The Hokkaido Dog (Hokkaido Inu) or Ainu Dog (Ainu Inu) is a Spitz type working dog originating from the Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan. Some experts believe that this is probably the oldest (more than 3.000 years) and most primitive of all Japanese breeds – even older than the Kai Ken, but that is up for debate. Ainu Ken is the descendant of ancient Japanese hunting dogs (Matagi-Ken) that were brought from the Tōhoku region (Honshu Island) by the Ainu people (thus the name Ainu Dog) sometime during the Jōmon period. There, in the isolation of the Hokkaido Island, the genetic pool of these dogs left relatively pure and safe from interbreeding with dogs of another breed that were later brought to the Tōhoku region by the Yayoi people. Many Ainu Dogs have blue-black tongues, which suggests that they are of the same origin as the Chow Chow and Shar Pei dogs. In 1937, the breed was designated a Living Natural Monument in its native country. Since then it has been protected by law. The Hokkaido Dog was recognized by the FCI on a definitive basis in 1964 and belongs to the group 5: Asian Spitz and Related Breeds in the class of primitive dogs.
About Hokkaido Dog Personality And Temperament
The Hokkaido Dog is a powerful, faithful and sturdy-looking working dog with strong hunting instincts. He is very similar to the Kai Ken, Kishu or Shiba Inu both in personality and appearance. In its native country, this breed has always been highly prized for its undisputed loyalty, high trainability, insane bravery, and protective nature. On top of that, Dō-Ken is wild, vigorous, hardy, tough, alert, but at the same time gentle, playful, docile, and eager to please. So, as you can see, this is truly a dog of many qualities. In the past, Ainu Dogs were mostly used for large game hunting and guarding, while today they are primarily used as watchdogs and family companions. Indeed, this dog makes a wonderful companion that is incredibly loyal and submissive to its human family. He will naturally be devoted and affectionate to all members of the household, and will enjoy and cherish every moment spend with his loved ones. However, as it is case with many other breeds from the Far East, Hokkaido Ken creates strongest bonds with his primary owner, to whom he will be extremely devoted until the end of his life.
The Ainu Ken can be a lovely playmate with children, but only if he is raised with them or properly socialized at an early age. You see, this is a pack-oriented dog with a strong sense of hierarchy. As such, he will always strive for a higher and more dominant position in the pack (his human family). Thus, this dog can sometimes perceive children as lower ranked members of the pack, which can cause him to rudely express his “importance” over them. Such “high-ranked” dog won’t tolerate any abuse or mistreatment from, in his opinion, lower ranked members, and will instantly switch to aggressive behavior just to consolidate his dominant position in the family. Of course, such behavior is completely off the charts and it had to be immediately and accordingly treated and put under control. So, apart from working with your dog in order that he respects the children, you will have to teach your kids not only how to properly treat a dog, but how to maintain and display themselves as leaders in his eyes. Always remember, this is of utmost importance since Hokkaido Inu can be an extremely dangerous dog that can inflict serious injuries when enraged.
That is, after all, the main reason Ainu Inu is considered an excellent guard dog (with proper training especially) and watchdog. Indeed, he is by nature very protective of its family, aloof and suspicious towards strangers, fierce and fearless in confrontation, and highly territorial. On top of that, Hokkaido Ken is an alert and cautious dog that is very sensitive to all sounds and changes in his surroundings. So, you can rest assured he will announce every guest with loud and long bark. In fact, Hokkaido Dog can be very vocal (especially during hunting) with his versatile “arsenal” of howls and barks, but like other Japanese breeds, he is not prone to excessive barking. The funny thing is that this dog usually howls when happy or excited. Anyway, if the stranger ignores his warning and enters owner’s property uninvited, he will certainly confront him. This can sometimes end up badly since Ainu Ken won’t shy away from attacking or biting, especially if he finds that person be a threat to his family. That’s why it is necessary that you put up a clearly visible ‘beware of dog’ warning on your front gate.
Besides, you will have to, as soon as possible, socialize your Hokkaido Dog with different people of all ages, various types of pets and other dogs. Truly, this dog can be a real nightmare for all other pets, especially if he is not raised with them. Dō-Ken is essentially a primitive and wild dog that is a natural born hunter ready to chase and kill every smaller animal. It is simply in his blood. So, if you already have a cat, hamster or rabbit, maybe it is best to avoid this breed. And even if they are raised together, you should never leave your Ainu Dog alone with a hamster or guinea pig. He can maybe get used to live with cats, but rodents, birds and similar pets are just too tempting for him. Things aren’t much better with other dogs too. In a nutshell, Hokkaido Dog is usually very dominant and aggressive with unknown dogs. He will pick a fight with every dog that threatens his dominant position or that enters his territory. This especially relates to dogs of the same sex. So, in order to prevent such behavior you will have to not only socialize your Ainu, but to train him in obedience as well.
Ainu Dog Training
When it comes to training, we can safely say that the Hokkaido Dog belongs to a group of dogs that are quick learners but independent thinkers. In other words, he is fairly easy to train only if you are able to get him invested into the whole process. This can be a problem considering how independent and headstrong this dog actually is. That’s why it is important to display yourself as a pack leader that is both firm and gentle. Now this might prove hard to some, and because of that Ainu Ken is primarily recommended for experienced owners. In skillful hands, this intelligent dog can easily learn and remember even the most complex commands. The key to success is to start training a puppy at an age of 7-9 weeks. To motivate him for the training, definitely prepare some tasty treats beforehand and try to be patient and calm as much as possible. Positive reinforcement techniques work best with this dog, so remember to never shout or bully him. Lessons should be short and fun. The more demanding commands should be gradually added into the mix.
Other Characteristics And Exercise Needs
Main Hokkaido Dog characteristics are high intelligence, strong loyalty, boldness, alertness, independence, stubbornness, strength, agility, endurance, resourcefulness, persistence, and curiosity. This is truly an investigator dog that likes to roam and explore his surroundings. Now if you pair this trait with his incredible athletic skills, it is easy to guess he can be an escape artist at will. Indeed, Dō-Ken is more than capable to climb over walls or fences and is often eager to find out what’s going on in the neighborhood. Luckily, he is not a type of dog like Siberian Husky, who probably want to return home after escape. Actually, Hokkaido Dog is quite the opposite. Like the Korean Jindo, this dog is capable of finding a way back home from great distances, which just proves how loyal and devoted he is to his master. Nonetheless, his investigating habit is utterly inappropriate and should be prevented at any cost, since it can get him into all sorts of trouble. So, if you wish to own this dog, it would be necessary to have at least 6-feet high fencing around your yard.
The Ainu Inu prefers a large open space where he can freely run and play. As such, he is the perfect dog for owners who have a house with large and securely fenced courtyard. Ideally, his owner should live in an suburban or rural area close to the forest. Although not recommended, Hokkaido Ken can be as well kept indoors since he is a very clean dog that likes to take care of himself. On top of that, he has no doggy odour, can be easily housebroken, and is moderately active while inside. All of this, makes him suitable for life indoors, but you can throw it all out the window if you do not exercise your dog on a daily basis. The Ainu Ken is a fairly active and agile dog that will do well with moderate but regular exercise. Usually, a long daily walk or hike will suffice, but if you keep your dog indoors, you should as well regularly play some games with him. This way you will be sure he will stay healthy, happy and satisfied, which guarantees he won’t destroy your home interior. Also, if you live in an urban setting, keep in mind that you should never let your Hokkaido off-leash unless he is already trained in obedience.
Hokkaido Ken Health
The usual life expectancy of a Hokkaido Dog is around 12-14 years. This is a relatively healthy breed that is mostly resistant to all congenital and hereditary health problems. However, about 1/3 of Ainu Dogs are affected by Collie eye anomaly, while 2/3 are carriers. CEA is a form of inherited eye disease, which affects the sclera, retina, and choroid. Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for it. Now before you turn your back on this dog, you have to know that this is only a mild disease that can rarely cause blindness. Nonetheless, if you want to avoid all the risks, it is best that you request detailed examination of a puppy before buying. Fortunately, CEA can be easily diagnosed by ophthalmoscopy in puppies by the age of 6-7 weeks. So, if you decide to buy this dog, make sure you check with the breeder if the puppies are properly examined on this disease. Only this way you will be 100 percent sure your Hokkaido Dog will stay healthy. Apart from CEA, this breed is also susceptible, although rarely, to some more common dog diseases like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypodontia, cryptorchidism, or some forms of allergies.
Dō-Ken Physical Characteristics And Appearance
The Ainu Ken is a typical medium-sized dog (Shika Inu) of squarish shape – he is slightly longer than tall at the withers (11:10 ratio). He has the muscled and compact body covered with the waterproof double coat. As usual, the undercoat is soft and dense and outer coat is straight and harsh. Hokkaido Dog has a bit longer and thicker coat than other Japanese dogs and because of that is capable to withstand extremely low temperatures and to efficiently work in heavy snow or blizzard. However, as you probably guessed it, the Ainu Ken‘s coat requires a bit more grooming than coats of other Japanese dog breeds. For example, you should usually brush your dog at least twice a week in order to prevent formation of hair mats. The Ainu Inu sheds heavily. So, during shedding, you will have to brush your dog once or twice a day to remove dead hair. Also, occasional bath with dry shampoo is welcome from time to time. Main Hokkaido Dog colors are white, black, red, black and tan, sesame, wolf-gray, and brindle. The most common are red and white dogs.
The Hokkaido Dog has a wedge-shaped head with pointed muzzle and slightly flat skull. The nose and lips are darkly colored and teeth meet in a scissors bite. The lively and somewhat small dark brown eyes are almond-shaped and set well apart. The triangular ears are erect and relatively small. It is recommended that you inspect your dog’s ears and eyes, especially the latter, once a month. The moderate neck is thick and strong with no dewlap. The withers are high and chest is relatively deep, with well-sprung ribs. The stomach is slightly tucked up. The back is strong and straight. The moderately broad loin is muscular. The brushy tail is usually carried curled atop the dog’s back, or set on high in the shape of a sickle. The front legs are straight and lean. The hind legs have strong hocks and are well-muscled and very powerful. The cat-like feet with arched toes and hard pads are well-furred. The Hokkaido Dog moves at a quick and light trot and is able to jump incredibly high, to run like the wind, and to quickly change directions.
Hokkaido Dog Size And Weight
– Height between 19 and 22 inches (49-56 cm)
– Weight between 53 and 66 pounds (26-30 kg)
– Height between 18 and 20,5 inches (45-52 cm)
– Weight between 44 and 57 pounds (20-26 kg)
Excellent Dog For Big Game Hunting
The well trained Hokkaido Dog with its primal prey drive is a hell of a hunting dog. Up until recently, hunting was the primary use for these dogs. In fact, their hunting prowess is the main reason they remain to this very day. Seta, as the Japanese also call this dog breed, possesses all the qualities of a natural hunter – he is very intelligent brave, fearless, agile, hardy, fast, resourceful, persistent, and determined. He has keen senses of smell, sight, hearing, and direction, and can easily work in different weather conditions in the harshest of terrains. In their native country, Hokkaido Dogs have been mainly used to hunt the Hokkaido brown bear. Also, they proved successful in the hunt on wild boar, deer and other types of large game. Ainu Dogs bark and howl while chasing or baying a prey, thus the hunter can always determine their position with ease. Once properly trained, these dogs can be very effective and easy to organize since they are quick to answer recall commands. This gives the hunter a good amount of control over them, which is, of course, very important during the hunt.
Versatile Working Breed
The Hokkaido Dog is considered a versatile worker with a good reason. During the long history of the breed, these dogs had many more uses other than hunting and guarding. They are the only Japanese dogs used for sled pulling thanks to their strength and resistance to very cold weather. Intelligent as they are, Dō-Kens even proved reliable as herding dogs, although they’ve been rarely used for it. In some Japanese villages they are even today used as defensive dogs for protection against bears. Some dogs were successfully used in search and rescue missions, most notably in 1902, when an Army expedition was caught in a blizzard climbing over the Hakkōda Mountains. Also, the Ainu people, who are known as good fishermen, often use these dogs as helpers to catch salmons during their exhausting upriver runs. So, it is perfectly clear this dog is truly a loyal and dedicated human companion. Unfortunately, Ainu Ken is really hard to come by since this is a very rare breed even in Japan. However, if you are an experienced owner looking for a diligent and courageous working dog, then you should definitely look to find and buy a Hokkaido Dog at any cost!