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kishu ken dog breed pictures 3 scaled - Kishu Ken

Kishu Ken

Almost exclusive to Japan, the Kishu Ken is an ancient dog breed once used for hunting large game like boar. Some are still used as hunting dogs, but for the most part, the modern day Kishu Ken is a family dog in Japan, and they’ve started to grow in popularity in the United States, as well.

Some fans of the breed affectionately call them Kishu or Kishu Inu. Although these are purebred dogs, you may still find them in shelters and rescues. Remember to adopt! Don’t shop if this is the breed for you.

Dogs of this breed may not be the best choice for novice pet parents, as this headstrong hunter needs a gentle-but-firm hand along with consistent training. This ancient Japanese breed does well with both single dwellers and families; although, they tend to get attached to one person in the household. Although they’re reserved in nature, they’re quick to protect their humans. If you’re looking for a calm companion who’ll also alert you of potential danger, then this might be the breed for you.


Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.

Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!

Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

All Around Friendliness

Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family

Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.

**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash like this one in public!

Health And Grooming Needs

If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool here!

Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.

Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.

If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.

Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.

Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!


Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.

Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.

Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.

Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.

Physical Needs

High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.

Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.

Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

Vital Stats:

Dog Breed Group:Working DogsHeight:17 to 22 inchesWeight:30 to 60 poundsLife Span:9 to 13 years

More About This Breed


  • The Kishu Ken used to have a variety of coat colors, including brindle and red. As the breed became standardized, white fur was in demand, and Kishu Ken were selectively bred. There are still some rare red and brindle Kishu Ken.
  • Kishus have medium energy levels. Make sure your dog gets at least one good half-hour- to hour-long walk per day with a few good, active play sessions and shorter walks mixed in.
  • When it comes to children, the Kishu Ken can make a great, calm companion. However, the Kishu Ken is not one for rough-housing, and you should teach your children how to safely interact with dogs.
  • Cats and other small mammals aren’t the best housemates for a Kishu Ken. Their hunting instincts are likely to kick in. Many Kishus prefer to be the only pet in the home.
  • The intelligent breed does well with all types of training, including agility training and trick training. They learn best with positive reinforcement.
  • Since the Kishu Ken is such a loyal breed, they can become vigilant and protective if someone new comes into the house.
  • When their coat isn’t blowing, maintenance is fairly low-key, as the Kishu Ken is a very cleanly dog. A good brushing once a week should do. They’re not a good choice for allergy sufferers.


While the exact date of the breed’s origin isn’t exact, researchers believe that the Kishu Ken breed is at least 3,000 years old. The breed got its start in Kyushu, or modern-day prefectures of Mie and Wakayama.

According to some legends, the Kishu Ken is a descendant of wolves gifted to a man after he helped an injured wolf. Humans worked with their Kishu Ken dogs to hunt large game like boars, and even bears. The dogs were trained to pin down prey live and wait for their humans to catch up. Some hunters in Japan still use these dogs for hunting.

Even though these loyal, intelligent dogs stuck by their humans’ sides, it wasn’t until 1934 that Kishu Ken enthusiasts in Japan honored them as a national treasure, designating the breed as a “Memorial of Nature.”

Even though the Kishu Ken originally came in a variety of colors, the preference for a easily spot-able, white coat pushed selective breeding processes. The breed is mainly found in Japan, although they’re considered rare there as well. Foundation stock breeders in both Japan and the United States are actively working to keep Kishu Ken numbers up.


On average, the Kishu Ken stands between 17 and 22 inches from the shoulder and weigh in between 30 and 60 pounds.

Still, some Kishu Ken may be larger or smaller than average for their breed.


The Kishu Ken might seem standoffish to those they don’t know, but breed enthusiasts know how loyal and loving this dog can be. While they may not hop up on your lap or snuggle at the foot of your bed, they do enjoy being in close proximity to their humans, like lounging in a dog bed as you read on the couch.

The Kishu Ken tends to have a favorite human, usually whoever is their main caretaker. By no means is a Kishu Ken aggressive or cold towards other family members, but they will show a little extra affection for that one special human.

Since the Kishu Ken is such a loyal breed, they can become vigilant and protective if someone new comes into the house. They aren’t known to be outwardly aggressive, but you should still start socialization and consistent training as early as possible to curb any unwanted guarding habits.

As long as training is consistent, the Kishu Ken can thrive in nearly any environment. Even though the breed was designed to help hunt large game, their energy levels aren’t as high as other hunting dogs’ typically are.

This doesn’t mean the Kishu Ken won’t appreciate activity with their humans. The intelligent breed does well with all types of training, including agility training and trick training. They learn best with positive reinforcement.


Kishus are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be subject to certain health conditions. Not all Kishu Ken will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.

Some of the more common health problems Kishu Ken suffer from include:

  • Allergies and autoimmune conditions
  • Entropion
  • Cancer in older Kishu Ken


As with all dogs, be sure to keep up with your Kishu Ken’s regular veterinary checkups to detect any health concerns early. Your vet can help you develop a care routine that will keep your Kishu healthy.

Kishu Ken are prone to weight gain, and they have medium energy levels. Make sure your dog gets at least one good half-hour- to hour-long walk per day with a few good, active play sessions and shorter walks mixed in. As a breed with hunting instincts in their DNA, your Kishu Ken will also appreciate active games that are also mentally stimulating. A bored and untrained Kishu Ken can develop unwanted destructive habits.

Check their ears for debris and pests daily and clean them as recommended by your vet. Trim your dog’s nails before they get too long–usually once or twice per month. They should not be clicking against the floor. Your groomer can help with this.

Maintain their oral health. You should brush their teeth daily. Your veterinarian can instruct you on how to brush your dog’s teeth properly.


An ideal Kishu Ken diet should be formulated for a medium breed with medium-to-high energy levels. The Kishu Ken has a tendency to gain weight. Keep your Kishu in good shape by measuring their food and feeding them twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time.

As with all dogs, the Kishu Ken’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and will continue to change into their senior years. You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about your Kishu’s diet, as there is far too much variation among individual dogs–including weight, energy, and health–to make a specific recommendation.

Coat Color And Grooming

The Kishu Ken used to have a variety of coat colors, including brindle and red. As the breed became standardized in the early 20th century, the preference of highly visible white fur, especially for hunters, was in demand, and Kishu Ken were selectively bred. There are still some red and brindle Kishu Ken, although they are quite rare.

The Kishu Ken has a double coat, which means they will experience blowing in the fall and the spring. This may not make them the best choice for allergy sufferers. When their coat isn’t blowing, maintenance is fairly low-key, as the Kishu Ken is a very cleanly dog. A good brushing once a week should do.

It is important not to shave your Kishu Ken’s coat, even in the summer. The Kishu’s double coat protects them from both the harsh cold and summer heat. In the summer months, you may have to apply dog sunscreen to any bare areas, like the snout.

Children And Other Pets

When it comes to children, the Kishu Ken can make a great, calm companion. However, the Kishu Ken is not one for rough-housing, and you should teach your children how to safely interact with your Kishu before throwing them all in the same room together. Kishus are not known to be aggressive or overly playful, but they may growl at a child who is overstepping their boundaries.

As for other pets, cats and other small mammals aren’t the best housemates for a Kishu Ken. Their hunting instincts are likely to kick in, and your cat will be stuck in a constant chase. As for other dogs, the Kishu Ken can get along with others, as long as they are introduced slowly and calmly. Having said that, the Kishu typically prefers to be the sole dog of the house.

Rescue Groups

Rescues specifically for Kishu Ken dogs might be hard to come by. However, you can always check with your local shelter, and you may want to try a rescue that caters to all kinds of dogs. You can take a look at the following:

  • Wright-Way Rescue
  • Angels Among Us Pet Rescue

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