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The Hokkaido is a purebred dog from Japan. Intelligent, alert, and devoted to their families, these pooches have qualities that make them excellent companions.
The Hokkaido goes several names, including Ainu-ken, Seta, and Ainu dog. In Japan specifically, their name is shortened to Do-ken.
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*Please Note: It is difficult to know which breeder is trustworthy when you are in another country. But fortunately there are reputable associations that can guarantee the quality of breeders who are members of their association. These can be mentioned as Japan Kennel Club – JKC, The Kennel Club of Japan – KC or Nihonken Hozonkai – 日保 and many other associations (JABC, JCC, ICC, CPRO, JCU, KCP, ACC, CCJ, KCC, NMSA, WCA, JMSA, ZCC). Dogs and Cats sold by breeders belonging to these associations are always accompanied by a pedigree certificate.
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Dogs of this type were brought to the Japanese island of Hokkaido by the migrating Ainu people (Ainu Dog is the breed’s alternative name). Although medium-sized, the Hokkaido Dog was bold and tough enough to hunt bears. Careful training and socializing can make this dog a good companion and home guardian.
The medium-sized Hokkaido inu is also often referred to colloquially as the Ainu inu. The breed’s ancestors are said to be the medium-sized dogs that the Ainuan indigenous people of Japan took with them when they moved or were pushed northward from the Tohoku region of Honshu to the island of Hokkaido about a millennium ago.
In Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, the summers are short and the winters are bitterly cold and snowy. Here in this land, abundant with the riches and the rigors of nature, the Hokkaido dogs lived with the Ainu people, whose lifestyle depended heavily on hunting; the dogs were used to hunt such wild animals as bears and foxes. (The word matagi, meaning “hunter,” was incorporated into Japanese from the Ainu language.) In 1937, when they were designated a Protected Species, the dogs were officially named Hokkaido, in keeping with the custom of naming breeds after the region of their origin. Perhaps because the Ainu lived largely by hunting and fishing, the dogs seem to have been developed mainly in coastal areas and along major rivers, in areas like the Ishikari Plain and the Hidaka region.
In order to fight bears in the wild, these dogs needed not only tremendous courage but sharp senses and great vigilance. They are physically very hardy and able to withstand extreme cold, and they also have superb judgment, stamina, and endurance. All these qualities have been built up in the Hokkaido as a direct result of the extremely tough environmental conditions in which they have had to survive. Living in frigid temperatures gave these dogs an outer coat that is very thick compared to other medium-sized Japanese breeds, and a much denser undercoat. Their coat colors are highly varied and include red, brindle, sesame, white, and very dark brown. The tongue may be blue-black, suggest- ing a link to the Chow Chow of China.
The Hokkaido is, like the Kai, on the small side for a medium-sized dog, and there are some who argue that it is too small for that category.
Hokkaido is wary of strangers and can react aggressively to them, but toward their owner, they are extremely loyal. Given rigorous basic training, they can be dependable partners and make very good watchdogs.
The breed is sensitive and has a fiery disposition, which means that there is always a danger of its suddenly biting someone even, in extreme cases, the owner. The Hokkaido is so strong-willed that it can sometimes not be called off an attack, even by the owner. It needs hard regular outdoor exercise and should be raised only by people with a great deal of experience in handling dogs.
On the other hand, because of the strength of its bond with the owner, the Hokkaido can be very obedient. In World War II, Hokkaido was trained as military dogs used, for instance, to send messages or locate enemy camps.