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Tosa Inu Temperament: The Formidable and Rare Japanese Fighting Dog

The Tosa Inu temperament is typically thought to be aggressive, but this description doesn’t cover the whole story. These massive dogs have a soft, laid back side that makes them a lovable family pet in the right hands.

Unfortunately, many times the Tosa Inu ends up with owners who are incapable of handling their temperament. When they fall into the hands of a first-time or abusive owner; someone who doesn’t offer them a stable environment, this can cause them to give into their more aggressive instincts.

With this in mind, it’s imperative that you evaluate whether or not you’d be a suitable parent for a Tosa Inu.

It’s going to take an experience, patient owner to successfully transition these dogs into suitable pets. If that’s not you, it’s best you move onto another breed.

The Tosa Inu Temperament & Personality

As we go over the following traits, one thing will become abundantly apparent; these dogs aren’t a match for a first-time owner. In some cases, a Tosa Inu temperament might not even mesh well with an experienced owner either.  


The first thing you should know about Tosas or the Japanese Mastiff is thst they are fearless protectors of the people they love. If he perceives something as a threat, he will attack it without hesitation.

As you can imagine, this willingness to attack threats could be a problematic issue. It also doesn’t help that these dogs have a distrust of people and animals outside their families. If not properly trained, it’s not uncommon for them to act aggressively toward other dogs.

But if these dogs have a strong, authoritative owner, this fearless can become useful in desirable behaviors. For example, these dogs are always up for new things and experiences.

It also helps them become incredibly useful watchdogs with their willingness to risk their well-being for their owners. Honestly, there isn’t a better watchdog than a Tosa Inu; intruders don’t stand a chance.

Dog Aggressive

But as mentioned previously, this fearlessness triggers their more aggressive instincts. It makes them more prone to challenging other dogs and become overly confrontational. Given their massive size and strength, this could result in an experience no dog owner wants.

If you get a Tosa Inu, their dog aggressive traits are something you must be incredibly mindful about. In fact, most experts agree that these dogs aren’t well-suited for suburban life because of this quality.

And if you do live in a suburb with a Tosa Inu, these dogs will bark at people walking their dogs; it can be a migraine inducing experience as their barking is very loud. You’ll also have to invest in higher fences, which will ensure your massive dog doesn’t escape.

However, you can train dog aggressiveness out of a Tosa Inu. It just becomes increasingly more difficult to do as they grow and their stubbornness rears its ugly head. As a result, starting their training at the soonest possible time is a must.

We also must note that keeping a Tosa Inu in the same house with other animals isn’t a good idea.  The most ideal situation would instead be with an experience dog owner with absolutely no other pets around; this situation will make sure the Tosa has your full attention.


Due to its alpha personality, these dogs are more independent than other breeds. It also results in them being incredibly stubborn; they like to do their own thing and often will ignore an owner who isn’t commanding enough.

It’s something that can become somewhat problematic in certain situations. For instance, you’re taking your Tosa Inu on a walk and you need to make them stop pulling: if you don’t have their respect as a commanding owner, it might end up with you dragging across the road.

It might be a funny thing to think about right now as you’re reading this article. But it’s something you’ll need to take into account before getting one of these dogs. In other words, think about whether or not you have the wherewithal to successful control a dog of this size.

If you don’t and end up getting one, you become an accident waiting to happen.  And these accidents have become the reason why the Tosa Inu aggression is its defining trait.

Laid Back

The trait that typically gets little attention is their laid personality with their owners. Most of the time, you’ll find these dogs around their owners being gentle and affectionate. It’s their natural state of being and proves why they’re such a great pet when put in the right situations.

With the proper training, these massive dogs become gentle giants that are devoted to keeping their owners happy. They’ll even be gentle with children and become very-well mannered dogs that'll make your life much easier.

In these ideal circumstances, the Tosa Inu is a fantastic pet that would be an excellent addition to your family. But understanding whether or not you fit those ideal circumstances is something to think about before making a final decision.


Another challenging part of the Tosa Inu temperament is its high level of intelligence. This dog is capable of doing a lot of things on its own and will be more independent than you might imagine. Their intelligence makes these dogs quite stubborn and harder to deal with as a dog owner.

But this level of intelligence does have its perks. It makes the Tosa Inu more conducive to training as new concepts come easy for them. You could teach them to do almost anything, and they’ll obey as long as you present a strong, commanding front.

It also gives them an advantage as a watchdog with their ability to detect threats with their cool and calm demeanor. An intruder would have a hard time outfoxing a Tosa Inu and entering your home.

A Brief Tosa Inu History

According to most experts, the Tosa Inu or Japanese Mastiff has been known in Japan dating back a 1,000 years. These dogs originated on the island of Shikoku in a place called Tosa Wan; hence, where he got his name.

Although the Tosa Inu’s well-known for their fighting ability, he didn’t start off this way. In fact, the earliest Tosas were spitz dogs, which is a far cry away from what they’re currently. It wasn’t until 19th century that Tosas started picking up the traits they’re well-known for today.

During this time, Western breeds were introduced into Japan. Naturally, breeders thought it’d be a good idea to crossbred Tosas with breeds like Mastiffs and bulldogs. The idea behind this decision was to increase both their size and strength.

As a result, the Tosa Inu quickly became known for their fighting ability. These dogs were thriving until the second world war came along, which almost made the breed extinct. Japan just didn’t have the resources to feed its people, let alone a 150-pound fighting dog.

Luckily, a few were placed on an island called Hokkaido for safe keeping. This island is where they stayed until the war ended and it became legal for people to own them again. After the war, they were reintroduced into society and were even recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1998.

The Ins and Outs of Tosa Inu Training

In an ideal situation, the training for a Tosa Inu puppy should start as soon as possible: even as early as eight weeks would be an appropriate time to begin training sessions.

If you wait too long, you’ll end having the difficult task of training a massive, confident dog new tricks.

These sessions should consist of socializing him to the point where he no longer views strangers and other dogs as threats.

Around the 10 to 12-week mark, you should start thinking about enrolling him in a puppy training class. You should also bring friends over to meet him. These situations will force him to understand that not all dogs and strangers are threats.

It’ll engrain these proper behaviors into his a mind at a young age. And when you’re comfortable enough with the training, have him meet your friend’s dog. In these early stages, it’s best to keep these meetings on neutral territory.

For instance, a nearby open field, on a walk, or even at an empty park should do the trick. Having them meet each other at your home or your friend’s home could cause some significant issues.

One of the dogs might feel territorial and end up snapping, which could bring out those fighting instincts.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Tosa Inu 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.

Relevant Health Issues for the Tosa Inu

The sad truth is that every dog has the potential to develop a genetic health issue. It’s just how nature works. But in this breed’s case, the following conditions are the ones that are most likely going to become an issue:

With these conditions in mind, it’s best you keep detailed track of your dog’s background. You should ask the breeder for evidence that the dog’s parents have OFA or PennHIP clearances for hips. This information should give you some idea of whether or not hip dysplasia will be an issue.

If the breeder doesn’t provide you with this information, you should run away fast. These clearances are standard operating procedures for reputable breeders. If they don’t have them, it’s most likely because something fishy is going on at that facility.

For bloat and GDV, all you have to do is watch the speed of their eating. These two conditions are usually the product of a large dog eating too fast; it’d be a good idea to separate their food intake into two or three sessions throughout the day.

And for the eye conditions, keeping a routine vet visit should ensure your Tosa Inu’s eyes stay in good shape.

Note: if you agree that your health and your dog's health should be a top priority then get a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health. Your Tosa Inu friend will love you for it. This guide will help save you money, time and most of all help you keep your dog healthy.

The Grooming Requirements of the Tosa Inu

As a short coated dog, the grooming requirements for  Tosa Inu aren’t too extensive or complicated. But when grooming is necessary, it’ll end up taking a significant amount of time given their massive size.

A good guideline to follow is bathing them every three months. You should use a mild vet-recommended dog shampoo, which is soothing for his coat. It’s also a good idea for you to invest in a high-quality bristle brush and use it once a week.

You’ll want to use coat conditioner to improve their coat’s sheen as well. Another area of concern is the Tosa Inu’s facial wrinkles, which can be prone to getting skin fold infections; use a damp cloth and dry them to avoid this from happening.

Other than these few things, the rest of the Tosa Inu’s grooming requirements are general care things:

  • Checking their ears weekly for buildups
  • Trim their nails monthly
  • Brush their teeth regularly

Finding Your Tosa Inu

If you feel like the Tosa Inu temperament will be a good fit, finding one could prove difficult. As with any dog, you’ll have two ways of getting one, adopt or buy. But since these dogs have a notorious fighting reputation, there aren’t a lot of available.

And in the following areas, residents are even prohibited from owning them because of these reputations:

  • Australia
  • Denmark
  • Fiji
  • Iceland
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Tunisia
  • United Kingdom

As a result, it’ll be an uphill battle to obtain a Tosa Inu. But there are ways of doing so, and we’ll discuss these down below.

Tosa Inu for Sale

The amount of Tosa Inu breeders in North America is incredibly low given their rarity and lack of demand. But from our research, it seems that there are three Tosa Inu reputable breeders within the North American borders:

  • Southeast Tosa: Located in the Southern United States, this kennel produces some of the very best Tosas in America. They’re able to do because their males and females come from Japan.
  • Pride Rock Tosa Kennel: Since being established in 2006, this kennel has prided themselves in creating high-quality Tosas that showcase this breed’s best qualities. You’ll find them located in Houston, Texas.
  • Tosa House: From Ontario, Canada, this breeder raise each one of their bred puppies from inside their home. It’s also essential we note that every one of their puppies is both  OFA and OVC certified.

Outside of these three breeders, you won’t have much luck tracking down a reputable Tosa Inu breeder in USA. However, you can also try by using the American Kennel Club’s database and tracking down an available puppy that way.

In most cases, Tosa Inu puppies for sale cost you somewhere between $1,700 – $2,500. This expensive price is a result of the breed’s rarity within the United States.

Tosa Inu for Adoption

Finding a Tosa Inu at a shelter or rescue will be virtually impossible. When people buy these dogs, they tend to keep them. But if you want to try and adopt one anyway, certain places might have one available.

The first thing you should do is check Petfinder.com, which will quickly tell you where there’s a Tosa Inu available near you. If this doesn’t work out, you should move onto a site like AnimalShelter.org that’ll help you search for a Tosa Inu rescue group

For instance, the Gentle Giants Recuse would be an example of a place these sites would point you towards. If you're lucky enough to find one, there are some questions you should ask because of the dog’s aggressive nature:

  1. Does he/she have a high energy level?
  2. How old is he/she?
  3. Are there any biting incidents you need to know about?
  4. Is he/she good with other animals?
  5. Does he/she have any issues with certain people such as men, children, or strangers?
  6. What is his/her personality like?
  7. How well-trained is he/she? Is he/she housetrained?
  8. Are there any health issues?

Each of these questions will provide you with some background about what you might be getting into. After all, a mishandled Tosa Inu can be quite a handful given its size and strength.

But once you do find one that you feel comfortable adopting, the adopted Tosa Inu dog price averages around $300. It includes all the expenses of caring for the dog before the adoption.

Conclusion: Is the Tosa Inu the Right Dog For You?

If you’re an experienced owner with a lot of patience, the Tosa Inu temperament could be a worthwhile challenge. After all, when properly trained, these dogs become lovable giants that’ll do anything to please their owners.

But if you’re a first-time owner or need a low-maintenance animal, you should look toward another dog breed. In these situations, a Tosa Inu will not thrive and will represent a massive liability in your life