Breeds by Country Dog Breeds

13 Fascinating Japanese Dog Breeds – A Complete Guide to All Japanese Dogs

Japan has 12 amazing dog breeds. Here is every Japanese dog breed in existence.
Written by Richard Jeng

Japan is a country known for the world’s finest sushi, incredible anime stories and sneaky ninjas. But did you know the country is also home to many unique and popular Japanese dog breeds as well?

In the country of Japan, a “pet boom” can be traced back to the year 2003. At least in the eyes of the Japanese, raising dogs have become a viable and realistic alternative to raising a child. The data backs this statement.

Since 2003, the combined number of cats and dogs have outnumbered the number of kids in Japan. What’s more, this gap is only widening with increasingly more dogs being introduced into Japan each and every year.

The rise of the popularity of Japanese dogs is real – the numbers don’t lie. And with such gorgeous and charming native Japanese dog breeds, we understand why. That said, here are all 13 amazing Japanese breeds in order of popularity.

RECOMMENDED: 31 Best German Dog Breeds

History of Japanese Dogs

The first dog was likely domesticated at least 20,000 years ago. However, dogs lived with humans as early as 10,000 B.C. in the Jomon period of Japan. In these early days, dogs were not as beloved as they are in Japan today.

Researchers speculate that dogs were domesticated in the Jomon period because dog burials can be found from that era. This indicates that humans of the Jomon period had an affection and respect for dogs, likely meaning they lived with them.

In the far past, dogs have always migrated with humans. They provided useful support and help on these long and daunting journeys. And as you may have guessed, the Jomon people are the earliest migrants to Japan.

It’s believed that the Jomon tribe actually brought dogs to the Japanese archipelagos from central Asia many thousands of years ago. So in reality, none of these dogs ancestors are truly native to Japan. Instead, they were developed in the Asian country.

Even so, Jomon dogs are the ancestors to Japan’s recognized 6 native dog breeds: the Shiba Inu, Shikoku, Kishu, Kai Ken, Hokkaido and Akita Inu. And in the 1930s, these six dog breeds have been recognized as national treasures in Japan.

However, it wasn’t until the Edo period where Tokugawa Tsuneyoshi, the fifth shogun, gave an order to protect all animals in the region, including dogs. Given how early this was, he was met with a lot of criticism and ridicule.

But it was the first stepping stone in mainstream domestication of Japanese dog breeds in their native country. Today, many new Japanese breeds have developed from the native dogs. In addition, many others have came from foreign lands.

Japanese Dog Breeds by Popularity

Note: Many names of Japanese dog breeds have the word “Inu” in them (e.g. Shiba Inu, Akita Inu, etc.). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the breeds are closely related.

Rather, the word “inu” means dog in Japanese. Likewise, the word “ken” also means dog in Japanese. So, the Kai Ken and Kishu Ken are two different breeds with distinct bloodlines.

13. Sakhalin Husky

Highlights: Loyal, Diligent, Confident.

Jiro, the Sakhalin, is currently on display at the Hokkaido University museum.

The Sakhalin Husky is by far the rarest Japanese dog breed in the world today. In fact, these dogs are nearly extinct. They’re so rare that there were only two known purebred Sakhalin Huskies recorded in Japan by 2011.

Even so, there may be more Sakhalin Huskies we don’t know about. Researchers estimate that there is an unknown number of this dog breed still living on the Sakhalin Island.

These dogs are some of the most ancient sled dogs. They were originally bred by the native Nivkh people for winter transportation and various work. Russian explorers had quickly exported them to the Soviet and used them in the Red Army.

Sergey Lyubykh, the only Sakhalin Husky breeder in the world, died in 2012. And not long before his death, Lyubykh mentioned there weren’t enough Sakhalin Huskies in this world to continue breeding. There needs to be enough genetic diversity.

These Japanese huskies first shot onto the worldwide stage due to the infamous Japanese research expedition to Antartica in 1958. An emergency evacuation was made, which left 15 huskies behind with the intention of coming back.

However, weather conditions only worsened and the rescue never happened. After a full year, a new expedition arrived and found two of the dogs still aliveTaro and Jiro. Today, these two huskies are national heroes in the country of Japan.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Taro and Jiro (both Sakhalin Huskies) survived being stuck in Antartica for a year with no humans to care for them.
  • There are several sculptures, monuments and statues of Taro and Jiro placed all around Japan.
  • The Sakhalin Husky is also known as the Karafuto Ken in Japan.

Sakhalin Husky Temperament

These unique Japanese huskies are extremely devoted to their owners. Like many other Japanese dog breeds, Sakhalin Huskies are loyal to a fault. They’ll never waver and tend to stick by the owner’s side.

Sakhalin Huskies are very affectionate dogs that do great with obedience training (largely thanks to their work ethic). However, they are not overly eager to please. The right balance of positive training and encouragement must be used with a Sakhalin.

The Sakhalin Huskies are working dogs. In other words, they don’t like to spend time alone or do nothing for long periods of time. Plus, they had incredible stamina and endurance which made them ideal for transportation work.

Many describe these dogs as highly intelligent, independent, alert and confident. In addition, they tend to play well with children and other dogs. After all, they may be the ultimate “pack dogs.”

READ MORE: Sakhalin Husky – Japan’s Sled Dogs

12. Ryukyu Inu

Highlights: Courageous, Intelligent, Alert.

Though the Ryukyu Inu looks like the Kai Ken, they are very different Japanese dog breeds.

The Ryukyu Inu is a Japanese dog breed that very few have heard of – even in Japan! As a matter of fact, there’s estimated to be as few as 400 of them (in 2015), making them one of the rarest breeds to come from Japan.

They originated from the southern islands of Japan, called Okinawa (otherwise known as the “Hawaii of Japan”) and have been called the National Treasure of the island. Even so, the history and origins of the Ryukyu are somewhat unclear.

But given their physical qualities, many researchers believed they were originally bred to hunt and or track wild boars on the Japanese island. That said, what’s special about the Ryukyu is the dewclaw on the back of their foot.

Through many years of evolution while living in a rainforest, the Ryukyu Inu had developed this useful physical quality. As a result, they’re able to effortlessly climb trees. The ability to track from a higher vantage point is what makes them formidable hunters.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Though the Ryukyu Inu looks very similar to the Kai Ken, they have different bloodlines. In reality, they’re much more closely related to the Hokkaido Inu.
  • Many believed purebred Ryukyu Inus became extinct after WWII because of food shortages and the increase in crossbreeding with western breeds. However, purebreds were eventually found in Yanbaru National Park.
  • Scientists believe that the Ryukyu were able to survive so long on the tsunami-heavy island because of their ability to quickly climb trees to avoid being swept away by floods.

Ryukyu Inu Temperament

The Ryukyu Inu is a docile and calm dog. But despite their gentle nature, there are few things that will actually scare off a Ryukyu Inu. Their courageous attitude is why they thrive as top hunters for the vicious wild boars.

They are versatile hunters. Not only will they hunt with single owners, but also work great in packs. Though the Ryukyu doesn’t bark much, they’re always vigilant of their surroundings. Plus, they have high prey drive, as expected from skilled hunting dogs.

For this reason, the Ryukyu Inus are not recommended to cohabit with smaller animals, such as cats or rodents. In addition, early and frequent socialization training is necessary with these dogs to live a normal life in domestication.

And despite popular belief, Ryukyus are intelligent dogs with high instinctive and adaptive IQ. Just understand that they require a ton of physical and mental stimulation to live a happy and healthy life.

11. Japanese Terrier

Highlights: Cheerful, Vigilant, Affectionate.

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

The Japanese Terrier, often referred to as the Nippon Terrier, is a small dog breed originating from the country of Japan. While they’re amazing dogs, they’re an extremely rare breed – even in Japan.

Locals believe this breed was developed through the breeding of a variety of fox terriers, pointers and other indigenous Japanese dogs. However, not every researcher agrees with this theory.

Rather, historians believe that the ancestors of the Japanese Terrier were brought to the country by the Dutch merchant ships (at the Nagasaki port) sometime in the 17th century. Again, there is no concrete evidence to confirm this theory.

Currently, the Japanese Terriers aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club. In fact, the Nippon Terrier is only recognized by the Japanese Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club. Still, they have more recognition than most native Japanese dogs.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Early ancestors were used to control vermin population on merchant ships and villages.
  • Japanese Terriers in cold climate often need dog-sweaters to manage the conditions.
  • The Japanese Terrier likely have some Pointers, Smooth Fox Terriers or German Pinschers in them.

Japanese Terrier Temperament

This terrier breed was developed for the sole purpose of companionship. In other words, they’re excellent lap dogs and playmates. These terriers are perfect as family pets since that’s what they were intended for.

But if you’re looking for a skilled hunting dog or an alert watchdog, the Japanese Terrier may not be for you. Instead, try looking at one of the six native dog breeds of Japan (Shiba, Akita, Shokiku, Kai Ken, Hokkaido, Kishu Ken).

However, if you want a reliable and fun-loving dog that will play well with your kids, the Japanese Terrier is a dog you should consider. Japanese Terriers are lovely dogs with a vibrant personality and lively temperament.

A major plus for allergy sufferers is that the Japanese Terriers are hypoallergenic dogs. They are perfect Japanese dogs for allergy-sensitive dogs owners that can’t stand shed fur and the allergies than come with it.

READ MORE: The Joyful Japanese Terrier

10. Tosa Inu

Highlights: Alert, Fearless, Sensitive.

The Tosa Inu is another rare dog breed from the indigenous region of Tosa in Japan (now called the Kōchi prefecture). And because of their massive size (up to 200 lbs), the Tosa is often referred to as the Japanese Mastiff.

Like other mastiff-type dogs, the Tosa Inus were originally bred to be fighting dogs, but are generally raised to be excellent guard dogs today. Think of them as the canine version of sumo wrestlers. In Japan, they’re treated with honor and ceremony.

In the 19th century, Tosa Inus were bred in Japan using the indigenous Shikoku Inu and other dogs. Foreign breeds included the Saint Bernard, English Mastiff, English Bulldog, Great Dane, German Pointer and the Bull Terrier.

Today, Tosa Inus are bred all around the world. Yet surprisingly, Tosa Inus bred in Japan are much smaller than those bred outside. In fact, they’re roughly half the size in Japan. As a result, Tosa Inus come in all different shapes and sizes.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Many major countries have banned the Tosa Inu or require a permit to keep one.
  • Tosa Inus in Japan are almost half the size of their American counterparts.
  • Some prefectures and regions of Japan have banned the breeding of Tosa Inus.

Tosa Inu Temperament

It should be no surprise that the Tosa Inu is an aggressive and potentially dangerous dog breed. After all, they were bred to be “vicious” fighting dogs. So, it makes sense that they don’t play well with other dogs. Plus, they can become lethal predators for cats.

Although Tosa Inus aren’t typically aggressive towards familiar humans, aggression can happen. I would suggest never letting them play with children unsupervised no matter how much you trust the dog. Despite this, they are patient dogs.

With strong personalities and many dominant traits, these dogs are definitely not fit for first time dog owners nor for the casual owner. Without a firm and consistent leader of the pack, Tosa Inus tend to quickly establish their dominance.

To limit the chances of them harming other people and animals, Tosa Inus require extra attention or care early on. This means they must be socialized and go through proper obedience training. And the earlier they do, the better.

READ MORE: Tosa Inu – Japan’s Fighting Dog

9. Kai Ken

Highlights: Devoted, Courageous, Reserved.

The Kai Ken is highly loyal, but can take a while to build trust with a human.

The Kai Ken is an uncommon Japanese dog breed despite its national recognition. As one of the six indigenous dog breeds of Japan, the Kai Ken is a national treasure to its home and protected by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo).

Needless to say, they are excellent hunting dogs and were bred to hunt deer, boar and bears in the steep mountainous regions of Yamanashi. Not only are they agile in water, but they’re also great at climbing trees. This makes them the most versatile Japanese hunters.

The Kai Ken has had several cameos in Japanese pop culture, appearing in numerous manga and anime shows. These references undeniably helped with popularizing the Kai Ken among the younger generation of Japan.

For example, the Kai Ken (along with the Akita Inu) has been featured in the popular Ginga manga series and Kacchū no Senshi Gamu. Both of which, were highly regarded in Japan during the height of their popularity.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • After years of isolation in the mountains, the Kai Kens are considered to be the “purest” of all Japanese breeds.
  • They’re often called the “Tora Inu,” meaning tiger dog, due to their striped coats.
  • There are two variations of the Kai Ken, one with a face resembling a bear and another resembling a fox.

Kai Ken Temperament

Like the other native Japanese dogs, the Kai Ken is highly intelligent with natural hunting instincts. They make excellent watchdogs thanks to their braveness, vigilance and aloof demeanor towards strangers.

Believe it or not, they’re especially good with young children. Plus, they tend to get along well with other dogs of the same family. And although they’re very independent dogs, Kai kens will develop a loving and strong bond with the family members.

Kai Kens love the outdoors and live to be around nature. So, taking them away from their “preferred habitat” and sticking them in a metropolitan city is not the best idea. But if you have no choice, make sure you frequently take them to the outdoors.

Because Kai Kens are physically gifted with agility and quickness, they love to run. These dogs will chase prey by swimming across rivers and streams. So if you live by a lake or river, swimming may be a great exercise idea.

READ MORE: Kai Ken – The Japanese Tiger Dog

8. Kishu Ken

Highlights: Docile, Proud, Loyal.

The Kishu Inu is a highly devoted dog with intense loyalty.

The Kishu Ken (sometimes referred to as the Kishu Inu) is one of the most ancient dog breeds to have come out of Japan. And according to Wag Walking, they’ve likely been bred in the country for several thousands of years.

The name of this Japanese breed originates from where they were bred: the old Kishu region (now called Wakayama prefecture). And unlike the other six native dogs, the Kishu was bred for hunting deer and boar using their “trademark method.”

Instead of barking to intimidate prey, they carefully and cautiously stalk them in their hunt. For this method to work effectively, they needed to be light on their feet and vigilant at all times. As such, they’re called the “silent hunters” of Japan.

Upon first glance, the Kishu Ken physically resembles the Hokkaido Inu. In fact, they’re roughly the same size! However, temperament is often described to be more like the Shiba Inu. Though, this will depend on the individual dog.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Kishu Ken is one of the few quiet dog breeds that rarely bark.
  • These amazing hunting dogs will often go as far as climbing trees in order to silently stalk their prey.
  • Some historians claim that these dogs have been bred for over 3,000 years.

Kishu Temperament

The Kishu Kens are courageous and brave, making them some of the most capable hunting dogs in Japan. Given their “silent stalking” hunting technique, it’s no surprise they’re quiet dogs, both on the field and in the home.

Despite their high prey instincts, Kishu Kens can be civil with cats and small dogs (if raised together). However, you should still be cautious. Being able to distinguish between animals to hunt and befriend requires high adaptive IQ, which Kishu Kens have.

Kishus are touted for their unwavering loyalty to the pack and family. As such, they’re excellent with young children of the family. Furthermore, they’re very observant watchdogs that like to watch their territory from high grounds.

The only potential downside is their dominant and strong-willed personalities. This means that it is absolutely necessary for proper obedience and socialization training as a puppy. Kishus will require a firm leader to provide guidance to the pack.

READ MORE: Kishu Ken – Silent Japanese Hunter

7. Hokkaido Inu

Highlights: Brave, Dignified, Faithful.

Hokkaido dog is a japanese breed from the northern region of japan.

The Hokkaido Inu is native to the most northern island and prefecture of Japan, called Hokkaido. In Japan, they’re also referred to as the Ainu KenSeta and Ainu dog. Hokkaidos look eerily similar to the Shiba and Akita, though they’re the medium-sized version.

Hokkaidos have long, thick fur – primarily for combating the harsh cold winters of Hokkaido. In other words, the double coats of the Hokkaido make them higher maintenance than other Japanese dogs. Grooming is a must for a Hokkaido!

They were originally bred to be hunting companions by the indigenous Ainu people of Northeast Japan. These dogs were developed with endurance in mind, all while maintaining their top agility in the cold, snowy terrain.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Hokkaido Inu is one of the most ancient breeds of the native Japanese dogs.
  • This breed can be traced back to 1140 AD, where the Ainu tribe used these dogs for various jobs.
  • One of the Hokkaido Inu’s greatest strengths is problem solving, which means they have some of the highest adaptive intelligence among Japanese dogs.

Hokkaido Temperament

Perhaps the most well-known trait of Hokkaido Inu is their loyalty and dedication to their owners. This is a common trait among all Japanese breeds. But when combined with their remarkable confidence, they’ll take any opportunities to prove themselves to their owners.

Because they were originally hunting dogs, Hokkaidos have an excellent sense of smell and direction. That’s to say, a lost Hokkaido Inu typically won’t stay lost for long. In fact, they will always find a way home despite long distances.

Hokkaido Inus are intelligent dogs. Best of all, they’re easy to train with treats! But according to the hunters, a Hokkaido raised in a typical family environment may not exhibit the same temperament as those raised in hunting kennels.

READ MORE: Hokkaido Inu – Ancient Ainu Dog

6. Sanshu Inu

Highlights: Affectionate, Loyal, Sweet-natured.

The Sanshu Inu is a rare Japanese dog breed developed from a Chow Chow and Aichi dog.

Being one of the more recent Japanese breeds, the Sanshu Inu is a Japanese dog developed in the early 1900’s (around 1912). They’re a cross between the Chow Chow, Aichi (ancient Japanese dog) and other various Japanese Inus.

Although they’re relatively popular in Japan, the Sanshu is extremely rare outside the country. It’s unfortunate because they don’t get the recognition they deserve. Sanshus are excellent guard dogs and affectionate companions for Japanese families.

The Sanshu Inu may look similar to the Akita or Shiba Inu. However, the biggest difference is in the tail. Sanshus have a much straighter tail than the other, more popular Inus. Shibas and most other “Inus” have their trademark fluffy curly tails.

Not even the Japanese Kennel Club recognizes the Sanshu. As such, these dogs come in a variety of coat colors: tan, red, fawn, gray and pied. Because there is no official breed standard, their coats may vary quite a bit.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Sanshu Inu was developed primarily with a Chow Chow and an ancient Aichi dog.
  • There are two varieties of the Sanshu dog. One can grow up to 22 inches, whereas the other can only grow up to 18 inches tall.
  • Despite their popularity in Japan, the Sanshu is not recognized by any breed organizations – including the Japan Kennel Club.

Sanshu Inu Temperament

Although Sanshu Inus are excellent guard dogs, they’re most known for companionship. And like most companion dogs, they’re affectionate and loyal dogs. Sanshus are sensitive dogs that respond best to positive training.

Even so, training a Sanshu Inu will be easier than you think. They’re serious about training and would like nothing more than to please their masters.

The Sanshus will often form very close and personal bonds with their family members. That said, it’s not unusual for them to protect family at all cost. I mean, there’s a reason why they’re popular guard dogs among families in Japan.

In addition, the Sanshu Inu is a low maintenance dog that’s relatively easy dog to care for. Like a cat, these dogs will often clean up themselves. Though they’re clean dogs, that doesn’t mean you should ignore grooming and basic hygiene.

5. Shikoku Inu

Highlights: Cautious, Devoted, Lively.

The Shikoku Inu is ranked one of the most common dog breeds from Japan.

The Shikoku Inu is named after the Shikoku Island of southern Japan. Like all the other native dogs, the Shikokus were originally bred for hunting in mountainous regions. As a result, they’re versatile dogs known for endurance, agility and speed.

At one point, Shikokus were the prized possessions of the Matagi (traditional winter hunters). They weren’t just hunting dogs, but also excellent tracking dogs blessed with a gifted nose and intuition on the hunting field.

They’re compact dogs with a lean frame, giving them extra agility and speed during the hunts. This lean frame also helped with endurance. Plus, the dense double coat was bred to protect them from rough terrain elements, such as bushes and shrubs.

Just recently, this dog breed had been put into the AKC FSS standard. In addition, the Shikoku Inu has been officially recognized by both the Japanese Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club – and rightfully so.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • After World War I, the poor economic conditions of Japan almost caused the Shikoku to become extinct.
  • One of their greatest strengths is their sense of smell. If they get loose, their nose can lead them several miles away.
  • The Shikoku Inus were bred with the intention of survival, especially during long hunting trips.

Shikoku Temperament

Shikoku Inus have a lot of the same great qualities that we see in other Japanese hunting dogs, such as bravery and cautiousness. They have a “tough personality” and are very confident in take downs of wild game through rugged terrain.

However, Shikokus are not always like this. In your home, they will be very loyal, sweet, and good-natured. The temperament probably fits the mold of the ideal family dog more so than most breeds of Japan. They’re hunters by day, affectionate companions by night.

The key difference between the Shiba and Shikoku is the contrast in personality. The Shikoku dog is not as stubborn nor independent as the Shiba Inu. Shikokus are much more easy-going when they’re with loved ones at home.

READ MORE: Shikoku Inu – Kochi Hunting Dog

4. Japanese Chin

Highlights: Independent, Loyal, Alert.

The Japanese Chin is a small working dog breed that may have originated from China.

The Japanese Chin is also called the Japanese Spaniel. This toy dog has had a long history with Japanese nobility. They were popular among the aristocrats and elitists of Japan, and it’s easy to see why.

But even with the Chin’s history in Japan, there’s a lot of confusion on the origins. Yes, they’re called the “Japanese Chin,” but they may not be native to Japan. Historians have a hard time agreeing on where they originally came from and when they arrived.

Some believe the Chins were given as gifts to Japan from the rulers of Korea in AD 732. On the other hand, some believe they may have came from China in the 6th century. Despite the theories, there is no concrete evidence supporting either side.

The Japanese Chins are unique because of their naturally crossed eyes, also called strabismus. In addition, a Chin has an under coat that can take nearly 2 years to fully grow out. When it does, the coat is either black & white or red & white, but always stunning.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The word “chin” in Japanese means “to perform a lot of tricks,” which these dogs enjoy doing.
  • The Chins are also popular in China, as seen in Chinese temples, pottery and decorations.
  • The Japanese Chins have a white spot on their foreheads, often referred to as “Buddha’s thumbprint.”

Japanese Chin Temperament

A big reason for this breed’s popularity is their “cat-like” personalities. For instance, they like to use their paws to clean their face and they have an exceptionally good sense of balance. Both qualities are frequently seen in cats.

Other than that, the Japanese Chins are alert, smart and independent dogs. Like most Japanese dog breeds, the Chins are loyal and friendly to their owners and family. And given the proper training, they make the best therapy dogs.

For hundreds of years, the Chins were bred to entertain the noblemen of Japan. So it makes sense they’re superb at learning commands and tricks. In fact, they’re renowned for a trick called the “chin spin,” in which they spin in circles rapidly on two legs.

You can check the trick out the chin spin here. They certainly have their quirks, but that’s all part of their charm. They love nothing more than to entertain and be the center of attention. I think it’s safe to say, you’ll never have a dull moment with a Japanese Chin.

READ MORE: The Joyful Japanese Chin

3. Japanese Spitz

Highlights: Affectionate, Playful, Obedient.

The Japanese Spitz is a companion dog originating from Japan.

The Japanese Spitz is a small dog breed from the spitz family of dogs. Bred as companion dogs, they’re closely related to the Pomeranian, Samoyed and the American Eskimo dog (among others). Isn’t it obvious from their looks?

Japanese Spitz dogs were born out of Japan in the 1920s, when breeders began breeding various types of spitz dog breeds. According to the AKC, they are direct descendants of the white German Spitz, which were brought into Japan through Siberia and China.

These spitz dogs are currently recognized by every major international kennel club, except for the American Kennel Club. However, the AKC has categorized them in the Foundation Stock Service group thanks to their popularity.

Since then, these spitzes have grown in popularity due to their favorable temperaments and the easiness to care for. What’s interesting is that despite having long fluffy fur, debris and other junk do not to stick to their coat.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • This breed was believed to have come from cross-breeding the German Spitz in 1921.
  • The Japanese Spitz isn’t recognized by the AKC because of their strong similarity to the American Eskimo dog.
  • This Spitz breed hadn’t been ‘finalized’ until the end of World War II.

Japanese Spitz Temperament

The Japanese spitz will thrive when fully participating in family events. They’re good-natured dogs and can’t help but show off affection towards their owners. Thanks to their loyal nature, they make great watch dogs for families.

If confronted with unfamiliar people, they will bark to warn the family of the approaching intruders. But given their petite size, there’s very little they can do outside of alerting the family.

It should surprise no one that they play well with children and can make a great dogs for seniors. No matter what you have planned, the Japanese Spitz is willing to stay by your side. They are truly people-oriented dogs.

Don’t mistaken their playful side as being rash and reckless. The Japanese Spitz has a gentle side that will mesh well with any owner or family. However, these toy dogs require much interaction from the owners. They don’t like to be alone.

READ MORE: Japanese Spitz Breed Profile

2. Akita Inu

Highlights: Faithful, Independent, Brave.

The Akita Inu is the most common large Japanese dog.

The Akita is a very popular and highly regarded dog breed originating from the northern region of Japan. Specifically, from the Akita prefecture. They’re one of the few Japanese dogs that actually made it to the west and thrived.

These grand dogs have become the national symbol of Japan – similar to what the Jindo is to South Korea. Because of this, they don’t come cheap. In fact, they’re one of the most expensive dog breeds in the world. Though, you get what you pay for.

There are two distinctive variations of the Akita Inu. While there’s the original Japanese Akita Inu, there’s also an “American Akita.” Oddly, the two are considered separate breeds in every country, except the United States and Canada.

The remarkable and heartwarming story of Hachikō was what first put this Japanese dog breed on the international stage. Throughout the years, this story has been told countless times in various media formats, fueling the breed’s popularity.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Helen Keller, the deaf and blind political activist, was the first to bring the Akita Inu into the USA in 1937.
  • The Akita Inu is considered to be the 10th most expensive dog breed, costing upwards of $2,500 USD/puppy.
  • In 2016, Japanese Prime Minister gifted Russian President Vladimir Putin a male puppy Akita to breed with his female Akita (Yume).

Akita Inu Temperament

The Akita Inu is a territorial dog breed. They can be aloof and cautious around strangers, which may be the reason why the Japanese view them as the best guard dogs. However, the most notable trait of the Akita is loyalty unlike any other dog.

According to the AKC, they do not cohabit well with other dogs of the same gender, especially for a male Akita. And even with two different genders, there’s no guarantee there won’t be any scuffles in the home.

Akitas are strong and independent dogs with an alpha personality that needs to be kept in check. It is why obedience and socialization training are crucial at an early stage. Only a well-trained Akita will be able to act docile towards non-threatening strangers.

Strangely enough, despite their strong personalities, they play well with kids. In fact, it’s often believed that Akitas have a special affinity towards children. Consider them an extra furry guardian for your children (with the proper training).

READ MORE: Akita Inu – Great Japanese Dog

1. Shiba Inu

Highlights: Courageous, Confident, Charming.

Shiba Inus are the most popular dog breeds of japan.

The Shiba Inu is the most popular Japanese dog breed in the world. Famous for inspiring one of the biggest and longest-standing joke on the internet, the Shiba gave us doge memes. However, there’s so much more to Shibas.

They’re petite and agile dogs originating from the mountainous regions of Japan. But because of increasing online popularity, they can now be found all over the world. Plus, the fact that they’re such adaptable dogs helped with their popularity too.

Shiba Inus are often mistaken for similar looking Japanese dogs, such as the Akita Inu or Hokkaido Inu (check out our detailed comparison of the Shiba versus Akita Inu). However, they’re much smaller with a distinct blood line.

While they may be small dogs, they aren’t your typical toy lap dogs. Don’t expect them to be okay lounging around on your lap. Shibas are lean, muscular and more agile than they look. After all, they were originally bred to hunt small wild game.

The very first documented Shiba Inu came to America in 1954. They were brought back by a military family stationed in Japan. And ever since, Shiba Inus have been steadily climbing as one of the most popular foreign dogs.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • After World War II, the Shiba nearly became extinct due to the Distemper virus and bomb raids.
  • The Shiba Inu will produce a horrifying vocalization called, the “shiba scream.” This can happen when they’re extremely distressed or happy.
  • In Japanese, “shiba” means “brushwood,” which is a shrub that turns red/brown during Autumn – a color similar to their coat color.

Shiba Inu Temperament

Shibas are independent dogs, much like a cat. This might explain why they tend to get along with other cats despite their prey drive. At least, they get along more so than with other dogs. They’re best living in a one-dog household.

However, with early socialization and a bit of training, they can still be “civil” when living with others. What’s more surprising is that they don’t play well with young children. They’re proud dogs that do not respond well to rough play.

Despite the negatives, these dogs are intelligent with a good-natured personality. It’s just that they can be a little stubborn and strong-willed. On the bright side, Shibas are easy to housebreak. And often times, they’ll housebreak themselves.

Shiba Inus are infamous for a distinguishable high-pitched scream, called the “Shiba Scream.” You can check it out here. You may hear them scream if you handle them in an unpleasant way. However, a similar cry can come from great happiness and joy.

READ MORE: The Bold & Spirited Shiba


So let us know, which is your favorite Japanese dog breed? If you own a Japanese dog, tell us about your dog! Leave a comment in the section below.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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