10 most popular Japanese dog breeds

Japanese love animals and many Japanese dog breeds are revered as National treasures. A couple of Japanese dog breeds Akita Inu and Shiba Inu are quite popular and are being bred in the USA as well.

Other Japanese dogs are rare and found mostly in Japan only.

Let us have a look at the popular Japanese dog breeds.

1) Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu - Popular Japanese dog breeds

Shiba Inu is the most popular of the Japanese dog breeds. It is the smallest of the six native Japanese Spitz-type dogs. They were originally bred to hunt birds and hares and at times wild boars as well.

Shiba Inu went almost extinct after world war 2. It happened because of food shortage and a post-war distemper epidemic.

Shiba Inu dogs love to self groom themselves like a cat. Hence it is not uncommon to see them licking their paws or body. This makes grooming them easy. Still, as they have a double coat, Akita Inu shed a lot and that can be difficult especially to allergic folks.

Like Akita and Shikoku, they are also independent thinkers and need to be trained since birth. Coming from the mountainous regions of Japan, they are pretty agile.

Shina Inu are known for their peculiar distinctive scream known as “Shiba scream”. They make this high pitched scream when feeling threatened or unhappy.

Shiba Inu is a healthy dog breed who can grow up to a size of 14 inches to 17 inches in height and up to 23 pounds in weight. The average life span of Shiba Inu is 12 to 15 years.

2) Akita Inu

American Akita

Akita is a large Japanese dog breed from the northern mountainous region of Japan known as Akita from which this Japanese dog breed derived its name. Originally, they were known to be bred by loyalty and nobility for hunting wild boars and bears.

Akita was first introduced in the USA by lady Helen Keller who got Akita as a gift after she visited Japan in 1937 and brought him to the USA. Later, USA soldiers brought Akita dogs from Japan to the USA after world war 2.

Akita is very large, powerful, protective, and fearless dog. They are instinctively dominant but do well as a family dog as well with a dominant owner and proper training.

Like Shiba Inu, Akita is also known for self-cleaning. They love to lick and clean themselves. Though they are heavy shedders and shed a lot couple of times in a year when their inner coat blows out.

Akita is one of the highly loyal Japanese dog breeds who rose to popularity after Richard Gere’s movie “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”.

The movie was based on the loyalty of an Akita dog Hachiko who used to wait for his owner at a train station even after owners’ death till he died.

Akita is a healthy breed of dog with no known genetic issues. They can grow to a height of 24 to 28 inches and weigh approx 130 pounds. The average life span of Akita Inu is 10 to 14 years.

Would you like to know more about American Akita.

3) Shikoku Inu

Shikoku dog

Shikoku is also one of the six native Japanese Spitz dogs. Though often confused with Akita and Shiba Inu, Shikoku dog is smaller than Akita Inu and bigger than Shiba Inu.

It is a distinct medium-sized Japanese dog breed on its own. They originated from Shikoku Island of Japan from where this Japanese dog breed derived its name.

Shikoku was originally bred in ancient times by Matagi hunters for hunting wild boars and deers. They still have got the prey drive in them and are not recommended for families having small pets and children.

Shikoku dogs are independent thinkers and are also extremely agile dogs. They are known for their sharp features, their pricked ears, and curly tail. They also have a double coat and hence shed a lot when their inner coat blows out.

Shikoku dogs can grow to a height of 17 to 22 inches, the weight of 35 to 55 pounds, and has a life expectancy of around 10 to 14 years.

Would you like to know more about Shikoku Inu.

4) Kai Ken

Kai  Ken - Japanese dog breeds

Kai Ken is also one of the six native Japanese dog breeds. They are medium-sized dogs known for the brindle color of their coat, pointed ears, and a fluffy tail.

They got their name from Kai Province in Yamanashi Prefecture from where they are considered to be originated. Kai Ken is also known as Tora dogs meaning Tiger Dogs for their dark brindle coat.

Kai Ken was originally bred to hunt in games in the large mountainous regions of Japan. They are considered one of the least aggressive of the Japanese dog breeds.

They are brave and intelligent dogs who are quite agile as well. Kai is highly loyal and devoted to its master.

They keep themselves clean but shed a lot specially when they blow out their inner coat.

Kai Ken can grow to a height of 20 to 22 inches and weigh approx 25 to 55 pounds.

5) Japanese Terrier

source: wiki

Japanese Terriers are small dogs of the Japanese dog breeds that are rare even in Japan. This Japanese dog is believed to be the descendants of the fox terriers brought by the dutch sailors and the local Japanese dogs. They became popular as lap dogs.

Japanese Terriers don’t require much grooming and an occasional brushing is enough. They are lively, cheerful, and intelligent Japanese dog breeds who love to be with the family.

Japanese Terriers are typically black head with a predominantly white body that has little black spots. They typically have a high set ear that folds forward.

They can grow to 8 to 13 inches tall and weigh approx 5 to 9 pounds. The average life span of this Japanese dog breed is 12 to 15 years.

6) Tosa Inu

Tosa Inus are the most massive of the Japanese dog breeds and are known for their muscular and powerful body. They are mostly peaceful but can become aggressive sometimes with small pets and dogs of same-sex.

No surprises Tosa Inu are banned by many countries like Australia, United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, etc.

Tosa Inu is also known as Japanese Mastiff. They have a large head and a long muzzle. They were bred for dogfighting and are still used for the same in Japan. And yes, dogfighting is still legal in Japan.

Tosa Inu generally has a smooth and short coat that comes mostly in red, fawn, and brindle colors. They don’t require much grooming.

Tosa Inu can grow to a height of 24 to 32 inches and weight of 130 to 200 pounds.

7) Japanese Spitz

Japanese Spitz is a small dog of the Japanese dog breeds. They are bred as a companion dog who looks quite similar to small Samoyeds, American Eskimo or Pomeranians but they are a distinct Japanese dog breed.

Japanese Spitz is a relatively new dog breed which was a result of cross-breeding German Spitz that came through China and the local Japanese Dogs in around the 1920s.

Japanese Spitz is known for its wonderful temperament. They are good family companions who are also quite courageous and protective. They would surprise you with a louder bark that can’t be expected from a dog of their size.

Japanese Spitz comes in a pure white fluffy thick coat. They don’t have much grooming requirements and brushing them every two or three weeks is sufficient to prevent knots between the hairs.

Japanese Spitz can grow to a size of 10 to 16 inches in height averaging a weight of 11 to 20 pounds. Their average lifespan is around 10 to 15 years.

8) Hokkaido

Hokkaido - Oldest Japanese dog breeds
source: Flickr

Hokkaido is one of the six native Japanese dog breeds. They are medium-sized dogs and are one of the oldest dog breeds.

In 1869, British zoologist Thomas Blakiston discovered the Hokkaido dog in Japan and named it “Ainu Ken” after the tribe who developed them.

In 1937, the breed was declared as National Monument for their preservation and named as Hokkaido dog.

Hokkaido dogs were generally bred as a hunting dog. While the hunting and guarding instinct remain, they are a very good family dog and serve well as a companion dog. They should be socialized with humans and pets since the beginning.

Hokkaido is quite an intelligent dog who responds well to training and commands. They are prone to an eye disease called “Collie eye anomaly” which may lead to blindness.

Hokkaido can grow to a height of 18 to 22 inches and weigh approximately 45 to 65 pounds. The average lifespan of Japanese Hokkaido dog is 11 to 13 years.

9) Kishu Ken

source: Flickr

Kishu Ken or Kishu Inu is also one of the six native Japanese dog breeds. They are medium-sized dogs named after the Kishu region of Japan from where they originated. They were originally bred for boar and deer hunting.

Kishu has pricked ears and a curly tail. They have high prey instincts and can’t be trusted with small pets. There have been few examples of Kishu living well with cats.

Like Shiba Inu, they don’t bark and instead stalk at the strangers. Kishus are one of the intelligent Japanese dog breeds who can be obstinate at times.

Kishu Ken are mostly seen in white color though sesame and red color are also not uncommon. They have a double coat and do shed when the inner coat blows out.

They don’t require much grooming and weekly brushing and infrequent bathing should be good enough.

Kishu can grow to a height of 17 to 22 inches and can weigh approx 30 to 60 pounds. Their average life span is around 11 to 13 years.

10) Japanese Chin

Japanese Chin - small Japanese dog breeds

Japanese chins are smaller dogs of the Japanese dog breeds known for their long silky coat, large head, short muzzle, V-shaped ears hanging down, and round, dark eyes.

They are also known as “Japanese Spaniel”. They have been the dogs of the nobility in the past who used to love them as a companion dog.

Japanese chins are quite agile dogs. You should not get surprised to see them taking leaps at tall furniture in a single jump.

They are known to be quite friendly, intelligent and playful and many times, people just can’t have one of them and they go for two or three of Japanese Chin.

They don’t need much grooming and do not need much exercise as well apart from short walks. They are considered apartment friendly dogs. They are prone to separation anxiety and should not be left alone for long.

It is commonly believed that Japanese chin came from China but there are multiple conflicting theories on how and when it happened.

Japanese Chin can grow to a height of 8 to 11 inches and weigh approx 4 to 9 pounds. Their average life span is around 10 to 14 years.


What are the six native Japanese dog breeds?

Six native Japanese dog breeds are
1. Shiba Inu
2. Akita Inu
3. Kishu Inu
4. Shikoku Ken
5. Kai Ken
6. Hokkaido Dog

Which is the largest Japanese Dog?

Tosa Ken is the largest dog of the Japanese dog breeds. They can grow to a weight of approx 200 pounds.

Hope you got good insights on the Japanese dog breeds. Do let us know your story about them in the below comments.