Friday, September 30, 2016

Raising Shikoku Puppies

So here I am, several litters of Shikoku later, and while I haven't bred any non Nihon Ken breeds so I have nothing to compare it to, raising Shikoku litters is a delicate thing. For me a lot of it has to do with getting the right amount of food into them, and keeping an extremely close eye on their digestive system. That and keeping bacteria and parasites out of them.

I tried to take some puppy photos, but only got some of male number 1. Anyway, so far this litter is doing swimmingly. I've managed to keep Chacha well fed through her pregnancy, and she hasn't really lost any weight yet while still feeding the pups. The pups are eating well, and stools were a bit soft at first, but looking good now.

To anyone breeding or thinking about breeding Shikoku, pay attention to their stool! I cannot stress this enough. If it starts getting soft or runny you need to figure out what it is quickly. More often than not I've seen digestive stuff go downhill pretty fast, and the pup loses all that nutrition it really needs in this period that they're growing extremely fast.

This litter is 35 days old now, and pretty much already toilet trained. They wake me up at dawn to get out into the yard, and as long as I let them out three times a day, the kennel is clean. Pretty damn amazing when you compare that to Shura who is 10 months old and still having accidents. The next big stepping stones for these pups will be getting them out a bit and meeting more people etc. They're already fine with all my dogs.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Talking About Fitness

I had a comment after my last post about fitness:

Are there any photo examples of a really fit physique? Would you consider dogs with more muscle definition as more "fit"?

I've seen some dogs that seem too thick in build, but I wonder if it's more so their coat, or, overall diet/exercise/genetics?

For starters, one thing I wanted to put in my last post but forgot about was to say that in 'Western' terms, the Nihon Ken is supposed to be a 'dry' dog. I think that's the term for it. Well, the Nihon Ken other than the Akita, since the large breeds should have more bulk and presence.
To get back to the questions though, yes, muscle definition. I'll start off with a picture of Baron toward the beginning of the hunting season. He's still carrying a fair bit of mass, but the build is there. You can see a good abdominal tuck, his ribs in the front, and good muscle mass in the shoulders (can't really see his chest at this angle). Another thing is take a look at the back legs at those tendons. On a dog that is not really being exercised, you may have the same proportions and weight, but there's a heaviness and overall softness to the dog. I'm not saying all my dogs are fit, they definitely aren't, but this picture of Baron was a decent example so I'm putting it up.

The next dog is Ibuhime Go, best of breed at the NIPPO Grand National some years ago. I love this dog. Everything about her screams strength, and that's my interpretation of the Nihon Ken standard. Strength from the tip of nose to the tip of the tail. I'm talking everything here, good strong pigmentation, a strong standing coat (Ibuhime's is a little short here I think), good strong angles that give the dog strength. I could go on and on, but think about it, strength, but balanced. Nothing showy or over the top, just a quiet strong strength.

The next dog is Orin (Tsubomi Go). She's bicycle exercised every day, and it shows.

Yoshishizuha Go. He's not in his best form here, but I only have a few minutes before heading out to Tokyo, and this selection of pictures are just the ones I came to first. He is a Kotofusa son. I'd like a bit more in the shoulder here, but you can see the dryness and the tight body that a Shikoku should have. Of course some dogs are thinner than others, some heavier boned, some with shorter coats, some thicker. In this again, the thing to look and select for is strength, but in balance. You don't want to keep pushing toward dogs with more and more bone, or less for that matter. You do the best to get the dog you have in the best possible condition.

This is the Kishu I used in my last post. I don't remember when I took this picture, but the dog was fit, so in the post it went.

Coat, diet, exercise, genetics, all these things do play a role in how a dog 'looks'. What I'm saying here is that we should be aware of what is correct, what we should be looking for, so that we know what we're breeding for. I've had dogs from some lines that eat anything and everything, dogs that fatten very quickly, and I've had to be very careful to control their meals and exercise. Then there are dogs that are very picky eaters, and it's a struggle to keep weight on them. They're just like people in that regard. 

There's some variance in the breeds too of course, with the Kishu generally being a bit heavier than the Shikoku, and then in lines in the breeds too. The Hata line of Shikoku was generally a heavier dog with a thicker coat than the Hongawa, so there's allowances for variance. There's also sexual dimorphism. Dogs should be larger and more built than bitches. The important thing though is that a fit dog is a fit dog. It doesn't matter its breed or build, I can appreciate a fit dog and the process that went into building that physique. And that is the condition dogs in the ring should be in.

On that note, I've got to head out to pick up 6 puppies. I'll be babysitting 5 Shikoku and 1 Hokkaido for a while. This is going to get messy. My 3 Shikoku pups are at around 2.5kg now, just over a month old. Puppy fucking city. Goodbye to sleep, hello clean up duty.

Monday, September 26, 2016


One beef I always have when I see Nihon Ken in shows overseas, is their fitness. I see very few dogs that are fit. Even the ones that look like they're the right weight or shape, you can see the heaviness when they move. And of course there's always the overweight dogs with super plush coats.

The NIPPO standard describes the small and medium Nihon Ken as being alert (sharp senses), agile (capable of sudden quick movement), and light of foot (almost spring like movement). This is not to say all the dogs shown in Japan are in perfect shape (because I know someone will call me out on this), they're not. But we know what shape they should be in, and will appreciate a dog that's show ready. If your in the ring and your dog is not in shape, the judge will tell you so.

So how do you get your dogs in shape? Take your dog for walks! Umm no. Just think about how far a wild canid moves everyday. Think about how far you walk before you tire, are bored, or just run out of time. Unless you're Forrest Gump running coast to coast, your dog will probably not get ripped.

Most of the exercise here in Japan is done via bicycle or scooter. The key here is to mix it up with a steady trot speed, and some sprint like runs. Now whether this is great for the dog to always be running on asphalt is another matter. Me, I take my dogs to the mountains. There they're doing at least three times the distance I do, and they're going up and down slopes, jumping over obstacles (while I'm picking the easiest most direct routes), and they're sprinting after things. Throw that in a few times a week, up the calories a bit, and you'll see the difference.
Of course this doesn't work if you've got a velcro dog that just trots around you the entire time.

Anyway, it takes work, and time. Masa's been out of shape the entire summer. The girls were in heat one after the other so he had very little appetite, and we weren't getting out into the mountains at all in the 120 percent humidity. Show season's started, and we're a little behind, but the aim here is to time his peak condition with the NIPPO Grand National in November. I hope his coat hurries up, because he just finished his second blow. This is why I've been out in the mountains with Masa (like when we got that boar the other day).

Took him out this afternoon again, and about 15 minutes in, he found and took off after some boar. He's actually looking for them now, and went after them too. If he keeps this up he may just make it as a hunting and show dog. I followed, but he lost them when they crossed a stream and headed into some bamboo. It was about to get dark, so I called him back. If he starts barking at boar instead of just staring at them, I'll be thrilled. If he gets to where he's working to stop them for me, I'll be over the moon.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Socializing Puppies

There was a discussion over on the Nihon Ken Forum about socializing puppies, and since it's something I'm doing just about constantly I thought I'd talk about it here.

I don't have a program that all my pups go through (and all the pups I kennel here till they go overseas). The reality is that every dog is different. Surprise! Well not really. Anyway, genetics are a huge part of each dog's character. Some dogs are just born easy and bomb proof. I've seen dogs that were physically abused, and treated roughly all the time, but you'd never now it. I've also seen pups that have never had a finger laid on them, been handled gently their entire lives, that are extremely fearful of people and hands etc. I think I was probably one of them in the past, but there's always those people who have an opinion, "Oh, that pup was probably abused." Umm no.

So, what do I do with pups? It's more about not doing the wrong things in my opinion. You don't need a trip into town every day, it's more about having one good experience. Good experiences are key because then the pup makes a positive association with going shopping or wherever it is you've taken him. So, I'm careful not to flood pups. Do not try to force them through a situation. If I planned to go to the hardware store with a pup but it's already uncomfortable in the parking lot, I'll just move us to a far quiet corner of the parking lot to walk around a little. If the pup doesn't get comfortable, it can wait in the car, and maybe next time we'll try again. Dogs have a stimulation threshold, and with fear you can push them till they shut down, which with the Japanese breeds is an absolute red zone you do not want to enter.

All I do is go through a normal day, and everyone once in a while pick a pup or two to do things with me. They just have to be there, experience it, and they are never forced to do things there or interact with anything or any people they don't want to. For the average dog, that's enough, and by the second time they go somewhere, they know the drill.

I know a lot of dog owners stress about getting all that socialization in during that 'window', but my opinion on that is to pay attention to what your pup is comfortable with, and always take it slow, and make things positive. As you and your pup experience things together, your bond of trust grows as the pup figures out that you're in control and have their back. This is more important to me than getting my pup to experience 'everything'. Everything is not possible. But if you build that trust, your dog will look to you when it gets into a stressful situation.

One of my Shikoku females was terrified of cars. So, I always walked her with other dogs that were not scared of cars. Anytime we were on a walk I'd have to pay attention and catch the cars coming before she heard them. I taught her 'come', and as soon as I'd see a car coming I'd call her away from the road, and pick her up. After a while she was getting the hang of what was going on, so when I'd call her and she'd hear the car, she knew I meant safety, so would come sit or stand behind me. After a while of that, now she's absolutely fine with cars driving by. Tail stays up, all is good. This took a few months, but I wasn't stressed, and now she isn't either.

Anyway, that's a light dusting on the subject. I've got two Shiba pups at the house now that have been here for 2 months while waiting to fly to Singapore. They've actually been really easy to have around, and I hope their new owners enjoy them.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


These little potatoes were born on the 25th of August. They're out of Masamine and Chacha.
This wasn't my first choice for pairing, but unfortunately I ran out of other options due to time and dogs' preferences. I'm not a fan of inbreeding or tight line breeding (Masa is out of Chacha's sister Meme), so while not thrilled, at least I know both dogs well, and the dogs behind them. Masa's got pretty good hips, so hopefully that can offset Chacha's mediocre hips. There's three pups, 2 males and 1 female, and the pups look quite nice. They're growing nicely and have now graduated beyond potato stage.

Shigeru Katoさん(@katothewalrus)が投稿した動画 -

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Hens

So here are the Nagoya Cochin hens. It took a little time, but they're completely tame now and free ranging. Of course as soon as I get up in the morning they come running at me to see if I'm carrying munchies for them. Little buggers peck my toes when I don't give them anything.

Shigeru Katoさん(@katothewalrus)が投稿した動画 -

Friday, September 16, 2016

What You Ask For

...and what you think you'll get.

It's almost automatic that I'll cringe with slight frustration when people ask me for a dog. Well when they have an idea that something exists, or is easily found, when it definitely is not.

"I'd like a dog from x breed that is unrelated to all the other dogs that have been imported from Japan."

"I'd like a dog that is x color (an almost non-existent color in the breed) for hunting."

And on and on the list goes. I understand that everyone wants a perfect dog. And by perfect I mean perfection according to an image they have in their mind. As I write this post I'm getting the inkling that I should just let go of the emotion, and chill a bit. People will want what they want, and if they're asking for something ridiculous, it's only because they don't know any better.

Personally I've experienced so much disappointment that I understand I will most likely NOT get what I want out of most of the dogs I get. I've got 9 dogs at the moment, and Baron is my only consistent hunter (though he's completely off the Kishu standard in type). I have his daughter who shows a lot of promise, but she had a digestive issue for a long time as a pup, and is far smaller than the standard. I won't be breeding her for both those issues (though her temperament is great and she's an easy keeper). I have two hunting line Shikoku that I waited several years for who are both far smaller than the standard, and while quite friendly are off the hook high energy, loud, and super bitchy toward other dogs. I most likely won't be breeding or hunting either of them unless something really surprising happens. I have 2 Shikoku females for breeding, one who is a fantastic show dog, but has failed to conceive 2 heats in a row now. The other female is flawed for show, good temperament too, but mediocre hips. And neither of these girls hunt well. I have a Shikoku male that looks promising for show, but it a little on the small side, and very unpromising as far as hunting goes. The other two dogs are a Tosa female (fantastic but small), and a Tosa mix who is fun to have around but basically just gives me vet bills.

To add to this there's a whole slew of dogs that I let go due to them not being what I was looking for. So when someone comes along who's hoping to import one or two dogs and have a breeding pair, or a perfect hunting dog, I laugh a little.

All that being said, the journey is enjoyable, and getting all the experience is worth it. I just hope everyone else feels the same way!

I've been taking Masa out in the mountains a bit recently as a work out before the show season starts. He's pretty sticky so having him off leash is not a problem (in the mountains anyway). I took him out the other night which was a mistake, since we got surrounded by boar twice which was pretty hairy. The boar are taking over the neighborhood, so I took Baron and Masa out together this week to thin the heard. I got the dogs out of the truck, off they ran, and 1 minute later they're on boar. Masa just runs around excited. Anyway, Baron was off and too far to catch up. I popped Masa back in the truck, and Baron and I hunted for another couple hours, running into several more boar, but no solid stops. Baron's a bit off his game still since we haven't been hunting through the summer. Anyway, I took Masa out today at 5:15 for a quick run, packed the gun and gear just in case, and while not expecting anything (and 5 minutes before sunset) Masa perked up and started checking out the ridge to the left. I encouraged him by following him up twice, but nothing. I called him back to the path since we needed to get back to the truck. Apparently the boar was on the left, and had come down to cross the path in front of us, so as we come to a bend, I hear Masa scrambling ahead of me, and I peer around to see an 80kg boar huffing and puffing at him. I popped off a head shot, Masa charged, boar rolled over to the right, started back up and tried to come after me so popped 2 more head shots. Boar went down around 5 meters in front of me, and that was that. Masa wouldn't go near it, but followed as I dragged it out of the mountain.

It was a pleasant surprise, and while I won't be clapping at Masa for an amazing hunt, he did his part. Of course he ended it perfectly by walking up the trail, finding the boar's fresh scat, and rolling every inch of his body in it. And of course this is the day that I didn't bring a crate for him, and had to have stinking bastard sitting next to me in the cab of the truck. My revenge was sweet. Masa hates showers.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


I really haven't been feeling like blogging this year. There's a lot going on, but I just haven't felt the need to write about it.

I started blogging to try to get correct information about the Japanese breeds online, and to chronicle my life events. Blogs have been great way to be able to go back in time and relive the milestones, or just to figure out what day such and such happened.

I've definitely seen the Nihon Ken steadily gaining popularity overseas over the years, and for a while I did feel I was making a difference with the blogging. Recently though, I've felt a bit lost in all of it. Where are the breeds going? What am I trying to do now? I haven't felt that burn to rant or share, and to be honest I still don't. I've thought about shutting down the blog, but there's a lot of stuff I haven't gotten online. Regardless of how I feel about the future, I'm going to start flooding the blog again.

So to celebrate this occasion, I give you puppies.