Being virtually unknow doesn't help much in becoming a popular species. Yet the raccoon dog's remarkable powers of adaptation make it very easy to keep as a pet. One needss little more that an enclosed section of a garden.

The advantages    

Raccoon dogs are not particularly agressive and show caution and respect, but they will approach and will accept to be hand fed. It may take a while for a dog to allow the owner to approach without fear.

Raccoon dogs don't bark, don't wag their tail, don't get over a fence of a meter or higher, unless it can be climbed, don't crave for attention, will eat almost anything, sleep most of the day, don't have to be kept inside at any time, summer or winter (provided there's a dry place to sleep) and choose a fixed place as latrine, which is convenient for cleaning up. In the Netherlands they're not considered dogs, so they're tax-free. Work during daytime doesn't present a problem as the dogs will usually sleep most of the day.

The disadvantages   

Raccoon dogs seldom listen, they're useless as guard-dogs, they don't learn tricks, shed their winter coats in a rather explosive manner and are not entirely house-trained.
Adult dogs often aren't domesticated to the point of allowing someone to pick them up without protest. Such a protest may translate in iodine and band-aid. However, any pup used to people can be raised to an acceptable level of domestication.

What you need   

According to the german guidelines for zoos, one would need about 30 square meters for a couple, and an additional three square meters for every subsequent dog. I think that's a bit sparing. Forty square meters for a dog and an additional 10 for every subsequent dog is more like it. If a fence is smooth, one meter is enough to keep the dogs in. They're not great jumpers, but they do climb to a degree, so a wire fence should be higher. They also dig quite acceptably, so going 30 cm. into the ground is not a luxury.
A dry sleeping-box is necessary and sufficiënt. A plastic rain butt turned on the side is ideal: the deeper the better, with the entrance turned towards a wall, close enough to just allow the dogs in, and the back heightened to prevent rainwater from getting in. A pond is great, as are shrubs and bushes. If you have more than one dog, a kennel to separate them, if necessary, might come in handy.


Compared to badgers and foxes, raccoon dogs are more omnivorous. As a basis I use regular dry dog food. I add daily per dog several defrosted chickens, or fresh sardines or anchovy, or 100 grams of chichen hearts, -livers, -stomachs or whatever the poulterer has on offer. They also like fruits, grapes in particular, nuts, pistachios, raisins and cheese. Everything counts in small amounts, and there's ample room for experiments because it guarantees the dog's full attention. Small quantities of salt (pistachios, sardines, cheese) present no health risk, but I try to avoid sweets. One day a week, our dogs get no food at all. Fresh water should of course be there at all times.


It won't hurt giving your vet some additional information on the dog. In my experience it's save to give the same medication that would be given to a domesticated dog of about the same size. This holds for the use of antibiotics as well as modern forms of flee and tick prevention. In the latter case I use drops on the skin of the neck, because spraying or powdering a raccoon dog may be a bit problematic.
Rabies vaccination poses no problems and Snowy, according to his vaccination papers, has had a shot against parvovirosis and leptospirosis. Although there's a great chance that any vaccin developed for dogs, will be effective in the case of a raccoon dog, there's no absolute guarantee. In the worst case scenario the dog could develop the very disease it is vaccinated against. Consult your vet in any case.


I've had quite a few raccoon dogs, and they differ quite a bit. The current white male Max came from the Solinger Vogelpark in Solingen, Germany. He was 3 years old when I got him, and considering his zoo background he's very relaxed and approachable, even with the pups. I'm sure I can get him to accept a leash. I've had dogs that were a lot shyer, but also one that showed little respect for humans and was in fact quite dangerous.

Misty was bottle-raised and exceptionally tame. So tame in fact that she also shows little respect for humans. The difference is that she's not agressive, but my son Falco must watch his back, because she considers him to be a "biteable brother".

Punishment won't help! Being agressive only leads to the dog wanting to flee or being agressive too. Submission is never an option! Provided a large enough enclosure, the dog is usually not agressive by nature. If in doubt, a broom is an excellent defensive weapon.

Once used to a leash, the dog is not very problematic outside. It will get used to traffic very fast, but it won't cross open space at first, but rather keep to the wall, the fence or the hedge at hand. They're never in a hurry either, and one particular flagstone may suddenly and for no particular reason require minutes of investigation. Bushes, shrubs and hedges with a northern signature are favorite for rubbing against.


Raccoon dogs will occasionally pace up and down part of a fence. This is not a sign of stress but normal behaviour as long as a pistachio is enough to snap them out of it. They may also go in circles around the table fifty times, while you're watching television. As long as they alternate with other behaviour, like lying in the sun or sauntering about, it's ok. Only if they keep it up for hours on end, one might presume somethings wrong.
From ten in the morning till eight at night they tend to sleep with occasional breaks. At night they're active, but not noisy. They seldom make any sound at all, and the occasional short howl (a wolf woudn't even consider it a howl) has a very modest volume. They never bark, although I once heard something like it, when Timur almost got one of the cats.
In the mating season the number of sounds increases with the frequency. The males make different chucking sounds, to impress both males and females, and there's a lot of growling and hissing going on. If such a situation escalates, it may become a nuisance, so it's better to separate males in spring.

In the autumn the dogs gain weight. At the same time they develop a winter coat of extremely fine hair, the stuff that comes off in spring, which makes them double their size, at least to the eye. It's all part of the normal winter preparation, where an option to hibernate is kept open. In the Netherlands they never use that option.

The tail moves only up and down, never sideways. It goes up in case of agression, fear or sexual arousement. The curve is always downward.

Downward curve

Adult raccoon dogs that come from zoos seldom play, although a tennis ball will occasionally get their attention. They may play for a few minutes among themselves, or chase a butterfly (sometimes an imaginary one) but never for long. I give them dry food in a feeding ball, so that eating becomes a kind of football game that's fun to watch.

Other animals    

Natural prey like small rodents or even rabbits don't mix well with raccoon dogs. I wouldn't advise ferrets either, because they're usually over assertive and too plain stupid to see the danger. A raccoon dog grabs its prey and immediately shakes its head violently, filleting it.

Cats are ok as long as they have enough escape routes. We do have two. Actual confrontations may even blow over, because raccoon dogs aren't that much bigger than a cat, and a claw in one's nose is a formidable deterrent.

I used to think that raccoon dogs prefer their own company, but some don't care at all. At best they will tolerate their own kind. Domesticated dogs are usually far more interested in raccoon dogs, than vice versa. The best combination may be a raccoon dog with a domesticated dog of at least equal size. An educational pal to show the raccoon dog how a dog is supposed to behave, or to remind the domasticated dog of it's wild ancestry.

How to get one   

You can order a dog from after a talk about what to expect of it.