The breed is medium in size, and has small, triangular, upright ears. The small eyes have a rising triangular outline. The Hokkaido has a coat of long, stiff fur, and a second, shorter coat of soft fur.
Colors include red, white, black, tiger, sesame, black and tan and wolf-gray.
The breed is known for fidelity to its owner, bravery, and the ability to withstand the cold, among other traits. It has an innate sense of direction and can therefore return to its master no matter how great the distance. This breed has the unusual capability of fighting against the Hokkaido Brown Bear, or Higuma to protect its master. Despite its long history as a working breed, the Ainu Dog ideally combines the roles of family pet and hunter. This breed should not be allowed to run free around other animals. They are good with children if they are raised with them as pups. This dog is not recommended for apartment life. It is moderately active indoors and will do best with a large yard.
The Hokkaido dog has a high rate of Collie eye anomaly.