Kai Ken Dog Breed Info And Characteristics

The Kai Ken or Tora Inu (Tiger Dog) is a Spitz type hunting dog that originated in the isolated district of Kai (Yamanashi Prefecture) on Honshu Island, Japan. Experts believe that this is the purest and most ancient of all dog breeds in Japan. Tora Inu is the descendant of ancient Japanese dogs that were brought to Kai by the Jōmon or Yayoi peoples around 12.000 BC. There the breed left isolated for centuries thanks to the high mountains that surround the Yamanshi. That is, in fact, the main reason Kai Dogs bloodline remained relatively pure to this very day, but is also the main reason they have always been rare even in their native country. So, the preservation of the Kai breed begun in 1931 when Dasuke Adachi discovered for the first time these dogs in Ashiyasu village (now part of the city of Minami-Alps). Thanks to him, in 1934, Kai Ken Dog was designated a Natural Monument in Japan and since then it has been protected by law. Since 1982, it has been included on a definitive basis by the FCI in the group 5: Asian Spitz and Related Breeds in the class of primitive dogs.

Kai Ken Dog Personality

The Kai Ken is an intelligent and agile working dog renowned for its hunting prowess. He is very strong, courageous, hardy, fearless, alert, and eager to please its master. In the past, people of Kai district bred and used these unique dogs mostly for hunting, but today they are also commonly used as family companions and watchdogs. Indeed, Tora Inu can be a loyal and lovely companion dog that will cherish every moment spent with his human family. He will naturally be affectionate and dear to all family members, but is usually more of a one-person dog that will fully submit and be unquestionably devoted only to its primary owner. In other words, his master will be the sole purpose of his existence. Of course, this doesn’t mean he won’t be trustworthy and loyal to other members of the household, but will sometimes show off as quite stubborn and non-responsive. Tiger Dog is usually good and tolerant with children, especially if they’re raised together. However, in order to be 100 percent sure he won’t do any harm to kids outside his family, you will have to socialize your Kai as early as possible.

Kai Ken is a very agile dog that can clim up trees and swim across rivers.

Beautiful, handsome and unique!

Indeed, Kai Kens are primitive and wild in every way. That’s why they have to be socialized with many things, including people of all ages, various pets, sounds, and other dogs. They are usually reserved and suspicious with strangers, but rarely aggressive. However, it doesn’t mean this dog will hesitate to stand against uninvited guests. No! In fact, Tora Inu can be a very territorial dog that will try to protect his family any way possible. So, if he designates a stranger be a threat to his master and loved ones, be sure he will fearlessly confront him. Usually, it will all end with a loud warning, but it’s never a bad thing to take some precautions and prevent any unwanted scenarios. So, just in case, put a proper warning on your front gate. However, I am sure strangers will “hear a warning” in advance since Kai Ken is a very alert dog that will sound the alarm if anybody comes near the owner’s property. In fact, this is the most vocal of all Japanese dogs, but thankfully he isn’t prone to excessive barking. All of this makes him an excellent watchdog by nature, but not that good guard dog unless trained otherwise.

Like every other hunting dog, Kai Ken possesses a strong prey drive. In other words, he is a natural born hunter that will gladly chase and kill every smaller animal on sight. Cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, all the same – they are just too tempting in the eyes of this dog. The best way to deal with his wild side, apart from socialization, is that you raise your Kai with other pets. However, keep in mind that neither of these solutions will guarantee safety for your hamster or guinea pig unfortunately. So, it’s probably best that you keep them out of Tora Inu‘s reach. Fortunately, things are not that bleak with other dogs. Tiger Dog usually won’t be aggressive nor dominant in the company of other dogs. Things can get messy if another dog of the same sex enters his territory. Luckily, this can easily be corrected with proper socialization or if you raise your Kai with another dog. In fact, it is recommended that you have another dog besides a Kai Ken, especially if you’re for some reason unable to spend a lot of time with him.

Other Characteristics And Living Conditions

Main Kai Ken dog characteristics are high intelligence, strong loyalty, resourcefulness, stubbornness, agility, strength, independence, endurance, persistence, boldness, curiosity, alertness, and athleticism. This is indeed a very athletic and hardy dog that will often make you scratch your head in awe or laugh out loud with his acrobatics. Tiger Dog is like a ninja capable of all sorts of physically demanding things – he can easily climb up trees, walls or fences, he can jump incredibly high, run like the wind, swim across rivers or mountain streams. It has a lot to do with the natural environment in the Yamanashi Prefecture, which is characterized by steep mountains (Japan‘s highest including Mount Fiji), high hills, fast stream rivers, vast and lush forests, deep and cold lakes. So, there is no doubt that Kai Kens have always been accustomed to climb up mountains and to cope with the harshest of terrains in search of prey. In fact, their incredible athletic skills are the main reason they have always been prized as outstanding hunting dogs in this part of the world.

In 1934, Tiger Dog was designated a Natural Monument in Japan and since then it has been protected by law.

Kai-Kuro-Go, stuffed Tiger Dog

However, Kai Ken‘s athletic skills combined with his curiosity are also the main reason he can get into all sorts of trouble. Yep, this dog is a great escape artist, who will gladly check out what’s going on in the neighborhood. To prevent this naughty habit of his, you will need at least 6-feet high fence or wall around your yard. Also, keep in mind that this expert climber will wisely use a suitable tree (if there is any) as a “bridge to unknown”. So, make sure to prevent him from doing so anyway you can. Tora Inu‘s ideal living space would be a house with a large fenced yard in an rural or suburban setting. In such place, your dog would have just enough space for roaming and his little daily activities. However, you can easily keep a Kai Ken indoors too. You see, this is a pack-oriented dog that will always look to spend as much time as possible with his family. Apart from that, he is very clean, has no doggy odour, and is easy to housebreak. But even though he is suitable for housekeeping, this dog is not recommended for lazy people living in an urban environment.

Yeah, it is not that hard to guess that Kai Ken is an active and energetic dog, which demands a fair amount of daily exercise to stay healthy in every way. Unlike, for example, Korean Jindo, Tiger Dog is not literally restless and will do quite well with regular daily walks or jogs. However, if we take into account how intelligent this breed actually is, it is perfectly clear that you’ll have to exercise your dog not just physically, but mentally too. This is especially important if you keep him in your house or apartment. So, the best way to do this is to play some games with your Kai on a daily basis, such as hide-and-seek or find the treat. Also, you should consider throwing into the mix agility training or some jobs like herding or tracking. This way you will be sure your dog will stay healthy, satisfied, calm and gentle while indoors, and what’s also very important – he won’t make a mess out of boredom. As you can see, the proper exercise of your Kai Inu is mutual benefit for both of you, so try to practice it as often as you can!

Tiger Dog Health And Training

The usual life expectancy of a Kai Ken is around 12-15 years. This is a generally healthy breed that is usually not susceptible to congenital or hereditary health issues seen in many other breeds. However, Tora Inus can rarely suffer from several, more or less, common dog diseases like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia or progressive retinal atrophy. After all, these dogs have evolved through natural selection and have always been bred in isolation, which prevented them crossbreeding with other Japanese dogs. Thus, the genetic strain of Tiger Dog remained almost entirely pure and disease resistant. Now, this doesn’t mean you won’t have to take care of your dog and watch out for any unusual signs in his movement or behavior from time to time. No! This is something every owner should regularly practice doesn’t matter which dog breed he/she owns. So, educate yourself, learn about symptoms of possible diseases in your dog and on what to pay attention to. In other words, know how to immediately recognize if there is anything strange going on and how to act accordingly!

Aka-Tora (red brindle) dogs are the rarest of three varieties, other two being Kuro-Tora (black brindle) and Chu-Tora (dark brindle).

Aka-Tora (red brindle) Kai Dog

The Kai Ken is neither hard nor easy to train. Depends from which perspective you look at it. If we consider how highly intelligent, bright and loyal this dog actually is, it is not hard to guess that he is definitely capable to easily learn and remember even the most demanding commands. However, on the other side, if we take a look at how headstrong, proud and wilful is the Tiger Dog, then things might get a bit tricky. Indeed, he is an independent thinker that is known as the least responsive of all Japanese dogs. In other words, he is very hard to get invested into training. This is, after all, the main reason this dog is not recommended for the first-time owners. Only experienced owners that know how to take the role of a dominant and firm leader with gentle and loving hands will be able to successfully train this dog. The training itself should be consistent and fun with the use of positive reinforcement methods. Start training a puppy at an early age and apply more complex lessons step-by-step. Once successfully trained in obedience, your Kai Ken will become a dog to be proud of. Also, you have to know that only a well-trained Tora Inu should be allowed off-leash while outside. So, make sure you do your job well!

Tora Inu Physical Characteristics

The Kai Ken is a typical medium-sized dog (Shika Inu) of square shape – proportions of length and height at the withers are equal. He is quite similar to the Hokkaido Dog, Kishu Inu or Shiba Inu. There are two types of Kai Dogs based on the look of their appearance – the Shika-Inu-Gata (this type is recognizable after its fox-like head and long and slender body) and the Shishi-Inu-Gata (this type is recognizable after its bear-like head and corpulent and muscled body). Tora Inu has a short to medium double coat that is well suited for all weather conditions. The undercoat is soft and dense and topcoat is straight and rough. The hair is longer on hindquarters, neck, tail, and shoulders. Light weekly brushing will suffice off shedding season. When the dog sheds, regular daily brushing is required. Also, the occasional bath with dry shampoo is recommended. Main Kai Ken colors are red brindle (Aka-Tora), black brindle (Kuro-Tora) and dark brindle (Chu-Tora). Aka-Tora dogs are the rarest of three varieties. An interesting thing is that the puppies are always born a solid color and their brindle markings develop as they grow up.

The Kai Inu has a wedge-shaped head with the relatively narrow skull and tapered, pointy muzzle with teeth meeting in a scissors bite. The broad nose is usually black, but the red or brown nose is allowed on Aka-Tora (red brindle) dogs. The small almond-shaped eyes give the dog good binocular vision. Their color varies from light to dark brown. The triangular ears are pricked and densely covered with fur. As usual, you should inspect eyes and ears once a month. Tora Inu has a thick and strong neck. The chest is relatively deep, with well-rounded ribs. The shoulders are well-muscled and the stomach is nicely tucked up. The moderate brushy tail is usually carried curled atop his straight and strong back, or raised in the shape of a sickle. The front legs are straight and sturdy with elbows close to the body. The hind legs are very muscular, well-boned and extremely powerful with well-developed hocks. The cat-like feet with thick pads are of a moderate size. Thanks to such well-balanced constitution, Kai Ken is capable of all sorts of crazy maneuvers and acrobatics.

Kai Ken Dog Size And Weight

– Height between 18 and 22 inches (46-56 cm)
– Weight between 35 and 50 pounds (17-23 kg)
– Height between 17 and 20 inches (43-50 cm)
– Weight between 30 and 45 pounds (14-19 kg)

Tora Inu is an versatile hunting dog that can be used in the hunt on small, medium or large game.

Now, tell us what to hunt today? :) photo © Chrystal Cleary, used by permission

Great Hunting Dog

In their native country, Kai Kens have always been highly praised for their natural hunting instincts and skills that are simply incredible. In fact, they were, and still are, the main reason people from the Yamanashi Prefecture, where these dogs have mainly been used to hunt a kind of mountain goat-antelope called Japanese serow, continued to breed them through all these centuries. Indeed, Tora Inus are such versatile hunting dogs, which can be used literally in the hunt on every small, medium or large game. Today, they are often used to hunt deer, wild boar, pheasant or bear. They usually work as hunter’s assistants, but can as well hunt on their own. Apart from their great hunting instincts, Tiger Dogs possess keen senses, can climb up trees or swim across rivers in search of prey, and are able to work in every weather or terrain. On top of that, they are very agile, hardy, brave, fast, fearless, resourceful, persistent, and eager to please. Once properly trained, they respond very well to learned commands, which gives the hunter great control over their actions.

Loyal Companion And Working Dog

However, hunting, watching and guarding are not the only uses for Kai Dogs in their native country. They have also been used, although rarely, as herding dogs as well as fisherman’s helpers. Also, some of these dogs have been successfully used as search and rescue dogs, although it might seem impossible considering that they are one-person dogs. With adequate training, they can even compete in agility, obedience or tracking trials. All of this just proves how versatile and useful these dogs actually are. They are quick learners, who can (in the right hands) easily become proficient in a variety of jobs. But in the first place, Tora Inu is an incredibly loyal companion that will never leave his primary owner. As a plus, he is the only native Japanese dog that has little to no tendency to aggressive behavior. So, after you socialize your dog, you won’t have to live in fear he will hurt somebody. In general, Kai Ken is a recommended dog for hunters and active people, who I’m sure will have a lot of reasons to be proud of him. Unfortunately, as I wrote in the first paragraph, this dog is extremely rare even in Japan. However, if you are an outdoorsy person looking for a perfect companion, you should definitely try to find and buy a Tiger Dog at any cost!

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