Shikoku vs Kai

edited November 2018 in General

I've been driving myself crazy over the last few months researching these two breeds. It's been my plan to own one of these breeds in the next 3-5 years but I really want to take my time with this. However, I met my third Shikoku a few months ago and got the itch to research the breed as well as the Kai again. But before I contact any breeders I'd like to make sure it's the right breed!

I was wondering if someone could give me some more insight on the differences between the two. I've read some conflicting information regarding the state of their health and temperament.

Is the Shikoku breed as a whole riddled with health issues? I've read that they are prone to HD, neurological disorders, allergies, etc. is it true that they often have a life expectancy of only 12 years? Seems so short for a medium sized breed.

Could someone give me an idea of the overal health of the Kai Ken? I've read some articles stating that they have been heavily inbred and others that say that they are a fairly healthy breed.

I train dogs for a living and am looking for first and foremost a very healthy and hearty breed for my next dog. I am currently dealing with my adopted lab/rottie mix that has been plagued with health issues ranging from torn ACLs to allergies to Addison's disease and requires daily medication and monthly injections. I really want to find a breeder that is interested in producing the healthiest offspring possible.

Secondly, I'd like a solid temperament. Confidence in a dog is important to me. I'd like a dog that is versatile in that I am considering doing some showing with th dog, and my husband and I might get into some hunting as well so would like the dog to have some working capabilities. I'd like a confident dog that can handle social pressure in a ring and won't scare or spook easily with loud noises (I know most of this is early socialization but I think good or bad genetics/breeding can contribute quite a bit). The Shikoku I actually had the opportunity to work with was very insecure which led him to be defensive with both dogs and people. I would not mind and in some cases even prefer a dog that is aloof, indifferent or even slightly cautious, but insecurity or a strong fear/aggressive response would certainly be unwanted. I'm getting confused because I thought the Kai has more guarding instincts and yet they seem more agreeable and less reactive??

I'm also hoping for some clarification on the differences between the breeds when it comes to socializing with other dogs. This will not be a dog park dog and I understand some reactiveness especially when restrained is to be expected from both of the breeds. From my research, the Kai seems like a much better fit here but I've also read something about how a Shikoku will pick on/be a punk or rude to another dog but doesn't really want to fight, while the Kai is less likely to start something but can be more likely to actually fight. Is this true? It seemed like everything else I read talks about the Kais being the best of the NKs with other dogs but that statement made me second guess my research.

I have so many other questions but do not want to make this post any longer than it already is. Please feel free to add any additional observations or information about the breeds that you think are important. Any and all advice/input is greatly appreciated but especially those that have had experience owning both, I'd really love to get your insights on the two breeds.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Looking forward to reading your replies.


  • Hi Riverbend,

    Full disclosure, I don't have any experience with either of those breeds but as you are pulling your hair out I wanted to provide my thoughts in the hope that they provide you with some comfort. The below is an opinion piece.

    I have a hokkaido and if I was to break down the "typical" of the breed eg. the akc
    "The Hokkaido is a dog of noteworthy endurance and dignity. His temperament is faithful, docile, very alert and bold. He also shows accurate judgement and great stamina."

    Only some of those ring true, I had certain criteria when selecting a dog for my family and within certain genetic boundaries there is a lot of environmental movement possible. I looked to the parents and their characteristics and behaviors as a guide and then selected from within a litter of two that matched my criteria. (This sounds nice and logical but it was in reality more of the breeder going this guy seems to be what you have described and me going "omg, sooo cute".)

    So how does Mochi hit those typical criteria of his breed?
    Endurance: Fantastic for his age, his playmate of the same age is a bull terrier with a fixation problem and he outlasts her comfortably even if he can't match the physicality of the play she introduces.
    Dignity: Nope, does not exist. Self control is not a word in his vocab.
    Docile: Not at all, if we have visitors that he knew as a puppy it is full on until they leave, if they stay long enough, he will have a nap to recoup and then its back on. Good luck having a nice convo.
    Judgement: I was thinking no but he displays some good caution when he comes across a new critter and will look to me to guidance once he discovers it while avoiding direct engagement. This was not something I considered but as we have a lot of poisonous snake in Aus has been of a huge benefit.

    As to people & dog aggression, I read a lot into this and thought it would be a huge issue but anything is further from the truth for Mochi(intact male), he loves everyone. That being said, I made that one of the before-mentioned criteria in selecting a pup. I have young nephews and nieces and will not tolerate aggressive behavior towards children. Does that mean that his interaction with them has been perfect, no. You can see his little cogs turning and thinking how he can twist their love of him to his advantage.

    The belief that nihonken in general are hard to train is the one that resonates with me the most out of all the advice I was given, When our interests align we are a well oiled machine with people commenting on how well trained & smart he is and on the flip side he is able to act without my direction to complete tasks but as soon as our interest diverge I will see his tiny ear twist towards me and then he is off to doing the task he believes that has more value. It can be frustrating at times and probably amusing for the neighbors as I chase him holding a whipper snipper screaming for him to drop a part he stole. I now need a new part and have a broken tool.

    This is probably a long winded way to say that I personally believe there is a lot more overlap between the breeds than there are differences. I would put a lot more emphasis on finding the right parents and a breeder that will help ensure that you get the type of dog that is good for your family.
  • edited November 2018
    I think one of the biggest differences you're going to see is with other dogs. Shikoku can be... well, jerks, to put it nicely. Their play style doesn't go over well with some dogs. OTOH Kai are generally regarded as the most doggy-social of the Nihon Ken.

    NB: I haven't and would never own either breed. Neither fits my lifestyle at all based on other personality traits, and I disagree with SKR's implication that the Nihon Ken are basically interchangeable due to overlap. They're *very* different. My Hokkaido and my JAs are like night and day. Whenever someone sends me a puppy application and says they'd take either breed I roll my eyes, because they're NOT going to fit equally well in any given family and it just means the applicant hasn't actually thought about what would fit their lifestyle. The fact that they're coming from the same breeder (me) who has the same criteria for health and temperament does NOT mean they're gonna be the same.
  • Thank you so much SKR and Poetik Dragon. Since I've only worked with a few of the NK breeds and have never actually lived with one, I really value and appreciate your input. I really want to make the right choice for the breed that fits our lifestyle best.

    This is still very premature and I'm hesitant to even mention it because I still have so much to learn and experience to gain but I am considering the possibility of breeding one of these beautiful breeds. This would likely be in 6-7 years as I will take my time finding the right breeder and then would wait until my dogs were 3 for health checks.

    I want to mention my dream about breeding either the Kai or Shikoku to ask some follow up questions. To me, it seems like the the Shikoku could use the most help in terms of the in breeding and rarity of the breed. I think I read a thread stating there were only 300 register Shikokus in Japan a few years back??

    My questions are:

    Is it possible to create more diversity when there is such a small number of Shikokus? (I would likely want to import from Japan to again add diversity to the US population)

    Since most Japanese breeders won't do health checks on their dogs, is it possible to improve the health of the breed while importing a dog from Japan? What would you look for in a breeder?

    My goals towards breeding a Shikoku would be to improve their health, increase the confidence, decrease anxiety/fear issues and decrease their reactiveness towards other dogs. This would likely be a lifelong endeavor but is this realistic? I don't want to take away from what the breed is supposed to be or try to make it into something that it's not.

    This why I'm leaning towards the Kai Ken. I feel like they have less issues in terms of health and their temperament fits my lifestyle a bit more. I also feel like the breed already has some great advocates/breeders here in NA. Not that the Shikoku doesn't but I just feel like it could use more help and more people working towards preservering the breed.

    Again, please don't take this as I'm going to get a puppy and immediately start breeding. I just have breeding as a possibility in the back of my mind and want to make sure I am thinking ahead when it comes to what breed I choose as my next dog. This will first and foremost be my next companion and additional member to our family.

    Thank you again and please don't hesitate to correct or criticize anything I've just said. I still have so much to learn before I make this dream a reality. I've been aware of this forum for many years now and I don't know of a better place to find more knowledgeable, honest and helpful people. Thank you everyone for your willingness to share your knowledge and experience with me.
  • Having owned or had hands on experience with large numbers of the 6 Japanese breeds, I agree with @PoetikDragon. They are very different in temperament.

    As far as criteria and issues you mention regarding Kai and Shikoku...

    There are health issues specific to each of the Japanese breeds. You will generally just be picking your poison. For instance, Shikoku don't have the greatest hips overall, but due to the fact that they are a light and extremely athletic breed, I have yet to see it be a terrible quality of life issue for affected dogs (even some with terrible hips). As far as allergies go, I've seen a decent number of Kai with allergy issues, and not so many Shikoku. Kai with patella issues are not unknown (which you very rarely see in Shikoku). And then the Shikoku have the lysosomal storage disorder (deadly and untreatable), but to date I have counted less than 10 dogs with it in the past 7 years.

    Due to a lack of genetic testing and knowledge of issues in Japan, all the Japan have health issues. That being said, we seem to have much more serious issues with the imported breeds like Labradors etc. Life expectancy for all the medium size breeds is quite good (maybe something we need more data on, but as I've seen it it's pretty good). For Shikoku somewhere in the range of 15 years old is pretty common.

    All the Japanese breeds have been heavily inbred at some point in their development. There was a very small pool of dogs selected for the breeds.

    The Kai overall is the most dog social of the Japanese breeds. They're generally not aggressive right of the bat, have good communication, and good play skills. The Shikoku is generally an asshole (in a somewhat adorable way). Their idea of fun is seeing how many buttons they can push in their playmates, and how much they can badger them. The overall dog-dog and same-sex levels of aggression in the two breeds can be seen in the show ring here in Japan. Go to a Kai (KKA) show and see how they line up the adult males right next to each other (not all of them get along of course), and then take a look at a NIPPO show with adult Shikoku males, and how much space you need between them in the ring. I think what you are talking about with regard to fighting and Kai, is the fact that Shikoku can tend to get into little arguments/scuffles pretty quickly and often. The Kai doesn't do that much, but when they go all in (and I don't know why) but I generally see a much more serious injury than when my Shikoku or Kishu argue. With them there seems to be a lot more scruff and back holding/biting, but Kai just play dirty and feral once they are over threshold.

    Neither of these two breeds generally has a 'solid temperament' (in my definition anyway). The Shikoku is extremely aware of everything going on around it, reacting in some to all the noises, scents, movement, people etc. This means they're often not that comfortable in loud hectic environments. They can be pretty skittish. The Kai is the most timid of the Japanese breeds, bleeding into shyness in a lot of dogs, especially females. The flight response to extreme stimuli is very high in the Kai.

    There's around 200-300 Shikoku registered every year, 300 Hokkaido, 300 Kishu, 600+Kai. Akita have a fair few more, and Shiba are at over 30,000. You obviously can't increase the genetic diversity of the entire breed unless you add a dog from an outside gene pool, but as far as trying to maintain what you have now (if you're trying to preserve the breed) then having as many animals kept for possible future breeding is optimal. Yes it would help to have more Shikoku imported from Japan to the US, but the same can be said for the Kai. Neither population in the US is that large.

    As far as breeding goes, before I started breeding I was definitely of the opinion of wait till completely sure the dog is 100 percent healthy at some point in the distant future (say 3 years) before doing anything. Being further down the road now, that's definitely not my stance. Dry heats are hard on female reproductive systems, females that haven't been bred when young can end up being extremely unreceptive to natural mating (especially Shikoku females). Pyometra can be a real problem in the Shikoku.

    Anyway, there's my unedited wall of text response. To sum it up, I'd say if you want a 100 percent healthy breed (or really really good odds of it), stay away from the Japanese breeds. If you want a dog with a solid or easy temperament, the Japanese breeds are probably not your cup of tea. If you want a dog that's going to get along with strange dogs it meets, the Nihon Ken are probably not that dog. If you're willing to take on those issues and risks, it's a fun ride. All breeders are entitled to 'change' a breed more toward what they would like to see in a breed, but it takes a lot of time and a breed wide shift to change some of the things you mentioned ie temperament. It takes multiple generations to imprint traits solidly into your line, and you'll need to have access to quite a few dogs, which in a rare breed is very unlikely to happen. You'll constantly be outcrossing your dogs to dogs from other lines that are not selecting for what you are selecting for, which will water down your efforts.

    And I'll just add at the end that as far as hunting goes, all the Japanese breeds are primarily show dogs today. If you don't select rigorously for working dogs, you lose that ability fairly quickly (since other things are being selected for like the ability to stand quietly in a ring for long periods of time). So while you might be lucky and get a dog that hunts, the odds are not in your favor.
  • I have 3 Kai- a 13 month old intact female, a 6 year old intact male, and an almost 8 year old spayed female. I think (obviously) that Kai are a lot of fun and mine have been hearty and hale. If you haven't already seen it, we have a FB group "Kai Ken Owners and Enthusiasts" which is where a lot of Kai people have migrated to from the Forum to share their lives with the breed. The Shikoku group "I Love My Shikoku" is also a good group for that breed. You will get a wider view of the breeds from actual owners there- although I also take anything Shigeru (TheWalrus) says as gospel :) he has by far the most experience with all the NK breeds.

    In the Kai Owners Group, we have dog sports Kai in agility and obedience and nosework. We have lots and lots of pet Kai going about their way in the world. Show Kai mostly in Europe and Japan, as most owners in NA don't seem into showing yet. There are hunting Kai and Kai that go to listen to kids read at school.

    My older two dogs are from Japanese import parents- they are both wonderful, and love to hike in the woods with me and snowshoe. The oldest likes to come canoeing and hunts upland birds with me. She and I trained for and became state-licensed for blood tracking wounded deer for hunters. We did that for one season before I decided that I get too anxious being On Call to the public and learned that one of the hunters we recovered a deer for (who was rude to us) was recently released from jail for severe domestic abuse. Dropping everything to dash off to a woods in another town to meet men I don't know at dusk seemed really unappealling after that and outweighed the joy of working with my dog, which I could do in other, safer ways.

    My male is a steady and devoted dog who is notable for his durable front-brain attention. He initiates work with me, he defaults to checking in with me and he never has lost his head in the 6 years we've been together. We've met moose out tracking and he warned me with barks and stillness, not fleeing and not harassing- keeping steady until they turned away and moved on, then rechecking with me. His connect-ability is strong and deep and its fun to build work together out of this root :) He is the kind of dog you can trust to carry the first aid kit in his backpack.

    My youngest is from US pet/show lines and she is wonderful, too. She has a more square build, and trots and moves like a dream. We can drop pots and pans and tip over the recycling and she will perk up and go check it out. She is snugglier than my other two and while she finds the woods exciting, she also occasionally finds it a bit random for her comfort off leash, so I think she and I both feel more relaxed if she stays on. But she likes to play fetch, and find it. She is happy when I ask her to wear the backpack and haul water. She loves to ride in the car and has become very good at tempering her excitement "Woo HOO!" when she sees strange dogs on a walk, ignoring them and focusing on me. All of my Kai are easy to touch and handle for vets, grooming and claw trims, only Juno barks at things from the car, and all are curious about meeting new people.

    All Kai are astute and notice everything. They are sensitive and unforgiving of error, and this is what makes them not a great first-time dog for people. Computer illustration is supremely forgiving, you can easily undo and redo and cut and paste and nudge. Sharpie markers are not forgiving- and Kai are kinda like working in Sharpie. They don't lie, and they don't forget. I am a well-intended and informed but kindof clumsy trainer (I really wouldn't call myself a trainer at all, but I mean in the sense that all owners train their dogs), but I still managed to raise three pretty sociable and connected Kai. I spend a lot of time with them and we share the same interests. I take them with me wherever I can, and I am *with* them while we do things. Everything with Kai is out of their relationship and close bond with their owner. They are not a plug-and-play turnkey kind of breed, who will work for anyone, anywhere who hasn't put the time and attention in and made the personal connection with them.

    I think Kai are great fun- they are happy and funny and deep and sincere. They are the 2 or 3 best friends walking along talking about their favorite books they are all reading... until the shikoku kids stare at them and pull faces to make each other laugh until one says 'watch THIS' walks up and slaps the books out of their hands. lol
  • TheWalrus, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to respond to my post. This is exactly what I needed to hear and why I came to this forum for help. It gives me a lot to think about while also adding clarity to what I have been reading and researching.

    In regards to health, I'm glad to hear that the Shikoku isn't as unhealthy of a breed as what I had imagined them to be. I'm also happy that they are more likely to live to 15 instead of the 12 years that I had read as their life expectancy.

    If I may, can I ask you a couple more questions about the Shikoku and Kais temperaments? Are Shikokus just punks to other dogs or can they be that way with their owners as well? I'm typically not a huge fan of huskies or at least wouldn't want one myself because everything always seems like a game and joke to them. I prefer the more serious breeds that still like to play and have fun but have more honesty? Not sure if that's the right word but I have a Shiba mix and most of his behaviors I would say closely resemble what is described for the Shikoku and he has been a pleasure to live with. He can be a total jerk though with other dogs. At work, if an insecure or high energy dog walks by his pen he will react. On leash he is a total butt, off leash he does pretty well but will target any insecurities. His greetings are usually defensive and even sometimes slightly aggressive with some, usually insecure dogs, but afterwards he's usually quite appropriate and loves to play.

    He was also very timid and fearful as a puppy. He wouldn't let anyone other than me touch him. He'd get so nervous in a new environment that he wouldn't eat. As he aged and matured, however, he has really turned into a fairly confident/stable dog imo. Strangers can pet him, although they have to be sitting down first and he is very confident in any new environment I put him in.

    I guess when I said that I want a solid temperament, maybe that wasn't the best word or even what I want after all. I had to do a lot of work to get my shiba mix comfortable with new situations but he is great now and I trust his judgement and his reactions are predictable.Can I get that with a Kai or Shikoku? I don't mind if they're leary or cautious with new ppl or in new environments but can they developed proper coping skills? I guess what I'd like to avoid is true or genetic anxiety. I read some Shikoku are prone to having anxiety in the car, are Kais the same? I don't mind the work and know that it may take years of proper socialization to get a Kai or Shikoku to a place where they have better developed coping skills but does one tend to be more resilient and receptive to training than the other?

    I very much so appreciate what you've shared in terms of breeding. I didn't think about the possible issue of not breeding for 3 years to wait for health checks to go through. Do Kais tend to have cycle/reproductive issues as well? And yes, I totally agree and understand that my goals with breeding would take a lot of time. I'm almost 30 now and breeding has been something I've dreamt about as a kid when my grandparents were breeding Goldens. This is something I plan to do for many many years but want to make sure I would be able to do this ethically and that my goals are realistic for the breed. I don't want to change it into something that it's not and I don't want to rush the process as I still have so much to learn.

    Sorry, I have so many questions and appreciate everyone taking the time to help me. I can't thank you all enough!
  • Just throwing in here that of the medium breeds (well... all NK actually) in the US the Hokkaido has the smallest population and fewest litters/breeders... so if you’re looking for a breed that needs the most help and that you could make the biggest impact with, they’re the one. They’re a hardy and fun breed that have neither the flightiness of the Kai nor the punk attitude of the Shikoku. They’re way more sticky and athletic than my JA, and more tractable as well.

    They do tend to be fantastic escape artists, cleverly defeating each new method of containment put before them. It’s a constant game of trying to outwit one another. But my girl breaks out of the yard cause she wants to come in the house with me, not to run away. When we’re on an adventure together she won’t leave my side, and is the only one of my dogs I’d truly trust off leash.

    My Hokka is okay with new dogs - far better than my Akita - though with the same caveats that *all* primitive breeds face. Watching her play with the Akita can be nerve wracking, because although she doesn’t try to push buttons or anything, she does growl and snarl a lot - her play is vocal and sounds like a fight, while my Akita are generally silent in play. I worry the Akita will take it seriously but so far they have not.

    Health wise I think the medium breeds are all better off than JA (and maybe Shiba?) are. Hokkaido specifically deal with CEA (a simple autosomal recessive that can be tested for) and possibly cardiac issues. Ofc with all breeds you want to watch out for dysplasia, but so much of that is environmental that it’s hard to assess risk.

    As a whole I think Hokkaido tend to be very structurally sound and well put together. I had the opportunity to attend a DOKENHO show in August and see about 50 dogs, all of which seemed to have solid, athletic builds with none of the bad shoulders or weak rears I see all the time in JA. They moved smoothly and seemed quite fit.

    I think all of the Nihon Ken deal with fertility issues and irregular cycles. While good fertility CAN be selected for in a breeding program, a lot of times it’s just not an option with a rare breed - you take whatever litters you can get and move forward from there. If we only bred offspring from highly fertile and easy whelping bitches, the breeds would die.
  • ^ good points about the Hokkaido effort. They also have the cutest little ears and big snow-paws, which are two of my favorite attributes of the breed. If I wasn't in Kai, my next fav would be Hokkaido.
  • WrylyBrindle- thank you so much!! Your post gave me such a clear picture of the Kai and they sound like a dream.

    It's funny that you mentioned everyone migrating to the Facebook pages. I thought when I didn't get a response for a few days that maybe I said something wrong. I remember the forum being much more active when I found this forum about 5-6 years ago. I think I even remember your name as well as PoetikDragon and TheWalrus' coming up on posts quite frequently. Glad you all stuck around! I don't have a Facebook at the moment but might be time to join again.

    So cool to hear that you hunt with your dogs! I don't think I would expect a ton out of a Kai Ken or Shikoku but if they could flush some pheasants, I think it'd be a really fun activity to do together.

    Your male dog sounds like exactly what I'm looking for. This is the reason I keep coming back to the Kai. The Shikoku is appealing because, well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't drawn towards their looks but also they seem to have a bit more confidence than the Kai is known to have, but yours seem to have plenty! I'd be taking my dogs everywhere with me so I'm glad to hear that someone else is already doing the same with their dogs.

  • PoetikDragon, I'm definitely interested to hear more about the Hokkaido. It's certainly the breed I know the least about other than perhaps the Kishu. I think the reason that I didn't look into them further was because I read about them having issues with confinement.

    Although my dogs go pretty much everywhere with me including to work, I need a dog that can be safely confined when I'm not able to supervise them. I've read that they can develop anxiety issues when left alone, is this true? How do they typically handle crate training?

    I think i also read something about them being slightly more territorial than the Kai or Shikoku. Do you think that's the case?

    I'll have to do more research on the breed. It's been a couple of years since I looking into them and can't remember the exact reasons as to why I ruled them out and preferred the Kai and Shikoku over them. A few ppl now have mentioned the breed to me when I talk to them about what I'm looking for so will need to investigate further.

    A million thank you's to everyone! You all are very generous for sharing your insights and time with me.
  • My girl is crate trained and loves it - she’d much rather be in her crate in the house where we are than out in the backyard with the other dogs. She’s not concerned with confinement so much as being with her people. She’s doesn’t have separation anxiety and is okay either crated or loose in the family room when we’re not home, but if we leave her in the back yard she might try to break out to come find us. (Happened once - she was lost for about 10 hours, got picked up by the groomer who is just down the street from us.) She’s never acted panicky or destroyed anything, she’s just insistent that she belongs where we are.

    It’s taken some trial and error to proof the backyard against her shenanigans but we’ve got it down now. Had to add trellis to the wrought iron gates because she could squeeze through them, increase the height of another set of gates she could go over, and add chicken wire to the bottom of a third set she could wiggle under. We’ve got a curved piece of metal so she can’t undo the gate latches, and put a pipe over the rod that holds one gate in place cause she figured out how to knock it free.

    But before I moved to where I am now, she did just fine in our chain link dog runs. Tbh all our problems here have been because we tried to patch and half-ass existing options instead of just building something secure in the first place. The dog run worked perfectly, no containment issues and no stress about being out there.
  • You guys were supposed to help me narrow it down not add more breeds to my list lol! I'm only half kidding and again, am so thankful to have everyone's help in all of this. I'm going to add the Hokkaido back on to my list and research them again (it's been quite a few years since I've looked into that breed and can't remember now why I crossed them off the list).

    Maybe I should be more specific about my lifestyle and if anyone has the time/willingness to answer and tell me which breed they would pick for me, I'd greatly appreciate the guidance.

    Temperament- I prefer the honest/genuine type of dog. I've always wanted an Akita for this reason but for other reasons just felt like the breed wasn't the right fit for my lifestyle. I like a somewhat serious dog, not that I don't like a goofball at times I just prefer that not to be the norm. I don't care for a dog that is interested in having fun with me or at me I should say, and am more interested in the dog that is interested in working WITH me. Not necessarily for me, I like independence in my dogs which I think all NK breeds carry a certain amount of that about them and this is one of the reasons why they're my favorite breeds. Basically, I don't want to feel like I'm always having to battle with my dogs. I want to enjoy working with them and feel like there's a bond and trust and that they like to work or spend time with me.

    I'd like a dog that is fairly lazy/settled in the home (after of course a decent amount of exercise/stimulation and some maturity has set in, I know there will be some training in regards to settling as well), and a high prey drive, athleticism, decent hunting/tracking skills and some workability/drive outside. Hunting is probably lowest on my priorities but I do think it would be a fun activity to do with a dog that was originally bred for that purpose. I'd be thrilled if the dog could flush some pheasants or even track deer's blood like WrylyBrindle's Kai! If they were to like water that would be a bonus since we do live in the PNW and do a lot of backpacking trips to lakes and such which will often require river crossings as well.

    I take my dogs everywhere with me, this includes lots of riding in the car, going to work with me, trips to the mountains for some fun in the snow, visiting my parents house to hang out with them and their dogs, running errands around town, etc. It took a lot of time, training and mental maturity before my Shiba mix could handle this kind of exposure but now, he loves going anywhere I go! I don't expect my teenage Shikoku or Kai to have a lot of confidence in an unfamiliar place. In fact, I'm guessing that raising any of the NK breeds through this phase can be a bit tricky. I don't mind shyness, skittishness or even distrust as long as it's possible to train in some good coping skills and a quick recovery to a stressor. I'm just not sure how strong these survival instincts are in some of these NK breeds. A lot of anxiety or a response to use aggression right off the bat if feeling overwhelmed or in conflict would be something I'd like to try to avoid. I don't mind if a dog flees, I actually taught my Shiba mix to move away when a conflict arises and was his advocate- reading him and not allowing strangers to pet when he wasn't ready. I feel confident that I can train and socialize the puppy appropriately but if the breed has a tendency towards being anxious or aggressive and not just cautious, I'd like to know which breed to perhaps avoid.

    As for dog to dog socializing, it would be ideal for my dog to have good social skills but it's not the priority. Everything's a trade off and I know that I can't expect Golden type behavior (nor do I want it) with any of the NK breeds. Leash and barrier frustration are not an issue. My Shiba mix is not good with either and I've learned to manage and help him be more successful with that. Off leash, I'd prefer a dog that is social and plays appropriately with other dogs although I would be willing to trade them being a jerk with other dogs if it meant they were a better fit in other areas. I do, however, have my dogs spend time with dogs outside of their pack by occasionally watching some friends dogs (usually about once a month a dog will stay with us in our home- these are nice dogs that we have agreed to watch because they get along with our dogs already), we take them to family gatherings and play with family members dogs and occasionally at work I'll let them play with a dog off leash. I know what dogs my Shiba mix will like and dislike and I don't force him or even put him with dogs that I know would be an issue. My dogs and I don't go to the dog park and I never let them greet on leash. I don't mind the whole 'poke the bear' type mentality to play if it meant that my dog was less likely to cause any real damage to another dog (I'd take being a jerk over actual fighting/leaving punctures on another dog any day).

    Lastly, and I apologize for this being so long and greatly appreciate anyone who has gotten this far though what has turned into almost that of a novel(!), is health and structure. Obviously, like I'm sure anyone does, I'd like my next dog to be healthy and free of any health issues. I think I'm fairly certain that I would prefer a NK and as someone mentioned before that due to their rarity, I will have to risk the chance that it could develop some sort of health issue within its life. If there is a particular breed of the NKs that is known for having either milder health issues or they are less frequent to pop up in the breed, please let me know as it's important. Structurally/cosmetically, I think all of the NKs are beautiful, but it really comes down to a size preference for me. Ideally, I love the 35-45 lbs range but would be ok with the larger 50-55 if it was a better fit for me in terms of temperament and health.

    So, with all that being said, if you were, let's say, a breeder of all 3 breeds: the Shikoku, Kai and Hokkaido, which one would suggest for me?

    Thank you, thank you thank YOU for your time, willingness to help a total stranger, and wonderful comments you have already left me. Now that I've gotten through my work week, I will be reading through all of your previous comments again because you've already given me such great advice and things to think about.
  • I would say Kai or Hokka would be fun for you, But I'd also say that if you are in the PNW, that's a hotbed of Hokkaido owners and activity and if you wanted to get involved in an excellent breeding co-op with a mission and good mentors, that you are ideally placed to do so with Hokkaido. You should go meet some and talk with Lindsay about the HANA Project. The HANA breeders are testing dogs, know what they are working to improve and eventually eliminate CEA, but it takes importing of dogs and testing of dogs and participation of clear and carrier dogs in the breeding mix to get there. It's a good effort, I highly recommend!

    If you are turned off about the CEA prevalence, there are also some Kai breeders up there in Oregon, including the famous male Akashi who has a lovely temperament and is proven to pass on this chillaxitude in his puppies. Look up Hello Kennel and HAYAIKAZE Kennel and see if you can meet some Kai!

    Then you might see which breed feels most right to you. They are both great breeds! I think you have researched a lot and meeting multiple good examples of the breeds is the next step! People are generally delighted to meet up and share what they know and let you meet the dogs.
  • Thank you WrylyBrindle!! I can't tell you enough I how much I value your input. You are confirming my suspicion that I need to do some more research on the Hokkaido.

    I've visited Brad's website and Akashi seems like an amazing dog. I was actually very close to getting a Kai puppy from him about 3 years ago but at the time, two years seemed like too long of a time to wait. I'm now at a place where I feel like I can really take my time and have fun with the process so will likely reach out to him again.

    I was really hoping to figure out which breed I wanted to get first before I asked anyone to do a meet and greet with me and their Kai, Shikoku or Hokkaido. I just didn't want to waste anyone's time but I think I'm getting to the point where I really need to get to know these breeds better by seeing them face to face. Do you know where in Oregon Akashi resides? I travel to central Oregon (Bend) quite frequently so might not be too difficult for me to make it down there.

    It's interesting you mentioned Lindsay's name. Even further back, probably over 5 years ago now, I met with her and another Shiba owner when I was interested in owning a Shiba. She was wonderful. I'll have to reach out to her and see if she'd be willing to meet with me again so that I can get to know the Hokkaido breed a bit better. I'll look into the HANA project as well.

    The CEA issue in the breed did and still does bother me. However, I do like that you can genetically test for it, so will be interested to learn more from the US breeders on what they are doing to help with that.

    I've heard of HelloKennel but not HAYAIKAZE so thank you mentioning them! I'll be sure to check them out.

    Thank you again. I am extremely grateful for all the help and support I have gotten over the years from the NK community and people such as yourself.
  • Oh my gosh, I didn't realize HAYAIKAZE kennel was in western WA! Thank you so much for mentioning them WrylyBrindle. It's so funny, all this research I've been doing and I skipped over the breeder that's in my own backyard!
  • Akashi is in Gold Beach, OR, at Hello Kennel.
    I think Yamabushi is not breeding Kai at this time, but I hope the Andersons get back in.

    Yes, talk to Tain at Hayaikaze! I am sure she will be happy to answer questions about Kai, and meet her dogs.

    I don't think anyone will think you wasting time by meeting the dogs, they will know you are doing your homework on both breeds and are thorough and serious.
  • Thanks WrylyBrindle. I've already contacted Tain and we're in the process of finding a good time to meet. Looks to be great timing since she will have Tavi but also two 8 week old puppies with her. Be great to meet Tavi but very excited to spend some time with a couple of Kai puppies as well.

    I was wondering if Brad was still breeding. That's too bad that he isn't and like you, I hope he will start up again.

    Thank you again for all your help!
  • edited November 2018
    Tbh all of those lifestyle requirements sound like a Hokkaido would be a great fit.

    I agree with @WrylyBrindle that Kai is also a great option. It’s just the “quick recovery” part of being afraid that I’m hesitant about. Chrystal has been very lucky as well as doing a lot of fantastic work with her dogs, informed by her teacher dog Sage who had unique issues of his own. Other Kai and owners have not had her luck and expertise, and have gone missing when they panic and run off.

    ETA: Regarding CEA, as far as I know none of the genetically “affected” dogs in the US have any CEA symptoms. (One is going blind due to juvenile cataracts unrelated to CEA.) Almost all of the dogs are carriers, and two breeding females - my girl and Naomi’s Asirpa - are clear and unable to produce affected puppies.
  • This is potentially veering off topic, but I thought that CEA is pretty minor in Hokkaidos, and generally CEA is not a big deal if the dogs only have the mild variety? Someone I know in the rough/smooth collie world mentioned how CEA isn't progressive and breeding out CEA altogether would create a huge genetic bottleneck, so anyway I was wondering about the state in Hokkaidos.
  • edited November 2018
    Yes, I believe only 10% of CEA affected dogs have any issues from the disease. The other 90% are perfectly fine, just like a carrier. Umma (carrier, our girl) and Ashi (affected) had five pups (As part of the HANA project under @lindsayt’s guidance): one carrier, four affected. None of the affected pups are of the severe variety and their eyes should be perfectly fine.

    As far as breeding out CEA in Hokkaido, I agree that doing so would be potentially limiting a very small gene pool even moreso, so probably not the best idea to eliminate them. It’s an issue, sure, but one to be managed rather than eliminated in my opinion.

    Also, @riverbend, we have two Hokkaido and live just west of Portland if you are ever in the area and want to meet them and ask questions.
  • Thanks again to everyone who has replied! This community has been wonderful and I am so grateful for all the help and advice it has offered.

    PoetikDragon and nwexperience, I'm glad I waited to post again because you answered some of the questions that came up in regards to CEA. I'll look further into this but I'm glad to know that if a dog is affect by it, it doesn't necessarily or even likely mean they will suffer because of it.

    Thank you nwexperience for offering to meet with me! We might be planning a trip down to Bend, OR in February. If we do end up going, can I reach out to you at a later date and see if you'll be available?

    Also, would those that own or have spent time with the Hokkaido breed mind telling me what it means when they say the breed is more vocal? Are they barkers, more vocal in play, like to talk like a husky or?

    Lastly, how much does your Hokkaido weight?
  • Nwexperience, I just checked out your blog and found an answer to one of my questions: Umma's size :). Love that she's only 30 lbs., I was getting a little concerned when I read the Hokkaido can get up to 66 lbs since that's quite a bit over the size I was looking for.

    Umma is beautiful and her puppies look great (so happy and healthy!). I could be totally off base, but are you keeping one of her puppies since you mentioned having two Hokkaido now??
  • As a Shikoku owner, and having met a few Kai, in most cases I'd recommend Kai over the Shikoku. Not saying that I don't love the Shikoku, I find them to be a wonderful breed, but I feel that they require more work to make for a balanced dog while overall Kai ken are generally more well rounded.

    Contrary to popular belief, they are relatively stable and aren't skittish, they just aren't as gungho about jumping into conflict as the other Nihon Ken can be. The few times that Kai have gotten lost were all under similar circumstances (getting loose while with strangers and/or in a new location while already under a lot of stress) and can happen to pretty much any dog of any breed. As part of an example of the stability of the breed, there was even one who had lived feral for years (a victim of one of those circumstances) and yet instead of keeping a feral attitude when brought back into captivity he now lives as a happy, healthy pet. And I have to say that @WrylyBrindle's Kai, all 3 of them, are an example of what the breed can achieve with proper training and care. She didn't luck out by getting 3 unicorns, the same can be achieved with other Kai (and even other NK breeds) so long as the handler puts the work in.

    As far as Shikoku go, they can be quite rude and don't always take no for an answer. My girl is easy to train and work with, though she is not very good at handling pressure so things have to be taken slow and gentle. And while she doesn't really tolerate strange dogs, she can be pretty liberal with her puppy pass and doesn't forget dogs that she has deemed her friend. I do enjoy having her, but she's definitely not a dog that would work well for everyone.
  • @Riverbend Yes, we did keep one! The little red girl - her name is Fuchi. I really need to do some new blog posts. And sure, February (or whenever) sounds great.

    Umma is definitely on the low end for a Hokkaido female, though I believe her sister Kurasi is slightly smaller. Fuchi may end being heavier than Umma; at almost 14 weeks she’s almost 15 pounds. I haven’t met a ton of other Hokkaido, but of the adult males I’ve met I think Ashitaka is the biggest and he’s somewhere in the low 40s.

    The vocalization question is a tough one for me. These two don’t bark as much as the Akita we had a long time ago, but she had severe anxiety issues. They bark more than our Shiba did, but I think our Shiba was abnormally quiet. They aren’t excessive barkers, though. We get a few alarm barks if a delivery comes, but it feels appropriate. Umma will bark at strangers that come over to the house if they choose not to entice her with treats (like my father) to try and gain her trust.

    They will talk and make all sorts of sounds, but most of the time they are quiet. They talk in play...sometimes, both with each other and with us. They will howl on occasion (and they seem to quite enjoy it when the humans join in!). We personally don’t feel like the vocalizations are over the top or excessive. The variety is fun and they often come up with sounds we’ve never heard before, even after having Umma for over two years.

    Not sure if that’s a satisfactory answer or not. :)

  • Calia, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. Your insight is extremely helpful for getting a clearer picture of what the Kai is really like. I think you finally confirmed for me that I will need take the Shikoku off of my list. Although they are probably the most beautiful breed I have ever seen (imo anyways), I think the temperament just isn't right for me and my lifestyle. I think I'm going to now need to rename this thread: Kai vs. Hokkaido!

    I feel very fortunate to be living in the area that I do and am currently in the process of speaking to a Kai and Hokkaido breeder that are only about an hour from where I live. Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to meet these two breeds soon. :)
  • Nwexperience, you're answer is more than satisfactory, thank you. :)

    I know all dogs are individuals and exposure and training will have a lot to do with it too but I'm relieved to hear that they are not known to be excessive barkers. Love that they howl and talk/make weird noises too!!

    I'll be looking out for your future posts on Fuchi! All the puppies are adorable of course but I love Fuchi's cute little ears and wide muzzle.

    So, when most sites say the Hokkaido should be between 44-66 lbs, is that incorrect? I'm hoping so and in my ideal world their size would be between 30-45 lbs. Maybe most of the Hokkaido we have here in the US are of smaller size or?? I guess either way, when it's time, it's nice to know that I could look for a puppy that perhaps is on the smaller side of the standard.
  • I have more questions now. Sorry, lol. If anyone's getting tired of me, please just don't click on this thread...

    For those that either own or have owned a Kai and Hokkaido or have experience or knowledge on the two breeds can you offer some insight to these questions:

    How do the two breeds differ in temperament? Again, I know all dogs are individuals but from what I'm hearing from others on this forum and from what I have read, the Kai has maybe a softer temperament? They also seem maybe less forgiving in terms of remember negative social experiences? Do Hokkaido's tend to more easily bounce back from a bad experience and a bit more mentally tough?

    From what I understand, as a whole, the Kai is known to be the most appropriate and social when it comes to dog to dog interaction. Are Hokkaido's prone to reactivity with other dogs especially on leash like the Shikoku? How do they usually play and interact with other dogs? Are they rough players, bossy, agreeable, indifferent/uninterested, or? How do they typically meet new dogs (off leash)? Are they likely to act aggressively towards new dogs or pick fights?

    I need to figure out new ways to express how thankful I am to all of you for your help in this. Until then, I hope everyone knows that I am extremely grateful to be able to hear from those with so much experience and knowledge with these breeds. Thank you.
  • edited November 2018
    I don’t think any of the US Hokkaido are over 45 pounds, but we’ve also had 15 born this calendar year so we shall see!

    There was another thread somewhere talking about Hokkaido size and I think it was determined that range was too high.

    HANA has a new, updated website (Google won’t find it yet) you may find interesting:
  • That's great news for me! :)

    Thank you for sending the link! I will be reading through each page. Looks like great information and pictures too!

    Other than CEA, are there any known health issues that are prevalent in the breed? Other than that, it looks like they're a fairly healthy breed?
  • Disregard my last post. The website you provided answered my questions regarding health :)
Sign In or Register to comment.