Not everyone seems to make the connection, but in addition to this blog, I also set up www.japandogexport.com in 2012. While I originally was averse to the idea of finding dogs for people overseas, I started to realize that the medium size breeds were on the path to extinction here in Japan, with very little interest in their ownership. To help them gain more visibility outside Japan, to establish gene pools to preserve the breeds, and to help breeders overseas access the best possible dogs, I started to offer my services. I did this pro bono at first, and just for friends, but eventually it was taking up so much of my time and energy that it needed to pay for itself.
Over the last decade I'm proud to have been part of connecting many Nihon Ken with wonderful overseas homes, and helping to export all 6 of the Nihon Ken, many to countries they had never been seen before.
copyright 2020 Katsumasa Masuda
It has been an interesting journey. The rewarding parts of it have been seeing the breeds really take off overseas, and to see that uptick in interest translate into the Japanese media reporting on the Nihon Ken overseas with quite a bit of regularity (and commenting on their dropping numbers in Japan!). I've made so many connections and friendships with people overseas through our dogs, and for that I am truly grateful.
I feel that I've reached a point where I've done my bit in that regard. My goal has always been to NOT make a living off of my passion, the Japanese breeds. I'm lucky to have a specific skill set as a translator that keeps me quite busy. Coupled with hunting boar for the local government and some other business ventures, I make a comfortable living. Recently though, more and more of my time has been spent trying to keep up with replying to inquiries that come through www.japandogexport.com and a larger and larger portion of inquiries seem to be from people looking to cash in on the popularity of the Japanese breeds. It is to be expected, though I prefer to be helping true preservationists and fans of the Japanese breeds. As such, I've revamped the website!
www.japandogexport.com will continue to exist, although I will probably be looking to hand the reins over to someone else in the near future. It will continue to help pet owners with the import/export of their dogs to and from Japan. It will not however, be taking requests from people looking to purchase dogs from Japan, sight unseen, and then have them exported.
As I've mentioned many times on the blog, the situation here in Japan regarding the quality of kennels and breeders varies greatly, but unfortunately most are not up to my ideals of animal ownership and management. If I find homes for dogs from these kennels, I'm essentially helping maintain the status quo. It was necessary in the past, since this is where the dogs are, but moving forward I would prefer to work with people that are making a change in the way things are done here in Japan. And of course, I would prefer to have more time with my dogs, and more energy for my breeding program.
I understand that for many people, especially those involved with the medium size Nihon Ken, I may be the only information source and go between you are able to find. I will still be replying to inquiries I receive through the blog, and will try to help you continue to move forward with your breeding programs.
I receive a lot of email, social media messages, texts, and phone calls, about the Nihon Ken. This is everyday, from all over the world, and a lot of them require a bit of an in depth reply. I can't just rattle off a reply in 5 minutes. Being self-employed means I also have to ration the time I give toward this 'endeavor'. The Japanese breeds are my passion, but not how I pay for the bills.
I let this email sit in my box for a month (sorry) before I finally had time today to sit down and reply. I'm just pasting a relevant part of the email here, as I felt my reply might be useful to others in the future. And, if it's here, anyone in the future with a similar question, well I can just direct them to this post.
I’ve heard that Shiba dogs are very very difficult to train, and cold/unaffectionate. I hope to have a dog that I can successfully manage, who will be friendly when I bring him to meet my community. I intend to move back to the United States within a year or two, and my lifestyle is more social there than it is in Tokyo. Is it possible to find a reputable breeder who breeds for traits of trainability and friendliness?
So first, my opinion on the Japanese breeds, and trainability... I think the Nihon Ken are very trainable. I hear all the time how people are shocked at how quickly their new pups learns all the tricks in the book, and is so smart. I think the issue is more with the fact that the Japanese breeds retain so much independent thought, problem solving, and natural instinct. So much so that they quickly bore of things, due to the fact that they are quickly boring of the reward being given. The reward is no longer valuable enough (or was not valuable enough to begin with). In a dog that has a lot of hunting instinct, there's really nothing that is as valuable to them as the hunting process (search, discover, chase, subdue, eat). The issues in training and the Nihon Ken should be covered in a good book, written by a knowledgeable trainer, so I digress.
Next, are the Nihon Ken cold and unaffectionate? In my experience this is more of an individual dog's like/dislike. With regard to new people, across the board, the majority of NK will probably not open up immediately to strangers. The same dog may be very cuddly and affectionate with it's owner however. And of course there are social butterfly NK that love everyone. I think it's safer to assume that when you choose a Nihon Ken as a companion, it may turn out to be a non-social, only with you, type of dog. It may not like other people and dogs that much, and you need to be okay with that. If not, perhaps a different breed will be a better fit for you. Of course you may be pleasantly surprised that your dog ends up being great with other people/dogs. Congratulations! Of course there is work you can do with socialization and training to improve your pup's reaction to the world, but you can't change what they are hardwired with.
Lastly, let's cover the request to be introduced to a breeder in Japan who is breeding toward a friendly/trainable temperament. I've covered the reality of what the kennels here in Japan are like in this blog post
Here in Japan, the preservation of the Japanese breeds means keeping them in line with the standards set out by the preservation societies, and this is generally what NK kennels are breeding toward. In temperament, we are trying to maintain a primitive breed: strong, alert, aware, balanced. No part of the standard really calls for a friendly/trainable dog, in fact the NK probably skew toward the opposite side of the spectrum. We value dogs that are loyal toward their owner/family, and aloof toward strangers. We prefer dogs that are not friendly-tail-waggers when meeting new people or dogs. In fact, that is heavily penalized in the show ring here.
In trying to steer people toward or away from Nihon Ken ownership, I often find that I'm trying to do neither. I'm just trying to objectively explain what they are, or might turn out to be. If people can truly understand what I'm trying to explain, and understand/accept the essence of what the breeds are, then they can make a decision as to whether the NK is a good choice for them. Hopefully that will lead to happy dogs and happy owners. Once you 'get' the Nihon Ken, they are extremely fun (and easy? or is that just me?) to own.