Shikoku Dog

Written by: Jamie
Updated: April 7, 2020

Learn all about the adorable Japanese Shikoku dog. It’s definitely one of the cutest breeds in our opinion, but is it well-natured too?

Shikoku dog sitting

Height: 17-21” at the shoulders
30-55 lbs
10-12 years
Pedigree Breed?:

Positives and Negatives of the Breed


  • Very loyal pets
  • Excellent watchdogs
  • Very active – ideal for those who love an outdoor lifestyle
  • Very intelligent dogs


  • Not suitable for inexperienced owners
  • High prey drive so not suitable for homes with other animals
  • Need a lot of exercise so no good for people with sedentary lifestyles
  • Can be strong-willed and need a lot of training

Shikoku dog Portrait


The Shikoku dog is sometimes known as the Shikoku Inu. Otherwise called the Japanese mountain dog or Japanese wolf dog, the Shikoku Ken is a Japanese breed of dog that is one of the country’s oldest native breeds.

Thought to be one of the primitive breeds, its current form remains similar to the oldest dog ancestors with a close resemblance to wild wolves.

Although this breed isn’t widely recognised in other countries, it’s rapidly gaining in popularity all over the world, and in its native Japan is has been named as one of the country’s natural living monuments by the Japanese Crown.


Little has been written historically about dogs in Japan, however the Nihon Shoki, which was written in the 700s, records that dogs were imported from elsewhere in Asia and mentions hunting dogs. T

hese dogs would be the basis of six native Japanese breeds, and the Shikoku Inu is one of these.

The island of Shikoku is the fourth biggest island of Japan and while it’s closely connected by road to the mainland today, it would once have been very remote.

This breed originates from this island, and while there were once several strains of this breed, only three now remain. All are named after their original villages – Hata, Honkawa and Aki.

Shikoku dog on a leash

The Shikoku Ken dog, like other Spitz breeds, were originally bred to be hunters. They didn’t hunt in a pack but would work with a human companion to track large game like wild boar and deer and trap it.

This breed was raised on mountainous terrain with thick undergrowth of bamboo, and this has led to many of the characteristics that you will see in the breed. Hardy and agile, they can work intelligently and independently, and they are brave and loyal too.

When Westernised influences began to emerge in Japanese culture, breeds from abroad began to be highly valued in Japan, and native breeds like the Shikoku declined in popularity.

However, in the early years of the 20th century, native breeds saw a revival, and when they were named as Living National Monuments in the 1930s, they were awarded certain protections.

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Shikoku dog sitting


The Shikoku Inu is known for its loyalty to its master. Cautious yet brave, this breed responds appropriately in a variety of challenging situations.

With a strong hunting instinct, the Shikoku should be kept away from small pets such as rabbits and cats, and outside the home it’s important to ensure that your dog has good self-control and recall if it is to be let off the lead.

Energetic and lively, this breed has great stamina and endurance, preferring to spend time outside being active. They’re a perfect companion for anyone who loves walking and hiking but aren’t a good match for anyone with a sedentary lifestyle.

The Shikoku dog is best for families with older children since they often communicate with their mouths and may nibble or pull on a child’s hand which could be frightening for a toddler.

As a territorial breed, the Shikoku is an alert and excellent watchdog who will growl or howl to communicate without barking excessively.

This breed is an excellent judge of character, preferred to avoid those it dislikes. They are a poor choice for homes with other pets as their tracking and hunting instinct will lead to them chasing smaller animals, even if they have been raised with them.

Some Shikoku dogs get on well with other canines, but it isn’t guaranteed. This breed prefers to dominate and may, therefore, pick fights, especially with others of the same sex. Early socialisation can help prevent this.

Shikoku dog facing camera


Shikokus have an average life expectancy of around 10 – 13 years. As a fairly healthy breed, it is still prone to a few common medical issues such as:

  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Allergies

Of course, not every dog will suffer from a health problem, but it’s wise to be aware of the possibilities before getting one of these dogs to share your home.

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As you might have guessed, the Shikoku Inu dog is an active breed that loves to spend a lot of time outside and enjoys playing with its owner.

Although they could still technically live in a small home or apartment, you would have to ensure you were giving your pet lots of exercise as they need several walks each day.

Shikoku thrive on activities that pair physical activity with mental stimulation. This makes obedience training and agility sports especially good choices for this breed. This type of activity will also work to strengthen the bond between owner and dog.

It’s always best to allow your Shikoku Inu access to a fenced outdoor space, but bear in mind that the enclosure must be very strong and secure since this hunting breed could easily escape while following scents or chasing prey.

In the day, this dog is agile, active and restless, and will always be doing something. If you’re a sedentary person who prefers to relax at home all day, this is not the breed for you since they rarely sleep during the daytime.

They are a better companion for those who prefer to stay active themselves, and will love to go hiking, jogging and walking with their owner.

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Shikoku Dog


This breed is a very intelligent one. Shikoku dogs have a very good learning capacity and an excellent memory which should make them easy to train.

However, don’t be fooled. This isn’t a breed for anyone who is inexperienced at training dogs. The best owners are those who already have experience with similar breeds and who have the strength and confidence to control a strong-willed pet.

The Shikoku Inu dog is an independent breed who needs to be strongly motivated by their owner. They are always looking to their pack leader – i.e. their owner – to show them what to do. Training must begin at an early age and should be gradual and not too harsh in nature.

If you’re an experienced handler, you should find your dog quite easy to train due to its excellent memory.

In fact, Shikoku dogs can learn even difficult commands, but they need to be rewarded with positive reinforcement so that they remain motivated throughout training as they can be impulsive and stubborn if they get bored.

The most successful training techniques for this breed are entertaining and short, with little repetition.

The most vital thing to teach your Shikoku dog is recall since it’s important to ensure your dog will come back to you even when following their prey instinct and chasing down a scent.

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This breed doesn’t have a particularly onerous grooming regime, but it isn’t an entirely low maintenance breed either. The Shikoku Ken dog has a double coat which sheds twice yearly.

Even when it isn’t the shedding seasons, you will still need to brush your pet weekly to keep loose and dead hair to a minimum.

During the two shedding seasons, you will need to brush your dog on a daily basis as their hair will go everywhere. This is certainly not a hypoallergenic breed. With routine brushing, though, their coat will stay looking healthy and glossy.

You should use a metal comb and a slicker brush to produce the best result, and if your pet is heavily shedding you should use an undercoat rake or deshedder to remove all of the loose hairs and prevent them from getting on your clothing and furniture.

Avoid over-bathing your pet. One bath every couple of months is more than enough. Some pets may even be able to manage with only being bathed around three times per year.

When you bathe your pet, ensure that you choose a mild shampoo that won’t cause skin irritations since allergies are quite common in this breed.

Remember to check their ears once per week and clean them when necessary to keep wax build-up down and to guard against painful infections. You’ll also need to check their nails once a month and cut them when necessary.

A good oral care routine also needs to be established with regular brushing to keep their gums and teeth strong and healthy.

Recommended Next: Would you like to find the perfect puppy for your family? If you’ve been thinking about a cute Patterdale Terrier dog, you should read on to find out more.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jamie! I've always been around dogs and now writing about them is an absolute joy.
Read more about my story here.
Reach me at or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

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