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The Kishu Temperament: Devoted, Fearless, and Playful

The Kishu is a special Japanese breed. It is a primitive dog bred for hunting boar and deer. The Kishu temperament makes them great sporting dogs and outdoor companions.

You may also hear this breed called by his Japanese names of Kishu Ken or Kishu-Inu. (Inu and Ken are both Japanese for dog.)

The Kishu has an intense prey drive. He still has his primitive instincts as a hunter, and that is his distinguishing trait.

However, the Kishu temperament includes traits that also make him a wonderful family dog. In the right circumstances, the Kishu can be a loving and loyal family companion.

The Kishu Temperament and Personality


The Kishu has a dignified and self-confident demeanor.


The Kishu is a smart breed that is easy to train. He is a “thinking dog” who is good at problem solving.


The Kishu is a hunter who trusts his instincts. He is used to making his own decisions.

However, he is not like most intelligent, independent dogs. With the right training methods, he is easier to train. The Kishu temperament is not particularly stubborn.


The Kishu bonds closely to his family. He wants to be near them as much as he can.


Kishu are very loving and affectionate with their families. They love to be included in family activities.


Kishu are fiercely loyal to their people. They tend to be one-person or one-family dogs.


The Kishu temperament is quiet and gentle. He does not bark a lot.


The Kishu loves to play. He enjoys outdoor games and free play in large outdoor spaces.


His playfulness, gentleness, and devotion make him a great companion for children.


The Kishu was originally a boar hunter. He has high energy and a strong drive to hunt. Small pets may not be safe around him.

You will also want to keep him contained in a fenced-in yard. Otherwise, he will chase anything that catches his attention.


This high-energy breed likes to be busy. He needs outdoor activity and exercise. He would not be a good choice for apartment living.


The Kishu is an agile breed. He does well in sporting activities. He especially shines in activities like obedience and agility that require a strong bond between dog and owner.


He is attentive to what is going on in his environment. He watches over his family.


The Kishu traits of resourcefulness and intelligence make him a good problem solver. If he doesn’t have enough space in the yard, he may dig under the fence.

You may see other creative Kishu behaviors if he doesn’t get enough mental or physical stimulation.


Kishu are brave hunters. They face wild boars in their traditional work.


Kishu are approachable by strangers but not overly friendly. They are not aggressive toward people, however. They don’t make good watchdogs.

In general, they can be aloof with other dogs. If they are socialized with them early, they can be trained to get along with other dogs. Otherwise, he can be combative with them.

He generally doesn’t do well in groups of dogs, and typically doesn’t enjoy dog parks or day care.

High Energy

As a working dog, the Kishu temperament is energetic. He needs lots of space to burn energy. He is equally happy with work or play.

High Prey Drive

The Kishu is an instinctive hunter. Small pets may not be safe around him.

It’s possible to socialize your Kishu to live peacefully with other animals, but you will need to start early.

Kishu History

The Kishu is a primitive dog. Primitive dogs are breeds that have kept their earliest natural instincts.

The Kishu has physical and genetic ties with the wolf. The Japanese often give them names that honor the wolf.

He originated on the Kii Peninsula in the Kishu area of Japan. The Kishu has historically been a hunting dog. Some Kishu still hunt large game in their native Japan.

During World War II, American soldiers brought dogs with them into Japan. These dogs cross-bred with the Japanese dogs and modified the genetics of the native breeds.

The Kishu lived in an isolated, mountainous region of Japan. For this reason, they retained their native state better than other Japanese breeds.

They are still considered one of the “purest” dogs in existence.

Outside of Japan, the international United Kennel Club recognized the Kishu in 2006. The American Kennel Club (AKC) in America has admitted him to their Foundation Stock Service.

Kishu Training

The Kishu temperament makes him fairly easy to train. Luckily, they are not as stubborn as many other intelligent breeds.

He needs gentle training, however. Positive reinforcement works best for him. Like all breeds, his training needs to be consistent.

You may have to work at finding the right motivation for him. Some are food motivated. Others may prefer a favorite toy.

A Kishu can get along with other pets in your home if socialization is done right. You may want to choose a breeder who socializes their puppies with other animals in their first weeks of life.

Compared to many other breeds, he is quite trainable later in life. However, the process may take longer. He will probably need to establish a strong bond with his new owner first.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Kishu dog 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.

Kishu Appearance

The Kishu is a medium-sized Spitz-type dog. He has a strong and muscular build.

He has a double coat. The outer coat is short, straight, and rough. His undercoat is thick.

He may have the Spitz-type curled tail or a straight tail like the wolf.

He has a black nose and small erect, or pricked, ears.

Kishu Size

The Kishu height averages 17-22 inches. Kishu weight is 30-60 pounds.

Kishu Colors

Most Kishu are white, but they can also be red, black and tan, or sesame.

Interesting Kishu Facts

Kishu Lifespan

The life expectancy of a Kishu is 11-13 years.

National Treasure

The Kishu is one of six dogs that Japan has named national treasures. They are protected by the Japanese government. The others are the Shiba-Inu, the Akita, the Shikoku, the Hokkaido, and the Kai Ken.

All of the national treasure breeds are rare and hard to find outside of Japan.

Near Extinction

Following World War II, the Kishu breed came close to extinction.

Japanese, European, and American breeders are helping to bring the breed back to reasonable numbers.

Americans have been breeding Kishu since 2000.

A Legendary Breed

Japanese legend has it that a hunter once stopped to help an injured wolf. In return, the wolf promised to give him one of her pups.

The wolf did as she promised, and that pup became the forefather of the Kishu breed. From there, the Kishu went on to become the fearless boar hunter of today.

Kishu Health Issues

The Kishu is a healthy dog. Like all breeds, however, they are susceptible to a few conditions.

The most common include:

Other, more serious conditions are rare and more likely to occur in older dogs. They include:

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 expentancy.

Caring for the Kishu

Kishu Grooming

Ordinarily, the Kishu needs weekly brushing. His outer coat is rough and nearly self-cleaning, but his undercoat can become matted.

He will shed that undercoat once or twice a year and will need more frequent brushing during those times.

The Kishu only needs an occasional bath.

His nails grow quickly and need regular clipping. You should check and clean his ears regularly to avoid infection.

As with all dogs, his teeth need brushing on a regular basis.

You will probably find that grooming time with your Kishu will cause him to bond more strongly with you.

Kishu Diet

The Kishu should do well with high-quality food. He has no specific dietary needs.

Kishu Exercise

The Kishu has a need for mental and physical stimulation. They are smart and easily bored, so they need more than a daily walk to be happy.

Remember that Kishu are working dogs. They need space to run and activities to keep them busy.

They do best with some type of work, such as herding or hunting. But they also love organized canine sports, hiking, and long walks on leash.

Visiting new environments is also a good way to mentally stimulate your Kishu.

Finding a Kishu

Buying a Kishu Puppy from a Breeder

Finding a Kishu for sale may be difficult. You will need patience if you decide to go this route.

Again, the Kishu is a rare breed. According to the NKC, there are only about 75 Kishu in North America at the time of this writing.

However, as above, their numbers are growing in the US. The NKC maintains a list of American breeders.

That may be the best place to start. Expect to be put on a waiting list.

You may have a shorter wait if you would consider importing a puppy from Japan.

Because of their status as national treasures, some breeders will not export Kishu puppies. Others will, however.

Importing a Kishu from Europe is also a possibility. There may be breeders in Europe than in the US. The UKC website would be the best place to start.

Because they are still a rare breed, Kishu price would be anywhere from $1000 to $2000. Shipping would be an additional cost.

A final note on purchasing a puppy:

Beware of any Kishu breeders you may find online. You will want to be sure the puppy you are buying is not from a puppy mill.

Because the Kishu is a rare breed, they would be very profitable for puppy mills.

Dogs bred by puppy mills usually receive poor care and sometimes-inhumane conditions. These irresponsible breeders don’t concern themselves with the health or genetic soundness of the puppies or their parents.

A responsible breeder works hard to safeguard the health and genetics of the dogs they breed. They will give you a guarantee of health.

There is no guarantee of any kind with a puppy mill dog.

You will want to be sure to get trustworthy recommendations before choosing a breeder.

You can find online groups and forums for nearly all breeds. This would be a great way to get word-of-mouth information about reputable breeders.

It would also be an opportunity to find out more about living with a Kishu.

Kishu Rescue/Adoption

Finding a Kishu for adoption may be easier than finding a puppy. The NKC offers a rescue service for the Kishu. That would be the best place to start if you are considering a Kishu rescue.

Adopting an adult Kishu would be a great idea. It would provide a home for a dog who needs one.

It would also have many advantages for you. The cost of a Kishu rescue or shelter adoption would be less than buying a puppy from a breeder.

The dog would probably be an adult rather than a puppy. An adult dog would be less time consuming and less work than a puppy.

The shelter or rescue would spay or neuter before they release the dog. He will almost certainly be up to date with his immunizations. He will probably be housebroken.

So You Think You May Want a Kishu?

While the Kishu temperament has a lot going for it, it is not right for everyone. With its strong prey drive and high exercise need, it’s not well suited to every home.

However, if your family is an active one, he could be a great fit for you.

The fact that he is good with kids makes him a great family dog. He also forms strong bonds with his family.

He is an intelligent dog who needs a lot of physical and mental stimulation. Owning one will require a higher-than-usual commitment of time and attention.

But in return, the Kishu temperament will reward your investment with fierce devotion and loyalty.