His peculiar nature and high-level of devotion make the Hokkaido Dog temperament a hard one to understand. You see this dog could represent the perfect companion with his high IQ and loyalty.
But for an inexperienced owner, the stubbornness that comes along with his intelligence could overwhelm them. You should also take into account his curious nature and overall protective personality.
Given all these fascinating Hokkaido dog behaviors and traits, you must decide the situation you fit into: the first or the second. And we’re going to help you out with this decision by diving deeper into the Hokkaido dog temperament down below.
The Hokkaido Dog Temperament & Personality
The following discussion of the Hokkaido Dog temperament will showcase why he isn’t an ideal fit for a first-time owner; however, it’ll also demonstrate why he represents the prototypical family companion for an experienced owner.
The Hokkaido Dog temperament was bred to become a fearless hunter. And this trait isn’t something he’s lost over the years. In fact, he’s been known to challenge larger predators such as a bear often when he comes across one.
As you might expect, this trait can end up costing you a lot of money in vet bills. But it can also be useful as it makes the Hokkaido an incredible guard dog; if the situation requires it, he’ll gladly risk his safety to ensure yours.
On a less serious note, this fearlessness is helpful in training as well. It gives him the confidence to learn any command when partnered with the right owner. It also makes the atmosphere around your home more fun as you never know what he’s going to do next.
Intelligent & Stubborn
A trait that can be a bit of a double-edged sword within the Hokkaido Dog temperament is their intelligence. On the one hand, it makes him incredibly susceptible to training; there isn’t a command you can think of that he can’t learn with the right owner.
But it also makes them incredibly stubborn. He has a mind of his own and isn’t afraid to exercise when you aren’t being authoritative. He’ll continuously test you to ensure you’re at the top of the game as an owner.
In other words, Hokkaido dog traits like these are why he’s such a difficult dog to handle for inexperienced owners. It’s also why constantly adding new things into his training is a good idea with this breed.
You should even think about adding in training to your regular Hokkaido Dog exercise routine. It’ll reinforce your status as the pack alpha and keep him on his toes. It'll also make sure he doesn’t get bored and start trying to entertain himself.
As a result, a constant source of mental stimulation becomes a must, or his stubborn side could emerge. Investing in puzzle toys and finding creative ways to challenge him throughout the day are things you’ll need to do.
One of the more fun ways to challenge is by hiding this food around your home. You see Hokkaido dogs are very treat-motivated; therefore, making dinnertime into a game is a great way to challenge him mentally.
This constant need for mental stimulation is also why you must start the training as early as possible. If you don’t, he might become quite a handful to handle for any owner.
Loyalty runs deep inside the Hokkaido dog temperament, as he will form a strong, unwavering bond with his owners. This connection has such strong meaning for him that rehoming an older Hokkaido can sometimes be downright impossible.
It also makes him want to be with his family at all times, which means he’s a prime candidate for separation anxiety: a condition that’ll cause him to build up nervous energy in the times where his owner isn’t present.
This nervous energy will make him act strangely and lash out in dangerous ways. For instance, if you crate him while you’re gone, you might come home and see him with bloody paws; he tried clawing his way out of the crate and finding you.
But these are behaviors you can train out of him. It’ll require a lot of patience and effort, but it’s certainly possible with the right owner. On a more positive note, this sense of loyalty comes with a companionship that’s almost unrivaled by other dog breeds.
All he wants to do is be with the people he loves and please them; a trait that isn’t such a bad thing when you think about it.
Curious & Active
His unique set of behaviors and characteristics make the Hokkaido temperament one full of curiosity. As you might expect, this trait can be problematic for an owner that can’t always provide him their full attention.
It’s also why you don’t want to leave him in your backyard for an extended period. You see his curiosity has gained him a reputation for being an escape artist. If something piques his interest on the other side of the fence, he won’t stop until he can investigate.
If you plan on getting a Hokkaido, it’s in your best interest that you have at least a six-foot-tall fence. It’s also a good idea to keep them regularly active, which will dampen his investigative curiosity.
A daily hour walk or hike should be efficient enough to tire him out and keep his curiosity in check. You should also add in some playing sessions to give them a secondary physical stimulation outlet.
Hokkaido Dog History
Although the Hokkaido's origin remains a mystery to experts, it’s clear that he has been around since ancient times. The most predominant theory is that he descends from the Matagi-ken, which is a Japanese breed.
His exposure to the world was relatively recent; the Hokkaido, also called the Ainu Dog, was isolated in the Tohoku region for much of their existence. It wasn’t until 1869 when he was discovered by a zoologist from England named Thomas W. Blankiston.
From there, his popularity only grew, and it would continue to swoon with events such as what happened in 1902; he took part in an army search and rescue operation. His ability to withstand cold weather was pivotal in searching for survivors during a massive snowstorm.
In 1937, he saw another uptick in popularity when he was selected to be a part of Japan’s protected rare species list. But things didn’t get start getting crazy until he was used in a commercial for Softbank in 2007.
Understanding the Hokkaido Appearance
When encountering a Hokkaido dog on the street, he might startle you with his muscular body. He also has decent size to him as well considering his medium-sized build. But these attributes don’t stop him from being quick on his feet.
He’ll also have a coarse double coat, which will feature remarkably straight hair. In particular, the undercoat will be incredibly thick.
The coat itself could be one or a mixture of the primary Hokkaido dog colors: white, red, black, brindle, sesame, and wolf grey.
And the hair within the coat won't be the longest, but certainly isn't short either; it’s a rather medium-long length. You‘ll also notice his rather peculiar ears that stand straight up at all times.
His eyes are small and kind of triangle with dark brown coloring. In most cases, his tongue will be a blue-blackish color that’ll feature black spots.
His appearance often gets mixed up with three other Japanese dog breeds: the Shikoku, Akita, and the Shiba Inu. We’ll highlight the differences between the Hokkaido and each of these breeds to ensure you don’t make the same mistake.
Hokkaido Dog Vs. Akita
The main difference between the Japanese Hokkaido dog and the Akita is their overall sizes. With their medium-sized builds, a Hokkaido dog weight will hover anywhere from 45 to 65 pounds. And a Hokkaido dog height will range from 18 to 22 inches.
On the other hand, an Akita tends to weigh anywhere between 70 and 130 pounds. Its height will be in the range of 24 to 28 inches. Therefore, if you see a massive dog that looks like a Hokkaido, there’s a high probability it’s an Akita instead.
Shikoku Vs. Hokkaido Dog
The Shikoku will be a little bit smaller than your typical Hokkaido dog as it weighs about 35 to 50 pounds. It’ll also have a short height with it ranging between 17 to 21 inches. It also has a mix of short hair that the Hokkaido doesn’t have on its body.
It also helps that a Shikoku only comes in three different colors: sesame, red sesame, and black sesame. Two of these are colors, red and black sesame, are colors that aren’t known parts of the recognized Hokkaido color schemes.
Hokkaido Dog Vs. Shiba Inu
Unlike like with the Shikoku, the Hokkaido dog size is much different than a Shiba Inu. A Shiba Inu tends to weigh between 15 and 23 pounds. And its height will be anywhere from 13 to 17 inches.
If you think you see a miniature Hokkaido Dog, you can safely bet it’s a Shiba Inu instead. Another telltale sign is its coat will feature short hair as well, and the Hokkaido’s doesn’t.
The Hokkaido Dog Training Guide
The Hokkaido training experience will vary considerably depending on how invested you can get him into the process. You see the problem is he’s incredibly smart and this high IQ allows him to be an independent thinker.
As a result, you need to make the training sessions enticing, or there’s a high probability he won’t entertain them. The key here is to assert yourself as the pack leader but in a non-aggressive way.
It's also essential that you don't attempt harsher techniques; he will not take kindly to these methods and lash out accordingly. You want to come across as commanding, but in a loving way that develops a bond between you and him.
This balance can be a hard thing for first-time owners to achieve; therefore, it’s no surprise that Hokkaido dogs tend to be recommended more for owners with a lot of experience. These kinds of handlers should have no issues getting him to learn even the most complicated commands.
The best way to ensure he becomes invested in the training is by starting at an early age. It’s often thought that you can begin these sessions as early as 7 to 9 weeks old. And during these training sessions, the best method to approach it with is positive reinforcement techniques.
These techniques will develop a respectful bond, which will make the training rewarding for both of you.
Helpful Dog Training Resource:
For help with training your Hokkaido dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.
Relevant Hokkaido Dog Health Issues
There isn’t a dog breed on this planet that doesn’t have some recurring health issues in its breed history; the Hokkaido isn't any different. But the Hokkaido dog lifespan, 12 to 15 years, is a bit longer than you’d typically see with other breeds.
Even with this in mind, there are a few health issues you should be aware of as a prospective owner. And the ones we list down below are the main culprits that could end up causing a Hokkaido some issues:
Considering we just got done describing the Hokkaido as very healthy, this list might seem extensive; but even with these conditions, it’s still relatively rare that a Hokkaido will end up picking up on them.
It’s also helpful that you can stay on top of most of them by keeping up with vet visits. In other words, make sure your dog sees the vet regularly such as every six months. It’ll ensure a professional has an eye on your dog’s health.
But there are some things you can do other than vet visits to keep your Hokkaido in good health. For instance, making sure the puppy you end up getting has parents with OFA certified hips is a must; it’ll significantly decrease the chances your dog will suffer from hip dysplasia later in life.
It’s essential you stay vigilant about their movements within your home as well. He’s a chewer and will find dangerous things to chew on, which can cause all sorts of issues. It’s best to keep anything you might perceive as hazardous out of their reach.
Note: Don't let the many issues above scare you. The best way to approach health problems is to prevent them in the first place. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is a great place to start. Get a copy to keep at home. It will help you prevent the painful health issues that can plague your lovely Canaan pet from expressing his winning personality and maximizing his life expentancy.
All You Need to Know About Hokkaido Dog Grooming
Unlike his health issue history, the Hokkaido’s grooming requirements are quite extensive. This large amount of maintenance stems from his heavy double coat, which needs weekly brushing.
But the maintenance doesn’t truly pick up until he reaches the severe seasonal Hokkaido dog shedding periods. These periods typically happen around the beginning of both fall and spring. During these times, you can expect a massive amount of fur build up around your home.
As a result, you should increase your brushing sessions to a daily event. In these sessions, a pin brush should be your tool of choice with a metal comb acting as a backup; the metal comb will help make sure the undercoat is getting attention as well.
You might also need a deshedder during the heavy shedding periods. This product will reduce the damage the shedding hair does as well as make the entire process much more manageable. After all, anything that can reduce the amount of hair on your clothes is a win.
We should also note that his bathing requirements are rather low; a few times a year should do the trick, as it’ll help remove any dirt residue and unbind loose hair. When you do bathe him, it’s essential you use a mild shampoo to ensure his coat doesn’t receive any damage.
And the rest of the grooming requirements are basic care things: trimming his nails every couple of weeks, checking his ears for build-ups regularly, and brushing his teeth weekly.
Finding Your Hokkaido Dog
If you feel the Hokkaido Dog temperament is an ideal fit in your home, you need to make one more choice: adopt or buy. But since this dog is rarely seen outside of its native country, finding one in the US will be problematic either way.
With this in mind, choosing between adopting and buying comes down to what side aligns with your personal beliefs. And we’ll demonstrate both processes below to ensure you have the best chance of getting one of these elusive dogs.
Hokkaido Dog For Sale
If you decide buying is your preference, the first place you should check out is the Hokkaido Association of North America. This association has a database of reputable breeders, which you can contact about potential Hokkaido dog puppies.
And the best thing about this particular organization is its associated with the American Kennel Club; a partner like this one expresses that this association isn’t trying to scam you or make a quick buck.
It’s also helpful that all the breeders mentioned on their site must adhere to strict breeding guidelines. These guidelines ensure the breeders are producing high-quality dogs within clean breeding environments.
But there’s a drawback to these guidelines; there aren’t always puppies available. If this ends up being the case, you should move onto a site like Puppyfinder.com. This site will locate where the nearest Hokkaido puppy is and give you the breeder’s contact information.
The only problem with a site like this one is the sellers/breeders don’t have to follow any guidelines. And the risk of contacting a bad breeder becomes increasing more likely.
This issue is why meeting the breeder/seller is a step you have to take before buying a puppy. It’ll allow you to pick up on warning signs that might convey something isn't right about this situation.
Here are some of those warning signs to give you some idea of what you should be looking out for: many litters available at the same time, lack of proper paperwork, unsanitary breeding facilities, etc.
If one of Hokkaido dog breeders demonstrates these qualities, you should look into using a different breeder. After all, it’s never in your best interest to get a puppy from a bad breeder. It’s not worth it.
Once you do find the right breeder, a Hokkaido dog puppy will cost somewhere between $300 and $400. The lack of demand for them in the US makes them cost less than most breeds, but also harder to find.
Hokkaido Dog For Adoption
If you’re a more “adopt, don’t shop” kind of person, getting a Hokkaido might be impossible. There isn’t a single Hokkaido dog rescue organization within the US, which makes finding one incredibly difficult.
You’ll have to rely on sites like Adoptapet.com, which will locate the nearest adoptable Hokkaido and contact information. Another option is going down to your local shelter or humane society and hoping you get lucky.
If you don’t get lucky, give them your contact information and tell them about your interest in the breed. This action will provide them with someone to call when/if a Hokkaido does arrive in their facility.
When you do find an adoptable Hokkaido, get all the information about them you can before bringing them home. Make sure you ask background questions about their medical history, temperament, previous situation, etc.
All these topics will give the information you need to make the transition into your home a smooth one. And once you’re comfortable with the answers you got, a Hokkaido dog price should be around $300.
It could be a little higher or lower depending on factors such as age, medical expenses, and rescue or shelter.
Conclusion: Is the Hokkaido Dog the Right Dog For You?
If you’re looking for a lovable companion with a little edge, the Hokkaido dog temperament could be a perfect fit. His high IQ and curious personality will provide you with something new each day.
But if you’re a first-time owner, a Hokkaido isn’t the right dog for you. Their stubbornness will overwhelm you and cause issues that even an experience owner might have problems containing.
Calvin is the co-founder and one of the main contributors to dogtemperament.com. He has been an avid dog lover all his life. He enjoys researching and sharing great ideas on how you can avoid common pitfalls of dog ownership and build the most loving and enjoyable relationship with your dog.