Tosa Inu

Exceptionally Gentle, Affectionate, and Totally Obedient

Tosa Inu - The calm but fearless giant

By Toni Grzunov - Last updated on March 20th, 2021

All you need to know about the Tosa Inu

The Tosa Inu, often referred to as the Japanese Mastiff, is a Japanese breed of dog most known for its size and robust build. They weren’t originally this big in Japan, where they were trained for fighting. 

Once they left their homeland they were crossbred with other large and giant dog breeds. These included Mastiff and the Great Dane. This resulted in a very large dog breed, almost double in size to Japanese Tosas!

While the size of these dogs may be intimidating to some, they are calm and patient. Tosas are also known to be very courageous! Many consider the breed to be dangerous and ownership is actually strictly controlled in some countries. Still, don’t let that discourage you, because these dogs can make amazing pets with the right training!

Now that we got your attention it’s time we delved a bit deeper into everything you should know about Tosa Inu.

Fast Facts

Group - Mastiff

Weight - 120-170 Pounds(male) 90-140 Pounds (female)

Height - 22-30 Inches (male) 22-30 Inches (female)

Hair Length - Short

Shedding - Light

Life Span - 10-12 Years

The Appearance of the Tosa Inu

Tosa Inu are huge dogs, but they always look dignified. They are majestic and powerful and seem imposing due to their size. Their appearance is athletic, and they are sure to draw looks from bystanders wherever they appear!

They have muscular bodies, which is especially pronounced in their necks. You will also see some redundant skin around the neck area. Since Tosas were used for fighting, this was useful because it allowed them to turn on their attacker.

Many compare the build of a Tosa Inu to that of a Great Dane. This makes sense because this breed was used in the development of the Tosa. 

The back of Tosa Gog is wide and straight, and it ends with a heavily muscled tail. They have a well sprung, deep chest. This results in their abdomen being strongly tucked. Tosas have nicely angulated limbs, making them extremely athletic. 

Their skulls are strong and broad, with a moderately long, square muzzle. Tosa Dogs have strong teeth and according to the breed standard, there should be no overbite. The jaw of a Tosa Inu is also well developed.

Their bones are heavy and strong, and their paws have well-developed pads. The athletic appearance of Tosa Inu is even more enhanced by their short coat of hair. The coat is coarse and quite hard.

What colors does a Tosa Inu come in?

According to the breed standard, there are five colors a Tosa Inu can come in:

  • Red
  • Fawn
  • Apricot
  • Black
  • Brindle  

The dogs are allowed to have some white markings around the chest and feet if you plan to show them in competitions. However, if you are just looking for a pet we’re sure you won’t mind some small miscolorations. 

Now that you know everything you need about the looks of these gigantic dogs, it’s time to learn a thing or two about their personality!

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All about the Tosa Inu personality

The Tosa Inu is fearless, loyal, and highly protective! These dogs are intelligent and independent but will become devoted pets once they bond with their owners. They are calm and stable, especially around owners that know how to deal with them.

A firm and gentle hand is all you need! These dogs are sensitive to the tone of voice and your commands. Basically, all you need to discipline them is the sound of your voice. This is important, because of the already mentioned independent spirit of these pups. 

Take command and present yourself as the leader of the pack. This way you will be able to introduce your Tosa Inu to anybody. These dogs are generally quite reserved around new people, but with the proper attitude that stops being an issue.

If they are allowed to take charge by themselves it can spell disaster and lead to some dangerous situations. You don’t want your Tosa Inu to go around by itself, no matter how well trained it is. Many people would become frightened by such a large dog.

There are many countries that consider the Tosa Inu to be adangerous” breed. It is banned or legally restricted in places such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, and Norway, among others. This is not the dog’s fault, however.

Many Tosa Inu are improperly trained, which created a bad rep for them. When trained well, these dogs are highly affectionate and gentle and will obey every command.

This is why it is important to train and socialize your dog from an early age. That way you won’t have any problems with its personality.

Is a Tosa Inu easy to train?

These dogs are extremely bright but can be quite stubborn. The Tosa Inu usually have clear ideas on how they would like to behave. Once they decide on doing something, it may take a lot of effort to get them to think differently. 

Since this is such a large breed, good behavior is extremely important. You don’t want other people being afraid of your pet when you bring it with you outside, right? This is why a lot of obedience training is necessary with the Tosa Inu.

This breed is always potentially dangerous unless it is trained well.

Your priority should be early socialization. Invite friends and family over so the dog gets used to them. You can even have other people take it for walks occasionally. Naturally, have them offer your Tosa Inu treats to build trust. Positive experiences during these interactions at an early age can do wonders! 

Socialization with other dogs can also be extremely important. However, you need to be extra careful. Tosa Inu are large dogs, and even innocent games with smaller dogs can be dangerous. Proceed with caution when dealing with other pets!

Getting the assistance of a professional dog trainer is always a good idea. This is especially true when it comes to a breed that can be this tricky to work with. Start with a training regime with your Tosa Inu puppy while it’s still young for the best results.

Well, now you are aware of the personality of a Tosa Inu, and how much work you need to put in if you want one for a pet! It doesn’t stop there, let’s take a look at their grooming habits.

How much Grooming does a Tosa Inu need?

Tosa Inu dogs have short and coarse coats, so you won’t need to do anything special to take care of them. Brush them weekly so the hair and skin stay in good condition. Give them occasional baths to remove dirt and that’s it.

When it comes to shedding, these dogs shed all year-round, although not in extreme amounts. Due to their short coat, it actually won’t ever become an issue.

However, drooling can be a much larger issue for most people. Expect to see small pools of drool everywhere around the house. Keep a pack of baby wipes available at all times so you can clean them up immediately.

While they only shed occasionally, the drooling can become an issue for people with allergies. The protein that causes them can be found in the saliva as well, so the Tosa Inu is not considered a hypoallergenic breed.

These dogs have strong, dark nails. You need to trim them regularly so they don’t grow into the pads. This can become painful and the nails of this breed actually grow quite fast. Use a strong set of nail clippers. It would be best if you started doing this while the dog is still young so that it gets used to it.

Remember to check the ears of your Tosa Inu regularly, to avoid debris or wax buildup. Clean them using a cotton ball. Also, brush their teeth regularly, to avoid a multitude of health-related issues.

The Health and Fitness of the Tosa Inu

When it comes to health and possible issues, the Tosa Inu is actually an extremely healthy breed. It definitely has a lot to do with the fact that these dogs were selectively bred for fighting, so they managed to avoid many health-related problems.

However, this doesn’t mean that they can never get sick. Since they are large, bloat can be a dangerous condition they are prone to. If you notice that your dog looks depressed, tries to vomit but can’t, and its stomach is distended you need to go see a veterinarian immediately. One other common issue can be hip dysplasia, as with other large breeds.

You need to watch out that your Tosa doesn’t become overweight by keeping a close eye on its calorie consumption. Don’t give it too many treats and always try to divide its food into two meals every day.

High-quality dog food is a must! If you are unsure of what food to give your Tosa Inu, consulting with the veterinarian is always a good choice. You should always adjust the diet to the dog’s age as well. 

These dogs were trained to withstand pain, so they won’t show something is wrong unless it’s serious. Regular vet visits are encouraged!

Where does the Tosa Inu come from?

Dogfighting used to be quite popular in Japan, starting with the 14th century. A breed called the Shikoku Inu was considered to be one of the best and strongest breeds to use for this vicious and disgusting “sport”.

When the Westerners arrived in Japan in the 19th century, dog breeders started acquiring foreign dogs and crossing them with the native breeds. Shikoku Inu was crossed with large, mastiff-type breeds and we got the Tosa Inu!

This started in the Tosa province (hence the name) on Shikoku island. The dogs used in this breeding program were Bulldogs, Mastiffs, German Pointers, and Great Danes, in that order. Each subsequent breed improved the features of the Tosa Inu through sequential mating.

Tosa Inu dogs are treated with great honor and respect in Japan. They are not officially recognized by the UK nor American Kennel Clubs. Their breed standard is issued by the Federation Cynologique Internationale.

Questions people often ask about Tosa Inu

  • +Are Tosa Inu dangerous?

  • +Are Tosa Inu good guard dogs?

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