Dog is man’s best friend, all over the world! That of course includes dogs in Japan, which is going to be the topic of today’s post. We’re going to cover a lot of doggie facts and words in Japanese, but what is the Japanese word for dog?
I’ll actually give you quite a few different ones in the first part of this post. Then well explore the sounds dogs make in Japanese.
Finally, we’ll talk about the correct words you should use when telling people that you have a dog and then cover some miscellaneous canine names.
How To Say Dog In Japanese
The basic Japanese word for dog is 犬 (inu) and is actually one of the most commonly used animal words in the entire Japanese language according to the Japanese frequency dictionary.
But it’s also pretty common to see other words used when talking about dogs in Japan.
The form of the word just kind of depends on the nuance that the speaker wants to use. And it generally uses the same kanji, but with a different reading.
There is 愛犬 (aiken) which means “beloved dog” and combines the words for love and dog together. I’m sure a lot of people would feel this way about their dog.
Then we have 忠犬 (chuuken) which means “faithful dog” which combines the words for loyalty and dog. I mean, those two words are pretty synonymous already, but it’s a common word in Japanese.
If you’ve got yourself a “hound dog” then you could use the word 猟犬 (ryouken) for it. Although, I suppose that “hunting dog” would be a better way to understand this word. The kind that you would take with you when you go out hunting pheasants and the like.
And let’s not neglect the fact that Japanese loves to take words from English and make them their own. It is probably no surprise that they have the word ドッグ (doggu) which is just “dog” but spoken in the Japanese tongue.
The Sounds Dogs Make
In English there are actually a lot of different sounds that dogs make. Sometimes they whine, sometimes they growl, but for the most part they bark.
We tend to represent this with things like “ruff” or “bark” but in Japanese they use a different word. Typically, they represent dogs barking with ワンワン (wan wan).
Because of this, there are actually some new words for dog that get created and used.
For example, the word ワンちゃん (wan chan) is often used by children to mean doggie and it is created by taking the sound that dogs make and combining it with the name suffix chan.
There are slightly different versions of this as well, such as ワンコ (wanko) which I assume comes from a combination of the dog sounds ワン in combination with the word 子 (ko) which can mean a young animal.
Owning A Dog
When you say that you have something in Japanese, you typically go with the word 持つ (motsu) for “to own; to have” and the like.
However, you have to use a different word when the thing that you have is a living, breathing being.
It’s common to use the word いる (iru) in these situations when you want to say things like “I have a brother” or if you tell someone that you “have a girlfriend.”
I’ve even seen いる used when people say that they have a dog, but generally speaking the word that you want to use when you are a pet owner is 飼う (kau).
This word means “to keep or rear” a pet or other animal. This is the same word that you would use if you had a cat.
- inu o kaou to kangaete iru.
- I’m thinking of getting a dog.
If you did get a dog, then you could say that it is a 飼い犬 (kai inu) which means “pet dog” in Japanese. The opposite of this would of course be a stray dog, which is 野犬 (yaken).
Sometimes stray dogs can be nice, but I think that usually they go feral and become a danger to people since you don’t know if they have rabies or if they will attack you.
Sometimes you even see dogs that are crazy. In Japanese, you could call them 狂犬 (kyouken) which means “mad dog.”
Other Japanese Canines
The word canine means “relating to or resembling a dog” in English and would include such animals as foxes, wolfs, jackals, and others.
I’ve written before about foxes in Japanese, but the short version is that they are called 狐 (kitsune). These particular creatures have a long history and a deep lore in Japan.
All the way from being trickster gods to just a cute, lovable animal. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a fox wail in the wild before, but I swear it sounds like someone is being murdered. It’s actually really freaky the first time you hear it and don’t know what it is.
Another common creature in Japanese games and anime is the wolf. The Japanese word for wolf is 狼 (ookami) and there is a pretty successful Nintendo Wii game by the same name that came out a long time ago.
Nowadays you can find it on Steam in case you want to try it out. Even though I’ve never played it myself, my little sister had it back in the day and I watched her go through some of the levels. It actually looks really good!
The last canine that I’ll go over is the jackal. In Japanese, the common way to say this is simply with the English loan word ジャッカル (jakkaru).
However, there is a more native Japanese word for this creature which is 野生犬 (yasei inu) and typically refers to the golden jackal.
It’s interesting how close this word is to the one for a stray dog: 野生犬 and 野犬.
Do You Own A Dog?
My family has always had dogs, so I definitely love them. What about you?
Do you have a dog? Or are you more of a cat person?
Let me know about your pets by leaving a comment down below!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: