Japanese dogs are quite popular amongst Australian dog owners. Find out which breeds of Japanese dog are most popular and how ownership has changed over time, thanks to Kerstin Keimling of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance…

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Japanese Dog Breeds

Japanese dog breeds, or Nihon-ken are becoming more and more popular in Australia. Within Japan some of these breeds have been designated as natural treasures. Japanese dog breeds often have brown, white, or black fur, and common characteristics of their appearance include triangular ears that stand straight up and face forward, tails that are either curled or point forward diagonally, with muscular legs. They have a sense of calm dignity and refinement – characteristics that remain close to those of their ancestors.

Some of the more popular Japanese dog breeds in Australia are:

  • Akita
  • Japanese Spitz
  • Shiba Inu
  • Shikoku
  • Kai Ken

Akita Inu

Akitas are independent dogs that tend to bond specifically with one person in the household. They were originally bred in Japan, but since there has been a split of breeding lines into Japanese Akita Inus and American Akitas. Akita Inus are often perceived as arrogant, as they can be friendly towards strangers or totally ignore them. They choose their friends wisely. If you are looking for everyone’s darling, maybe go past the Akita Inu.

Akita Inus are calm around the house, they are confident in their own abilities and strong-willed. Akita Inu dogs require an experienced owner who is confident and consistent in order to earn the dog’s respect and trust.

Learn more about the Akita Inu.


Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz is a small white fluffy dog which was developed between 1920 and 1950 in Japan. They are the result of crossing a number of Spitz breeds imported from different countries. Even though they are not direct descendants of the Samoyed, there are many similarities between these breeds – except for their size.

The Japanese Spitz is a companion dog and loves being with his family. They are alert and intelligent, active and lively and eager to please. The Japanese Spitz has an impressive coat, so whilst these dogs enjoy getting muddy and dirty, as soon as their coat dries, all dirt just falls off.

Learn more about the Japanese Spitz.

Cat behaviour problem

Shiba Inu

Shiba Inus are small to medium dogs that are brave and have a mind of their own. They bond well with their owners, and are affectionate but also love to test out boundaries again and again, and therefore need a handler with strong leadership skills. They are smart but not the easiest dog to train because of their willpower and stubbornness.

Shiba Inus have a strong prey drive and may not be best suited for a household with other smaller animals. It can be a challenge to control and recall your Shiba Inu when he is let off-leash.


The Shikoku is one of the rarer Japanese Dog breeds. Similar to the Shiba Inu, the Shikoku was originally bred as a hunting dog and was used in the mountainous regions of Japan. Whilst other Japanese Dog breeds developed over the last thousand years to become mainly companion dogs, Shikokus are still used for hunting wild boar and breeders make an effort to keep the breed’s skills as hunters alive. This may also explain why Shikoku Ken are so close to nature. They are the ideal partner for outdoor people, being tough, agile and courageous. This medium size dog has a strong desire for social interactions with humans and other dogs. Being loyal to his owner, he is eager to please but still an independent thinker and certainly not a dog for everyone.


Kai Ken

The Kai Ken is another hunting breed from Japan. This Japanese Dog breed has been used especially in the steep mountain areas to hunt wild boar and deer, and sometimes even bear. With their tiger-like stripes on their coat, they are also referred to as Tiger Dogs. This medium-sized dog with a sturdy build has a strong instinct to hunt and may not always be the best choice to live with other pets. The Kai Ken is reserved towards strangers and makes a great watchdog. The Kai Ken is very agile, known to climb trees while chasing its prey and even to cross rivers while doing so.


About the author:
Kerstin Keimling is Digital Marketing Manager for Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance and also runs her own Dog Training company K9Fun, which is based in Sydney, Australia. She is Bow Wow Meow’s expert on all dog and cat behavioural issues. Kerstin shares her home with her 5-year-old German Spitz rescue dog, Benji, and her two ginger ninja rescue kittens, Bruce and Sheila.


More reading:
Most popular Australian dog breeds
Most popular dog breeds in America
Top 10 UK dog breeds
Best dog breeds for first-time owners
Should you breed dogs?
DNA breed detection: Who is Chilli dog?



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