Here's an example of a post that came through the Kishu Ken Owners and Enthusiasts group on Facebook that I thought was important to share on my page. There has been increasing interest in the Kishu Ken as an active, outdoors companion - and in my opinion, that is a perfect niche for the breed to fill, if not used for their original purpose as a hunting dog.
I responded on the post on the Facebook group, but I wanted to put my thoughts here in a more expanded format. This post will not only apply to Kishu in the backcountry, but to their overall ability as hiking and camping dogs as I do not backpack with my dogs into backcountry, but typically hike in backcountry spaces, and camp at dispersed sites.
Recall and Kishu Ken
Here's an example of Fionna's range and recall. I consider this fairly good for my standards. Fionna is a dog I generally don't bother recalling from her range while hiking, as long as I am actively moving. She wants to stay with me, she sets up a perimeter around me, and she circles me for my entire hike. Often times, she will pursue small game, but has been recalled off of living deer as long as I catch her before she starts out, and overtly make moves to go in a different direction.
The key to recalling my Kishu off of game so far has been to look as disinterested as possible in the game they are flagging or telling me about. Once, with Fionna, this has failed - but the game was a dead deer, and I did have to physically retrieve her from it.
But Fionna and I have not been significantly tested. We haven't encountered whole herds while hiking, and the deer we have seen ran shortly after I called Fionna, so when she looked back to gauge how far away the deer was, it was outside of her "range" to pursue it already.
Telemetry collars, GPS collars, and bells are all tools of the trade I would suggest anyone who wants to hike with their Kishu in deep woods or backcountry utilize, just to be certain and to be safe.
Kishu Ken as Watchdogs
I often get asked about the protective and watchdogging capabilities of Kishu Ken when in the field, and while camping. I consider Kishu to be excellent watchdogs, whether you want a dog that will alert you to predators, to game, or to humans encroaching on your path or your camp. All of my dogs will come to attention, and most of them will alarm bark - particularly at humans and larger game.
I do NOT expect my Kishu Ken to protect me. While I think I do have some dogs who would put down their lives for me at home or in the field, I would never tell someone to expect that of their Kishu Ken. They are not protection dogs, and this ability will certainly come at a dog-by-dog basis.
I will say that they are quick learners, and whatever they recognize they are getting rewarded for, they will continue. If you want a dog with a decent watchdogging ability, get them experience when they are young, and take advantage of youthful curiosity-barking. This trait is fairly common in my dogs, and I tend to reward them for it when we are camping - particularly dispersed.
Kishu Ken in Camp
When I camp, I am almost always camping at dispersed sites that require I drive along unmaintained or barely maintained roads, or I have to hike a short ways from where I park the Jeep to get to. I prefer this, for myself and for my dogs. No matter how trained my dogs are and how well they do with recall while we are moving during our day of adventures, I will always stake my dogs to camp. My dogs are too curious, and too active, to want to stick around camp like my friend's Beauceron do, and so they get tethered and staked. I always carry one more stake and tether than dogs I am hiking with, just in case something goes wrong with dog management or the tethers/stakes.
I stay cautious.
My Kishu are always alert in camp, or in the tent. Some do not like to settle in the tent right away at night, or are up a little earlier than me, but they are always quiet in the tent. The only time I have ever been woken up by one of my early-rising Kishu is when we were flocked with unusual roaming/stray dogs at a site in Idaho (to which my male Kishu I was camping with at the time took particular offense, but did not damage the tent.)
Hiking with Kishu Ken and training their recall is a lifelong process. You can never stop, and you must adapt to train and own the dog in front of you. At least one of my Kishu Ken will never be trusted off leash, and hikes permenantly on a long line. He is simply too driven to chase anything that moves - and I do not trust him to be out of my sight. But that is one dog out of 6 Kishu in my household. Others sometimes drag their long lines, and others could hike naked if I let them, but they ALL require constant training. Kishu are a breed that develop strong bonds with their owners and will work tirelessly for the people they are connected with best, but it may take some time to get there. Do not be discouraged; if you honestly want a Kishu, they are a dog I can say "where there is a will, there is a way."
However, we do not hike or camp in brown or Grizzly bear country, and we have never hiked or camped in wolf country. I'm not sure I would, with Kishu Ken. My personal opinion is that if your predator load includes bear and wolves, Kishu Ken are not the ideal companion for you. You may want a more cautious, stickier dog if you are looking to explore and adventure. The Hokkaido Ken (for a Japanese dog) or one of the Siberian Laika breeds might be better-suited.
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