Breeds by Country Dog Breeds

13 Fascinating Dog Breeds of Japan – The Complete Guide to Japanese Dogs

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

Japan is a country renowned for the world’s finest sushi, incredible anime (or manga) stories and awesome sneaky ninjas. But did you know Japan is also home to many unique and internationally popular dog breeds as well?

Kabosu  (Japanese: かぼす), arguably the most famous dog on the internet, is a Shiba Inu – a dog breed originating from Japan. So, you can probably guess the popularity of Japanese dog breeds have sky-rocketed in recent years.

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 quickly 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 children in Japan. This gap is only widening with increasingly more dogs being introduced into the economy every year.

The rise of the popularity of Japanese dogs is real. The numbers don’t lie. So without further a due, here are all 13 amazing Japanese dog breeds in order of popularity.

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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, they are nearly extinct. By 2011, there were only two known purebred Sakhalin Huskies recorded in Japan. However, there is an unknown number of this breed still living on the Sakhalin Island.

Sergey Lyubykh, the only Sakhalin Husky breeder in the world, died in 2012. Not long before his death, Lyubykh mentioned that there were not enough Sakhalin Huskies in this world to continue breeding, as there needs to be enough genetic diversity.

This breed first became internationally known 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. Weather conditions became too bad and the rescue never happened.

After a full year, a new expedition arrived and found two of the dogs still alive. Today, Taro and Jiro are national heroes in the country of Japan. As a matter of fact, these dogs are featured on monuments and statues all over Japan.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Taro and Jiro (Sakhalin Huskies) survived being stuck in Antartica for a year.
  • There are several sculptures / statues of Taro and Jiro placed all around Japan.
  • The only breeder of pure Sakhalin Huskies passed away in 2012.

Sakhalin Husky Temperament

These unique huskies are extremely devoted to their owners. Like many other Japanese dog breeds, Sakhalin Huskies are loyal to a fault.

They’ve been known to be very affectionate dogs that do great with obedience training (largely thanks to their work ethic). However, they are not overly anxious to please.

The Sakhalin Huskies are working dogs, meaning they don’t like to spend time alone or do absolutely nothing for long periods of time. They can exhibit destructive tendencies and behavior if neglected.

Some people describe these dogs as highly intelligent, independent, alert and confident. Plus, they tend to play well with children and other dogs. They’re great “pack dogs.”

READ MORE: Sakhalin Husky – Sled Dogs of Antartica

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! That’s because these dogs are so rare that there’s estimated to be as few as 400 of them in 2015.

They originate from the southern islands of Japan, called Okinawa (otherwise known as the “Hawaii of Japan”).

History and origins of these dogs are somewhat unclear. However, many researchers believed they were originally bred to hunt and track wild boars on the Japanese island.

What’s special about the Ryukyu Inu 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 unique physical characteristic.

As a result, they’re able to effortlessly climb trees. The ability to track from such high vantage points is what makes them highly capable hunting dogs.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Though the Ryukyu Inu looks very similar to the Kai Ken, they have different bloodlines. In actuality, 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 floods.

Ryukyu Inu Temperament

For the most part, the Ryukyu Inu is a calm and docile dog. And despite their gentle nature and demeanor, there are few things that will actually scare a Ryukyu Inu.

Their courageous attitude is why they thrive as great hunters for wild boars – which by the way, are extremely dangerous animals. Not only do they hunt with single owners, but also work great in packs.

Though the Ryukyu doesn’t bark much, they’re always alert of their surrounding environment. Plus, they’re dogs with high prey drive, as expected from such skilled hunting dogs.

Because of this, they’re not recommended to cohabit with small animals, such as cats or rodents. In addition, early and frequent socialization is absolutely necessary with these dogs.

Despite popular belief, they are quite intelligent dogs. Just know 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 classified as a small dog originating from the country of Japan. Although they’re amazing dogs, they’re an extremely rare breed – even in Japan.

Many locals believe that this breed was discovered through the breeding of fox terriers, pointers and other indigenous Japanese dogs. However, not everyone agrees with this theory.

Historians believe that the ancestors of the Japanese Terrier were brought to the country by the Dutch merchant ships at the Nagasaki port. Still, there is no concrete evidence to confirm this theory.

Currently, they aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club. In fact, they’re only recognized by the Japanese Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club (so far).

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 bred for the sole purpose of being pets and companions. In other words, they’re excellent lap dogs and playmates.

Japanese Terriers are described as lovely dogs with a cheerful personality and lively temperament. These dogs are perfect as family pets because that’s what they were intended for.

If you’re looking for a skilled hunting dog or an attentive watchdog, then the Japanese Terrier may not be for you. Instead, try looking at a breed from 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 get along with your children, the Japanese Terrier is a breed you should highly consider.

A huge plus is that they’re a hypoallergenic dog breed. They’re the perfect Japanese dog for allergy-sensitive dogs owners that can’t stand shed fur.

READ MORE: Japanese Terrier – History & Temperament

10. Tosa Inu

Highlights: Alert, Fearless, Sensitive.

The Tosa Inu is another rare dog breed from the indigenous region of Tosa, Japan (now referred to as Kōchi prefecture). And because of their massive size, 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.

Starting from the 19th century, Tosa Inus were bred in Japan using the indigenous Shikoku Inu, along with many other European dog breeds.

These foreign dog breeds included the English Mastiff, Saint Bernard, English Bulldog, Great Dane, German Pointer and the Bull Terrier.

Today, breeding Tosa dogs happen all around the world. Yet surprisingly, Tosa Inus bred in Japan are much smaller than those bred outside the country. In fact, they’re roughly half the size in Japan. For this reason, Tosa Inus can 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 a aggressive and potentially dangerous dog breed. They were, after all, bred to be huge fighting dogs. So, they don’t do well with other dogs and can even become a lethal predators to cats.

Although Tosa Inus aren’t typically aggressive towards familiar humans, aggression can certainly happen. Never let them play with children unsupervised no matter how much you trust the dog.

These dogs are definitely not recommended for first time dog owners nor for the casual dog owner. They have dominant personalities that need a firm and consistent leader within the pack.

To limit the chances of them harming other people and animals, Tosa Inus require extra attention. This means they must be socialized at an early age and go through proper obedience training. The earlier, the better.

READ MORE: Tosa Inu – The Japanese 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 dog breed, even in the country of Japan. As one of the six indigenous dog breeds of Japan, the Kai Ken is considered a national treasure to its home and protected by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo).

They are excellent hunting dogs and were bred to hunt deer, boar and bears in the steep mountainous regions of Yamanashi. Not only can they swim, but they’re also great at climbing trees, making them some of the most versatile hunters in the world.

The kai Ken has had several cameos in Japanese pop culture, appearing in numerous manga and anime, which definitely helped in popularizing the Kai Ken. 

For example, the dog is featured in Ginga manga series (along with both of its sequels) and Kacchū no Senshi Gamu. Both of which, were highly popular in Japan during its time.

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

The Kai Ken is highly intelligent dog with natural hunting instincts. Because they’re brave, alert and often aloof with strangers, they’re considered excellent watch dogs for families.

They’re especially good with young children and tend to get along well with other dogs. And although they’re very independent dogs, they have no problem forming a loving bond with the family members.

Kai Kens love the outdoors and live to be around nature. So, taking them away from their “natural habitat” and sticking them in a metropolitan city may not be the best idea for them.

Because Kai Kens are extremely agile and quick, most of them love to run. If you live by a lake or have a pool, swimming is another great option. They’ve been known to chase prey by swimming across rivers and streams.

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 come out of Japan. According to Wag Walking, they’ve likely been bred in the country for several thousands of years.

The name of the Japanese breed originates from the old Kishu region (now called the Wakayama prefecture). And like the other six native dog breeds of Japan, the Kishu was originally bred for hunting deer and boar with a “unique” 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 alert at all times. They’re truly the “silent hunter” of Japan.

The Kishu Ken physically resembles the Hokkaido the most, but temperament is often said to be more like the Shiba Inu. However, it depends 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 stalk their prey.
  • Some historians claim that these dogs have been bred for over 3,000 years.

Kishu Temperament

Kishu Kens are courageous and brave, making them some of the best hunting dogs in Japan. They’re considered a quiet dog breed and despite their prey instincts, usually get along with cats and other dogs (if properly socialized).

Kishus are touted for their undying loyalty to the pack and are excellent with young children of the family. They’ll always have your back.

Furthermore, they’re very observant and vigilant dogs that like to keep an eye on things from high grounds. For this reason, they make decent watch dogs.

The only potential problem is that they’re dominant and strong-willed dogs, making it absolutely necessary for proper training as a puppy. A firm leader is needed to lead a pack with a Kishu.

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 – also named, Hokkaido. Hence, their name. Other names for the Hokkaido Inu include the Ainu Ken, Seta, Ainu dog.

Although their appearance looks eerily similar to the Shiba and Akita Inu, they are medium-sized dogs. They’re bigger than the Shiba, but smaller than the Akita.

Hokkaido Inus 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.

Originally, they were bred to be hunting dogs by the indigenous Ainu people of Northeast Japan. This means Hokkaido Inus have plenty of endurance and are extremely agile in cold, snowy terrain.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • The Hokkaido Inu is the only Japanese breed to have a double fur coat, likely bred for harsh cold climates.
  • 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.

Hokkaido Temperament

Perhaps the greatest and most well-known trait of the Hokkaido Inu is the loyalty to the owner. They’re typically confident dogs and will prove their bravery to their owners given the opportunity.

Because they were originally hunting dogs, they have an excellent sense of smell and direction. A lost Hokkaido doesn’t usually stay lost for long. They’ve been known to find their way home despite long distances.

Hokkaido Inus are intelligent dogs. But best of all, they’re food driven. This means that training a Hokkaido will be fairly easy to do. Just make sure to bring out the best treats!

And according to hunters, Hokkaido dog 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.

The Sanshu Inu is a Japanese dog breed developed in the early 1900’s (estimated around 1912). They’re a cross between the Chinese Chow Chow, Aichi dog (ancient Japanese dog) and other Japanese Inus.

Although they’re relatively popular in Japan, the Sanshu is extremely rare outside the country. As such, they were bred to be excellent guard dogs and affectionate companions for Japanese families.

The Sanshu Inu looks similar to an Akita or Shiba Inu, at least physically. They’re smaller than an Akita, but larger than a Shiba. Some claim that they look most similar to the Hokkaido Inu.

However, the biggest difference is in the tail. This breed has a much straighter tail than the other, more popular Inus. Most Inus, such as the Shiba, have a “trademark look” with their fluffy curly tails.

Furthermore, these dogs come in a variety of coat colors: tan, red, fawn, gray and pied. Because there is no official breed standard, the coats can vary.

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 they’re excellent guard dogs, the Sanshu is most known for companionship. That being said, they are very affectionate and loyal dogs.

Owners describe them as sensitive dogs that are always eager to please their masters.

They often form very close bonds with their family members and will protect them at all cost. After all, there’s a reason why they’re popular among families in Japan.

In addition, the Sanshu is a low maintenance dog that’s relatively easy dog to care for. They are extremely clean dogs and will often clean themselves up (like a cat) without any help!

Obedience training should be approached with positive reinforcement and handled with affection. They may be kind and sweet-loving dogs, but the love needs to be reciprocated.

5. Shikoku Inu

Highlights: Cautious, Devoted, Lively.

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

The Shikoku Inu comes from the Shikoku Island of southern Japan. They’re one of the main six native Japanese breeds from the Spitz family.

Like all the other native Japanese dogs, the Shikokus were originally bred for hunting in the mountainous regions of Japan. For this reason, they’re extremely versatile hunting dogs known for endurance, agility and speed.

With a small stature, pointy ears and a fluffy curly tail, the Shikoku Inu most resembles the Shiba Inu. Even so, they’re slightly larger than the Shiba and are officially classified as medium-sized dogs.

Just recently, this dog breed had been recognized as an AKC FSS standard breed. In addition, the Shikoku Inu has been officially recognized by both the Japanese Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club.

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 miles away.
  • The Shikoku Inus were bred with the intention of survival, especially during long hunting trips.

Shikoku Temperament

The Shikoku Inu has a lot of the same great qualities that we see in other Japanese hunting dogs, including bravery and cautiousness. With the right environment, they tend to be extremely loyal to their family as well.

The Shikoku Inus are agile in mountainous terrain. They have a “tough personality” and are highly confident in chasing down wild game through rugged terrain.

A key difference between the Shiba and Shikoku is the contrast in personality. For example, the Shikoku dog is not as stubborn nor independent as the Shiba Inu. Shikokus are more easy-going when they’re not on the field.

Their personality and temperament probably fits the mold of the ideal ‘family dog’ more so than any other Japanese breed. They’re hunters by day, affectionate companions by night.

READ MORE: Shikoku Inu – Kochi Ken 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 sometimes referred to as the Japanese Spaniel. This toy dog has a long history involving Japanese nobility. They were popular among the aristocrats and elite of Japan.

Although they’re called the “Japanese Chin,” 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 Chin were given as gifts to Japan from the rulers of Korea in AD 732. Others think they may have have came from China in the 6th century. There is no concrete evidence.

The Chins are unique because of their naturally crossed eyes, also called strabismus. In addition, the Japanese 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.

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 reason for this breed’s popularity is because of their “cat-like” demeanor. For example, they use paws to clean their face and they have an exceptionally good sense of balance – like cats.

In addition, the Japanese Chins are alert, intelligent and independent dogs. Like most Japanese dogs, the Chins are very loyal and friendly to their owners and family.

They generally are friendly and make the best companions or therapy dogs (if given the training). These dogs were originally bred to “entertain” the noblemen of Japan. Plus, they’ve been companions for thousands of years.

Japanese Chins are excellent at learning commands. However, they “specialize” in dog tricks and often perform the “chin spin,” in which they spin in circles rapidly. You can check the trick out here.

They certainly have their quirks, but that’s all part of their charm. You’ll never have a dull moment with a Japanese Chin in the home.

READ MORE: A Guide to Japanese Chins

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 originating from the spitz family of dogs. They are generally bred as companion dogs and are closely related to the Pomeranian, Samoyed and the American Eskimo dog.

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 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.

Since then, they have grown in popularity due to their favorable temperament and easiness to take care of. Despite having long fluffy hair, debris and other junk tend 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

A Japanese spitz will absolutely flourish when included in a family environment. They’re very good-natured dogs and show great love and loyalty towards their owners.

As a result of their devotion, they make surprisingly great watch dogs for families. If confronted with unfamiliar people, they will bark to warn the family of the approaching intruders. However, they aren’t great guard dogs.

They play well with children and can even make a great companions dog for seniors. It’s easy to love these dogs and the love will certainly be reciprocated.

No matter what activity you have planned, the Japanese Spitz is up for it. As long as they’re spending quality time with the family, they’re game. They’re truly people-oriented dogs.

For these reasons, is it really a surprise why the Japanese Spitz has grown so much in popularity? They fit right in with almost every loving family.

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.

In fact, the Akita Inu is national symbol of Japan – similar to what the Jindo (Korean dog breed) is to South Korea. Because of this, they don’t come cheap. They’re one of the most expensive dog breeds in the world.

Some people call them the large version of the smaller Shiba Inu. But both dog breeds are very different in temperament, size and personality.

There are two distinctive variations of the Akita. On one hand, there’s the Japanese “Akita Inu,” but also an “American Akita.” The two are considered two separate breeds in every country, except the United States and Canada.

The remarkable story of Hachikō, the most famous Akita Inu, was what first put this dog breed on the international stage.

Throughout the years, this story has been told countless times in various media formats. As a result, this fueled the growing popularity of the Akita Inu all over the world.

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 breed and can be aloof and cautious around strangers. This may be the reason why the Japanese view them as the country’s best guard dogs.

According to the AKC, they do not cohabit well with other dogs of the same gender. This is especially true for male Akitas. And even with two different genders, you can’t guarantee there won’t be any scuffles.

They are strong and independent dogs with an alpha personality. It’s why obedience and socialization are so crucial at an early stage. A well-trained Akita will be able to act docile towards non-threatening strangers.

Strangely enough, despite their strong personalities, they play well with children. In fact, it’s often said they have a special liking towards kids. Consider them an extra furry guardian of your children.

And in certain countries, these dogs answer to a higher calling. Their physical traits and temperament make them attractive police or military dog breeds. You can bet to find these dogs in Japan’s law enforcement.

READ MORE: Akita Inu – The Great Japanese Dog

1. Shiba Inu

Highlights: Courageous, Confident, Charming.

Shiba Inus are the most popular dog breeds of japan.

The Shiba Inu is without doubt, 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.

They’re petite and agile dogs originating from the mountainous regions of Japan. But because of increasing popularity, they can now be found in all areas of the world. Whether in an apartment or farm, these dogs adapt well.

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. 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. Since then, they’ve 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 known to be quite independent dogs, much like a cat. This might explain why they tend to get along with other cats. At least, more so than with other dogs.

What’s surprising is that they don’t mix well with other small dogs or young children. They’re best as in a one-dog household. However, with early socialization and a bit of training, they can still be “civil” when living with others.

These dogs are bold in spirit, with a good-natured personality. They’re considered to have average intelligence compared to other dog breeds, but they’re really just stubborn.

On the bright side, Shibas are extremely easy to housebreak. And often times, they’ll housebreak themselves.

Shiba Inus are known for a distinguishable high-pitched scream, often called the “Shiba Scream.” Really, you can check it out here.

You may hear this if you attempt to handle the dog in a uncomfortable or unpleasant way. However, a similar cry can come from great happiness and joy.

READ MORE: Shiba Inu – Bold, Spirited & Good Natured

The Most Famous Japanese Dog

The most popular dog to ever come out of Japan is Kabosu the Shiba.

By far the most popular dog in Japan is Kabosu (Japanese: かぼす). Unsurprisingly, the most famous dog in Japan is also the most popular Japanese dog breed – the Shiba Inu.

The picture above is perhaps the most famous picture of Kabosu. It’s featured in countless dog memes and jokes that gave birth to the name, “doge.” The meme has traveled far, and there is even a meme cryptocurrency affectionately named Dogecoin.

Although the picture was first released in February 2010, it didn’t become viral until 2013 – through the power of Reddit and 4Chan. 

Kabosu was adopted by Atsuko Sato, a Japanese kindergarten teacher, when a puppy mill suddenly went out of business. She named the dog after a round Japanese fruit (Kabosu fruit) because of that Shiba’s similarly round face.

Has Sato done anything with all the fame? Currently, Kabosu receives nearly $15,000 per month in endorsements from big brands like Purina, Brooks Brothers and Coach.

She has also started a blog as a platform to increase public awareness of the dangers of puppy mills, in addition to promoting the adoption of dogs.


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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