Japan, the land of rising sun, is widely known for dog breeds, like Akita Inu and Kai Ken, that are popular all over the world. Quite a few of these breeds have even been recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Popular Japanese Dog Breeds
There are about 6 Japanese breeds―all Spitz type―that are popular in many parts of the world, including the United States. All these dogs have a typical Akita face with square bodies, wedge-shaped head, and small upright ears. They even have stand-off coats and a curly tail. They are so similar in appearance that they are all grouped under the same classification.
The Akita Inu is a large Japanese dog breed measuring about 26-28 inches at the withers. The breed is also known as Akita Dog, Japanese Akita, Akita-ken, or simply Akita at times. These dogs come in five colors: red, fawn, sesame, brindle, and pure white. They are known to be very intelligent, and thus, get bored easily in the absence of intellectual stimulation. They can be good apartment dogs as long as you give them ample space to exercise. Their playful nature makes them ideal for families. You should however, keep a watch on them when they are playing with small children as these overenthusiastic dogs may unintentionally harm the child. Many countries consider the Japanese Akita a separate breed from the American Akita. However, the American and Canadian kennel clubs consider them one breed, with two different types.
The Kai Ken, also called the Tora Inu or Tiger dog, is considered the national treasure of Japan. The dog breed is very rare even in Japan. These medium-sized dogs stand about 18-22 inches at the shoulder (females are relatively smaller at about 17-20 inches at the shoulder). They have a curly tail, which they usually hold in a sickle position. Their coat color is black or brindle and has a harsh texture. They are very intelligent and active dog breeds. They are agile and brave that makes them natural hunters and good guard dogs. Though they are loyal to their owners, they are a bit reserved towards strangers. The Kai Ken breed is ideal for families with children.
Also known as Kishy or Kishu Inu, the Kishu Ken breed is similar to Akita Inu and Shiba Inu. These dogs are very quiet in nature and are roughly about 17-22 inches tall. These dogs normally come with a white coat, but brindle and red coats are also quite common. They too are curly tailed and have a fringe over their cheeks and tail. The Kishu is a one person dog. The breed has the typical qualities of a hunting dog, i.e., they are courageous and brave. They are natural hunters that hunt small animals. They are headstrong and thus, require strict training, if they are to be kept as pets.
The Ainu-ken is a medium-sized Japanese dog breed with small, triangular, upright ears. These dogs have a double coat; one with a long, stiff fur, and the other with short, soft fur. They come in various colors, including red, white, black, and wolf gray. They are not just faithful, but are also brave enough to withstand really cold climate. These dogs have an excellent sense of direction, such that they can return to the owner even if they are left at far-off places. It is believed that these dogs don't hesitate to take on the Higuma or Hokkaido Brown bear to save their owner. Owing to their nature, these dogs are not recommended as apartment dogs.
The alternative names for Shikoku are Kochi-ken and Mikawa Inu. In terms of size, these dogs vary between the large Akita and small Shiba. These dogs are known to be very brave and have a good judgment. They are tough and agile, and thus, ideal for active people who like being outdoors. They are quick learners and not as stubborn as other types. This breed is not recognized by the American Kennel Club as yet.
The Shiba Inu is a small dog that was originally bred for hunting. It has a compact body with well-developed muscles. They have a double-coated fur with a stiff and straight outer coat, and soft and thick undercoat. These dogs come in red, black, tan, and sometimes sesame coats with cream, buff, or gray undercoat. They are highly intelligent and independent dogs who need obedience training from a young age. As these dogs are high in prey drive, they should always be kept on a leash when outdoors.
Other dogs native to Japan include the Japanese Spitz, Japanese Terrier, and the Nippon terrier. Of these, the Japanese Spitz has been bred by cross breeding several Spitz breeds. If you plan to get home any of these breeds as a pet, make sure you read all about their temperament and training capabilities.