The Japanese Terrier: All You Need to Know

The Japanese Terrier is a breed of small to medium-sized dog that has become increasingly popular as pets and is admired for its unique looks and lively personality.

In this article, we will delve into everything you need to know about the Japanese Terrier, so you can make an informed decision whether it is the right breed for you. 

History of the Japanese Terrier

Origins in Japan

The Japanese Terrier’s ancestors were born in the 1700s during the Edo Era in Japan. The ancestors were developed by mixing English Smooth Fox Terriers with native Japanese breeds. 

The English Smooth Fox Terrier was brought to the country by Dutch sailors. The offspring was eventually crossed with some type of Italian Greyhounds, and by the 1900s, the new breed, known as the Kobe Terrier, was widespread in Japan. 

Development of the Breed

During the Meiji Era, the popular Kobe Terrier was known by many names, including Oyuki Terrier and Mikado Terrier, and was popular among both native Japanese people and foreigners. 

In 1916, an English Toy Terrier and a Toy Bull Terrier out-cross breeding gave birth to a dog named Kuro. Kuro was bred with Kobe Terriers and eventually, they gave birth to a new breed – the Japanese Terrier. 

Recognition by Kennel Clubs

The Japanese Terrier was first recognized as a breed by the Japan Kennel Club in 1930 when the club set the breed’s official standard. Today, in the USA, the breed is not recognized by the AKC but it is accepted in the Foundation Stock Service. 

Physical Characteristics

The Japanese Terrier is a small dog with a lean and athletic build that gives it the ability to be quick and agile. Here is a closer look at the breed’s hallmark physical features. 

Size and Weight

The Japanese Terrier stands 10 to 13 inches tall at the withers and weighs 10 to 12 pounds. Female breed members are usually shorter, thinner, and less muscular than males.

Due to their small size, Japanese Terriers are a popular choice for owners who live in apartments where space is an issue. They are also adaptable and can exist in various living situations.  

Coat and Colors

The Japanese Terrier has a short, smooth, and shiny coat. The dog’s coat comes in two coat options – white and tri-colored (black, tan, and white). Some breed members have black markings, tan markings, and black spots. 

Distinctive Features

The Japanese Terrier has triangular-shaped ears that sit high on the head. Its eyes are dark, round, and expressive, giving the dog an alert and lively expression.

Despite its small size, the Japanese Terrier is incredibly strong and sturdy, with a robust frame and a well-proportioned and muscular body. The tail is medium in length and tapering. 

Personality and Temperament

The Japanese Terrier is a small yet lively, spirited, and affectionate breed that is known for its unique personality and temperament. 

General Disposition

One of the defining characteristics of the Japanese Terrier is its lively and energetic personality. It is always eager to play and interact with their owners, hence being a great choice for families with children. 

However, it is important to note that Japanese Terriers can become overly protective if not socialized properly. As with any breed, it is important to expose them to a variety of people and situations from a young age.

Interaction with Children and Other Pets

Japanese Terriers are known for their friendly and tolerant nature, which makes them great companions for children and other pets. They are patient and gentle with kids and enjoy playing fetch and other games.

However, as with any breed, children should always be supervised when interacting with dogs, especially younger children who may not understand how to properly handle a pet.

Trainability and Intelligence

Japanese Terriers are intelligent dogs. They respond well to positive reinforcement and consistency and are eager to please their owners. However, they can be strong-willed and stubborn at times, which can make training a challenge.

One way to overcome this is to make training sessions fun and engaging for your Japanese Terrier. Incorporating games and treats into training helps keep them interested and motivated and can make the process more enjoyable.

Health and Lifespan

The Japanese Terrier is a charming and lively breed that is generally healthy, but like all dogs, they are prone to certain health issues. It is important to be aware of these issues to ensure that your furry friend stays healthy and happy throughout their life.

Common Health Issues

Some of the common health issues in the breed include:

  • Patellar Luxation: A condition where the kneecap dislocates from its normal position, causing pain and lameness
  • Dental Issues: Range from mild tartar buildup to periodontal disease, which leads to premature tooth loss and pain 
  • Allergies: Breed members are sensitive to common environmental allergens, experiencing skin irritation and itching 
  • Ear Infections: Caused by moisture and dirt in the canal, ear infections are painful and cause discharge and a foul odor

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

Preventative care (vaccination, deworming, flea & tick control) is essential in maintaining the health and well-being of your Japanese Terrier. Regular checkups with a veterinarian are also important to ensure any health issues are detected and treated early on.

Expected Lifespan

The Japanese Terrier has an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years. With proper care and attention to their health, members of the breed can live long and happy lives. 


In summary, the Japanese Terrier is a unique breed that is intelligent, affectionate, and easy to take care of, making it a popular choice for individuals and families.

With proper care and attention, Japanese Terriers can live long and healthy lives and provide many years of joy and companionship to their beloved owners.

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