Tosa Care

The Tosa (also called the Tosa Inu or the Tosa Ken) is a giant-sized, Japanese guardian dog that's the essence of "quiet power." These big Mastiff dogs are usually calm and reserved, but can turn defensive and even aggressive around strangers and other dogs. Overall Tosa care and maintenance will take some work, and will need to include some early training and socialization, daily exercise, and careful diet monitoring to avoid obesity.

Here you'll find plenty of details on caring for a Tosa, including info about puppy development, exercise needs, diet and nutrition, and more. Get answers to your questions about raising a Tosa in the following sections!

Tosa Breed Development

As a giant-sized breed, Tosa puppy development typically spans two years or more from birth to full maturity.

Physical Development: Tosa puppies grow steadily in height and length for the first 11-12 months, then those growth rates slow while the adolescent "fills out" with muscle and fat. And when do Tosa dogs stop growing? Breed members normally reach their adult height and weight (an average of 23 inches and 140 pounds) at about 14 months of age.

Social Development: Pups reach adolescence at about seven months, sexual maturity at 10-11 months, and full mental maturity at about 24 months.

For further details on Tosa development, see the chart below.

(NOTE: Though generally calm and well-mannered, Tosa have a history as guardian and fighting dogs--so they may be defensive around strangers and aggressive towards other dogs. To help ensure proper behavior once they're mature, new Tosa owners must begin obedience training and socialization as early in puppies' lives as possible.)

Tosa Exercise Needs

Though athletic and strong, these dogs are fairly low-energy--so Tosa exercise requirements are pretty moderate. Still, these dogs will need a variety of activities that both condition them physically (walking, fetch) and stimulate them mentally (games, canine sports). They make good jogging companions as well.

Adult Tosa dogs will need 45-60 minutes of dedicated exercise per day, with the total amount depending on their age and overall activity levels. You can start exercising your Tosa puppy when it's 3½ months old by taking it on short walks, then you can increase the walks' length as the pup grows.

Precautions with Tosa exercise:

  • Don't exercise puppies too hard before they're 10 months old
  • A leash is an absolute must when exercising in public
  • Leash training during puppyhood is highly recommended
  • Prone to gastric torsion (bloat); don't exercise for an hour before or after eating

It's very important that owners exercise their Tosa dogs every day. Without consistent activity, these normally calm dogs can become frustrated, destructive, and even aggressive--and they're pretty prone to obesity as well, so the activity will help them stay fit and trim. Overall, regular exercise will be great for both the dog's and your own peace of mind! Some exercise ideas:

  • Walking/Jogging: Two 20-minute walks (or 15-minute jogs) per day is a good target
  • Fetch/Frisbee: Tosa dogs love chasing a ball, stick, or Frisbee
  • Tug-of-War: Great indoor activity; use a rope or old towel
  • Weight Pulling: Attach one end of a rope to a heavy object like a spare tire, and the other end to a harness for the dog
  • Canine Sports: Tosa dogs can excel at obedience trials and cart pulling

When indoors, balls or toys will allow your Tosa to burn any excess energy. It's also good to have a regular exercise schedule for the dog, such as walks or jogs in the morning and evening and playtime in the afternoon.

Tosa Maintenance

In terms of overall maintenance, these dogs need moderate care. Tosa shedding is pretty light--but drooling is a regular problem.

Tosa dogs have short, smooth coats that don't shed too much. Owners can brush their Tosa dogs once or twice a week with a bristle brush or grooming glove to keep the shedding to a minimum, and hair cleanup--vacuuming the floors, and lint rollers on clothes and furniture--will only be necessary once in a while.

Like other Mastiff breeds, though, a Tosa will drool in anticipation of food, after drinking water, or when especially excited or nervous. Owners should keep spare rags or towels on rooms where the dog spends time (especially near its food bowl!) to use to clean up excess slobber. If the Tosa's drooling is excessive, owners can tie a bandanna or towel around the dog's neck to keep its chest and neck from getting dirty and stinky.

Tosa Diet

The Tosa diet should include animal proteins, healthy carbs, vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids--nutrients every dog needs to maintain its health. This means the best Tosa food is premium dry kibble, as it contains balanced portions of the above-listed ingredients.

Tosa dogs do best with food formulated for giant breeds. Blue Buffalo and Nutro are recommended brands of giant-breed premium food.

Adult Tosa dogs will need about five cups of dry food per day, divided into two meals. Tosa puppies will need a bit less: depending on age, about 3½ cups per day, divided into three meals (not two) until seven months old.

For more info on feeding a Tosa, see the feeding chart below.

(NOTE: These dogs are prone to bloat, an often-fatal gastric condition that occurs when a deep-chested dog "wolfs" its food. Bloat often happens when a dog eats just before or after exercising, so owners are advised to allow an hour between feeding and exercise.)

*--Around this time, transition to adult food by mixing in adult formula with the puppy formula, in slowly increasing amounts with each meal, for one week.

Try if possible to stick to the above-listed portions. If constantly overfed (and under-exercised), these dogs will become overweight--and a fat Tosa will have numerous health problems and a shortened lifespan. You can help control your Tosa's weight by having consistent feeding and exercise schedules, by not feeding the dog table scraps, and by not leaving food in the dog's bowl all the time.

If you're worried your Tosa is overweight, try this simple test: run a hand along the dog's side, and if you can't feel any ribs, it's diet time--which means less food and more exercise!

Living Environment

Overall, Tosa dogs will be comfortable living either indoors or out. If the dog is to live in the yard, though, a secure fence is an absolute must--and Tosa dogs should never be chained up, as doing so is sure to turn the dog aggressive. And for the Tosa, apartments aren't suitable, simply because these dogs are too large for such confined spaces. This breed is not recommended for inexperienced owners who are unable to handle the Tosa's sometimes difficult temperament.

In regards to climate, these dogs are pretty adaptable to most kinds of weather, and will be okay in both hot and cold temps.