A Japanese dog breed is often named after the region it comes from. Discover what makes our top 5 Japanese dog breeds so special.

Japanese dog breed #1: Akita Inu

The Akita Inu originates from the Japanese island of Honshu and is named after the province of Akita in northern Japan. This breed dates back to the 1600s, where Akita Inus guarded Japenese royalty and were used to help hunters find boar, elk, and Yezo bears. Their job was to keep the animal in place until the hunters arrived.

Akitas were introduced to America by a woman called Helen Keller. The Japenese took Helen to see the statue of Hachiko, an Akita who achieved worldwide fame in the 1920s for his loyalty. When Helen expressed that she wanted an Akita of her own, the Japanese presented her with a puppy, and so, the first Akita was brought to America. After World War II, American servicemen who were stationed in Japan also brought back more Akitas.

The Akita Inu's personality

The Akita is an alert, intelligent and courageous dog. They can be wary of strangers but are very loyal to their family and are extremely affectionate and playful. This breed is probably not the dog for a first-time dog owner, as they can be quite strong-willed and stubborn. Akitas need an owner who can provide firm but loving discipline. Exercise is of course very important for this active dog breed; up to two hours per day is likely to be required. Training your Akita and letting them socialise from an early age is also essential.

The Akita Inu's physical characteristics

Coat colours and colour combinations vary and include black, white, chocolate, and brindle, or a combination of one of these colours and white. They have a double-coat with a dense undercoat and a short topcoat. Akitas are easy to groom, but their fur does shed (more heavily during season changes, usually 2-3 times per year).

Male Akitas usually reach 26-28 inches and weigh from 85-130 pounds (38-68kg). Whereas females are usually 24-26 inches and weigh from 70-110 pounds (31-49kg).

Japanese dog breed #2: Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu is one of the smallest native Japanese dog breeds. All Shibas originate from the mountainous parts of Japan, where they thrived on the cold weather and enjoyed living outdoors. They were used as family dogs, guard dogs and for hunting. Many believed that they helped to hunt things like small birds, but it has also been said that they would occasionally hunt wild boar.

World War II nearly lead to the extinction of this gorgeous breed, so in order to save them, some of the dogs were interbred. The first Shibas arrived in the USA in the 1950s, and then gained recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1993. The Shiba’s popularity has been growing ever since.

The Shiba Inu's personality

Shiba’s tend to be headstrong and territorial, so they make excellent watchdogs. They are alert dogs and can be hesitant with strangers, but should feel better once they get used to them. It is important for Shiba Inus to socialise at a young age, as they can display aggression towards other dogs when they are older.

Shiba Inus aren't as active as Akitas, but of course, exercise is very important for their lifestyle and they should be given at least a 30-45 minute walk most, if not every day. Shiba's usually enjoy accompanying their owner on other activities, like slow jogging, hiking and will love playtime!

The Shiba Inu's physical characteristics

There are three types of Shiba: the Shinshu Shiba, which is smaller built and has rounder eyes; the Sanin Shiba, larger built with a mottled black colour; and finally the Mino Shiba that has a smaller build and deep brown triangular eyes with an extended tail.

Males can weigh up to 23 pounds (10kg) while females usually weigh up to 17 pounds (7kg).

Japanese dog breed #3: Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz was first shown at a dog show in Japan in 1921. They were brought to Japan by China and were bred with white Spitz dogs to create a loving, energetic and playful breed. Their recognition was delayed by World War II, but were finally named by the Japanese Kennel Club at the end of the war in the late 1940s.

In the late 1950s, these loving pups grew in popularity as they were exported all over the world. Kennel clubs from different countries began to recognize the Japanese Spitz. However, the American Kennel Club does not keep standards for the Japenese Spitz because of their similarity to the American Eskimo dog.

The Japanese Spitz's personality

As mentioned, the Japanese Spitz is a loving and playful breed. They have a lot of energy but should be satisfied with one walk a day, including some playtime. You should feel comfortable letting them off the lead (if you have trained them to come back when called). This breed loves attention, so prepare to enjoy lots of cuddles! Japanese Spitzes tend to get on well with other animals and children.

The Japanese Spitz's physical characteristics

This beautiful breed has a white fluffy coat and lightweight body, with triangular stand-up ears, dark eyes, a pointed muzzle and a tail that curls up over their body.

Japanese Spitzes can weigh from 11-20 pounds (5-10kg) and can reach 12-15 inches tall (30-38cm).

Japanese dog breed #4: Japanese Spaniel

Some people think that the Japanese Spaniel (or Chin) was a product of China, others say Korea. In fact, their distinctive look was developed in Japan and they have been good companions for more than a thousand years. They were a popular member of Chinese and Japanese imperial courts and were highly prized, given as gifts to visiting nobles.

It wasn’t long until Chins made their way into the United States and Europe. They grew in popularity and were usually owned by “high ranking”, wealthy people, including Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom. The Japanese Chin was recognized by the American Kennel club in 1888, making it one of the oldest recognized dog breeds from the AKC. The breed’s name was changed to the Japanese Spaniel in 1977.

The Japanese Spaniel's personality

Japanese Spaniels love attention and are playful, upbeat, happy dogs. They have even been compared to cats because of their love for climbing. Although, unlike cats, this breed is not independent. They adore people and love to have human companionship, making them perfect pets for senior citizens.

Chins don’t need too much exercise to keep them healthy. You shouldn't need to exert much energy to keep them amused - daily walks and playing with a ball in the garden is enough for them. Japanese Spaniels should be kept on a lead or in a fenced area, as they are known for chasing birds or even butterflies and don't tend to return back home easily.

The Japanese Spaniel's physical characteristics

This cute little breed stands from about 8-11 inches tall (20-28 cm) and weighs around 7 pounds (3kg).

race chien japonais - Epagneul japonais

Japanese dog breed #5: Shikoku

The original Shikoku (Kochi-ken) is from the mountain ranges of the Kochi prefecture on the Island of Shikoku, Japan. The breed was developed by traditional Japanese hunters and was used for, yes, you guessed it - hunting! There were three varieties of this "Japanese wolfdog" breed, Awa, Hongawa and Hata, named after the area where they were bred.

These dogs were very successful hunting dogs and proved crucial for the preservation of the entire breed. Because of the natural isolation of Shikoku Island, the Shikoku has had limited ability to crossbreed with other dogs. This is why the breed has remained almost completely pure to this day and is considered to be one of the purest dog breeds in the world.

The Shikoku's personality

The Shikoku is a loyal and intelligent dog. They are courageous, playful, determined and love to please their owner. They also make great watchdogs and lovely companions. The Shikoku loves to spend a lot of time with all family members and are known to get on nicely with children. However, they should be raised together with your dog at an early age.

The Shikoku's physical characterisitcs

Shikokus are medium sized dogs with a curled Spitz tale. They have a dense, double coat and pointy ears. Their eyes are dark brown and they have a wedge-shaped head with a muscular body. The coat can come in red sesame, black sesame, sesame, red, and black and tan.

Male Shikokus can reach 19-22 inches tall and weigh 35-55 lbs (15-24kg) whereas the females can reach 17-19 inches tall and, like the males, can weigh from 35-55 lbs (15-24kg).

race chien japonais - Shikoku

Which Japanese dog breed is your favourite?

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