Saturday, September 26, 2020

Will a Pup Hunt?

 So someone asked me:

Let's say theoretically if you cross to working hunting dogs, are all puppies likely to inherit that? Or is it an unsure percentage? And how much of it is pure instinct and how much would you say is how they're started/introduced to the hunt?

That's a difficult question to answer, since there are so many different types of prey, and different styles of hunting. I would say in my experience (primitive breeds, NK) whether or not your dog will hunt is almost 100 percent instinct (they are born with the necessary data). 

The Nihon Ken is a complete, primitive hunter, like a wild canid. It goes through the entire hunting cycle: find, chase, stop/kill. Many dog breeds have been bred specifically to only do one part of the hunt sequence (ie bird dogs taught to find/point).

The complete hunting package for an NK requires it to have hunting drive, good nose, speed, etc etc and enough grit to stop/attack its prey. Every generation you create that is not bred to specifically maintain hunting functionality is mathematically decreasing the odds of producing a litter of working dogs.

So yes, a pup from two working parents has higher odds of hunting, but there's never a litter (from any breeding) that you can say will 'work' 100 percent. More than just two working parents, you need generations behind the parents of solid, tested, working dogs. If you have that, your odds get pretty good. I would say the percentage of dogs that will work boar, from a purpose bred line, will vary according to the skill/selection of the hunter breeding them. But to have 90 percent of pups produced turn out as even half decent hunters, well those are impressive numbers (and I respect any kennel turning out those pups). 

There are very few purebred Nihon Ken (of any of the breeds) that have dedicated working kennels/lines. So, the percentages of purebred dogs that will work is not extremely high, but is better in some breeds over others. If you're hoping to hunt boar or dangerous game, the Kishu is still rather viable, while the Akita is most likely not going to work out. It's a numbers game.

I'm very much a proponent of Nature over Nurture. You can tone down what is in a dog through nurture/training, but you cannot put something in there that wasn't there to begin with.

Monday, September 21, 2020


 There are little boar everywhere this time of year, every year. The older boar are smarter and have learned where not to be. The little boar, not so much. They're getting up in everyone's yards, fields, and on the roads. The new generation.

So, one unlucky little boar made its way into one of my traps. We got Hina (Shikoku 1yr) and Miya (aka Memester, Kishu 3months) looking at their first boar. I wasn't super hopeful about Hina. The odds of Shikoku (which are pretty much all show line at this stage) turning out as boar dogs is pretty low, but I'm still trying to select toward a proper working dog. Her reaction is as you see it: lot's of interest, but nervousness and not liking the pressure the boar puts on. 

That is what I try to tell people about 'real' hunting (you're dog is not a great hunter because it likes to chase cats or kill lizards). Real prey, and especially boar, put a lot of pressure on hunting dogs. If they don't have a lot of drive, and a lot of smarts, things are not going to work out. Anyway, I don't consider this a fail. A fail is a dog that just wants nothing to do with the boar, tucks tail and makes for the hills. Or worse yet, a dog that does not recognize the threat the boar poses, and is unaware, or tries to ignore the boar.

We took Miya's mom, Karen, along for moral support. Karen's a 100% bailer (bays,barks) and is not a gritty dog at all. That's what I'm trying to produce: Kishu with drive, smarts, good voice, not so gritty, great family dogs (safe around other people and dogs), and healthy. In short, dogs that are a joy to own, and will be around a long time to help you keep putting boar in the freezer. Memester looks to be another step in the right direction. She's ridiculously smart, driven, clever, and ridiculously athletic. Check this three month old pup out doing this.

She's the next generation of Kishu here. We'll just keep moving forward with the Shikoku as well, until we get 'there'. Hunting season starts in just under 2 months, we'll see what that brings. 2 of my Shikoku girls will be giving birth in the next 2 weeks, so the rest of 2020 is going to be busy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Let's Talk About Eyes

Let's talk about Shikoku eyes. Someone asked me about this recently, and there's a thunder storm going on. I'm going to wait it out and walk the dogs afterward.

There's different types of eye sets in the 6 Japanese breeds. The basic rules of the shape are the same however.

The angles however, are slightly different, and what is preferred in a male or female are different. A male can have a sharper eye, while that would not be a very feminine look (and vice versa). Sexual dimorphism is a very important part of the Nihon Ken standard.

In the Shikoku, the different 'lines' also have slightly different eye types. What is acceptable for one line, may not really suit a dog from another line. When you start out-crossing dogs (which happens a lot especially overseas) you are mixing types, so will see a lot of dogs that are a mix-match of the lines.

The standard calls for a 'roughly triangular shape, with the outer line of the eye angling upward'. Round eyes are a no-no, as are eyes that are not 'okume' (set back in the skull). What is 奥目 okume? Think of it as the eyes looking like they were pushed back into the skull with your thumbs. Not a great analogy? Maybe. But this is what gives the Nihon Ken that strong, deep, piercing gaze. The polar opposite of this would be a Chihuahua eye, all beady and popping out of the skull.
In the medium size breeds, the lower line of the eye should point upward toward the bottom outer corner of the ear. In the above diagram you can see that 'A' is the line for the medium size breeds (most angled, sharpest eye), 'B' for the Shiba, and 'C' for the Akita. The Akita has the least angled, least sharp eye.

A round eye is bad in the NK, but roundness is a good thing, especially in a female dog’s eye. It’s just that the angles have to be right and present. Of course the eyeball of a dog will be round, the angles we're talking about are the outer lines. There are a lot of Nihon Ken out there with eyes that are too small, or too angled, or too round.

Personally, I like this female's eye. She throws true to the eye type seen in this line.

You can see how the inner line of the eye rises well, the top line of the eye has good angle and length going toward the cheeks. The bottom line also has proper angles, while also showing some roundness, and it angles toward the bottom outside corner of the ear. The eyes are set back well in the skull, they have good size (length/width), and they really make this female's expression. 

一に眼、二に眼、三に眼 This is something I was told way back when by the former NIPPO vice chairman when we were discussing what traits were most important to look for and preserve in the Nihon Ken. ichi ni manako, ni ni manako, san ni manako 1st, the eyes. 2nd, the eyes. 3rd, the eyes. Obviously this is an exaggeration, but it explains the weight that the eyes have on a dog's expression. Perhaps this is what  draws one to the look of the Nihon Ken, without often being aware of what we are seeing?

What do we want in a Nihon Ken's eye? Well what do we want to see in the entire dog? 力 chikara which means strength. From the tip of the nose, to the tip of the tail, in all aspects of the dog. But what is encapsulated in this strength? It's not over angulated, hyper typed, showiness. Strength comes from fullness, having those proper angles with fullness, functionality, and depth. So we're not looking for an eye that looks so thin that you wonder how the dog can even see out of it. That's the extreme end of the spectrum. At the other end, you start going toward round eye (hence my Chihuahua comment). The truth (and strength) is in balance, somewhere in the middle. To see the fullness of all the standard's criteria being met in the dog's expression.

So, say you're trying to decide which puppy to keep, and you're looking at eye type.
A point to keep in mind is that a puppy’s eye should not look like an adult dog’s eye. The outline will change as the head and skull develop. A puppy that already has a harsh, angled eye, is only going to get more so as they mature. In the end, the expression will most likely be harsh, but lack strength and fullness. So one should not expect a puppy or young dog to have the perfect eye. That’s something that we can judge in a adult dog (once they’ve stopped growing and we can see if all the proportions are correct), but we do want to get a general idea of what we want in an adult dog, and then understand what type of puppy eye, develops into that eye.

All judging and judgement of a dog before it is an adult comes with an asterisk.
The true quality of the dog is ascertained once it is an adult.