12 Japanese Dog Breeds: Which One Will Forever Melt Your Heart?

I‘ve always been fascinated by the history and origin of dog breeds, especially ones that are extremely rare.

And one place where the dogs caught my attention was Japan.

Some of the Japanese dog breeds, like the Akita, have grown popular across the world and in the United States, while others are still quite rare and only found in Japan.

The Japanese treasure many of these rare breeds that they have officially been listed as “National Treasures“.

Which Japanese dogs make the list? Today we will find out as we dive into the top 13 Japanese dog breeds list.

As we countdown through the top 13 Japanese dogs, we will talk about the Shikoku dog, the Hokkaido dog, the Japanese Spitz, and other dogs that are native to Japan.

For each dog breed, we will discuss the overall appearance, the personality and temperament, and the grooming needs of the breed.

We will also talk briefly about any health conditions associated with the breed, as well as the history of the breed, and any fun facts about the breed.

I have a lot of information to share, so without further ado, let’s get started:

~ TABLE OF CONTENTS ~

1) Akita (秋田犬 Akita-Inu)Akita Inu resting on white background

Description:

Akita’s are large, heavy dogs with imposing stature.

They stand anywhere between 24-28 inches tall at the shoulder and have a large weight range of anywhere between 70-130 pounds.

The Akita has a thick, dense coat that comes in a variety of different colors, including black, chocolate, brindle, white, or a combination of the colors.

The Akita dog breed has a massive head with ears that stand erect. They are often described as large, powerful, and alert.

Personality And Temperament:

Akita dog breed Infographic

Akita Dog Breed Infographic

Of all the dogs on the top 13 Japanese dog breeds list, the Akita is one of the most intelligent and independent.

The breed is extremely loyal to their family but may be slightly wary of strangers.

They enjoy the companionship of their family and are extremely loving and playful with those that they are closest to. With that being said, the Akita is not a “play well with others” type of dog.

Due to their “possible aggression” towards other pets like cats and other dogs, they are best suited when they are the only dog in the household.

And though the Akita is extremely loving to its family, it is very strong-willed. In return, they are recommended for people who can take on the role of pack leader, and are not recommended for the first time, timid dog owners.

The Akita is extremely intelligent, but due to their stubborn nature and strong will, can only be trained by those who are loving, but firm, consistent, and patient.

They require socialization from an early age and need a lot of exercises to keep them from becoming destructive.

Grooming:

The Akita has a double coat that is short on top, but dense and plush underneath. While the grooming needs of the Akita breed are not extremely intense, they are known to shed a lot.

Weekly brushing can help to limit shedding, but if you choose this breed, expect to do a lot of vacuuming, especially during heavier sheds which occur 2-3 times per year.

Akita’s are generally known as self-cleaners and do most of their bathing.

With that being said, bathing is necessary every few months to keep up a shiny, clean coat. Nails should be trimmed once a month, and ears should be cleaned weekly.

Common Diseases And Conditions:

Japanese dogs like the Akita are generally considered to be relatively healthy but are more prone to some conditions than others.

Two of the most common diseases associated with the breed are Hip Dysplasia and Hypothyroidism:

  • Hip Dysplasia:

Symptoms: Hip Dysplasia is a condition that occurs when a dog’s thighbone doesn’t fit into the hip joint properly.

While there are environmental factors that can progress or worsen the condition, it’s generally thought to be genetic.

Dogs with mild forms of hip dysplasia may not show a lot of symptoms. As the disease progresses, a dog may have difficulty doing regular physical activities like jumping, running, or climbing stairs.

Dogs with hip dysplasia may also limp in the back end, display a decreased range of motion, or reduce their activity levels significantly and altogether.

Diagnosis: A veterinarian who is diagnosing hip dysplasia will begin with a routine physical exam.

If the dog shows signs of dysplasia, further physical tests may be conducted to determine the looseness of the dog’s joints, as well as their overall range of motion.

If after further examination hip dysplasia is still suspected, X-rays will be given to determine the progression and severity of the disease.

Treatment: Treatment for hip dysplasia can vary from lifestyle changes to surgery, depending on the progression and severity of the condition.

In less severe cases, environmental factors like dietary routine and exercise routine may be necessary.

Anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed for dogs suffering more mild forms of hip dysplasia.

For those with more progressed symptoms, a variety of surgical options may be discussed with your veterinarian.

  • Hypothyroidism:

Symptoms: The thyroid gland, located in the neck, is responsible for producing a hormone called Thyroxine.

This hormone controls the metabolism, but when the thyroid doesn’t work properly, it can be over or under-produced.

When Thyroxine is under-produced, a condition known as Hypothyroidism develops.

Hypothyroidism can lead to a variety of symptoms, including loss of fur, flaky skin, decreased appetite, weight gain, muscle loss, and sluggishness.

Diagnosis: Veterinarians use a series of blood tests to confirm whether hypothyroidism is present.

Treatment: Those on the Japanese dog breeds list that are affected with hypothyroidism are treated with a replacement hormone.

The dog generally starts with two replacement hormones per day and then weans their way down to one per day.

Dosages are fine-tuned based upon ongoing blood tests, but the dog will be required to take hormones for the remainder of their lives.

History:

The Akita is believed to have originated in the Northern Japanese Province of Akita, which is where they derived their name.

Their origins date back to the 1600s when patrons were encouraged to compete in breeding a dog that was large, versatile, and an excellent hunter.

After generations of selective breeding, the Akita was introduced. Not only was the breed used for hunting large game like bear, deer, and wild boar, but they were often a popular choice for royalty, who regularly used them as guard dogs.

Various times throughout history, however, the breed teetered on extinction. To ensure that this did not happen, a National Breed club was formed in 1927 in Japan to protect breeds like the Akita.

Today the Akita is a thriving breed, and is not only popular in Japan, but also around the world.

Akita Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • The first Akita brought to the United States was brought by the one and only Helen Keller, who received the dog as a gift while visiting Japan.
  • When a child is born in Japan, the parents are given a figurine of an Akita, which represents a long life full of health and happiness.
  • Hachikō (ハチ公, November 10, 1923 – March 8, 1935) was a Japanese Akita dog remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno (上野 英三郎 Ueno Hidesaburō), for whom he continued to wait for over nine years following Ueno’s death.[2]

  • An Akita was once used in the London zoo to help raise a tiger cub. Zookeepers needed help and knew that the Akita would not be frightened by the tiger, and could provide protection, play, companionship, and loyalty. The Akita fulfilled it’s role and retired from the job once the tiger reached adulthood.

2) Hokkaido Dog (北海道犬 Hokkaidō-Inu or Hokkaidō-ken)

Hokkaido dog breed on the grass

Description:

In terms of Japanese dogs, the Hokkaido dog is considered to be a medium-size dog with a strong build.

The Hokkaido dog ranges anywhere from 18-22 inches in height and weighs anywhere between 45-65 pounds.

The Hokkaido dogs are a type of Japanese Spitz-type breed with a broad head and a wedge-shaped muzzle. They have small triangular ears that are always erect.

The Hokkaido dog breed has a harsh, straight, double coat of fur that can be a variety of different colors, including black, white, red, brindle, tan, or even sesame.

They have a curly, high set tail that curves over their back, and are known to carry themselves with dignity and pride.

Personality And Temperament:

The Hokkaido dog is most popularly known for its extreme loyalty.

The Hokkaido dog breed is one of the most loyal dogs that you can own, and once you have earned its respect, it will be devoted for life.

The breed is also considered to be brave and fierce and makes an excellent guard dog. Because Hokkaido’s have such strong personality characteristics, they demand owners with strong leadership skills.

Hokkaido dogs do tolerate children if raised with them from a young age, but due to their potential power, should never be left unsupervised.

Similarly, Hokkaido dogs may tolerate other dogs if they have been raised together, but may not respond as well to new arrivals.

The exact temperament of the dog will depend on the lineage, as well as how they are brought up by the owner.

Grooming:

The Hokkaido dog does pretty well at managing themselves, so not a lot of grooming is required.

The breed has a variety of natural oils on their skin that helps to keep their coat clean throughout the year.

The coat does not need to be trimmed but should be brushed regularly to remove dead fur.

These dogs have a double layer of fur which they shed twice each year. Additional bathing and brushing may be necessary during this time to cut down on the amount of fur being shed.

Common Diseases And Conditions:

The Hokkaido dog has a longer average lifespan of between 12-15 years.

Like many breeds on the Japanese dog breeds list, however, they are prone to certain hereditary diseases and conditions.

Like the Akita, Hip Dysplasia is not uncommon. Collie Eye Anomaly and idiopathic seizures may also present themselves in this breed:

  • Collie Eye Anomaly:

Symptoms: Sometimes referred to as Collie Eye Defect, Collie Eye Anomaly is a condition that occurs when there is a mutation in the chromosomes that affect eye development.

This is an inherited condition that affects both eyes and can result in more severe defects like retinal detachment.

The disease progresses through several different stages, and symptoms may not become present until the disease has brought upon the onset of blindness.

With that being said, there are some physical indicators that you can look for including microphthalmia (when the eyeballs are smaller than usual), enophthalmia (where eyeballs are sunken in), or mineralization (where there is an evident cloud over the eye).

Diagnosis: In most cases, Collie Eye Anomaly is not diagnosed until the dog’s vision is affected.

With that being said, the condition is diagnosed with an eye examination wherein the veterinarian evaluates the retina located at the back of the eye.

Because Collie Eye Anomaly is not usually recognized or noticed until the disease has progressed until near blindness, it’s always recommended that you have your dog examined as a puppy, within the first 6-8 weeks of life.

Treatment: Unfortunately, there is no current treatment for Collie Eye Anomaly.

With that being said, if upon examination the veterinarian finds a hole in the structure of the eye (called “coloboma“) due to the condition, laser surgery may be necessary to prevent further damage like retinal detachment.

  • Idiopathic Seizures:

Symptoms: Seizures are something that can be experienced by both humans and animals, and can fall into one of two categories: generalized or partial.

Generalized seizures typically involve jerking of multiple limbs, along with a loss of consciousness. Partial seizures only involve one limb, the side of the body, or the face.

Partial seizures can progress into generalized seizures. When seizures are recurrent, they are referred to as “epilepsy”.

There are a number of things that can cause seizures, but most Hokkaido’s have a type of epilepsy known as “idiopathic”. This means that there is no underlying cause that can be identified.

There are three different phases of a seizure, through which a dog will experience different symptoms in each.

In the aural phase, your dog may show signs of restlessness, anxiousness, or other changes in behavior.

The ictal phase is when the actual seizure occurs, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

In the final phase, once the seizure is over (the postictal phase), the dog may be restless or can become temporarily blind, deaf, disoriented, or uncoordinated.

Diagnosis: If your dog has had a seizure, the veterinarian will conduct a complete physical and neurological exam to determine the cause.

These tests may include a series of chemistry tests, blood tests, or serology tests. A neurologist may also be referred to conduct advanced testing like cerebrospinal fluid analysis and MRI analysis.

Together these tests can show if there are any infections, conditions, parasites, or infectious diseases that may be causing the seizures. If no conclusive results are found, the condition may be labeled as idiopathic.

Treatment: Unfortunately, there is no treatment for idiopathic seizures. With that being said, one or more medications may be subscribed to help manage the condition.

Two commonly prescribed medications include Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide.

Dogs who experience idiopathic seizures usually require a life-long treatment plan. They will need to have regular blood count and blood chemistry tests to examine appropriate medication levels continuously.

History:

Of all the six native Japanese Spitz breeds, the Hokkaido dog is the oldest.

The breed is thought to be over 1000 years old and believed to descend from another breed of dog known as the Matagi-gen.

Traditionally this breed was well hidden from the rest of the world and was revered by the Japanese for its fearless and aggressive hunting abilities.

Aside from hunting larger game like bear, the Hokkaido were also trained to snatch fish out of streams.

In more recent years, the Hokkaido breed has become treasured as a loving pet and guard dog but has also been used to aid in search and rescue missions.

The dog was originally referred to as the “Ainu“, but officially became known as the Hokkaido dog in 2008.

They are accessible on the Japanese dog breeds list but are rarely seen outside of Japan.

Hokkaido Dog Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • The Hokkaido dog was kept well hidden from the rest of the world (outside of Japan) until 1869 when British Zoologist, Thomas Blankiston discovered the breed
  • In 1937 the Hokkaido dog was officially listed as a National Monument
  • The most famous Hokkaido dog went by the name of “Otousan” and appeared in a variety of advertising campaigns for SoftBank in Japan

3) Japanese Spitz (日本スピッツ Nihon Supittsu)

Japanese spitz running in the grassy park

 Description:

If you’re looking for a small Japanese dog, the Japanese Spitz may be for you.

Standing only 10-16 inches tall and weighing only 11-20 pounds, the Spitz is quite small and is commonly compared to the white Pomeranian.

They have small, triangular-shaped ears that stand erect, and a long tail that curls over onto the dogs back. Their jet black eyes, noes, and footpads deeply contrast with their fur, which is pure white and very thick.

 Temperament and Personality:

The Japanese Spitz dog is revered for having an excellent temperament.

They are a smart and loyal breed that have playful spirits and make excellent family companions.

They are good with children and will bark to protect the family until reassured by their owner that everything is okay.

The Spitz breed is extremely intelligent, and therefore quite easy to train. While they don’t require a lot of exercises, Spitz dogs do like to play.

They play well with other dogs and love to run in places like the dog park. More than anything, though, the Spitz wants to be a part of the family.

They are an incredibly loving and affectionate breed that are both loyal and protective of the ones they love. Strangers should be introduced cautiously.

Grooming:

Despite their pure white coats, the Japanese small dog Spitz breed does not require a lot of maintenance.

The texture of their coat usually repels most dirt and debris; therefore, they do not require regular bathing.

In fact, frequent bathing can remove some of the natural oils on the hair and can cause dryness and itchiness.

With that being said, their double coat of fur is thick and is subject to mats and knots.

Special undercoat brushes should be used at least twice a week to prevent knotting and matting. This will also help to reduce the amount of shedding throughout the year.

Common Diseases and Conditions:

For a small Japanese dog, the Spitz is considered to be a very healthy breed with very few health concerns.

With that being said, their skin may become itchy if they are bathed too often, and they may experience runny eyes from time to time.

In terms of more severe conditions, the Spitz is not prone to many. Having said that, they do run the risk of luxating patellas:

  • Luxating Patellas:

Symptoms: A luxating patella occurs when a dogs patella (kneecap) becomes dislocated.

Of all knee joint abnormalities in dogs, luxating patellas are the most common. It’s most commonly associated with smaller breeds, and females are more than twice as likely to develop the condition over males.

Symptoms of the condition will depend on the severity and persistence. With that being said, dogs with luxating patellas will often old their hind legs up for a few minutes, or display skipping, limping, or other abnormal movements.

Diagnosis: There are a variety of different tests that may be used to diagnose a dislocated kneecaps.

Veterinarians may perform physical examinations, x-rays, or fluid samples to analyze the presence and severity of the condition.

Treatment: There are a variety of different treatment options available for Japanese dogs with Luxating Patellas.

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Common surgery options for luxating patellas include realignment surgery, surgery to deepen the Trochlea groove or Femoral osteotomy surgery.

For less severe cases, veterinarians may recommend supplements, physical manipulation, knee braces, or a combination of the three.

History :

The Japanese Spitz originated from Chinese dog breeds like the German Spitz that were brought to Japan in 1920.

In 1925, more Spitz dogs were brought from Canada and around the world and were crossbred until the small, furry, white Spitz that we know today was created.

After World War 2 the standards of the breed were finalized, and the Spitz became recognized by the Japan Kennel Club.

Soon after that, this breed was exported and recognized by Kennel Clubs around the world.

With that being said, the American Kennel Club is an exception and does not recognize the Spitz as a breed of dog. This is mostly due to its strong resemblance to the American Eskimo dog.

In return, Spitz puppies cannot be recognized as pedigrees in the US. Smaller clubs like the American Canine Registry and the Dog Registry of America do recognize that the Spitz is a breed of its own.

Japanese Spitz Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • Japanese Spitz dogs are fearless protectors and have a bark much louder than you might expect from a dog their size.

4) Japanese Terrier (日本テリア Nihon Teria)

 Description:

The Terrier is a Japanese small terrier dog that stands approximately 8-13 inches in height and weighs only between 5-9 pounds.

Despite its size, the breed is well balanced and sturdy. The tail of the Japanese Terrier is thin and medium to long, though depending on where the Terrier is born, it may be completely docked.

The Terriers ears do flop forward but will stand erect when the dog is alert.

They have a short, smooth, dense, and glossy coat, and usually, have darker hair on the top of their head than on the rest of their body. The body of the Terrier is usually white, or white with black or tan spots.

Temperament And Personality:

The Japanese Terrier is a lap dog. They crave attention and love nothing more than being loved and cuddled by their family.

Because the Terrier does crave so much attention, they can also become quite jealous when another person or animal takes attention away from them.

With that being said, they are also an extremely intelligent breed with a lot of energy to spare. Terriers require a lot of exercise and room to run.

Because they are so small, they can make great apartment dogs but do require regular walks and playtime to tire them out.

Grooming:

The Japanese Terrier has very short fur and thereby does not require a lot of grooming.

With that being said, they are considered to be moderate shedders, and daily brushings can help to keep down on the amount of fur loss.

Because their fur is so slick and thin, you can also use a damp cloth to remove any dirt or loose hairs.

They should only be bathed a few times per year; otherwise the natural oils on their skin will be stripped away, and an itchiness could become an issue.

Common Diseases And Conditions:

Japanese dogs like the Terrier don’t have any major health concerns. Minor concerns include ear infections, eye irritations, and Patellar Luxation:

  • Luxating Patellas:

Symptoms: A luxating patella occurs when a dogs patella (kneecap) becomes dislocated.

Of all knee joint abnormalities in dogs, luxating patellas are the most common.

It’s most commonly associated with smaller breeds, and females are more than twice as likely to develop the condition over males.

Symptoms of the condition will depend on the severity and persistence. With that being said, dogs with luxating patellas will often old their hind legs up for a few minutes, or display skipping, limping, or other abnormal movements.

Diagnosis: There are a variety of different tests that may be used to diagnose a dislocated kneecaps.

Veterinarians may perform physical examinations, x-rays, or fluid samples to analyze the presence and severity of the condition.

Treatment: There are a variety of different treatment options available for Japanese dogs with Luxating Patellas.

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Conventional surgery options for luxating patellas include realignment surgery, surgery to deepen the Trochlea groove, or Femoral osteotomy surgery.

For less severe cases, veterinarians may recommend supplements, physical manipulation, knee braces, or a combination of the three.

  • Ear Infections:

Symptoms: When speaking about the Japanese dog breeds list, ear infections are common.

The structure of a dogs ear canal is more vertical than that of a humans ear canal and tends to hold in the fluid.

This puts dogs at increased risk of ear infection, which can be caused by a number of things including bacterial buildup, yeast, fungus, or moisture buildup, viruses, mites, allergies, autoimmune diseases, and injury (to name just a few).

If your dog has an ear infection, symptoms will be quite noticeable. Common symptoms include head shaking, abnormal odor, whining, pawing at the infected ear, discharge, redness, swelling, and itchiness.

Diagnosis: If your dog is showing signs of ear infection, it is important to visit the veterinarian as soon as possible, as they are probably experiencing discomfort.

You also want to catch the condition early, as to prevent it from spreading to the middle or inner ear where it can cause further problems.

To diagnose, the vet will ask you a series of questions related to the symptoms and duration of symptoms.

They will also conduct a physical examination which, depending on the severity of the ear infection, may require sedation to prevent causing any pain. For extreme or chronic cases, x-rays or biopsies may also be necessary.

Treatment: Ear infections are treated using antibiotics and topical medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

Depending on the severity of the infection, pain medications and steroids may be suggested to ease pain and reduce inflammation.

Less severe ear infections can usually be resolved within 10-30 days, but more severe conditions may take longer. In some situations the infection may be chronic and will require lifelong treatment.

History:

The history of the Japanese Terrier dates back to the 1600s where it was believed that dogs brought over by sailors.

The Smooth Fox Terrier and the German Pinscher, were bred with local Japanese dogs to create the Terrier we know and love today.

The love of the Terrier quickly spread throughout Japan, and it became a popular lap dog for families everywhere.

The breed officially became recognized by the Japanese Kennel Club in 1930, but when dog breeding came to a halt in World War 2, the number of Terriers in existence drastically decreased.

And while numbers have increased since then, the Terrier is still a rare breed in Japan, and even rarer around the rest of the world.

Japanese Terrier Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • The Japanese Terrier, at one point in time, may have been used to hunt small prey
  • There are very few Japanese Terriers in existence outside of Japan, though it was recognized as a breed by the United Kennel Club in 2006.
  • Japanese Terriers love chasing squirrels.

5) Kai Ken (甲斐犬, Tora Inu or Tiger Dog)

Kai Ken dog breed standing on white background

Description:

The Kai Ken is a mid-sized dog that stands approximately 17-20 inches tall and weighs anywhere between 25-55 pounds.

The breed has a strong stance and muscular legs, along with a large head and tapered muzzle.

The breed is most commonly known for their unique, patched/fur, which usually starts black as a puppy, and then gradually turns to a brindle.

Their fur is often said to resemble “tiger stripes“.

The Kai Ken has triangular ears that stand erect, and that are often seen as disproportionate to the rest of their body. Their tails are long, feathery, and known to curve around.

Personality And Temperament:

The Kai Ken makes an excellent guard dog and is seen as a natural hunter.

They are more on the reserved end of things, and though they are very loving and friendly with familiar faces, may be skeptical of strangers.

The Kai Ken is a devoted family dog and is very affectionate to their loved ones.

While they are affectionate to all family members, they tend to form a more intense bond with one specific member of the family.

The Kai Ken is very protective, but rarely aggressive. Training requires a strong, dominant owner, as the Kai Ken can be dominant and stubborn, and needs a pack leader to train them.

While they are friendly with other dogs, they should be socialized at a young age to ensure that aggression does not arise.

Grooming:

The Kai Ken has a medium-length, double coat of fur, but only requires minimal grooming.

Because they do have an undercoat, they will shed heavily twice per year. Regular brushing is required to minimize fur loss and to prevent the undercoat from matting.

The Kai Ken does require occasional bathing, but for the most part, are pretty good at keeping themselves clean.

Common Diseases And Conditions:

There are no major or minor concerns that are regularly associated with the Kai Ken breed.

With that being said, regular blood tests, eye tests, and physical examinations should be completed to ensure that the dog doesn’t develop any health conditions as they age. The breed has a considerably long lifespan of between 14-16 years.

History:

When it comes to Japanese dogs, the Kai Ken is a newer breed.

It wasn’t discovered until 1929, where it was found in the mountainous regions of the Kai Province. At the time, the breed was regularly used for hunting game, both small and large.

While it isn’t definitive, many believe that the first Kai Kens brought to the US were done so by servicemen in the military. The next known arrival of the breed in the US was not until 1990.

Today the breed is rare in the United States but is regarded very highly by the Japanese.

They are regarded in Japan as a National Treasure and are described as loyal protectors who would lie their lives down for their master.

Kai Ken Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • Because of the brindle color and stripes, the Kai Ken is often referred to as the “Tiger Dog” in Japan
  • The Kai Ken is often thought to be the purest of all the Japanese dog breeds.
  • The AKC does not yet recognize the Kai Ken. They will be fully accepted once their numbers reach 150 in the US.

6) Kishu Dog (紀州犬 Kishū-Inu)

Description:

The Kishu makes the Japanese dog breeds list as a mid-sized dog.

They weigh in at anywhere between 30-60 pounds and stand between 17-22 inches tall.

The Kishu breed bears a very strong resemblance to the Hokkaido dog but is slightly more muscular. They have a short, but thick double coat of hair that can vary in length depending on the climate in which they live.

The most common coloring for a Kishu is white, but they may also be seen in shades of red or sesame.

The Kishu has small ears that stand erect, and a thick brushy tail that is usually curved or curled under.

 Personality and Temperament:

In Japan, the Kishu is most well known for its excellent hunting capabilities.

The breed is extremely agile, brave, determined, and dominant, each of which makes it an excellent hunter. With that being said, the Kishu also makes an excellent family dog.

The breed is strong and protective when needed, but is most often gentle, calm, and eager to the please their owner.

Like the Kai Ken Japanese small dog, the Kishu will bond most strongly with one particular member of the family.

Having said that, they will show love and affection to anyone in the family who so welcomes it – including children.

For children, the Kishu can make an excellent playmate but needs to be socialized with them at an early age.

Because the Kai Ken is a dominant breed and strives to the leader of the pack, they may see small children as lower-ranked members, and make act intolerant towards them if not properly socialized.

In terms of other animals, the Kishu is best when they are the only pet in the house. Kishu’s are natural hunters and can be extremely impulsive.

They should never be left alone with smaller animals like cats, rabbits, or hamsters. Because they are a dominant breed, they may become aggressive towards other dogs, especially of the same sex.

Grooming:

The Kishu has a short, but thick double coat of fur. The topcoat is straight and rough, while the undercoat is softer and denser.

Because they have two layers of fur, they may shed more than expected for a short fur dog.

Aside from regular brushing, the Kishu doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. An occasional bath will be more than enough to keep a Kishu clean.

Common Diseases And Conditions:

Because the genetic pool of the Kishu is intact and pure, the breed does not have a lot of health concerns.

With that being said, they are not immune to everything, and the most common conditions associated with the breed are Entropion and Hypothyroidism:

  • Entropion:

Symptoms: Entropion is a condition that occurs when a portion of the eyelid is inverted and is passed on through genetics.

While there are no significant health risks associated with Entropion, it can lead to eye irritation. If not resolved, it can also lead to more serious health concerns such as perforations and ulcerations.

Over time, the dog can develop scar tissue on the eye, and lose vision partially or completely. Symptoms of Entropion include excess tearing, inflammation of the inner eye, and discharge in the corner of the eye.

Diagnosis: While Entropion is relatively easy to diagnose, it does run the risk of being confused with other eye conditions.

If Entropion is suspected, your dog will undergo an ophthalmic examination by the vet to assess both the physical structure of the eyelid and the intraocular pressures.

Depending on the results, you may be referred to an eye specialist for additional testing.

Treatment: Japanese dogs with Entropion require surgical correction.

During surgery, the eyelid is removed to reverse its inward roll. Depending on the severity or persistence of the condition, follow up operations may also be required.

Though Entropion usually presents itself at an early age, puppies will not be given surgery until they are at least six months old.

  • Hypothyroidism:

Symptoms: The thyroid gland, located in the neck, is responsible for producing a hormone called Thyroxine.

This hormone controls the metabolism, but when the thyroid doesn’t work properly, it can be over or under-produced.

When Thyroxine is under-produced, a condition known as Hypothyroidism develops.

Hypothyroidism can lead to a variety of symptoms, including loss of fur, flaky skin, decreased appetite, weight gain, muscle loss, and sluggishness.

Diagnosis: Veterinarians use a series of blood tests to confirm whether hypothyroidism is present.

Treatment: Those on the Japanese dog breeds list that are affected with hypothyroidism are treated with a replacement hormone.

The dog generally starts with two replacement hormones per day, and then wheens their way down to one per day.

Dosages are fine-tuned based upon ongoing blood tests, but the dog will be required to take hormones for the remainder of their lives.

 History:

The Kishu is a relative of the ancient Japanese Spitz-type hunting dogs that originated over 3000 years ago.

The Matagi’s dogs were used for hunting boar and deer in the mountains of Japan and went through the process of selective breeding until they became the breed they are today.

They were designated as a “Memorial of Nature” in Japan in 1935, and are now listed as a National Treasure.

For this reason, the breed is rarely exported outside of Japan and is not commonly seen in other areas of the world.

Kishu Dog Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • Unlike many dogs that go in for the kill, the Kishu is a silent hunter that stalks its prey
  • The Kishu is an excellent climber and can climb trees or cliffs when necessary
  • Many people note the Kishu as being an outstanding “escape artist.

7) Sakhalin Husky

 Description: 

The Sakhalin Husky is a large dog breed that shares common ancestry with the Siberian Husky and Akita, along with common appearance characteristics.

They stand between 22-26 inches tall and weight between 66-88 pounds. The Sakhalin Husky has very a very fine, yet thick outer coat of hair, along with a very dense undercoat.

They come in a variety of different colors, including Black, Russet, Biscuit, and cream.

 Personality And Temperament:

The Sakhalin Husky is an excellent working dog that displays complete loyalty and devotion to its owner.

They are extremely intelligent and eager to please, making obedience training extremely easy.

Though they are considered a breed of husky, they don’t have the typical stubborn attitude that most huskies do.

Instead, they are confident and independent, yet friendly and eager to please. They play well with all, including children and other dogs.

Because Sakhalin Huskies were initially bred to be sled dogs, they have a lot of stamina and require intense physical stimulation every day.

For this reason, they are best suited to owners that are active and/or have large yards and are not recommended for first-time dog owners.

Grooming:

Though huskies do have a lot of furs, they rarely require a trim.

This is because their fur will naturally shed and re-grow based on the climate in which they live.

With that being said, you should expect a lot of shedding during warmer months. You can avoid matting and excess hair on your furniture with regular brushings.

Much like cats, Sakhalin Huskies will take the time to clean themselves, and therefore rarely need baths.

Common Diseases And Conditions:

Unfortunately, because the Sakhalin husky is on the brink of extinction, little is known about the health status of this breed.

Like all other dogs, they are subject to illness and disease, but it’s difficult to pinpoint any conditions that are strongly associated with the breed.

With that being said, they are known to have a relatively impressive lifespan of between 12-14 years.

History:

While not much is known about the origin of the Sakhalin Husky, it is believed that they originated in the Russian Island of Sakhalin and were bred by the indigenous people there.

In 1949 when the Japanese relocated to Hokkaido, they took their dogs with them, which is how the Sakhalin ended up in Japan.

Because of their heavy fur, the Sakhalin was/is well-suited to the cold weather, and therefore was often the dog of choice for Northern Explorers in places like Alaska.

They were also used as pack animals during World War 2, but because they were so expensive to feed, they did not last in this job.

After the war, Sakhalin’s were killed by the masses, resulting in a massive decline of their population. As of 2015, only 7 Sakhalin Huskies were known to remain in Japan, and local breeders are now trying to save the breed from extinction.

Sakhalin Husky Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • The Sakhalin Husky was brought to fame after the tragic 1958 Japanese expedition to Antarctica. Fifteen huskies were left tied up outside as researchers went on an unplanned excavation. Unfortunately, weather prevented them from returning to the dogs, and they were left to fend for themselves. A year later, when a new group of explorers returned, two of the 15 dogs were still alive. They were named Jiro and Taro.

8) Shiba Inu (柴犬Japanese: [ɕiba̠ inɯ̟ᵝ])Shiba Inu

Description:

The Shiba Inu is a small Japanese dog and is thought to be one of the smallest dogs native to Japan.

The breed stands between 13.5-16.5 inches tall and weighs between 17-23 pounds. The breed has pointy ears and a curly tail and is often said to look like a fox.

Their coat can be orangy-red, cream, or sesame (red with black tips). They have an athletic build that allows them to move quickly and nimbly, and erect ears that keep them on constant alert.

Shiba’s are often referred to as a small companion dog with a big attitude.

Personality and Temperament:

Shiba Inu Infographic

Shiba Inu Infographic

As just mentioned, the Shiba Inu may be a small dog, but it has a big attitude.

The breed is both strong-willed and confident, as well as bold and alert. They make excellent guard dogs, but because of their strong attitudes, do run the risk of becoming aggressive with other animals.

Shiba Inu’s can be very territorial, and therefore do best when they are the only pet in the house. Smaller animals are instantly considered prey, and the Shiba Inu will not hesitate to chase after them.

The Shiba Inu can also be classified as “stubborn”, and can, therefore, be somewhat difficult to train.

Having said that, despite their stubborn, strong-willed attitude, Shiba’s are also extremely loving, loyal, and affectionate with their family members.

While they may be suspicious of strangers, early socialization can help to diminish such fears.

Grooming:

The Shiba Inu has a thick outer coat that is stiff and straight, and a soft undercoat that is thick and soft.

Of all the Japanese dogs on the top 13 list, the Shiba probably sheds the most.

Though it is said that they shed twice a year very heavily, most owners will say that each massive shed lasts six months.

Regular year-round vacuuming is to be expected for anyone who owns a Shiba Inu. Once a week, brushing can help to minimize fur loss, but will not prevent it.

In terms of bathing, the Shiba is a pretty clean and odor-free dog that only requires a bath once every 3-4 months.

Over-bathing may lead to dry skin and loss of natural oils. Shiba’s need their nails trimmed regularly but may object to having them done.

It’s essential to have your Shiba’s nails trimmed regularly as a puppy, so they don’t become aggressive towards the idea as adults.

Common Conditions And Diseases:

The Shiba Inu is considered to be a reasonably healthy breed. The only concern that is regularly associated with the breed is allergies.

  • Allergies:

Symptoms: Allergies occur when the immune system becomes hypersensitive to particular allergens.

Allergens can be any number of things but are most often proteins from insects, plants, or other animals.

Common allergens for dogs include things like pollen, mold, dust mites, and insect saliva.

If a dog has allergies, they may become very itchy or may start displaying symptoms involving the respiratory system like coughing, sneezing, and wheezing.

Discharge from the eyes/nose, vomiting, and diarrhea can also all be associated with allergies.

Diagnosis: Diagnosing an allergy in dogs is just as complicated as diagnosing an allergy in humans.

There are several different ways that your veterinarian may approach allergy testing.

Some veterinarians may conduct a series of tests to rule out any other condition that could be causing such symptoms before doing allergy testing.

If allergies are suspected, the first step is to test for external skin parasites like fleas or mites that could cause allergies.

If parasites are ruled out, two further types of allergy testing can be conducted: blood tests or intradermal skin tests. Hypoallergenic diets may also be suggested to rule out any food allergy.

Treatment:  Allergies can fall into four different categories:

  • Contact allergies – Including things like grasses, plants, dust mites, and mold
  • Flea allergies – From flea bites
  • Food allergies
  • Inhalant allergies – Allergens that are inhaled.

Treatment will depend on which type of allergen is present but may include things like dietary supplements, medications, shampoos, or hyposensitization therapies. Every allergy is treated on a case-to-case basis.

History:

The Shiba Inu originated in Japan and was originally used for hunting small game.

The Shiba has existed in Japan for centuries, and in 1936 the breed was declared a “precious natural product” of Japan.

Unfortunately, this title did not prevent the breed from near-extinction in World War 2, when most of the breed perished in bombing raids.

After the war, only three lines of Shiba’s remained. The three lines were introduced to breeding programs and were interbred to create the Shiba as we know it today.

The first Shiba to be imported to the US was done so in 1954, but little was documented about the breed until the 1970s.

The first litter born in the US was born in 1979, and the AKC registered the breed in 1993.

Shiba Inu Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • Shibas are considered to be the oldest Japanese small dog
  • The Shiba Inu is the most common companion dog in Japan

9) Ryukyu Inu (琉球犬 Ryuukyuu Dog)

Description:

The Ryukyu Inu is a mid-sized breed of a Japanese dog.

Though they have more genetically in common with the Hokkaido dog, they are said to bear a closer physical resemblance to the Kai Ken.

The breed has a broad head, with pricked, triangular ears that stand erect. Their body is longer than it is tall, and their tail is often blade shaped and curled.

The Ryukyu Inu has a short coat and can come in single coated and double coated varieties.

They are recognized in four primary colors, including black brindle, red brindle, white brindle, and red liver.

Personality and Temperament:

The Ryukyu Inu is described as a quiet, yet brave and agile dog.

They are natural hunters and have a strong prey drive. Their natural ability to hunt means that they also have excellent climbing abilities, that often label them as “escape artists“.

Their prey drive also means that they should not be in homes with smaller animals, as their instincts will tell them to attack.

Despite this, Ryukyu Inu’s make excellent family pets and are good with children. They have a calm temperament and are playful, but obedient.

Grooming:

Unfortunately, the Ryukyu Inu is an extremely rare breed, and not much is known about it’s grooming needs.

Common Conditions and Diseases:

Like many dogs on the Japanese dog breeds list, the Ryukyu is considered to be relatively healthy and display few serious health concerns.

With that being said, because they are considered to be a rare breed, little is documented about their health.

Like all dogs, they should have regular tests for common conditions and diseases like hip dysplasia, patella luxation, and hypothyroidism.

History:

Much of the history of the Ryukyu Inu is unknown as it’s documentation has been either destroyed or misplaced.

What is known is that the breed originated in Okinawa and was originally bred for hunting.

Unfortunately, like many Japanese dogs, the Ryukyu Inu almost went extinct after World War 2.

While the breed is still around today, it still has not completely recovered from this near extinction and is still extremely rare.

However, in 1990 the Ryukyu In Hozonkai Society was developed to help preserve the breed. As of 1993, 134 Ryukyu Inu was registered with the society.

Ryukyu Inu Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • The Ryukyu Inu Hozonkai(Ryukyu Inu Preservation Society) is the only breed club that currently recognizes the Ryukyu as a breed.
  • Ryukyu Inu’s have a declaw on the back of their foot. This helps them to climb trees and is believed to be a result of evolution and years of living in the rainforest.

10) Japanese Chin (Japanese: 狆, chin)

Japanese Chin dog on white background

Description:

The Chin is a small Japanese dog that weighs anywhere between 4-11 pounds and stands between 9-10 inches tall.

They have an intelligent and distinct expression that is often described as “oriental looking“.

The Chin has a broad head with a wide set of eyes and small ears that flop down. They have a long, silky coat that is either black and white, red and white, or black and white with tan tips.

They are often confused in appearance with the British King Charles Spaniel.

Personality And Temperament:

Japanese Chin dog Infographic

Japanese Chin Infographic

The Chin is a tiny dog with a larger than life personality. They are highly intelligent and are often known as the entertainers of the family.

Though the Chin does not bark a lot, it’s said that they do “sing” or “chatter” often.

Their personality is defined as happy and upbeat, combined with a little bit clownish and mischievous.

The Chin provides ongoing entertainment for the family and is always eager to make them laugh.

The breed is also described as being very sensitive to their environment, and will quickly take on the personality of their owners.

If their environment is quiet and laid back, so will be the personality of the Chin. If their environment is upbeat and lively, the Chin will be as well.

The Chin is loving and devoted to their family but may be shy around strangers. Though the Chin is a self-confident breed, they also run the risk of strong separation anxiety.

Grooming:

The Japanese Chin has a long, thick coat that is silky to the touch.

Though their appearance would make them seem high maintenance, the Chin doesn’t require a lot of grooming and is relatively easy to maintain.

A weekly brushing and a once-per-month bath will be more than enough to keep the Chin’s fur in tip-top condition.

Common Conditions And Diseases:

The Japanese Chin is considered to be a relatively healthy breed of dog, but can be affected by a fatal neurological condition known as Tay Sachs Disease:

  • Tay Sachs Disease: 

Symptoms: Tay Sachs Disease, also referred to as GM2 Gangliosidosis, is a type of lysosomal storage disease wherein there is a deficiency in a particular enzyme that is required for regular metabolic processing.

The disease often results in swollen cells and abnormal functioning. Dogs that are born with storage diseases are normal at birth, but progressively develop signs of a nervous disorder which, as time goes on, will become fatal.

Signs of the disease may include things like abnormal behaviors, motor abilities, and demeanors. These disorders are rare but are known to occur within the Japanese Chin breed.

Diagnosis: Because Tay Sachs Disease is uncommon, the clinical signs are vague, and the condition is difficult to diagnose.

Most routine diagnostics will not show signs of Tay Sachs Disease. If the disease is suspected, special blood tests that measure enzyme levels should be conducted.

Treatment: Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for Tay Sachs Disease. Dogs with the disease will likely die within six months of visible symptoms. Alternatively, they can be euthanized.

History:

The Japanese Chins are ancient dogs that actually originated as Chinese dog breeds.

In ancient times the breed was highly prized by the Chinese and was often given as gifts to emissaries.

Once in Japan, the breed was crossed with small Spaniel type dogs and was bred until they achieved the look and personality they have today.

Until 1853, the breed was not well known to the world. It was in this year that they became a popular commodity and were regularly shipped to the US and Britain.

In the US, the dog quickly became a popular choice among the wealthy. It was known as the Japanese Spaniel in the US until 1977 when it finally became recognized as the Japanese Chin.

Japanese Chin Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • The first person to own the Chin in the US was President Franklin Pierce
  • When the Chin first came to Japan, they were not seen as a dog. Rather, they were seen as a separate being.
  • You don’t own a Japanese Chin. The Japanese Chin owns you.

11) Shikoku Dog (四国犬 Shikoku-ken)

Shikoku Dog lying on white background

 Description:

The Shikoku is a mid-sized dog that stands between 17-22 inches tall and weighs between 35-55 pounds.

They have a thick double coat and are described as having “sharper” features than most other dogs on the Japanese dog breeds list.

They have almond-shaped, dark brown eyes, and ears that stand erect. Their coat can range in color from red to sesame, to black, or black sesame.

Personality and Temperament:

The Shikoku dog has been described as each intelligent, loyal, and elegant. They are quick, courageous, and fearless, each of which makes them excellent hunters.

In addition to hunting, Shikokus are very protective and loyal to their master, making them excellent guard dogs.

The Shikoku dog is loving and devoted to its owner, but is also friendly and welcoming to outsiders.

Shikoku dogs are good with children but are best when raised together from a young age.

The breed is described as territorial, cautious, and alert, but are not very vocal – if the Shikoku is barking, you know someone is on the property.

Shikoku’s do have a strong prey drive, and therefore should not be left around small pets. The Shikoku is not an aggressive breed but does have strong territorial instincts.

They are the leader o the pack and tend to try to dominate around other dogs. Early socialization is required to prevent aggression with other dogs, especially of the same sex.

Grooming:

The Shikoku dog does not require a great deal of grooming. Because they do have a double coat, you should brush them with an undercoat rake frequently.

Aside from that, a bath every few months, combined with a blowout once or twice per year is sufficient.

Common Conditions And Diseases:

The Shikoku dog evolved through natural selection and didn’t include a lot of human meddling.

Because of this, they are considered to be a very healthy breed.

While, like all dogs, Shikoku’s can be susceptible to common health issues like digestive problems, hip dysplasia, or anxiety, they are not associated with any congenital or hereditary diseases. Life expectancy is between 11-13 years.

History:

The Shikoku originated on and got its name from, the island of Shikoku in Japan.

The breed was developed through natural selection, though the domestication of wolf-like dogs. In their beginnings, the Shikoku were mainly used for hunting and were much admired by their Japanese owners.

Thanks to their isolation on the island, the breed was subject to little cross-breeding and is still – to this day – considered one of the purest of all Japanese dogs.

The breed was listed as a National Monument in 1937 and was separated into two distinct bloodlines – the Western and the Eastern. Modern descendants are considered to be from the Western bloodline.

Shikoku Dog Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • Shikoku’s are extremely intelligent and are eager to learn. They are very easy to train
  • The breed is known for it’s outstanding athletic and acrobatic abilities. This makes them excellent escape artists.

12) Tosa (土佐, Tosa Inu, Japanese Mastiff)

Tosa Inu sitting on the lawn

Description:

The Tosa dog also referred to as the Tosa-Inu or Tosa-Ken, is an extremely large breed of dog with a broad head and powerful jaws.

They stand around 24 inches tall and weigh anywhere between 83-200 pounds.

The extreme range of weight for the breed stemmed from their history in dogfighting when the breed was classified into a lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight.

The Tosa dogs have small and thin, but high set ears that hang down. They have a short, dense coat that comes in a variety of different colors including, red, fawn, apricot, black, and tan.

They can be multi-colored, solid-colored, or brindle.

 Personality and Temperament:

Despite the breed’s history in dogfighting, the Tosa is a stable, well-adjusted dog that is both docile and affectionate with its owner.

With that being said, the Tosa does still have it’s natural fighting instincts and can become aggressive if not appropriately trained.

Tosa’s require a great deal of socialization and training as a puppy and need a strong owner that can take on the role of pack leader.

Any displays of aggressive are usually due to improper training, or failure to provide mental and physical stimulation.

Owners should be calm but also firm and consistent. A Tosa that has been properly trained will never become aggressive with humans.

Well-adjusted Tosa’s are loving and loyal to all members of the family, including children.

They have a gentle, stable temperament, but can also be excellent guard dogs.

While they are unlikely to attack, their loud bark is enough to frighten away any intruder that should come near.

Grooming:

The Tosa has a short, dense coat of fur and requires little grooming.

They are light shedders, and only occasional brushing and bathing is required to keep the dog clean and remove dead fur.

The Tosa’s nails grow fast and need to be trimmed regularly.

While the Tosa does not drool as much as other Mastiff-type dogs, they have been known to drool when excited, when hot, or when drinking.

Common Conditions And Diseases:

The two most common health concerns for the Tosa include hip dysplasia and bloat:

  • Hip Dysplasia:

Symptoms: Hip Dysplasia is a condition that occurs when a dog’s thighbone doesn’t fit into the hip joint properly.

While there are environmental factors that can progress or worsen the condition, it’s generally thought to be genetic.

Dogs with mild forms of hip dysplasia may not show a lot of symptoms, but as the disease progresses, a dog may have difficulty doing regular physical activities like jumping, running, or climbing stairs.

Dogs with hip dysplasia may also limp in the back end, display a decreased range of motion, or reduce their activity levels significantly and altogether.

Diagnosis: A veterinarian who is diagnosing hip dysplasia will begin with a routine physical exam.

If the dog shows signs of dysplasia, further physical tests may be conducted to determine the looseness of the dog’s joints, as well as their overall range of motion.

If after further examination hip dysplasia is still suspected, X-rays will be given to determine the progression and severity of the disease.

Treatment: Treatment for hip dysplasia can vary from lifestyle changes to surgery, depending on the progression and severity of the condition.

In less severe cases, environmental factors like dietary routine and exercise routine may be necessary.

Anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed for dogs suffering more mild forms of hip dysplasia.

For those with more progressed symptoms, a variety of surgical options may be discussed with your veterinarian.

  • Bloat:

Symptoms: Also referred to as GDV or Gastric Dilation Volvulus, bloat is a life-threatening condition that progresses rapidly.

It occurs when the stomach fills with air, building pressure, and preventing the blood from reaching the heart.

Such a condition can cause blood to pool and may lead to shock, or reduced oxygen levels. If not treated immediately, Bloat can be life-threatening.

Symptoms include drooling, anxiety, distending abdomens, a bloating belly, weakness, and crying.

Diagnosis: Bloat is diagnosed through a series of blood tests that examine chemistry, electrolytes, and blood count. Urinalysis, X-rays, and ECG’s may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment: If your Tosa has bloat, your veterinarian will provide oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids to help stabilize them.

This will be followed by gastric decompression and flushing of the stomach. Depending on the severity of the condition, surgery may also be needed.

History:

The Tosa originated sometime between 1868 and 1912 when the Kochi Japanese dog was crossed with Shikoku fighting dogs and other western breeds like the Great Dane, Bulldog, Mastiff, Bull Terrier, and St. Bernard.

They were commonly bred for the popular sport of dogfighting.

Though the breed is now listed as a National Treasure in Japan, there are still some rural regions that still use the Tosa in illegal dog fighting pits. They are a rare breed that has only recently been introduced to the United States.

Tosa Dog Facts & Figures:

Did you know?

  • The Tosa is often referred to as the “sumo wrestler” of the dog world
  • During World War 2, the Tosa neared extinction
  • The Tosa is often depicted in ceremonial regalia

References:

Category: Dog breeds originating in Japan. (2016, October 12). Retrieved March 18, 2019, from
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Dog_breeds_originating_in_Japan

 

Chalene Johnston About The Author: Chalene Johnston graduated with honors from University with a BA in psychology. She is a proud stay-at-home mom to her 2-year-old French Bulldog puppy, Stella! When she is not looking for adventure travel destinations, she loves to write! She writes for a wide variety of topics – with animals being one of her favorites.