Takako Toda welcomed her lively, 7-year-old English pointer into her home in the city of Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, when the puppy she named Woowo was just a month old.

"It was our dream to have a big dog," said Toda, 60, explaining that her husband, Yasuo, who is a university professor, looked for the dog on the Internet and bought him for ¥100,000 from a breeder in Gunma Prefecture.

"Since then, Woowo has become the center of my life," said Toda, a housewife whose only child has grown up. "Now Woowo weighs 32 kg, so he is like an elementary school kid."