Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Short Vid

Just a short video of Suguri, the first Kai SAR dog. He's retired now, but agreed to humor me with a quick performance.

Kai Ken Aigokai Tenrankai - Fall 2009 (post 2)


The way the event goes, in the morn they have the 'kotai shinsa', which is basically where they check for confirmation. The whole trot around the ring, check teeth, coat, size, that sort of thing. In the afternoon the dogs are called back into the ring, lined up, and judged against each other.

The best are sent to the middle first, and a long shuffle ensues with dogs and their handlers slowly being moved from one side of the ring to the middle, and then finally lined up in order on the other side of the ring. Placement in the final line up is temporary, with judges occasionally sizing up dogs, and switching their positions, or asking dogs to line up against each other.

In the end, the judge signals that he's done, and everyone gets their ribbons. This goes on all day long in each of the 3 categories, juvenile/adolescent/adult (actually 6 categories since male/female are separated). There is also another category 'sogo yuryo' (overall champ basically) that is judged at the end of the day. To enter in this category a dog has to have placed higher than 3rd (I think it may have been recently changed to 2nd) in a previous exhibition.

Haru's sire was entered in this category, as was another friend's female, Tsuki. As luck would have it, they both won their respective male/female categories and had to go up against each other. Riki won, making Haru's dad the number 1 Kai in the country. Congratulations to Inoue-san and his kennel. He took several other spots as well, including one for 2nd place in juvenile female that was won by Haru's kuro-tora half sister.

It was a like a family reunion out there, and we would have tried to take a group photo with all the pups, but Riki is not really hot on hanging around lots of dogs. Two of Haru's half-sisters were there, another 2 month old litter also sired by Riki was there to go home with their new owners. Haru's half-sister 'Ikoro' (which means treasure in Ainu) is in a training program with Hokkaido University to track non-native raccoons. She's a very cute Kai, with excellent manners. Her owner (a student at Hokkaido Uni) is doing a great job with training her.

While talking with everyone behind Inoue-san's car downing hot 'ton-jiru' (pork soup), and scarfing down maguro, we realized that most of the pups in Haru's litter, and the other litter with Ikoro in it, are now working dogs.

I was later introduced to Dr.Yamashita at the exhibition. He's a veterinarian owns/trained the first Kai in SAR. He's helping train Ikoro at present, and I'd heard about him before when I was looking into SAR. He also trains the KBD's (Karelian Bear Dog) that were imported from the US to work on bear in Nagano Prefecture.

We had a great time talking about working dogs and 'primitive' spitz type dogs. I asked him about whether it was 'harder' to train a Kai to do SAR work. His answer was that perhaps for professional trainers who've trained a certain way their whole careers, it may be difficult to train a Nihon Ken. But by adjusting training methods, it's not at all harder, and sometimes just requires a different approach.

He had his Kai 'Suguri' with him. He's 13 years old now, and is retired from SAR work. He's lost most of his hearing, and hasn't been training for a while. At my request, he agreed to put Suguri through some simple obedience stuff to show on my blog. It was very interesting to see the connection between them as Suguri was doing his thing off leash at the Tenrankai with over 150 Kai around! I'll get the video uploaded as soon as I can.

All in all, it was a great day. Haru got tuckered out assaulting everyone and every dog with kisses, and I got to drive another 250km to get home. I was pretty impressed that I managed to get over 500km on one 35 liter tank of gas. Hurray for the Jimny.

Loads of video and pictures are on the way... I guess I can work on it tomorrow.



Kai Ken Aigokai Tenrankai - Fall 2009 (post 1)

I had a wonderful weekend up in Yamanashi at the Kai Ken Aigokai Tenrankai. The Aigokai is the governing body for the Kai breed here in Japan, and they organize two exhibitions every year. One in April, and the other in October.

We had some iffy weather this year. It was raining on Saturday as I drove up, and during the night as well. Come Sunday and showtime, we had an overcast yet non rainy day. The unseasonably chilly temps made for an excellent day for the dogs who are already switching into their winter coats, but left me feeling slightly crisp.

The Tenrankai was held on a riverbank, just off route 20 which is the main route connecting Yamanashi with Tokyo and the rest of the world. I spent the night in the car with Haru as I got there a day early and didn't want to miss anything this year. Had a less than wonderful sleep as there were others there with the same idea, and a great deal of 'ban-ken' (watchdog) Kai, barking every time vehicles pulled in.

Things started pretty early this year. There was an extremely high number of entries this year, and a few of the judges were unable to make it. Everything started early, and moved along at a pretty brisk pace all day long

By the time the first announcements were going out over the loudspeakers, I had hooked up with Inoue-san, Haru's breeder. They were showing several dogs this event, including Haru's sire, Riki.




Thursday, October 22, 2009

Little Polar Bears

Today was a beautiful autumn day, just right for a nice stroll through the woods. Scouted a few new spots in preparation for next month.

Haru has gotten to the point where if we can come across tracks that are relatively recent, she bee-lines it to the boar's 'nest'(I have no idea what else to call it). She still doesn't like to wander too far away from me, but we'll have to find a way to get over that so that she gets to the boar before they bolt out of their sleeping quarters. The underbrush in the hills is so thick that it would take hours to get to the boar if I tried to do it silently. As it is, I don't bother with stealth too much.

For now I'm just happy that she's got the general gist of what I'm trying to get her to do.

Seeing as I have no pics/vid to post, I'm throwing up vid of a friends Kishu pups. Darn cute little polar bears I reckon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All's Well?

Well Haru was actually lactating, which my wife was fascinated by. The swelling's about 70% gone. It seemed to be bothering Haru a bit, and she was a bit whiny and didn't have much of an appetite for a couple days.

She's back to her old self, scarfing down anything we give her. She's an extremely food motivated dog. At present she's eight and a half months old, but her weight and growth seem to have pretty much flattened out. She will probably put on a few more pounds of muscle during the coming months, but right now she's still weighing in at around 13 kilograms.

We have an very annoying issue in the house at the moment. We haven't been able to pinpoint the culprit, but it seems someone is getting confused about where the toilet is. Seems it's one or more of the cats, and not Haru. As luck would have it, our serial pee'er is going to work in front of a little alcove that the fridge is in. Fridge is heavy= all the urine runs under the fridge.

Very annoying to clean up. It happened a few days in a row, so I've actually fenced off the area so no one can get in. The jury's still out on whether that will work as last night someone peed in front of the AV rack in the living room instead.


Well it's a beautiful day, and aside from a little work I have in Tokyo tonight, the next two days are mine.

Friday, October 16, 2009


So wake up this morn and getting Haru ready for her daily walk at the marsh I notice her mammary glands are swollen. Quite considerably actually. I'm thinking that she may be getting ready to go into her second heat.

Have to head into work now, but I'll have to have a chat with my vet later. It's more of a hard swelling than soft, and the rear glands are the most swollen. Doesn't seem to be bothering her, but from past experience she needs to stay calm and rest.

So, no mountains/playdate tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WoT about hunting with dogs in Japan

A friend of mine asked me the other day about hunting in Japan, and what types of breeds are used. I meant to type a quick reply over a cup of tea, but as usual I ended up with a WOT (Wall of Text) reply. Yes, I am long winded. My wife reminds me all the time. I try to explain everything and anything.

Well seeing as I typed this up, I figured I'd throw in on my poor abused blog that doesn't get nearly the amount of attention it should get since my Nikon died.

As far as hunters and their dogs, almost all bird dogs in Japan are western breeds (pointers, retrievers, spaniels). Most big game hunters run mixes, and usually include Nihon Ken/Hound bloodlines. Everything over here is cramped, including hunting areas, and hounds are extremely far ranging. Hunters add Nihon Ken blood as they are closer ranging.

There are Japanese breeds that are not recognized (even here in Japan), some are old hunting lines, some are newer breeds, and many hunters use/mix them. Some examples are the Yakushima, Nitta, and the Matsuda Corporation's 'Luggers'.

Hunters that hunt in large groups usually run hounds, with solo hunters (tandoku-ryoshi) using Nihon Ken or mixes. There are some hunters that run a 'catch dog' or two in their packs, like Pitties, Amstaffs, Dogos, or Staffies. Dogos were big around 15-20 years ago, and there were lots of imports, but they didn't fare too well over here. It's a combination of the mountainous terrain, their size, and hunting style.

Lastly, there is the minority that run purebred Nihon Ken. Kishu are boar/deer dogs, and are probably the most widely used Nihon Ken for hunting. Kai are probably second and are mostly used for bird, and a smaller percentage on boar. Shikoku are boar/deer dogs as well, but I only know a handful of hunters that have purebred Shikoku. Right under the Shikoku is the Hokkaido. I know a couple of hunters that have tried Hokkas down here on the main island, but because of their thicker coats, they tend to overheat. They are also built more for hunting in snow, they have stockier stronger front ends, but not much speed. Hunting with Shiba is something I hear about very rarely, and I've only ever seen them on birds. The Akita, well I don't know of anyone that hunts with Akita. The present 'type' and bloodlines are not working dogs, they're too big, and not really built for hunting.

The hunters that run Japanese breeds do so mostly for their hunting style. Of course there are some who are just very into the preserving the breeds and want to 'work' them. I'm sure a bit of the 'national heritage pride' factors in as well. I used to hunt with Jack Russell Terriers, and when choosing my next breed I decided that there are plenty of people hunting with western breeds. Owning AND working the Japanese breeds is something only a handful of people in the world are able to do, and seeing as I'm in that position I picked the Kai to start with as it's a 'all round' hunting dog and suits my hunting style.

The Japanese breeds are perfectly suited to hunting in Japan. An agile medium sized dog has an easier time in hilly terrain with thick underbrush. There are not many big open spaces, where a large long limbed dog would have an advantage in running down prey. The thick double coat that sheds twice a year as the temperatures change is also invaluable in protecting dogs hunting in thick, prickly brush.

Nihon Ken aren't 'trained' to hunt per se. This is one reason hunters enjoy hunting with them. Most western breeds are bred to very specialized hunting tasks or styles, and require a lot of training (especially bird dogs) but the Nihon Ken develop their own hunting techniques and style, through plain instinct mostly it seems. It's just a matter of getting them out to the mountains early and often, and instinct takes over. In my experience hunting with them is like going on a hunt with a wild animal. If you have a dog with the drive, smarts, and eventually experience as well, the hunter's job is just to read what the dog is doing and try to keep up. They don't need any commands, and aren't really trained to do anything, they're just reacting naturally to being on the hunt. In hunting big game, the dogs learn that if they stop the animal for long enough, the human will come and dispatch it for them.

There are downsides to hunting with Nihon Ken. They're very quiet on the hunt, and it can be difficult to know if they're on the chase, or which direction they've gone. They generally have a much smaller search range than say hounds, and will give up the chase and come back rather quickly if they feel there's too much distance between them and the hunter. They also do a lot of the 'thinking' themselves, and will develop bad habits if the hunter is not careful. For example a friend of mine had a dog that was a turning into a great baying dog, but after a few incidents where my friend took too long to find him when he had a boar bayed up (or spooked the boar by making too much noise when closing distance), completely stopped baying and would just chase the boar for a bit and come back.

I guess the main difference in hunting with Nihon Ken as opposed to Western breeds is rather subtle. It's hard to explain, but I guess it's working to bring out the dog's naturally present qualities and instincts as opposed to 'teaching' the dog how to hunt.

Hmmm hard to explain, and I have again created a wall of text.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rainy days

Video from today. We took a walk to the park after the rain let up.

You can see her right side is a lot lighter than usual. She's in the middle of a coat change, and something we've come in contact with recently has irritated her to where she's chewed through the outer layer of her coat.

Went to the vet this morning for her monthly heartworm meds, vet said we'll give her a bit more time and see how her coat does this next week.