The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.
The Hokkaido is a medium-sized, strongly-built dog. They have longer, thicker coats than the other Japanese breeds, and also have wider chests and smaller ears. Like all the Nihon Ken, they have a double coat made up of protective, coarse outer guard hairs, and a fine, thick undercoat that is shed seasonally. The breed comes in several colors: white, red, black, brindle, sesame, and wolf grey. With early training, the Hokkaido is a very loyal and dedicated companion who wants to please his human family. They are incredibly intelligent thinkers and problem solvers, and they excel at tasks given to them. If not socialized properly, however, Hokkaido can become wary of strangers and protective of their families. The breed is extremely rare outside its native country. In Japan, there is an estimated population of around 10,000-12,000, and yearly registrations of between 900-1000.
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The Hokkaido is an active breed which requires a high quality diet of balanced proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. What you feed your dog is an individual choice, but working with your veterinarian and/or breeder will be the best way to determine frequency of meals as a puppy and the best adult diet to increase his longevity. Properly fed Hokkaido should have thick, shiny coats and clean teeth. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
The Hokkaido is a fairly self-managed breed. The natural oils on their skin and coat help to keep them clean and dry despite unfavorable weather conditions. No trimming or shaving of their fur is required or recommended, just regular brushing to remove dead fur and keep the coat healthy. Hokkaido blow their undercoat roughly twice yearly. During this time, a bath and frequent brushing to remove the dead fur is necessary. Their nails should be trimmed regularly to avoid overgrowth and cracking. Teeth should be brushed regularly.
Hokkaido are generally a very active breed. They are best suited for an active family who enjoys spending their time outdoors hiking, biking, jogging, and/or camping. Like all working breeds, it’s best to give them a “job” to do. Hokkaido excel at performance events such as agility, rally, flyball, weight pull, lure coursing, dock diving, and more. Without proper physical and mental stimulation, Hokkaido can become bored, anxious, and hyperactive in your home. If letting your Hokkaido run in your backyard, you should have a six foot fence, as they are good jumpers. For daily walks, a strong leash and a properly fitted martingale collar or harness is recommended.
Well-bred Hokkaido are generally very healthy, living 12-15 years average. However, like all breeds they are prone to hereditary diseases. Hokkaido are prone to collie eye anomaly, hip dysplasia, luxating patella, heart murmurs, idiopathic seizures, anxiety, psychogenic polydipsia, and pica. When living with a Hokkaido, it is important to monitor them frequently to make sure they are not chewing on items which can cause them harm. Inspect all toys carefully and frequently, and throw away toys that are broken or contain small pieces which can be ingested.
The Hokkaido is one of the oldest of the six native Japanese spitz breeds. They are said to have originated from medium-sized Japanese dogs that accompanied the Ainu people from Honshu (the main island of Japan) to Hokkaido during the Kamakura era in the 1140s, when exchanges were developing between Hokkaido and the Tohoku District. Over time, the Ainu people and their dogs adapted to survive the severely cold winter climate and rugged landscape. The dogs were revered by the Ainu people for their devout loyalty, bravery, and large game hunting ability. The Ainu were bear and deer hunters by culture, and their livelihood depended on their renowned bear dogs.
The Hokkaido was classified as a Living Natural Monument by the government of Japan in 1937. There are two main breed registries, the Hokkaido Ken Hozonkai (Hokkaido Dog Preservation Society) and the Hokkaido Ken Kyokai (Hokkaido Dog Association). Almost no Hokkaido are registered outside of these two clubs.