Hokkaido Overview

Dog Breed:
Breed Group:
Working breed
Intelligent, loyal, loving, independent, brave
18-20 inches
44-66 pounds
Life Span:
12-15 years
Coat Colors:
Black, black and tan, brindle, red, red sesame, sesame, or white
Area of Origin:
Best For:
Experienced owners
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Hokkaidos
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Hokkaidos

Hokkaido Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Hokkaido

  • Not often seen outside Japan

  • Extremely devoted to its family

  • Known by many names including Ainu-ken, Ainu dog, Seta, and Do-ken


The Hokkaido is a dog of medium stature that hails from Japan. This dog breed possesses a dense coat with long hair that sets it apart from other more commonly seen breeds of Japanese descent. As is seen in the Nihon Ken, the Hokkaido also has a two-layered coat comprised of a wiry top layer and soft outercoat. A breed known for copious shedding, the Hokkaido blows its coat each season. 

A breed that requires training and socialization from a young age, the Hokkaido is a devoted family dog with an intense desire to please. The Hokkaido is characterized by its innate intelligence. A dog of an independent spirit, the Hokkaido is a natural at finding its own solutions to challenging problems. A typical working breed, the Hokkaido enjoys having a job to do and diligently applies itself to any given task. 

If the Hokkaido was not well-socialized to people and novel situations as a puppy, the breed can be suspicious of new people and will guard its family. The Hokkaido is not often seen outside of Japan. It is reported that the worldwide population of the breed is between 10,000-12,000 dogs. 

The Hokkaido is known by a number of different names. These include Ainu-ken, Seta, and Ainu dog. Within their homeland of Japan, this dog breed is affectionately referred to as Do-ken, a Japanese abbreviation of Hokkaido. 

A breed that thrives in nearly any living condition, the Hokkaido is well-suited to apartment living. However, the breed is quite active and requires daily exercise to remain physically and mentally content. The Hokkaido is a breed best reserved for experienced dog owners. 

In possession of prey drive, the Hokkaido will chase animals if given the opportunity to do so. However, they are a highly trainable breed and can be taught to come when called. 

The Hokkaido is not known to be a barker but will alert its owners to the presence of a stranger. Enthusiastic howling is more commonly seen in the breed.

Currently, the Hokkaido is not a breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. It is now included in its Foundation Stock Service. However, the Hokkaido’s heritage as a working breed is well-documented. 

Hokkaido Breed History

  • Descended from the Japanese Island known as Hokkaido

  • One of six Japanese Spitz breeds

  • Originally developed to hunt deer and bear alongside the Ainu people


The Hokkaido, a native dog of Japan, bears the distinction of being the oldest of the Spitz breeds developed in the country. One of six in total, the Hokkaido bears pride of place amongst the others which include the Akita, Shiba Inu, Kai Ken, Kishu Ken, and Shikoku. Each of these dogs are believed to have descended from other Japanese dogs of medium stature that travelled to the region of Honshu with their Ainu owners. This was believed to be part of a trade agreement between two districts known as the Hokkaido and the Tohoku in the mid-12th century. 

Though the weather in Honshu was extremely cold, the dogs and their owners learned to acclimate. The dogs were deeply loved by their owners for their devotedness, courage, and skill as hunters of large game prey. Since the primary occupation of the Ainu people was deer and bear hunting, the dogs were of great assistance to them in their work. 

In 1937, an important title was bestowed upon the Hokkaido by its native government. The breed was declared a Living Natural Monument. This designation makes the species protected under Japanese law. 

The Hokkaido name is believed to have been given in honour of the island from which they originally descended. This breed title was officially adopted in 1860 at the suggestion of prominent zoologist Mr. Thomas Blankiston. 

One of the Hokkaido’s most beloved traits is its fearlessness, a valuable commodity when out on a hunt. This dog breed possesses the bravery to challenge bears. In addition to their hunting prowess, the Hokkaido is an athletic breed, capable of snagging fish from ponds and streams effortlessly. 

One of the hallmarks of the Hokkaido is its blue and black tongue, a genetic trait which may link the breed to the Chow Chow or the Sharpei in past generations of its pedigree. 

Hokkaido Size & Weight

  • Can reach 18”-20” at the shoulder

  • Weighs between 44 and 66 pounds

  • A secure containment system is a must


A dog considered to be of medium size, the Hokkaido stands between 18”-20” at the shoulder. Their weight ranges from 44 to 66 pounds with females measuring less than their male counterparts. 

Since the Hokkaido was developed to be a hunting dog, this breed does possess prey drive and will chase small animals if given opportunity to do so. Potential owners must be prepared with a secure containment system to prevent escape attempts by this clever breed. 

Hokkaido Personality & Temperament

  • Low threshold for boredom

  • Highly intelligent with a desire to please

  • Friendly in general but naturally wary of strangers


The Hokkaido is a dog breed that is well-renowned for its loyalty, love, and affection towards its owner. An intuitive breed, the Hokkaido is on high alert for any sounds of potential intruders that could harm its home or family. 

An intelligent breed, the Hokkaido enjoys pleasing its family and is a pleasure to train. This dog type is known for its playful exuberance and delights in spending time having fun with the people it loves. However, Hokkaido have a low threshold for boredom, so owners will need to keep playtime varied and lively to keep this breed engaged. 

Hokkaido are naturally wary of strangers and take time to warm up to new people. Though they will respond with suspicion to unfamiliar people, they will not resort to aggression if treated with kindness. Hokkaido are not known for excessive barking but will howl if excited, happy, or if they detect something of concern on their property. 

A breed that is known for its deep affection for children, the Hokkaido is gentle and patient. All interactions between children and dogs should be carefully supervised to ensure absolute safety. 

In general, Hokkaido are naturally very protective of their family. True pack animals, Hokkaido appreciate and respond well to established authority and require a firm owner who will enact boundaries and enforce them consistently. 

Due to their high prey drive, Hokkaido are not best-suited to homes with small animals which could resemble game such as cats, hamsters, birds, or guinea pigs. However, Hokkaido were intended to hunt in packs, and thus, normally get along well with other dogs. To help transitions into a home with established pets to go smoothly, the Hokkaido puppy should be introduced to its new animal family members in a neutral setting such as a public park. 

Hokkaido have a unique play style which closely resembles typical predatory behaviour. Some people may mistake this type of play for aggression, but it is simply an innocent characteristic of this breed. 

Though Hokkaido prefer the company of their loved ones, they are fine if left alone so long as they are left with something to keep them from becoming bored such as a bone or a puzzle toy. Their thick double coat is well-suited to time spent in cold weather conditions, but the breed cannot tolerate excessive heat. 

If this dog breed’s exercise requirements are met on a daily basis, they can happily live in an apartment setting. 

Hokkaido Health & Grooming

  • Generally a very healthy breed

  • Sheds profusely, particularly with the change of seasons

  • Not a drooler


Hokkaido typically enjoy excellent health. However, there are a number of genetic conditions which can befall the breed. These include collie eye anomaly, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, heart murmurs, idiopathic seizures, anxiety, psychogenic polydipsia, and pica. To ensure the health of any offspring, reputable breeders should perform all appropriate testing on breeding pairs prior to mating. 

In possession of a dense double coat, this breed does shed heavily. To help prevent excessive shedding, it is recommended that the Hokkaido be brushed several times weekly. This will help to prevent matting and will also remove dead hair. During seasonal shedding periods, brushing should increase to a daily activity. 

Hokkaido do not typically need to be bathed often, a fact most owners are pleased about since the breed despises being bathed. Due to the thickness of the coat, it takes a long time for it to dry. For this reason, blow drying is recommended. 

Nail trims should occur on an as needed basis; most often, at least once a month. Regular ear cleaning and dental care are also important components of any health and wellness strategy for a Hokkaido. 

As a breed that is normally quite active, the Hokkaido should remain in good condition so long as regular exercise is given on a daily basis. However, if fed in excess, this dog breed will gain weight. Maintain an appropriate activity level and monitor all food intake to ensure a healthy body condition. Be prepared to adjust the frequency and/or amounts of food as necessary. 

The Hokkaido is not known for drooling. 

Hokkaido Training

  • Intelligent and easy to train

  • Not particularly mouthy

  • High prey drive and will roam if allowed to do so


Hokkaido’s are both intelligent and natural people-pleasers, making them a relatively easy breed to train. Consistency is the key to learning with this breed. With regular practice, the Hokkaido can easily master the basic obedience commands within a month. 

Hokkaido’s are no more prone to mouthiness than any other breed; however, it is important to teach them young to use their mouths appropriately. When teeth attempt to connect with skin, redirect the dog to a toy, ball, or bone instead. Over time, the dog will soon learn where to use its teeth and where not to. 

A breed with high prey drive, Hokkaido will both roam and chase other animals if given the opportunity to do so. For this reason, a securely fenced containment system is an absolute must for this breed. 

Hokkaido Exercise Requirements

  • Intelligent and easy to train

  • Not particularly mouthy

  • High prey drive and will roam if allowed to do so


Hokkaido have relatively high activity requirements, and thus, are best-suited to families that regularly engage in an active lifestyle. Some of the activities favoured by the breed include hiking, biking, and jogging. A breed that delights with a job to do, the Hokkaido is a breed that needs to be kept busy. This can also be accomplished through performance sports such as agility, Rally, flyball, dock diving, obedience, weight pull, or even lure coursing. 

Should the Hokkaido’s activity needs not be met on a daily basis, the breed can fall into nuisance behaviours which can include hyperactivity and anxiety. This dog breed benefits from 45 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise each day. Since the breed can jump immense heights, a containment system that is a minimum of six feet in height is recommended. 

Hokkaido are masters at escaping harnesses and collars. For this reason, all dogs should be properly fitted at the pet store before the purchase of these items. 

Hokkaido’s are very playful and enjoy time spent roughhousing and in active pursuits with their families. 

Hokkaido Diet & Feeding

  • Puppies should be fed puppy food

  • Adults should be fed adult food

  • Portions should be adjusted to match activity level


To ensure the Hokkaido receives a proper diet, it is always an excellent idea to consult a veterinarian for recommendations. In general, the breed excels when fed a high-quality diet which is properly balanced and appropriate for the age and activity level of the dog. 

Puppies should be fed a puppy food to support their developing bodies. In similar fashion, adults should be fed an excellent quality adult formulation which addresses their unique needs. 

To determine portion sizes, follow the serving size suggested on the bag of food. These can serve as a starting point and should be adjusted according to activity level. The dog’s weight and appetite will serve as a helpful guide. 

A Hokkaido that is fed a high-quality, nutritious diet will have a beautiful coat and sparkling white teeth. 

You may also be interested in:

Hokkaido Rescue Groups

For more information about Hokkaido available for adoption near you, we recommend the following comprehensive resource:


Hokkaido Association of North America