Is a Kai Ken right for you?
Why Kai Ken? This question is asked often, I asked it once too.
It is hard to know what exactly you're getting into when you're thinking about getting a Kai Ken. They are so scarce and spread out over the United States that it might be hard to find one to meet prior to signing up to getting one. I had never met a Kai Ken before I got Tavi, and I will admit I was pleasantly surprised.
You will hear frequently that Kai Ken are not like other dogs-- while this is true that they do not possess the same social butterfly tendencies as a retriever, nor the focus and bidability of a herding dog, it is important to remember that they are dogs and capable of similar goals other breeds may hold. When it is said that Kai Ken are not like other dogs it is often in reference to the difficulty trainers have training Kai Ken.
Kai Ken ARE hunting dogs, which means they are very capable of listening and taking direction from their owners. Whether they do or not is dependent on the bond with your dog.
Often when Kai Ken are called stubborn, independent, etc. it is because they're not being properly motivated. Kai Ken and all Japanese dogs are very intelligent, so intelligent that they know that listening to you saying 'come' is not going to be more interesting than sniffing the mailbox that 20 dogs have peed on since yesterday. This doesn't make them stubborn, this means they know the worth of their time and efforts and the owner isn't properly motivating their dog. Some owners have it easier in the sense that their dogs are very food driven and their dog will do anything for food. Others may require you to motivate them with their prey drive by pulling out a rabbit toy and playing with them, some may want some genuine praise for their efforts.
The last thing you should ever do though is take the easy way out of saying they're stubborn-- at that point you're saying their behavior is "who they are" instead of taking the initiative to learn your dog better. If the owner knows "who they [the dog] are" then the owner should know that dog's most favorite thing in the world and I doubt it is blowing off/ignoring their owner.
Working with dogs, especially Kai Ken, is all about communication. Kai Ken excel when they're partnered with people who want to communicate with their dogs. It is a lot more effort than just having a pet, but when you have a dog whom you can truly count on, who is predictable in every way because you know them so well, it is very rewarding. These are the dogs that you give them a mile and they'll be right there with you every step of the way.
Kai Ken do best with positive reinforcement training methods.
Kai Ken do best with positive reinforcement training methods.
All About Kai Ken
How are Kai Ken with other dogs?
- Kai Ken were regularly hunted as a pack in Japan so they tend to be more dog friendly than other Nihon Ken. They tend to not be the dogs to start quarrels, often choosing flight over fight which leads to them being quite neutral with other dogs. Some Kai Ken are reactive to other dogs or do not play well with certain types of dogs-- this is more on an individual basis I believe. Some lines might have more of these tendencies so it is important to ask breeders how their individual dogs do with other dogs.
Kai Ken also tend to be polite when playing with other dogs, which can lead to them being bullied by other dogs. It is important to be your dog's advocate when introducing them to other dogs and to step in if play is getting too rough
How are Kai Ken off leash?
- This is going to be on a very, very individual basis. It is dependent on genetics and training.
My Kai Ken are great off leash, but I have dedicated hundreds of hours into reinforcing and proofing them to come when called. Our Kai Ken are incredibly socialized and confident in all situations, so them bolting out of fear isn't an issue, but if your Kai Ken is scared of gun shots, loud trucks, etc. it can be very difficult to over power their desire to flee to safety and you should definitely NOT take them off leash unless in a secured fenced area.
How much exercise do Kai Ken need?
- Kai Ken are mid-range hunting dogs, meaning they cover quite a lot of distance when hunting.
Especially while they're young you will want to properly exercise your Kai Ken so they do not channel their excess energy into bad behaviors (chewing, digging, barking, etc). In my experience they prefer multiple shorter walks vs one long one. They're very alert and like to be "in the know" on what is happening, having multiple walks allows them to exercise this curiosity of theirs.
Two to three 20+ minute walks a day will keep them (and you!) healthy and happy.
Once your Kai Ken is older they are a lot more flexible and have a great off switch. If you're not feeling well your Kai Ken won't mind curling up on the couch with you and having a few lazy days. They're not overly needy when they miss a walk or two, but remember to spend some quality time with them to make up for it!
I have found that exercising their brains is also very beneficial to tiring out your Kai Ken. I make it a goal to buy a bunch of string cheese (one of their favorite treats lol) and each time I walk through the kitchen I will pull one out and do a bunch of obedience and tricks.
How much does a Kai Ken puppy cost?
- The purchase price of a Kai Ken puppy will vary. Expect to pay anywhere between $1500 to $2500 for a well bred puppy with the parents having OFA health testing. Additional costs to consider are transportation, their first vet visit with you, and puppy classes.
Are Kai Ken prone to health issues?
- They can be prone to a couple things.
Cardiac- some Kai Ken have been diagnosed with grade 3 or higher heart murmurs, as well as pulmonary stenosis and a Kai Ken dying recently from a heart attack. Be sure the breeder you're purchasing from does cardiac testing.
Luxating Patellas- There have been multiple Kai Ken who have had surgery to correct LP, and many more that are diagnosed but managing the symptoms. Patella testing is also available via OFA.
Vision- A couple Kai Ken have been diagnosed with PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) and confirmed via genetic testing. The end result is the dogs affected becoming blind. I recommend breeding dogs have Embark (simple cheek swab) done to check if the parents have or carry PRA.
Hip Dysplasia- a few Kai Ken have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. While it is not common, I still recommend breeding dogs have this done as we do not it to become an issue generations down the line.
What are the grooming requirements for Kai Ken?
- Kai Ken have thick double coats that shed 2 times a year. Brushing is generally not needed between shedding seasons. When they shed their coat it is called a 'coat blow' and looks they're molting. The fur sticks out in grey tufts that you can pluck off of your dog. This lasts for 2-4 weeks and is typically during the spring (to shed their thick winter coat so they don't overheat in the summer) and fall (to grow in their thick winter coat).
- Many Kai Ken are sensitive about their feet being touched, which makes nail trimming hard. Kai Ken nails are thick and hard. They typically do not wear down during walks and need to be trimmed every 4-6 weeks. Make sure to reward your Kai Ken a lot when you play with their feet so it is always a good thing and so they're used to handling when you have their nails trimmed.
The Kai Ken Standards
BRIEF HISTORICAL SUMMARY: The Kai Ken originates from medium-sized village dogs that existed in Japan dating back to ancient times. It became established as a breed in the Kai district (Yamanashi Prefecture), which is surrounded by mountains. Another name for this breed is 'Kai tora-ken' or 'Kai Inu'. A distinguishing feature in this dog is its brindled coat. These dogs are used mainly for hunting wild boar and deer. Their strong inclination to form a pack is thought to contribute towards maintaining the purity of the breed. The breed was designated as a natural monument of Japan in 1934.
The current AKC standard for Kai Ken is based on the FCI standard.
47-53cm at withers
35lb - 45lb
42-48cm at withers
25lb - 35lb
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