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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Hokkaido Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Hokkaido Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Hokkaido smile_Happy Monkey_Shutterstock

Japan is home to six Japanese spitz breeds, of which the Hokkaido is considered one of the oldest. They traveled with the Ainu people from Honshu (Japan’s main island) to Hokkaido (the second-largest island of Japan) in the mid-12th century. In fact, these dogs are sometimes called Ainu. Hokkaido is the coldest part of Japan, so these dogs adapted to the climate and were indispensable to the Ainu people.

Breed Overview


18–20 inches


44–66 pounds


12-15 years


Gray, black, white, red, sesame, brindle

Suitable for:

Active families, house with a yard


Intelligent, devoted, courageous, alert, docile, affectionate

These dogs are medium-sized with the traditional spitz curled tail and smaller, triangular ears that are pricked forward. Their thick double coats come in several colors: brindle, black, black and tan, sesame (this is a half-white and half-black coat color), red sesame, red, and white.

Hokkaido Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

divider-paw Hokkaido Puppies


Hokkaidos are energetic dogs that require a fair amount of exercise and are considered healthy dogs with a long lifespan. They are quite trainable because of their devotion to their owners but do need ongoing training for most of their lives, and they are wary of strangers.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Hokkaido

Image By: pxhere

Hokkaidos are protective dogs that form strong bonds with their families, and they make excellent watchdogs for this reason. They are also quite wary of strangers and can go into automatic protection mode when around someone whom they don’t know.

These dogs are also intelligent and are known to be problem-solvers. They can quickly become bored if they aren’t stimulated enough and are likely to develop separation anxiety if they are left alone for too long and for too often.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Hokkaidos get along well with children, but older children only are recommended. They are devoted to the entire family and will enjoy spending time with the kids. You should always teach your kids to respect and appreciate their dog.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

Hokkaidos get along well with other dogs that are either the same size or larger, particularly if they are raised and socialized with them. They do have a high prey drive and probably shouldn’t be trusted with any smaller animals, like cats or hamsters.


Things to Know When Owning a Hokkaido

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

You need to start by feeding your Hokkaido a high-quality dog food meant for a medium-sized and energetic dog. The food that you choose should always match your dog’s age, energy level, and size. If you follow the guidelines on the food bag, it will give you guidance on how much you should feed your Hokkaido every day.

Otherwise, speak to your vet if you’re ever worried about your pup’s health or weight. If you plan to make any changes to your dog’s diet, be sure to do so slowly and gradually.

Hokkaido eating_Happy Monkey_Shutterstock
Image By: Happy Monkey, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

Hokkaidos need quite a bit of exercise, which should be done with you. In other words, don’t put your dog in the yard and leave them to run around alone, as this is when destructive behavior can begin. Take your pup with you for a run or a hike, or go camping and biking. You can also consider enrolling your Hokkaido in classes for agility, dock diving, and so on, as they love to have a job to do.

Never let your Hokkaido off-leash because of their high prey drive, and ensure that your fence for your backyard is at least 6 feet tall because they are amazing jumpers! They do exceptionally well in cold weather, but due to their thick coats, you should keep the Hokkaido indoors during the hottest part of the day in the summertime.

Training 🎾

These dogs are quite independent, so training might be a challenge, which is also why the Hokkaido is best with an experienced dog owner. Their intelligence means they’ll pick up training quickly, but they can also become bored rather easily.

Be sure to start socializing them while they are puppies and use plenty of rewards-based training with positive reinforcement. Change the training up if your Hokkaido starts looking distracted.

Hokkaido running_Happy Monkey_Shutterstock
Image By: Happy Monkey, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

Hokkaidos don’t require much grooming. Brushing several times a week will help keep the shedding down. Their thick double coats will profusely shed during the usual shedding seasons, so you should up your brushing routine to once every day. These dogs don’t enjoy getting a bath, and they only need one about three or four times a year.

Trim your Hokkaido’s nails every 3 to 4 weeks, clean the ears every week, and brush the teeth two to three times a week.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Hokkaidos are generally healthy dogs without quite as many hereditary problems compared to some other breeds. However, there are a minor number of conditions that they can be susceptible to.

Minor Conditions
  • Collie eye defect
Serious Conditions
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Seizures
  • Pica

Minor Conditions

  • Collie eye defect: The vet will check your Hokkaido’s eyes in addition to their regular annual physical exam.

The vet will check the Hokkaido’s elbows and hips, and if your dog is eating things that they shouldn’t, the vet might run stool, urine, and blood tests.

Male vs. Female

Female Hokkaidos tend to be just slightly smaller than males but are otherwise quite similar in appearance.

If you aren’t planning on breeding Hokkaidos, surgery is the next primary difference between males and females. Spaying the female is a longer and more complex surgery than neutering, so you can expect to pay a little more, and your female Hokkaido will need a longer recovery time. These surgeries have the advantage of preventing pregnancy, stopping more aggressive and destructive behaviors, and preventing future health issues.

While some believe that there are behavioral differences between male and female dogs, the true determination of temperament and personality comes from early socialization and how the dogs have been treated over the course of their lives.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Hokkaido

1. The Hokkaido belongs to two registries.

These dogs belong to two primary registries: the Hokkaido Dog Preservation Society (Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai) and the Hokkaido Dog Association (Hokkaido Ken Kyokai). Beyond these two clubs, there are almost no Hokkaidos registered anywhere else.

2. The Hokkaido was bred to hunt large prey and predators.

While with the Ainu people, the Hokkaido hunted both deer and bear, and they are sometimes known as “bear dogs.” That may be surprising when you realize that the Hokkaido is only a medium-sized dog!

3. The Hokkaido is an honored dog in Japan.

The Hokkaido was given the title of Living Natural Monument in 1937 by the government of Japan, which is when they were named Hokkaido after the area. This also means they are a protected species.

divider-paw Final Thoughts

Hokkaidos are gorgeous dogs that thrive in the cold and love being with an active family. Finding one will be a challenge but not impossible, as there are a few breeders scattered across North America.

You can post your interest in one of these puppies on social media and consider speaking to dog clubs and attending dog shows. Many of these breeders tend to have a waitlist, even for puppies that haven’t been born yet!

If you have the time to spend with your dog and are looking for a companion to join you on your outings, perhaps the Hokkaido is the right dog for you and your family!

Featured Image Credit: Happy Monkey, Shutterstock

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