Japanese Tosa

Would a Japanese Tosa be a good fit for you? They’re not a breed to be taken lightly. Find out why in our latest guide.

Japanese Tosa at a show

Height: 24-25”
Weight:
90-140lbs
Lifespan:
12-15 years
Pedigree Breed?:
Yes

Positives and Negatives of the Breed

Positives:

  • Excellent guard dogs and watch dogs
  • Extremely loyal to their owner
  • Good watchdogs
  • Very intelligent dogs that are quite easy to train

Negatives:

  • Need a highly experienced and strong owner to control them
  • Not suitable for families with children
  • Not suitable for families with other pets
  • Needs to live in a large home so unsuitable for apartment living

Overview

The Japanese Tosa is quite a new breed. Sometimes known as the Tosa Inu (the word ‘Inu’ means ‘dog’ in Japanese), the Japanese Tosa was originally bred for fighting.

It is still regarded as the canine equivalent of a Sumo wrestler in its native Japan, with the best of the breed being treated with great ceremonies and honour.

In other countries, though, the Tosa dog is most often seen as a guard dog or companion and was first recognised in 1998 by the United Kennel Club.

History

The Japanese Tosa Inu is a Japanese fighting dog that has a long and illustrious history in its native Japan.

Japan has a long dog fighting history that dates back to the 1300s. The Tosa was originally bred between 1968 and 1912 when several breeds were crossed with the local Kochi breed.

These other breeds included the Shikoku fighting dog as well as a number of Western breeds like the Mastiff, German Pointer, Great Dane, St Bernard, Bull Terrier and Bulldog.

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The result was a dog that became Japan’s national treasure, and while dog fighting has been made illegal in Japan, North America and Europe, there are still illegal pit fights held in some of Japan’s remote and rural regions where Tosas are used for fighting.

Japanese dog fighting rules required dogs to fight silently with no cowering, and this has led to a very strong and resilient breed.

Unfortunately, due to its fighting background, the Tosa Inu has been banned from many countries as a dangerous dog, and it is certainly an unsuitable choice for novice dog owners. However, with the right training, handling and socialisation it can be a great family companion.

With its massive size and strength, this is a wonderful watchdog and guard dog that also excels at weight-pulling activities.

Japanese Tosa standing

Personality

The Japanese Tosa is known to be very loyal to its owner and very sensitive to their owner’s tone of voice, paying very close attention to any commands.

This isn’t a noisy breed of dog, due to the fact that it was bred specifically to fight in silence. The Tosa is naturally an excellent guard dog, with protective, fearless and courageous character traits.

It does, however, require an owner with strong leadership skills who will have no difficulty in being the alpha.

The Tosa can make a wonderful family pet, but only if it has been properly socialised from a very early age. Like any breed, it will only be aggressive and attack when it hasn’t been trained and handled properly.

Problems can arise if an inexperienced owner doesn’t train the Tosa with a firm enough hand. This is a dog that needs to know that it is subordinate to the humans in the pack or it will show unwanted dominant traits.

The Tosa also needs a lot of physical and mental exercise every day and will require consistent, confident and firm handling.

When well-adjusted, well-trained and stable, the Tosa is usually good with children and other pets, but it cannot be emphasised enough that proper manners and good behaviour needs to be taught and reinforced from puppyhood.

The Tosa must learn how to walk to heel when on the lead and follow their human in and out of the doorway. When given this training, the Japanese Tosa will be affectionate and docile while also being gentle and protective.

With its huge size and deep bark, the Japanese Tosa Inu is a wonderful guard dog and watch dog, capable of keeping intruders out. Although they can be quite reserved with strangers, they will usually accept newcomers when they’re properly introduced.

When it comes to socialising with other dogs, it’s important to keep your Japanese Tosa away from any other dogs that could want to fight. Tosas have an extremely high pain threshold and will usually win a fight to the detriment of the other dog.

Health

Although the Japanese Tosa has a fighting background, it is quite a healthy breed.

There are, however, some conditions that it is prone to developing including:

  • Bloat
  • Eye problems
  • Elbow and hip dysplasia

Of course, not every dog will suffer from these problems, but it makes sense to be aware of these possible health issues before buying a Japanese Tosa puppy.

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Japanese tosa inu

Exercise

As you might imagine, since the Tosa is a very large dog it needs a good amount of exercise every day to stay well.

Its powerful muscles need to stay in good shape with regular runs and walks and he also needs a lot of mental stimulation to keep him busy and non-destructive.

You should take your Tosa out for walks and vigorous exercise for at least an hour a day, and maybe more. You should also ensure that you have a large enclosed, safe area like a back yard where he can run off the leash.

Take care to ensure that your fences are very strong, though. This is a very large and strong breed that can easily escape through a poorly secured fence.

When your Tosa is out and about in public, it’s important to be wary around other dogs. The Tosa Inu can be aggressive towards strange dogs, especially those of the same sex and so should be on the leash around them.

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Japanese Tosa Inu sitting

Trainability

The most important thing to be aware of about training the Japanese Tosa Inu is that it requires a very strong and confident leader who is ready to put sufficient effort and time into training practice so that the dog understands clearly its place within the family pack.

Without this strong leadership from an alpha, the Tosa may try to challenge its owner for the role of leader of the pack, which is something that should certainly be avoided. For this reason, it’s essential that only experienced and confident owners should take on a Tosa.

If you are experienced with large breed dogs and want to take on the challenge of training a Japanese Tosa, you’ll find that with the right approach, it will be a fairly easy dog to train.

The Tosa is quite intelligent and will follow commands willing from a strong owner. It is absolutely vital to train this breed properly from a very early age to prevent them from being dangerous to others.

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Tosa Inu running through park

Grooming

If you are looking for a hypoallergenic breed, the Japanese Tosa isn’t for you. This breed has a very dense coat that will require grooming at least once a week to remove the dead and loose hairs from his coat and to keep his skin in good and healthy condition.

Despite the fact that a weekly groom is necessary, you’ll be relieved to learn that there isn’t a huge amount of maintenance involved in keeping your Japanese Tosa Inu looking his best.

If you want a lower maintenance pet, you shouldn’t be too disappointed in the Tosa as only a weekly brush is required to keep him looking good.

While the Tosa will only shed quite lightly, you’ll still find a lot of short hairs on your clothing and furniture if he isn’t groomed on a regular basis.

When brushing, use either a natural bristle brush or slicker brush. You can also use a leave-in coat conditioner to make his coat look glossier and shiny. However, over-conditioning should be avoided.

As the Tosa’s coat is quite short, you shouldn’t need to use the services of a professional groomer. You should be able to manage your pet’s grooming needs yourself.

Due to the Tosa’s massive jowls, these dogs drool a lot. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure that you keep drool rags near at hand to wipe his mouth, especially after taking a drink or when the weather is hot, or if he gets over-excited, otherwise the drooling could get out of hand.

Make sure to trim his nails every couple of weeks to ensure they don’t get too long and clean his ears weekly to remove moisture and dirt to guard against a possible infection setting in.

Teeth brushing should also take place weekly to remove plaque and bacteria build-up and to ensure his gums and teeth are clean and healthy.

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