The Hokkaido (also called the Ainu) is a powerful, medium-sized, strongly-built dog that originated from the Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan. The Hokkaido is one of the six native Japanese spitz breeds (together with Akita, Shiba Inu, Kai Ken, Shikoku, and Kishu Ken) that probably descended from a breed known as the Matagi-ken. The Hokkaido is one of the earliest dog breeds in the world. This dog was used for hunting purposes (salmon, deer and bears), as a guard dog for the family, as well as much loved companions.
Today, most of them are kept as a family pet. Sometimes these dogs are used for search and rescue missions. The Hokkaido was classified as a Living Natural Monument by the government of Japan in 1937 and since then this dog breed is protected by law. It is rare to see a Hokkaido dog outside of its native Japan.
FUN FACT: Every spring an annual dog show is held in Kutchan, hosting approximately 100 Hokkaido Dogs that travel there from all over Japan.
The Hokkaido dog breed
Male Hokkaido dog is 19-22 inches (49-56 cm) tall and weigh between 53 and 66 pounds (26-30 kg). Females are 18-20,5 inches (45-52 cm) tall and weigh between 44 and 57 pounds (20-26 kg). The Hokkaido is an impressive dog whose head is wide with a wedge-shaped muzzle, short erected triangular shaped ears and small, dark colored eyes. Their nose is usually black, but it may be flesh colored in those dogs with white fur. Hokkaido’s tongue is often covered with small black spots. This dog has muscular body and upturned tail.
The Hokkaido - coat
The Hokkaido has a soft undercoat and a thick, straight overcoat. Acceptable coat colors are black, white, red, brindle, black and tan, sesame (fawn with black tips). The Hokkaido sheds moderately all year long. Twice a year these dogs blow their undercoat. In order to keep your Hokkaido’s coat clean and healthy, brush it regularly (once or twice a week). Regular brushing will remove dead hair. The Hokkaido thrives in extremely cold climates and does not do very well in warmer environments, unless he spends most of his time in air-conditioned environment.
The Hokkaido dog training
The Hokkaido dog is powerful, strong, loyal, working dog with strong hunting instincts. This dog has very good sense of smell and direction. The Hokkaido is generally a very active breed. This dog loves to spend a lot of time in nature, hiking, biking, and jogging. Any open space where the dog can run freely will make Hokkaido happy. The Hokkaido excel at agility, rally, fly ball, weight pull, lure coursing, etc. This breed needs to have a job to do in order to be satisfied and happy. When not properly occupied, Hokkaido dog can become bored and hyperactive. Keep in mind that Hokkaido dog loves to roam around and explore his surroundings. This can lead to Hokkaido jumping over your fence and going to investigate the neighborhood.
The Hokkaido is devoted to his whole family and is eager to please them, but this dog creates strongest bonds with his primary owner, to whom he will be extremely devoted until the end of his life.
FUN FACT: Because of Hokkaido’s character and devotion to their owner, this is a dog that can be difficult to re-home, so if you are thinking about getting a Hokkaido dog, make sure it’s for life!
The Hokkaido dog temperament
The Hokkaido is tolerant with other pet dogs in the family, but smaller animals should avoid Hokkaido dog, because of his strong prey drive, the Hokkaido sees smaller animals as prey. As this dog is very territorial, walks should be done on a leash because it is not uncommon for a Hokkaido dog to try picking a fight with every dog that threatens his dominant position or that enters his territory.
The Hokkaido is friendly with children, if raised with them. Before letting the Hokkaido near children, make sure the dog is properly socialized and trained. Good thing is that these dogs are highly intelligent and quickly trained. Although they can be stubborn, these dogs will listen to their owner if he immediately displayed himself as a pack leader. These dogs are pack-oriented dogs with a strong sense of hierarchy.
The Hokkaido is an excellent watchdog and will do anything to protect his family. When there is someone approaching his territory, the Hokkaido will announce the guest with loud and long bark.
FUN FACT: Although not prone to excessive barking, the Hokkaido can be very vocal. This dog will howl when happy or excited.
The Hokkaido - health problems
The Hokkaido has a lifespan of 12 to 15 years and although generally healthy, the Hokkaido is prone to some health conditions. 1/3 of all Hokkaido dogs are affected by Collie eye anomaly, while 2/3 are carriers. Collie eye anomaly is a genetic disorder that can result in blindness. Fortunately, Collie eye anomaly can be easily diagnosed in puppies by the age of 6-7 weeks. So, before buying a Hokkaido dog, check with the breeder, and make sure that the puppies are examined on this disease. Some other conditions these dogs are prone to are: hip dysplasia (you can read more about hip dysplasia here), elbow dysplasia, luxating patella (also known as trick knee), heart murmurs, cryptorchidism (the absence of one or both testicles from the scrotum), some forms of allergies, etc.
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World Dog Finder team