People are often interested in new, exotic breeds, especially those from far away countries. Breeds like the Anatolian shepherd, Presa Canario, Akita, Fila Brasileiro and Dogo Argentino are gaining a lot of popularity in the United States. And when we talk about exotic breeds, we have to mention the Japanese Tosa or the Tosa Inu. This dog was mainly bred to wrestle or fight as dog fighting was a popular source of entertainment (as well as a source of income) for many Japanese people. Let us have a closer look at this exotic though possibly aggressive dog breed.
Facts about the Tosa Inu
- Tosa Inu originated in the Tosa province of Japan in the Kochi prefecture. They are also known by different names like Sumo dogs, Tosa Token, Tosa ken or Japanese mastiff.
- The breed was mainly developed to participate in the canine equivalent of sumo wrestling known as Token which happens to be the most popular type of dog fighting in Japan.
- Many European countries have banned the Tosa inu. England and France were also hard hit over the hysteria of dog fighting and Tosa Inu continues to be banned in both these nations. In Germany, there are strict laws regarding ownership of certain aggressive breeds like the Tosa and owners may even be taxed up to 2000% for owning one. Due to strict laws against breeding the Tosa in Germany, this breed is almost extinct in this country. Countries like the United States and Netherlands are fighting these laws and are trying to raise awareness about the breed.
- Over the years, Tosa’s roles have changed from combat dog to watchdog and bodyguard dogs. They have also received success as companion and family dogs.
- Tosa Inu is very similar to Akita in size and weight but with a square blunt face, lopped ears and ropelike tail similar to the Labrador. It may have been developed from certain mastiff variety like the Shikoku Inu. Recently, many dog breeds have been crossed with the Tosa to create a larger, stronger and more aggressive fighting dog including breeds like the bull terrier, bull dog, German pointer, Great Dane and even the St. Bernard.
- This is a sturdy solid dog with a height of about 63 cm and weight up to 83-85 lbs.
- Their eyes are reddish brown, small but with a penetrating expression.
- Tosa’s coat is made of short, strong and dense hair. Color is mostly red but they may also be white with red markings.
Where to find a Tosa Inu
The AKC’s find a Tosa puppy is one of the few reputed places to get a Tosa Inu from. You can also visit the Facebook group for the North America Tosa Inu club of USA. It is a place to meet fellow Tosa owners and you can also find information about dogs from Europe. Many ethical Netherlands breeders are working diligently to breed gentle yet typical and healthy Tosas.
The Tosa is not a dog for everyone. So please research thoroughly and talk to several dog handlers and families before you invest in a Tosa puppy. Failure to do this groundwork is what causes many exotic breeds to end up in the shelters. Tosas can be inherently aggressive and they need careful training and socialization. So make sure you have the time and resources to commit to that. Tosa Inu prices can vary from breeder to breeder depending on the bloodline. The average price for a puppy with pure bloodlines is about $1500 to $2500.
Tosa are aggressive, courageous and sometimes threatening. Nonetheless, they are wise and obedient dogs who tend to be wary of strangers. Due to their fighting origins, they are not suitable for novice owners. Tosa might not get along well with other family dogs or cats unless properly trained and socialized early on. Being a large, strong and muscular breed, they can be quite difficult to control. So only an owner who is strong in body and mind can take care of and control a Tosa. Tosa Inu usually get along well with children and are protective dogs that can guard their home territory well.
Tosas will not like inactive lifestyles. They need plenty of exercise and are agile athletes. Walk or run your adult dog for at least 2 hours each day. For puppies between 4 weeks to 18 months, indulge only in gentler forms of exercise such as walking, playing etc. This will strengthen their muscles without injury. If your Tosa Inu is going to be left alone for long periods of time, make sure you give him some toys and activities to keep his paws and mind engaged. Otherwise your dog won’t hesitate to resort to digging or even running away. A tug of war game is very popular among Tosa Inu dogs; you can buy thick, sturdy nylon ropes to play such games with your pet.
Training your Tosa
Tosa is a sensitive dog breed that responds well to positive, reward based training. They are highly food motivated; so give your Tosa food treats that he loves so he can associate it with learning new tricks. Many tosa Inu owners have seen success with clicker training. As with many dog breeds, it is the owner that needs training, and this is especially true in case of Tosa Inu. So find some obedience classes nearby where your dog will also learn to socialize with other pets and you can pick up tips about training. Sometimes, Tosas can be a bit stubborn during training; but this is not a characteristic trait of the breed. Patience during this time is the best approach. Your Tosa will also display its sensitive nature many times during training. One word of reprimand from you and your pet will look at you with the saddest eyes! This can come in handy during off leash training where you can alter your tone of voice to get wanted behavior from your pet.
Tosas need very little grooming but regular brushing will remove dead hair. Inspect your pet for ticks, fleas and other parasites. Also check his ears from time to time. Clipping of toe nails is essential if your dog does not walk regularly on tarred surfaces. You may bathe your Tosa Inu once a month using a vet approved dog shampoo.
Like all large boned dog breeds, the main concern in Tosa Inu is joint problems like hip dysplasia. Good breeders will ensure breeding lines that have fewer of these medical issues. Your vet can be a wonderful ally in helping you deal with your Tosa’s health problems. The average life span of this giant breed is 8-12 years.