When you think of Japan, you think of sushi, anime movies, manga stories, and of course, ninjas. But the orient country is home to some of the most unique and popular dog breeds. And we are not talking only about the Akita.
There are many Japanese dog breeds that are as popular as the Akita. In Japan, the pet boom started in 2003, and dogs quickly became a viable alternative to raising a child.
Since 2003, the combined number of cats and dogs has outnumbered the number of children in Japan.
Some might say the statistics are terrifying and alarming. But the rise in popularity of pets in Japan is real.
Even since ancient times, the Japanese have cultivated “inu” or dog breeds. They were historically hunting dog breeds, who were bred to hunt wild boar or serve as lap companions for the wealthy members of the society.
According to the Japan Kennel Club, there are several breeds considered Nihon Ken, or Japan national dogs. Those are the Kai Ken, Kishu Inu, Shikoku, Shiba Inu, Hokkaido, and Akita.
These Japanese dog breeds are popular in Japan, but some of them over the Atlantic as well. For example, the Japanese Akita has its own American Akita counterpart.
You might think that the Akita is the most popular Japanese dog breed.
But you are wrong.
That title belongs to the Shiba Inu, which is basically a smaller version of the Akita.
Why is the dog breed so popular? Well, the Shiba Inu is responsible for one of the most popular dog memes.
The Shiba Inu is an agile and petite dog, originating in the mountain areas of Japan. Nowadays, they have found their way to homes all over the world.
At one point, the Shiba Inu became nearly extinct. That was after World War II when the distemper virus and bomb raids nearly killed them.
Luckily, they survived, and today they are quite popular.
The Shiba Inu is an independent dog, similar in behavior to a cat. And that is why they get along with most cats. Bold in spirit, and good in personality, the Shiba Inu is easy to housebreak.
As for popularity, the most popular dog is Kabosu, a Shiba Inu that gave birth to the dog meme, and now has a cryptocurrency named after him, Dogecoin.
For many people, the Akita is the most popular Japanese dog breed. The Akita became famous thanks to the Hachiko movie, in which an Akita waits for his owner for years at the train station. It is worth noting there are two types of Akita Inu dogs, American Akita and Japanese Akita. Both are recognized by the American Kennel Club.
This large and heavy dog resembles some of the Siberian breeds, like the Husky and the Malamute.
They have a thick and dense coat that comes in a variety of colors, but usually, it is a combination of brindle, white, and black.
The Akita dog breed is very loyal to his family, but sadly, wary of strangers. Which is why it is not good to let the dog play with others, be it people or dogs.
On the flip side, they are loving and playful with their family.
This dog is only for those who can assume the role of a pack leader and an alpha. Otherwise, the stubborn and strong will of the Akita can overwhelm you.
Originating from the Spitz family of dogs, the Japanese version is a companion dog. He is closely related to the Pomeranian and the American Eskimo dog.
In the 1920s, breeders in Japan began breeding various types of Spitz dog breeds. The American Kennel Club does not recognize the small dog breed, but other international kennel clubs do.
Unlike the Pomeranian, the Japanese Spitz has a more favorable temperament and easiness to take care of. They flourish when included in family activities, and when they are in a family-oriented environment.
Loyal to their pet owners, they play well with children. And the Spitz is a great companion dog for elderly people.
The Hokkaido is the oldest native Japanese Spitz breed. Some believe this breed is more than 1000 years old. Traditionally, the breed was well hidden from the rest of the world.
His aggressive hunting abilities made the breed popular in Japan. It was used for hunting bears and other big animals. Breeders also trained him to snatch fish out of streams.
In the past few years, the breed became popular as a family and guard dog. However, he still finds usage in search and rescue missions.
Considered a medium-sized dog with a strong build, he can grow between 45 and 65 pounds. His most popular trait is his extreme loyalty.
Once you earn his respect, he will be your pet for life. But with his strong personality, the Hokkaido needs an owner with similar leadership skills.
If raised with children from a young age, the dog can tolerate children. But because of their sheer power, do not let them unsupervised.
Popularly known as the Japanese Spaniel, this toy dog breed has a history in nobility. He was once a popular dog among aristocrats in Japan.
Fun fact: the dog is not native to Japan. According to history, it is hard to pinpoint where and when these dogs came to Japan.
According to some legends, they were a gift for Japan by rulers of Korea.
But that doesn’t matter. Nowadays, they are praised for their unique and naturally crossed eyes. The Japanese Chin has strabismus, something that is common in cats, but not in dogs.
In Japan, the word “chin” means performing a lot of tricks. And that is true to their nature. They love playing and performing. You can say they are cat-like dogs since the Chin uses his paws to clean his face.
This dog is basically a terrier that was bred for hunting in Japan. Depending on where the terrier was born, he might have a docked tail.
Unlike terriers around the world, the Japanese terrier is actually a lap dog. He craves attention and loves cuddling with his family.
And because of this, he can become jealous when another person or animal takes the attention away from him.
What is similar to other terrier breeds is their energy.
They are intelligent dogs with lots of energy to spare. Their small size might make them an apartment dog, but that means lots of exercises outdoors.
According to history, the Japanese terrier was brought over by sailors. The terrier is actually a rare dog breed in Japan, and there are very few outside of Japan.
Another native dog in the Spitz family, the Shikoku Ino comes from Shikoku Island. Originally bred for hunting in mountainous regions, they are blessed with speed and endurance.
Their look is distinct and features a small stature, pointy ears, and fluffy curly tail. They resemble the Shiba Inu but are different in terms of size.
Classified as medium sized dog, this canine was recently recognized by the AKC as an FSS standard breed.
As with other Japanese dog breeds, they were in danger of extinction at one point. That was after World War I, due to the poor economic conditions of the country.
Their sense of smell is their strongest feature, and if they get loose, they might wander for miles looking for a scent.
The main difference, in addition to size, between Shiba Inu and Shikoku Inu is the personality. The Shikoku is not a stubborn or independent dog, making him a more ideal family pet.
Also known as the Tiger dog, the Kai Ken is a medium sized dog that has a strong stance and muscular legs. Their large head definitely stands out.
Popular due to their unique and patched fur, which starts as black during puppy age, and then turns to a brindle during their adulthood.
Because their fur resembles tiger stripes, they are also called tiger dogs. As a natural hunter, the Kai Ken is an excellent guard dog.
They might be loving and friendly with familiar faces, but they are skeptical and wary of strangers.
One thing to know, the Kai Ken will form a special and intense bond with one specific member of the family. Training requires a dominant and strong owner.
This Japanese dog breed is considered a newer breed, as it was discovered in 1929. It is believed that they were brought to the US thanks to the servicemen in the military. In Japan, the Kai Ken is considered a national treasure.
This dog gets the name by another island in Japan, the most northern island called Hokkaido. It is also known as Ainu Dog or Ainu-ken.
Their appearance is quite similar to the Shiba and Akita Inu, but they are medium-sized dogs. They are smaller than the Akita but larger than the Shiba.
Their long and thick fur helps them with harsh winters and cold temperatures. Originally bred as hunting dogs by the indigenous Ainu people, they have lots of endurance and can be agile in the cold and snowy terrain.
The Hokkaido is the only Japanese breed with a double fur coat. Their greatest strength is problem-solving.
The Hokkaido has a great sense of smell and direction, and he can found his way home easily, despite the long distance. Training is easy because the Hokkaido is food driven.
Brought to fame after the tragic 1958 expedition to Antarctica, when 15 huskies were left tied up outside and researchers went to an unplanned excavation.
The dogs were left to fend for themselves, and one year later, when a new group of explorers returned, two of the 15 dogs were still alive.
This dog shares common ancestry with the Siberian Husky, as well as appearance characteristics. Their color can be black, russet, cream, and biscuit.
Same as the Siberian Husky, the Sakhalin is a working dog that is loyal and devoted to his owner. And the best part about them is they do not have the typical stubborn attitude of a Husky. Instead, they are independent but friendly and eager to please.