The historical way of hunting with Kishu-Ken, and Nihon Ken in general, has many stark differences when compared with the traditional western methods that the majority of the world associates with hunting dogs. These differences are commonly what drive life long Western-Style hunters to start their journey of hunting with the Kishu-Ken. The Japanese have an ancient saying One Gun, One Dog, meaning one man, one gun, and one dog to complete the task of hunting. It's a difficult goal, and one that traditional boar hunters would say is unlikely to be achieved. It requires an immense connection and bond between the hunter, and his dog to be in total sync in the pursuit of wild game.
Kishu-Ken do not cast or range far in the sense most often associated with hounds, curs, or other wild boar hunting dogs. The Kishu-Ken is a close hunter, often times silent until actually baying or closing in on prey. There is a constant push and pull between the hunter and his dog to determine the correct positioning and technique in order to be successful.
There are two styles of hunting typically found within the Kishu-Ken; hoedome (baying), and kamidome (catching). These styles have been bred towards and are often inherited through the different ancestral bloodlines in Japan.
The Kishu-Ken is a versatile and agile dog able to work through the thick bamboo jungles of Japan as well scale the steep hills and mountain sides in pursuit of wild game. They are perfectly suited for the swamps and common areas in the United States where there are limited open-spaces and the majority of hunting takes place in thick underbrush that is too difficult for human hunters to get through quickly or efficiently.
There is very minimal training needed for the Kishu-Ken to be able to fulfill their role as a hunting dog. This is what draws many people to experiment with them in their hunting journeys. Due to the limited outside breeding influence, the Kishu-Ken has retained most, if not all, of their initial hunting instincts that made them a revered National Monument of Japan.
The dog's own problem solving skills and intelligence is something that allows hunters to simply give cues for instructions that are based off the behavior and signs that the dog is displaying. This communication and reading your dog is essential to being successful when hunting with a Kishu-Ken. Providing the proper handler guidance and giving the dog self-building experiences will ensure that the independent-thinking and intelligence of the dog does not allow the dog to create bad habits for himself.
The Kishu-Ken is not a handler-heavy dog in the sense most often associated with working dogs. Using shock collars and negative punishments often times will cause the dog to "shut down" from performing any type of work. This is another major difference with the traditional methods of western hunting styles. Force-Retrieving, or Force Recall are very difficult to work within the Kishu-Ken demeanor. More successful methods are seen by implementing positive reinforcement training, and a "lack of reward" for failure to follow a command. When reaching the "proofing" stage of training, there is more leeway for traditional methods, however the risk and likelihood of "shutting down" the dog completely is a valid concern; a dog’s drive should continue to be nurtured.
Written by Trey Smith. Edited by CJ Hammond. Photo by Gen Murofushi.
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