Kishu Inu Dog Breed Info And Characteristics

The Kishu Inu or Kishu Ken (Kishu Dog) is a Spitz type hunting dog that originated in the ancient Kii province (today Mie and Wakayama Prefectures), Honshu Island, Japan. The breed descended from ancient middle-sized dogs more than 3.000 years ago. According to one Japanese legend, the Kishu is actually the descendant of wolves. Namely, the hunter saved an injured she-wolf, which later promised to give him one of her pups. She kept her promise and gave him a puppy, which supposedly was the progenitor of the Kishu strain. Anyhow, thanks to the mountainous isolation of the Kii province, the breed basically kept its genetic purity to this very day since there was almost no crossbreeding with other dogs. The Kishu have been previously known as the Kumano Ken and Taichi Ken, the names given after the areas they originated from. However, when the breed was officially recognized and standardized in 1934, these dogs have become known under a single name – the Kishu Ken. The same year this dog breed was designated a Living Natural Monument in Japan and since then, it has been protected by law. The FCI accepted Kishu Inu breed on a definitive basis in 1982 and today it is included in the group 5: Asian Spitz and Related Breeds in the class of primitive dogs.

Kishu Inu Personality And Temperament

The Kishu Inu is an elegant, agile and hardy dog breed that is best known after its outstanding hunting instincts and unbelievable loyalty. He is very brave, determined, impulsive, noble, clever, tenacious, playful, thoughtful, dominant, and he’s always eager to please his master. Also, Kishu can be fierce and protective if need be, but is usually gentle and calm, especially in the company of his loved ones. This is one of four medium-sized Japanese dog breeds – other three being the Hokkaido Dog, the Shikoku Dog and the Kai Ken – with whom he shares many similarities both in personality and appearance. Like them, the Kishu is primarily an intelligent and fearless hunting dog, but he’s also highly prized as a wonderful family companion and a great watchdog. Although this is more of a one person dog that will closely bond only to his primary owner, he will nonetheless be very devoted and affectionate to all other members of the household too. In other words, the Kishu Inu will always look to spend as much time as possible with his human family doesn’t matter what they do or where they go.

The Kishu Inu is an elegant, agile and hardy dog breed that is best known after its outstanding hunting instincts and unbelievable loyalty.

White beauty :)

The Kishu Inu can get along quite nicely with children (he can be an enthusiastic and lovely playmate), but only if he is raised or socialized with them. You see, this is a pack-oriented dog that will always strive for a higher position in the pack (family). As such, the Kishu can often perceive your kids (especially small ones) as lower ranked members in the hierarchy of the pack, which can cause him to be very intolerant and averse towards them. Also, his impulsiveness and quickness to react in combination with his fierce hunting instincts can prove too dangerous in this case. In other words, if mistreated your Kishu can overreact aggressively to punish the abuser, which can sometimes end up quite badly. That’s why it is mandatory that you work with your dog from day one in order to solve or better to say prevent this potential problem. However, this won’t be enough! You will also have to teach your kids how to properly treat a dog and how to establish themselves as higher ranked members in the pack. Of course, it will be a slow but very rewarding process because your children will get a wonderful companion.

The Kishu Ken is by nature a very territorial and alert dog that will always look to know what is going on at or around his little piece of land (read. owner’s property). He will literally notice every change in his surroundings and will definitely investigate anything unusual. It can go that far that he will sometimes climb the highest reachable place in a courtyard to have the best possible view on the situation. Now, if we add that the Kishu is quite aloof and wary of strangers, it is perfectly clear that this is truly an excellent watchdog. Indeed, he will notify you with loud bark whenever somebody comes near or at your property. Thankfully, he is not an obsessive barker; in fact, he is the least vocal of all Japanese medium-sized dogs. Although the Kishu Inu isn’t considered an aggressive breed, it doesn’t mean your dog won’t confront a stranger. If he perceives someone as a threat to his family, you can be sure he will stand against that person. That’s why Kishu can be used as quite a reliable guard and protection dog, but only with proper training.

The Kishu Dog is not an ideal choice for people who wish to own some smaller pets too. In fact, he should never be fully trusted, neither left alone with cats, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. There is a good reason why is that so. The Kishu is a very tough and impulsive dog with strong natural instinct for hunting. As such, he will always look to hunt down anything small and furry (or feathery) that moves around him. So, as you might imagine, there is a little to no chance your dog will learn to ignore these pets, even if he is raised with them. Ok, this may actually work with cats, but hamsters or guinea pigs are just too tempting for him. Even other dogs (small ones in particular) won’t be spared from this stubborn bastard :) Like I said, the Kishu Inu is a dignified and dominant dog, who will not let any other dog, especially the one of the same sex, stand in his way. So, you can bet he will aggressively confront another dog to display his dominance. Such behavior, of course, must be corrected in puppyhood. Recommended way to do it is to raise your Kishu with other dogs. On top of that, you should socialize your dog with various things and train him in obedience.

Kishu is an incredibly agile and athletic dog with restless spirit.

I am ready for a long, long walk ;)

About Kishu Training

So, what we have to know about the Kishu Inu training? First of all, it has to be said that this is an incredibly smart and thoughtful dog that will easily understand and remember every command you want him to know. In fact, in the right hands and with adequate treatment, he will be more than eager to learn something new just to satisfy his owner. But on the other hand, the Kishu is an independent thinker, and can be very willful and headstrong. In other words, it can be an annoying job to get him motivated for the training. This is the main reason this dog is not recommended for inexperienced owners. An owner of a Kishu Ken should know how to display himself as a dominant and firm leader with calm and patient attitude. So, you should be consistent, confident and persistent, but never aggressive or harsh. Lessons should be short (30 mins), fun and interesting, but never repetitive. More complex commands should be gradually brought to the table. Also, prepare some tasty treats since positive reinforcement methods work best with this dog. In the end, you have to know that only a well trained Kishu should be allowed off leash while a walk. So, do your job well and get your dog properly trained.

Other Characteristics And Traits

Main Kishu Inu characteristics are high intelligence, incredible loyalty, high stamina, boldness, tenacity, playfulness, dignity, alertness, stubbornness, independence, resourcefulness, curiosity, and great agility and athleticism. Like the Shikoku Dog or Kai Ken, this is a very active, energetic and agile dog that can easily work a whole day long. Indeed, he possesses a high-level stamina and is always willing to join his owner or other family members in their daily activities. That’s why Kishu Inu is a recommended breed for active and outdoorsy people in the first place. Of course, this also means that you will have to exercise your dog as much as possible. So, take him for a long walk, hike or jog once or, if possible, twice a day. Also, try to mix things up – play some games with him (hide-and-seek, tug of war, fetch game, find the treat) or give him some interesting job to do. In other words, look as often as you can keep your Kishu Ken busy not just physically, but mentally too. This way only you will be sure your dog will stay healthy and happy.

Kishu Ken is capable of climbing trees and cliffs, but also walls and fences.

Where should I climb now? :)

The good amount of exercise is particularly important if you keep your Kishu indoors. Although it might seem this is not a type of dog to be kept inside, that is not entirely the case. In fact, the Kishu has all the usual qualities of other pets suited for life indoors; he is very clean and likes to take care of himself (like a cat), he is relatively easy to maintain, has no doggy odour, and can be housebroken without much effort. On top of that, once exercised enough, he is usually very calm and gentle – a true couch potato dog that will gladly lay and rest next to his master after a long day of activities. If for some reason you avoid exercising or ignore your Kishu Inu completely, you risk your house interior being destroyed. So, take your time and do your “homework” properly! However, even if that might seem appropriate, the Kishu Inu is probably not the best choice for people living in an urban setting or an apartment. This is after all a “wild” and primitive dog with restless spirit, who will hardly bear to be, for the most time, locked up in the house, doesn’t matter how comfortable it is.

So, what is the best living environment for a Kishu Inu? It would certainly be a house with large fenced yard in a rural or suburban area. Ideally, there should be a forest or any other wild environment close by, so that you can easily take your dog for a walk and let him off leash without the worry of him being hit by a car or something similarly bad. Your yard should have a lot of green and open areas. This way the Kishu would have just enough space for his little daily activities while you’re gone. However, you will have to take some precautions in order to prevent him escaping. Indeed, the Kishu Inu is an excellent climber and jumper that can easily get over a smaller wall or fence. Also, like every hunting dog, he is always on the prowl, ready to pick a trail of any possible prey, which is why he is always eager to explore his surroundings. Now, when you put all of this into perspective, it is not that hard to guess this dog is a very capable escape artist. Of course, this habit of his should be prevented at any cost. So, make sure that the fencing around your yard is at least 6-feet high and that all other possible ways over the wall are blocked!

Kishu Dog Health

The life expectancy of a Kishu Inu is around 11-13 years. Thanks to its natural isolation, the breed kept its genetic pool almost intact and pure. This is the main reason Kishu Dogs are considered very healthy and disease-free. However, like every other living being, they are, of course, not entirely immune to everything. Lately, there have been many evidenced cases of entropion in these dogs. This is a form of genetic disease that affects the eyelids and can cause a complete loss of vision. This disease requires surgical treatment. Also, one in ten Kishu Dogs have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a common disorder of the endocrine system, which manifests itself in cold intolerance, weight gain, lethargy, infertility, etc. This is not a life-threatening condition, but can seriously affect all the necessary life functions, thus causing other health issues. It can be treated with thyroid hormone replacement – thyroid pill once a day. Kishu Kens are also susceptible to allergies and related skin issues. Apart from these conditions, these dogs can suffer from, although rarely, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and cryporchidism.

Kishu Ken Physical Characteristics And Appearance

Although white Kishu Dogs are preferred and most common, they can also come in red or sesame color.

Sesame Kishu Ken

The Kishu Ken is a typical medium-sized dog (Shika Inu) of squarish shape – proportions of length and height at the withers are about the same (11:10 ratio). He is almost identical in the appearance to the white Hokkaido Dog, but is a bit more muscular. The Kishu has a well-defined and compact body, covered with short but thick double coat. The topcoat is straight and coarse and undercoat is soft and dense. The hair is longer on neck, tail, cheeks, and buttocks. Length and thickness of the coat depend on the climate. The Kishu is very adaptable and can equally well withstand colder or hotter weather conditions. This dog is relatively easy to maintain. Regular grooming and brushing (once a day) is required only during shedding. Main Kishu colors are white, sesame and red, but white dogs are the most common. It is interesting that at the beginning of breeding program back in 1934, almost 70 percent of Kishu Dogs were non-white – just like other Japanese breeds. However, white dogs gained popularity over time due to breeder preference, especially the Ouchiyama line.

The Kishu Inu has a typical wedge-shaped head with the broad forehead and tapering muzzle with black, tight lips. The nose is usually black, but white dogs can have it in the color of flesh. The teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. Triangular, dark brown eyes are relatively small and set well apart. Prick, triangular ears are well-furred, relatively small and carried slightly forwards. The Kishu eyes and ears should be checked routinely once a month. Its neck is thick and very muscular. The chest is relatively deep, with ribs moderately sprung. The stomach is nicely tucked up and loins are quite broad and well muscled. The back is straight and strong. The thick, brushy tail is usually carried curled or curved in the form of a sickle atop the dog’s back. The forelegs are straight and firm, with elbows close to the body. The hind legs are very powerful and slightly angled, with well-developed muscles and strong hocks. The well-furred feet are oval in shape, with arched toes and hard but elastic pads. As you can see, the Kishu Ken is a quick and dexterous dog that is light-on-feet and incredibly athletic.

Shikoku Dog Size And Weight

– Height between 19 and 21 inches (48-56 cm)
– Weight between 44 and 60 pounds (20-27 kg)
– Height between 17 and 19 inches (43-51 cm)
– Weight between 35 and 51 pounds (16-23 kg)

Kishu are primarily a large game hunting dogs, traditionally used for deer and wild boar hunting in Japan.

Kishu Dogs in action!

Hunting Dog In The First Place

The Kishu Inu is a natural born hunter, which shares many similarities with the world’s best hunting dogs. He possesses keen senses, great problem solving capacity, excellent recall (if trained well). He is incredibly agile and athletic and can easily work in any weather or terrain. Besides, he is very brave, cunning, sharp, relentless, tenacious, and fearless, all of which makes him incredibly potent for hunting various types of game. The Kishu Ken is primarily a big game hunting dog, traditionally used for deer and boar hunting in Japan. However, he can be as well used for small and medium game hunting. The Kishu is a silent hunter that stalks the prey. He can hunt alone or in small packs (3-5 dogs). The way this dog hunts is that he quietly searches a game using terrain to his advantage – for example, climbing up a tree or a cliff to have a better view of the surroundings. Once on a trail, he will persistently track and chase the game down until it is trapped. Only then will Kishu start barking to keep the prey at bay and to reveal his position to the hunter so he can come for the kill.

Loyal And Tireless Working And Sporting Dog

Until now, we’ve seen that the Kishu Inu is above all an excellent hunting dog, a lovely companion and an outstanding watchdog. However, there is so much more about this dog that makes him even more special. For example, even today Japanese use Kishu Dogs for livestock herding and guarding, although very rarely. This comes as no surprise, considering how intelligent, obedient, resourceful, and thoughtful they really are. They have been also used, although rarely, as search and rescue dogs as well as police and army dogs. But thing that separates Kishu from other Japanese breeds is their huge potential as sporting dogs. With adequate training and proper treatment, they can successfully compete in various dog sports, such as agility, obedience, rally obedience, lure coursing, tracking, and flyball. So, as you can see, this is truly a magnificent and special dog of many qualities. However, if you’re already thinking about buying one of these, you have to know that Kishu Inu is, like the Kai Ken or Shikoku, a very rare breed even in its native country, not to mention abroad. It will be a darn tough job to get this dog, but if you’re a hunter or just an outdoorsy person, you should spare no money – YOU will be thankful to yourself at the end!

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