The Shikoku Dog (Shikoku Inu) or Kochi Ken is a Spitz type hunting and working dog originating from the Kochi Prefecture on the Shikoku Island, Japan. This is one of six native Japanese dog breeds – other five being the Akita Inu, Shiba Inu, Kai Ken, Kishu Inu, and the Hokkaido Dog. The breed, previously known as the Tosa Ken, was developed through domestication of the wolf-like dogs that inhabited this Island in antiquity. At the time, these newly domesticated dogs were, by the ancient Japanese people, mainly used and bred for hunting. They proved successful in their duties and were highly valued as hunting dogs, which eventually proved crucial for the preservation of the entire breed. Thanks to the natural isolation of the Shikoku Island, these Japanese Wolfdogs (as some call these dogs, but it’s quite misleading as you can read here) have had limited ability to crossbreed with other dog breeds. This resulted that the genetic pool of this breed remained almost completely pure to this very day. That’s why the Mikawa Inu, as Japanese also call this dog, is considered one of the purest dog breeds in the world.
In 1937, the Shikoku Dog was designated by Nihon Ken Hozonkai (NIPPO) a Living Natural Monument in Japan and since then, it has been protected by law. That same year, the reconstruction process of the breed had started. At the start of this process, it was determined that all Shikoku Dogs can be separated into two distinct bloodlines – the Western Shikoku and the Eastern Shikoku. Dogs of the Eastern bloodline, including the Tokushima (Iya) strain and the Kochi-Aki strain, could have been found around the Mount Tsurugi, while dogs of the Western bloodline, including the Hongawa strain (the most isolated and genetically pure of all Shikoku Dogs), Ehime-ken Shuso-gun (Awa) strain and the Hata Uwahara strain, could have been found around the Mount Ishizuchi. Unfortunately, today there is no accurate information on how they exactly separated these strains, whether by size, coat type or something else, but experts agree that all modern day Kochi Kens are descendants of the Western bloodline – most notably the Hongawa and the Hata Uwahara strains. Since 1992, the Shikoku Dog has been accepted by the FCI on a definitive basis and today is included in the group 5: Asian Spitz and Related Breeds in the class of primitive dogs.
About Shikoku Dog Personality And Temperament
The Shikoku Ken is an intelligent, loyal and versatile dog that is best known after its hunting prowess. He has a well-balanced and elegant appearance, and is light on feet, quick and very dextrous. On top of that, he is incredibly courageous, fearless, tough, hardy, playful, determined, and is more than eager to please its master. So, it is quite obvious that the Mikawa Inu is a true gem of a dog that shines in many different ways. In the past, Shikoku Dogs have been mainly used by the Matagi (Japanese traditional hunters) for hunting and tracking of the wild beasts, while today they are as well commonly used as companions and watchdogs. This dog is truly a wonderful companion that will always strive to spend as much time as possible with its human family. He will welcome all members of the household with great affection, joy and respect, but will be absolutely loyal and devoted only to his primary owner. Indeed, the Kochi Ken is more of a one-person dog to whom his master will mean everything – he will obey his every command and will literally live and die for him.
The Shikoku Dog and children can get along quite nicely, but only if they are raised together or if you properly socialize your dog at an early age. There are two main reasons why he can sometimes be really hotheaded with children. First one is that the Mikawa Inu is a pack-oriented dog with a strong sense of hierarchy. This means that there is a great chance your dog might perceive your kid(s) as lower ranked members of the pack. Thus, he won’t tolerate any kind of teasing or annoyance from children, and this can sometimes result with bad consequences. Second one is that he possesses a very strong prey drive, which makes him quite dangerous for small children and toddlers in particular. That’s why it is very important that you, apart from teaching your dog to respect and tolerate children, teach them how to properly treat a dog and how to maintain themselves as privileged members of the pack. One thing you also have to know in this case is that the Shikoku Dog likes to use his mouth when seeking attention. When ignored, he will softly nibble or pull somebody’s hand with his mouth. This can definitely frighten an unsuspecting child, so it would be necessary that you correct this habit of his as soon as you spot it.
The Shikoku Dog is an excellent watchdog by nature. He is very territorial as well as reserved, aloof and suspicious towards strangers. On top of that, the Japanese Wolfdog is a very alert and cautious dog that will notice and react to every change or unusual sound around him. Thus, you can rest assured your Shikoku will sound the alarm whenever somebody comes near or at your property. In such situations, this dog can be very vocal, but like other Japanese dogs, he is not prone to excessive barking. However, these dogs can often use various types of growls and howls to express their excitement or to communicate with their owners, which can sometimes be pretty hilarious. Mikawa Inu is generally a people loving dog that will hardly ever attack or bite a man, but he can literally take a glance into the human’s soul and recognize if the person is a threat to his family. If that happens, he might switch to aggressive behavior, but usually won’t confront a stranger. Instead, he will welcome him/her by jumping and licking, which can be some form of protection if the paws are dirty :) Of course, Shikoku Inu can become reliable guard, protective or defensive dog, but only through long and rigorous training.
Like every hunting dog, the Shikoku Dog should not be allowed around small pets, especially if he is not raised with them. He is a natural born hunter and unmistakable tracker capable to easily outsmart his prey. In other words, he won’t hesitate a second to chase everything small and furry that moves around him, including your cat, hamster, rabbit, guinea pig, etc. Simply said, all these pets are too tempting for this dog and should never be left alone with him – even if he is well socialized with them or he grew up with them. So, if you already have some of these pets, maybe it’s best to choose another dog breed instead of wasting countless hours into demanding training with high odds of failure. Things are a bit better with other dogs, but nothing to be excited about. The Kochi Ken is maybe not a crazy aggressive dog, but his territorial instincts and tendency to dominate his pack can prove too difficult to control in the company of other dogs. He can instantly switch to aggressive behavior and pick a fight with another dog, especially the one of the same sex. Early socialization and raising with other dogs can help here to some degree, but you should as well put your dog through training in obedience just in case.
Tips About Kochi Ken Training
Speaking of training, it has to be said that the Shikoku Inu is a very bright dog with good memory. Truly, he can easily learn even the most demanding commands, but only if you are able to successfully motivate him for the training. This, however, might prove quite difficult for some and because of that the Shikoku Dog is not a recommended breed for novice dog owners. Indeed, these dogs are known as independent thinkers – they are very stubborn, reactive and impulsive. That’s why it is very important that you start with the training gradually and carefully. Lessons should be short and fun, but never repetitive. You should always use positive reinforcement training techniques. So, prepare some tasty treats and “arm” yourself with abundance of patience. This way only you will be able to overcome his stubbornness and make a quick learner out of him. In skillful hands, the Mikawa Inu can be even trained to compete in obedience, agility and tracking trials. Also, you have to know that you should never allow your Shikoku off-leash while outside unless trained in obedience. This is a hunting dog by nature, who will gladly track or chase something, thus completely ignoring you. So, make sure you do your job well and complete his training in time.
Other Characteristics And Traits
Main Shikoku Dog characteristics are high intelligence, unbelievable loyalty, great agility, speed, impulsiveness, boldness, curiosity, independence, stubbornness, resourcefulness, endurance, alertness, tenacity, and athleticism. This is an incredibly agile and hardy dog that is literally restless. Indeed, even after a day filled with various activities, you will see him struggle to not fall asleep. Thus lively and enthusiastic is this dog. So, it is more than clear that Kochi Ken demands a good amount of regular exercise to stay healthy both physically and mentally. That’s why you should take your dog for a long walk, jog or hike as often as you can. I recommend you do it at least once or twice a day. Also, you should always look to play some games with him (hide-and-seek, find the treat, tug of war) or to give him some job to keep him occupied. This is particularly important if you keep your Shikoku indoors. This way only you will be sure your Mikawa Inu won’t get unhappy or bored, which is a prerequisite that your dog won’t make a mess or destroy your living space completely.
Apart from great stamina and agility, the Shikoku Dog is also known after its outstanding athletic and acrobatic abilities. This comes as no surprise considering these dogs have been living for centuries in the mountainous region of Kochi Prefecture, the wildest part of the Shikoku Island, which is characterized by steep mountains, many rivers and lush forests. The Shikokus are known (and prized) as good climbers, jumpers and swimmers capable to easily work in any terrain and to overcome the various obstacles. Unfortunately, their athletic and acrobatic skills are the main reason they are very adept escape artists. Indeed, like every hunting dog, the Mikawa Inu is a very curious dog eager to explore his surroundings. So, if there is any way to climb over a wall or fence, he will definitely use it to investigate your neighborhood. Of course, this way he can get into all sorts of trouble, which is why it is mandatory that you prevent him escape any way possible. The best way to do it is to make sure your yard is securely enclosed with at least 6-feet high fencing.
If you read the previous two paragraphs, it is not hard to guess the Shikoku Ken is a type of dog that has to have a large open space where he can freely run and play. The ideal place for this dog should be a house with large and well-fenced courtyard in an rural or suburban area with forest, river or mountain close by. Only in such living conditions your Shikoku will have just about everything for happy and fulfilled life. However, that’s not to say he cannot be kept indoors. As a matter of fact, he can really be a nice, calm and gentle dog while inside the house, but only if you exercise him just enough. Of course, in this case you will have to exercise your Kochi Ken a bit more than usual, but it will be of mutual benefit for both. Other than that, you won’t have to do something special since Shikoku is a very clean dog that has no doggy odour and is relatively easy to housebreak. With all this being said, it is perfectly clear that, like other medium-sized Japanese breeds, this is an ideal dog for active and outdoorsy people, who like to spend a lot of time in nature.
Mikawa Inu Health
The life expectancy of a Shikoku Dog is around 11-13 years. This is a very healthy breed since, it has evolved through natural selection with little to no human meddling. There are no known congenital or hereditary diseases these dogs can suffer from. Yes, they can be susceptible to some more common health issues, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, weak heart, digestive and urinary problems, or anxiety, but only if you treat your dog inappropriately and recklessly. Shikokus are very devoted and highly active dogs that have to be taken care of the best possible way. This means that you should never ignore your dog, neither avoid to exercise him regularly. In fact, you will have to dedicate a lot of time to him on a daily basis. If, for some reason, you’re unable to do so, maybe it is best to choose another dog breed. But, come-on, it cannot be that hard, just move your ass. With a proper diet and good amount of mental and physical exercise, you can rest assured you will have a healthy and happy Shikoku Dog, which will in turn bring a lot of joy and happiness into your life.
Japanese Wolfdog Physical Characteristics And Appearance
The Mikawa Inu is a slender, medium-sized dog (Shika Inu) of squarish shape – in proportions, he is just slightly longer than tall at the withers (11:10 ratio). This is the smallest of all Japanese medium-sized dogs and is very similar to the Shiba Inu and Kai Ken in appearance. This dog has a compact and muscular body covered with a short double coat. The undercoat is soft and dense and outer coat is straight and harsh. The length and density of the coat depend on the climate of the dog’s environment. The hair is longer on the neck, buttocks and tail. The regular grooming and brushing is required only during the shedding periods (once or twice a year). The rest of the year minimal grooming (once or twice a week) will be just enough. Main Shikoku Dog colors are the various types of sesame (goma), black (kuro), red (aka), and white/cream (shiro). The white/cream color must be present on the stomach, chest, lower tail, feet, lower neck, shoulders, muzzle, cheeks, and above the eyes. However, the solid white or cream Shikokus are not allowed. Preferred are the darker or black colored dogs.
The Shikoku Dog has a wedge-shaped head with the rather long, tapering muzzle and broad skull. The nose and lips are black and teeth meet in a scissors bite. The dark brown, oval-shaped eyes with black eye-rims are relatively small and deep-set. The triangular, erect ears face forwards and are well-furred. Both the eyes and ears should be inspected and cleaned once or twice a month. The Shikoku’s neck is very strong and thick. The back is straight and strong. The narrower chest is rather deep, with well sprung ribs. The stomach is tucked up nicely and the loin is broad and well muscled. The thick and feathery tail is usually carried curled atop the back or high up in the form of a sickle. The forelegs are straight with elbows held close to the body. The hind legs are very powerful, muscular and well-boned. The well-furred feet with arched toes and hard pads are compact and nicely rounded. So, as you can see, the Kochi Ken is really a nice built dog capable of neck breaking direction changes and high jumping like a mountain goat.
Shikoku Dog Size And Weight
– Height between 19 and 21 inches (48-53 cm)
– Weight between 40 and 50 pounds (18-23 kg)
– Height between 17 and 19 inches (43-48 cm)
– Weight between 35 and 45 pounds (16-20,5 kg)
Brave Hunting Dog
The Shikoku Inu is, in the first place, a great hunting dog and hunting was, and still is, his main use. The breed has been always known after its strong natural hunting instincts, which were further improved by the Matagi (ancient Japanese hunters). These dogs are tried and tested large game hunters that can be as well used for small and medium game hunting. In their native country, the Shikoku Dogs and Kai Dogs are known as deerhounds. Both of these breeds are mainly used in the hunt on deer, boar and bear. The Japanese Wolfdogs possess all the qualities needed in an effective hunting dog – keen senses, excellent command responsiveness, courage, tenacity, hardness, cunningness, problem solving capacity, and capability to work in any weather or terrain doesn’t matter how harsh they are. They usually hunt in small packs of 3-5 dogs, which can work on their own or as hunter’s assistants. The Shikokus can be trained to hunt in two ways – barking to bay (Hoeru-dome) and biting to bay (Kami-dome), with the former being preferred since there is a lesser risk of dogs being injured.
Devoted Human Helper
So, until now, we learned that the Shikoku Dog is an excellent hunting dog, a good watchdog, and a wonderful companion. However, these dogs, as intelligent, active and resourceful as they are, have been used for various other jobs. Most notably, they’ve proven themselves as reliable farm dogs for herding and livestock guarding, although they are rarely used for this job. Their incredible tracking abilities and their capability to easily cope with the harshest of terrains are the reasons the Japanese Wolfdogs have been quite often used as search and rescue dogs, especially in mountainous regions. They’ve been also known as valuable police and army dogs. All in all, this is truly a versatile dog that will amaze you with his many qualities and make you a proud owner in every respect. Unfortunately, like the Kai Ken, the Kishu or the Hokkaido Dog, the Shikoku Dog is very rare even in its native country. So, you will really have to try your best to get one of these dogs. However, if you’re a hunter, farmer or just an active outdoor person, then you should definitely look to buy this dog. It will be money well spent!