The Shiba Ainu: A Monumental Dog

Named for the Ainu tribe of Japan, the Ainu Dog is a Japanese variety of Spitz and is rarely seen outside of that country. While his origins are unknown, it is said that the Ainu (also known as the Hokkaido Dog, Hokkaidoken, Ainu-Ken or Ainu Inu) first arrived in Japan more than 3,000 years ago, when the Ainu tribe brought this sturdy little Spitz-typed dog with them. As the Japanese people grew in numbers, the Ainu were pushed onto the island, Hokkaido, and with time, their dogs became unique to this island. Not surprisingly, itís said that the Ainu Dog has changed little over the centuries, having adapted well to his role as a village guardian and companion of the Ainu tribe. Ever-alert and watchful, the Ainu is protective of his family and suspicious of virtually all newcomers, making them well-suited as a watch or guard dog.

It is believed that the Ainu Dog may very well be the oldest of all the Japanese breeds. Bearing close resemblance to the first Ainu Dogs that populated the island 3,000 years ago, the Ainu is a lithely muscled canine with a sturdy appearance and light, quick gait. Possessing powerful hindquarters and lean, straight forelegs, the Ainu Dog is also commonly used as a draft animal and they are well-suited to life as a primarily outdoor-dog. Their coat is known for being straight and harsh, with a double-coat covering the hindquarters, and a tail that curls into a circle, typical of the Spitz breeds. The Ainu Dog comes in brindle, brown, sesame, red, wolf gray, and white coat colors.

Surprisingly, a number of Ainu Dogs possess the blue-black tongues which are commonly attributed to members of the Chow Chow or Shar Pei lineage. This suggests that, perhaps, these breeds and the Ainu may share common a common ancestry. Even while his exact origins and bloodlines may remain unknown, however, the Ainu Dog has set itself apart from many other dogs, in that it is skilled not only as a big-game hunting dog (particularly used in hunting bears), a watchful guard dog, and as a hard-working draft animal. They have been used to pull sleds, for defense, and as skilled scenting hounds, further setting them apart from other dogs in their versatility.

While the Ainu Dog makes an excellent and loyal pet, his natural instinct to hunt means that he should not be left alone or allowed to run freely around other animals. Ainu can be good with children, provided that they are raised with them, though it is always good practice to supervise any small children when they are with the family (or any other) pets. Before introducing an Ainu Dog into your home, you should always take some time to get to know them a little and slowly introduce them to family members and pets. Not only will this help set your dog at ease, but will also you to judge how your dog will react when off the leash. The Ainu Dog has been recognized as a Japanese monument since 1937.

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