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10 Most Popular Dog Breeds in Japan in 2023 (With Pictures)

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim

Shih Tzu

Many aspects of pet ownership were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Japan is no exception. Pet ownership increased in Japan in 2020, and it’s now believed that the number of cats and dogs in homes surpasses the number of children.

The popular dog breeds in Japan differ from dog breeds in the United States. Since Japan has more densely populated cities, many people prefer dogs that are well-suited for urban life. So, you’ll notice that the most popular dogs in Japan tend to be smaller dog breeds that either thrive on companionship or have an independent streak.

Please note that as research on this topic is still being conducted, there are relatively low data and statistics available within the past year. However, we’ve made sure to include the most updated information. Here are some of the most popular dog breeds that you’ll find in Japanese homes.

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The 10 Most Popular Dog Breeds in Japan

1. Toy Poodle

brown toy poodle at home
Image Credit: NDAB Creativity, Shutterstock
Height Less than 10 inches
Weight 4–6 pounds
Life Expectancy 10–18 years
Temperament Friendly, intelligent, eager to please

Although the Standard Poodle was originally bred to hunt, the Toy Poodle was developed to be a companion dog. Toy Poodles are smart dogs that tend to be relatively easy to train because of their desire to please. They love receiving attention and love and tend to be compatible dogs for first-time dog owners.

This dog breed tends to have a good amount of energy and requires a decent amount of exercise. However, they’re good apartment dogs and do well living in smaller spaces as long as they get their daily walks and play sessions.

2. Chihuahua

chihuahua lying on grass
Image Credit: HG-Fotografie, Pixabay
Height 6–9 inches
Weight 3–6 pounds
Life Expectancy 10–18 years
Temperament Companion, loyal, playful

Chihuahuas may be the smallest dog breed, but they have big personalities with a lot of love to give. They’re known to be deeply loyal to their families and enjoy being in close proximity to them. Due to their tiny size, they can easily accompany people by hopping into tote bags or dog backpack carriers.

Chihuahuas tend to be rather easy to train, especially after they form a strong bond with their owners. With early socialization, they can learn to play and enjoy the company of children. However, it’s still recommended that Chihuahuas live in homes with just adults or older children simply due to their size. Since they’re so small, they’re at risk of injury from careless handling.

Because Chihuahuas are small and do well living with adults, they consistently show up as one of the most popular dog breeds in Japan.

3. Shiba Inu

shiba inu
Image Credit: Akbudak Rimma, Shutterstock
Height 13–16 inches
Weight 15–25 pounds
Life Expectancy 13–16 years
Temperament Independent, loyal, playful

The Shiba Inu is a dog breed native to Japan and is the smallest of the native breeds. They’re known to have confident and independent temperaments and often develop strong bonds with one or two people.

Because Shiba Inus are so independent, they can tolerate being alone for longer periods of time. They just need plenty of activities to do, such as playing with treat-dispensing toys, because boredom will most likely lead to destructive behaviors.

This dog breed isn’t recommended for first-time dog owners because it has a strong personality and requires training from an experienced dog owner who understands dog behavior.

4. Miniature Dachshunds

a Shorthaired Dachshund on the beach in summer
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock
Height 5–7 inches
Weight 8–11 pounds
Life Expectancy 12–16 years
Temperament Brave, loyal, outgoing

Miniature Dachshunds tend to be well-suited for living in Japan because they’re adaptable urban dwellers that do fine living in apartments. They love being with their humans, and they have a lot of energy. Therefore, they’re the perfect companion dogs that will enjoy going on walks and spending time playing with their owners.

These dogs are often cheerful and clever and require an owner who can provide training in a firm yet fun manner. Their bright personalities bring a lot of life and light to a home, so they remain popular dog breeds for the single lifestyle commonly lived out by many Japanese adults.

5. Pomeranian

pomeranian smiling
Image Credit: Nick Stafford, Pixabay
Height 6–7 inches
Weight 4–7 pounds
Life Expectancy 12–16 years
Temperament Energetic, friendly, independent

The origins of the Pomeranian can be traced to large sled dogs, and they’re closely related to the Samoyed and Alaskan Malamute. Over time, this dog breed became smaller until their average weight became 7 pounds.

So, although this dog is small, it can have a lot of energy and handle participating in a lot of activities. Their small size also allows them to live comfortably in smaller apartments in Japanese cities. They can also have pretty independent personalities, so they can tolerate being alone more than other companion dog breeds.

Due to their liveliness and independence, they’re often good fits for dog owners who live by themselves.

6. French Bulldog

french bulldog with collar
Image Credit: speckfechta, Unsplash
Height 11–13 inches
Weight 16–28 pounds
Life Expectancy 10–12 years
Temperament Easy-going, friendly, playful

French Bulldogs are excellent companion dogs with happy-go-lucky personalities that make them great dogs for first-time owners and apartment dwellers. The only concern about this breed is that it can face several health conditions, often due to poor breeding practices. The most common issues include brachycephalic syndrome, hip dysplasia, and hemivertebrae.

This dog breed loves to have fun and relax, but they can have a stubborn streak. So, it’s important to keep training sessions entertaining and encouraging, which benefits both the dog and the owner.

7. Miniature Schnauzers

Miniature Schnauzer standing on shore
Image Credit: ClarissaBell, Pixabay
Height 12–14 inches
Weight 11–20 pounds
Life Expectancy 11–16 years
Temperament Friendly, playful, spunky

Miniature Schnauzers have a charismatic appearance with their wiry coats and charming facial features. They’re versatile dogs, so they can live in both urban and rural settings.

Miniature Schnauzers are family-oriented dogs that enjoy being a part of the action. They’re quite intelligent dogs, so if they’re bored, they’ll quickly develop unwanted behaviors, particularly excessive barking. They’ll do best with owners and families that can provide plenty of exercise and playtime opportunities, making them a true companion dog.

8. Shih Tzus

shih tzu puppy sitting on a couch
Image Credit: Pattarit S, Shutterstock
Height 9–11 inches
Weight 9–16 pounds
Life Expectancy 10–18 years
Temperament Friendly, loving, outgoing

Shih Tzus were bred for the purpose of companionship. They are confident and affectionate dogs that enjoy human company, and you can often find them following their favorite humans from room to room like a shadow.

Due to the Shih Tzu’s small size and moderate activity level, they’re popular apartment dogs. However, it’s essential for their well-being to stay on top of providing enough exercise and a healthy diet, as they’re susceptible to weight gain and obesity.

Shih Tzus love people and tend to love playing with children. So, they’re one of the best companion dogs and family dogs that you can find.

9. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier dog sitting on the sand
Image Credit: Digoarpi, Shutterstock
Height 7–8 inches
Weight 7–9 pounds
Life Expectancy 10–15 years
Temperament Loyal, playful, easy to train

Yorkshire Terriers have an elegant appearance and a wonderfully loyal personality. Their small size makes them great apartment dogs. They require daily exercise, and busy owners can get away with skipping a walk every once in a while to play indoors.

These dogs love their families and tend to be mistrustful or standoffish towards strangers. They can form deep attachments to their owners and don’t like to be left home alone for long hours.

Although owners shouldn’t be overprotective of them, Yorkshire Terriers love being pampered and showered with attention. Finding a healthy balance between keeping these dogs safe and allowing them to explore will help them to grow into confident and happy dogs.

10. Mixed Breeds

Shih Tzu Bichon Frise mix puppy
Image credit: Kirsten Thompson, Shutterstock
Height Various
Weight Various
Life Expectancy Various
Temperament Various

Mixed breeds are also very popular in Japan. As pet ownership has risen in Japan over the past decade, pet adoptions are becoming increasingly encouraged to reduce the number of dogs in animal shelters. Pet adoption advocacy also includes broadening the adoption prerequisites so that they allow older adults to be eligible to adopt.

Pet ownership in Japan also increased by 15% in 2020 during the pandemic. The rise of seeing mixed breeds in homes may indicate that more people are open to adopting. Data from 2007 shows that about 150,000 dogs in shelters had to be put down. In 2017, this number went down to about 8,000 dogs.

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Overall, pet ownership continues to rise in popularity in Japan, and favorite dog breeds tend to be small and live well in apartments. Adoption and fostering initiatives continue to encourage and push for bringing home pets from shelters. This movement may lead to seeing a change in popular dog breeds in future years.

Featured Image Credit: Nataliya Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

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