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Japanese Terrier – Temperament, History & Care – A Guide to the Terriers of Japan

The Japanese Terrier is a small Japanese dog breed and is believed to be the descendant of the fox terrier. They have a broad forehead, a glossy coat, high set ears, black nose, a thin tail, and a well-defined muzzle. They’ve got the typical “terrier look,” if you will.

But what really makes them unique is the presence of black hair all over the head, whereas the rest of the body is white in color. This special positioning of colors is what sets them apart from pretty much any other terrier from the canine kingdom.

These small lap dogs are excellent companions as they can bring a lot of joy and energy into a home. However, the spirited and cheerful dog breed is a rare sight even in its home country of Japan. Read on to learn everything about the joyful Japanese Terrier.

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Japanese Terrier Basic Profile

Friendliness: The Japanese Terrier  is well above average in terms of friendliness. With proper socialization, these dogs can get along with any human, dog or other small animal.


Trainability: These terrier dogs are highly intelligent and learn easily. Because they’re so eager to perform tricks in front of people, it’s no surprise they do great with training as well.


Grooming: The Japanese Terrier does not shed very often throughout the year. They require very minimal grooming and do not require professional assistance.


Adaptability: They are small dogs and can adapt well in different environments. Being cramped in an apartment is no problem for these terriers. However, if they’re often left home alone for long durations, they may experience separation anxiety.


Activity: Like many other toy dog breeds, the Japanese Terrier does not need as much exercise as other breeds. Still, it’s recommended that you take them out once a day to get some stretch and movement in.

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<strong>Japanese Terrier - </strong><strong>Vital Stats</strong>
  • Height: 8 – 13 inches
  • Weight: – 10 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years
  • Dog Breed Group: Terrier Group 

History of Japanese Terriers

The Japanese terrier one of the most popular dogs from the country of Japan.

Japanese Terriers are believed to be a cross between the local Japanese dogs and the dogs that the British or Dutch sailors brought into Japan on their conquests. It’s not clear whether they were crossed with Pointers, Smooth Fox Terriers or with German Pinschers. However, a combination of the three may likely be the case.

Some believe that these dogs were bred to hunt vermin. Regardless of original intention, the Japanese Terriers served as superb companions and lap dogs, especially in the ports of Kobe Nagasaki and Yokohama during the 1600s.

Selective breeding began during the 1920s when the Japanese Terriers received recognition from the Kennel Club of Japan. But despite official recognition, the population of this breed drastically declined after the Second World War.

Physical Characteristics

The Japanese Terrier is a toy or lap dog that weighs about five to nine pounds. At the same time, they can grow up to thirteen inches in height.

The body is sturdy and not dainty despite being a toy breed. Their tail is relatively thin, and the coat is smooth, short, silky and slick. You can see some tan or black spotting on the white-coat body.

Likewise, the head is either tan or black.  The eyes are often described as medium-sized, oval and dark.  In situations where they’re alert, their folded ears become erect. 

Temperament of Japanese Terriers

The Japanese Terrier is a spirited, lively and active breed. They are cheerful, affectionate and intelligent. Don’t be too surprised if they happily hop on to your lap for attention and cuddles. If you are fond of dogs that demand attention, then this breed will not disappoint you.

Japanese Terriers don’t love being left alone for long periods of time. So if you work long hours, then they may not be too happy on workdays. They are also devoted to their owners and are fiercely loyal. Don’t let their small stature make you believe they won’t try to protect the house in your absence.

They are more likely to get attached to a single person of the family and can become overly possessive over that particular individual. They will bark in annoyance if their beloved owner is paying more attention to another person or a pet.

Always treat these dogs with care, as they are quite sensitive and gentle. A stressful environment or improper care can negatively affect these dogs. Japanese Terriers are wary with strangers but are not aggressive.

Instead, they become more alert and cautious around the unfamiliar. You can always count on a Japanese Terrier to alert its owners by barking at a stranger intruding the property.

Children and Other Dogs

Japanese Terriers are usually great around children. Although the breed is playful and affectionate, the kids must be old enough to know how to be around them. You need to ensure that the children are informed on how to properly handle the breed and be affectionate around them.

Most Japanese Terriers get along with cats if raised with one. However, there’s still a chance that they may not accept smaller non-canine pets and will end up chasing them away. This dog breed gets along well with other dogs of the same size but not usually with dogs much larger. As long as they’re raised with a docile and friendly large dog, then it shouldn’t be a problem. 

Training Japanese Terriers

It is fairly easy to train Japanese Terriers as long as you are gentle, confident, consistent and firm in your sessions. This is why you need to be calm and composed while handling this breed. Also, you need to avoid being harsh as they do not respond positively to harsh treatments.

This breed likes to learn, and more importantly, perform tricks. If you want the perfect dog to show off to your friends and family, the Japanese Terrier is an excellent choice.

Socialization is essential for a Japanese Terrier and the best time to do it is as a puppy. By introducing your dog to other animals, people, sounds and places,  they’ll begin to understand what is normal, what is acceptable and what is not. It’s been noted that well-socialized Japanese Terriers are more trustworthy, confident and happier.  

Japanese Terrier Care

Caring for your Japanese Terrier is like with any other dog. That is, it requires a decent amount of attention and time commitment to properly raise one. However, like with all breeds, there are care tips specific to the Japanese terrier.


This Japanese toy breed does not shed a lot throughout the year. If you want to minimize the loose hair, then you need to make sure to brush the coat once or twice in a week. This activity will spread the natural oils within the skin and keep the coat shiny and healthy.

There is no need for frequent trips to a professional groomer. You can bathe them whenever they get a little too dirty by using just dog shampoo. An important thing to note is that bathing them frequently can strip the natural oils and result in future skin problems.  

Keeping a Japanese Terrier’s ears free from infection should be a priority. Fortunately, this is very easy to do. Simply, wipe the ears clean with a damp cloth or with a cleaning solution every now and then. 

As far as teeth are concerned, it’s recommended you brush them twice or thrice a week. Always use toothpaste and toothbrushes designed specifically for dogs. It’s important to be extremely careful while picking the right grooming products for your dog. If you’re not sure, you can get some recommendations from your local veterinarian.

Their nails should be clipped very carefully to prevent any accidents. You need to be cautious about not cutting into the paw with nerve endings and blood vessels. If an accident happens, it can be very painful for your terrier. 

The good news is that you can get this done by a professional groomer with years of experience. Sometimes your veterinarian can do it for you if you ask.

Feeding Schedule

The Japanese Terriers need half to one-and-a-half cup of excellent quality dry dog food. Instead of one large meal, you should feed them two meals a day. Preferably, once in the morning and once at night.

The amount of food to be given depends on the dog’s size, age, metabolism, level of activity and health. If you’re not sure, consult with your veterinarian when you go in for your dog’s puppy shots. Don’t forget to provide fresh water throughout the day.

Health Concerns

The Japanese Terrier is reasonably healthy with a lifespan of twelve to fifteen years. Some may develop conditions such as Patellar Luxation, which results in dislocation of joints, small injuries, and ear infections. These dogs have also been known to develop eye problems at an older age.

If you are set on getting a Japanese Terrier, you must ensure that you are getting a healthy dog from trustworthy breeders. The problem is that it is extremely tough to find reputable breeders in the United States.

You’ll have a much better shot trying to get one from Japan if you have the resources to do so.

Do not forget to look into parental health clearances if you are planning to bring one home. Before bringing one of these dogs home, you should always keep in mind that a toy breed requires more care compared to other medium or large-sized dogs.  

Similar Dog Breeds

The most similar dog breed to the Japanese Terrier is the Fox Terrier from England. Among the Japanese breeds, they are most unique in their physical characteristics.

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