16 Shikoku Dog Temperament Traits (Japanese National Treasure)

The Japanese cherish the Shikoku Dog temperament. It is a courageous hunter, but it is also a loving family dog.

The Japanese Shikoku Dog (or Shikoku Inu) is a dog bred for hunting and tracking. You might also hear it called Kochi-ken, Mikawa Inu, or Japanese Wolfdog. It belongs to a group called primitive dogs.


The Shikoku Dog is a tough, wolf-like breed. Its purpose was hunting deer and boar in the mountain territories of Japan. They are energetic and active and do best with active, outdoor owners. They need firm training and are not a good choice for beginners.

What To Expect: The Shikoku Dog Temperament and Personality

1. Intelligent

The Shikoku is a quick learner but not easy to train. They are independent thinkers who often choose not to listen to commands.

2. Athletic

The Shikoku Dog is strong, muscular, and agile, a gift from their mountain dog heritage. They enjoy hiking and hunting and need to live an active life. They are fast and coordinated, making them very good at agility competition.

3. Energetic

The Shikoku Dog has a lot of energy. She is an ideal companion for people who live active, outdoor lives. She will be content to be inside as long as she gets enough exercise.

4. Tenacious

The Shikoku Dog does not give up when facing down her prey. This makes her a great problem solver.

Before coming to you to help her solve a problem, she will try everything she can think of to solve it herself.

5. Loyal

The Shikoku is very loyal to her owners and loves to be with her humans.

6. Eager to Please

The Shikoku is an enthusiastic dog who is eager to please her owner. She responds to positive reinforcement but not to punishment.

7. Curious

The Shikoku is a very curious breed. They like to explore their environment and are good at escaping from fenced yards.

8. Playful

This Shikoku Dog loves to play games to stay occupied. She is a restless dog who likes to be busy. She will often wear herself out if you let her.

Playing fetch, hide the treat, tug of war, etc. are some of her favorite games.

She also loves to play with other dogs.

9. Brave but Cautious

The Shikoku Dog is a big game hunter who is fearless when she faces her prey. Luckily, she also shows good judgment when deciding whether to take action.

10. Versatile

Shikoku are good climbers, swimmers, and jumpers as well as hunters.

11. Strong Prey Drive

The Shikoku Dog has an intense prey drive. Her job was to track deer and boars in the mountains of Japan. She is more companion dog today, but some owners still let their Shikoku track wild boars “so it will maintain its nature.”

Because of this strong drive, the Shikoku is not trustworthy with small animals. She will chase anything that moves, and you can’t train this behavior out of her.

12. Territorial

The Shikoku Dog has strong territorial instincts. Although she does get along well with other dogs, she does want to be dominant.

13. Alert

As you might expect from a dog who hunts boars, the Shikoku Dog is very alert to her surroundings.

She loves people and usually happy to meet strangers. She will greet them with excitement and tail wagging. As she gets older, though, she may become more reserved around strangers.

She needs early socialization to prevent that.

14. Docile

The Shikoku Dog’s natural temperament is sweet and docile. She makes a good companion dog.

15. Devoted

The Shikoku wants to be with her people and does not enjoy being alone. The Shikoku Dog temperament is one of the most devoted you will find.

She is not a lap dog who wants to cuddle a lot, but she is affectionate and loving with her family.

16 Social but Reactive

The Shikoku likes to play with other dogs. If you raise your Shikoku with other dogs, she will do well with them.

She will usually be happy to play with strange dogs unless the other dog shows behavior that she finds threatening. Then she is likely to growl a warning or to lunge at them.

Again, she needs early socialization to keep this behavior from getting out of hand.

Click here to learn how undesirable behaviors like growling.

Shikoku Dog History

The earliest Shikoku (or Kochi-ken) originated from the Island of Shikoku, Japan. They are mountain dogs bred to track deer, wild boar, and even bears.

The Shikoku is a very special dog. Some historians believe the Shikoku Dog is one of the purest dog breeds in the world. The island of Shikoku is so isolated that it was nearly impossible for them to mate with other breeds.

The Japanese government declared the Shikoku dog a “living natural monument” in 1937.

The Shikoku Dog is rare. Six dog breeds are native to Japan, and the Shikoku is the rarest of the six. There are only 300 to 400 litters born per year in Japan.

There are very few Shikoku outside of Japan, but breeders are beginning to import them to North America.

Although this breed has a long history as working dogs, most modern-day Shikoku are companion dogs.

Shikoku Dog Training

The Shikoku needs obedience training and socializing. She needs to learn early on how to behave toward other dogs and children.

Training this breed is not easy, though. Again, this is not a dog for beginners. She is a primitive dog who needs a strong pack leader.

The Shikoku Dog temperament can be very stubborn and impulsive. And because she is so intelligent, she is also an independent thinker.

You will need to start carefully and work gradually. She needs short lessons and positive reinforcement.

Harsh correction can upset your Shikoku or cause depression. She may even “shut down” and stop listening to you.

Children who will be around this dog also need training. They need to know how to treat the Shikoku Dog with respect so she will respect them as well. Otherwise, the Shikoku may be aggressive toward them.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Shikoku dog take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

Shikoku Dog Appearance

The Shikoku are strong, muscular dogs who resemble wolves. The Shikoku Dog is a member of the Spitz family and has a similar square body shape. They have wedge-shaped heads and triangular ears. They have a curved, feathered tail and a scissor bite.

Shikoku Dog Size

Shikoku Dog weight averages 35-55 pounds, and height averages 17-21 inches. This makes the Shikoku is a medium-sized breed.

Shikoku Dog Colors

Shikoku coats can be black, red, tan, black and tan, or sesame, which is a mixture of red, white, and black. Most of them have white as well. Some have a cream-colored coat, but Shikoku of that color are uncommon.

Shikoku Dog Must-Knows

Shikoku Dog Lifespan

The Shikoku’s life expectancy is 10-12 years.

Shikoku Rarity

There are so few Shikoku Dog in North America that the North American Shikoku Club (NASC) has started a breeding database. The purpose is to keep track of individual Shikoku Dogs and their lines to prevent inbreeding.

The Shikoku Dog is beginning to gain popularity in North America. The NASC’s goal is to maintain the health and integrity of the Shikoku as their numbers increase.

Understanding Shikoku Dog Behaviors

The Shikoku has some interesting behaviors that owners can misunderstand.

Mouthiness”

The Shikoku uses a “soft mouth” to communicate when she wants attention. She may nibble on your arm or even an ear.

This is not bite behavior, and owners need to understand that Shikoku Dog temperament trait is not a sign of aggression.

Play Style

The Shikoku Dog has a rowdy style of play that can look frightening to someone not familiar with it. It can be very noisy and include baring of teeth. This breed needs early socialization to learn acceptable play behavior.

Vocalizing

The Shikoku Dog temperament can include a lot of vocalizing. She uses growling to communicate with people and other dogs.

She will let people and dogs know when she wants to be left alone, but she will growl even when she’s happy. This, again, is not to be mistaken as aggressive behavior in the Shikoku.

Barrier Frustration

The Shikoku does not like barriers. She may show frustration if she encounters another dog she perceives as threatening when she’s on a lead.

She will also escape from fenced enclosures if she can. Again, she is tenacious and athletic. She needs strong fences to contain her.

A Breed That is Not for Everyone

The Shikoku Dog is a primitive hunting dog. She is a challenging dog for beginners because of her intense prey drive and need for early socialization. She also has some special training needs. This dog needs a strong pack leader.

She is not a good choice for homes with cats or other small animals. The Shikoku would not be able to resist chasing them.

She needs a lot of exercise and needs to live in a home with an active, outdoors-type family.

Shikoku Dog Health Issues

The Shikoku is a healthy dog, but they are susceptible to hip dysplasia.

But regardless of how blessed a dog breed like the Shikoku happens to be when it comes to health it needs to be a priority.

So if you agree that your health and your dog's health should be a top priority then get a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health. Your Shikoku friend will love you for it. This guide will help save you money, time and most of all help you keep your dog healthy.

Caring for the Shikoku Dog

Shikoku Dog Grooming

The Shikoku has a double coat—a dense undercoat and a rougher outer coat. They need brushing once or twice a week. The Shikoku Dog will shed heavily (or “blow its coat”) once or twice a year and will need brushing more often.

The Shikoku Dog grooms herself well and needs baths only occasionally.

Shikoku Dog Diet

The Shikoku should do well on most high-quality dog foods.

Because of the Shikoku’s susceptibility to hip dysplasia, you will need to keep a careful eye on her weight. Overweight dogs are more likely to develop joint problems.

Shikoku Dog Exercise

The Shikoku is a busy dog with a moderate to high need for exercise. She needs long daily walks. She enjoys playing outside, but she will need a fenced-in yard or she will roam.

The Shikoku Dog also loves swimming and hiking. She is a great candidate for agility competition or other dog sports.

Finding a Shikoku Dog

Buying a Puppy from a Shikoku Dog Breeder

Finding a Shikoku Dog for sale can be very difficult. The Shikoku Dog is a rare breed, even in Japan, its country of origin. Shikoku Dog puppies are hard to find and can be expensive.

According to the NASC, the breed has only been in North America for a few years.

It you are sure that the Shikoku is the right breed for your family, you may need to import your Shikoku Dog puppy from Japan. This, too, may be difficult because breeders are very protective of their national treasure.

The Shikoku Dog price is not expensive if you can find one locally—anywhere from $300 to $700. If you don’t want to add your name to a long waiting list, you may have to import one from a Japanese breeder.

You would likely need to go through an interview and approval process before a breeder would agree to sell to you. Even then, the puppy would be expensive. If you import your pup from Japan, expect Shikoku Dog cost to be $2000 to $3000, including import fees.

You can find a breeder directory on the NASC website.

Shikoku Dog Adoption

Because this breed is rare even in Japan, finding a Shikoku Dog for adoption is also difficult. You can notify your area shelters that you are looking for one, but you will need patience if you choose this route.

Shikoku Dog Rescue

Rescuing a Shikoku Dog might be a better bet than local adoption. Again, the breed is rare enough that there are few rescue organizations in North America yet.

The NASC welcomes contact from owners needing to rehome Shikoku Dogs. They may be a resource to find Shikoku Dogs needing rescue.

Why the Shikoku Dog?

The Shikoku Dog is a rare breed that has a loyal following among those lucky enough to own one.

Owners love the mixture of Shikoku Dog traits and temperament that make this dog unique: her energetic and tenacious working-dog temperament and behaviors along with her loving family-dog traits.

If your family enjoys hunting, hiking, agility events, or other active recreation, the Shikoku Dog temperament makes her an excellent life companion and family member. She is a treasure in more ways than one.