Friday, June 28, 2013

Good Breeders vs. Bad Breeders

I received a question on the blog concerning my export page. I started typing a reply, and it became a long one, so I'm posting it here.

"You've mentioned that you've worked with individuals as a translator looking to export breeds from Japan, in your experience, would you be able to recommended good breeders in Japan that you've come across?"

My first thought is that your definition of a good breeder, and mine, may be very different. I'm often looking for a specific type of dog for breeders overseas, so a good find would be an out cross line of dogs, quality type or working ability etc.

The honest truth is that in the Nihon Ken community here in Japan you will most likely not find a kennel that is a 'good breeder' according to the standards that most in North America and Europe apply.
So I guess then a simpler tack to take is defining a 'bad breeder'. For me a 'bad breeder' would be someone who knowingly sells unhealthy animals, does not breed for an ethical purpose, and lies or tries to rip people off.

I keep the term 'breeder' in quotation marks because the Nihon Ken community, led by the Japan Dog Preservation Society (NIPPO), is one that takes pride in amateurism, and discourages for profit activity. While there are professional Shiba and Akita kennels, the majority are amateur, and you will be hard pressed to find one that specializes in the medium sized breeds. 'Breeder' is a word that NIPPO members are not fond of, and they will usually bristle at being called one.

Going back to the point about a good vs. bad 'breeders', there is virtually no health/genetic testing done in Japan on the Japanese breeds. So, a pup you buy could be carrying any number of genetic issues. In the distant past when all the Nihon Ken were hunting dogs, breeding for function naturally culled out the dogs with bad hips, joints, hearts etc. Now that they are bred primarily for show, the end all is a dog that looks good, standing in the ring. This affects not only structure but temperament as well.

The Nihon Ken are not house pets, and most are kenneled outdoors their entire lives with no training whatsoever other than what is necessary to show in the ring (and some, not even that). They are not socialized, and are usually kenneled or crated singly, often in what would be described as bad (if not terrible) conditions by western standards. Ring temperament often translates into at least slightly dog aggressive dogs here in Japan, as a dog looks much more impressive when it is posturing at another dog.

Many kennels do not vaccinate their dogs, and do not give them monthly heartworm medication (filariasis is extremely common in Japan).

Simply put, most kennels here could be classified as back yard breeders overseas, with the difference being that the kennels here have extensive knowledge concerning standards, history, and breeding know how, as it pertains to their respective breeds. If you are looking for a 'breeder' that does health checks and is knowledgeable about health issues in their breed, trains their dogs, keeps them as companions, socializes their dogs, and houses them indoors, I would not have a single kennel in Japan I could recommend.


  1. It's great that you've addressed this topic.

    1. Explaining it every other mail got a bit old. A lot of people assume that kennels all over the world are the same, so best to get this out there and in the open.

  2. Great entry on Japanese kennels! I've been doing some research into the methods used in Japan for breeding, and they're definitely quite different than here in the US. There's definitely the same range of ethics and treatment, from terrible to excellent. It's also a culture difference. Whereas Western cultures are now viewing their dogs as children while Eastern Europe + Japan they are more viewed as working animals or livestock.

    1. That's definitely the case.
      As for me, I love my dogs, and they are just that, dogs. They are here to be my companions, at home, and in the mountains. They help put food on the table, and I do my best to keep them happy and well taken care of.

  3. I found this blog while looking for information about a dog originating in Okinawa. The Ryukyu-inu or Tula(tora)(tiger) dog. From what I have read so far it is an official breed but I wonder whether it is considered part of the Nihon-Ken group of dogs?

    1. The Ryukyu is a breed only recognized by the Ryukyu Ken Hozonkai (Ryukyu Dog Preservation Society). The society was established in 1990. There are only 6 breeds that are recognized as indigenous Japanese breeds (officially), the Akita, Shiba, Shikoku, Kishu, Hokkaido, and Kai.

  4. I am japanese dog breeder, Kai.
    This is not correct. Most of Japanese dog breeders are takingcare their health. They gives medicine for heart warm because there are so mosquits in Japan and if they dont, dogs die very fast. Actually most of kennels keep dog outside. But its just japanese customs. Because we Japanese take off shoes before enter house that's why most of breedres don't want to keep dogs in the houses.
    But I amliving with my dogs in my house and sleep in the same room(not in the bed).
    Most of japanese dogs well socuialized and suitable for show dogs.
    Actually I had exported some Kai puppies to Europe. Their breed is top of the top of Kai. They are Champions line breed puppies.
    This article is mostly misunderstanding.

    1. It sounds like you take great care of your dogs and they live a great life. Do you also x-ray for hip dysplasia, check patella, eyes, and do brucellosis and blood tests before breeding?
      It is unfortunate, but true, that most of the kennels I have been to in Japan do not give their dogs preventative medication for heartworm.

      The point of this post is not to point the finger and say that kennels here in Japan bad, the point is to explain that they are different from what people in the US and Europe expect.

  5. Thank you so much for this highly informative post. I recently got my first (white) akita inu and he is originally imported from Japan, although I bought him cheap from a kennel in Finland when he was 2 years old.
    It's a shame that he has D-grade hips already since he is a very lovely dog with a quite interesting pedigree as well. I am suspecting that I'm his first "real home" (breeder told me my dog has only been outdoors/in a dog yard before) and I hope he will live long, despite his bad hips...

    ☆ Ink & Sword Lifestyle Blog ☆

    1. I hope you and your pup have many happy years together.
      Unfortunately I still see quite a few Akita with poor hips.