Different Types Of Japanese Dog Breeds

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According to one estimate, there are more than 300 recognized dog breeds in the world. So, it is interesting to see what dog breeds are unique to Japan. If you are interested in learning more about the different types of Japanese dog breeds, then you came to the right place.

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Read on and discover the cute, amazing, and interesting dogs Japan has contributed to the world!

Types Of Japanese Dog Breeds

Japanese dog breeds
Japanese dog breeds

Shiba Inu

Just a quick definition of terms for those who are not familiar with the Japanese language. “Inu” and “ken” are two Japanese words that refer to dogs.

Shiba Inu has become one of the most popular dog breeds in this digital age. You probably have seen how this dog became a meme and even an icon for a particular cryptocurrency.

The most noticeable physical feature of Shiba Inu is its squinty eyes, prick ears, rich coat, and curly tail. As you can just imagine, Shiba Inu is like a stuffed toy you can hug all the time.

What to love about the Shiba Inu:

  • Good family dog
  • Loyal and devoted
  • Calm and dignified

What not to love about the Shiba Inu:

  • Highly intelligent and independent, which makes it difficult to train
  • Tend to be possessive and territorial

Japanese dog breeds

Akita Inu

If you’re going to describe the Japanese dog breed Akita Inu in just one word, it would be “adorable.” With its soft and cuddly fur and cute face, anyone would surely fall in love with this dog.

Akita Inu has not always been the companion dog that we know today. For the most part of its existence, it has been used for hunting wild boars in Japan because of its strong, agile, and fairly large body. During the Edo period, these hunting dogs became fighting dogs and this continued until the Taisho era.

Now, did you know that the Akita Inu dog became suddenly popular in 1932? It is because of Hachiko, a dog whose breed belongs to Akita Inu. You probably have heard about Hachiko or even watched movies about him.

Hachiko was the Akita dog who faithfully waited for his owner in front of the Shibuya Station. Sadly, his owner has died and Hachiko was actually waiting in vain. However, his story has become so popular that a statue was made in his honor. The statue has become one of Tokyo’s popular tourist destinations.

What to love about the Akita Inu:

  • Too lovely to cuddle
  • Intelligent and loyal
  • Great guards

What not to love about the Akita Inu:

  • Large and powerful dog, which might not be a good choice for families with children
  • Prey drive may become uncontrollable when not properly trained

Japanese dog breeds

Kishu Ken

Kishu Ken or Kishu Inu is an ancient dog breed that has long populated the island of Japan. Like other dogs, it was used as a hunting dog. Today, some Japanese people have still maintained the tradition of using Kishu for hunting, but most people now would prefer to have Kishu as a family dog.

Kishu isn’t a dog for everyone, though. Because of its natural hunting instinct, you would need to be a firm and disciplined owner to properly handle this dog breed. Once you get the heart of this dog, it’s a great family dog that will protect and alert you of potential dangers.

What to love about the Kishu Ken:

  • Protective of their humans
  • Calm companion
  • Tolerate cold weather

What not to love about the Kishu Ken:

  • May not be a good choice for first-time pet parents
  • Need consistent training

Japanese dog breeds

Hokkaido Inu

Also known as Seta, Ainu-ken, Do-ken, and Ainu dog, the Hokkaido dog is native to the Hokkaido prefecture of Japan. It is best identified through its triangular, upright ears and small eyes that seem to be always squinting. 

Though Hokkaido dogs have soft fur and a short coat, they can survive cold temperatures. Because of its ability to withstand cold, coupled with its natural bravery and fidelity, it was used in 1902 to search for survivors of an Army expedition caught in a snowstorm in the Hakkoda Mountains.

While the Hokkaido dog comes with a natural prey drive, it is intelligent at the same time. Thus, they can easily be trained. Don’t be surprised if your Do-ken would howl when it is happy or excited.

What to love about the Hokkaido Inu:

  • Best to serve as a watchdog
  • Easy to groom
  • Has a high level of energy, best for people with active lifestyle

What not to love about the Hokkaido Inu:

  • Need constant exercise
  • Not idea for novice owners

Japanese dog breeds

Kai Ken

The name Kai Ken came from the place where this dog was first found — the mountains of Kai. This place is near Mt. Fuji. Kai Ken is also known as the tiger dog, Tora Inu and Kai Uni. According to researchers, Kai Ken is the oldest and purest breed in Japan. Because of their dwindling population, advocates work hard to increase their number.

Kai Ken is no doubt an affectionate and loyal dog. While a lot of families have successfully lived with Kai Ken, it can sometimes be difficult to handle especially when it is forced to live a sedentary lifestyle. It regularly needs exercise to expel its excess energy.

In 1934, because of the historical value of Kai Ken, the Japanese government declared this dog breed as a Living Natural Monument of the country. Today, the Japanese dog preservation society and other kennel club institutions work hard to replesh Kai Ken’s population.

What to love about Kai Ken:

  • Intelligent, loving and playful dog
  • Suited for dog sports and high-energy activities
  • Kid-friendly 

What not to love about Kai Ken:

  • Can become destructive around the house if not given enough exercise
  • May attack smaller pets and animals

Japanese dog breeds


The Shikoku dog was first domesticated by the Japanese hunters known as the Matagi starting in the 1700s. Sometimes, the Shikoku dogs are called Mikawa Inu or wolf dogs because of their wolf-like appearance. Shikoku dogs are ancient breeds and even in Japan, they become rarer with each passing decade.

Like other dogs, Shikoku dogs are super loyal to their humans. They also come with calm and reserved personalities. You may need to train this dog early on. Without proper training, they can be aggressive toward strangers and other dogs. Shikoku loves to show affection by snuggles, head boops and staying beside their humans.

What to love about Shikoku:

  • Brave, loyal, and courageous dog
  • Serves as a great watch dog
  • Generally have a long lifespan

What not to love about Shikoku:

  • May come with high prey drive
  • Not recommended for families with small pets and children

Japanese Spitz

Spitz is a term that refers to a small dog with a pointed nose or muzzle. So, with Japanese Spitz, you’ll get a small dog that looks like the white Pomeranians, American Eskimo Dogs, and small Samoyeds. Japanese Spitz is even more similar to German Spitz. While the similarity is striking, Japanese Spitz has a different lineage and thus, it is a completely different breed from others.

Since the Japanese Spitz is small, you won’t spend so much money on its food. It can even stay in an apartment or a small house. The best thing is that Japanese Spitz is proven to be great around children.

Some Japanese Spitz may have the “small dog syndrome.” It is when a small dog becomes more aggressive as they try to compensate for their small size. Thus, you must try your best to train this dog to become calmer and seek professional help if needed.

What to love about Japanese Spitz:

  • Charming and cuddly
  • Ideal for families of all ages and sizes
  • Friendly with other dogs

What not to love about Japanese Spitz:

  • May easily suffer from separation anxiety
  • Loud and consistent barking can be a problem

Japanese dog breeds

Japanese terrier

The most peculiar trademark of the Japanese terrier is its unique head color. You will see how its whole body is colored white and only its head has a dark color. It is as if this dog has just dunked its head into a can of black or gray paint.

Also known as the Nippon Terrier, this highly intelligent, short-haired, slim, and small dog originated in Japan. According to animal historians, the Japanese terrier came about when fox terriers were brought to the Land of the Rising Sun in the 1600s. These fox terriers were then bred with small native dogs with pointy ears. 

The breed underwent a few more changes and by the 1930s, the Japanese terriers became a unique breed that eventually became more and more popular across major cities in Japan.

What not to love about Japanese Spitz:

  • Has a high level of energy, ideal for owners who have an active lifestyle
  • Family and kid friendly
  • Highly trainable

What not to love about Japanese Spitz:

  • May trigger allergy to some people
  • Needs a high amount of exercise

Japanese dog breeds

Tosa Inu

Tosa Inu or Tosa Ken is commonly referred to as the Japanese Mastiff and for good reason. This dog is a big, powerful, and massive dog. However, it has a quiet, calm, and obedient nature.

As a mastiff, the Tosa Ken is used in Japan as a fighting dog, where it is still legal. However, Tosa has increasingly become more of a companion, watchdog, and guard dog. Because they can be alert and sensitive to noise, they serve as a great pet that will not only love you but will also protect you from danger.

Remember, tosas are used as fighting dogs. So, be sure to train and socialize them properly with other dogs. When tosas see stray dogs or animals smaller than them, they may attack and even kill them.

What to love about Tosa Inu:

  • Serves as an excellent watchdog
  • Loving and devoted to family
  • No need to intense exercise 

What not to love about Tosa Inu:

  • Need early training to ensure it socialize well with others
  • Can be aggressive to other dogs and animals

Is Japanese Chin a Japanese dog?

The Japanese Chin is among the cutest and most in-demand toy dogs around the world. With its adorable gaze, soft, fluffy fur, and playful black and white color, it is a great lap dog and companion dog for many people.

Although this dog has “Japanese” in its name, it is actually not entirely a Japanese dog. How we got the Japanese Chin is a complicated story. Some historians say that the Japanese Chin came from China while others say it’s from Korea. Some say that the Japanese Chin came to Japan as a gift to the royal family.

No matter where this dog came from, it is almost certain that it didn’t originate in Japan. However, because it became popular first in Japan, it eventually got its name, Japanese Chin.

Best dog care products

If ever you decide to get a Japanese dog, be sure that you have the right products to take care of them. You see, dogs can be independent and they don’t need much attention. However, you need the right dog care products if you wish to enjoy their company even more.

Here are some of the products you should have:

  • Dexas MudBuster – this portable dog paw washer is super effective in keeping your dog’s paws clean and dry any time. No matter where you are, perhaps, you just finished walking your Japanese dog or just want to ensure your dog is clean before he goes to bed, the Dexas MudBuster would be your right choice.

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  • URPOWER Dog Set Cover – this multi-functional cover will keep your dog comfortable while keeping your car seat clean. It is a heavy-duty seat cover that resists scratch and water effectively. 

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  • Zesty Paws supplement – this allergy immune supplement is a great way to keep your Japanese healthy and fit. It is fused with Omega 3 coming from wild Alaskan Salmon fish. It keeps your dog’s coat beautiful and healthy with its anti-itch and allergy suppressant properties.

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  • Petmate poop scooper – let’s face it: part of being a dog parent is having to clean after them. The Petmate’s product comes with an arm and hammer swivel bin, rake, poop scooper, and scented bag. This product is used on various surfaces, be it in your home or outside.

Buy it now: Amazon

A quick overview of Japanese dogs

The Japanese word for “dog” can either be inu or ken. However, inu is more commonly used. 

In Japan, there are only six dogs that are nationally recognized as true and genuine Japanese breeds. These are the Shiba Inu, Akita, Hokkaido, Kai, Shikoku, and Kisho. 

Except for the Kai Ken, you will see all these dogs to be strikingly similar, which makes it more evident that they truly originate in one place. The Kai Ken is especially different because, for many centuries, they have been isolated. Thus, they are considered to be the purest breed among the six.

Aside from the six recognized native dogs, there are also other Japanese dog breeds and we have discussed them above.

Choose the right Japanese dog breeds

Before you choose native Japanese dog breeds that you would like to be a companion, be sure to read about what people say about them, their characteristics, and temperament. 

Remember that every dog breed is different. Don’t ever commit the mistake of thinking they are the same. Some people adopt dogs based on their initial impulse and sadly abandon the dog later on after they realize they don’t like its personality.

If you need help in choosing a pet, be sure to get in touch with a professional who can guide you through your decision. You can also visit the Japan Kennel Club or American Kennel Club for more details about the Japanese indigenous dog breeds you’re interested in.

DexasDexas MudBuster Portable Dog Paw Cleaner, Large, Blue (PW720312)Check Price on Amazon
URPOWERURPOWER Dog Seat Cover Car Seat Cover for Pets 100% Waterproof Pet Seat Cover Hammock 600DCheck Price on Amazon
MalsiPreeMalsiPree Dog Water Bottle, Leak Proof Portable Puppy Water Dispenser with Drinking FeederCheck Price on Amazon
Zesty PawsZesty Paws Allergy Immune Supplement for Dogs LambCheck Price on Amazon
Arm & HammerPetmate 70067 Arm & Hammer Swivel Bin & Rake Pooper Scooper, Scented Bags includedCheck Price on Amazon

* If you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. For more details, please visit our Privacy policy page.

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