The American Kennel Club describes the Hokkaido as “a dog of noteworthy endurance and dignity. His temperament is faithful, docile, very alert and bold. He also shows accurate judgment and great stamina.” He is a courageous and brave dog, bred to hunt bears and other animals. He is devoted, loyal, intelligent and quick to solve problems. This medium-sized Spitz measures 18 to 20 inches and weighs between 44 to 66 pounds. There is a marked difference in size and build between males and females. Its double coat has a harsh and straight outer, while the undercoat is soft and dense. The coat comes in sesame, black, white, red, grey, brindle and, black and tan. It was developed to withstand extreme cold temperatures and snow. The Hokkaido is sturdily built, with substantial bones and strong muscles. The Hokkaido is a relatively healthy breed, though it is known to have a very high rate of Collie eye anomaly. This is a bilateral eye disease, which is congenital and inherited. It affects the choroid, retina, and sclera. It can present mildly or cause blindness and, sadly, has no treatment.
The Hokkaido is unsurpassed when it comes to its innate sense of direction and smell. In its native country, where it is still used for hunting, it is encouraged to be fierce and unrelenting. It is food motivated and a quick learner, a combination that makes for an easy-to-train temperament. It responds well to positive reinforcement training. The Hokkaido likes to remain close to its owner and, therefore, tends to have a good recall. It is good with children and with other animals, provided it is raised with them from puppyhood. It must have consistent and ongoing socializing or problems with aloofness and/or protectiveness may occur. I have been fortunate enough to meet some members of this lovely breed, and I can honestly say that I would not hesitate to welcome one into my family.
The Japanese Ministry of Education designated this dignified breed as a natural monument in 1937 and is protected by law. It is the oldest of the sixth native Japanese breeds. It is extremely rare outside of its native country of Japan, which has an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Hokkaidos. Even though some sources state that there are fewer than twenty-five Hokkaido dogs living in North America, the breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service in January of 2016. It will become a member of the Working Group once it receives full AKC recognition. For more information on this wonderful breed, visit the Hokkaido Association of North America.