The Japanese Kai Ken is a very interesting and unusual dog breed, but the Kai Ken temperament is not for everyone.
The Kai Ken, also known as the Kai Dog or the Tiger Dog, is one of the six native breeds from Japan.
Experts explain that the Kai Ken temperament can be primitive and wild. These dogs require a lot of socialization, or they can easily revert back to their natural states.
As the president of the North American Kai Association put it
“This is not a lab and it will not react well to new situations and experiences without tons of proper socialization and training.”
If you are thinking about adding a Tiger Dog to your home, do as much research as you can to make sure you thoroughly understand Kai Ken traits.
This article will help you take the first steps towards familiarizing yourself with typical Kai Ken behaviors.
Understanding the Kai Ken Temperament: 5 Crucial Components of the Kai Ken Personality
Below you will read about classic Kai Ken temperament components.
However, as you read the article, please remember that there will always be some variations between individual dogs within a certain breed. Therefore, not every Kai Ken will exhibit the exact same behaviors.
1. Keen and Alert
The Kai Ken breed is very watchful and alert.
These dogs are always keeping an eye on their whereabouts.
Due to these traits, Kai Ken make excellent watchdogs. They will naturally guard the homestead and bark to alert their masters of any intruders.
Kai Ken have keen eyesight and excellent hearing.
2. Aloof with Strangers
The watchful Kai Ken temperament makes this breed distrustful of strangers at first.
If you have guests visit your home, make sure you instruct your friends not to reach for your Kai Ken too fast.
Instead, have visitors toss treats to your dog and let him investigate them on his own terms and at his own pace.
3. Smart but Independent
Intelligence is a key component of the Kai Ken temperament.
These dogs are very clever and crafty.
However, they are also independent thinkers. They will not blindly follow orders.
Some owners describe them as stubborn because these dogs like to think for themselves. It takes patience and creativity to train Kai Ken.
It is important to provide your Kai Ken with mental stimulation so your dog does not become bored.
Provide plenty of mental enrichment in the form of training as well as brain game toys like Kongs.
The fastidious Kai Ken temperament makes this breed a very clean breed.
These dogs are known for being dainty and refined. They do not usually get dirty or muddy.
Kai Ken rarely have a “doggy odor.”
They need only occasional baths and grooming.
They are sometimes described as “cat-like” in their habits.
5. Suitable for Apartment Living
One nice aspect of the Kai Ken temperament is its adaptability to apartment life.
Kai Ken are quiet dogs. They are not major barkers or howlers.
They are not known for being destructive, although any dog can chew when bored or anxious.
Kai Ken can also adapt to small living spaces as long as they receive daily exercise.
Kai Ken exercise needs depend on the age of the dog.
Young Kai Ken need an opportunity to run and play on a daily basis. If you don’t have a yard, you can bring them to a dog park or a doggie daycare.
Older Kai Ken are content with leashed walks in the neighborhood.
A Brief Account of Kai Ken History
Kai Ken have been living in Japan for hundreds of years.
The first Kai Ken in America were sent as a gift to the Utah Zoo in the 1950s.
American serviceman also brought some Kai Ken home to the United States after being stationed in Japan.
The United Kennel Club of Great Britain recognized the Kai Ken, but the American Kennel Club has not yet inducted the breed.
Kai Ken Size and Appearance
The Kai Ken is a medium-sized dog with pointy ears and a tightly curled tail.
The average Kai Ken height at the withers is between 15.5 and 19.5 inches.
The typical Kai Ken weight range is between 20 lbs and 40 lbs. Males are usually larger than females.
Kai Ken colors can be brindle (Chu-Tora), black brindle (Kuro-Tora) or red brindle (Aka-Tora).
A Guide to Kai Ken Training
It is very important to devote ample time to properly training and socializing your Kai Ken.
The Kai Ken temperament is intelligent. However the Kai Ken temperament is also independent.
Therefore, these dogs can be challenging to train.
If possible, sign up for a puppy socialization class or an obedience class with your dog at an early age.
Puppy Pre-K is a great way for your puppy to learn valuable social skills.
Helpful Dog Training Resource:
For help with training your Kai Ken dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.
Try to find a trainer that uses positive, force-free methods.
Steer clear of trainers that use “dominance-based” methods or employ painful tools such as shock collars, pinch collars or choke chains.
These methods will damage your relationship with your new pet.
Instead, find fun and creative ways to motivate your Kai Ken and keep him engaged. This form of training will be more enjoyable for you and for your dog.
A Guide to Kai Ken Grooming Needs
Kai Ken are generally clean, odorless dogs. They require baths and grooming only rarely.
Kai Ken have a thick double coat. So their fur does shed profusely twice a year during shedding season.
During this time, try to brush them daily.
Is the Kai Ken hypoallergenic?
No this breed is not hypoallergenic.
If you suffer from allergies or you are averse to dog shedding, this might not be the right breed for you.
Check out this article for a list of dog breeds that are hypoallergenic.
Staying Healthy: Kai Ken Health Issues
Kai Dogs are generally healthy, but like all dogs they can be prone to certain genetic disorders.
If you purchase your Kai Ken from a breeder, talk with the breeder about genetic health tests. Responsible breeders should have their breeding dogs screened for hip issues, eye issues, and other common conditions. Ask to see medical records for the parents of the litter and talk with the breeder about a health guarantee for the puppy.
Before you bring home a Kai Ken, talk with your veterinarian about common health issues so that you can be on the watch for the early warning signs.
Some health issues that can occur in this breed include:
- Hip Issues
- Luxating Patellas
- Eye Issues (especially Progressive Retinal Atrophy)
- Retained testicles
- Heart Murmurs
Like all breeds, your Kai Ken should visit a licensed veterinarian at least once per year for a wellness checkup and annual vaccinations.
Helpful Dog Health Resource
Note: Don't let the many issues above scare you. The best way to approach health problems is to prevent them in the first place. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is a great place to start. Get a copy to keep at home. It will help you prevent the painful health issues that can plague your lovely Canaan pet from expressing his winning personality and maximizing his life expectancy.
It is vital to keep your Kai Ken up to date on flea prevention, tick prevention and heartworm prevention at all times.
Spaying and neutering is highly encouraged to prevent inadvertently adding to the pet overpopulation problem in the United States. In fact, most quality breeders will require you to sign a spay/neuter contract agreeing to get your pet altered at an appropriate age. Good breeders never want their puppies’ offspring to end up in animal shelters or on the streets. Talk with your veterinarian about scheduling this procedure at the appropriate time for your pet.
With excellent care and nutrition, the Kai Ken lifespan can reach 12-15 years.
Kai Ken Rescue and Adoption
If you believe that the Kai Ken temperament is a good match for your lifestyle, it is time to start researching the best way to add one to your family.
One great option is to adopt a Kai Ken that is in need of a new home.
Dogs enter rescue organizations for many different reasons. Usually the dog is not at fault. Rather, it is usually the result of unexpected circumstances such as:
- Financial Hardship
- Owner Illness or Death
- Landlord Restrictions
- New Baby
- Loss of job and/or eviction
There are many benefits to adopting a dog through a rescue organization. Some of the perks include:
- Dogs are usually older and past the destructive puppy stage
- Temperaments are more established, so you know what you are getting
- Dogs frequently come with prior training, including housetraining
- Adoption fees are substantially cheaper than purchasing a puppy from a breeder
- You get to save a life by adopting a dog in need
If you decide to look for a Kai Ken for adoption, you can use internet websites such as Google, Facebook, Petfinder, Adoptapet and/or Getyourpet.
You can also contact the national Kai Ken club and ask for referrals to rescue organizations.
Although Kai Ken are rare in animal shelters, you never know what you might find at your local animal shelter or humane society.
It is always worth a visit to speak with the staff and leave an application on file. The staff can contact you if a Kai Ken or a Kai Ken mix or a similar breed becomes available.
When you adopt through a rescue organization, the adoption fee is usually between $100 and $300 depending on the organization. This fee usually includes spay/neuter, vaccinations and an exam from a veterinarian.
Finding Kai Ken for Sale from a Reputable Breeder
Some people choose to purchase a Kai Ken puppy from a breeder.
Just be careful if you go this route because there are some unscrupulous breeders that will take advantage of unsuspecting buyers.
Avoid the Tiger Dog Scam
Recently there have been reports of unethical breeders actually painting stripes on mixed breed puppies to make them look like “Tiger Dogs.”
Tragically, the paint is sometimes toxic to the puppies and it can cause them to become very ill or even die.
Do not be hoodwinked by adorable photos on a website. Always insist on seeing the puppies in person before you pay.
Many unsuspecting buyers have had their hearts broken by this horrendous behavior. Although this particular scam is more prevalent in Asia, it is still important for American buyers to use caution.
Avoid Puppy Mills
Puppy Mills are large-scale breeding operations that churn out purebred puppies with no regard to the animals’ health, temperament or humane living conditions. Sadly, puppy mills are prevalent in the United States.
The best way to avoid being tricked by a puppy mill is to make sure that you visit the breeder in person.
That way, you can inspect the property, meet the breeding dogs and make sure that the operation is clean, humane and not overcrowded.
Never purchase Kai Ken puppies over the internet or through pet stores. Be very wary of any breeder that wants to take your money over the phone or internet without meeting face to face.
Get Referrals for Good Breeders
Contact the Kai Ken Society of America or the North American Kai Association for a list of recommended Kai Ken breeders.
Keep in mind that this is a rare breed, so there may not be any breeders in your state. Be prepared to travel to acquire one of these dogs.
Once you find a potential breeder, make an appointment to visit in person. Ask for a tour of the property and ask to meet the adult dogs living in the home. Make sure the breeding dogs appear to be healthy, friendly specimens of the breed.
Good breeders will welcome your visit. They will want an opportunity to meet you and ask you questions. Good breeders want to make sure that you are prepared to provide a lifelong home for one of their puppies.
Since there are so few Kai Ken breeders in the United States, you probably will not be able to bring home a new puppy immediately. You will probably be placed on a waiting list.
Since these puppies are so scarce, they are also expensive. The Kai Ken price from a high quality breeder will probably be around $1500.
Conclusion: Why the Kai Ken?
The fascinating Kai Ken temperament makes this breed very desirable in certain crowds.
Kai Ken are beautiful, rare, mysterious dogs. They have an intriguing primitiveness about them.
If you think the Kai Ken personality is a good match for your lifestyle, try to learn as much as you can about their behavior and care.
Before you bring home one of these exquisite Tiger Dogs, make sure you are prepared for the commitment of training and socializing this striking dog from Japan.
Allie has worked in the field of animal welfare for over ten years and as a freelance writer the space for many years. She has had many different kinds of dogs (and cats) throughout her life—all adopted. She currently shares her home with a lovable pit bull mix named Huckleberry.