The Japanese Connection

Oh that holy grail for Nihon Ken lovers outside of Japan, the 'contact'. The person who will make your dreams of owning a Nihon Ken come true. With a bit of experience underneath my belt in this department, and fueled by a bit of frustration at the bad choices people make, I want to impart some of my knowledge gained from experience.

Firstly, in Japan, and especially in the dog world, who you know, and how you know them, is all important. You'll want an introduction if at all possible, as this starts your relationship with a kennel on a much better footing than if you are randomly mailing or calling kennels.

Secondly, internet searches are not the way to find the best dogs and kennels. In fact, this is often one of the worst ways to try to find a Nihon Ken. The Nihon Ken clubs (NIPPO, AKIHO, KKA, HKH etc) are primarily made up of amateurs, and most of the most influential and knowledgeable members are older and do not use the internet. They do not know how, and do not care to learn. The majority of kennels or persons with websites can be broken down into two categories: kennels who are breeding for profit (some better than others, but many are not much better than puppy mills), and individuals who are internet savvy with blogs to chronicle their life with their pet (more often than not they do not have very much knowledge about the breeds).

I'm not saying that you won't find quality dogs by randomly mailing every Japanese person with a Nihon Ken in their Facebook pictures, or a website. I'm saying that you're opening yourself up to a huge amount of risk. If you are new to the breed and probably should not be picking out dogs yourself yet anyway (for show or breeding) then it is even more important to make a connection with someone who can act as your mentor and give you advice regarding which dogs to purchase and breed. Time and time again I see pictures, hear stories, or see firsthand, the poor quality of many dogs that have been sent overseas by unscrupulous sellers. Dogs with obvious faults have been exported for large amounts of money, and it pains me to see this.

If you want to import good dogs, be patient, and do your due diligence. If you can't speak Japanese, find someone that can speak it fluently. Believe me, this will save you endless amounts of frustration. If your English is poor, don't try to use Google translate to communicate in English with a kennel in Japan that also does not speak English, and is using Google translate to communicate back (believe me I see a lot of this nowadays, and it's causing huge problems). Technology is a wonderful thing, but the most important thing is still face to face personal relationships. Don't try to take short cuts or rush to import. This is a sure fire way to fail.

And some advice from an AKIHO kennel I was speaking with yesterday, find someone to translate for you that knows the Nihon Ken, or at least dogs, otherwise very important points can be lost in translation.