Shikoku Dog: The Versatile, People-Loving Dog Who Is Always on Their Feet

Shikoku Dog standing
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Who doesn’t love a dog who will welcome you with a wagging tail, some jumping, and lots of licks and nibbles? This is the perfect picture of the Shikoku dog. The Shikoku is an adorable and handsome dog who is known for their versatility.

This dog is a great hunter, a perfect watchdog, and the perfect family companion. They love the outdoors and if you are an outdoor person, be assured that with a Shikoku you will never walk alone. Although they are not aggressive, they are very alert and territorial and will always protect you.

The Shikoku is easy to groom, clean, and does not have a dog odor. They will be quiet and calm indoors provided you exercise them enough. They will get along well with your children, and they may even make them laugh with their athletic and acrobatic abilities.

If you wondered what it takes to own a Shikoku or what makes this dog tick, then you are in luck. We will give you detailed information about this breed. Included in this article are the breed’s origin, care features, health issues, children and pet compatibility, and grooming among other details. By the time you are done reading this article, all that will be left is for you to decide whether this dog is great for you or not.

Breed Characteristics

Shikoku Dog staying on a stone

  • Adaptability: Good: although the dog will be quiet and calm indoors, it is best suited for active owners who love the outdoors

  • Trainability: Moderate; treats and other positive reinforcements have been shown to encourage the dog to be a good learner

  • Health and Grooming: Moderate; they do not require regular bathing, and they are very healthy

  • All Around Friendliness: Moderate; they are not aggressive, but they make wonderful watchdogs. They love to dominate other dogs

  • Exercise Needs: High Maintenance; Shikoku dogs do well when they are physically and emotionally stimulated

Dog Breed GroupPrimitive Spitz
HeightMales: 19-21 inches
Females: 17-19 inches
WeightMales: 40-50 pounds
Females: 35-45 pounds
Lifespan10-13 years

The Shikoku Inu is a hunting and working Spitz dog from Japan. The dog’s origin can be traced to the mountainous Shikoku Island in Japan where it was used to hunt bears and deer.

It is one of the purest dog breeds in the world. This is due to the isolation of the Shikoku Island that allowed the dog to develop with minimal cross breeding. The rare breed was designated as a living natural monument in 1937 in its native country.

The Shikoku Ken is a loyal an intelligent dog that is known for its hunting prowess. It is also a very active dog and an excellent watchdog. Today the dog is commonly used as a family companion and a watchdog. They love to spend time with family, and they are very loyal to their master.

This intelligent breed needs an experienced handler, as they can be stubborn and impulsive. The trainer should be patient and firm. If well trained, they will learn even the most difficult of commands and learn how to compete in agility, obedience, and tracking trials. However, they will need motivation in the form of tasty treats or another positive reinforcement. Training sessions should be short, fun, and consistent

This breed gets along well with children, especially if raised with them. However, they will chase pets around and might not get along well with dogs of the same sex. Early socialization and obedience training are essential for the dog.

The Shikoku Inu’s alertness and territorial nature allow this dog to be an excellent watchdog. They are very suspicious of strangers and a good judge of character. This dog is not prone to barking. They will communicate using growls and howls.

They will be quiet and calm indoors, and since they do not have a dog odor, they are sometimes kept as indoor pets. However, they love the outdoors and will do better out there, where they can run and play freely.

This active breed requires mental and physical exercises such as walks and jogging. Owners of the dog should fence their yard with high fence, as these are known escape artists.

Main Highlights

Shikoku Dog standing on grass

  • The Shikoku Inu originated from the Shikoku Island in Japan

  • The Japanese soldiers also referred to as Matangi used these dogs as working and hunting dogs

  • The Shikoku Inu is very similar in appearance to the Shiba Inu

  • It is considered as one of the purest dog breeds in the world as it developed in isolation in the Shikoku Island

  • In 1937, the Japanese government established the dog as one of its national treasures

  • This Japanese breed is considered to be very rare and its population in Japan is between 5,000 to 8,000

  • This loyal and versatile dog is today bred as a watchdog and a family companion

  • The dog is courageous, playful, hardy, and light on their feet

  • The Shikoku Inu loves family companionship and treats members of their family with affection and loyalty

  • The dog is suspicious of strangers and they are known to be a good judge of character

  • Your Shikoku will get along well with your children especially if brought up with them

  • Due to their hunting instincts, they are known to chase pets around the home

  • This breed might pick a fight with dogs of the same sex as they love to dominate

  • The Shikoku Inu are not prone to excessive barking

  • This active dog needs an experienced handler as they can be a handful for first time owners

  • The Shikoku needs motivation during training and the trainer should be patient and firm

  • This medium-sized dog is a known escape artist due to their curiosity and hunting instincts; thus they need a home with a high fence

  • The Shikoku Inu is an active dog who needs to be taken for jogging or long walks on a daily basis

  • This breed can be kept indoors as they have no dog odor provided they are well exercised

  • This medium-sized breed has a life expectancy of 10 to 13 years and is considered a healthy breed

  • The American Kennel Club, the Japanese Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, and the Canadian Kennel Club among others recognize the breed

Breed History

Shikoku dog standing in snow

The Japanese hunters who are commonly known as the Matagi initially bred the Shikoku as a hunting dog. The dog was used to hunt deer and wild boars in Kochi, a mountainous area in the Shikoku Island. The Shikoku was highly valued by the hunters, which helped in the preservation of this breed.

Additionally, since the Shikoku Island was very isolated, the breed is almost completely pure, as the dog did not cross breed with other dogs. This breed is in fact considered one of the purest dog breeds around the globe.

The Shikoku Inu was originally known as Tosa Ken but was renamed as most people confused it with the Tosa Fighting dog. The breed was developed by the domestication of wolf-like dogs that were found in the Shikoku islands.

The Shikoku is a rare dog breed, and the annual registration of the dog is between 300 to 500 dogs. The total estimated population of the dog in its native country is between 5,000 to 8,000 dogs. The breed was established as one of Japan’s national treasures in 1937.

After the First World War, the economy of Japan was very weak and owning a dog was for the rich. This led to the decline in the numbers of Shikoku dogs. However, in 1928, an organization referred to as Nihon Ken Hozonkai was formed to preserve the native Japanese dogs—Shikoku dog being one of them.

The preservation efforts determined that the Shikoku dog is separable into three distinct bloodlines: the Awa, Hongawa, and Ata. These bloodlines are named in accordance to their original location on the Shikoku island.

The Shikoku Inu was accepted by FCI in 1992, in the class of primitive dogs. In 2014, the dog was accepted by the American Kennel Club.


This mid-sized dog is very similar to the Shiba Inu in appearance. It has a big broad forehead and triangular eyes. The muzzle is long and has a wedge shape. The dog has pricked ears that face forward and a high set, thick tail that is curled on the dog’s back.

The dog’s lips and nose are black, and the teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The dog has powerful hind legs and straight forelegs. The feet have arched toes, and the pads are well rounded. The body is muscular and compact, covered by a short double coat.

Personality and Character

Shikoku puppies playing

This agile dog is very restless and extremely active. During the day, they are always doing something, and you will rarely find them sleeping. This is why they are highly recommended for active people who love the outdoors. You will have to provide your Shikoku with regular exercises both physically and emotionally. They will enjoy walking, jogging, and even hiking.

The Shikoku Inu is a highly intelligent dog with a perfect memory. Training can be a breeze for experienced handlers. They are known to learn even the most difficult of commands. However, they require motivation during training, since they are known to be an independent thinker, stubborn, and impulsive.

The Shikoku should never be left to roam freely outside especially if not trained in obedience. They are hunters and will explore and chase pets around. When outside, they should always be on a leash.

See Also: How to Make a Paracord Dog Leash

This is a people-loving dog, and they enjoy the company of their family. However, they are known to be more of a one-person dog, which means once they recognize their owner, they will literally die for him/her. They will not be happy when away from their owner for long periods. Ensure you are available to keep them happy.

Health and Potential Problems

Shikoku dog smiling

The Shikoku life expectancy is 10 to 13 years. This breed is known to be very healthy since it has developed with little human interference. However, the breed still suffers from common dog health problems. Some of them are explained below.

#1: Elbow Dysplasia

This is a condition caused by abnormalities in the dog’s tissues and bones. The abnormalities cause malformation of the Shikoku elbow joints. The condition will be characterized by pain and lameness.

The condition is genetic although other causes might include trauma, a high protein diet, fast growth rate, poor nutrition, rapid weight gain, and exercise levels.

Signs of the condition can be observed when your dog is 4 to 10 months, but your vet can make a formal diagnosis using x-ray when the dog is 4 to 18 months.

The treatment of the condition will depend on the severity of the symptoms. In most cases, surgery is recommended.

#2: Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common genetic condition in dogs. It occurs when your dog’s hip joints fail to develop properly, causing them to dislocate. The condition is characterized by pain and immobility.

Although this is a genetic problem, other factors such as rapid weight gain, pelvic muscle mass, and nutritional factors have been said to cause or worsen the problem. The signs of hip dysplasia in your Shikoku will be similar to arthritis in humans. The dog will have painful joints, stiffness, and will find it difficult to move.

Diagnosis can be made through the use of x-ray and physical exams. Treatment options include hip replacement, healthy diet, anti-inflammatory medications, joint supplements, exercises, and maintaining a healthy diet.

See Also: Best Orthopedic Dog Bed

#3: Dilated Cardiomyopathy

This is a heart condition that occurs when the heart muscles of your Shikoku become weak and diseased. This prevents the heart from doing its job right. When this condition strikes, your dog’s heart chambers will become enlarged, and the heart will be unable to pump blood effectively.

Ineffective circulation of blood will see muscles and organs becoming weak. Fluid accumulation is another notable sign that will be characterized by swollen ankles in your dog. Other characteristics will include coughing due to fluid buildup in the dog’s lungs and decreased activity in the dog.

Diagnosis of the condition can be made using different tests that include a radiograph, a blood test, blood pressure test, an echocardiogram, and an electrocardiograph.

Treatment is provided in the form of modification in diet, the use of diuretics that help to clear fluid, drugs that relax the blood vessels, and drugs that assist the dog’s heart muscles to pump blood effectively.

See Also: Enlarged Heart in Dogs

#4: Allergies

Allergies are common in Shikoku dogs that live in warm climates. Some of the symptoms accompanying an allergic reaction in your Shikoku Inu include swollen eyes, clogged nasal passage, runny eyes, and excessive mucus.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction, it is good to identify the trigger. Triggers can include certain foods, airborne pollutants, products such a shampoo, and some cleaners. Your vet can also help you diagnose if your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction and they will help you recognize the trigger of the reaction.

See Also: Dog Allergy Treatment

Care Features

Shikoku Dog on a leash

The Shikoku Ken needs ample space where they can run and play freely. However, the dog can still be kept indoors since they are very clean and have no odor. They can also keep calm and be gentle indoors.

However, if you keep your Shikoku dog indoors, ensure you play with them or keep them occupied with tasks. This ensures that the dog does not get bored or unhappy which can result in destructive behaviors.

Training sessions should be short and enjoyable for the dog. The lessons should not be repetitive. Treats and other positive reinforcement techniques have been known to be very successful at motivating this breed. The handler also needs to be patient to make a learner out of the Shikoku Inu.

The Shikoku dog is also known to be an athletic dog that can climb, jump, and swim. Unfortunately, the athletic skills in this dog make them good escape artists. Further, their curiosity due to their hunting instincts will see them climb a wall or a fence as they explore the neighborhood. Ensure you keep the compound enclosed with a high fence to avoid getting into trouble with your neighbors.

See Also: Best Invisible Dog Fence

Feeding Schedule

Shikoku Dog's head

This medium-sized breed needs to be fed on formulae that can cater to their digestive needs. Further, the diet also needs to be in line with the dog’s age.

Most of the dog food manufacturers will have a diet that is age and breed specific. The recommended dry kiddle diet for the dog should have 20 to 25% protein, 12 to 15% fat, moderate carbohydrates, and little moisture.

It is always good to work with your breeder or veterinarian to determine the best diet for your Shikoku. The vet will also advise you on the frequency of feeding your dog. Provide your Shikoku Inu with fresh, clean water always.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Shikoku Dog puppies of different colors

The dog’s body is covered with a short double coat. The coat’s hair is longer on the tail, buttocks, and the neck. The outer coat is straight and harsh while the undercoat is dense and soft. The length of the coat will depend on the climate of the dog’s home.

Accepted color types of this dog include sesame, red, black, and white or cream. The white cream color is usually present on the dog’s chest, stomach, cheeks, above the eyes, muzzle, feet, shoulders, lower neck, and the lower part of the tail. Solid white or cream Shikoku dogs are not acceptable.

This dog is known to shed twice or once a year. During this time, regular brushing using an undercoat rake is recommended. During other times of the year, the dog will do with twice or once a week brushing.

The Shikoku Dog has no dog odor. Thus regular bathing is not ideal for them. Over bathing can dry out the dog’s skin and natural oils. You can bath them a few times a year.

Trim the Shikoku’s fast-growing nails regularly to avoid splitting and overgrowth. Check the dog’s ears and eyes to avoid infections. Clean the ears to prevent wax buildup and debris. Regularly brush the dog’s teeth to avoid dental problems.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

two Shikoku Dog licking each other

The Shikoku Ken is the perfect family pet that will get along well with children if raised with them and if the dog is well socialized at an early age. They get along best with older children.

Small children should be taught how to play with the dog. They should avoid teasing and any form of mistreatment. The children also need to be taught to respect the dog and treat them right.

Shikoku dogs are known to use their mouth when communicating, and if ignored during play, the dog might pull or nibble on your child’s hand. This can frighten a toddler, and it is best to also teach the dog how to respect and play with children.

The Shikoku Inu is territorial, which makes them excellent watchdogs. The Shikoku is always alert and will draw your attention whenever there is a stranger in the home. They will use howls and growls to communicate as they are not prone to excessive barking.

This dog is a good judge of character and will avoid a person they do not like. Sometimes they are known to jump and lick their paws once they notice a person who is a threat to the owner or their family.

The Shikoku does not get along with other pets since their hunting and tracking instincts won’t let them leave other pets in peace. They will chase your cat, hamster, guinea pig, rabbit, chicken, and any other pet you might have in the home. Even if raised with pets, they will still chase any small pet in the home.

They might get along well with other dogs although this is not guaranteed. Sometimes, since they love to dominate, you will find them picking a fight with another dog—especially one of the same sex. Early socialization, training, and raising your Shikoku with other dogs help in most cases.

Wrap Up

Shikoku Dog with its tongue out

The Shikoku is a versatile breed with many good qualities. This dog is an excellent hunter, a great watchdog, and a wonderful companion. This breed is resourceful, intelligent, and active, and can survive in the harshest of terrains. They will keep you on your toes, as there is never a dull moment with the Shikoku Inu.

The Shikoku Inu is also the perfect watchdog that will keep you and your property safe. If you are looking for an indoor pet, you can also consider this breed although they will need you to keep them exercised both physically and emotionally.

Whether you are looking for a hunter or just a dog to keep you company during your outdoor activities, consider getting a Shikoku Inu. However, this is a rare breed, and you might have to really look to get a hold of this breed. Nevertheless, once you get hold of one, you will not regret it.

Do you think you have what it takes to keep up with a Shikoku Inu? If you own a Shikoku Inu, what is your experience with this breed? Let us know your opinions about the Shikoku in the comments section below. Check out our list of hunting dog names for inspiration when naming your dog!

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.