocolate, tri-color, blue, sable, white, white and black, slate, palomino, pink and slate, pink and chocolate, and cream are all breed standard colours for all types of Chinese crested dogs. Puppies do not have drastic differences in color compared to their adult counterparts.
  • Exercise needs — Low
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Semi-frequently
  • Life span — 13 to 15 years
  • Hypoallergenic — No, but their low shedding and drooling make them a good option for owners with allergies
  • Origin — China

Chinese crested temperament and characteristics 

Many pet parents have a positive experience with Chinese crested dogs, likely due to their agreeable nature and incredible personalities. They are incredibly playful and love to be challenged, both mentally and physically. These specific types of pups love puzzle toys, mazes, and anything that can get their mind going —  needing about 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity a day due to their smaller stature.

These unique dogs are known to be loving companions, doing especially well with dog owners who have the time to give them lots of love and 1-on-1 attention to meet their mental and emotional needs.

A well-socialized Chinese crested can live comfortably with older children, as well as any other pets that their family may have.  However, it’s important to be aware that they may alert strangers, acting much larger than their small stature in an effort to keep their home and their families safe.

While many authoritative sites do note that the Chinese crested is a hypoallergenic breed due to the breed’s unique, minimal fur pattern, it’s important to note that no dog is truly hypoallergenic. While some pups may have little to no fur to trap irritating oral proteins and excessive dander, there is still an allergenic risk any time you welcome a pet into your home. Consider consulting with a veterinarian to determine if a Chinese crested dog is right for you.

Chinese crested fun facts

  • Chinese crested dogs are considered hairless. Despite the hair on their head, neck, and feet, this breed of small dog is still considered hairless — sporting silky-smooth skin  over most of the areas of its body.
  • These dogs were historically known as “ratters.” Sailors dating back to the 14th century were recorded keeping Cresties on their ship to keep the area hygienic and rodent-free.
  • They have an award-winning pedigree. This breed is known to have the most winning titles in the annual “World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.” Most have been attributed to Sam, a blind Chinese crested that has won the world over with his unique look.
A Chinese crested dog sitting outside.

Common Chinese crested health problems

Hairless Chinese crested dogs and the powderpuff variety both have relatively healthy outlooks. However, it can be helpful to be aware of any genetic health problems your pup may run into later on. This way, you can better detect possible health concerns early and prepare in advance to give your furry friend the best life possible.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy . Otherwise known as PRA, this condition affects the rods and cones in your dog’s retina — altering how they perceive color and potentially leading to blindness. Your vet may choose to treat with supplementation to reduce optical stress or treat any underlying causes, or surgery if the cause is determined to be retinal detachment.
  • Allergies. Allergies can affect dogs just like they can humans. Chinese crested dogs may be prone to them, resulting in itching, sneezing, and nasal discharge. Your vet may choose to treat with lifestyle changes or medication, if needed.
  • Skin cancer. The lack of protective fur coat on this small size breed can make them prone to skin cancer. The skin of the hairless (and even that of the powderpuff variety) can benefit from sunscreen, proper covering, preventative care, and observation, especially in the summer. Your vet can inform you regarding different treatment options, such as surgical removal, chemotherapy, or alternative supplementation.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease . This condition is considered degenerative, and occurs when the femoral head, also known as the top of the thigh bone, begins to break down. This can happen due to a reduced blood supply, or other symptoms of the condition. Your vet can address this with traction, medication, or surgery, if needed. Unfortunately, there is no genetic test to identify the condition early on, at this time.

Cost of caring for Chinese crested dogs

While Chinese crested pups are generally healthy, it’s important to plan ahead for any common problems your dog might encounter over their lifetime. Pet health insurance may be an option to help you be prepared in the event of an emergency, reducing out-of-pocket expenses and stress overall. You might even get additional benefits for signing up early!

If you’re looking for a more flexible option that still gives coverage with less restriction, you might consider starting a pet savings account. You can rest assured that your pet has the coverage they need without the processes insurance requires — which may be the best choice for owners wanting flexibility.

On average, you can expect to pay about $4,000 to $4,500 for your Crestie’s first year. This covers their purchase price, registration fees, first vet appointments and vaccines. It also covers the costs of food, toys, and anything else they need to make their start successful. After the first year, we estimate a cost of $1,000 to $1,500 annually, which covers the cost of food, toys, and annual well visits.

A Chinese crested dog cuddling with its owner.

History of the Chinese crested

The history of the Chinese crested dog is a rich one, dating back to ancient times. They are thought to originally date back to both the native Aztec and African cultures, with each group of people using similar hairless-type dogs for distinct purposes. The ancestors of the hairless Crested was known to be renowned lap dogs and bed warmers for the colder winter months — and in African culture, they were renown for their ratting abilities.

These dogs were so popular in the region that they were synonymously known as African hairless terriers. They became popular internationally too, making their way aboard Chinese trading ships as a form of free vermin control and companionship. It was during this time that the breed’s instantly-recognizable look came to be standardized, and Chinese cresteds eventually made their way to the United States in the late 1800s.

Today, they are known and loved by many pet parents, and are identified by their unique appearance and one-of-a-kind personalities.

Caring for your Chinese crested

We know — caring for a new puppy of any breed can feel completely overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help give your Crestie (and you) the best experience possible. If you’re looking for the next right step after buying your Chinese crested, we recommend taking them for their first trip to the vet to schedule any needed vaccinations. This can give your Chinese crested puppy the best experience possible as they begin to acclimate to their new home.

Speaking of home, we also recommend puppy-proofing your home well in advance to prepare for teething. This will help keep your furniture and your dog protected until you can train them not to teethe on unsafe surfaces.

Lastly, we recommend enrolling your dog in the free FidoAlert program. This service provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared, just in case they manage to get out unexpectedly.

Now that you know the next right steps for your Crestie, here’s a few other things to consider as you start to build your lives together.

Exercise

The energy needs of a Chinese crested generally match other toy breeds, only amounting to about 30 minutes to an hour per day. That might not seem like much exercise! But, while shorter than other breeds, they do have a love for exercise events, such as fetch, frisbee, going for jogs, and even dog sports like agility.. Any form of exercise that requires a mentally challenging component is also sure to please, appealing to the breed’s need for intellectual stimulation.

If you plan to take your Crestie to the dog park, as with other toy dogs, consider planning ahead or going during slower hours to avoid the risk of conflict with bigger dogs. These little dogs can definitely stand up for themselves. However, you do want to minimize the risk of any sort of injury or socialization issue.

The crested’s hairless body and sensitive, bare skin on both Chinese crested breed types requires some consideration when you plan your next playdate. If it’s muddy or rainy out, you might just want to stay in — as too frequent of a bathing schedule can cause drying, irritation, and discomfort for your pet.

A Chinese crested dog climbing a tree.

Grooming

Despite the Chinese crested’s unique appearance, you can bathe them up to once per week without risking drying their skin. While too many baths can cause drying, there is greater risk to letting dirt and debris sit on the surface of the skin for too long. If you’re planning on welcoming a Crestie into your home, be sure to account for plenty of grooming and bathing time throughout the week. To keep skin problems at bay, consider a calming oatmeal shampoo.

Distinct varieties of Chinese crestedes have different grooming needs. Coat types vary. For hairless types, you can brush their furry areas (such as their heads and ankles) every other day. However, for powderpuff types, you’ll want to commit to daily brushing to keep their undercoat from getting matted or overgrown. Due to their long, silky hair, knots can easily form — which is why daily brushing is imperative to your dog’s appearance.

We do want to reiterate that while many sources claim that Cresties are hypoallergenic, this isn’t necessarily true. No breed is truly hypoallergenic. Allergic reactions occur due to the protein found in a dog’s dander, hair, and saliva. Dogs that are considered hypoallergenic simply shed less, and thus have a smaller effect on those with dog allergies.

Diet and nutrition

Chinese crested dogs don’t require any special diets in most cases, and are known to be quite content with just about anything that’s healthy and tasty. As you choose your feed of choice, you’ll want to be sure that it covers the bases for proteins, healthy fats, and carbs — giving your pet the best nutritional profile possible. Check the label for any fillers or chemicals that could undermine your dog’s nutrition and health.

On average, your Crestie will eat anywhere from ¼ cup to 1 cup of high-quality dog food per day, spread out over two or three meals. This amount can vary, however, if you’re raising a Chinese  crested puppy or senior — or if they’re dealing with any underlying health conditions. For detailed instructions and support for feeding your pet, we recommend reaching out to your vet. They can offer you personalized recommendations based on your dog’s specific medical and nutritional needs.

Training your Chinese crested 

Chinese crested dogs are known to be trainable due to their high level of intelligence and eager-to-please personalities. They enjoy the challenges that training presents, especially when they’re with the right trainer!

We recommend starting socialization and basic training as early as possible to help your crested acclimate to other dogs or new people they might encounter out in public. Then, you can move on to mastering more advanced skills that cater to your Chinese crested’s hunger for a challenge — such as pylon mazes or other fun tricks.

Positive reinforcement is known to be especially effective with this breed, and can be done verbally or physically with treats or toys.

A Chinese crested dog training outside.

Breeds similar to the Chinese crested 

Not quite sure that a crested is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Xoloitzcuintli. These Mexican hairless dogs share ancestry with the Chinese crested, and offer gentle companionship with a slightly less-demanding grooming regimen.
  • American hairless terrier. This hairless breed is larger and heavier, and is more receptive to strangers or small children. They are often referred to as the more social counterparts to the Chinese crested.
  • Jonangi. These hairless pups hail from India, and are known for their ratting and hunting capabilities. They are larger and more energetic than a crested, offering similar companionship and temperament.

Frequently asked questions

Are Chinese crested dogs loud?

This breed is moderately vocal, and will alert you to strangers or acquaintances. They are loyal guard dogs despite their small size, using their voice as their main line of defense for their family and home.

Is it hard to housebreak a Chinese crested?

Chinese crested dogs are known to be more difficult to housebreak, despite excelling in other areas of training. As stated above, positive reinforcement and consistency are two of the best ways to help your pup master this skill.

Do Chinese crested dogs like water?

Due to their frequent bathing schedule, it is likely that Chinese crested dogs do like water. Provided the opportunity to do so safely, they may even enjoy swimming in still water with supervision.

Do Chinese crested dogs shed a lot?

Despite their long fur, these breed members are known to shed very little — which is part of the reason that many dog owners claim that they are hypoallergenic.

Do Chinese crested dogs get along well with other dogs?

Due to their social and intelligent nature, your Chinese crested will likely do well in a home with other dogs and children. Socialization and training can help you to have the best experience possible as you welcome your new dog home.