3 min read

Raccoon Dogs: Are They Really Dogs?


Written by Wag! Staff

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 08/21/2023, edited: 08/29/2023

You may have heard of a raccoon dog – but are they really dogs or not? The name would suggest they are, right? Well -  they’re not. So, what are they?

What is a raccoon dog?

If they aren’t dogs, they must be raccoons? No, wrong again. They’re actually members of the candid family – like domestic dogs – but are actually much more closely related to foxes. 

The common raccoon dog is also known as the Chinese or Asian raccoon dog. The Japanese racoon dog, known as tanuki, is believed to be a subspecies - although they are very similar. 

Raccoon dogs are native to eastern Asia, but have been introduced to Europe - where they have become invasive. 

They are also known as Nyctereutes procyonoides which translates to ‘night wanderer’. Unsurprisingly, they are nocturnal mammals. They date back hundreds of thousands of years and are today often found in forests near water, although they have also been spotted in urban areas.  

In Japan they are the subject of magical folklore and associated with money. Sadly, although it’s now banned in many countries, they are still bred for their fur and meat.

Do raccoon dogs look like dogs?

Raccoon dogs don’t really look like dogs, they actually look more like raccoons. Although they’re not related, this is where they get their name from. 

They have long thick fur which is often black, brown or gray. While the Japanese raccoon dog and common raccoon dog are very similar looking, the former has shorter fur and often a smaller stomach. It also comes in white - although this is rare. 

Their faces have small, pointed features, they have a long body, short legs and curved claws.

What are raccoon dogs like?

Raccoon dogs are known to be curious but shy. They form a community and stay close to other raccoon dogs, raising their young together. They are great at climbing trees, which helps to escape from some of their predators which include wolves, birds of prey, foxes and wild cats - as well as humans. Meanwhile, they eat fish, birds and reptiles as well as insects, fruit and seeds.

Can a raccoon dog be a pet?

Owning a raccoon dog as a pet is banned in the USA. But, even if it wasn’t it wouldn’t be advised to have them as a pet for a number of reasons.

They may look cute but you don’t want to get too close. They have been linked to various diseases and evidence has shown they may have had a part to play in COVID-19. It has been found that they are able to transmit it. So having one as a pet you would risk contracting and spreading it.

They’re also wild and not domesticated animals. They need a lot more space than your home would provide. Raccoon dogs would also be much harder to look after than you might expect.

Where can I see a racoon dog in the USA?

You won’t see a raccoon dog in the wild in the USA. In fact, there’s only one place in the country where you can see them and that’s at Oklahoma City Zoo - the only zoo that is allowed to care for this animal.

So, while a raccoon dog won’t be coming home with you anytime soon, there are plenty of dogs in shelters looking for a second chance. If you do decide to rescue a dog, then it’s important to look after their health.

Use the Wag! online tool to quickly search for the best pet insurance to find the right cover for your pet and sign up for a wellness plan which includes all their routine appointments.

Comments (2)



1 tonight eating cat food here in florida in my yard.no tail 30 lbs or more. N.FT.MYERS. NOT A RACOON. LIKE IT

Andrew Moynihan


I went with a coon dog once. She was a bitch!

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