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hokkaido dog breed pictures 3 scaled - Hokkaido


The Hokkaido is a purebred dog from Japan. Intelligent, alert, and devoted to their families, these pooches have qualities that make them excellent companions.

The Hokkaido goes several names, including Ainu-ken, Seta, and Ainu dog. In Japan specifically, their name is shortened to Do-ken. Though this breed is somewhat rare outside of Japan, you may still find these purebred dogs in shelters and rescues, so remember to adopt! Don’t shop!

These beautiful dogs can live in apartments and town homes, as they are a medium-sized breed. But they are also quite active and would prefer a home with a yard or nearby park where they can walk and play. Hokkaidos get along in any household type, from single folks to large families. They also get along with children when raised with them or socialized properly at an early age. They’re alert to their surroundings and completely loyal, which might make them the perfect dog for you!

Breed Characteristics:


Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.

Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!

Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

All Around Friendliness

Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family

Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.

**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash like this one in public!

Health And Grooming Needs

If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool here!

Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.

Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.

If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.

Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.

Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!


Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.

Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.

Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.

Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.

Physical Needs

High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.

Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.

Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

Vital Stats:

Dog Breed Group:Working DogsHeight:18 to 22 InchesWeight:45 to 65 PoundsLife Span:11 to 13 Years

More About This Breed


  • The main colors of the Hokkaido breed are black, red, black & tan, white, brindle, and sesame.
  • The Hokkaido breed has a prey drive, but they’re highly intelligent and will listen to their owners when commanded, which makes them easily trainable.
  • Hokkaidos will bark occasionally, as they’re ever-vigilant and able to notice anything out of the ordinary. Though, they will also howl if they are happy or excited.
  • The Hokkaido breed has a thick coat that should be brushed out once or twice a week to remove dead fur and prevent matting. The frequency of brushing should be increased during their shedding period.
  • Hokkaido dogs do not enjoy taking baths, and it takes a long time for their coat to dry due to its density. Baths are recommended generally a few times a year to prevent issues.
  • Their thick coats make Hokkaidos able to withstand cold weather well.
  • Hokkaidos can do well in apartments as long as their exercise needs are met, but they may prefer a larger home with a yard.
  • Hokkaidos are good with children and love all members of the family.


The Hokkaido dog is a Spitz type of working dog who originated from the main island of Hokkaido, though some believe they were from Honshu, another main island south of Hokkaido. Experts believe the Hokkaido to be the oldest dog breed to exist and most primitive of all Japanese dog breeds.

In 1869, British zoologist Thomas Blankiston discovered the Hokkaido dog in Japan and gave them their name we now know today.

Originally, the Hokkaido were hunting dogs, and their genetic makeup has been relatively safe from interbreeding with other dog breeds. Many Hokkaido dogs have a blue and black tongue, which might suggest they have a relation to Chow-Chows and/or Shar Pei dogs. In 1937, Japan recognized this breed as a living natural monument, which protects them by law.

The Japanese trained dogs to hunt alongside them a long time ago before guns were invented. A fearless breed, these medium-sized dogs would challenge even large bears. They were also highly resourceful and able to catch fish in streams with ease. Being very intelligent, they are trained to help with search and rescue missions, though today they are mostly kept as family pets.

Even though the Hokkaido breed is rare outside of Japan, there are still dogs around the world of this breed in shelters or in the care of rescue groups. Consider adoption if you decide this is the breed for you. Check your local shelters and breed-specific rescues, as they sometimes take in Hokkaido dogs and find homes for them.


The Hokkaido dog breed are all medium-sized in build. Most weigh in the range between 45 and 65 pounds and range in height between 18 and 22 inches. That said, many can be smaller or larger.

Female Hokkaido dogs might be smaller in stature and weigh less, but they would still fit those weight and height ranges.


The Hokkaido dog is a very devoted, affectionate breed especially to their owners and family. They have many great qualities about them like being alert of their surroundings, playful, and intelligent.

They like to go out and play but will stop abruptly if they get bored of the game. These pups are very agile as they were originally trained to hunt and search for prey.

The Hokkaido breed has a prey drive, but they’re highly intelligent and will listen to their owners when commanded, which makes them easily trainable. They are not fond of strangers but will not be aggressive or hostile when approached politely. They will bark occasionally, as they’re ever-vigilant and able to notice anything out of the ordinary. Though, they will also howl if they are happy or excited.

This beautiful breed can be great playmates with children, especially when raised with them or properly socialized at a young age. The Hokkaido dog is pack-oriented with a strong sense of hierarchy. They are excellent guard dogs and very protective of their families.


The Hokkaido dog breed is generally very healthy, though some might be prone to hereditary diseases. That’s why it is important to maintain good care and regular veterinary checkups.

Some of the more common health problems a Hokkaido dog breed might suffer from include:

  • Collie eye anomaly
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patella
  • Heart murmurs
  • Idiopathic seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Psychogenic polydipsia
  • Pica


As with all dogs, you should keep up with your Hokkaido’s regular veterinary checkups to detect any health concerns early. Your vet can help you develop a care routine that will keep your dog healthy.

The Hokkaido breed has a thick coat, as they are of the Spitz type, and it should be brushed out once or twice a week to remove dead fur and prevent matting. The frequency of brushing should be increased during their shedding period. Make sure to invest in a good quality wire comb to reach the under coat.

They also do not enjoy taking baths, and–what’s worse–it takes a long time for their coat to dry due to its density. Baths are recommended generally a few times a year to prevent issues.

Also make sure to introduce your Hokkaido dog early to grooming tasks like nail clipping and ear checks to increase their tolerance for it. Make sure to maintain their oral hygiene regularly to prevent any serious dental issues. Your veterinarian can instruct you on how to brush your dog’s teeth properly.


An ideal Hokkaido diet should be formulated for a medium-sized breed with medium energy. Like most dogs, the Hokkaido will gain weight if allowed to overeat beyond their diet, so make sure to stick to a regular feeding schedule and not leave food out during the day. Limit the number of treats throughout the day, as well.

As with all dogs, the Hokkaido’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and will continue to change into their senior years. You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about your Hokkaido’s diet, as there is far too much variation among individual dogs–including weight, energy, and health–to make a specific recommendation.

Coat Color And Grooming

The main colors of the Hokkaido breed are black, red, black & tan, white, brindle, and sesame.

The Hokkaido dog breed has a double coat with a soft undercoat and a thick, straight overcoat. Their coats are not considered hypoallergenic. It is fairly difficult to brush them as they are double coated and need to be brushed almost every day. They are also not fond of bathing; thus, it might be better to bathe them a few times a year.

As Hokkaido dog breeds are double coated, they are able to withstand colder weather. In summer, they might shed more, which will lead you to brush them more often.

Children And Other Pets

The Hokkaido can be great with children of all ages and sizes, though it is best when they are raised with them or are socialized properly at a young age. These beautiful pups are medium-sized in build but are very strong and can handle the play of people of all sizes. That said, for children who learn early how to properly approach and play with any dog, the Hokkaido can be a great playmate and guard dog for them.

When it comes to other pets, it is best they are not around smaller animals such as cats, hamsters, and guinea pigs. These dogs are natural born hunters, and it is simply in their blood. As far as other dogs, it is best to make sure you socialize your Hokkaido at a very early age so they get used to playing with others. Because of their nature, they have a crouch and prowl style which some might mistake for aggression. It is simply how they play.

The key for Hokkaido dogs to get along with children and other dogs is to make sure you socialize them when they are young and train them well.

Rescue Groups

It may be hard to find a breed-specific rescue for Hokkaidos because they are a rare breed outside of Japan. However, you may want to try general dog rescues that cater to all breeds, as they often will help keep an eye out for the dog you’re looking for. Here are some rescues you can try:

  • Lucky Dog Animal Rescue
  • All Breed Rescue And Training

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