Breed Spotlight: Hokkaido a.k.a. Ainu Dog

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I don’t know about you, but I enjoy researching and learning more about different dog breeds. Here is one breed that is new to me: the Hokkaido dog. I hope you enjoy reading about it!


This dog was named after a tribe called Ainu living in Japan over 3,000 years ago. The tribe was driven off the main island of Japan and settled an island called Hokkaido. The Ainu dog is thought to be one of the oldest of the Japanese dog breeds and has rarely been cross bred. They were originally used as guard dogs and for big-game hunting. This breed of dog is rarely seen outside of Japan. The Hokkaido was declared a Living Natural Monument in 1937.


This breed of dog is thin, muscular and is considered medium in size. They are generally between 18 and 22 inches tall and weigh between 45 and 65 pounds. They have small, triangular ears that stand erect and small, dark brown eyes. They can have a blue-black tongue, similar to the Chow Chow, and their lips have a dark pigmentation to them. The tail curls like that of a Spitz dog. They come in the colors of sesame, white, brindle, gray, red, and brown. They have a single coat over most of their body, but their hindquarters have a double coat.

Traits, Temperament  & Home Life

Hokkaido dogs are known for their loyalty, bravery, and a great sense of direction. If children and a Hokkaido puppy are raised together they can be the best of friends. They prefer to be active outdoors and need a large living space as well as a large yard, and therefore would not do well in an apartment-sized home. They love long daily walks. Because of their background in hunting, they should not be left unsupervised and unleashed around other animals. These dogs have an excellent sense of smell and can be trained for defense purposes, as they are intelligent and fast learners. Training is a requirement with this breed as it can think it is the head of your pack and therefore become stubborn and sometimes aggressive with other dogs.


They are relatively easy to care for, just requiring routine brushing, nail trims and baths as needed.

Life Expectancy and Health Concerns

They have a life expectancy of around 15 years. While they are known as a relatively healthy breed, they can suffer from hip dysplasia, entropian and ectropian (inappropriate folding of the eyelids), glaucoma and bloat.

Photograph by Jurriaan Schulman

Juliet Carty Greene is the proud pet Mommy of Yoda, Wendy, and Willow. She has been happily married for over a year and lives in Salem, MA. Besides writing and expanding her knowledge on dogs, she’s an avid winter-time knitter and all-around animal lover.

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