The Chinese Crested Dog is a smaller (10-13 lbs) breed of dog known for its unusual appearance and entertaining personality. It is a member of the toy dog group. Two types can be born in the same litter; the Hairless and the Powderpuff.
At first glance, the "Hairless" and "Powderpuff" varieties of Chinese Crested Dogs appear to be two different breeds, but hairlessness is a dominant trait within a single breed. The Hairless has soft, humanlike skin, as well as tufts of fur on its paws ("socks") and tail ("plume") and long, flowing hair on its head ("crest"). In addition to being a dominant gene, the "hairless" gene is lethal when homozygous. All living hairless Cresteds are therefore heterozygous for this trait.
The Hairless variety can vary in amount of body hair. Fur on the muzzle, known as a beard, is not uncommon. A true Hairless often does not have as much furnishings (hair on the head, tail, and paws); however, many of the dogs seen in the show ring are actually a "moderate" or "hairy" hairless that is shaved down. The difference between a very hairy Hairless and a Powderpuff is that the Hairless has a single coat, often with hairless parts on the body, while the Powderpuff has a thick double coat. The skin of the Hairless comes in a variety of colors, ranging from a pale flesh to black, and is often mottled. Hairless cresteds often lack a full set of teeth, but this is not considered a fault.
The Powderpuff shares the build of the Hairless variant, but in addition has a full coat of long hair. The look of the Powderpuff varies according to how it is groomed. When its fur is completely grown out on its face, it strongly resembles a terrier; however, the Powderpuff is usually shaved around the snout as a standard cut. Its fur is incredibly soft. Due to its coat type, both Powderpuff and Hairless are considered good pets for allergy sufferers.
The Chinese Crested also is distinguished by its "hare foot," which has longer toes than the "cat foot" common to most other dogs. The "quick," or vein, runs deeper into the nails, so care must be taken not to trim the nails too short.
Chinese Cresteds are affectionate, energetic and playful. They are known to be great family pets, and have endearing personalities. They are known to be great with respectful children. Some are known "singers," while others are known to "smile." They are generally happy lap dogs with candid personalities. In addition, Chinese Cresteds tend to be a "one-person" dog, spotting one particular member of the family as their "owner". Often, this person is the one who gives the dog the most safe and secure feeling, and the dog would clearly show its affection towards him/her above others in the family.
The Hairless variety can be susceptible to acne and sunburn. Maintenance of the skin is similar to maintaining human skin—moisturising cream can keep the skin from becoming too dry, and in fair-skinned Cresteds, if one lives in a warm climate where there is a lot of sun (Australia, Spain, and so on) one should apply sunscreen to the dog's skin. They are prone to poor dentition, such as missing, crowding, and decaying teeth. In addition to these issues, the Chinese Crested dog is also prone to diseases common in toy breeds, but if one is prepared to give proper maintenance, attention, and care, a Chinese Crested can, barring accident or illness, live up to fifteen years.
Though possibly associated with China since the 13th century, some believe the Hairless mutation originated in Africa, and others believe it may be a cross of the Chihuahua and Mexican Hairless Dog, which it resembles. It is sometimes said that this breed (among others, such as the Rhodesian Ridgeback) belongs to a different species from most dogs, namely Canis africanus; but it is not firmly established either that such a species exists or that the Chinese Crested originated in Africa. It is also possible that this dog originated from two breeds of dogs, one coming from Africa, one from China.
Although there is an anecdotal history of hairless dogs in many seaports (apart from the hairlessness, it is unclear how closely these dogs resemble the modern Chinese Crested), European visitors in the 1700s remarked in particular on hairless dogs in Chinese port cities, as well as dogs owned by Chinese sailors plying the African trade route. Paintings of the breed (and later, photographs) reached Europe in the 1800s.
Early Chinese Cresteds may have been valued as ratters (ratcatchers), both on ships and in agricultural communities, though such traits are rarely evident in the breed today. The breed has also been called the Chinese Edible Dog, the Chinese Hairless Dog, the Chinese Ship Dog and the Chinese Royal Dog.
The American burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970) owned a number of Chinese Cresteds, and helped create a popular awareness of the unusual breed.
The Hairless allele (the wild type) is a dominant (and homozygous lethal) trait, while the Powderpuff allele acts as a simple recessive trait in its presence. Embryos that receive two copies of the Hairless allele will never develop into puppies. Thus all Chinese crested carry at least one copy of the Powderpuff allele.
The Powderpuff trait cannot be bred out because it is carried by all Chinese Cresteds (even the hairless ones). All Hairless Chinese Crested have the ability to produce Powderpuff puppies, even when they are bred to another Hairless.