The Japanese Terrier

by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 07-05-2023

The Japanese Terrier is an extremely rare breed, even in Japan where it was first developed.  

They are small, lively, affectionate and loyal, making them a popular choice as a pet dog. You'll may find them lounging on the sofa, but they do need exercise to keep the mind and body active.  A 30-minute walk is all that is necessary to keep the Japanese Terrier happy.

Their sensitive nature makes them well suited to singles, couples, and families that have older kids.  Loud, rambunctious children can scare them so this type of environment is not recommended.

Typical of the terrier breeds that went into their development The Japanese Terrier is a balanced, square dog, with a smooth, slick and short coat. Their heads are almost always black with a white body that has little black spots.

They hold their ears upright and their tails are normally docked in Japan. In countries where tails are not permitted to be docked, the tail is slightly curved and tapered at the end.

They tend to tolerate the heat better than the cold and will need a sweater or coat if living in a cold climate.

Quick Facts About the Japanese Terrier

Other Names Used: Nippon Terrier, Nihon Teria, Nihon Terrier, Kobe Terrier, Mikado Terrier, Oyuki (Snowy) Terrier

Affiliation:  JKC  Japanese Kennel Club, FCI, UKC  (Terrier Group)

Height: 8-13 inches

Weight: 5-9 pounds

Coat Type:  Smooth, sleek, thick, short coat

Colors: Black head with white body.  Tan spots on the white body

Country of Origin:  Japanese

Activity Level:  Energetic

Life Expectancy:  11-15 years

Good with Children:  Older Children and younger children if supervised

Good with other pets:  They are good with other dogs and cats but should not be trusted around small pocket pets such as hamsters or gerbils because they will be seen as possible prey.

Playfulness Paws Ratings
Affection Level Paws Ratings
Friendliness Towards Strangers Paws Ratings
Good with Children Paws Ratings
Good with Other Dogs Paws Ratings
Good for First Time Owners Paws Ratings
Exercise Needed Paws Ratings
Ease of Training Paws Ratings
Watch Dog Ability Paws Ratings
Grooming Requirements Paws Ratings
Shedding Paws Ratings
Cold Tolerant Paws Ratings
Heat Tolerant Paws Ratings

Explanations for At a Glance Ratings 

  • Playfulness:  Most=5   Less=1
  • Affection:  Most=5   Least=1
  • Friendliness Towards Strangers:  Most=5  Least=1
  • Good with Children:  Good=5   Not Good=1
  • Good with Other Dogs:   Good=5   Not Good=1
  • Good for First Time Owners:  Good=5  Not Good=1
  • Amount of Exercise Required:  Much=5  Minimal=1
  • Ease of Training:   Easy=5   Difficult=1
  • Watch Dog Ability:   Excellent=5   Poor=1
  • Grooming Needs:   Extensive=5  Minimal=1
  • Shedding:   Heavy Shedding=5   Minimal Shedding=1
  • Cold Tolerance:   Cold Well Tolerated=5    Poorly Tolerated=1
  • Heat Tolerance:   Heat Well Tolerated=5   Poorly Tolerated=1

History of Japanese Terriers

Japanese Terrier Dog Breed ProfileJapanese Terrier

This is a very rare dog breed even in Japan. It is generally assumed that they descended from Smooth Fox Terriers who arrived with Dutch sailors in the 17th century and have remained throughout the centuries similar in size and even colors.

Even so, there is some confusion as to whether the Japanese Terrier descended from the Dutch Boerenfox (a Dutch terrier strain, like the Fox Terrier of England or the German Pinscher of Germany).

Alternately, they could have been dogs brought by English sailors at approximately the same time.  Whichever was the original breed they all arrived in the ports of Nagasaki, because was the only port open to the West.

These little dogs quickly became popular because their size made them ideal lap dogs and companions.

Their ancestors were originally used to manage the vermin population both onboard merchant ships as well as on land.  The Japanese Terrier may have been used for this purpose, but they were primarily developed as a companion.

Once in Japan, they were bred with local dogs and small pointer type dogs.

By the 1930s, a fairly standard type emerged and was a popular companion and lap dog in the Japanese cities of Nagasaki, Kobe and Yokohama.  They were first recognized by the Japanese Kennel Club in 1930.

This very rare breed nearly vanished in 2nd World War when Japan faced tough times. They did reimerge and was first accepted by the FCI in 1998.  These were admitted to United Kennel Club in 2006.

Personality Traits of Japanese Terriers

A young Japanese Terrier is wrapped in a blanket looking at the camera

This breed is very loyal and charming and a bit home spirited as well. They have a calm and friendly nature.

The temperament of Japanese Terriers is playful and actively agile but they can also show signs of mischief from time to time.

They adapt to urban life and can stay in Flats and apartments with some daily exercise and a routine that consists of walks.

Also known as Nipon Terrier or Nihon Terrier, this breed finds it difficult to accommodate itself to extreme climate conditions and needs blankets to keep itself warm in winters.

Terriers love their toys. They get super excited when they receive a new toy as a gift. Nihon Terriers are companion dogs and they like to interact with family members. They tend to be rather possessive of certain family members who they feel close.

They enjoy playing with older children but I would advise parents to keep smaller children away from this breed of dogs. They hate loud noises and the terrier instincts may come out when you least expect it to happen.

Japanese Terriers have the ability to become good watchdogs as they can hear even slightest of voices and have good eyesight as well. They don't, however, make good guard dogs due to their size.


Grooming a short hair breed such as this one is a breeze with this breed.  A brush with soft bristles, cloth, or rubber curry glove is all that is needed once in awhile. Brushing will help with shedding but these dogs are not known to be big shedders.

A bath when dirty is also recommended.  Other than that, their teeth should be brushed periodically and their nails clipped.  A weekly once over will pick up any problems such as dirty ears, fleas, or skin rashes.


Since this is such a rare breed, with such a few member dogs world wide, it is impossible to assess the health status of the breed.  It is thought that it is a healthy breed with no health problems being reported.


  • Lively, affectionate lap dog
  • Does not require much exercise
  • Makes a good watch dog
  • Good with Older Children
  • Small size makes them very portable
  • No known health problems


  • Extremely rare, hard to find
  • Do not do well in cold climates

Pin for Future Reference

Japanese Terrier Pinnable Image

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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