You’ve seen them before. They are small dogs, usually almost bald, with a tuft of hair at the top of their heads and sometimes on their tails. Their skin is often mottled, sometimes almost purple in color, occasionally with spots like a Dalmatian or an Appaloosa horse. The dog is usually small enough to be carried by a person. And almost always, their tongue is hanging out the side of their mouth. Sometimes, just a little bit, it is like the dog is doing a Gene Simmons impression. You often see these dogs at an Ugly Dog Contest, where they are obviously strong competitors. If the Crypt Keeper had a dog, he would favor this breed, the Chinese Crested dog. So ugly, and yet so cute.
The Root of the Behavior
The Chinese Crested dog is a toy breed dog, believed to have descended from Africa. Chinese Crested dogs naturally have some hair; usually at the top of the head, where it’s called the crest; on the tail, where it’s called the plume, and on the bottoms of their legs; where it’s called socks. There is a recessive gene that causes the dog to have a double-coat of thin, silky hair. This variant is called the powderpuff. The same gene that causes a Chinese Crested to be largely hairless also causes the dog to have weak teeth. Weak teeth are often a problem in toy dog breeds. In toy breeds, the lower jaw tends to grow faster than the upper jaw, leading to an underbite. Additionally, toy breed dogs tend not to lose their baby teeth efficiently, or even at all, which can lead to jaw crowding. When the baby teeth don’t come out of a dog’s jaw, the adult teeth can come in crooked, almost horizontal, setting the stage for future tooth problems.
Chinese Crested dogs of the hairless variety have “primitive mouths,” which means that most of their teeth are pointed, like a wolf, and don’t have strong root structure. Breeders and fans of the breed often refer to the dogs as having “tusks” rather than teeth. When added to the natural dental problems toy breeds have, the stage is set for dental disaster. Hairless Chinese Crested are particularly likely to lose teeth, beginning at a young age. This leads to the tongue lolling that is so specific to the breed that the AKC doesn’t fault it in the hairless variety when it comes to dog shows. It can be alarming to see a dog unable to keep her tongue in her mouth. And let’s face it, the Chinese Crested is kind of alarming looking anyway. But the loss of the teeth is more of an aesthetic concern than a health concern.
Encouraging the Behavior
Of course, just because your Chinese Crested is likely to lose her teeth at an early age doesn’t mean you should just accept it. Although the loss of your dog’s teeth looks worse than it usually is, dental problems are painful for anyone. Make sure that you are keeping an eye on your dog’s teeth. You should start early brushing your dog’s teeth so she gets used to it from a young age. Plan on brushing your dog’s teeth after she’s had some good exercise, so she’ll be more likely to sit still for the treatment. Make sure that you are using a toothbrush for dogs, and be sure NOT to use human toothpaste. Toothpaste for people usually has fluoride, which is poisonous for dogs.
Another thing you can do for your dog’s teeth is to serve her dry food. Crunchy kibble is better for your dog’s teeth and gums because it does not stick to the teeth the way wet food can. When food stays on the teeth and gums, it can lead to decay, which will make your dog lose her teeth faster and may make her sick as well. You can also give your dog appropriately sized chew bones and chew toys, which will help keep her mouth clean and also strengthen her jaw. Whatever you do at home, make sure that your dog gets regular dental exams. You may not be able to save her teeth, but you can make sure that she doesn’t get sick.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Chinese Crested dogs may look like they’re sick, but they are actually quite healthy. They do tend to have problems with progressive blindness and the same patellar luxation that other toy breeds have, but in general, this is a healthy breed. However, people that don’t know you or your dog may make assumptions about her health. The Chinese Crested dog looks weird, and that gets attention. And, let’s face it, people can be jerks. If and when it comes up, just smile and take their ignorant comments with good nature, and try to take the opportunity for some education. Remember, beauty is only skin deep, but stupid goes down to the bone.
Chinese Crested dogs are affectionate, small, and lively. They are great for small spaces, like apartments, as their exercise needs can be met relatively easily, with walks and indoor play. A Chinese Crested tends to bond tightly to one member of the family, and seems to live to snuggle, although whether this urge comes from affection or heat seeking behavior is debatable. What’s not debatable is that while your dog may look a little scary, inside she is all love.