The Hokkaido Ken is a primitive dog, renowned for its courage, loyalty and determination. Used to hunt bear, boar and deer in its native terrain of Hokkaido, these dogs are generally confident and fearless and will stand up to animals much larger than themselves. They retain strong hunting instincts even as a pet and anything running in front of the Hokkaido's nose will be seen as prey. It is important not to reinforce this predatory behaviour, especially with animals they will meet regularly - careful socialisation under controlled conditions is required and the Hokkaido should not be left unrestrained or unattended with other animals.
As a bear hunter, the Hokkaido's job is to track down and bring the bear to bay whilst waiting for its master. Because of this they have keen instincts, are responsive to things they perceive as a threat and will make quick decisions in order to keep themselves from harm. In high-stress situations these primitive behaviours will reappear in a fight or flight response. It is important to recognise the different stages and to cultivate a bond of confidence between you and your dog through positive reinforcement. It is also pertinent to say that what your Hokkaido may permit you to do, he is unlikely to permit from others, this can often extend to 'dramatics' when vet visits are necessary!
The Hokkaido Ken was raised as a hunter but was also used by the Ainu to protect the home and family during winter. They are extremely attached to their owners and can be suspicious of strangers, sometimes to the point where they are unwilling for a stranger to initiate contact. They will often react to the perceived 'rudeness' of a stranger attempting to touch them without proper introduction by barking and backing away. However, when ignored, the Hokkaido's curious nature will usually push them to make first contact. When the dog is allowed to take the first step, introductions are usually much better.
As the protector of the home, the Hokkaido has a range of vocalisations ranging from barks, to 'yells', to short howls with which they express happiness, excitement, fear and warning. They are not the type of dog who will sit meekly and quietly when someone knocks on your door.
The Hokkaido's strong attachment means that they are very receptive to training and are quick learners, however due to this they can also suffer from separation anxiety when left alone and may result in them becoming noisy or destructive. Firm and consistent training from the outset should prevent this type of behaviour from becoming habit.
General temperament descriptions modified and used with permission from Sophie Streissel of Kyuden Kitsune kennel. See links page for more information.