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Hokkaido: Info, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove


Height: 18-20 inches
Weight: 44-66 pounds
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Colors: White, sesame, brindle, red, black
Suitable for: Individuals or active families with older children looking for a hardy and devoted dog
Temperament: Loyal, intelligent, affectionate, independent

What can you say about a dog that hunted bears for its job? The Hokkaido is one tough customer when it comes to courage. This pup is an ancient Japanese breed with a history that goes back hundreds of years to 300 AD, likely earlier than that. This dog is quite cold-tolerant, having lived in the arctic-like environment of its homeland.

The Hokkaido has a distinct appearance with close-set eyes and a muscular body. Centuries of selectively breeding encouraged these traits. This pup is on the pathway to becoming a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Right now, it’s part of the Foundation Stock Service group to establish its lineage and increase the number of dogs in the United States.

As you may guess, the background of the Hokkaido shows up in many unique ways, both physically and behaviorally. This pup is fiercely loyal to their owner, which is understandable given their native land. The rugged terrain was sparsely populated, making it easy for them to bond with their human companions. There are several other things about the Hokkaido that make this pup fascinating.

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Hokkaido Puppies

the dog breeds Hokkaido runs on the lawn
Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

We’ll start by saying upfront that the Hokkaido is not the best choice for first-time pet owners or families with small children. Their background fostered toughness and independence, which don’t meld well in these home situations. This pup is both extremely intelligent and willful at times, and they’ll do best with an owner who has experience with raising dogs.

The Hokkaido is a devoted pet, which means they’ll make an excellent watchdog. However, they only have a moderate tendency to bark or howl. When vocal, pay attention to what they’re trying to tell you. As you may expect, their prey drive is strong. After all, this dog is a hunter at heart. This pup also has a relatively high wanderlust potential, so we recommend keeping them on a leash when outdoors.

While the Hokkaido is affectionate with family, they’re reserved around strangers. That makes early socialization imperative to cultivate proper canine manners. This pup isn’t overly sensitive, but they need attention to stay happy. It’s also wise since it’ll give them more opportunities for mental stimulation. Problem-solving is a part of the skillset that you’ll need to satisfy.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Hokkaido

1. The Hokkaido Holds an Honor Few, if Any, Other Breeds Have

How many dog breeds can boast of being a living monument? The Hokkaido received this honor in 1937, the year that they also took on their present-day name.

2. The Hokkaido Shares an Unusual Trait With Other Spitz Creeds

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Spitz breeds like the Chow Chow is a bluish-black tongue. While it’s not an official part of the breed standard, this color isn’t a fault for a Hokkaido. No one knows why some dogs inherited this characteristic or, for that matter, why both polar bears and giraffes have it, too.

3. The Hokkaido Is Well-Equipped to Handle the Outdoors

One look at the Hokkaido and you know this is an outdoor dog. They have smaller ears than many similar dogs to avoid heat loss and frostbite. Their paws are large for trekking through snow and rocky terrains. This pup also has a thick double coat to keep them warm.

Image Credit: Pxhere

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Hokkaido 🧠

If you’ve been around Spitz breeds before, you’ll recognize the reserved manner and almost cat-like behavior of the Hokkaido. This pup is relatively adaptable when it comes to getting comfortable in their new home with their family. However, they forge strong bonds with their human companions. That gives them a moderate tendency for separation anxiety.

The Hokkaido is a dignified dog, which even appears in the breed standard. Their gait shows this trait. This dog is not shy, nor is it vicious. However, it’s essential to establish the owner-pet relationship early in your pup’s life. It’s vital for building trust with your pet.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The Hokkaido has several qualities that make them an excellent choice for a family pet. They are devoted and will protect their home turf. This is a loving pup that isn’t yappy. However, they can become mouthy as puppies, which you’ll need to curb early. While this is an affectionate dog, they’ll do better in a household with older children who can learn to respect their space.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

The Hokkaido can get along with other dogs if you socialize them as a puppy. We’d suggest only raising them with pups of a comparable size or larger because of their strength and stamina. Other pets are another story. We don’t recommend getting this pooch if you have a cat or other small animals. Their prey drive is too keen to risk being around them.


Things to Know When Owning a Hokkaido:

It’s essential to understand that a Hokkaido needs consistent training and daily reinforcement of the house rules. They want to please you, but you may need to remind them of that fact. They will make wonderful pets as long as they don’t get bored, as that’s when they can develop bad habits, like digging or chewing.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The Hokkaido is an energetic dog that needs a diet to keep up with their activity level. You should feed them a diet meant for medium-sized dogs. Offer three to four meals as a puppy, cutting back to two when they’re an adult. This pup has a moderate tendency toward weight gain. Therefore, keep an eye on their body condition to make sure they stay fit.

Exercise 🐕

Daily exercise is essential when owning a Hokkaido. It’s also an excellent opportunity to bond with your pet. This is not an intense dog. Instead, their dignified manner shows in their play and activity. However, they’re not as playful as, perhaps, a Golden Retriever is, but will still enjoy a game of fetch or tug-of-war. We recommend not leaving them alone in the backyard so that they won’t get bored.

Training 🦮

The Hokkaido is eager to please and is intelligent enough to learn a variety of tricks. However, they are often willful as puppies. We suggest using treats as training aids to convince them that it’s a smart idea to obey your commands. Don’t be afraid to challenge your pup. They have the endurance and strength to handle it. Teach them new things to reinforce your bond, but just hold back on the harsh reprimands.

dog breed hokkaido quickly runs
Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

Like many Spitz breeds, the Hokkaido does a decent job of keeping themself clean. This dog is a seasonal shedder and will blow their coat twice a year. Weekly brushing can help keep the hair under control and promote healthy circulation in the skin. Despite its thickness, we strongly urge you not to shave them during the summer. Remember that dogs don’t sweat like people, so it’s not going to make them cooler.

Health and Conditions ❤️

The rarity of the Hokkaido has helped keep some genetic health issues under control. The strong leadership of the HANA has also played a vital role. There are several screenings that the organization requires of registered breeders. We recommend that you follow their advice and ensure these are done on the sire, dam, and puppies as necessary.

Minor Conditions
Serious Conditions
  • Collie eye anomaly
  • Hip dysplasia
  • OFA/CERF eye examination
  • OFA cardiac evaluation


Male vs. Female

The Hokkaido stands out from many breeds because sexual dimorphism, or the difference between the sexes, is part of the Federation Cynologique Internationale’s (FCI) standard. The female is smaller but sometimes longer than the male. There is also the expected weight difference. Otherwise, both make delightful pets in the right home.

Divider 3Final Thoughts

While you may not have heard of the Hokkaido, this is a breed worth seeking out if you have previous pet owner experience and the time to devote to this loyal pup. They’re a handsome dog that is about as tough as they come. Despite their strength and hunting background, this pup is loving and gentle. In many ways, you can say inviting this pooch into your life is more like a relationship than pet ownership.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

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