Kai Ken (the “tiger” dog) : dog breed appearance, character, training, care, health

The Kai Ken is a Japanese dog, also known by the name of Tora Inu, whose name literally means ” tiger dog “. This breed of dog is considered a valuable natural heritage of Japan, as it has belonged to that country for centuries. We are going to learn more about the characteristics, diseases and care of these incredible dogs.


The origin of these dogs is on the island of Honshu, Japan , formerly known as Kai province (Yamanashi prefecture). This breed of Japanese dogs was originally used to work as deer and wild boar hunters, since they have a strong and robust body that makes them perfect for the task.

It was in the year 1934 when the Kai Ken dogs were named as the natural heritage of the nation. In addition to being hunting dogs, they are also excellent guardians, which is why this has been one of their oldest jobs.

It is for this reason that Kai Ken is usually found resting in high places where he has a better view of his surroundings.


The body of the Kai Ken dog is slender and medium-sized, they can measure between 47 and 55 centimeters tall and weigh between 15 and 20 kilograms.

It is a robust and athletic looking dog, with a perfectly proportioned body, so none of the parts stands out more than the other. His back always looks straight and with marked and developed muscles.

Although this breed has a rustic appearance instead of elegant, as it happens with other Japanese dogs, they do have a thin and delicate face, their eyes are small and triangulated in shape. As for their ears, they are always erect and their shape is also triangular.The muzzle of the Kai Ken is short and culminates in a very beautiful nose that is usually always dark (black) in color.

One of the most relevant physical characteristics of this breed of dog is that of its double coat, the inner is soft and thin, while the outer is thicker and rough in texture.

When the Kai Ken is born, it usually shows a single shade of color in its coat, and as it grows its coat becomes brindle. For the brindle feature to appear, it may take up to 4 years. Coat tones can be:

  • Brown
  • Gray
  • Orange or red


In the Kai Ken or Tora inu, you should know that it is of the utmost importance that these dogs have adequate physical activity. It will be essential to have a space where the dog can run and perform its daily physical activities, which are necessary for its good physical appearance and spirit.

Brushing should be done at least 2 times a week and use a soft bristle brush. As for the bath, this should be done at least 2 times a year. However, it will not be strange that we see the dog resist water or some kind of cleaning, because it does not usually like this type of thing very much.

Checking the legs and body of these dogs is important, as being hunting and outdoor dogs they can accumulate ticks, fleas and dirt.

Ticks are transmitting parasites of many diseases that, if left untreated, can cause damage to the dog’s skin and serious health problems.

The Kai Ken can easily adapt to cold temperatures, however it does not tolerate heat well, this is because its coat was designed to shelter them from the inclement cold of the Japanese winter.

The diet of this breed must be perfectly balanced and well strengthened. Being dogs specialized in hunting, they will always be seen active and doing all kinds of physical activities. Therefore, eating well will help you to store good energy.


One of the main characteristics that hunting dogs have is good smell and hearing. These are highly intelligent dogs, so it is not surprising that after doing some mischief they manage to get away with it.

Although, if they are trained from puppies they can have a better behaviour and be very obedient. As with almost all hunting dogs, they have an independent personality, so they do not have a problem with spending a long time at home alone. As you do so, you will be patiently waiting for your family to arrive.

As they are considered primitive dogs, they tend to run away in search of adventure, so it is recommended that they have a good yard or garden to play in and that they have a good fence. It is advisable to neuter these dogs .

At first the dog may reject caresses and cuddles, but once he gains confidence with his owners, he will be a loving and faithful but. They are very fearful of strangers, so they behave with suspicion and distrust. However, they never become aggressive , unless the case requires it.

Diseases and Health

Kai Ken are healthy dogs, so it is very rarely seen a specimen of these get sick, however, they tend to suffer from some common diseases such as:

  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Patella luxation.

The care of these dogs does not require a great deal of attention to keep them healthy. What is essential is that he be taken to the vet regularly, between 2 and 3 times a year. In this way, we can ensure that the dog is healthy, and if not, its disease can be treated early.

The vaccination and deworming calendar must always be up to date, since a large part of the health of these animals depends on it, and more so being this a field breed, so they tend to be vulnerable to parasites, fleas or problems associated with your outdoor activities.

10 curiosities of the Kai Ken

Canarian, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  1. They are ancient dogs, this because they have more than 3,000 years forming part of Japanese history.
  2. They have an incredible sense of sight and smell, which is why they are considered perfect hunters.
  3.  In Japan, they are also known by the name of Tora Inu, which means tiger dog. This name is due to the brindle pattern that the fur of these dogs have.
  4. Although they are very independent dogs and sometimes require having their own space, they are very affectionate with their closest humans, so you will always want to play with them, give and receive a lot of love.
  5. They are perfect to be part of families with children, as these dogs adore infants and are always seen playing with them and taking care of them attentively.
  6. When these dogs are raised surrounded by others of the same breed or when they grow up in the wild they tend to group together in packs, because in this way they can preserve their lineage and protect each other.
  7. They are very active, so you always have to be careful that they do not run away from home. To avoid this, the dog should have a good daily exercise, have a large yard or garden, and have stable and well-placed fences.
  8. They are very intelligent dogs, so educating them does not require a great feat. However, they can sometimes be a bit stubborn.
  9. Kai in can adapt to living in an apartment, however, they will require long walks and exercise routines to help them drain their excess energy.
  10. They are very healthy, so you will rarely see them get sick. They also do not suffer from congenital problems.

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