Kai (Kai Ken)

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black & brindle, red & brindle, brindle
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The Kai Ken (Kai Inu, Tora Inu) is one of the six spitz-type dogs native to Japan. It’s a medium-sized dog with brave and reliable character. It is renowned for its ability to climb the tree like a cat. This dog will make a wonderful, devoted and tender family companion.

The Kai Ken developed in XVIII century in Japan in the mountainous area of Kai (today’s Yamanashi Prefecture), which granted the breed its name. The Shika Inu (translated as «medium-sized dog») is deemed to be the forefather of the breed. There is also close relation of the dog with the Ainu and Shiba Inu. Usually it was used for hunting on Kamoshika, a variation of mountain antelope, but its stamina and versatility enabled it to be exploited to hunt many different kind of the game, for example, wild boar and deer.

Another name for the dog is «Kai tora-ken» («tora» designates «tiger»). There is a suggestion that the dog’s unruly and fierce demeanour is the main reason for the name but it bears most probably the relation to the dog’s brindle coat.

For millennia all Nihon Kens (Japanese dogs) preserved unchanged because of country’s isolated location and government restricted policies. As the foreigners were allowed to the Japan, the Nihon Ken was interbred with Western breeds thus diluting its purity. During the Showa period extensive measures were taken to restore and preserve last original dogs. Teams were formed to search around the country to find and record these dogs. Luckily, in the secluded area of the Yamanashi Mountains the searchers detected substantial amount of purebred specimens to initiate the breeding program.

In 1931 Dasuke Adachi, a prosecutor in Kofu city, noticed the dog with the brindled coat and it instantly captivated him. Later this type of dog was discovered in Ashiyasu village. The prosecuter and other affluent citizens formed a group which goal was to find and save this rare variety of Nihon Ken. After many hardships Dasuke Adachi managed to locate and get back to Kofu two best suited specimens. From this point the history of re-establishment of the Kai Ken officially began. The program happened to be a complete success and in 1933, thanks to the efforts of a Japanese breeder and researcher Haruo Isogai, the Kai Ken was declared by the government of Japan as a Living Natural Monument.

The people who owned the Kai Ken got considerable tax incentives, which led to increase in population of the dog. Due to this measure the breed’s number didn’t dwindle in the wake of the Second World War. At that time the dog also served at local government offices and police departments.

In 1934 the Kai Ken was granted recognition by the Japanese Kennel Club. Some specimens were brought to America in the 1950s and now it can be found all over the country. The breed is viewed to be rare and it is honoured in Japan as «national treasure». Today the Kai is primarily kept by the public as a home pet, but it still serves as hunting dog on pheasant, wild boar, and deer.


The Kai Ken is brave and independent due to its nature of the hunter. It will become a devoted friend to all family members but the dog is prone to choose one person for the role of the master. This breed likes to keep the situation under control and tends to be stubborn therefore it requires a fair amount of time and effort to be properly socialized. It gets along well with children and can become willing companion in their games.
The Kai Ken is good with strangers though it may display shyness in front of them. With appropriate training this vigilant and alert dog has high potential as watch dog. Guarding is not its natural disposition so it will not become an excellent protection dog.

The Kai Ken used to live and work in a pack and it tends to form close bonds with other dogs. It can co-exist with them especially well then they have been raised together. The dog retains much of its prey drive intact so the cat may become for it too strong temptation to resist a chase. But in most cases cats and other pets won’t be harasses by the Kai Ken if they have grown up together.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• allergies;
• seizures;
• patellar luxation;
• hypodontia;
• cryptorchidism.

The Kai Ken’s coat is easy to attend to. It demands a weekly brushing to prevent mats and tangles from developing. Bath is required only when it is absolutely necessary. The dog sheds substantially once or twice a year. During these periods the visit to a professional groomer may be needed.

The rest is a basic care. Check your dog’s ears for the signs of possible infection and wipe them with wet soft cloth as the dirt piles up. Regular nail trimming is a must since long nails cause great discomfort to the dog.

The Kai Ken is considered to be headstrong and disobedient but at the same time intelligent and canny. Therefore its training offers a great challenge. The training sessions should start from the puppyhood, when the dog is ready to soak up everything that you have for it. Being an outstanding problem solver the Kai should be treated as such and provided with wide range of fun and challenging tasks. The handler should use only reward-based techniques and verbal encouragement, which allows to achieve desired results in dog’s training much faster.

The Kai Ken is known to be the least responsive and the most savage among the Japanese breeds. Its socialisation should be initiated from the early age and it will help it to react adequately to unknown circumstances.

The Kai Ken is a sporting dog and needs to be physically active every single day. This dog should be taken for prolonged and energetic walk that should last at least an hour. The leash is mandatory otherwise it can run away consumed with some attractive scent of captivated by the prey drive.

However, this breed will greatly enjoy the opportunity to surf the surroundings off-leash on the territory with high fence. The rural environment fits the best for the Kai, though it’s able to get used to urban life.