Monday, February 27, 2012


Recent events presented me with an opportunity to contemplate why I am involved with the Nihon Ken.

There are many things that brought me here, my love of dogs, hunting etc, but what has kept me here is a different reason altogether. When I first became involved with the Nihon Ken, a gentleman who has been breeding NK for over 40 years said to me that owning, breeding, and showing the NK is not about competing against other kennels or their dogs. It is a competition with one's self.

This is a part of Japanese culture that I find intriguing and amazing. We are all unique, running our own unique races. Life is about accepting our uniqueness and striving not in competition with another, but in competition with one's self. It is an eternal journey of introspection, contemplation, and bettering one's self.

This is what I have found in the Nihon Ken, a place to learn, to learn about myself and my dogs, to strive to improve myself, and also to preserve and hopefully improve these amazing animals that have been passed on to us from previous generations. Through raising, breeding, interacting with, working, and showing Nihon Ken, I learn about them, and about myself. And the more I learn, the more I learn that there is still so much more to learn.

I have had visitors from overseas remark on how wonderful it is to see the kennels here working together to preserve these breeds. Of course no one is perfect, and so there will always be some amount of friction, but overall there is definitely an atmosphere of unity as opposed to competition.  Kennels will send quality pups to other kennels as gifts, to help fix some flaw in certain lines etc. No matter what their differences and shortcomings, the overall goal is the preservation of the breeds. Everyone agrees on this.

I agree on this. I own Nihon Ken not to win titles in the ring, to have the best hunting dog, to have the best trained dog, own the rarest breed, for bragging rights, or any other myriad of egotistical reasons. I'm in this for the journey, to see how far, or just where I can go with my dogs, to enjoy it, learn from it, and try to help others do the same. I try to help connect kennels with prospective owners so that kennels can continue to breed, and others can have the chance to own these amazing dogs. I'm trying to find ways to keep the breeds healthy, here and overseas, by at least increasing the gene pool. Preservation, betterment, learning, I find it all enjoyable and healthy.

I think this sort of contemplation is important, to sit down every once in a while and ask yourself the simple questions, and give yourself honest answers. Once you find those answers, you can see the big picture, allowing yourself to see past all the nonsense in yourself and others that seems so important at times. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Coats: Summary

So to summarize the Japanese dog's coat, and what you want to look for, or breed away from...

Look for:

Correct colors

Deep hues
-this includes brindle markings, hues should preferably be a deep 'red', grey or yellow is not desirable
-dog's with sesame coats should still have exhibit deep coloration in the coat, no blending or grey

Correct urajiro and facial markings
-watch out for white creeping over parts of the body where it should not be
-in black/tan, make sure markings are correct

Breed away from:

Washed out colors

Incorrect colors/markings
-watch for correct markings on limbs/tails as well
-coloring in coat should be even over the dogs entire body. A sesame for example should preferably not have kuro-goma over its body, and aka-goma on it's head
-breed away from black masks in all the Japanese breeds (including the Kai)
-in 'kuro' watch out for red tipping, this is a fault

Some tips and anecdotal information.

-If you are breeding Kai, and keep breeding aka-tora x aka-tora, you will see a dilution of color/brindle
-In Shikoku, if you are not careful to watch the coloration of your line, you can also quickly see a dilution of color, especially if you breed toward one coloration
-The outer guard hairs of a sesame Shikoku are 'san-shoku-himou' or three-colored-outer-hairs. Guard hairs should show 3 colors, white or light at the bottom, then red/brown, with the tips being black. These three levels of color give the coat a deep full hue.

If I think of anything else, I'll add to this.

I often see people overseas post pictures of their dogs, and everyone comments how perfect they are. I have no problem with people loving their dogs, and others complimenting them if they think they are beautiful. I would like to take this opportunity to humbly remind NK owners/fanciers/breeders that it is important to actually understand the standard, be aware of your dog's good and bad traits, and breed toward the betterment and preservation of these breeds. I have many people with fair to poor examples of their breeds become very offended when they ask for, and I give, my honest opinion about their dog's conformation. A dog's conformation to its breed's standard is not based off of how many compliments it receives from novices, it is based on the standard.

**And I might add that I'll always mention that I'm just giving my opinion. If there's something in there you don't agree with, ask someone more knowledgeable. That's what I do.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Coat Color in the Japanese Dog Breeds

This next part is taken from the current NIPPO judging criteria governing coats.

Permissible amounts of 'buchige' (spotting/pinto/piebald) in the large type dog (Akita)

'Buchige' is permitted, except for large spots on the trunk and extremely unsightly spotting.

Note: Large spots on the torso refers to 'botan-buchi' (peony spots). Unsightly spotting refers to 'buchige' that is not Nihon Ken in nature (e.g. Holstein like patterns).

Concerning 'urajiro' (white markings on the ventral portions of the body) in outer coat color

White fur in the following areas is considered 'urajiro', and not 'buchige'.
1. On the muzzle and cheeks of the facial area. However, the bridge of the muzzle (blaze) and reverse masks are excluded.
2. Underside of jaw, neck, chest, and belly.
3. Forechest, extending up to the shoulder joint, but not spreading over the shoulder.
4. Forelimb to elbow joint, hindlimb to knee joint.
5. Tip of the tail.

Note 1: While 'urajiro' is a distinctive feature of the Nihon Ken, guidance should still be given to prevent it from leading to an expansion of white areas in the coat.
Note 2: Points deducted for conspicuous speckling on the limbs.

Yogore-shiro (dirty white/stained white) in the outer coat

1. Yogore-shiro (dirty white) refers to faded red coloration on the ears, neck, back, top of the hip, the limbs, and the tail. This is not desirable, but is accepted.
2. Yogore-shiro that has obvious edges showing piebald patterns is not allowed.

Outer coat in the medium and small type dog

1. Coat color should be clear and sharp. Give guidance toward rich hues devoid of muddiness, and endeavor to prevent fading colors.
2. A reverse mask (white spreading from above the eye onto both cheeks, and the bridge of the muzzle) is not desirable and points will be deducted.
Coat color in the medium type dog

1. Coat color for the Kishu and Shikoku : 'goma' (sesame), 'aka' (red), 'kuro' (black aka black/tan), 'shiro' (white). However white in the Shikoku is not desirable and points will be deducted.
2. Coat color for the Kai : 'tora' (brindle).
3. Coat color for the Hokkaido : goma' (sesame), 'aka' (red), 'kuro' (black aka black/tan),'tora' (brindle), 'shiro' (white).

Coat color in the small type dog

1. 'Aka' (red), 'goma' (sesame), 'kuro' (black aka black/tan), 'shiro' (white). However white is not desirable and points will be deducted.
2. A good sesame shall be one that is a relatively even mix of black, red, and white hairs spread over the entire coat. Coats showing parts with a strong black predominance are not desirable.
3. Black should be 'tetsu-sabi-shoku' (the color of rusted iron)

Note: 'Tetsu-sabi-shoku' is jet black (coal black) and should not have a glossy sheen. It refers to a black with a touch of brown as if it has been smoked.

Black coats

1. Anything which degrades the quality of a dog's facial appearance.
2. Smudged (loss of circular shape) 'yotsume' (four eye) pattern.
3. Excessive amounts of brown on the head, neck, back, and trunk etc.
4. Coats that begin to show 'nasu-kon-shoku' (eggplant-dark-blue) or grey-black coloration as the dog ages.

The above are all undesirable traits and points will be deducted accordingly.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Hunting season is over, but the dogs and I did have some fun together through the last couple weeks. Something that really stuck in my mind was the insane speed that I saw a deer flying downhill putting out. Baron picked up a hot scent, and ran around the other side of the ridge on it. As I was following him, the deer suddenly came flying down from the top of the ridge right behind me. I don't think I've ever seen a four legged animal move that fast in the mountains. How does a canine compete with that? I guess turn it into a marathon instead of a sprint event?

I've been busy with work, and some puppy related stuff as well. This little girl named 'Sumi' went to the Netherlands. She is out of Izumo Yano Sou lines. She is a great little girl with the sweetest temperament.

After burning the candle at both ends for quite a while, I managed to pick up the flu. Knocked me out for a few days, but I'm good as new now.

I'll add here that there are now puppies available. There are some Kai pups (even one white), Shiba pups, around 10 or so Shikoku pups (when it rains it pours!) from 5 different litters, and possibly some Akita as well.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Wow, it's already February. That was fast.

There's 2 weeks left in the hunting season, so hopefully I'll get out with the dogs this coming week. I had a hilariously frustrating time the last couple times I went out with one day involving 7 missed shots, a personal record. Several of those shots were in the 10m range, and I started wondering whether I was shooting blanks.

Work's busy, I'm getting pulled in by a lot of companies and individuals to help out on various projects. As usual maintaining the balance between too little and too much work is a tightrope act.

I've been working on translating the NIPPO standard for the Japanese Dog, and I've got an idea to not only translate it and put diagrams out there, but video as well. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a video worth?

I've had inquiries about the Nihon Ken from all over the globe this past month, the US, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Taiwan, and the Netherlands to name a few.

This will be another year full of surprises. Bring it on.