Japanese Terrier

Japanese Terrier looking forward

Quick Facts


10 to 12 pounds


10 to 13 inches at the shoulder

Average Lifespan:

13-15 years

Known For:

Highly intelligent, independent dogs that can be reserved with strangers, but are great watchdogs.


Joyful, lively, and full of character – meet the delightful Japanese Terrier! Originating from the Land of the Rising Sun, this charming little breed is a treasure among dog enthusiasts. Known for its playful demeanor and loving nature, the Japanese Terrier has won the hearts of many pet lovers across the globe. 

With its distinct appearance and spirited personality, it’s no wonder that this breed is steadily gaining popularity. According to the American Kennel Club, the Japanese Terrier is a rare breed, but its fan base is growing thanks to its adaptability and affectionate nature1.

History and Origin

The story of the Japanese Terrier is as captivating as the breed itself. Originating in Japan, it is believed that the breed’s ancestors were brought to the country by Dutch traders in the 17th century. These small, smooth-coated terriers then bred with local Japanese dogs, giving birth to a new, unique breed. 


The Japanese Terrier, or Nihon Teria as it’s known in its homeland, was initially bred for hunting and exterminating vermin, showcasing its agile and alert nature.

Through the years, the Japanese Terrier has transitioned from a working dog to a beloved companion. Despite being a relatively rare breed outside Japan, those who have experienced the joy of owning one can attest to their loving and lively character. Although not as globally recognized as some other breeds, the Japanese Terrier holds a special place in the hearts of its enthusiasts.


One of the most famous Japanese Terriers is “Mari,” who became a symbol of hope and resilience after being featured in a popular Japanese film documenting her survival and rescue during a natural disaster.

Breed Characteristics


Barking Tendency

Dog Friendly

Health Issues

Shedding Level









Cat Friendly

Exercise Needs


Social Needs








App. Friendly

Child Friendly


Energy Level

Stranger Friendly

Watchdog Instincts







Appearance and Size

At first glance, the Japanese Terrier captures your attention with its sleek, shiny coat and spirited eyes. This small but well-proportioned breed typically weighs between 5 to 9 pounds and stands around 8 to 13 inches tall at the shoulder2. Their compact size makes them an excellent choice for apartment living or homes with limited space.


The coat of the Japanese Terrier is short, smooth, and fine, making them a low-shedding breed. They are predominantly black and white, with the head being mostly white and the body showcasing a mix of the two colors. Their expressive eyes and perky ears add to their overall charm, and their slender yet muscular build hints at their agility and energy.


With their distinct appearance and manageable size, the Japanese Terrier is a delightful companion, ready to bring joy and laughter to any home.

Personality and Temperament

Japanese Terriers are known for their lively and affectionate nature, making them excellent companions for those who enjoy spirited and loving pets. They are incredibly loyal to their owners, often forming strong bonds with the family members they live with. This breed thrives on human interaction and loves being the center of attention, making them a joyful addition to any household.


With their high energy levels, Japanese Terriers are playful and enjoy engaging in games and activities. They are known to be good with children, although, like all dogs, early socialization is essential to ensure positive interactions. The Japanese Terrier is also known for its intelligence, making it a quick learner and eager to please its owner.


Despite their energetic nature, Japanese Terriers are also content to snuggle up with their favorite human, showcasing their adaptable and loving temperament. They are generally friendly towards other dogs, but their terrier instincts can make them chase after smaller animals. Early socialization and training can help manage this behavior, ensuring a harmonious relationship with other pets.

Health and Lifespan

Japanese Terriers are generally healthy dogs with a lifespan of around 12-15 years. However, like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health conditions. Responsible breeding, regular veterinary check-ups, and a healthy lifestyle can help mitigate the risk of health issues and ensure a long, happy life for this delightful breed.


Some of the health concerns that may affect Japanese Terriers include patellar luxation, allergies, and dental problems. Patellar luxation is a common condition in small dogs where the kneecap can slip out of place, causing discomfort and mobility issues. Regular dental care is also essential as smaller breeds are often more prone to dental diseases.


Nutrition plays a crucial role in the overall health of a Japanese Terrier. Feeding a balanced, high-quality diet can help maintain optimal weight, support energy levels, and contribute to a shiny coat and healthy skin. Regular exercise is also essential to keep this energetic breed happy and healthy.


Potential owners should be aware of these health considerations and be proactive in providing the care and attention that a Japanese Terrier needs to thrive.

Care and Maintenance

Japanese Terrier grooming

Caring for a Japanese Terrier can be a fun and rewarding experience. Their short, smooth coat requires minimal grooming – a weekly brush and occasional bath are generally enough to keep them looking their best. Regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental care are also essential to maintain their overall health.


Japanese Terriers are active and energetic dogs that enjoy regular exercise. Daily walks, playtime, and interactive games are great ways to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. They are agile and enjoy activities like agility training, which also helps strengthen the bond between the dog and the owner.


Proper training and socialization from an early age are vital for a well-behaved Japanese Terrier. They are intelligent and eager to please, which makes them relatively easy to train. Positive reinforcement techniques work best, as this breed responds well to rewards and praise.


Feeding a balanced and nutritious diet is also crucial for the well-being of a Japanese Terrier. Portion control and regular meal times help prevent overeating and maintain a healthy weight. 

With the right care and maintenance, a Japanese Terrier can be a joyful and loving companion for many years.

Training and Behavior

Training a Japanese Terrier is a journey filled with fun and fulfillment. With their high intelligence levels and eagerness to please, these little dogs are generally responsive to training. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are key to guiding a Japanese Terrier towards desired behaviors.


Japanese Terriers are known for their playful and sometimes mischievous behavior, so establishing rules and boundaries early on is essential. They thrive on mental stimulation, and activities such as agility training, puzzle toys, and obedience training can keep them engaged and well-behaved.


Socialization is crucial for this breed. Exposing them to different environments, people, and animals from a young age helps in developing a well-rounded and adaptable dog. Japanese Terriers, with their terrier instincts, may have a tendency to chase, so recall training is particularly important.

Japanese Terrier and Families

Japanese Terrier with people

Japanese Terriers make excellent family pets, offering joy and companionship to their households. They are known for forming close bonds with their family members and are generally good with children, especially when raised together. Their playful and affectionate nature makes them a delightful playmate, and their loyalty makes them a loving companion.

However, due to their small size, it is important for interactions with young children to be supervised to avoid accidental injury. 


Japanese Terriers usually get along well with other dogs, but their interaction with smaller pets should be monitored due to their chasing instincts.

Adopting a Japanese Terrier

Thinking about bringing a Japanese Terrier into your home? That’s wonderful! Adopting a dog is a rewarding experience, and the Japanese Terrier, with its loving and lively nature, makes a fantastic companion. Start by researching reputable breeders or rescue organizations. 


The Japanese Terrier is a rare breed, so patience may be required to find the right match.

When considering adoption, take into account the needs and characteristics of the breed. 


Is your household ready for an energetic and playful companion? Do you have the time to dedicate to training and bonding? Ensuring a good match between the dog and your lifestyle is crucial for a happy and harmonious relationship.


Remember, adopting a dog is a long-term commitment, so take the time to consider whether a Japanese Terrier is the right fit for your family and lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the characteristics of a Japanese Terrier?

Japanese Terriers are small, lively, and affectionate dogs. They are known for their smooth coat, mostly white with black or tan markings, and their energetic and friendly temperament.

How much exercise does a Japanese Terrier need?

They have moderate energy levels and require daily walks and playtime to stay happy and healthy. They enjoy being active but also appreciate relaxing with their family.

Is the Japanese Terrier good for families?

Yes, they are excellent family pets. They are particularly good with children, showing patience and affection. Early socialization helps them get along with other pets too.

What are some health concerns for Japanese Terriers?

They are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be susceptible to genetic conditions. Regular vet check-ups are important to maintain their health.

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