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13 Popular Japanese Dog Breeds (Land Of The Rising Sun Dogs)

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

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

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

Many of these rare breeds are officially listed as “National Treasures.”

Which Japanese dogs make the list?

Today we will find out as we dive into the top 12 list of Japanese dogs breeds

Let’s get started:

1. AKITA (Akita Inu)

Akita dog breed sitting and facing its right side on white background

Highlights:  Noble presence, Courageous, Loyal

Akita is a large, heavy dog with imposing stature.

This ancient breed is famous for its loyalty, although used for dogfighting in its early years.

The Akita dog breed was taken later to America, and a larger dog type came into existence today as the bigger American Akita.

Breed Overview

Breed type:Spitz
Suitable for:Family with teenagers, rural owner
Weight:70-130 lbs
Lifespan:10-15 years
Color:White, Brindle, Fawn, Pinto, Red
Grooming:"self cleaner but still needs daily brushing
Daily exercise:30 minutes -1 hour a day of brisk walks, jogging etc
Activity levels:low
Diet:balanced dry or wet dog food, high-protein formula
Known health issues:auto-immune disease, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, hypothyroidism, von Wilebrands Disease.
Price:$1750-$2000 depending on the breeder


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 breed a large, versatile dog 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 Japanese Akita is a thriving breed and is popular in Japan and around the world.

Explore dogs breeds from neighboring Asian Countries:


Akita Inu resting on white background

The Akita is intelligent and independent of all the dogs on the top 12 Japanese dog breeds list.

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

They enjoy the companionship of their family and play 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.

How should you introduce your new cat to your Akita or vice versa?

You’ll find our helpful content in the links below.

Are Akitas Good With Cats?

Akita is a very strong-willed dog, so they are recommended for people who can take on the pack leader role, not the first-time timid dog owners.

Due to their stubborn nature and strong will, they can only be trained by loving but firm, consistent, and patient.

Thinking between Akita and Shiba? 

Read our informative articles below:

What are the differences between Akita and Shiba Inu?

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

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 an Akita figurine, representing 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 its role and retired from the job once the tiger reached adulthood.

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2. HOKKAIDO DOG (Hokkaido Inu)

Hokkaido dog breed on the grass

Highlights: Intelligent, Loyal, Brave, Protective

In terms of Japanese dogs, the Hokkaido dog, a.k.a. Hokkaido Ken, is a medium-sized dog with a strong build.

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

The Hokkaido dogs are a type of Japanese Spitz 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 of various 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.

Breed Overview

Breed type:Spitz
Suitable for:Families with lots of free time
Weight:44-67 lbs
Lifespan:12-15 years
Color:Black, White, Brindle, Black & Tan, Sesame, Red
Grooming:Daily brushing
Daily exercise:at least 1 hour of vigorous exercise per day
Activity levels:Very high
Diet:high-quality adult dog food that is rich in protein with plenty of healthy fats for energy
Known health issues: Hip dysplasia, #Collie Eye Anomaly, Idiopathic Seizures
Price:$500 (average)


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 bears, 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.


The Hokkaido Dog origin


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

The Hokkaido dog breed is one of the most loyal dogs 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 Hokkaidos have such strong personality characteristics, they demand owners with strong leadership skills.

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

Similarly, Hokkaido dogs may tolerate other dogs if 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 the owner brings them up.

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 Blakiston 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 various advertising campaigns for SoftBank in Japan.

paragraph divider3. JAPANESE SPITZ ( Nihon Supittsu)

Japanese spitz running in the grassy park

Highlights: Bold, Loyal, Playful

If you’re looking for one of the small dog breeds from Japan, the Japanese Spitz breed may be for you.

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.

Breed Overview

Breed type:Spitz
Suitable for:Families with children and other pets(dog)
Weight:11-20 lbs
Lifespan:10-16 years
Grooming:weekly brushing
Daily exercise:at least 30 mins of walking daily
Activity levels:high
Diet:High protein, low carb
Known health issues:luxating patella, runny eyes
Price:$1000-$2500 USD(puppy)

History :

The Japanese Spitz originated from China, like the German Spitz from Germany brought to Japan in 1920.

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

After World War 2, the breed standards 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 recognize that the Spitz is its own breed.


japanese spitz on the lawn

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 exercise, 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 their loved ones. Strangers should be introduced cautiously.

Did You Know?

  • The American Kennel Club does not recognize the Japanese Spitz because of its close similarity to the American Eskimo Dog.
  • The breeds’ early records were destroyed in World War II, leaving the full history of the breed a mystery.
  • They are fearless protectors and have a bark much louder than you might expect from a dog their size.
  • Japanese Spitz is one of the longest living small breeds with a life expectancy of 16 years or higher!

paragraph divider4. JAPANESE TERRIER (Nihon Teria)

Japanese terrier in the backyard

Highlights: Friendly, Loyal, Playful

The Terrier is a small Japanese terrier dog that stands approximately 8-13 inches and weighs only 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 Terrier’s 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.

Breed Overview

Breed type:Terrier
Suitable for:Experienced owner
Weight:5-9 lbs
Lifespan:10-15 years
Color:Black & White, Tri-color
Grooming:weekly brushing
Daily exercise:at least 30 minutes a day
Activity levels:moderate
Diet:well balanced dog food
Known health issues: Hip dysplasia, luxating Patellas
Price:$600 USD (average price)


The history of the Japanese Terrier dates back to the 1600s where it was believed that dogs were 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 worldwide.


japanese terrier standing on cemented ground

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 craves so much attention, they can also become quite jealous when another person or animal takes attention away.

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.

Did You Know?

  • Japanese Terrier is rare, even in Japan.
  •  It is believed that they have German Pinscher, fox terrier, and indigenous dogs’ DNA in their blood.

paragraph divider5) KAI KEN (Tora Inu or Tiger Dog)

Kai Ken dog breed standing on white background

Highlights: Smart, Brave, Agile

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

The Kai Ken is most commonly known for their unique, patched/fur, which starts black as a puppy and gradually becomes a brindle.

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

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

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

?Breed Overview

Breed type:Spitz
Suitable for:experienced owners
Size/Height:medium/43-56 cm
Weight:30-50 lbs
Color:Black Brindle, Gray Brindle, Red Brindle
Grooming:occasional bathing/natural clean dog
Daily exercise:30-minute walk/day
Activity levels:low
Diet:dog food formulated for active dogs
Known health issues:no major or minor concerns
Price:$1500 USD (average price)


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 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 and even in Japan.


Kai ken dog breed on leash in the backyard

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, they 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 family member.

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.

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.
  • There are two variations of the Kai Ken – the Shishi-inu-gata type ( stockier body and bear-like face) and the Shika-Inu-gata type (longer, thinner body and foxlike face)
  • In Japan, they are regarded as National Treasure and are described as loyal protectors who would lie their lives down for their master.

paragraph divider6) KISHU DOG (Kishu Inu)

Highlights: Brave, Loyal, Noble

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 usually curved or curled under.

Breed Overview

Breed type:Spitz
Suitable for:single family with lots of free time
Size/Height:medium/43-55 cm
Weight:30- 60 lbs
Lifespan:11-13 years
Color:White, Brindle, Sesame, Red
Grooming:weekly brushing
Daily exercise:Several hours every day
Activity levels:Very high
Diet:High quality dog food
Known health issues:thyroid problems, eye problems
Price:$1800 - $2200 USD


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 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 puppy with red scarfIn Japan, 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 please its owner.

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

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 early.

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

The Kishu is best when they are the only pet in the house in terms of other animals. 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.

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.”
  • Sometimes it is mistaken for the Hokkaido dog because of its similar appearance.
  • They were designated as a “Memorial of Nature” in Japan in 1935 and are now listed as a National Treasure.

paragraph divider7. SAKHALIN HUSKY (Karafuto Ken)

Jiro, the sakhalin husky memorial display

Highlights: Strong, Resilient, Tenacious

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

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

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

Breed Overview

Breed type:N/A
Suitable for:Families with lots of free time
Size/Height:medium/56 – 66 cm
Weight:65-89 lbs
Lifespan:12-14 years
Color:Black, Cream, Russet, Biscuit
Daily exercise:N/A
Activity levels:Very high
Known health issues:N./A


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


sakhalin Husky dogs Taro and Jiro

Taro and Jiro became famous dogs in history for their will to live when left behind in Antarctica, having survived on their own for 11 months in extremely harsh conditions.

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 husky breed, 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 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.

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, the weather prevented them from returning to the dogs, and they were left to fend for themselves.
  • When a new group of explorers returned, two of the 15 dogs were still alive a year later. They were named Jiro and Taro.


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8. SHIBA INU (Little Brushwood Dog)

Shiba Inu

Highlights: Independent, Bold, Dignified

The Shiba Inu is a small Japanese dog and is 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 orange-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.

You’ll find More Asian Dog Breeds in the links below:

Breed Overview

Breed type:Spitz/working dog
Suitable for:Families with teenagers, older single owner, older coupkle
Size/Height:small/medium- 33-43 cm
Weight:19- 30 lbs
Lifespan:10-13 years
Color:Black, white, red and tan
Grooming:twice a month
Daily exercise:1-2 hours every day
Activity levels:medium
Diet:high-quality dry dog food
Known health issues: Hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, allegies, chylothorax
Price:$1400 – $2200 (puppy)


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 standing on the lawn looking to its left side

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 they run the risk of becoming aggressive with other animals because of their strong attitudes.

What do you think? Are Shiba Inus Good With Cats?

Shiba Inu can be very territorial and 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, therefore, be somewhat difficult to train.

Thinking of getting this k9 as your first dog?

Well, check this out first: Are Shiba Inu Good For First-Time Owner?

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.

Read Our Full List:  Shiba Inu Pros and Cons

Did You Know?

  • Shibas are considered to be the oldest Japanese small dog
  • The Shiba Inu is the most common companion dog in Japan
  • They were named after the brushwood bushes where they hunted. (the word Shiba means “brushwood,” in Japanese)
  • Smallest Native Spitz breed from Japan.

paragraph divider9. RYUKYU INU (Ryuukyuu Dog)

Highlights: Quiet, Alert, Intelligent

The Ryukyu Inu is a mid-sized breed of 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: black brindle, red brindle, white brindle, and red liver.

Breed Overview

Breed type:(?)
Suitable for:Families with lots of free time
Size/Height:medium/43-50 cm
Weight:15-25 kg
Lifespan:10-12 years
Color:red brindle , black brindle , white brindle , black , white , sesame , ivory, liver and red
Daily exercise:at least 1 hour every day
Activity levels:high
Diet:High protein, low carb
Known health issues:(?)


Much of the Ryukyu Inu history is unknown as its 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 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 walking in okinawa streets

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 “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.

Did You Know?

  • The Ryukyu Inu Hozonkai (Ryukyu Inu Preservation Society) is the only breed club that currently recognizes Ryukyu.
  • Ryukyu Inu’s have a declaw on the back of their foot. This helps them climb trees and is believed to result from evolution and years of living in the rainforest.
  • As of 2015, it’s thought that there are fewer than 400 Ryukyu Inu dogs

paragraph divider10) Japanese Chin (Japanese Spaniel)

Japanese Chin standing on white background

Highlights: Noble, Affectionate, Playful, Loyal

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, 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.

Breed Overview

Breed type:toy group
Suitable for:older single couple, older couple, city dweller, owner with physical disability
Size/Height:small/20-27 cm
Weight:4- 8 lbs
Lifespan:12-14 years
Color:Lemon & White, Sable & White, Black & White, Tri-color, Red & White
Grooming:once a week brushing
Daily exercise:20-30 mins/day
Activity levels:low
Diet:1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality dry dogfood a day, divided into two meals.
Known health issues:heart problems, retinal atrophy, patellar luxution
Price:$1000-$2000 USD


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 bred until they achieved their look and personality.

Until 1853, the breed was not well known to the world. In this year, 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 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 its environment and will quickly take on the personality of its 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.

Did You Know?

  • The first person to own the Chin in the US was President Franklin Pierce.
  • The Japanese Chins are ancient dogs that actually originated as Chinese dog breeds.
  • When the Chin first came to Japan, they were not seen as a dog. Rather, they were seen as separate beings.
  • Likened to cats due to their agility and the way they wash their faces with their paws.

paragraph divider11) SHIKOKU DOG (Shikoku Ken)

Shikoku Ken photographed on a white background

 Highlights: Brave, Loyal, Cautious

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

They have a thick double coat and have “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.

Breed Overview

Breed type:Spitz/working dog
Suitable for:active outdoor people
Size/Height:medium/43-55 cm
Weight:35-55 lbs
Lifespan:10-12 years
Color:Red Sesame, Black Sesame, Sesame
Grooming:once or twice a week brushing
Daily exercise:at least an hour of exercise per day
Activity levels:high
Diet:high-quality adult dog food diet
Known health issues:(?)


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

The breed was developed through natural selection, through the domestication of wolf-like dogs. In their beginnings, the Shikoku were mainly used for hunting and 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 on leash standing on dry ground

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

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

The Shikoku dog is loving and devoted to its owner and 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 is 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.

Did You Know?

  • The breed is known for its outstanding athletic and acrobatic abilities. This makes them excellent escape artists.
  • They are the ideal companion for active outdoor people because of their toughness and agility

paragraph divider12) TOSA (Tosa Inu, Japanese Mastiff)

Tosa Inu sitting on the lawn

Highlights: Brave, Patient, Cautious

The Tosa dog, also referred to as the Tosa Inu or Tosa-Ken is a huge 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 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.

Breed Overview

Breed type:foundation stock service
Suitable for:experienced owner
Weight:100-200 lbs
Lifespan:10-12 years
Color:Black, Fawn, Brindle, Red
Grooming:Daily brushing
Daily exercise:regular walking
Activity levels:medium
Diet:High quality dog food
Known health issues:joint diseases, cancer
Price:(see FAQs)


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, some rural regions still use the Tosa in illegal dog fighting pits. They are a rare breed that has only recently been introduced to the United States.

They are banned in countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK.


tosa inu standing on the green lawn

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 has its natural fighting instincts and can become aggressive if not appropriately trained.

Tosa requires a great deal of socialization and training as a puppy and needs a strong owner that can take on the role of pack leader.

Any displays of aggression 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.

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

paragraph divider13. SANSHU INU

Sanshu Inu dog breed in the park

Highlights: Energetic, Intelligent, Playful

The Sanshu Inu is closely related to the more famous Shiba Inu, and both breeds filled very similar roles.

The Sanshu Inu was traditionally used as a guard and protection animal, which means they can be very wary dogs.

Although both breeds are very similar in size and appearance, the Sanshu Inu has a straight tail.

This is the easiest way to tell the two breeds apart, but Sanshu Inus generally tends to have darker coats.

The breed’s lineage is debated, but it’s believed to come from crossing the Japanese Aichi with the Chinese Chow Chow.

The resulting dog was a medium-sized chunky breed with features of both breeds.

Sanshu Inus were only developed around the beginning of the 20th century, so it’s still a relatively new breed.

They were developed on Honshu, the largest island in Japan.

Also, Sanshu Inus are very rare and virtually unheard of outside Japan, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a breeder near you.

Breed Overview

Breed type:Spitz(?)
Suitable for:(?)
Size/Height: small, 16-18 in., large, 20-22 in.
Weight:45-55 lbs
Lifespan:10-14 years
Color:white, tan, pied, red or gray
Grooming:brushing twice a week
Daily exercise:(?)
Activity levels:(?)
Diet:good quality dog food
Known health issues:no known health issues


Sanshu Inu dog in the patio

 The Sanshu Inu is very similar in temperament to other Inus. In short, this means the breed is friendly, playful, and is also very intelligent.

Sanshu Inus are very affectionate towards their owners and form strong emotional bonds with each family member.

As mentioned, the breed is primarily used for guarding, so it’s very alert and wary.

However, Sanshu Inus don’t bark too much because they only do so to alert their owners to a potential threat.

Sanshu Inus are generally fine around strangers if their owner is present. The breed is very intelligent and so is generally easy to train.

Starting this early can help control their energy levels, which can be difficult to control without the proper mental and physical activity.

However, Sanshu Inus are also very content with lying around the house with their family.

Sanshu Inus are usually fine with children and are popular as family pets in Japan.

However, they should be carefully monitored at a young age because they can be unaware of their size and energy levels, which is never good for small children.

One of the major selling points of the Sanshu Inu is that they’re very clean dogs.

In fact, they try to do everything possible to not make a mess, including doing their business in a discrete area.

This is one of the reasons why they’re so popular in Japan.

Did You Know?

  • The Sanshu Inu currently isn’t recognized by any kennel clubs. Most international breeders favor the more popular Shiba Inu.
  • The Sanshu Inu is also similar in size and appearance to another popular Japanese breed, the Akita. While they look similar, the Akita isn’t one of the breed’s ancestors.
  • The breed is very popular in Japan, used as a protection dog and family companion.


It’s not too late to see more beautiful Asian Dog Breeds from the countries below:

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About the author: Pablo Pascua created dogbreedsfaq.com because of his interest in all the different breeds, and his desire to learn more. His inspiration comes from the many dogs he has owned throughout his life.