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Hokkaido: The Ultimate Guide

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If you have been searching the internet for the perfect dog breed for you, one breed that might stand out amongst the crowd for you is the Hokkaido breed. These are gorgeous and energetic dogs that originally come from Japan, and they are one of the most loyal dog breeds that you will find.

Just like with any other breed of dog that you are considering, it is really important to get to know this breed and find out all of the information that you would need to know before owning one.


There are lots of wonderful things to learn about these dogs, but there are also some challenges to owning them that are also worth considering.

Regardless of what questions you are hoping to answer, you will find out everything that you need to know in this article. We have created the ultimate guide to the Hokkaido breed, so you can find all of the information you could possibly need in one place, saving you lots of time and energy on researching.

Key Facts

Before we fully get into this ultimate guide to Hokkaido, there are some things that you should know first when it comes to the lifespan, exercise requirements, coat, and monthly costs of the Hokkaido. We are going to explain more about this below.

Average Lifespan

On average, the Hokkaido breed has a lifespan of between 12 and 15 years. 

Minimum Exercise (Per Day)

The Hokkaido doesn’t actually need an excessive amount of daily exercise like many other breeds, and they will typically do well with between 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day. They enjoy activities like hiking and jogging, and they will happily come with you when you are going pretty much anywhere outdoors. 

Although, it is advisable to keep this dog on a lead, as they have been known to get distracted and chase other animals. While this is a lower amount of exercise than some other breeds, you will still need to ensure that you have enough time spare to meet their exercise requirements. If you fail to do so, this breed can become hyperactive and destructive.

Coat Length

These dogs have long coats to keep them warm in the cold weather, and they are usually either red, black, tan, or grey in color.

Minimum Cost (Per Month)

You can expect to pay a minimum of $80 a month to care for a Hokkaido dog, including regular ongoing expenses like food, insurance, treats, accessories, and more. It is essential that you make sure that this is an amount that you can afford to add on to your normal monthly spendings.


The Hokkaido breed carries itself with both dignity and elegance. They have wide heads with a wedge-shaped muzzle and defined stop. They also have triangular shaped ears that stand up and are relatively small in size.

Their eyes are also small and dark brown, and their noses are one of the most prominent features on their faces. The nose is usually black, but it can be flesh colored in Hokkaido dogs that have white fur.

There are some breed members that will have a dark coloring on their tongue, and the rectangular body of the Hokkaido dog features a deep chest and a well-sprung rib cage. Their legs are also straight and strong and end in arched toes with thick and dark claws. They also have a distinctive bushy tail that is set high and curves over their backs.


The Hokkaido is a medium to large breed.

Average Height

Hokkaido dogs will typically stand between 18 to 20 inches tall but it is possible for them to be slightly bigger or smaller than this.

Average Weight

On average, these dogs will weigh between 45 and 65 pounds at the age of maturity. They are relatively heavy for their size.


The Hokkaido dog is known for being a devoted and affectionate breed, especially when it comes to its owners and families. They have lots of great qualities about them, they are alert of their surroundings, and they are often playful. These dogs are brilliant, and they like to go out and play. However, they will stop out of nowhere if they are getting bored of the game.

Hokkaido dogs are very agile as they were originally trained to hunt and search for prey, which is the main reason why they have such a high prey drive. However, they are also really intelligent, and will listen to their owners when they are commanded. This is a quality that makes them particularly easy to train.

They are not really that fond of strangers, but they will not become aggressive or hostile when they are approached politely and calmly. They will bark whenever they feel like it, but they are always vigilant and will be able to notice anything that is out of the ordinary.

Although, they will howl if they are happy or excited. This is a beautiful breed that can make an excellent playmate for children, especially if they have been raised with them. They are also especially good with children and other animals if they have been socialized with them at a young age.

Something else you will be interested to learn is that these are pack-oriented dogs with a strong sense of hierarchy. They can make excellent guard dogs and they are very protective of their families.

Apartment Living

Hokkaido’s can live in apartments and smaller houses as they are a medium-sized breed. However, they are quite active and would usually do better in a home with a backyard or a nearby park that they can use for walking and playing. 

Hokkaidos can get along well in any household type, whether that involves single people or families. They will only do well living in an apartment if you are meeting their exercise needs, which is something that is really important. However, they may prefer a larger home with a yard.

Good for Novice Owners

It can be difficult to say whether or not these dogs would be suitable for novice owners, as they have traits that would be good and others that would be bad in this situation.

They have high levels of intelligence, but this is both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, it makes them really good at training as they pick things up easily. On the other hand, it can make them incredibly stubborn. 

These dogs are known for having a mind of their own, and they will try and take control if you are not being authoritative enough with them. They like to test you to ensure that you are fulfilling your role as ‘pack leader’. For this reason, they can be quite difficult to handle for inexperienced owners.

Sensitivity Level

These dogs are not typically the sensitive type, but you might find that they are sensitive to your emotions at times, particularly if you are feeling down. They may even make it their mission to try and cheer you up.

Tolerates Being Alone

Hokkaido dogs are quite a social breed; they love being around their families. This is why they are not usually best suited for being left alone for more than a few hours at a time. They much prefer to be close to their families and in the company of others.

Tolerates Cold Weather

Hokkaido dogs have a particularly thick coat, which makes it easier for them to keep warm in cold weather.

Tolerates Hot Weather

Although, these dogs do not typically tolerate hot weather very well, especially the lighter color varieties. This is why it is essential to provide them with lots of water and shade to protect them from hotter temperatures.

Affectionate With Family

These dogs can be very affectionate sometimes, but only when they are in the mood. You will probably find them trying to curl up on your lap, and they are highly likely to follow you around the house.


These dogs can be the perfect companion for children of all ages and sizes, but it is best that they are raised with children or properly socialized with them from a young age. Hokkaido’s are of a medium size and are also very strong, allowing them to handle playing with people of all sizes.

As long as your children know how to approach and play with a dog properly, these dogs can be the perfect playmate for them.

Dog Friendly

When it comes to other dogs and pets, it is usually best that they are not around animals that are much smaller than them. These dogs are natural-born hunters, and hunting small animals is in their nature.

As long as they are properly socialized with other dogs from a young age, they should get along with them well. They love to play with other dogs and are more than happy to be in their company. 

Friendly Toward Strangers

Hokkaido dogs can be hit or miss when it comes to strangers, depending on how they are introduced to them. They can be a bit weary at first when a stranger comes into the home for the first time, but it doesn’t take long for them to get used to new people. Although, they might bark at the mailman or any strangers that walk past your house.

Health And Grooming


Now that you know everything that there is to know about the personality and temperament of the Hokkaido breed, it is really important to take a look at their health and grooming requirements. We are going to tell you more about this below.


This is a breed that sheds quite a lot all year round, but especially so during the change of the season. You can expect to find fur all around your home. If you are looking for a low-shedding breed, then this probably isn’t the right dog for you.


These dogs don’t typically drool much if at all.  


Due to the fact that these dogs have a double-layered coat, they will need to be brushed every single day. They will only need to be bathed a few times a year, mostly if they are smelly or dirty.

The best thing about the Hokkaido breed is that they are really low maintenance when it comes to grooming, and this is something that you won’t have to spend too much of your time on.

General Health

Generally, these dogs are really healthy However, there are some health conditions that they are at a higher risk of developing, just like with any other dog breed. We will list some of the more common conditions below.

Common Health Problems

Some of the most common health problems for Hokkaido dogs to develop are:

  • Collie eye anomaly
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patella
  • Heart murmurs
  • Idiopathic seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Psychogenic polydipsia
  • Pica

Potential For Weight Gain

You will need to ensure that your dog’s diet is formulated for a medium-sized dog with medium energy levels. Your Hokkaido dog will put on too much weight if they are being overfed, and this is something that you will need to keep an eye on.


These dogs can be trained, but it is usually best for them to be trained by someone that has previous experience with training dogs. If they do not see you as the one that is in charge, they are unlikely to listen to a single thing that you say, which is something to keep in mind.

Easy To Train

Hokkaido dogs are moderately easy to train, but they can be a little bit stubborn with their training at times. They typically listen to commands as long as they understand that you are in charge, which is essential if you want to train a Hokkaido.


These dogs are very intelligent, which makes their training much easier. They are more likely to pick up their training with ease, and they can learn new tricks and commands really quickly.

Potential to Bite

These dogs are not likely to bite and they are generally really friendly, unless they have not been properly socialized from a young age.

Tendency To Bark Or Howl

The Hokkaido dog is not the type of dog to be loud and constantly barking. They might bark to signal that there is danger coming, or because they feel threatened by something or someone. These are dogs that are very vigilant and have a good prey drive. For this reason, they have been known to howl or bark to give out a sighting signal during hunts.


The Hokkaido dog is a Spitz type of working dog that actually originated on the main island of Hokkaido in Japan. However, there are some people that believe that they are from Honshu, which is another main island.

Experts believe that the Hokkaido is one of the oldest dog breeds to exist and that they are the most primitive of all the Japanese dog breeds.

In 1869, this breed of dog was discovered by a British zoologist, whose name was Thomas Blakiston. It was he that gave them the name that we know and recognize today.

Originally, the Hokkaido were hunting dogs, and their genetic makeup has been relatively safe from interbreeding with other dog breeds. Lots of Hokkaido dogs have a blue and black tongue, and this is something that could suggest that they have a relation to Chow Chows or Shar Pei dogs.

In 1937, Japan recognized this breed as a living natural monument, which protects them by law. The Japanese had trained dogs so they could hunt alongside them a long time ago.

These dogs are a fearless breed that would even challenge large bears if they came across them. As well as this, they were highly resourceful and able to catch fish in streams without any difficulty.

These dogs are so intelligent that they are now trained to help with search and rescue missions. Although, they are mostly kept as family pets. Although this breed is rare outside of Japan, there are still some in other parts of the world.


The average cost of a Hokkaido dog is around $1000.This is a rare dog breed outside of the country of Japan, and often, the transportation costs will exceed the cost of the dog itself. Some top breeding lines can even go for much more than $1000.

Fun Facts

  • The Hokkaido is a spitz type dog breed
  • It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 12,000 Hokkaido dogs in the world
  • Hokkaido dogs were originally bred in Japan as hunting dogs
  • They are courageous dogs that can chase bears and catch fish
  • These dogs have a pack mentality

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.