World of the Japanese breeds

In this section you will find interesting posts, articles, tips and tricks for your life together with the Japanese four legger:

1. Differences among puppies of 6 Nihon ken breeds - breeders' view


2. NIPPO show - more than just a Shiba dog show

3. Costs related to dog keeping - Akitas and Shibas

Differences among puppies of 6 Nihon ken breeds - breeders' view

This post was created based on a blog of Mr. Shigeru Kato, the Japanese breeder (actively breeds Shikoku and Kishu) and professional who, amongst other activities, helps people with export of the Nihon ken dogs from Japan. He describes his view on differences among Nihon ken breeds in puppy age. In addition, we asked 3 other breeders from Czech republic who breed 2 Nihon ken breeds. We hereby invite you to get through this article and find out where their views meet or diverge :).

Shigeru Kato: Since we have experienced all the Nihon Ken as pups, and as adults, we've got a fairly good feel for what they are like in comparison to each other. This is not to say they will all be like this, as every dog is unique. This is just an overall observation based on over 10 years of seeing many pups/dogs of many lines, in all the Japanese breeds.

Kishu pups:

Usually pretty confident, a little stubborn and block headed. They don't usually cause too much trouble, but when their switch kicks in, all hell breaks loose. That goes for puppies and adults. All of a sudden they're strong, focused, and breathing fire. Otherwise, they're pretty happy go lucky, and not too vocal. They like to be with their family, but it's not the end of the world if I'm gone.

Shikoku pups:

A bit more sensitive to their surroundings, not quite as confident as the Kishu, and they're usually rude players. They get themselves amped up and don't know how to turn it off (it's too much fun). The other pup/dog will be giving off all the stop signals, eventually snarling and snapping, and they'll still be play bowing, nipping, and bumping. They're tenacious, with less of an on/off switch than the Kishu. They make a little bit more noise too, most of that coming in the form of alarm barking. The breed does not handle stress that well, especially the females. They are very intelligent, and like to learn (dog sports are a good idea). They're usually pretty happy as long as they're with their people.

Hokkaido pups: 

Loud, just loud. They play loud, argue loud, whine loud, and they yodel. They also can tend to play like the Shikoku, but they have a Shiba like streak for snark thrown in as well. So they play rude, and when the other dog turns on them, they tend to react. They've got tons of energy, and drink tons of water. They're a bit of a velcro breed and prefer to be around their people, but not in the extreme. They tend to be a fairly energetic breed.

Shiba pups: 

They've got the most high pitch whine/bark of the Nihon Ken, and the Shiba scream... We've found them to be quite independent in character, and often a bit more aloof toward people than the other Nihon Ken. The medium sized breeds are usually a lot more attached to their owners and want to be close to them. The Shiba basically do whatever it is they want, whenever they want, but if they don't like something, you'll hear about it. I think the breed's motto should be something along the lines of, "The best defense is an offense." They've got a lot of attitude. Behaviors from other dogs that may set them off: breathing in their direction, attempting a play bow, bumping, and got forbid eye contact! They are smaller than the other Nihon Ken, which does help keep things manageable, and once they settle into a good routine they can be quite enjoyable to own.

Kai pups: 

All the puppies and dogs here at my place love Kai pups (and in the inverse, everyone takes a while to get over new Shikoku and Shiba pups). They're the Japanese breed that was born with social graces. That being said, there is a shy streak to the breed. They're not go, go, go, like the Shikoku or Hokkaido, but they have their moments. The breed is quite velcro, and we often have to work through some separation anxiety. We always have to handle this breed with kid gloves, as they have a long term memory bank for negative experiences. Kai tend to be the easiest to train (in obedience etc) with some even certified in Search and Rescue in Japan.

Akita pups: 

Akita pups tend to be quite happy-go-lucky. They're kind of like the clumsy kid in class with a good heart. An Akita pup's wail is almost cute, it's so plaintive. They usually are a bit mouthy as puppies and like to nip/chew a lot. Toilet training Akita puppies often takes a bit more work, whereas with the other Japanese breeds it comes almost naturally. As a large breed, the Akita definitely have a lower energy level than the other Nihon Ken, and enjoy being couch potatoes.

Gallery above depicts the following: 1. Mr. Shigeru Kato (author), 2. Kai, 3. Shikoku, 4 Kishu. 5. Hokkaido, 6. Shiba, 7. Kai  8. Akita
Photos are property of the original blog author Mr. Shigeru Kato ( and are used here with his permission. 

As we have already suggested at the beginning, we are adding the opinions of experienced breeders from Czech republic, who actively breed at least 2 Nihon ken breeds.

Nikola Navrátilová (kennel Damu Kara, Akita & Kishu):

The first difference is in the breed itself, in my opinion, Akita is calmer and balanced dog that has been bred to being a companion. On the other hand, Kishu is still used as a hunting dog and you can really tell quite a difference when comparing the puppies, too.

Akita puppies are relatively calm teddy bears. It can be seen the best during a play - they like to bite gently, they do tug of war, they carry stuff in their mouth especially when they are welcoming you home. Kishu puppies are playing much more actively, they chase each other, tear toys apart and have a never ending desire to chew on things.

I personally love this contrasts between Akita and Kishu temperaments.

Marie Štumbauerová (kennel Bezdrevská perla, Hokkaido & Shiba):

What is the difference between Shiba and Hokkaido? If I should compare these 2 breeds, I would say their character is very similar in around 50%, typical for the Japanese breeds. They are sensitive, smart, stubborn and proud. In about 20% they differ individually and about 30% I can see differences between the breeds.

The biggest differences I see are:

  1. Strength - Hokkaido is much stronger than Shiba and it is not caused by its slightly heavier bones. It really uses its stronger body and all of the activities are done powerfully, with more strength. Almost all owners deal with Hokkaido being a puller on the leash. They seem to just have it in them. In Japan, they were used by the Ainu people for pulling in the past, too. Shiba is gentle, sensitive and careful.

  2. Sound expression - Shibas do a lot of different sounds, They have their typical scream which they usually use also as a weapon (many owners can confirm how it works at the vet’s), during play they wildly growl, but compared to Hokkaido, their sound expression is minimal. Some owners claim that they have never heard their Shiba bark. On the opposite, Hokkaido does never shut up compared to Shiba. Their audio expressions have no limits. They comment on everything. When they are impatient, not satisfied, when they are not sure what you want from them, when they feel like you do not pay enough attention to them… they always roar, howl, whine, yelp and even yodel.

  3. Alertness - Hokkaido is much more alert. It checks out every new environment. It announces all newcomers. Shiba, on the other hand, quickly behaves in the new environment like they own it all there. Shiba either does not care or welcomes the visitors.

  4. Cuddliness - Hokkaido likes the contact very much. It wants to touch you all the time. When it sits, it leans over you. When it lays down, it puts its paw or head on you. They give you many kisses. Shiba is more aloof. With many Shibas you have a feeling they suffer when you want to pet them. It is something between a dog and a cat. Usually more aloof, only cuddly when it feels like it.

  5. Work - both breeds are smart and learn easily. Shiba often tries you, if you are consistent enough in what you want from them. It obeys the commands with carefulness. Shiba does not do anything without a reason and can have difficulties with motivation. It is easier to motivate Hokkaido. Hokkaido enjoys cooperation with humans better. When it focuses, their obedience is 100%. But if they do not want to, you will not force it to do what you want them to do. It is either 100% or nothing. Nothing in between.

  6. Relationship towards human - Hokkaido loves its family and it shows it via lots of cuddles all the time. Shibas also love their owners, but they show it in a less affectionate way.

  7. Puppies - despite the fact that Shiba puppies are almost half the size of Hokkaido puppies, their play is more active, wilder, and raging. Those who don't know Shiba always think they are hurting each other. Signs of biting, tearing and shaking of the skin with their teeth is nothing extraordinary. Such rough play is not visible even in adults. Mother often gets involved in the play to teach them. Hokkaido play is much more civilised, softer and it really looks like a game.

Edita Šubrtová (kennel Kamiwaza, Akita & Shiba):

The difference between Akita and Shiba puppies can be seen right after they are born. While I often assist little Akitas with sucking on their mom’s milk, Shibas go and suck on the tit as soon as they feel it. Shibas are more lively from the beginning. Small Shibas also stand on their feet earlier to check out their space. And once they are stable on their feet, they try to get out of the box just to do the business outside of their space. With Akitas, it usually takes 1 week longer. When I put Akitas on the grass for the first time (at around the age of 4 weeks) they carefully explore the environment, while Shibas only take a while and start running around much earlier. Also, I get different welcome-home from them. Akitas do more of howling sounds and Shibas are more squeaking. After they leave for their new families, Shibas adapt much faster. Akitas sometimes whine 2 or 3 days after their mom and their pack. But Shiba owners often report that the puppies have adapted to the new environment like they have been living there from the beginning.

Kennel Damu Kara: from the left Kishu breeder, puppies of Akita and Kishu, Akita mother with puppies, on the right Kishu puppies, photo: N. Navrátilová

Kennel Bezdrevská perla: from the left Hokkaido female with puppies, Hokkaido puppy with an adult Shiba, Shiba female with her puppies, on the right Shiba puppies; photo: M. Štumbauerová

Kennel Kamiwaza: Shba puppies on the left, Akita puppies on the right; photo: E. Šubrtová

Nippo show - more than Shiba exhibition

To meet Japanese dog breeds in our streets and at our dog exhibitions is no longer as rare as it used to be. Also thanks to the movie and legend of a dog called Hatchi - a dog of the Akita Inu breed, Japanese dogs are gaining more and more fans in our country. The era of their popularity in our country, however, began a completely different movie hero - perhaps those who were born earlier remember the beautiful Japanese series Goro - White dog, which attracted people and impressed with his boundless loyalty, devotion and dedication to his family. His representative was a dog breed Kishu, which is another Japanese breed.

doyubijapan 2jpg

Japan has a total of 6 national breeds - but only 2 of them are popular in our region. In addition to the largest breed Akita there is also the smallest of them - Shiba. For the layman, Shiba may give the impression that he is a miniature Akita - but this is not true. Also other native (natural) Japanese breeds (Kai, Kishu, Shikoku and Hokkaido) have something in common with Shiba and Akita but also there are some differences. Common features are e.g. small erect triangular ears, richly feathered tail, triangular dark eyes and more. However, they differ in height and color.


Fans of Japanese breeds can see Shiba (and Akita) at international exhibitions in Slovakia (Bratislava, Nitra, Lučenec and Veľká Ida). Usually, there are an average of 10-20 representatives from each breed and are competing for the title of Best of Breed (BOB), the winner of the breed. More representatives of Japanese breeds participate in Slovak club shows, which are held twice a year in Mošovce.


A completely different category are specialized exhibitions of Japanese breeds, the so-called NIPPO SHOW. Nippo stands for Nihon Ken Hozonkai, which means the Association for the Preservation of Japanese Dogs. This organization was founded in Japan in 1928 by Dr. Hiroyoshi Saito, who contributed significantly to mapping and protecting Japanese breeds and thanks to his work, it was possible to preserve the breeds and now we can enjoy them here in Europe as well. Nippo also achieved that the Japanese breeds were officially declared Japan's natural heritage. In particular, Shiba became the natural and cultural heritage of the country in 1936.


Nippo show is a specialized exhibition of Japanese breeds, held once a year in parallel with a specialized exhibition for the Akita Inu breed called "Akita Cup" usually in Italy and Poland. In many ways, the Nippo show is different from the shows we know here - and therefore very interesting! It is judged by Japanese judges, which itself is a great attraction. In Slovakia, exhibitors do not have the opportunity to meet with a Japanese judge to judge their Japanese breeds. In Slovakia there are 10 smaller kennels which are breeding Shiba. Some breeders participate with their dogs at Nippo exhibitions. Even when they have to travel long distance it is more than worth measuring - for owners and breeders it is a source not only of assessing the qualities and awards of their dogs, but also the opportunity to talk to the judges of the home country of the breed - Japan. Getting their insight into dogs and breeding is very valuable, as well as the opportunity to exchange experiences and listen to up-to-date information in the accompanying program.


Traditional Japanese culture and attitude is shown at the Nippo exhibition right in the person of the referee. Jarka Špaková and her husband have been breeding Shiba since 2013, although they breed dogs almost all their lives. “Our first NIPPO show was in 2014 in Poland, Krotoszyce and was judged by Mr. Yano Tomio. The judge made a very strong impression on us, especially with his modesty and respect, as he greeted every participant of the show and thanked them for participating.”


Another specific character of Nippo show is that dogs are judged longer, the exhibition table is not used and the judge writes information about the dog on a detailed assessment sheet - but this will not be handed over to the exhibitor at the end. “The referee painted a white circle on the ground with a diameter of about 2 m. Each exhibitor stood in a circle and Shiba stood freely and he walked around the circle and looked at it from each side. He had a Shiba drawing for each participant and wrote down all the pluses and shortcomings - straight into the picture. He gave the greatest importance to the expression of a dog - he did not show much interest in the movement.” adds the Slovak breeder.


The Nippo show is interesting and valuable because potential future owners, current owners, and also breeders have the opportunity to talk to the referee and discuss their questions about the breed. After the assessment, the exhibitors ask about the evaluation and the quality of their dog the referee directly. Before the Nippo show itself, a workshop with Japanese judges is organized in the evening to present innovations in the breeding, talk about breeding problems and participants can ask questions which they are interested in. The workshop is crowned with a gala dinner and a program where foreign breeders have the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange experiences.


This Nippo show took place on May 26th 2019 in the north of Italy on Lake Garda. In 2020 in September will be held its 8th year (and 17th year of Akita Cup) closer to our borders - again in the Polish city of Krotoszyce.


“To my question - what he thinks is the biggest problem with Shiba at the moment - the judge answered that they are currently getting brighter in Japan. The deep red color is disappearing in both Shiba and Akita.” explains J. Špaková from the kennel Od Troch tabiel. Interesting at the Nippo exhibition is different categories of exhibition classes - they don’t correspond to the classes as we know in our country (minor puppy class, puppy class, junior class, intermediate class, open class, champion class, honorary class...)


Demonstration of your dog on the Nippo show is also different from the club, national or international exhibitions in our country. “The exhibitor stands behind the dog and holds the exhibition leash at an angle of approximately 45 degrees and pulls it only very slightly. The dog stands naturally, the exhibitor does not correct its position, the judge looks at it in detail from each side.” explains the Slovak breeder. Anything for motivation (toys and treats) as well as so-called "double handling” (encouraging the dog from behind the show ring) are prohibited.


The winner of each show class competes for the title Best Dog and Best Bitch in the breed. Both winners compete for the title of Saikosho (Best of Breed) and Jun Saikosho (Best of Opposite Sex).


Nippo show is more than an exhibition of Japanese breeds - it is a unique experience and a valuable event not only for exhibitors or breeders. Visitors and fans of Japanese breeds will also be pleased. Where else you can see in one place more than 150 beautiful individuals - representatives of Japanese breeds such as Shiba and Akita!

In 2020 in September will be held its 8th year (and 17th year of Akita Cup) closer to our borders - again in the Polish city of Krotoszyce. For more information click here: Fan Page Akita Cup Poland and web sites Akita Cup Poland + Akita Cup (Italy).

Photo: Akita Cup Poland

Foto: archív J. Špaková/CHS Od Troch tabiel


Cost of the dog

The costs are always an issue for future dog owners. The price of the puppy is obvious. The applicant communicates with his breeder, which he chose. But what about the other costs? There are regular monthly expenses and one-time introduction expenses or during the life of the dog. We interviewed several owners of dogs of Japanese breeds Akita and Shiba. You can see the differences between the costs below. It is not always true that a smaller dog costs less and a larger one costs more. The differences are mainly in the items whether the future owner plans to keep the dog outside (and must include the cost of the pen), as well as spending on food (according to the size of the dog) and cards often shuffle unpredictable financial expenses such as dog injury or other problems.

Akita owners:


Shiba owners: