Ainu Dog Breed Caring and Family, Social Life, Physical Traits, Diet Information

Ainu Dog Breed Caring and Family, Social Life, Physical Traits, Diet Information

Classified in the medium-size category, the Ainu is a strongly-built, sturdy-looking dog with a light gait. This Spitz-type is native to Japan and is believed to be among the most ancient Japanese dog breeds, with its history dating back to over 3000 years ago.

Although this dog breed was originally bred as a hunting dog, it has qualities that make it an excellent companion. They are known for their fierce loyalty, devotion, and affection towards their family, making them great family dogs. Above everything else, this dog craves the love and affection from its family. Additionally, Ainu dogs are very friendly, and with early training and socialization, they can relate very well with children. 

The Ainu dog is also known by several other names including the Hokkaido, Hokkaido-Ken, Hokkaido-Inu, Ainu-Ken, and Seta. This breed is extremely intelligent and thus easy to train. It can easily pick cues from its handlers very fast and has great problem-solving skills. Although Hokkaido is adaptable and can live in apartments and townhouses, it’s very energetic and requires lots of exercise to remain at its best. An outdoor setting or a house with a large yard is thus more ideal as it offers more space to run around.

The Ainu dog stands at 18-20 inches in height and weighs between 44-65 pounds on average. It has a distinctive thick and fluffy plumed tail, short and sharp ears, huge paws that give superb stability during exercise, and a powerful build. Its thick double coat enables it to withstand cold environments. The dog comes in various colors, including black, tan, white, red, black and tan, sesame, and brindle.

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What is the History of Ainu Dog? 

The Ainu Dog is a Spitz type of working dog from Hokkaido Island in Japan. With its origin dating back to the 1140s, this dog is believed to be the oldest of the native six Japanese spitz varieties. When the various indigenous populations migrated to Japan, their dogs met in the middle, resulting in canines that became the ancestors of all six native Japanese breeds. However, it’s impossible to tell the exact time this dog breed has been in existence as they were developed before written records existed.

This dog breed remained unknown in the rest of the world until 1869 when Thomas Blakiston, a British Zoologist discovered it and gave it the name that’s known to date. Originally, the Ainu the dog was bred to hunt alongside the Japanese people,  long before guns were invented. They were renowned for their prowess in hunting down bears and other games. They were also trained to catch fish in streams.

These adaptable dogs would serve as guard dogs for their families as well as beloved companions in addition to their hunting tasks. They have also been known to serve in search and rescue activities in recent years, however, they are now more commonly maintained as household pets.

In 1937, the dog breed was declared a Living National Monument by the Japanese government and given their official name Hokkaido in respect of their native island. The UCK recognized the breed as part of the Northern Dog breed group in 1996. Currently, this dog breed as officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as a Foundation Stock Service (FSS) breed.

The Hokkaido dog remains extremely rare outside its native Japan, with an estimated population of between 10,000-12,000 in Japan.

What are the Breed Traits and Characteristics of Ainu Dog?

The Ainu is a medium-sized dog, weighing between 45-65 pounds and standing at 18-22 inches in height. These dogs are cute and look like fluffy balls with a thick double coat that’s well adapted for living in very cold environments. They have a strong and muscular build with large paws and a light gait, giving them incredible balance while exercising and hunting. Their eyes and ears are small, outlined,  and triangular, while the tails are distinctively curled.

The Hokkaido dogs are robust, loyal, committed, and extremely devoted to their owners, making them excellent lifelong companions. They are renowned for being highly affectionate and strongly attached to their families, hence prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. Although these dogs are active and agile and love to spend most of their time outside playing, they are gentle enough to spend time indoors.

Due to their high intelligence levels, the Ainu dogs are easy to train. However, they also have an independent mind and can make decisions independently. They require a strong owner who can establish themselves as the alpha; otherwise, this dog will take over.

Generally, these dogs are extremely friendly to people, especially their families. However, they are wary of strangers and can bark when they sense something off.  When properly trained and socialized early, these dogs make great companions to children. Other pets should be introduced early, as Ainus have a strong prey drive.

The Ainu Dog

Breed Characteristics


While the Ainu is a courageous and determined hunter, defender, watch, and guard dog, it’s also an affectionate, loyal, and loving family companion. It’s gentle, obedient, home-loving, and well-behaved. The dog is extremely intelligent and easy to train. These dogs are also highly energetic and active and thus require a lot of exercise, mental and physical stimulation. They need an owner who is capable of displaying true pack leader qualities, else they can become headstrong.

Adaptability level

The Hokkaido dog is well suited for cold environments due to the thick double coat that protects it against extreme coldness. It thus does not do well in hot environments. They also need a lot of space to run around, and thus an outdoor setting is most ideal. However, they can also live in apartments, but will require a lot of exercise on a daily basis. These dogs can adapt well to changes in the environment as long as their family’s affection remains.

Sensitivity level

The Hokkaido dogs are moderately sensitive. Just like other dogs, the Ainu dog responds best to positive reinforcement methods. They don’t do well with harsh and punitive training methods. 

Affection level

Ainu dogs are highly affectionate to their owners and family. They are known to form very strong attachments with all family members and are very protective of them. The utmost desire of these dogs is to have their family’s constant affection and love. 


Generally, the Ainu dogs are very friendly, especially towards their family. However, they are wary and suspicious of strangers. Although they are unlikely to get aggressive, they will not hesitate to bark on site of strangers or any suspicious activity. Proper socialization is necessary to foster good behavior in these dogs. 


If properly socialized at an early age, the Ainu dog is highly kid-friendly. It’s gentle, loving, and likes playing around, making it an excellent playmate for children. However, very young kids should not be left unsupervised with the dog due to its potential power.


Ainu dogs get well with other dogs, especially if introduced early enough. However, these dogs have a very high prey drive and view smaller pets as potential prey. However, when they are well-trained and socialized, they can get along well with other pets too.

Exercise needs

The Hokkaido dogs are an active dog breed. They thus require a fair amount of exercise to remain healthy.  They need between 30-60 minutes of exercise daily to remain happy. Daily walks twice a day, long walks, as well as mental stimulation, are necessary with these dogs.


Ainu dogs are quite playful. They love to run around, hence thrive in outdoor settings or homes with large yards. 

Energy Level

Being working dogs, Ainus have fairly high energy levels. You should thus keep them active, as they can easily get bored and become destructive. They require physical and mental stimulation as a channel for their energy.


Thanks to their high intelligence, Ainus are highly trainable. They are also very keen on pleasing their owners and thus gladly obey their handler’s commands, which makes training them easy even for novices. Like other dogs, they respond very well to reward-based and positive reinforcement training methods. However, these dogs have an independent minds and can make decisions on their own. As they need a strong leader who is capable of establishing himself as the alpha, otherwise they will try to assert leadership.


The Ainu dogs have high intelligence levels, which make them easy to train. They also have great problem-solving skills. Lots of mental stimulation will do them a great deal of good.

Tendency to bark

Ainu dogs have low barking tendencies. They only bark on sighting strangers or to signal imminent danger or suspicious activities.

The amount of shedding

Ainu dogs is moderate shedders. They shed seasonally and blow out their coats twice a year. They thus require brushing at least twice per week and daily during the heavy shedding season to avoid matting.

What are the Ainu Dog Physical Traits?

These are the physical characteristics of the Ainu Dog.

  • Size: The Ainu dog is classified as a medium-sized dog breed, with females being slightly smaller in stature and height than their male counterparts.
  • Height: Male Ainu dogs stand between 19-22 inches, while females are at 18-20 inches.
  • Weight: Male Ainu dogs are slightly heavier than females, weighing 55-55 and 44-58 pounds respectively on average.
  • Coat type: The Hokkaido dog has a double-thick coat that equips it well to handle cold and snowy environments. The undercoat is soft, while the topcoat is thick and straight. Due to their double coats, Ainus are average shedders and totally blow off their coats twice a year. They thus require frequent brushing to keep loose hairs at bay and to prevent matting.
  • Coat color: Ainus come in various colors including black, white, red, black and tan, brindle, and sesame.
  • Leg structure: They have powerfully-built legs with large paws, giving them incredible stability while hunting or exercising.

What are the Social Traits of Ainu Dog Breed? 

The Ainu Dog is generally a very social breed. It is highly affectionate and loving, with tendencies to form very strong bonds with all family members. The dog relates well with all family members, including young children and elderly people.  It’s happiest when spending time with its owners and family, and does not handle separation well. Ainus are extremely loyal and protective of its family. 

This dog also relates well with other dogs too. However, it does not get well with other smaller pets unless it’s well socialized.

The table below summarizes the social traits of Ainu dogs:

Relationship with Family

Aino dogs are incredibly affectionate with their family. They worship their family members and always seek to please them at all times.  They also love spending quality time with them and are known to form very strong bonds.

Relationship with Strangers

Although this dog breed is generally very friendly with people, it’s wary of strangers and will not hesitate to bark on sighting them. However, proper socialization can get along well with proper socialization, even with strangers.

Relationship with Other dogs

These dogs get on well with other dogs. However, they should be introduced and socialized early enough for better relationships.

Relationship with Elderly people

Ainu dogs relate well with all people, including the elderly. However, their energy may be too overwhelming for extremely elderly and fragile people.

Relationship with Children

Hokkaido dogs are gentle and make excellent playmates for children if well socialized. However, very young children should not be left unsupervised with these dogs.

What are the Personality Traits of Ainu Dog? 

Ainu dogs are loyal, affectionate, independent, and intelligent. They are fearless and determined making them excellent hunters, defenders, watch, or guard dogs. Hokkaido’s are very protective of their families and area. These dogs are highly intelligent and eager to please making them easy to train. 

Being a working dog, the Hokkaido dog comes with a fair energy level. It thus needs to be kept busy and given work to do. If left idle, the dog can easily get bored and become destructive. It’s also very playful and thus thrives in an outdoor setting or in houses with large yards. This provides enough room for running around. 

Ainu dogs are low barkers. They only bark to inform their owners of imminent danger or suspicious activity. They give a low bark or howl when they are excited as well. They are also not aggressive and are unlikely to attack unless they are provoked. However, they will not hesitate to attack to protect their owners when they are in danger.

Ainu Dog Features

Breed Information

Trainability level

Ainu dogs are highly intelligent and trainable as they are eager to please and can easily pick cues from their owners.

Energy level

They have fairly high energy levels; hence an outdoor environment or a large yard is ideal.

Barking level

They have low tendencies to bark unless it’s to inform their owners of imminent danger or when they are excited.

Mental needs

Since Ainu dogs are intelligent, they have high mental needs and need lots of mental stimulation.


Ainus are loyal, compassionate, affectionate, gentle, independent, and very intelligent.

Adaptability level

Ainu dogs have average adaptability levels. They can cope well with changes in living conditions or schedules to some extent as long as their family’s love remains.

Playfulness level

These dogs have an average playfulness level and love running around.

Protectiveness level

Ainus are highly protective of their families and environment.

Danger level

Low-They pose no danger to people around them.

Attack possibility

Low- They hardly attack unless they are provoked.

Aggressiveness level

Low- if not well socialized, they can get aggressive with strangers and other pets

Compassion level

Ainu dogs are very compassionate to their families.

Smartness level

High- They are very intelligent and have great problem-solving skills.

Is Ainu Dog a hunter?

Yes, the Ainu dog is a fearless and determined hunter. These dogs were originally bred to hunt bears and other game alongside the ancient Japanese people. They are thus naturally born hunters, and hunting is simply in their blood.

Their barrel-chested bodies and solid bones make them excellent for hunting, even in rugged terrains. Additionally, they have powerfully built legs with large paws for incredible stability while hunting. They also come with a light gait, which equips them for fast speeds. These dogs are very attentive and keen to their environment and have excellent scenting skills which make it easy for them to detect prey from a distance. Their courageous and determined nature helps them excel in hunting activities.

What are the Different Types of Ainu Dog? 

There is only one type of Ainu dog, the Japanese Ainu. It’s the oldest among the six ancient spitz-type Japanese dogs in existence. The others include Shiba Inu, Kishu Inu, Shikoku Ken, Kai Ken, and Akita Inu.

The Ainu Dog is a medium-size native dog with origins in the Hokkaido region of Japan, from which it derives its name. This dog was bred by the Ainu people to help them in hunting bears and deers plus other games.

Renowned for its courage, docile temperament, affection, and loyalty, the Ainu dog makes an excellent watch/guard dog and an ideal family pet.

What is the Average Lifespan of Ainu Dog? 

How long a dog lives is dependent on how well it’s taken care of. With the proper diet, enough exercise, good health, and a friendly environment.

The Ainu is an ancient dog and is generally a very healthy breed with few health concerns. These dogs have an expected average life span of between 12-15 years. However, with proper care and maintenance, the Ainu can live beyond this time. A proper diet, sufficient exercise, and regular medical checkups can help extend your Ainus life.

What is the Average Maintenance Cost for Ainu Dog? 

The Ainu dog does not require much in terms of maintenance costs. This medium-sized dog is generally a self-regulating, clean dog with no body odor. Thus, it’s not difficult to groom it’s it requires no special care.

Due to its thick double coat, the Ainu sheds considerably. It thus requires regular coat brushing at least twice-weekly to prevent matting and keep loose hairs at bay. The frequency of brushing should be increased to daily during the shedding season. You can use a good-quality wire comb to reach the undercoat. 

Ainu dogs loathe taking a bath. Due to the heaviness of their fur, these dogs also take a long time to properly dry. As such, regular baths are not recommended and are only required a few times per year or when necessary.

You should also do regular claw clipping of toenails and ear checks as and when needed. The dog’s teeth should be brushed as often as possible, preferably daily, to keep dental decay and other oral issues away. There’s no need for a professional groomer.

Other costs that you should consider are the initial acquisition costs, veterinarian care costs, food costs, and medical costs. You can expect to spend between $500-$1000 to acquire an Ainu puppy. The average costs will be higher during your dog’s first year due to the extra care that a puppy needs and once-off expenses like spaying and neutering costs. This can range between $1500-$2500 in the first year, after which it will reduce to about $1300 yearly.

 What is the best diet for Ainu? 

A proper diet is essential for optimal health and functioning. These dogs love eating and can be prone to unhealthy weight gain if allowed to overeat. It’s thus important to stick to a regular feeding schedule and not leave food out throughout the day.

Being a medium-sized dog, the ideal diet for an Ainu dog should be formulated for medium breeds. These dogs are energetic and active and thus their diet should contain lots of proteins, carbohydrates, and a healthy dose of fats. This will cater to their calorie needs sufficiently. Additionally, ensure that the food is nutritionally complete with all the essential nutrients in proper amounts. Veterinarians recommend high-quality kibble such as Blue Buffalo dog food for these dogs.

A good diet can help Ainu dogs avoid the most common health problems. Consequently, the best diet for this dog breed is the one that promotes heart, joint, bone, and eye health.

How much an Ainu dog can eat depends on its age, weight, and health condition. Just like with other dogs, the dietary needs of Ainu dogs will change from puppyhood, through adulthood, and to old age. Remember to talk to your vet for a specific recommendation that will ensure your dog is getting sufficient nourishment depending on its health condition.

Generally, this is the Ainu dog feeding guide:

  • Adult Ainus: These dogs should be given high-quality food portioned into 2 meals, preferably in the morning and evening. The best food would a diet specifically tailored for adult dogs. 
  • Ainu Puppies: Puppies require more food than adult dogs to fuel their rapid growth and activity. They should thus be fed on puppy-specific formulation 3-4 times per day.
  • Senior Ainus: As they enter their golden years, Ainus digestive systems change and so does their dietary need. It’s thus important to feed them on a formulation for senior dogs that specifically cater to their needs. Their food should be divided into 2 meals daily.

Feeding an Ainu dog will cost between $1.3-$1.6 and $36-$48 monthly on average depending on the brand and quality of food.

What are the common health problems of the Ainu? 

Although Ainu dogs are generally a healthy breed, they are prone to some health problems due to their genetics. These issues include

  1. Hip Dysplasia: This is a degenerative disorder caused by failure of the hip ball and socket to properly fit. This results in hip joint deterioration over time, causing debilitating pain, dysfunction, or incapacitation. This condition also causes lameness, muscular atrophy, and immobility. The affected dog may need to undergo surgery to correct this condition.

The symptoms of hip dysplasia include: 

  • Lameness
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Abnormal sitting positions
  • Occasional or chronic lameness
  • Cracking and popping sounds from joints


  1. Collie Eye Anomaly: CEA (Collie Eye Anomaly), which is sometimes referred to as collie eye defect, is an eye disorder that alters proper eye development. This genetically inherited disease results from the failure of the blood arteries that supply blood flow to the retina to develop well. In severe cases, this may result in blindness as the retina does not receive adequate blood flow or becomes detached.


  1. Luxating Patella: This happens when the kneecap of a dog, also called the patella, shifts out of its normal alignment on the groove of the thighbone. It can occur in one or both rear legs, causing intermittent hind limb skipping, lameness, or locking up of the limb at an abnormal angle.


  1. Heart murmurs: This refers to a sound produced by irregular heart blood flow. While some heart murmurs are harmless to a dog’s health, others may signal structural heart abnormalities or other disorders that impair blood flow in dogs.


  1. Idiopathic Seizures: This is a condition marked by repeated seizures over a dog’s life. The exact cause of these seizures is unknown, but the symptoms include unconsciousness/ unresponsiveness, drooling, paddling movements with the legs, urination, or defaecation.


  1. Anxiety: Ainu dogs are very affectionate and strong bond with their families. They like to spend most of their time with the owners. Leaving them for long periods of time makes them prone to separation anxiety. This can result in undesirable behaviors like excessive barking.


  1. Psychogenic Polydipsia: This is a condition in which a dog drinks excessive amounts of water with no apparent cause or reason. This is caused by neurological or behavioral rather than bodily problems.


  1. Pica (eating disorder): This improper snacking on non-food items including rocks, grass, clothes, and broken toys.

What are the Nutritional Needs of an Ainu Dog?

Ainus, just like other dog breeds, require a nutritionally complete diet with all essential nutrients for optimal growth and functioning. The food for Ainu dogs should have the following nutrients

  • Proteins: These supply essential amino acids that the Hokkaido dogs need to build and maintain healthy tissues, muscles, and cells. Proteins also form important sources of energy that keep these dogs going.
  • Fat: Besides serving as additional energy sources for Ainu dogs, fats help aid food metabolism and insulate the dog’s body. However, moderation is key while including fats in a dog’s diet, as too much can lead to obesity or pancreatitis.
  • Carbohydrates: Although they are not necessary nutrients, carbohydrates are important energy providers. In proper amounts, carbs can help the Ainu dog improve protein absorption, allowing them to build lean muscles. These can also cause obesity in dogs, and thus they should be fed in moderate amounts.
  • Minerals: A good balance of all vital minerals should be included in the diet of Ainu dogs. These minerals are needed for various body functions. Potassium, magnesium, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, and folate are some minerals that promote the heart, kidney, bone, liver, and overall health of dogs.
  • Micronutrients: Ainu dogs need micronutrients such as taurine, chondroitin, and glucosamine for joint and heart health.

Where to Buy or Adopt Ainu Dogs? 

The Ainu dogs are very rare outside their native country in Japan. As a result, it may be quite difficult to get one to adopt or buy. It’s critical to exercise caution while looking to buy these dogs and purchase from reputable breeders or adoption centers. This will ensure that you get a completely healthy dog that’s free from any potential health complications in the future. While at it, stay away from sales sites and ad pages to prevent backyard breeding.

Given the rarity of this dog breed, it may be hard to find any reputable breeders outside Japan. If you successfully find a legitimate one, make arrangements to visit the facility and insist on meeting the puppy’s parents. This will help you get a glimpse of the parent’s temperaments and gauge the organization’s overall maintenance. A good breeder must be able to show proof of successful, healthy litters and all relevant documentation.

It will cost you about $500-$1000 to buy an Ainu dog, depending on the breeder and location. Before buying this dog, ensure you are fully prepared to cater to its needs. Consider the following:

  • The Ainu is a working dog, thus it’s energetic and active. Thus, you will need to keep it busy at all times. Be prepared to provide adequate exercises.
  • It loves playing and running around and thus may not be suitable for apartment living. Ensure you have enough space to accommodate it
  • Its thick fur requires regular grooming, ideally twice or thrice weekly. So be prepared for grooming time.
  • It’s highly intelligent and thus will require lots of mental and physical stimulation.
  • The dog is extremely affectionate and does not do well in isolation. Be prepared to spend quality time with it.

What are the Rescue Clubs for Ainu Dogs? 

Rescue centers are organizations that are dedicated to identifying abandoned, mistreated, stray, or unwanted dogs and giving them new homes. It may be challenging to get reputable breed-specific rescue centers for Ainu dogs due to their rarity outside Japan.

However, it’s possible to find general rescue centers that cater to all dog breeds. These will help you keep an eye on the dog you desire. Some of these include

  • All Breed Rescue and Training
  • Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Alternatively,  you can try reaching out to registered kennel clubs like the United Kennel Club (UKC), Austrian Kennel Club (AKC), and the Federation Cynologique Internationale( FCI) to direct you to rescue centers.

How to Name an Ainu Dog? 

The criterion for naming an Ainu dog is different from what many new parents expect. It’s never the name itself that the dog responds to, but rather, the sound and manner in which it’s uttered.

Names are not just given randomly. There is often an inspiration behind them such as nature, unique film, or history. Dogs can also be named according to their roots.

The significance of the sound forms an important building block for naming an Ainu dog. Although the name may be of importance for your canine, only the sound matters.

Take note of the following while naming your Ainu dog:

  • Go for a name that sounds different in normal interaction than when calling your Ainu dog. You may try out the name you like on your dog while observing its reaction.
  • Ainus may respond better to names that are called in a sing-songy manner
  • The best names for Ainus contain two syllables, as they are neither too short to be confused with single-syllable commands such as sit or come. They are also not too long to become puzzling to the dogs.
  • Dogs, Aunis included, respond better to high-pitched, energetic, and happy sounds when calling them but prefer soothing, quiet sounds when they are anxious or nervous.
  • Use varied tones for each syllable to be more creative. Take your time and try out a few names. If your preferred name is too lengthy or too short, add or remove portions until you come up with the right unique sound that your dog will recognize from far.

Since Ainu dogs are native in Japan, the most common names for them are Japanese-based. The most popular names for the male Ainus include:

  • Mitsuru
  • Suzu
  • Akio
  • Yuri
  • Toshi
  • Takashi

Female names include;

  • Sora
  • Maki
  • Hana
  • Hiro 

What are the Similar Dog Breeds for Ainu Dog? 

Ainu dogs share many characteristics with other Japanese dog breeds. This may be in terms of temperament, energy levels, playfulness, and other traits. These breeds include

  • Shiba Inu: Just like Ainu dogs, Shiba Inus are an ancient dog breed native in Japan. They are also spitz-type dogs bred primarily for hunting purposes. They have a friendly, affectionate, and lively temperament similar to that of Ainu dogs. 
  • Akita: Like Ainu dogs, Akitas are very affectionate and are known for strongly attaching to their families, which makes them prone to separation anxiety. These intelligent hunting dogs require sufficient mental and physical stimulation.more about Akita social life, care & diet information.
  • Kai Ken: These dogs are similar to Ainu dogs in that they are both highly intelligent and skillful hunters. They are incredibly affectionate and loyal too, making them excellent companion dogs. Just like Ainus, Kai Ken is a naturally clean dog breed that does not require frequent bathing. However, regular coat brushing is necessary as they are average shedders.
  • American Eskimos: Like Ainus, these dogs are cute and fluffy. They’re also vibrant, energetic, and playful.more about American Eskimo social life, care & diet information.

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.