Friday, May 15, 2020

COVID-19 Affecting Import/Export

As always, many people have been contacting me about importing Nihon Ken from Japan. I just wanted to update everyone on the current situation in Japan regarding the export/import of dogs.

All cargo shipping of dogs internationally has been shut down till at least the end of May. We have not yet received a timetable for when this will open up again.
Japan was under a national state of emergency which was just lifted yesterday for large parts of the country.However the greater Tokyo area is still under a state of emergency, and all but essential movement is prohibited.

Japan's borders are also currently closed to nationals of many countries, so you would not be able to fly to Japan to pick up a dog until this is lifted.
The timetable for opening up the border is also unknown.

So, I guess we will all just have to wait and see how things progress, and if any new information comes my way I will post an update here on the blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Reality of Japanese Breed (Nihon Ken) Kennels in Japan

This is another blog post I wrote many years ago. It's still relevant, so I edited and updated it today.

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 looks down on activity seen as solely for profit. While there are professional Shiba and Akita kennels, the majority are amateur, and you will be hard pressed to find anyone in Japan making a living breeding medium sized Nihon Ken. 'Breeder' is a word that most NIPPO members are not fond of, and many will bristle at being called one.

Going back to the point about 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, natural selection tended to help cull 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.

Most Nihon Ken in Japan are not house pets, and are generally 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.

Hopefully this helps you understand the current situation, and the risks that come with purchasing a dog from a kennel in Japan. Instead of using vague terms like a 'good breeder' or an 'ethical breeder', you should think about exactly what you're looking for in a breeder and in your future dog. Specifics are important, as I'm sure each and every one of us hasn't different criteria for what we expect from a breeder. Make a list of what you cannot compromise on, and start your search from there, hopefully with an open mind.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

What Are The Japanese Breeds Like?

I did this puppy write up on the Japanese breeds quite a while ago, so it needed some editing and updating. I rewrote it for my export site
so I've written in from a 'we' viewpoint as opposed to an 'I' perceptive.

Since we have experienced all the Nihon Ken as pups, and as adults, we've got a fairly good feel for what they are like in comparison to each other. This is not to say they will all be like this, as every dog is unique. This is just an overall observation based on over 10 years of seeing many pups/dogs of many lines, in all the Japanese breeds.

Kishu pups: Usually pretty confident, a little stubborn and block headed. They don't usually cause too much trouble, but when their switch kicks in, all hell breaks loose. That goes for puppies and adults. All of a sudden they're strong, focused, and breathing fire. Otherwise, they're pretty happy go lucky, and not too vocal. They like to be with their family, but it's not the end of the world if I'm gone.

Shikoku pups: A bit more sensitive to their surroundings, not quite as confident as the Kishu, and they're usually rude players. They get themselves amped up and don't know how to turn it off (it's too much fun). The other pup/dog will be giving off all the stop signals, eventually snarling and snapping, and they'll still be play bowing, nipping, and bumping. They're tenacious, with less of an on/off switch than the Kishu. They make a little bit more noise too, most of that coming in the form of alarm barking. The breed does not handle stress that well, especially the females. They are very intelligent, and like to learn (dog sports are a good idea). They're usually pretty happy as long as they're with their people.

Hokkaido pups: Loud, just loud. They play loud, argue loud, whine loud, and they yodel. They also can tend to play like the Shikoku, but they have a Shiba like streak for snark thrown in as well. So they play rude, and when the other dog turns on them, they tend to react. They've got tons of energy, and drink tons of water. They're a bit of a velcro breed and prefer to be around their people, but not in the extreme. They tend to be a fairly energetic breed.

Shiba pups: They've got the most high pitch whine/bark of the Nihon Ken, and the Shiba scream... We've found them to be quite independent in character, and often a bit more aloof toward people than the other Nihon Ken. The medium sized breeds are usually a lot more attached to their owners and want to be close to them. The Shiba basically do whatever it is they want, whenever they want, but if they don't like something, you'll hear about it. I think the breed's motto should be something along the lines of, "The best defense is an offense." They've got a lot of attitude. Behaviors from other dogs that may set them off: breathing in their direction, attempting a play bow, bumping, and got forbid eye contact! They are smaller than the other Nihon Ken, which does help keep things manageable, and once they settle into a good routine they can be quite enjoyable to own.

Kai pups: All the puppies and dogs here at my place love Kai pups (and in the inverse, everyone takes a while to get over new Shikoku and Shiba pups). They're the Japanese breed that was born with social graces. That being said, there is a shy streak to the breed. They're not go, go, go, like the Shikoku or Hokkaido, but they have their moments. The breed is quite velcro, and we often have to work through some separation anxiety. We always have to handle this breed with kid gloves, as they have a long term memory bank for negative experiences. Kai tend to be the easiest to train (in obedience etc) with some even certified in Search and Rescue in Japan.

Akita pups: Akita pups tend to be quite happy-go-lucky. They're kind of like the clumsy kid in class with a good heart. An Akita pup's wail is almost cute, it's so plaintive. They usually are a bit mouthy as puppies and like to nip/chew a lot. Toilet training Akita puppies often takes a bit more work, whereas with the other Japanese breeds it comes almost naturally. As a large breed, the Akita definitely have a lower energy level than the other Nihon Ken, and enjoy being couch potatoes. 
All the Japanese breeds are based on dogs that were kept for thousands of years and hunters and watchdogs, so they carry many of these traits from their ancestors. They will probably want to chase and hunt small animals, and they will most likely alarm bark to let you know about anything they feel is odd. As watchdogs they also tend to show a wariness toward strangers and strange situations. This is why positive experiences and proper socialization when young is important, and is something that should be continued throughout the dog's life. It is also important to understand your dog however, and realize that just like people, dogs will like/dislike certain things. Maybe your dog will not like other dogs. You can work on managing it, but it will be a lot more enjoyable for you and your dog if you don't continually try to 'fix' things by forcing your dog into situations it does not like.

One of the joys of owning a primitive breed is getting to experience their independent intelligence. In the Japanese breeds there is definitely less refinement toward obedience or a specific skillset. They are more of an all round partner that co-exists with you, adapting to you and your environment. Your job as an owner is to protect, learn to communicate with, and guide your dog through the modern world efficiently.