The Chinese Crested Dog is a smaller (10–13 lbs) hairless breed of dog. Like most hairless dog breeds, the Chinese Crested comes in two varieties, both with and without fur, which are 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 an incomplete 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 an incomplete dominant gene, the "hairless" gene has a prenatal lethal effect when homozygous. Zygotes affected with double hairless genes (1 in 4) never develop into puppies, and are reabsorbed in the womb. All hairless Cresteds are therefore heterozygous.
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.
The amount of body hair on the hairless variety varies quite extensively, from the true hairless which has very little or no body hair and furnishings, to what is called a 'hairy hairless', which if left ungroomed often grows a near-full coat of hair. These hairy hairless are not a mix between powderpuffs and hairless Chinese Cresteds, but are merely a result of a weaker expression of the variable Hairless gene. The mutation responsible for the hairless trait was identified in 2008.
One famous Chinese Crested dog was the hairless purebred named Sam, was the winner of the World's Ugliest Dog Contest from 2003 to 2005. He died before he could compete in 2006. Other Chinese Cresteds have finished high in the event as well.
Both varieties require certain amounts of grooming. The Puffs have a very soft and fine double coat that requires frequent brushing to avoid matting. Although a Puff's coat does not continuously grow like that of some other breeds, it can grow to be quite long at full length. This breed has little to no shedding.
Maintenance of the Hairless variety's skin is similar to maintaining human skin—and as such it can be susceptible to acne, dryness, and sunburn. Hypoallergenic or oil-free moisturizing cream can keep the skin from becoming too dry when applied every other day or after bathing. Burning can occur in regions that lend themselves to strong UV-rays, especially in lighter-skinned dogs. Many owners apply baby sunscreen to their pets before spending time in strong sun. Some Cresteds have skin allergies to Lanolin, so be cautious when using any products that contain it.
Unless the dog is a "True" Hairless (one with virtually no hair growth on non-extremities), trimming and/or shaving is often performed to remove stubble growth.
The Chinese Crested is further distinguished by its hare foot, (having more elongated toes) as opposed to the cat foot common to most other dogs. Because of this the quicks of Cresteds run deeper into their nails, so care must be taken not to trim the nails too short to avoid pain and bleeding.
The crested is not affected by many of the congenital diseases found in toy breeds. They are, however, prone to some of the conditions below.
Eyes are a concern within the breed, having at least two forms of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which can eventually lead to blindness. For one of these forms of PRA, there exists a genetic test, prcd-PRA. Since this test can only reveal the existence of affected or carrier status of this one form of PRA, breeders and owners of the breed should still have regular eye exams by veterinary ophthalmologists.
Along with Kerry Blue Terriers, Cresteds can develop canine multiple system degeneration (CMSD) also called progressive neuronal abiotrophy (PNA) in Kerry Blue Terriers. This is a progressive movement disorder that begins with cerebellar ataxia between 10 and 14 weeks of age. After 6 months of age, affected dogs develop difficulty initiating movements and fall frequently. The gene responsible has been mapped to canine chromosome 1.
As with all other toy breeds, the Cresteds can be prone to patellar luxation. This inheritable condition is caused by shallow knee joints (stifles) and results in kneecaps that pop out of place. Its onset is often at a young age, and can cause temporary to permanent lameness based on the severity. Breeders should have their stock certified free of patellar luxation. Many countries' kennel clubs maintain a centralised registry for health results.
Allergy and autoimmune diseases have been observed in the breed. The severity of these ailments, which can lead to the premature death of the dog, means this is something breeders need to take seriously in order to avoid this becoming a problem for the breed.
The lifespan of a Chinese Crested Dog can be quite impressive. Many well-cared-for Cresteds live to see 15 years or more.
Although hairless dogs have been found in many places in the world, it is unlikely that the origins of the modern Chinese Crested are in China. In the 1920s, Debora Wood created the "Crest Haven" kennel and began to purposefully breed and record the lineages of her Chinese Crested dogs. Crest Haven dogs were the true foundation of every Chinese Crested alive today. Ms. Wood also founded the American Hairless Dog Club in 1959, which was eventually incorporated into the American Chinese Crested Club (ACCC) in 1978. The ACCC became the U.S. parent club for the breed when the Chinese Crested was recognized by the American Kennel Club thirteen years later, in 1991.
The Chinese Crested was officially recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1987, by The Kennel Club (UK) in 1981, by the American Kennel Club in 1991, and by the Australian National Kennel Council in 1995.
The Chinese Crested breed, either in purebred form or as a hybrid with chihuahua, has won eight World's Ugliest Dog Contests.
The Hairless allele (the wild type) is a dominant (and homozygous prenatal lethal) trait, while the Powderpuff allele acts as a simple recessive trait in its presence. Zygotes that receive two copies of the Hairless allele will never develop into puppies. Thus all Chinese Cresteds 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. On the other hand, Powderpuffs bred to another Powderpuff can never produce hairless puppies, since they do not carry the Hairless gene.