Japan is known for its sushi, anime stories, and sneaky Ninjas. You might not know, but Japan also has many popular and interesting Japanese dog breeds.
Japan has seen a pet boom since 2003. Raising dogs has become an acceptable and realistic alternative to child-rearing, at least according to Japanese eyes. This assertion is supported by the data.
Since 2003, Japan has seen a greater number of dogs and cats than kids. This is even more amazing because the gap between cats and dogs is increasing each year, with more dogs being brought into Japan.
The popularity of Japanese dogs is real. The numbers don’t lie. With such beautiful native Japanese breeds of dogs, it’s easy to see why. These are 13 incredible Japanese breeds, ranked by popularity.
Native Japanese Dog Breeds
The 13 Japanese breeds of dogs include the Shiba Inu. Akita Inu. Japanese Spitz. Japanese Chin. Japanese Spitz. Japanese Chin. Japanese Chin. Japanese Spitz. Japanese Chin. Japanese Chin. Japanese Spitz. Tosa Inu. Japanese Terrier. Ryukyu Inu.
Notice: Many Japanese dog breeds are named with the word “Inu”, such as Shiba Inu, Akita Inu, etc. Shiba Inu, Akita Inu, etc.). This does not necessarily mean the breeds are close relatives.
Instead, the Japanese word “inu”, which means canine, is used. The Japanese word “ken”, which also means canine, is the same. The Kai Ken is a different breed than the Kishu Ken. They have distinct bloodlines.
1. Shiba Inu
Highlights: Courageous, Confident, Charming.
They’re tiny and agile, both originating in the mountainous region of Japan. Because of their popularity online, they are now available all around the globe. They are also very adaptable which has helped them gain popularity.
Shiba Inus are sometimes mistaken for Japanese dogs similar in appearance, like the Akita Inu or Hokkaido Inu. Check out our detailed comparison of Shiba to the Akita Inu. But they are much smaller due to distinct bloodlines.
Although they may seem small, they aren’t typical lap dogs. You shouldn’t expect them to sit on your lap. Shibas look slimmer, more muscular, and more agile than they are. Shibas were originally bred for hunting small wild game.
The very first Shiba Iu was documented in America in 1954. They were adopted by a Japanese military family. Shiba Inus have been steadily increasing in popularity since then.
- the Shiba was almost extinct during World War II. This was due to the Distemper virus (bomb raids)
- The Shiba Inu can produce the horrifying “Shiba screaming” sound when they are extremely happy or distressed.
- Japanese “Shiba” is “brushwood,” which refers to a shrub that turns red/brown when it’s autumn, similar to their coat color.
Shiba Inu Temperament
Shibas can be independent and behave like a cat. This may explain why they get along even though their prey drive. They are more comfortable with cats than dogs, at least. They do best in a two-dog home.
But, with a little bit of training and early socialization, they can still be “civilized” in their daily lives. Even more, they do not play well with younger children. They are proud dogs that don’t respond well to rough play.
Despite all the negatives, these dogs are smart with a kind-natured personality. The problem is that Shibas can be stubborn or strong-willed. Shibas are easy to housebreak. Shibas are often able to housebreak themselves.
Shiba Inus are well-known for their distinct high-pitched scream. You can find it on Youtube. They may scream when you don’t treat them well. You can hear them scream if you are not careful.
2. Ryukyu inu
Highlights: Courageous, Intelligent, Alert.
They were originally from Japan’s southern islands, Okinawa (also known as “Hawaii of Japan”), and are now the National Treasure of this island. However, it is not known much of Ryukyu’s history or origins.
However, because of their physical characteristics, many researchers believe they were originally bred to hunt on the Japanese island and/or track wild animals. However, the claw on their feet is what makes the Ryukyu unique.
This useful physical characteristic was developed by the Ryukyu Inu through many years of evolution and living in a rainforest. Because of this, they are capable of climbing trees. Their ability to track from a higher point of view is what makes them so formidable hunters.
- The Ryukyu Inu is very similar to the Kai Ken but they have different bloodlines. In fact, they are closer relatives to the Hokkaido Inu.
- Many believe the extincture of purebred Ryukyu Inus after WWII was due to food shortages, crossbreeding with western breeds, and the decline in their numbers. Purebreds were found eventually in Yanbaru National Park.
- Scientists believe that the Ryukyu managed to survive on the tsunami-prone island due to their ability to quickly climb trees and avoid being swept away in floods.
Ryukyu Inu Temperament
The Ryukyu Inu calm and docile dog. The Ryukyu Inu’s gentle nature will not be frightened by anything, but there are very few things that can actually make them nervous. Their courageous attitude is what makes them top hunters for vicious wild boars.
They are versatile hunters. They can hunt alone, but they also excel in groups. The Ryukyu does not bark often, but they are very aware of their surroundings. As you would expect from skilled hunting dogs, they also possess high prey drive.
Ryukyu Inus do not recommend cohabiting with other smaller animals such as rodents or cats. To live a normal domestication lifestyle, these dogs need to be socialized early and often.
Ryukyus are smart dogs, despite popular belief. They are highly intelligent and have high adaptive and instinctive IQs. They need to be physically and mentally stimulated to lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.
3. Japanese Terrier
Highlights: Cheerful, Vigilant, Affectionate.
Locals believe this breed was created through the hybridization of several fox terriers and pointers with other indigenous Japanese dogs. But not all researchers agree with this theory.
History suggests that the Japanese Terrier’s ancestors arrived in the country via the Dutch merchant ships, which docked at the Nagasaki harbor. This was believed to have happened sometime around the 17th century. There is no evidence to support this theory.
The American Kennel Club currently doesn’t recognize Japanese Terriers. The Japanese Kennel Club is the only organization that recognizes the Nippon Terrier. They still have greater recognition than other native Japanese dogs.
- The control of vermin on merchant ships and villages was a common practice among our ancestors in the early days.
- Japanese Terriers living in colder climates may need to be managed by dog sweaters.
- Most likely, the Japanese Terrier is bred with Pointers and Smooth Fox Terriers.
Japanese Terrier Temperament
This terrier breed was designed for the sole purpose to provide companionship. These terriers are wonderful companions. These terriers make great family pets because that’s what their original purpose was.
However, the Japanese Terrier might not be right for you if your goal is to have a dog that can hunt or alert you. Consider looking into one of six Japanese native dog breeds: Shiba, Akita Shokiku Kai Ken, Hokkaido Kishu Ken, Shokiku Kai Ken, Kai Ken, Kai Ken, Shokiku or Shokiku.
If you want a reliable, fun-loving, and friendly dog that will get along well with your kids, then the Japanese Terrier might be the dog for you. Japanese Terriers make wonderful dogs and have bright personalities and temperaments.
For allergy sufferers, the Japanese Terriers are hypoallergenic dogs. For allergy-sensitive dogs, they are the perfect Japanese dog for you. They can tolerate shedding fur and all that comes with it.
4. Tosa Inu
Highlights: Alert, Fearless, Sensitive.
Like the mastiff-type dogs, the Tosa Inus were originally bred to fight dogs, but they are now good guard dogs. You can think of them as canine sumo wrestlers. They’re honored and treated with a ceremony in Japan.
Tosa Inus were developed in Japan using the Shikoku Inu as a breed. English Bulldog, Great Dane, and Bull Terrier were some of the foreign breeds.
Tosa Inus today are bred around the globe. Yet, Tosa Inus bred inside Japan are significantly smaller than their counterparts outside. They’re roughly half the size of Japanese Tosa Inus. Tosa Inus can come in many shapes and sizes.
- Many countries have banned the Tosa Inu and require permits to keep one.
- Tosa Inus are Japanese pigs that are half the size of their American counterparts.
- Tosa Inus breeding is prohibited in certain prefectures or regions of Japan.
Tosa Inu Temperament
It shouldn’t surprise you that the Tosa Inu aggressive and potentially hazardous dog breed is a common one. Because they were “vicious” fighting dogs, it’s no surprise that they are so. They don’t get along with other dogs, so it is understandable that they aren’t good friends. Additionally, they can be deadly predators for cats.
Tosa Inus can be aggressive towards people they are familiar with, but not always. It is best to keep them away from children, no matter how much trust you have in them. They are patient.
These dogs are not recommended for novice dog owners. They have strong personalities and possess dominant traits. Tosa Ius is quick to establish its dominance if they don’t have a strong leader.
Tosa Inus must be given extra attention and care to avoid them causing injury to other people or animals. Tosa Inus must be socialized early and undergo obedience training. They should start training as soon as possible.
5. Kai Ken
Highlights: Devoted, Courageous, Reserved.
They are excellent hunting dogs. Their breed was bred to hunt bears and deer in the mountainous Yamanashi region. They’re agile in the water. But they are also great at climbing trees. This makes them one of the most versatile Japanese hunters.
Numerous cameos by the Kai Ken in Japanese pop culture have included appearances in manga and anime. These references have undoubtedly contributed to the popularity of the Kai Ken among younger generations in Japan.
The Kai Ken has been, along with Akita Inu, featured in the Ginga manga and Kacchu no Senshi Gamu. Both of these were highly respected in Japan at their peak.
- Kai Kens have been isolated for years in the mountains and are considered the purest of all Japanese breeds.
- Their striped fur makes them the “Tora Inu”, which is a tiger dog.
- There are two types of Kai Ken: one with a face that looks like a bear, and one with a face that looks like a fox.
Kai Ken Temperament
The Kai Ken is just like other Japanese dogs. It has natural hunting instincts. Their bravery, vigilance, and polite demeanor towards strangers make them great watchdogs.
You’d be surprised at how friendly they are with children. They can get along with other dogs from the same family and are very friendly. They are independent dogs, but Kai kens can form strong bonds with their family members.
Kai Kens are passionate about the outdoors and prefer to be near nature. It’s not wise to take them out of their natural habitat and place them in a metropolis. However, if you don’t have any other option, ensure that you take your pets outdoors as much as possible.
Kai Kens are physically gifted with agility, quickness, and speed. They love running. These dogs can swim over streams and rivers to chase their prey. If you live near a stream or lake, swimming is an excellent exercise option.
6. Kishu Ken
Highlights: Docile, Proud, Loyal.
The old Kishu area, now called Wakayama prefecture, is where the name of this Japanese breed comes from. And unlike other native dogs, the Kishu was developed for hunting deer and boar.
Instead of barking at prey to intimidate them, they cautiously track them during their hunt. To make this work, they had to be agile and vigilant at every moment. They’re known as “silent hunters”, in Japan.
The Kishu Ken physically looks very much like the Hokkaido Inu. In fact, they are roughly the same in size! But their temperament is more like that of the Shiba Inu. However, it will all depend on each dog.
- Kishu Ken is a quiet breed that does not bark.
- Amazing hunting dogs will sometimes climb trees to silently track their prey.
- These dogs are said to have been bred over 3000 years ago by historians.
The Kishu Kens, brave and courageous, are some of Japan’s most skilled hunting dogs. Their “silent stalking” hunting method is what makes them quiet dogs on the field as well as at home.
Kishu Kens are capable of being civil with small dogs, despite their prey instincts. Be cautious. However, you should still be cautious. High IQ is necessary to distinguish between animals that are hunted and those that are friends.
Kishu are prized for their loyalty to the family and pack. Kishu are good with children and young people. They’re also meticulous watchdogs and love to keep an eye on their territory from high vantage points.
Their dominating and strong-willed personalities are the only downsides. It is vital that a proper socialization and obedience training program be given to a puppy. Kishu will need a leader to guide the pack.
7. Hokkaido Inu
Highlights: Brave, Dignified, Faithful.
Hokkaido’s have thick, long hair to help them withstand the harsh winters of Hokkaido. Because of their double coat, Hokkaido dogs are more difficult to maintain than Japanese dogs. Hokkaido dogs need to be groomed regularly.
They were originally bred by the Ainu people in Northeast Japan to be hunting companions. These dogs were designed with endurance as a goal, while still maintaining their best agility in the cold and snowy terrain.
- Hokkaido Inu, one of the oldest Japanese dog breeds, is a Hokkaido Inu.
- This breed can be traced back as far as 1140 AD when the Ainu tribe used it for various tasks.
- Hokkaido Inu’s best trait is problem-solving. This means that they are among the most adaptive Japanese dogs.
One of the most famous traits of Hokkaido Inu is their loyalty and devotion to their owners. This is a common trait in all Japanese breeds. This combined with their extraordinary confidence means they will seize every opportunity to prove their worth to their owners.
Hokkaido’s were once hunting dogs. They have excellent smell and direction. A Hokkaido Inu that has lost its way will not stay there for too long. They will still find their way home, even though they may be far from home.
Hokkaido Inus intelligent dogs . The best part is that they are easy to train with treats! According to hunters, Hokkaido’s raised in family environments may not display the same temperament as those raised in hunting kennels.
8. Sanshu Inu
Highlights: Affectionate, Loyal, Sweet-natured.
They are common in Japan but they are very rare elsewhere. It is unfortunate that they are not given the recognition they deserve. Sanshu are great guard dogs and companions for Japanese families.
The Sanshu Inu can look similar to the Shiba Inu and Akita. The most significant difference lies in the tail. Sanshu have a longer tail than the other more popular Inus. Shibas and other “Inus,” have their distinctive fluffy curly tails.
The Sanshu is not recognized by even the Japanese Kennel Club. This breed is available in several colors including gray, pied, red, fawn, and gray. There is not an official breed standard so their coats could vary quite a bit.
- The Sanshu Inu was created primarily from a Chow Chow dog and an Aichi dog.
- There are two kinds of Sanshu dogs. One can grow up to 22 inches tall, while the other can only grow 18 inches.
- Despite their popularity, the Sanshu breed is not recognized by any breed associations, even the Japan Kennel Club.
Sanshu Inu Temperament
Sanshu Inus can be very protective dogs but their greatest asset is their companionship. Like most companion dogs, they are affectionate and loyal. Sanshus sensitive can respond best to positive training.
However, it is easier to train a Sanshu Inu than you think. They are serious about their training and will please all they can.
Sanshus are known to form close and personal connections with their family members. It’s not uncommon for them to protect their family at all costs. You see, they are popular Japanese guard dogs.
Additionally, the Sanshu Inu is a low-maintenance dog that’s easy to take care of. These dogs can clean up easily, much like a cat. They are very clean, but that doesn’t mean they should be neglected in basic hygiene.
9. Shikoku Inu
Highlights: Cautious, Devoted, Lively.
The Shikoku Island is the Shikoku Inu’s name. Shikokus are native dogs that were originally bred for mountain hunting. Because of this, they are flexible dogs, known for speed, endurance, agility, and speed.
Shikokus, at one time, was the prized possession by the Matagi. They were more than hunting dogs. They were also excellent tracking dogs and had a great sense of smell.
They are compact dogs with an agile frame that allows speed and agility during hunts. It also helps with endurance. They also have a dense double-coated coat that protects them against rough terrain elements like shrubs and bushes.
The AKC FSS standard has recently included this breed. Additionally, both the Japanese Kennel Club & the Canadian Kennel Club have officially recognized the Shikoku Inu – and they are rightfully so.
- The economic decline of Japan’s post-World War I period almost saw the Shikoku disappear.
- Their sense of smell is one of their greatest strengths. They can be a great guide if they are frightened.
- Shikoku Inus are bred for survival, especially on long hunting trips.
Shikoku inus exhibit many of the great qualities we see in Japanese hunting dogs such as bravery and carefulness. They possess a “tough personality” that is confident in taking down wild game across rugged terrain.
Shikokus, however, are not always like that. They are loyal and sweet in their home. This temperament is more like the perfect family dog than any other Japanese breed. They are hunters during the day, but they can also be affectionate friends at night.
The Shiba’s personality is what makes the Shikoku different from the Shiba. The Shikoku dog has a more relaxed personality than the Shiba Inu. Shikokus tend to be more relaxed with their family members.
10. Japanese Chin
Highlights: Independent, Loyal, Alert.
The Japanese Chin can also be called the Japanese Spaniel. This toy canine has a long history of association with Japanese nobility. You can see why they were loved by the Japanese elitists as well as the aristocrats.
Even though the Chin has a long history in Japan, there is much confusion over their origins. Although they are known as the “Japanese Chin”, they may not have been born in Japan. Historians struggle to agree on where they came from, and how were they brought over.
Some believe that the Chins came from Korea, where they were presented as gifts to Japan by the rulers of Korea in AD732. Others believe that the Chins may have come from China during the 6th Century. Despite all the theories, no concrete evidence supports either side.
Japanese Chins stand out because of their crossed ears. This is also known as Strabismus. It can take a Chin nearly two years to grow out of its undercoat. While the final coat will look stunning, it can be either black & white or red & white.
- Japanese “chin” means “to perform lots of tricks”, which these dogs love doing.
- The Chins are also very popular in China, as can be seen in Chinese pottery, decorations, and temples.
- Japanese Chins have an oval white spot on their foreheads which is often called “Buddha’s thumbprint.”
Japanese Chin Temperament
The “cat-like”, personalities are a major reason this breed is so popular. Their paws are used to clean their skin and they have a very good sense of balance. Both of these qualities are common in cats.
Other than that, Japanese Chins can be smart, intelligent, and self-sufficient dogs. Chins are loyal, friendly, and affectionate like all Japanese dog breeds. With the proper training, they can be the best therapy pets.
Over hundreds of years, Chins were bred to entertain Japan’s noblemen. They are able to learn commands and tricks very well, so it is not surprising that they are so adept. In fact, their most famous trick is the chin twist in which they spin rapidly on two legs.
You can see the trick for the chin spin. Although they have their quirks that are part of their charm, it is all part. They love to entertain and take center stage. A Japanese Chin is a joy to be around.
11. Japanese Spitz
Highlights: Affectionate, Playful, Obedient.
Japanese Spitz dogs originated in Japan in 1920s. Breeders began breeding different breeds of Spitz dogs. According to AKC, they are direct descendants of the white German Spitz which were imported from Siberia and China.
These spitz cans are recognized by all the major international kennel clubs except the American Kennel Club. The AKC has classified them in the Foundation Stock Service section due to their popularity.
These spitzes are very popular because of their easy-to-care-for and friendly temperament. The best part about these spitzes is their ability to shed debris and other rubbish without causing damage to their fur.
- It was believed that this breed came from crossing the German Spitz and German Spitz in 1921.
- AKC does not recognize Japanese Spitz dogs due to their strong similarity with the American Eskimo.
- This Spitz breed was not ‘finalized until the end of World War II.
Japanese Spitz Temperament
Japanese spitz thrives when they are fully involved in family events. They are affectionate dogs, and they can be very good-natured. Because of their loyalty, they are great watchdogs for families.
When confronted by unfamiliar people, will bark to warn their family. They are small and can only alert their family.
No one should be surprised to learn that they can play well with children, and make great senior dogs. No matter what your plans are, the Japanese Spitz will always be there for you. They are truly people-oriented dogs.
You shouldn’t confuse their playful, reckless side with being rash or reckless. The Japanese Spitz can be a good companion for any family member or owner. Toy dogs like these require a lot interaction from their owners. They do not like being left alone.
12. Akita Inu
Highlights: Faithful, Independent, Brave.
These grand dogs have been made the symbol of Japan. It’s similar to South Korea’s Jindo. These dogs aren’t cheap. They’re actually one of the priciest dog breeds. You get what your pay for.
There are two distinct Akita Iu variations. The original Japanese Akita Inu is the most popular, but there’s also an American Akita Inu.
The incredible and heartwarming story that Hachiko told was the first to bring this Japanese breed of dog to international attention. The breed’s popularity has grown over the years as this story has been retold countless times in a variety of media formats.
- Helen Keller, a blind and deaf political activist, was the first to bring Akita Inu to the USA in 1937.
- The Akita Iu is the 10th most expensive breed of dog and can be purchased for as high as $2,500 USD per puppy.
- In 2016, the Japanese Prime Minister gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a male puppy Akita, which he could breed with his female Akita Yume (Japan).
Akita Inu Temperament
Akita Inu, a territorial dog breed is the Akita. They are often reserved and cautious around strangers which could be why they are considered the best guard dog breed by the Japanese. But Akita’s most remarkable trait is loyalty, which is unmatched by any other dog.
According to the AKC they don’t cohabit well together with dogs of the exact same gender, especially a male Akita. There are always going to scuffle between the two genders.
Akitas are strong and independent canines that have an alpha personality. This needs to be managed. Socialization and obedience training are essential at an early age. Only a well-trained Akita can act docile toward non-threatening strangers.
Strangely, their strong personalities don’t seem to affect their ability to get along with children. Akitas seem to have a special affinity for children. If properly trained, Akitas can be considered an additional furry guardian for children.
13. Sakhalin Husky
Highlights: Loyal, Diligent, Confident.
However, we may not know of any additional Sakhalin Huskies. Researchers believe that this breed of dog is still present on Sakhalin Island.
These dogs are the oldest sled dog breeds. They were originally developed by the native Nivkh people as winter transportation and work dogs. Russian explorers quickly exported them to Soviet Union and used them in their Red Army.
Sergey Lyubykh, who was the only Sakhalin Husky bred in the world, passed away in 2012. Lyubykh said that there were not enough Sakhalin Huskies around the world to continue breeding shortly before his death. Enough genetic diversity is needed.
These Japanese huskies were the first to make it big in the world thanks to the 1958 Japanese exploration expedition to Antarctica. 15 huskies were left behind with the intention to come back after an emergency evacuation.
Unfortunately, the weather conditions got worse, and rescue efforts were not possible. After a full year, another expedition arrived to rescue two living dogs – Taro and Jiro. These two huskies have become national heroes in Japan today.
- Jiro, Taro (both Sakhalin Huskys), survived being left in Antartica for over a year without human care.
- You will find many monuments, statues, and sculptures of Taro or Jiro all over Japan.
- The Sakhalin Husky in Japan is also known as the Karafuto Ken.
Sakhalin Husky Temperament
These Japanese huskies have a unique personality and are very dedicated to their owners. Sakhalin Huskies behave like other Japanese dog breeds and are loyal to the end. They are loyal and faithful to their owners.
Sakhalin Huskies are affectionate dogs who do well in obedience training. This is due to their hard work ethic. They aren’t too eager to please. Sakhalins must have the right mix of encouragement and positive training.
Sakhalin Huskies work dogs. This means that they are not happy to be left alone or to do nothing for extended periods of time. Additionally, their extraordinary stamina was complemented by their endurance which made them perfect for transportation work.
Many call these dogs smart, independent, alert, confident, and intelligent. These dogs are good with children and other dogs. They are the perfect “pack dog”.