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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Japanese Terrier Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More

Japanese Terrier Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More

Japanese Terrier

Also known as the Nihon Teria, the Japanese Terrier is a small, active dog that originated in Japan, with a similar appearance to that of a Fox Terrier and Rat Terrier, although they are smaller than both. These dogs were most likely bred for ratting and have been used as such in Japanese ports for hundreds of years, but they have been widely kept as loyal companion animals too. Japanese Terriers are rare even in their home country, so finding one in the United States is a challenge. They are not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club, but they are starting to be recognized by some smaller clubs around the world.

Breed Overview


8 – 13 inches


5 – 9 pounds


10 – 12 years


Predominantly white body with black or tan markings

Suitable for:

Families, apartment living, farms


Intelligent, independent, curious, reserved, lively, active, loyal

These dogs, like many Terrier breeds, are cheerful, spirited little companions that fit well into almost any living situation, with a friendly, social, and curious temperament. Read on to find out more about this rare and fascinating Terrier breed.

Japanese Terrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Japanese Terrier Puppies

The Japanese Terrier is an adaptable little pooch that does well on large farms and in small apartments, provided that they get sufficient exercise. They are loyal dogs, though, and form strong bonds with their owners. Therefore, they cannot be left at home alone for long periods, as they will suffer from separation anxiety. If you are away from home frequently, the Japanese Terrier is unfortunately not the dog for you.

These dogs have a truly unique appearance, with most being characterized by their almost completely black head and purely white body, although they do occasionally have black or tan markings too. They have the classic high-set ears of a Terrier, with a short, slick coat and long, thin tail.


Temperament & Intelligence of the Japanese Terrier

The Japanese Terrier is an active and lively dog, with a great deal of affection and love to give. They bond strongly with their owners and do not enjoy being left alone and are known to be highly loyal and dedicated to their human family. They have a somewhat fierce loyalty, in fact. For this reason, they can make good watchdogs that will do all that they can in the protection of their families, often getting into trouble with larger dogs in the process! Japanese Terriers tend to bond strongly with one individual, though, and can become overly possessive over that person at times.

That said, they are actually sensitive dogs that do not do well with harsh training methods or an overly loud or busy environment. They are generally friendly toward new faces, albeit a bit wary at first, so they need proper socialization to avoid aggression toward strangers.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The Japanese Terrier is a great family pooch and does well with children of all ages. Of course, these dogs are small, so young children may want to handle them and hold them, and this may stress out your pooch. Make sure younger children are taught to properly respect these dogs to avoid any nipping or biting in annoyance. They are active and energetic dogs that will adore playing in the backyard with kids, though, so all in all, they are great family pooches.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

The Japanese Terrier has a long history of ratting, so any smaller pets in your home may be seen as prey. Early socialization and good training can help mitigate this in large part, but cats and other small pets will be better off kept away from your Terrier. They generally get along great with other dogs, but because they are known to be somewhat possessive at times of their owners, you’ll need to make sure they are well socialized to avoid fighting.

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Things to Know When Owning a Japanese Terrier

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Japanese Terriers will do great on 1–2 cups of high-quality dry kibble per day, split into two separate meals. They are fairly active dogs in general, but you may need to slightly alter their food depending on their size, age, and energy levels. Try to find dry food with an animal-based protein listed in the first three ingredients, preferably the first, and avoid foods with too many filler ingredients, such as wheat, soy, or corn. Lean meats or high-quality wet food are great occasional treats too, and they’ll love the variety. As with all dogs, make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Exercise 🐕

Japanese Terriers are active dogs but don’t need a ton of exercise. One or two hours per day should be plenty, along with a regular play session in the backyard and some time off-leash. With their ratting heritage, they will love games like chase and fetch, as these will help nourish their natural instincts. Japanese Terriers are adaptable dogs that can happily live in apartments, provided that they get adequate exercise, but they’ll certainly love a backyard to play in too! A daily walk or jog around the block, followed by a play session or training session is perfect for these little dogs.

Training 🎾

Japanese Terriers are intelligent dogs with an inherent loyalty and eagerness to please their owners. This typically makes them easy to train, even for novice owners, but they are known to have an independent and stubborn streak that can make training a challenge at times too. This is why they’ll need a firm, confidant hand in training, and consistency is key. That said, they are sensitive dogs that do not respond well to harsh training methods, so reward-based methods are best.

It’s important to remember that early socialization is a vital aspect of good training, and exposing your Terrier to other dogs and new places frequently will help during training. It will keep them focused on the task at hand rather than get distracted by new noises or smells.

Grooming ✂️

Japanese Terriers are not big shedders, so grooming their short coat is fairly easy. They’ll need a brush once or twice a week to remove any dead hair and help spread their coat’s natural oils. You’ll only need to bathe them if they get really dirty, but even then, clean, warm water should do the trick. Try to avoid harsh shampoos because these can strip the natural oils from your dog’s coat. Japanese Terriers have droopy ears, so be sure to check them regularly for any signs of infection. Try to keep their ear canals dry as much as possible.

Other than that, you may need to clip their nails once every 6 weeks or so if they don’t wear them out on their own, and brush their teeth once or twice a week to prevent any dental issues.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Japanese Terriers are healthy and robust dogs in general, and they typically live long lives without many inherited conditions if they are well-fed and exercised. Since they are such rare dogs and have largely avoided the problems associated with large-scale breeding, they have few known genetic conditions.

Minor Conditions
  • Ear infection
  • Bloat
  • Obesity
  • Eye issues
Serious Conditions
  • Cancer
  • Patellar luxation

Male vs. Female

There are few differences between male and female Japanese Terriers, and these differences are further reduced by spaying and neutering. Males may be a bit more territorial and possessive if you have any other males at home, although this is largely mitigated by neutering. It’s important to remember that all dogs are unique individuals that have unique personalities, and their temperament is far more affected by their upbringing, training, and environment than their sex. Choosing whether to bring home a male or female is largely down to personal preference.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Japanese Terrier

1. They are the only Terriers native to Japan

The Japanese Terrier’s beginnings likely started in the early 1600s, when Dutch and British sailors brought Fox Terriers, Rat Terriers, and Pinschers to Japan, which all likely bred with local Japanese dogs. The breed was then refined in earnest during the early 1900s, and by 1930, a breed standard was developed, leading to the first and only Terrier breed native to Japan.

2. They are extremely rare

Japanese Terriers became fairly widespread after a breed standard was established, but like many breeds in the 1940s, WWII devastated breeding programs and their numbers dropped close to extinction. While numbers in Japan are better now than they were then, the breed is still extremely rare, and there are only a handful of Japanese Terrier breeders around the world.

3. They are expert ratters

It is widely believed that Japanese Terriers were initially developed for ratting in the ports and on ships in Japan, and they were used for that purpose for centuries. While the breed is far more popular as a loyal companion nowadays, they are still expert ratting dogs and ideal for farm work.



The Japanese Terrier is a rare dog in their native Japan and all the more so in the United States, so count yourself lucky if you find one! There are few dedicated breeders around, but these dogs are steadily gaining popularity and are likely to become far more available in the near future. They have a few of the classic traits of most Terriers but are known to be a bit more laidback and easy-going than standard Terriers. They are adaptable dogs that can live happily in an apartment provided that they get sufficient exercise, but they will be even happier with a backyard!

If you are looking for a unique, rare, and somewhat laidback pooch that still loves a fair amount of outdoor activity, the Japanese Terrier is a wonderful choice

Featured Image Credit: Japanese Terrier, Pleple2000, Wikimedia Commons ( CC 2.0 Generic)

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