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Kishu Ken Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 5, 2024 by Dogster Team


Kishu Ken Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

The Kishu Ken, also referred to as Kishu or Kishu Inu hails from the mountainous region of Kishu, Japan.

Some historians believe that the dog was bred over 3,000 years ago, but it was standardized in the 1930s. Kishu was honored as a National Treasure and designated as a Memorial of Nature.

A Japanese legend has it that the dog descended from wolves. It explains how a hunter rescued an injured wolf and asked for a wolf pup as a gift for kindness. As the story goes, the wolf brought the hunter a pup, which became the forefather of the Kishu.

Breed Overview


17 to 22 inches


30 to 60 pounds


11 to 13 years


White, red, bribdle, sesame, black & tan, black

Suitable for:

Active owners, singletons, families


Faithful, alert, docile, affectionate

In the past, this ancient breed was used for hunting boars and deer. Their strength, endurance, and ability to quietly stalk prey earned them a spot as the best companions for hunters. The dog would track the game and chase it toward the hunter for a kill, a strategy that increased the chances of a successful hunt.

Today, the Kishu Ken is more of a companion and show dog. Their intelligent and athletic nature works well in agility, rally, and obedience competitions.

Kishu Ken Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Kishu Ken Puppies

As a companion dog, the Kishu Ken is a docile and affectionate dog. They are highly intelligent, and they require plenty of physical and mental stimulation to keep them at their happiest. Kooikerhondjes are known for having high levels of energy, but they are very easy to train. They’re obedient and eager to learn, and they’re surprisingly very fast learners.

If you can offer your pup enough attention, regular exercise, and training sessions, and you’re ready to shower your dog with tons of love, the Kishu Ken might be a great dog for you. Keep reading their care guide to know what you can expect from these energetic dogs!


Temperament & Intelligence of the Kishu Ken

The Kishu Ken is loving and affectionate towards its owners. It may not be as cuddly as other dog breeds, but it will enjoy staying near its keepers. It’s not uncommon for a Kishu to develop a closer bond with one relative and become overprotective.

Kishus are also calm and affectionate with children making them good pets for families. Their high devotion and energetic nature make them great playmates. However, the pet does not enjoy rough handling and may growl at kids. Therefore, never leave your children unsupervised when interacting with the pet.

The breed is aloof to strangers. Even though it’s not aggressive towards new faces, the dog will become more vigilant and protective of the family. In the event of danger, a Kishu ken is brave and can die protecting its owner.

Due to their hunting genes, the Kishu Ken has an innate tendency to prey on small pets. Owners are advised against introducing animals like rats, guinea pigs, and hamsters because they are unsafe with the Kishu.  However, the dog can get along with your cat if it’s socialized at a young age.

The breed has inherent pack instincts that drive it to fight for dominance over other dogs. They also have a solid predatory drive which makes it impossible to predict their behavior around other dogs. However, if the introduction is slow and calm, the Kishu Ken may get along with them.

Kishus are also energetic, obedient, and devoted. They are excellent companions for owners with active lifestyles. You can take the dog with you when going jogging, hiking, or on hunting expeditions.

In addition, Kishu Kens are highly intelligent and can learn many things. However, start training at an early age because these dogs develop a dominant and headstrong personality when they mature.

These hunting dogs dislike being left alone for long periods. They can develop separation anxiety, become aggressive or engage in destructive behavior. You can avoid this by socializing with them at an early age.


Things to Know When Owning a Kishu Ken

You need to understand the diet requirements, adaptability, grooming, training, and health conditions of a Kishu Ken before getting one.

Food & Diet Requirements

The Kishu Ken thrives on high-quality dog food that matches their age. They can take homemade or commercially manufactured food as long as your veterinarian approves. The diet should be nutrient-dense to help the dog maintain its weight despite its high-energy nature.

It would be best if you watched the Kishu’s calorie consumption to prevent them from getting overweight. Also, limit offering treats as they too can lead to obesity. If you are worried about your dog’s weight, share your concerns with your vet


Kishus have medium energy levels and need daily exercise and stimulation. Due to the hunting instincts in their genes, you should engage the breed in quality activities rather than basic exercises.

To illustrate this, assume you always take the dog for a daily one-hour walk. With time, these routine walks can get boring for the dog due to the lack of stimulation.

So how can you turn physical activity into an enriching activity?

For starters, change the usual route when walking to the park. Regular change of scenery will be a welcome adventure for your pet. Also, tag your pet when going hiking, swimming, camping, hiking, and endurance activities.

In addition, have a yard where your dog can run freely. These dogs don’t do well in kennels and need plenty of space to keep them busy.

The breed also requires active play sessions to keep them mentally stimulated. You can get them a novel toy to capture the dog’s interest.

Remember, a bored and under-exercised Kishu may try to run away or engage in destructive behavior.


Kishu Inus are calm, alert, and intelligent. Compared to other dog breeds, Kishus learn fast. They are devoted and eager to learn. Kishus need gentle training, and you can motivate them with treats or their favorite toy. But that does not mean they are the easiest to train.

Their hunting instincts can quickly shift their attention from the training to the environment. Do not expect them to listen to you when they spot a rat or guinea pig. You might find that they grasp hunting lessons better than standard commands.

Kishu Ken training should start from a young age. This is because the breed is an intelligent problem solver. If they do not receive training as puppies, they will adapt to resolving their issues and working independently.

You can train and raise Kishus alongside children and small pets to promote peaceful coexistence. But never leave your child unsupervised when interacting with the breed.

In the past, Kishu Kens worked with hunters as boar- and deer-hunting dogs. You can put their intelligence and cooperation into good use today. You can train your pet for contemporary sports such as herding, agility, obedience, and lure coursing.

Grooming ✂️

The breed is low maintenance because they are moderate shedders. They shed their undercoat once or twice a year. During this time, they frequent brushing.

But when they are not shedding, weekly brushing with a firm bristle brush is enough to keep their coat healthy. You can also include an occasional bath for bonding purposes.

Pay attention to the dog’s ears to avoid wax and debris buildup, which often results in infection. Trim their fast-growing nails to avoid splitting, cracking, and overgrowth

In addition, brush their teeth regularly to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

Health Conditions

Minor Conditions
  • Bloating
  • Obesity
  • Lens luxation
Serious Conditions
  • Entropion
  • Hypothyroidism

Male vs. Female

Male and female Kishus share the same temperament. They are active, energetic, loyal, and friendly. Besides, both genders are intelligent, overfriendly, and have a high prey drive.

If you are torn, there is no superior gender when it comes to Kishus. Whether you choose a male or female, this dog will be your loyal companion.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Kishu Ken

1. The Kishu Ken Rarely Barks!

These dogs are relatively quiet, and that’s why they make excellent hunting companions. They quietly stalk their prey and may bay when closing in. They make ideal pets for owners who love a quiet home.

2. Hunters Preferred White Kishu Inus

The majority of the breed had coat colors like red, sesame, black, tan, and bridle when breeding began. However, due to hunter’s preference, white coats gained popularity and were used for breeding.

3. Kishus Came Close to Extinction

The breed almost came extinct after World War II.



The Kishu Ken is the perfect pet for active families. This hunting dog requires a lot of physical exercise and mental stimulation and will demand commitment and more time from its owner.

If you fit the profile, you may cough a thousand dollars or more for this pup. But in return, you’ll be taking home an affectionate, friendly, loyal, and protective companion. The Kishu forms outstanding bonds with family and is gentle with kids.

Featured Image Credit: Molica_an, Shutterstock

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