Friday, March 10, 2023

NIPPO Grand National 2023: Date & Location

The NIPPO Grand National location and date have been announced. I'm sorry I didn't get around to posting it sooner.

It will be held on November 19th in Hyogo prefecture, at the location linked below.
吉川総合公園 多目的グラウンド

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Shikoku Ken Population in Japan

I just made a population graph for the Shikoku Ken in Japan. 

 Data for the past 10 years is a bit inaccurate. There are actually less dogs than this in Japan because Shikoku born overseas are included in this number. In 2020 for example, around 10 percent of registered pups were born outside Japan. 

 Best case scenario, the average Shikoku lifespan is 15 years. That would give us a population of 4775 Shikoku in Japan. If we divide that in half, there are roughly 2387 males and 2387 females of various ages in our imaginary population.

 Assuming that in our imaginary population, males are fertile and used as stud till age 10, that gives us 1428 males that could possibly be used to further the population. Since Japan has just revised its law to only let females under 6 years old be bred, but under 7 years old if the bitch has had less than 6 litters, we will tally bitches up to 7 years old which gives us approximately 997 females.

 While it would seem we have a viable population of around 2425 animals, the majority of these are not owned by breeders. A number that I've heard bandied about is that between 20-25 percent of our dogs end up kept for breeding programs here in Japan. If we assume 25 percent of females, that is 249 breeding females in the whole country. While we could assume 357 males at 25 percent, the true number is massively lower since the number of males kept by kennels is far lower than females. Most kennels will have 1 or 2 males if any, case in point my house where there are 6 females and 1 male. Here in the greater Kanto region there are probably around 10 regularly used studs now.

 While we have 249 females in our imaginary gene pool, we only had 264 puppies born in 2021. Shikoku litters are generally between 3-5 pups, so let's use 4 as our median. That gives us 66 litters. Given that since 2011 the breed has been wandering between 200-300 pups/year, we can safely assume that we have around 50-75 actively bred females in any given year in the whole country (this is assuming 1 litter/female).

 My little exercise in mathematics is making a lot of assumption, but however we play it, our breeding population is extremely small. I believe the next step in our preservation effort must be to find out exactly how large our breeding population actually is, and where these dogs are. Only then can we try to make plans to best use the gene pool still available to us.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Why I Don't Export Dogs Anymore

I originally started exporting dogs to help fans/fanciers/breeders/preservationists of the Nihon Ken to import better dogs from Japan. Most of the Japanese breeds other than the Shiba are not very popular in Japan, so in the interest of their preservation I surmised that getting gene pools set up overseas would help to preserve the dwindling populations here in Japan. I started this around 15 years ago, and generally I feel that everyone coming together has been successful in getting the Nihon Ken into a better preservation space. Seeing the massive drop in population numbers over the past 5 years for the Hokkaido and Kishu in Japan for instance, shows the importance of having these back up gene pools available. The day will come when Nihon Ken will need to be imported back to Japan.

Anyway, I began blogging and translating information as I would come across it, as well as talking about my experiences with the Japanese breeds. While I originally turned down a lot of requests to help import dogs from Japan, eventually I realized that someone had to do it, and with the way I was becoming connected in the Nihon Ken community here in Japan, I decided to start helping. The OG community from the Nihon Ken Forum set up by Brad Anderson will probably remember the dark ages of the Nihon Ken when there was little to no information available, a lot of rumor/hearsay (and outright lies), and very few available dogs. All of this eventually morphed into my side export side project.

While I'm very happy with the people and dogs I've been able to meet over the years, my fascination with the Nihon Ken has never been a commercial venture, and honestly there have been plenty of situations I have ended up in that were a bit disillusioning. Over the years I became the go to guy for difficult exports, or the translator for situations that were blowing up (or had already exploded).

Fast forward to June of 2020, and the Animal Welfare law in Japan update: Anyone selling or transferring ownership of dogs is required to do a face to face transaction/explanation/contract AT THEIR REGISTERED ESTABLISHMENT. This first part of the law had already come into affect several years earlier in response to the massive increase in internet sales, and the problems that come with purchasing a pup sight unseen from someone you have never met, and having a puppy arrive at say the airport, in all sorts of conditions. The second part of the stipulation that I have put in capitals is new. It requires the transaction to take place at the seller's registered establishment. So in the past, if I transported a dog to someone, I could do the transaction/explanation/contract anywhere I liked (anywhere in the world for that matter), but now the transaction needs to take place here at my kennel. Obviously in the new world of Covid and Japan's strict border controls this made face to face transactions with people overseas impossible. Finding and picking dogs for people, handling all the communication between parties, and taking responsibility for everything is very time consuming and stressful. To be honest, I was quite happy to use this new law as an excuse to no longer broker the sale of dogs for export. While many breeders are still sending their dogs overseas, and consider this a grey area since the transaction is taking place outside of Japan, I think there is a very high possibility that the media will latch onto this at some point. Over the past few years there have been some very high profile legal issues involving NIPPO, dog breeding in Japan, animal rescue etc. 

Most recently, there was a very well known Shiba breeder who was arrested for falsifying documents and practicing medicine without a license. It seems he had been microchipping dogs on his own without a veterinarian present (which is illegal in Japan), creating the paperwork for the microchips himself, as well as creating his own health certificates and signing them as if they had been issued by his veterinarian. The whole case came to light because Animal Quarantine Japan found the paperwork for 2 Shiba being exported to Bulgaria to be suspicious. 

Over the years helping with exports, I have seen the underbelly of dog breeding here in Japan. There are wonderful things happening, but of course there's the shady bits as well. I've heard off the cuff comments regarding falsification of paperwork etc When I am hired to help with an export, it means my business and name are all over the export paperwork, and to a certain extent I am also legally liable for the validity of paperwork I submit. This is obviously problematic if I can't vouch for the veterinary paperwork or pedigrees that are being supplied to me by breeders. I believe there is also often a lack of understanding on the side of the exporter and importer regarding the exact legalities of exporting/importing a dog. The laws of the country of origin and the country of import have to be followed, and when the exporter/importer use an export service like mine, they can often choose to be oblivious to the laws and possible ramifications that could occur if they don't get everything right. Of course it also leaves a massive amount of responsibility in my court to make sure everything is exactly right, and all rules are followed.

This is the part that has become increasingly difficult in the current international climate. COVID has made the movement of people/animals/goods very difficult, with sudden unnotified cancellations and changes, and animal welfare laws are making import much more difficult. To import a dog to the EU for example, technically dogs have to be transported by their owner, or by a proxy within 5 days of the owners movement (on the same route), otherwise the import needs to follow the rules for a commercial import (this would also apply to 'transporters' traveling with dogs for the purpose of change of ownership/resale). The paperwork that needs to be put together and stipulations are different, and there is a very sticky requirement that the animal needs to be exported from an establishment registered with the competent authority. The export is also supposed to be registered with TRACES, the EU tracking database for the movement of produce/animals etc. Unfortunately, in Japan the competent authority that handles animal export inspection is the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but the branch of government that handles the registration, monitoring and licensing of dog breeding is the Ministry of the Environment. So the Ministry of Agriculture is not set up with a list of registered breeders, and also is not set up to enter data like this into TRACES. Technically this would make the commercial export of dogs from Japan to the EU impossible. Of course it has been done for many years, under commercial and non-commercial rules since it seems most EU countries interpret the rules as they see fit. But, using this as an example, it's a complex world out there.

So the title of this post is not entirely accurate, since I do still give advice on export/import to and from Japan, and my business will continue to help with the logistics of pet export/import (ie arranging cargo flights, transport and kenneling within Japan). What I no longer do is find dogs for export, and we also do not handle the Animal Quarantine Services Japan export inspection application or paperwork. I want breeders and importers to take responsibility for the process themselves and be fully aware of the legalities and process involved.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Origin of the Japanese Wolf

 There's been some interesting DNA analysis going on in Japan pertaining to the origin of the extinct Japanese wolves, the Nihon Ken, and dogs in general. This video is in Japanese, but the subtitles are a pretty good translation. They've actually discovered that there was another species of giant wolves in Japan that existed before the 2 known wolf species, Canis Lupus Hattai and Canis Lupus Hodophilax. Enjoy!

Here's a link to an interesting and related paper

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Reopening Border

 So Japan is slowly but surely testing the waters as it reopens the border. Today, June 7th, the new rules were announced. To put it simply, there are now three country categories: Red, Yellow, and Blue. The rules for entry differ depending on which group your country is in, but for blue (which covers most of Europe and North America), there is no quarantine on arrival in Japan, and you do not have to be vaccinated. But, you do still need a valid PCR test done 72 hours before entry to be eligible. The border has now opened to tourism, but only for tour groups run by certified travel agencies. All entrants have to apply for a visa.

I imagine that they will run with these rules till at least the end of summer, and at that point will look toward allowing individual tourists to enter the country again. It's been a wild 2 years!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Here It Is: The New JKC Appendix Export Pedigree

So as everyone is now well aware, as of January 1st, 2022, the Japan Kennel Club no longer gives a full registration to dogs being transferred from NIPPO and other Nihon Ken registries. They are registered to the APPENDIX, where they and their progeny will stay for 3 generations. Below I have included a sample for everyone to see what kind of a pedigree you receive when you export a dog that has a JKC APPENDIX pedigree.

As you can see, all ancestors have their names and kennels included, but no other information. This does create a serious issue in that due to the use of Japanese kanji by Japanese kennels, multiple dogs can have the exact same name. 

For example: 
百合号 安房山犬荘
ゆり号 安房山犬荘
友里号 安房山犬荘
由梨号 安房山犬荘
ユリ号 安房山犬荘

All the above names are read 'Yuri Go Awa Yamainu Sou' (and I could give you at least 10 more ways to write the same name). You can see how this could be a problem for tracking actual parentage to understand how closely related dogs are, which is a major reason to have a pedigree in the first place, isn't it? 

Another change that has just been made by the JKC registration department is that Japanese dog names will now be translated into English using the Hepburn System (hebonshiki) rather than the previous system which I believe was Word Processor Type (wa-puroshiki). Personally I preferred the previous system, because it is an exact way to translate the names into English. In the same way that having registration numbers to identify dogs is important, it is also important for names to be uniform, and for there to be no misunderstandings about which dog is being identified by a name.

For example:
ゆり号 安房山犬荘 old style: Yuri Go Awa Yamainu Sou
ゆり号 安房山犬荘 new style: Yuri Go Awa Yamainu So

While this may not seem problematic, I can see two large possible problems looming. Dogs previously in the database will retain their registration names using the previous method of romanization. So, a dog that was already in the database, but is entered again as an ancestor of a newly registered APPENDIX dog, could be registered in the JKC database with two separate names/identities. And what will be even more confusing is the following example, and the reason I prefer the old method:

有利号 安房山犬荘 old style: Yuuri Go Awa Yamainu Sou
有利号 安房山犬荘 new style: Yuri Go Awa Yamainu So

ゆ and 有(ゆう) will both end up being translated as 'yu' instead of as 'yu' and 'yuu'

There are actually multiple examples in the above pedigree of this issue. Not including the change in the suffix 'sou' becoming 'so', out of 14 dogs, there are 9 with very easily recognizable potential for this kind of misidentification (ie 'ryu' instead of 'ryuu')

As with the Appendix pedigree change, everything was decided before most of us had ever heard that there was a change coming. Once things like this are done, it is just about impossible to backtrack. We will have to figure out ways to work within the new system, so feel free to use this pedigree as a sample to contact your respective kennel clubs about how they will manage this new export pedigree (if at all). It does make the privately run online breed databases even more important than they were before, as they may soon be the only way to track parentage correctly and efficiently.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

NIPPO Santama Branch Exhibition, Spring 2022

 So let's keep that ball rolling. I felt like I should be blogging something 'important', but really, I should just get to it and start with what's easy. 

April 24th, 2022. Covid has put a major wrench in show schedules for the past two years, with two Grand Nationals canceled. But, it looks like we've found our way through to a more comfortable place, and this spring most NIPPO branch shows and regionals are moving according to schedule. 

I got up at 4am today to take care of all my dogs, and then make the 2.5hour drive to the venue for the NIPPO Santama (west side of Tokyo) Branch Exhibition. Entry numbers are way down this year, and the Santama branch felt the bite for sure. There were only 91 entries. Branch shows usually have somewhere in the vicinity of 150 entries. Most disconcerting this season has been the low number of entries of young adult dogs, with many classes having 0 entries.

Regardless, we're happy to be able to hang out together and see each others dogs. I showed three of mine: Doru (Doruto Go Shibukawa Kato Kensha), Alice (Arisu Go Awa Yamainu Sou), and Iyo (Iyo Go Musashi Aiwa). Doru and Alice both took 2nd place in their respective classes, and Iyo was in puppy class which does not have placements, but she did receive an excellent.

And here are some pictures for tax

First place adult female (and BIS)
Second place adult female
Third place adult female
Alice (taken by my good friend Okabe-san)
Headshot of the little lady (also taken by Okabe-san)
The little puppy monster Iyo
Doru was determined to be an absolute monster, defending the universe against the other 2 Kishu males in the ring. They had the same idea, so it was a bit of a mess trying to keep everything sane. But that was why we were there, to continue the process of toning down Doru's insane energy in preparation for a hopeful Grand National run at the end of this year. I think we need at least one more practice show this spring! May god help us all.

Alice was a massive hit, with several people trying to steal her. Yes, I'm quite happy with her as well, and doubly happy that she and Doru do not get carsick anymore. Very happy to again have dogs that enjoy going everywhere with me. Walks, shows, hunting boar, these two are down for it and ready.