Hokkaido Dog Breed: Pictures, Colors, Bark, Characteristics, and Diet

Hokkaido is one of Japan’s oldest and most primitive dog breeds. They were originally bred to hunt and have a long and interesting history. 

The average purebred Hokkaido is 18 to 20 inches (45.7 to 50.8 cm) tall and weighs 44 to 66 lbs (20 to 29.9 kg). 

A Japanese Hokkaido Dog smiling
A smiley Japanese Hokkaido Dog

They are born in litters averaging 4 puppies and grow to reach their full adult size by 12 months of age.

Also known as Seta, Ainu-ken, Ainu Inu, Ainu dog, Do-Ken, Hokkaidoken, Hokkaidos are medium-sized dogs with a strong build and curly, bushy tails.

Their faces have slightly small, nearly triangular dark brown eyes, small, triangular, pricked ears, and they have fluffy manes.

Coat colors can include red, white, black, brindle, sesame, and black and tan.

Hokkaidos are faithful, docile, alert, and brave. They have an average lifespan of 11 to 13 years and a bite force of 245 PSI, as well as a moderate bark.

They need to eat 2 to 3 cups of a balanced diet and get a moderate amount of exercise, specifically half to 1 hour daily, to stay healthy. 

Keep reading for everything you need to know about taking care of a Hokkaido Dog. 

What is a Hokkaido Dog?

A Hokkaido Dog standing outdoors
Auri, a Hokkaido Dog, smiles for the camera – Image source

The Hokkaido Dog was bred to hunt big game, such as deer, and bears.

Many Hokkaido dogs have blue and black tongues, which suggests that they are closely related to other Asian breeds like the Chow-Chows and the Shar Peis

Why are They Called Hokkaido Dogs?

Hokkaido dogs are native to the Japanese prefecture of the same name; Hokkaido, the second largest island in Japan.

In 1869, English zoologist Thomas W. Blakiston gave them their name, and they are almost always called Hokkaido-Ken among the people of Japan. 

Their other nickname, the Ainu-ken or Ainu dog, is such because of the island’s indigenous people – also called the Ainu. 

Where Did the Hokkaido Dog Come From?

As mentioned above, the Hokkaido dog comes from a Japanese island called Hokkaido, but they are thought to have been developed from the dogs that first came to the island with migrants from Honshu in the 1140s. 

When Did the Hokkaido Dog Originate?

A Hokkaido Dog standing before a field of tulips
Nova, a Hokkaido Dog, does not believe flowers are prettier than her – Image source

The Hokkaido is thought to have a history spanning over 3,000 years, making them one of the oldest and most primitive of Japan’s dog breeds, along with the Shikoku, the Kishu, the Kai, the Akita, and the Shiba Inu.

How Many Hokkaido Dogs are There in the World?

It’s not known how many Hokkaido dogs there are worldwide.

The Hokkaido is very rare outside of its native country and has an estimated population of around 10,000-12,000 in Japan, where they are considered a rare and protected species. 

What are the Characteristics of Hokkaido Dogs?

A close-up image of a Hokkaido Dog
Nova, the Hokkaido Dog, is always alert – Image source

Hokkaido dogs are complex dogs with interesting personalities.

Below, we’ve made a list of their most significant temperament qualities, followed by a table of their most important characteristics. 

  • Faithful: The Hokkaido dog is known for being incredibly loyal to their families.
  • Family-oriented: The breed prefers companionship to alone time and can become anxious if left alone for too long. 
  • Docile: The breed is very intelligent, highly trainable, and is known to respond well to commands.
  • Bold: Hokkaidos have bold, headstrong personalities, which can result in stubbornness with an experienced trainer. 
  • Alert: They are very watchful and vigilant, making an excellent guard dog. 
  • Protective: Fearless and courageous, the Hokkaido dog will protect their loved ones at any cost and never back down to threats.
  • Low tolerance for boredom: This clever breed needs a lot of mental stimulation to prevent boredom and anxiety, which can result in destructive behaviors.
  • Reserved: Although they are friendly towards loved ones, the Hokkaido can be reserved around strangers and unfamiliar dogs without socialization, which can lead to unfriendly behavior if not approached sensitively.
Hokkaido Characteristics Rating 
Relation with Family 5
Good with Children 4
Friendly with Strangers 3
Friendly with Other Dogs 3
Easy to Train 4
Energy Level 4
Barking Level 3
Mental Stimulation Needs 4

What Does a Hokkaido Dog Look Like?

A Hokkaido Dog standing at the beach
The beautiful Hokkai Dog – Image source

Hokkaidos are medium-sized dogs with strong builds and curly, bushy tails.

Their faces have slightly small, dark brown eyes and small, triangular, pricked ears as well as fluffy manes.

Their coats come in red, white, black, brindle, sesame, and black and tan.

How big is the Hokkaido Dog?

The average Hokkaido dog is around 18 to 20 inches tall or 45.7 to 50.8 cm, with males usually standing slightly bigger than females.

They can live in medium-sized homes, including apartments, although larger houses with outside spaces are always preferable.

If you’re crate training your Ainu, a 30-inch crate would be ideal. 

Hokkaido Physical Features Male Female
Height  18 to 20 inches
(45.7 to 50.8 cm)
18 to 20 inches
(45.7 to 50.8 cm)
Weight 44 to 66 lbs
(20 to 29.9 kg)
44 to 66 lbs
(20 to 29.9 kg)

How long does a Hokkaido Dog grow?

Hokkaidos tend to reach their full size at around 12 months old.

However, it can take up to 12 months for their skeletons to fully develop, and up to 3 years to mature mentally. Sexual maturity should be reached between 6 to 10 months of age. 

What is the average weight of Hokkaido Dogs?

On average, an adult Hokkaido weighs between 44 to 66 lbs or 20 to 29.9 kg, depending on their size, sex, and activity level.

It’s important that you feed your Ainu dog the right diet to keep them at a healthy weight. 

What is the Average Life Expectancy of Hokkaido Dogs?

A Hokkaido Dog lying down on the floor
A Hokkaido Dog resting – Image source

Hokkaido dogs have an average life expectancy of 11 to 13 years with good care. This includes a healthy diet, proper amount of exercise, play, and companionship.

Common health problems experienced by the Hokkaido include hip dysplasia, heart murmurs, luxating patella, idiopathic seizures, psychogenic polydipsia, and pica. 

One-third of dogs within the breed are also known to experience Collie eye anomaly, which can range from mild to severe and can even cause blindness.

For this reason, breeding Hokkaidos should be DNA tested for the condition and budding owners should ask breeders for proof of testing.

What Coat Type do Hokkaido Dogs have?

A leashed Hokkaido Dog
A Hokkaido Dog flaunting its gorgeous coat – Image source

Hokkaido dogs have a medium, thick, straight double coat.

They need to be brushed once or twice a week to remove loose fur, tangles, and debris and bathed a few times a year to remove dirt and keep their coat clean.

Over bathing should be avoided to prevent damaging the coat and stripping it of its self-cleaning oils. 

What is the Hokkaido Dog’s coat like?

The Hokkaido dog’s coat is made up of thick, straight fur.

It’s relatively low-maintenance to look after, as mentioned above, but grooming is still very important to prevent matting, which can be painful and conceal other problems, like parasites, cuts, and infections. 

How long is the Hokkaido Dog’s coat? 

The Hokkaido dog’s coat is medium in length. The length can vary a little dog to dog, but haircuts are not necessary or recommended, according to the American Kennel Club. 

How dense is the Hokkaido Dog’s coat?

The Hokkaido has a dense double coat that consists of a soft, fine but thick insulating undercoat and a straight, coarse guard coat that is waterproof and protective, aiding their ability to fight off predators. 

Do Hokkaido Dogs shed a lot?

Hokkaido dogs shed moderately all year round, with heavy shedding twice a year during the transitions between spring and summer and fall and winter.

During these periods, the dogs will “blow” their coats for 2-4 weeks and will require more regular brushing to avoid their hair from getting all over the home. 

Can Hokkaido Dogs Live in Hot Weather?

A Hokkaido Dog by a lake
Nova, the Hokkaido Dog, enjoys strolls by the cold lake – Image source

Hokkaido dogs have thick, medium double coats, and were bred to work in the cold weather. As a result, they are very tolerant of cold weather.

However, they’re not very tolerant of the heat, and they may overheat in hot conditions without care.

These breeds can tolerate temperatures that go between 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) and 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit).

In fact, on the dog’s native island of Hokkaido, temperatures barely rise beyond 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit).

Hence, owners should take care to make sure their Ainu dogs stay hydrated and cool in these temperatures.

Do Hokkaido Dogs Love Water?

Hokkaido Dogs are excellent swimmers, and many of them enjoy swimming and playing in the water. In fact, some owners even take their dogs swimming with them on vacations.

While not all Hokkaido dogs love water, many of them do enjoy it and find it to be a great way to exercise and relax.

What Colors are Hokkaido Dogs?

A Hokkaido Dog standing by the flowers
A red Hokkaido Dog – Image source

The coat colors of Hokkaido dogs include red, white, black, brindle, sesame, and black and tan. All of which are accepted by the American Kennel Club.

The kennel club also accepts wolf gray and red sesame.

What Markings Do Hokkaido Dogs Have?

The most distinctive feature of Hokkaido dogs is their markings, which include a large patch of white fur on the chest and belly.

These dogs also have white socks on all four feet, as well as a white ” blaze” down the center of the face. 

Are Hokkaidos Good Family Dogs?

Hokkaido dogs make great dogs for both single owners and families alike.

They are suitable for families with children and homes containing other dogs with early socialization, but they are not ideal for homes with smaller animals such as cats and hamsters. 

Hokkaido Temperament Rating
Adaptability 3
Friendliness 4
Mouthiness 3
Playfulness 3
Family-Oriented 5
Stranger Tolerance 3

Are Hokkaidos good with other dogs?

Hokkaido dogs can get along with other dogs, especially other family dogs and those who are large in size.

However, they can be wary and even unfriendly towards unfamiliar dogs without proper socialization.

Even when they’re friendly, the way they play with other dogs can be mistaken for aggression, so they’re often kept on the lead on walks. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs friendly with other people?

Hokkaido dogs are very sociable when it comes to their families. They love to be a part of the pack and form very close and affectionate bonds with their loved ones.

That said, it can take them a while to warm up to new people. 

Can Hokkaido Dogs get along well with strangers?

As mentioned above, it can take Hokkaido dogs a while to become comfortable in the presence of new people, especially when not properly socialized and in their own territory.

Also, they can be suspicious of strangers, but they shouldn’t be unfriendly unless approached in a threatening manner. 

How do Hokkaido Dogs get along with young children?

Hokkaido dogs get along well with children of all ages when socialized properly.

That said, all parents should teach their children how to approach and interact with their pets and supervise play with younger children. 

Can Hokkaido Dogs Adapt Easily?

A Hokkaido Dog lying down on its bed
A Hokkaido Dog posing outside its crate – Image source

Hokkaido dogs are fairly adaptable to different environments because of their medium size and hardy nature.

They can live in medium-sized homes and apartments, preferably with access to an outdoor space, but this isn’t essential, provided that their needs are met on a daily basis. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs Aggressive?

Hokkaido dogs shouldn’t be unnecessarily aggressive, but, like any dog, they can become aggressive if threatened or mistreated.

They can also become aggressive if they feel the need to protect somebody or their home. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs Dangerous?

While they are not generally aggressive but have hunting roots, Hokkaido dogs, just like any canine, can become dangerous if they are not handled carefully after mistreatment or if they are not properly socialized.

This is true for smaller animals. Hence, make sure your Hokkaido dog gets properly socialized.

Do Hokkaido Dogs Bite?

A close-up image of a Hokkaido Dog sticking its tongue out
Meet Ichiru, a handsome Hokkaido Dog who does not bite – Image source

Hokkaido dogs will bite as puppies, but this is a normal puppyhood behavior that occurs during the teething period that ends at age 6 months.

In the meantime, you can teach your pup what is and isn’t theirs to chew through positive reinforcement and redirection. 

As mentioned above, adult Hokkaido dogs shouldn’t bite without provocation, but they have a bite force of 245 PSI. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs Protective?

Hokkaido dogs are very protective of their loved ones, thanks to their working history.

They make excellent watchdogs and guard dogs and will alert their owners of any disturbances in the home. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs Affectionate?

Hokkaido dogs are very loving and affectionate with their family members. This breed barely tolerates being alone.

Hokkaido dogs love spending quality time with their families that they often follow like shadows. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs Loyal?

A Hokkaido Dog smiling from the outside
A Hokkaido Dog who’s always happy to see his owner – Image source

Hokkaido dogs are known for being incredibly, devotedly loyal to their owners and family members.

When you own a Hokkaido, your companionship will be the most important thing in their lives. 

Does the Hokkaido Dog Love Freedom?

The Hokkaido dog, like any dog, likes to roam and explore, but they are not prone to running away or wandering off.

They’re also known for their obedience, so practicing recall will keep your dog safe. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs Easy to Train?

Hokkaido dogs are docile by nature, so they are eager to learn and good at obeying commands, which makes them easy to train.

However, this breed is intelligent and has a stubborn side, which can be overwhelming for a first-time owner. Hence, make sure to reinforce your authority when training this dog.

How Smart is the Hokkaido Dog?

Like many hunting dogs, the Hokkaido is a bright breed with strong instincts.

As mentioned above, they’re very good at following commands and don’t take a long time to learn a new one. Moreover, they excel with tasks and jobs given to them.

Can Hokkaidos be used as working dogs?

While Hokkaido dogs were originally bred as hunting dogs, nowadays, they are seen as companion dogs and house pets.

However, due to their hunting roots, protective nature, and intelligence, they can be fair watch and guard dogs for their loved ones.

Do Hokkaido Dogs Bark a Lot?

The Hokkaido will bark to let the household know of any disturbances and to ward off threats.

However, they’re not known to be nuisance barkers, but do often howl to let you know when they’re happy, as displayed in this video!

How do Hokkaidos bark?

There is no official recording of the decibel level of Hokkaido’s bark. However, as seen in the video, they have a fairly deep and musical bark howl.

Do Hokkaido Dogs Have High Energy Levels?

The Hokkaido is a pretty energetic dog, although not as energetic as other medium-sized hunters, like Spaniels. That said, they do like to play and they do need daily exercise. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs Active?

Hokkaido dogs need half to 1 hour of exercise a day. They enjoy walking, jogging, hiking, camping, and biking.

This breed also excels in agility, rally, dock diving, and other performance events.

Young pups will need to work up to their exercise routines, doing 5 minutes of exercise per month of their age, twice a day.

Similarly, older Ainu dogs will need to wind down their exercise routine gradually, as and when their vet suggests. 

Are Hokkaido Dogs Playful?

A Hokkaido Dog looking up
A Hokkaido Dog asks for play time – Image source

Hokkaido dogs are a fun-loving breed that needs a lot of mental stimulation to prevent boredom and anxiety.

Owners should invest in some challenging toys and play fun games that engage the brain and work their natural instincts.

Some popular choices are listed below.

  • Fetch
  • Chase
  • Tug-of-war
  • Puzzles & treat dispensers
  • Snuffle mats
  • Sensory toys e.g. light up balls
  • Hide and seek
  • Treasure hunt
  • Obstacle course
  • Cup game

Does the Hokkaido Dog Drool a Lot?

The Hokkaido does not tend to drool a lot. This is good news if you’re not a fan of wiping up the drool.

That said, any dog can drool when they’re around food, but if your Hokkaido drools a lot, it could indicate stress, allergies, or another health issue. 

What is the Family Life of Hokkaido Dogs Like?

The family life of a Hokkaido dog is a closely bonded one.

They’re great dogs for active single owners and families with playful children, those that like going on adventures, and those with vulnerable members that would benefit from some extra vigilance. 

What is the Average Cost of a Hokkaido Puppy?

The cost of a Hokkaido puppy varies depending on several factors, including the breeder’s location, reputation, and the dog’s age, color, and gender.

In general, however, Hokkaido puppies cost between $1500 and $3000.

Puppies that are rarer colors, such as red or white, may cost slightly more. Male puppies are usually more expensive than females. 

The age of the puppy is also a factor; puppies that are 8 weeks old or younger tend to be more expensive than older puppies.

Finally, the breeder’s location can impact the price; puppies from breeders in Japan or Hawaii, for example, may be more expensive than those from breeders in the continental United States. 

When choosing a Hokkaido puppy, it’s important to consider all of these factors to ensure that you get the best possible value for your money.

What Kind of Food Should Hokkaido Dogs Eat?

A Hokkaido Dog with food
Coo, a Hokkaido Dog, patiently waits for meal time – Image source

When it comes to feeding your Hokkaido dog, it’s important to choose high-protein foods with lots of healthy fats to prevent obesity and power their strong bodies. 

Commercial foods containing natural ingredients like real meat, fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains are best.

Try to avoid those containing fillers, additives, and allergens if your dog is sensitive.

Adult dogs should eat 2 to 3 cups of food per day, divided into two meals. 

It is also important to choose a food that is appropriate for your dog’s activity level.

For example, if your Hokkaido dog is very active, you may want to choose a food that is higher in protein.

Conversely, if your dog is less active, you may want to choose a food with lower fat content. 

By choosing the right food for your Hokkaido dog, you can help them stay healthy and happy for years to come.

What are the Best Dog Foods for Hokkaido Dogs?

Following the above criteria of nature-based, high-protein, healthy-fat foods, we’ve curated a list of the best commercial dry dog foods for Hokkaidos.

Here are our top picks for puppies, adults, and seniors.

For Hokkaido puppies:

For adult Hokkaido dogs:

What Other Dog Breeds Look Like the Hokkaido?

A Shiba Inu sticking its tongue out
Mocha, a Shiba Inu, bets you’ll like him, too – Image source

The Hokkaido dog has a few look-a-like breeds, predominantly other Asian hunting dogs, likely of a close relation.

Let’s take a look at a few of the breeds that you could easily mistake for an Ainu dog. 

The Verdict: Should You Get a Hokkaido?

If you’re looking for a super-fashionable fluffball, the Hokkaido may not be for you.

Or, if you want a super-friendly crowd-pleaser that is guaranteed to get along with everyone, a Golden Retriever may be a better choice.

However, if you’re looking for a devotedly loyal watchdog for your family or a fun-loving companion for yourself, the Hokkaido might just be a good fit.

So long as you can give them the care and companionship that they need and provide the right training, the Ainu dog will be one of the best friends you’ve ever had!

Have you ever met a Hokkaido – or even have one yourself? If so, let us know what you love the most about them in the comments down below!

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