How to Train a Kai Ken

The Kai Ken is a medium-sized dog and is one of the six native Japanese breeds. Traditionally used to hunt a wide range of game in the mountains of Japan, the Kai Ken is considered a rare breed even in Japan. The Kai is highly intelligent and learns quickly. They seem to learn as fast as the other Japanese breeds if not faster. They are not as independent and are more willing to please their companions. The Japanese describe the Kai Ken as a trustworthy guardian and extremely devoted to his master.

Kai Ken are athletic and intelligent with a strong desire to hunt. The Kai is an independent thinker and can form a strong bond with their family. They are excellent swimmers and climbers and have been known to climb trees and swim rivers in pursuit of game. Kai have a distinct brindle coat that comes in three colors: Black Brindle (Kuro-Tora), Brindle (Chu-Tora), and Red Brindle (Aka-Tora). Red brindle is the rarest of the coat colors. The distinct coloring and brindle pattern enabled the dog to blend in to the mountainous forests in which it hunted, camouflaging it against prey and predators in ancient times. The amount of brindle will vary from dog to dog as well as the brindle pattern. Most puppies are born completely black and their brindle will emerge as they age and will continue to change for around the first five years of their life. In the home, the Kai Ken requires basic canine care. They can be kept in an apartment setting provided they receive regular exercise in the form of leashed walks. Being a naturally clean breed, bathing should be limited to only when dirty. Brushing is recommended, especially during twice-a-year coat blowing. 


The Kai Ken is one of the six native Japanese breeds. The breed was discovered in 1929 in the mountainous regions of Kai province near Mount Fuji. In 1931, the Kai Ken Aigokai was formed and is the oldest and largest Kai Ken registry. Due to the breed’s hunting prowess and agility, it was traditionally used to hunt a wide range of game from pheasants to bear.   The Kai was recognized in 1934 by the Japanese Kennel Club. Because of the language barrier, there is very limited information on the breed, but it is believed that the first Kai Kens were brought to the United States in the 1950s by US servicemen in the military.

A pair was also sent to Salt Lake City. It is not known what happened to these dogs or if there are any surviving offspring. The next known arrival of the breed was in 1990 when a four-year-old male was brought over and, shortly after that, three females puppies. In 1991, six more puppies were brought over and in the following year, one more male puppy was imported. These dogs made up the genetic pool for all the American bred Kai Ken; they are the foundation of the Kai we have today.        

There were originally two types of Kai Kens from two great foundation studs. KAIKURO willed the “shishi-inu-gata” type which is a thicker, stockier dog with a more bear-type face. DAIRO, famed for his deer hunting, is credited for the thinner, longer bodies with foxier faces called the “shika-inu-gata” type. Each dog gave strength, speed, agility and quick thinking to its descendants as evidenced in the breed today. Currently in Japan, the Kai is regarded very highly by the Japanese people, they do not distinguish the two types anymore, and no one type is perferred over the other.

The Japanese describe the Kai as a trustworthy guardian, extremely devoted to his master, and they say a Kai will lay down its life to protect its master. They are very loved and protected in their native country and is considered a natural treasure in Japan.


Kai Ken are an overall healthy breed, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as allergies, luxating patella, and seizures. Those wishing to own a Kai Ken can work with a responsible breeder to gain the education they need to know about specific health concerns within the breed. Good breeders utilize genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies


Kai Ken have a medium-length double coat. They are a naturally clean dog that only requires the occasional bath.  Being a double-coated breed, they do lose their undercoat twice a year. During this time, additional bathing and brushing will help remove the thick undercoat. When not shedding their undercoat, occasional brushing will keep their coat in good condition. Their nails should be trimmed regularly with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting, and cracking. Their ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris, which can result in infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.

The Kai Ken is a moderately active breed. They require daily exercise and mental stimulation. Options for exercise include play time in the (preferably fenced) backyard or walks several times a day. Exercise can also come in the form of indoor activities such as hide-and-seek, chasing a ball rolled along the floor, or learning new tricks. Kai Ken can be good apartment dogs if their exercise needs are met. If the Kai does not get the proper amount of exercise, they can become destructive inside the home.


Kai Ken can make excellent companions if given the attention, training, and exercise they need. Kai Ken are often considered to be soft dogs when it comes to training, and positive training methods should be used. Early training is encouraged to establish a solid foundation and also offer socialization. Due to the strong desire to hunt, it is not recommended that Kai Ken be allowed off leash in unfenced areas.


TheKai Ken should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Kai Ken are a breed known to self-regulate their food intake, so it is not unusual to see variability in the quantity of food consumed.Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.


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