Japanese Terrier: The National Treasure of Japan

Japanese Terrier wearing red collar
John Walton
Written by John Walton

What comes to mind when you think about the Japanese? Is it their loyalty? Their pride and integrity? The Japanese have developed a culture that revolves around respect. If you’re fascinated by this and would love to develop a relationship with a canine companion that is based on mutual respect, then the Japanese Terrier is the perfect breed to go for.

The Japanese Terrier is an affectionate, lively, and loyal companion that can be the perfect addition to your family. If you’re looking for a protective dog, the Japanese Terrier is also a good choice. Although they are small, they are full of energy, and they definitely pack a punch.

The Japanese Terrier’s most significant trait, though, is how prideful they are. These dogs don’t like being teased. So, if you’re a calm person who’s looking for a quiet and well-behaved canine companion, look no further.

What other unique personality traits does this Japanese breed exhibits? If you’d like to know more about the Japanese Terrier—and we’re sure you do—you’ll be glad to know that this article has everything you need. Learn about how this breed came to be, what to expect from them, and how to care for them in this comprehensive article.

Breed Characteristics

Japanese Terrier standing

  • Adaptability: High; but the Japanese Terrier always has to be the dominant one in the house

  • Trainability: Moderate; the Japanese Terrier is prideful and may quickly become frustrated with extended training sessions

  • Health and Grooming: Good; low-maintenance

  • All Around Friendliness: Good; the Japanese Terrier usually chooses a special “favorite” person in the family to bond closely with

  • Exercise Needs: High; energetic and needs daily exercise

Dog Breed GroupTerriers
Height8 to 13 inches
Weight11 to 13 pounds
Lifespan9 to 12 years

The Japanese Terrier was originally bred to hunt mice and other rodents. They gradually became small companion and lapdogs, becoming more and more popular within Japan.

However, after World War II, they became nearly extinct with only a small number surviving. Nowadays, they’re very rare even within their native country of Japan.

Though Japanese Terriers exist only in small numbers, they’re great dogs. The Japanese Terrier is lively, happy, loyal, and playful by nature. They love being the center of attention, thus, work well in families that do not have other animals. If there are other dogs or animals in the family, as long as they’re submissive, the Japanese Terrier will adapt well.

Japanese Terriers will typically choose a “favorite” person in the family they’ll bond with over the other members. This is because they’re very sensitive and emotional dogs. Since they’re emotional, they need calm owners and quiet households, so, if your house is typically wild, this isn’t the breed for you.

This is a very low maintenance breed; Japanese Terriers are easy to groom as they only need moderate brushing. They don’t need much attention with regards to bathing as well. However, you will have to keep up with daily toothbrushing as smaller breeds are especially prone to periodontal disease.

See Also: Periodontal Disease in Dogs: Watch Out for Teeth Infections

Main Highlights

Japanese Terrier on the sea background

  • The Japanese Terrier doesn’t really exist outside of Japan.

  • The Japanese Terrier is a very lively and cheerful breed. These dogs love their families. However, they do tend to play favorites. They will choose a “special” person in the family to bond with over others.

  • The Japanese Terrier has high energy levels.

  • These dogs require minimal grooming.

  • Terriers, in general, were developed to hunt rats and other rodents, and the Japanese Terrier is no exception to that rule. However, in modern years, the Japanese Terrier is mainly kept as a lap dog.

  • Many experts feel that the Japanese Terrier came to be through the mixing of native dogs with terriers which were brought by European traders to Japan in the 18th century.

  • Japanese Terriers do not like being teased as they’re quite emotional and can be stubborn at times.

  • Their pride makes them quite difficult to train because they tend to become frustrated halfway through the training session.

  • The Japanese Kennel Club recognized the Japanese Terrier in 1930.

  • In 2006, the United Kennel Club recognized the Japanese Terrier.

Breed History

Japanese Terrier puppy

The Japanese Terrier has quite an interesting history. Their existence began in the 17th century—this was when the Fox Terriers were brought to Japan by Dutch and British ships.

The Fox Terriers were bred with small Pointers and native dogs. It wasn’t until 1916 in the Nada district near Kobe, Japan, that the first Japanese Terrier named Kuro was born. Japanese Terriers were originally bred to hunt rodents including rats and mice, however, through time they transformed into lap dogs.

In 1930, the Japanese Terrier was accepted into the Japanese Kennel Club. The breed almost became extinct after World War II, but luckily small numbers of the breed survived within Japan and out of Japan. In 2006, the Japanese Terrier was recognized by the United Kennel Club.


Japanese Terriers are squarely proportioned and very muscular dogs, yet, they’re quite small in size, standing at 6 to 9 inches tall and weighing only 11 to 13 pounds.

They look very much like the Rat Terrier. They have wide foreheads with a defined muzzle and dark eyes. Their ears flop over, yet, when alert, they stand up perfectly straight. Their tails are docked, and though they’re muscular in build, they’re extremely lightweight and agile.

Personality and Character

Japanese Terrier playing

Japanese Terriers have an interesting personality. They’re highly intelligent and lively dogs to live with. At the same time, they can be gentle and reserved, just like other terrier breeds.

However, if they see animals they consider prey, such as a squirrel, they’ll have a burst of energy and will intensely chase the critter down, regardless of whether the animal is actually larger than them or not.

While they’re full of energy, they’re also content sitting in your lap. Yes, they’re small dogs, however, like most small dogs, they pack a powerful personality. They’re courageous, loyal, and, overall, they make great companion dogs.

Japanese Terriers tend to attach themselves to one person in the family. Thus, if they feel that their favorite person is being attacked, they’ll stand in front of them and protect them. Now, this doesn’t mean that they’ll attack, but they will bark and cause a scene.

See Also: How to Calm Down a Dog

They’re also very sensitive, and while they love to play, they hate being teased. You’ll have to test their limits and see what bothers your Japanese Terrier and what they’re able to handle. They do best with calm owners and quiet homes where they’ll be able to get the attention they need.

Health and Potential Problems

Japanese Terrier playing in grass with a stick

The Japanese Terrier, in general, is a healthy and strong breed. So owners won’t encounter many health issues with them. But this doesn’t mean that they’re not prone to minor health issues like all breeds are.

There are some health conditions which can occur with the Japanese Terrier which you should be aware of:

  • Patellar Luxation: this occurs when the dog’s kneecap is dislocated from its normal position.

  • Ear Infections: occurs when a bacterial or viral infection affects the middle section of the ear. It can be cured with the use of antibiotics.

  • Eye Problems: this can include, cataracts, glaucoma, entropion, corneal wounds, and cherry eye. Depending on the eye condition, it’ll be dealt with differently.

The good news is, you can diminish the risk of your dog contracting these diseases by routinely checking your dog and taking them to their required vet checkups.

Care Features

The Japanese Terrier is a well-rounded breed and isn’t high maintenance. Though they’re able to sit contently in your lap while you watch a movie or hang out at a cafe, they also enjoy getting their daily dose of exercise.

If you’re able to provide them with off-leash exercise, that’ll be the best as they’ll be able to run. Though make sure the area is properly fenced or that they’re trained well enough to listen to your commands. They’re not dogs who should be left alone in the yard but rather do best when interacting with other dogs and family members.

Feeding Schedule

Japanese Terrier face

The Japanese Terrier needs to be fed high-quality food. They’re active dogs, so make sure that their food contains an adequate amount of protein. If they’re more active, opt for food made for highly active dogs.

See Also: What are the Best Dog Food Brands?

Generally, they prefer to eat small meals throughout the day as opposed to one large meal. Lastly, make sure that you supply them with a clean, fresh bowl of water which is available for them at all times.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Japanese Terrier's dark head

Japanese Terriers have short, smooth, glossy, and dense coats. They typically come in white with only black or black-and-tan heads. Sometimes, the color patches can also appear on their legs and body.

If you’re concerned about spending too much time and energy grooming, you’ll be happy to know that the Japanese Terrier is very easy to groom. They’re extremely low maintenance, and they shed moderately.

The most grooming you’ll have to do is the occasional brush just to remove any dead hair. You can do this on a weekly basis. Concerning bathing, you won’t have to bathe them on a regular basis—simply when they start to smell. You’ll have to bathe them probably once a month.

Smaller dogs are especially prone to periodontal disease, so, in order to keep this condition from happening, you’ll want to brush their teeth on a daily basis. Brushing their teeth will reduce plaque and minimize tartar buildup. If you want your Japanese Terrier to be happy and healthy, invest some time in brushing his/her teeth for optimal oral and internal health.

See Also: Brushing Dogs Teeth

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

The Japanese Terrier is generally friendly with children and other pets. Although, they’re quite sensitive and emotional, thus, do not like being teased or dominated. So, if you have very young children, you may want to wait until they are a little older before you adopt a Japanese Terrier into the family.

If you have other animals in your home, the Japanese Terrier will be challenging them as these dogs like to be the dominant one in the house. If your dogs or cats are submissive and gentle, they’ll do just fine with them.

Wrap Up

two Japanese Terriers walking together

The Japanese Terrier is a rare, yet amazing breed. They’re emotional, sensitive, loyal, playful, and intelligent. Thus, if you’re someone who’s calm and has a quiet home to offer them, the Japanese Terrier will be a great addition to it. They’re extremely loyal animals and tend to attach themselves to one person in the family, showing true loyalty and emotion.

Though they’re considered to be lap dogs, they’re also packed with energy and love to socialize with other dogs on and off-leash. So, if you have the time to invest in daily walks and runs, they’ll be as happy as can be in your company. Though, do make sure they’re properly trained to respond to your commands as they love to chase squirrels.

The Japanese Terrier is also very low maintenance and doesn’t require constant grooming and bathing. Weekly brushing and monthly baths are enough for them. Though, you will need to pay extra attention to tooth-brushing to prevent periodontal disease.

As you can see, the Japanese Terrier is an easy-going and lovable breed. They love attention, playing, and being with their family. Do you think that the Japanese Terrier breed is for you? Let us know what you love most about this breed! Also, do share your story if you’ve interacted with a Japanese Terrier before.

If you decide to adopt a Japanese Terrier, we have another article that you don’t want to miss out on. Check out our list of little dog names to find the perfect moniker for your new buddy.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.