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