Top 10 Japanese Dogs: Breed Information, History, and More

japanese dog breeds.

Top 10 Japanese Dogs | Breed Information, History, and More

Dogs have been our loyal companions for thousands of years, and they come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. In Japan, these furry creatures are not just pets, they’re a part of their culture and history. 

You might have heard of the Shiba Inu or the Akita Inu, but did you know there are many more native breeds in Japan? And, some are even protected with national dog status.

We’re going to introduce some of the most popular and interesting types of Japanese dogs, including their unique features and history. So, let's unleash the doggone fun and dig into the world of Japanese dogs!

10 Most Popular Japanese Dog Breeds

When it comes to dogs, Japan has a rich and diverse canine heritage. From the fluffy and adorable to the powerful and formidable, the canines from this region are as varied as the country’s culture and history. So if you’re looking to learn more about these furry friends, we’ve put together our favorite 10 famous Japanese dog breeds.

1. Akita Inu

japanese dog akita inu.

Height: 24-28 inches

Weight: 70-130 pounds

The Akita Inu, or simply the Akita, is a dog that commands respect. Once called ‘snow country dogs,’ this breed was originally bred for hunting large game, like bears and boars. With their muscular build and thick coat, they’re a true embodiment of strength and power. 

Also known for their unwavering devotion to their humans, the Japanese Akita dog is a profound protector of their ‘pack.’ They have a reputation for being independent thinkers, and they don’t mix well with other dogs. But, with proper training and socialization, they can make for a wonderful addition to any family.

2. Hokkaido Inu

japanese hokkaido inu.

Height: 18-20 inches

Weight: 44-66 pounds

If you're looking for a dog that’s as tough as nails, look no further than the Hokkaido Inu. This breed was a beer and other large game hunter in the snowy wilderness of Japan's most northerly island. They're strong and agile, with a thick coat that can withstand even the harshest winter weather. 

However, despite their rugged exterior, Hokkaido Inus are also known for their friendly and affectionate personalities. They're fiercely dedicated to their families and are a great fit for those who love spending time in the great outdoors.

3. Japanese Shiba Inu

japanese shiba inu.

Height: 13.5-16.5 inches

Weight: 17-23 pounds

Possibly the most famous of all Japanese dog breeds, the Shiba Inu is a little dog with a big personality. They too were hunters, but of small game, like birds and rabbits, in the mountainous regions. Shibas are known for their independent streak, and their tendency to be a bit aloof with strangers. 

But once they bond with their owners, they’re incredibly devoted and loving. With their fox-like appearance and quirky character, it's no wonder that Shiba Inus have become one of the most popular dog breeds in Japan and around the world.

4. Shikoku

japanese dog shikoku.

Height: Males 17-22 inches

Weight: 35-55 pounds

The Shikoku, also known as the Kochi-Ken, is native to Shikoku island. They were used for tracking wild boar and deer in the dense forests of the region. 

With their powerful build and strong jaws, they’re a force to be reckoned with in the hunting world. But despite their tough exterior, Shikokus are also known for their friendly and gentle temperament. They're true to their families and make great watchdogs.

5. Japanese Tosa Inu

japanese tosa inu.

Height: 21.5-23.5 inches

Weight: Males 100-200 pounds

The Tosa Inu, also known as the Tosa Ken or Tosa Token, is a Japanese Mastiff-like dog with a vigilant and fearless nature. Bred for dog fighting, their sheer size and strength make them formidable opponents.

For obvious reasons, these dogs aren’t good with other canines, but they’re calm and gentle with their owners. They require a firm and consistent hand in training, and with the right approach and the right human, this alert breed would be a brilliant guard dog. However, because of the Tosa’s heritage they’re deemed a dangerous Japanese dog breed in some parts of the globe. 

6. Kai Ken

japanese dog kai ken.

Height: 15.5-19.5 inches

Weight: 25-40 pounds

The rare Kai Ken, also known as the Tora Inu, hails from the Yamanashi district. Like many others on this Japanese dog breeds list, they were traditionally used for hunting. However, one contrast is their distinctive brindle coat that resembles tiger stripes, hence their nickname — Tiger dog.

The Kai Ken is an unwavering ally that thrives on attention from their owners. They’re known for being reserved with strangers, but with proper socialization, training, and adequate exercise they can be a wonderful canine companion.

7. Kishu

japanese dog kishu.

Height: 19-22 inches

Weight: 30-60 pounds

The Kishu, also known as the Kishu Ken or Kishu Inu, comes from the Kii Peninsula of Japan. This breed possesses a strong prey drive, thanks to their hunting background. They have a double, yet short coat that comes in a range of colors from white to red. 

The Kishu is known for being an independent and intelligent breed, but they form a strong bond with their owners. They’re also lively medium-sized dogs who would fit in well with an equally active family.

8. Japanese Spitz

japanese spitz.

Height: 12-15 inches

Weight: 10-25 pounds

With a friendly and outgoing nature, the Japanese Spitz dog is a true companion canine. They’re just as happy living the high-rise lifestyle as they are in the country — they’ll go anywhere, as long as they’re with you. 

With a similar resemblance to the American Eskimo, these are small white fluffy dogs with a fox-like face that’s sure to melt your heart. The Japanese Spitz is an intelligent breed that’s easy to train and eager to please. They make great family pets and are good with children of all ages.

9. Japanese Chin

japanese chin.

Height: Males 8-11 inches

Weight: 7-11 pounds

The Japanese Chin, also known as the Japanese Spaniel, is another one of the country’s companion toy-sized dogs. That said, some believe they came from China. However, no one can dispute their charm and gentle nature. 

They have a distinctive, flat face and large, expressive eyes that make them irresistibly cute. The Japanese Chin is a smart breed that responds well to positive reinforcement training. They make awesome apartment dogs and are perfect for those who want a lap dog.

10. Japanese Terrier

Height: 10-13 inches

Weight: 10-12 pounds

The Japanese Terrier is a small but mighty breed originating from Japan's Honshu island. Although they’re one of the smallest Japanese dog breeds, they possess quite a vibrant personality and are known for their intelligence and playfulness. 

Their coat is short and smooth, and they come in a variety of colors, such as white, black, and tan. Despite their size, they have a strong prey drive, which is typical of the Terrier breed, they’re also headstrong — another Terrier trait. Japanese Terriers may be small, but they certainly don't lack confidence and energy!

Final Thoughts

Well, it's clear that Japan is home to a wide variety of amazing dog breeds, each with their own unique characteristics and personalities. From the loyal and powerful Akita to the spirited and playful Japanese Shiba Inu.

And let's not forget about the lesser-known breeds, like the Hokkaido Inu and the Japanese Chin, who may not be as famous as their homeland cousins, but are just as deserving of a mention. 

So whether you're a fan of big or small dogs, fluffy or short coats, Japanese dogs have got you covered. All you have to do is find the perfect furry companion to bring into your life, and you'll be sure to have a loyal and loving friend for years to come.

Japanese Dogs FAQs

What Are the 6 Japanese Dogs?

The six Japanese national dogs recognized by the Japanese Preservation Society (Nihonken Hozonkai — Nippo) are:

  •  Akita Inu.

  •  Shiba Inu.

  •  Shikoku Inu.

  •  Kishu Inu.

  •  Hokkaido Inu.

  •  Kai Ken.

These breeds have unique characteristics and are highly valued in Japanese culture.

Are Japanese Dogs Good With Children?

Many Japanese dog breeds can be great with children, especially when properly trained, socialized, and supervised. However, it's important to note that each dog has its own unique temperament, so it's essential to assess the specific breed and individual dog's behavior.

What Is a Popular Japanese Dog?

One of the most beloved and popular dog breeds in Japan is the Shiba Inu. This adorable and spirited canine has captured the hearts of many dog enthusiasts worldwide, earning them the title of "The Dog of Japan."

Do Japanese Dogs Require a Lot of Exercise?

The exercise needs of Japanese dogs can vary depending on the breed. Some, like the Shiba Inu, are energetic and require regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Others, such as the Japanese Chin, aren’t so full-on. Hence, it's important to research the specific breed to understand their exercise needs.

Are Japanese Dogs Easy to Train?

Japanese dog breeds are known for their intelligence and independence, which can make training a bit challenging at times. However, with patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement techniques, it is possible. 

Do Japanese Dogs Have Specific Grooming Needs?

Grooming needs can vary among Japanese dog breeds. Some, like the Japanese Spitz, have a thick double coat that requires regular brushing to prevent matting. Others, such as the Japanese Terrier, have shorter coats that are relatively low maintenance.

Are Japanese Dogs Prone to Any Health Issues?

Like all dog breeds, Japanese dogs can be susceptible to certain health issues. For example, the Akita Inu may be prone to hip dysplasia and certain autoimmune disorders. It's important to choose a reputable breeder who conducts health screenings and provides proper care for their dogs.

What Japanese Dog Breed Is Fluffy?

The Japanese Spitz is a prime example of a fluffy Japanese dog.