10 Amazing Japanese Dog Breeds – A Comprehensive Guide

Japan is known for many things around the world as I’m sure you will agree, but how many people associate Japan with fascinating dog breeds? Despite not being one of Japan’s selling points for foreigners fascinated by Japanese lifestyle and culture, their interesting dog breeds definitely deserve a mention.

Not many people know this but raising dogs has become very popular in Japan in recent years for a number of reasons. It is so popular in fact that families with dogs outnumber families with children and it is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Now, it should be said that Japan has many interesting and authentic native breeds to choose from, so choosing a pet can be quite the task. Although Japan has been deeply touched by Western influence for more than a century now, it still retains a grip on the breeding and development of authentic Japanese Dog Breeds.

Having said that, it would perhaps be best if we delved into the rich and interesting world of Japanese Dog Breeds, a world in which popular breeds like the Shiba Inu, Akita, and Kishu captivate the attention of not only the Japanese but also the attention of dog lovers worldwide.

The 10 Most Amazing Japanese Dog Breeds

Sakhalin Husky


This loyal, confident, and diligent Japanese dog is without a doubt, one of the rarest we will talk about. This is a breed that went nearly extinct up until a few years ago when efforts to discover new members of the species were finally successful on the Sakhalin Island where a handful of Sakhalin Huskies still live.

Although there is also a huge foreign appeal for these particular dogs, you will mostly find them part of a few Japanese households because of how incredibly rare they are. As a matter of fact, these dogs are so rare that nobody truly knows the total number of Sakhalin Huskies in existence at this point in time.

These interesting dogs are known for their extreme devotion to their owners, which is understandable given their rich history. At the same time, these dogs are very affectionate and they strive to complete their tasks ever step of the way, which also makes them easy to train.

Given their devotion to accomplishing goals, these working dogs are very responsive to obedience training and likely to go headfirst into any task no matter its difficulty. Then again, this is common to most working dogs, a trait that unfortunately means they can get quite destructive if their need for purpose isn’t met.

Also worth mentioning is that these dogs are very intelligent and independent, not to mention how confident and quick to react they are. This makes them perfect family dogs, especially around children of all ages.

Tosa Inu


Tosa Inu is another rare and peculiar dog honing from Japan, a dog that not many people own yet many people would if given the opportunity. These interesting dogs come from the indigenous region of Tosa and stand out through their impressive size. It is in fact because of their size that these dogs are sometimes referred to as Japanese Mastiffs.

Although they were originally bred to be fighting dogs, these canines make perfect guard dogs for obvious reasons. Incredibly strong, they may require a lot of care to train but it’s surely worth it when all is said and done given how reliable these dogs can be.

Bear in mind that despite being as strong and muscular as they are, they tend to avoid getting into any type of conflict but once they do, they tend to cause a lot of damage. So in other words, this is perhaps not the type of dog you keep around other dogs.

On a related note, it should be said that they require a strong and dominant owner, one that can handle them at all times. As such, they require a lot of care and attention from an early age, so as to teach them proper obedience in the long run.

Kishu Ken


This is without a doubt, one of the most ancient dog breeds in the world, not just Japan. Bred for thousands of years as hunting dogs, these pooches have a very high prey drive and require extensive training to help them ignore it around other pets.

That aside, the breed is believed to have descended from six native dogs used for deer and boar hunting, a breed that was finely refined over the centuries into what it is today. This doesn’t necessarily make them good pets but it surely showcases their obedience.

One thing to point out about these interesting dogs is that they rarely if ever bark. In truth, a non-barking dog is quite a sight to behold, especially one as cute as the Kishu Ken, which needless to say, is a much sought after dog among Japanese breeders.

Another interesting characteristic of this unique dog is its ability to climb trees. Expert climbers, they can easily escape pens and backyards provided that the fences aren’t too tall. Then again, even if they are, this quiet dog can definitely make a mission out of climbing over them.

Hokkaido Inu


The Hokkaido Inu is sometimes called a Seta, Ainu, or Ainu Ken depending on who you ask and it is a fairly odd-looking dog. Not that there’s anything wrong with how it looks per se, just that it has a goofy look about it.

These dogs are known for having long and thick fur, which is a product of their environment. You see, these dogs hone from the most northern island in Japan called Hokkaido. It is fairly obvious that the climate affected the breed’s development over time, as they would have had to face the harsh cold winters in the region.

Originally bred for hunting and companionship, these dogs enjoy a remarkable endurance and agility, second to almost no other breed in Japan. Apt at traversing snowy terrain, these dogs make the perfect pets for people who live in particularly cold areas.

Now, I should point out that the Hokkaido Inu is the only Japanese breed that boasts a double fur coat and that its lineage can be traced back to more than a thousand years. Loyal and confident, this dog loves pleasing its masters and will never back down from a task, no matter how difficult.

Sanshu Inu


Developed fairly recently as far as Japanese breeds go, this pooch’s existence was first recorded in the early 20th century. It is believed that the Sanshu Inu is a result of a cross between the Aichi, Chow Chow, and a few other Japanese Inus.

Similar in looks to the Shiba Inu and the Akita, this dog has a somewhat straighter tail and enjoys a set of fairly distinctive physical features like its odd color selection and goofy smile. Very popular in Japan, these dogs are seldom met outside the country on account of how difficult it is to get a hold of them.

On average, this is a fairly medium-to-large dog that can grow up to 22 inches in height depending on which breeder you get it from. Having said that, know that the Shanshu variant of the breed is not recognized by most Kennel clubs for a variety of reasons.

Still, the Sanshu Inu makes an excellent guard dog all things considered and the dog is even better as a companion. Furthermore, these dogs are known to be quite sensitive and require very little interaction on a regular basis provided that all its physiological needs are being met.

Shikoku Inu


Honing from the southern regions of Japan, the Shikoku Inu is one of the most versatile Japanese dogs out there. This dog is popular for its devoted, lively, yet strangely cautious behavior, one that recommends it as an acquired taste for dog owners everywhere.

Originally, these dogs were bred for their hunting and tracking skills, characteristics they still possess to this day. That aside, they also make very good companions due to how much they enjoy socializing with people on a regular basis.

Equipped with a gifted nose and an intuition that’s second to none, these dogs are rather difficult to come by, but once acquired, they are known to objectively make up for it. Part of the reason for it is their inherent strong genes that help them withstand any common affliction that would normally incapacitate a common pooch.

Compact in size, these lean dogs are very agile and fast, so anyone looking to keep such dogs as pets should be ready to match their immense energy. That said, they aren’t high-maintenance dogs by any means, having fairly common needs as far as small dogs go.

Behavior-wise, these dogs tend to be very loyal, caring, and good-natured, which makes them more or less perfect as family dogs. Speaking of which, these dogs do very well around children and exhibit extra care whenever they find themselves in the proximity of vulnerable people of all ages.

Japanese Chin


Sometimes referred to as a ‘Japanese Spaniel, the Japanese Chin is quite a small dog by most standards. Popular among the aristocrats of old, these dogs have become trusty companions over the years for pretty much anyone who can put up with their specific needs.

Like most toy dog breeds, this one too is alert and restless once it gets in the mood. Unlike other small dogs, however, this breed is quite independent to a fault. As a matter of fact, they are more like cats than dogs in that they value their space and independence.

Interestingly enough, Japanese Chins make very good therapy dogs, many thanks to their balanced personality. Alert, intelligent, and thoroughly independent, they are very good at learning new tricks provided that you take your time teaching them.

Seeing how they were always bred for companionship throughout their existence as a breed, these dogs make very good pets. They may have their quirks, of course, but then again, this also adds to their charm and ultimately makes them good family dogs.

Japanese Spitz


Also a small dog, the Japanese Spitz originates from the spitz family of dogs that have traditionally been bred for companionship. The breed has a relatively short history, with the first members being recorded as late as the 1920s, so a relatively new breed by all means.

According to the Japanese and American Kennel Clubs, these dogs are closely related to the Pomeranian, Samoyed, and the American Eskimo dog, but their direct descent is from the white German Spitz. This dog was brought to Japan centuries ago and has been a constant presence in many Japanese households ever since.

Due to how easygoing they are as dogs, they are very easy to care for, not to mention how small their maintenance requirements are. Other than that, we should point out that the Japanese Spitz is quite a lovely dog to look at, a dog that’s clearly gifted in the looks department.

Despite their long and fluffy fur, these dogs require very little grooming on account of the fact that their oily hair protects the coat from dirt and debris. Then again, this is common to many of the spitz family of dogs.

Akita Inu


A lot can be said about the brave and popular Akita Inu, a dog that’s been thoroughly represented in Japanese literature, film, and art over the years. In fact, the Akita Inu is considered an emblematic dog in Japan, one that was perfectly immortalized in the heartwarming story of Hachiko, a dog whos loyalty transcended death itself.

Although these dogs enjoy worldwide popularity, it can be rather difficult to get a hold of one, not to mention how expensive such an ordeal can be. As a matter of fact, these are without a doubt, some of the most expensive dogs in the world right now.

Even though these are territorial dogs that can get fairly cautious around strangers, their careful attitude makes them very good guard dogs. It should actually come as no surprise that Akita Inus are seen in Japan as the best guard dogs in the country.

Interestingly enough, these otherwise territorial and cautious dogs make very good family pets as long as they don’t have to share their living space with a dog of the same gender. They are also very careful and tender with small children, which may explain why they are so widespread and sought-after not just in Japan but throughout the world.

Shiba Inu


This courageous, confident, and charming dog is by far the most popular dog breed to ever come out of Japan. As many of you would be aware, this is the breed behind the famous ‘doge memes‘ that were circulating all over the internet just a few years ago.

When it comes down to actual specifics, you will be pleased to find out that the Shiba Inu is actually a very reliable, brave, loyal, and fairly intelligent dog. Often mistaken with other Japanese breeds like the Hokkaido Inu and the Akita Inu, they actually share no bloodlines with those dog breeds whatsoever.

Quite small in size when compared to other dogs on our list, the Shiba Inu makes a very good family dog despite its agile and restless nature. Speaking of which, these dogs are very energetic and love running around and playing all day. It comes as no surprise then, to find out that they were originally bred as hunting dogs.

Being the independent dogs that they are, Shiba Inus get along very well with cats and other independent dogs. That said, they are best kept separate from other dogs, especially sociable dogs that might otherwise stress them out one way or another. Truth be told, they are best suited for one-dog households on account of how independent and solitary they are.

Caroline Jones

Caroline has been a dog lover since she was only 6 years old, when her parents got her a rescue Boxer. Since then her love for dogs has lead her to study Dog Behavior & Welfare. She now educates people on how to properly raise and care for dogs, through her online site, Bark Friend. Now, she's a proud owner of a beautiful German Shepherd.

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