Top 7 Small Japanese Dog Breeds to Keep As Pets

Every dog has some history and origin, even though we might not always know that origin properly. When you think about Japan, some things will pop into your mind such as their yummy sushi, cherry blossom trees, and many more.

But did you know that Japan is home to some of the most adorable, protective, and loyal dogs on the planet? You might just find a small Japanese dog breed that will warm your heart.

In this article, we aim to provide you intimate details regarding 8 of the most popular Japanese dog breeds. We will limit this list to the smaller dog breeds since they are the most adorable. Let’s see if we can find you a small Japanese dog breed that you might like.

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What are Small Japanese Dog Breeds?

Japan has some of the fiercest, loyal and adorable dogs on the planet. These dog breeds are created for different purposes although they are mostly meant to hunt, even the smaller versions.

You will notice that most of the dog breeds from Japan have ‘Ken’ or ‘Inu’ in the name, a word that means dog. These two are used interchangeably. Officially, there are 6 Japanese Spitz. There are also other non-spitz breeds that you might like.

You should also know that most of the dogs from Japan have the same appearance because they are meant for hunting. These dogs have an instinct to protect their families and estates.

Japan is not very popular for its dog breeds but it should be. Some of the small, adorable, and fierce dog breeds from Japan include:

  • Shiba Inu
  • Japanese Chin
  • Kai Ken
  • Ryukyu Inu
  • Japanese Spitz
  • Shikoku Ken
  • Hokkaido

Top 8 Small Japanese Dog Breeds that stay small / you can keep as Pets

This section highlights everything you need to know about the Japanese dog breeds that we have selected for you.

Small Japanese BreedSizeAppearanceCost
Japanese Chin11 InchesRed and White, Black and White$1500 – $2500
Japanese Spitz16 InchesWhite$1500
Shiba Inu17 InchesOrange-red, Urajira, Sesame$1200 – $2500
Kai ken17 InchesBlack brindle, red brindle$1500
Shikoku Ken17 InchesRed-sesame, red, black-sesame$3000  – $4000
Hokkaido18 InchesRed, black, white, sesame$1000
Ryukyu Inu19 InchesBlack and Brown$400 – $600
Size, appearance and rice comparison chart of small Japanese dog breeds
Japanese Chin and Shiba Inu small Japanese dog breeds
Japanese Chin and Shiba Inu small Japanese dog breeds

1.      Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu is mostly popular for its fiery and bold personality.

This dog is originally from Japan together with some of the larger versions of the breed. This dog was mostly meant to help in hunting or flushing out smaller games such as birds. It is believed that this dog received its name from the brushwood bushes that they would go to for hunting.

Adults in this breed will normally grow to around 17 inches tall, or 16.5 inches to be exact while the females grow to 15.5 inches.

This dog has a very thick coat that will make him look like a teddy bear. Mostly, his coat is in orange-red, urajira, as well as sesame.

You will appreciate that this dog is alert, bold, and good-natured. More than that, he is confident, strong-willed, and might have his thoughts about things. He is also very affectionate and loyal to his family.  However, he has been known to be a bit stubborn.

Shiba Inu will live best in a home that has a good fence. The dog can be quite excited and playing is one of his favorite things to do. Therefore, you have to provide him with adequate space to play around whenever he needs to.

2.      Japanese Chin

This might be one of the best companion dogs on the planet.

The dog is from Asia where it has been recognized as the best companion for more than 1000 years. The breed was very popular as part of the Japanese and Chinese imperial courts. However, his distinct looks were developed better in Japan.

A Japanese chin adult usually grows to around 11 inches and will grow to a weight of around 9 pounds.

The coat of a Japanese chin is silky and is moderately long. The coats are usually red and white or black and white.

The depth that these dogs possess can be indicated by the personality of the Japanese chin. He is always charming and happy. More than that, he is very intelligent and affectionate. You should also know that this dog is very chatty, but that does not mean that he barks a lot.

This dog breed does not need as much exercise as you would expect. A daily walk will be adequate. Alternatively, you can simply allow him some play sessions even though it might be more than what they require. This is an indoor dog and should be treated as such to avoid any health issues.

3.      Kai Ken

Kai Ken small Japanese dog breed
Kai Ken small Japanese dog breed

The Kai Ken is a perfect dog for kids because he is very gentle.

The dog is among the native spitz dogs from Japan. He was found around Mt. Fuji and it is believed that this might be the purest bloodline dog from Japan. His name is a representation of his origin. Before he was found, he always remained in the wild, isolated from the rest of the world.

This breed will usually get to a height of around 17 inches even though some will go up to 22 inches.

Kai Ken is sometimes known as the Tiger dog because it has a very distinctive brindle coat that might be in black brindle, red brindle, and brindle. However, the red versions are the most popular.

Those who have this dog in their homes say that he is stubborn and stoic. Do not expect that he will jump in your lap every time you are around the house. The truth is that he will be more comfortable if he is in his own space in the same room.

Do not misunderstand. This dog is very affectionate but the difference with other dogs is that this affection is on his terms.

Just like with all other dogs, constant visits to the vet are very important. You should make sure that you address any health issue regardless of how minor it might appear. This dog can gain some weight, which is why it is recommended that you provide adequate exercise.

4.      Ryukyu Inu

This dog is very affectionate but might be a bit stubborn.

This Japanese dog is among the rarest breeds on the planet. It is believed that it is one of the endangered species. In 2015, it was believed that there were around 400 of these dogs on the entire planet, which is very unfortunate.

The dog grows to a maximum of around 19 inches.

The coat on a Ryukyu Inu is very thick. This was mainly to help him survive in the rainforest. Some of the colors in his coat are black and brown.

You will appreciate that this dog does not do much to piss you off. However, it is believed that people who want to own this dog have to be stronger-willed than the dog. If not, this dog will take over and will rule the house.

In regards to taking care of him, there is not much you have to do. First, you have to visit the vet regularly and you have to make sure that he gets adequate daily exercise so that he remains in the best of health.

5.      Japanese Spitz

Japanese Spitz
Japanese Spitz

This is a small dog with great intelligence and affection.

The first sighting of this dog was in Tokyo, Japan in a show around 1921. The breed was developed by a combination of a couple of German Spitz that came to Japan from China. After a couple of years, other white Spitz dogs were introduced to Japan and the cross-breeding produced the Japanese spitz we recognize today.

There is no definite height to which this dog grows. It is only believed that the dog can grow from 10 to 16 inches but it might vary. But you should expect that he is larger than the Pomeranian that is quite similar to him.

This dog is purely white. He might look like he might require some grooming needs, but he does not need as much as you would think.

The dog is recognized greatly for his temperament. He is playful and is family-friendly. He loves attention and he just won’t accept being alone for a long time. This dog breed has an average amount of energy and he should be perfect with a simple daily walk.

A Japanese Spitz does not require much in regards to maintenance. Basic care is adequate for the dog to go on. You should visit a vet for a detailed guide on the best way to care for your dog. Also, make sure to brush his teeth regularly.

6.      Shikoku Ken

Shikoku Ken breed of small Japanese dog
Shikoku Ken breed of small Japanese dog

The Shikoku Ken is a very active and intelligent dog.

The breed has remained pure for a couple of centuries, mainly due to his remote home in the Japan island terrain. This dog was mainly used for different purposes such as tracking and containing wild boars. He is mainly good at that because he is very silent and has athletic prowess.

This dog will usually grow to around 17 inches.        

The thick coat of a Shikoku can be in a range of colors including red-sesame, red, as well as black sesame.

This is a calm, loyal, and very focused dog that is a perfect companion for human beings. The dog will get along easily with children. However, this dog does not care much about children or adults who are excessively energetic.

He appreciates being around adults who have leadership skills and will appreciate it if you give that kind of support.

You have to make sure that this dog is socializing and exercising properly. He is intelligent and he will appreciate it if you play around with him for a while, which is good for his health for that matter.

7.      Hokkaido

This dog is alert, intelligent, as well as devoted to family.

This is a spitz-type of dog that is from Hokkaido island. It is believed that this might just be the oldest dog to have existed and it is known that the dog is the most primitive. This breed was first discovered in 1869 by a British Zoologist known as Thomas Blakiston.

An adult Hokkaido will normally grow to around 18 inches with a weight of around 45 pounds.

Hokkaido mainly has red, black, white, and sesame colors on his coat.

This dog is very affectionate and is devoted to family and the owner. You will notice that he has a range of qualities such as the ability to play around. He is also intelligent and is very alert to his surroundings. Even though this dog might play around, he might stop playing abruptly once he gets bored.

You need to care for your dog by regular checkups with the vet. That will allow you to check up on the health of your dog constantly. It is also good to brush your dog’s coat at least once a week.

Getting a Japanese Dog

You might want to get a Japanese dog, but you need to know that the dog might be hard to get, especially if you are outside Japan. Therefore, some people go to Japan hoping to get a chance to get a cute pup to take home.

There are challenges associated with exporting a Japanese dog. These are national treasures and not all the breeders will willingly allow you to take the dog with you.

You should also know that the cost of these dogs might be a challenge. The younger ones are cheaper than older pups.

There will be additional costs as you prepare to export the dog. These include the kenneling fee, dog crate, vaccinations, and more. There are also shipping costs that you need to consider.

Wrapping Up

All Japanese dog breeds are very adorable and will make great companions. There are breeds for everyone with different features and characteristics. Therefore, you need to narrow down your options and find a dog that will truly warm your heart and make you happy.