Shiba Inu / Akita Inu
Yiu Yu Hoi/Moment/Getty Images

The Akita is a noble, loyal and courageous dog of somewhat large size. In general, the Akita is quiet, deliberate, and strong-willed, though the breed will bark when he thinks it necessary. Overall, the Akita makes an excellent protector of the home as well as a valued companion.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Working
  • Size: 75 to 120 pounds
  • Coat and Color: Akitas are seen in many colors. Commonly seen colors include brindle and pinto (each with white markings). The Akita has a short, thick, double-layered coat. Some Akitas have a recessive gene that gives them a long coat.
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years

Characteristics of the Akita

Affection LevelHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh
Energy LevelHigh
Tendency to BarkLow
Amount of SheddingHigh

History of the Akita

The Akita is a native of Japan and was named for its region of origin. The breed was developed as a watchdog and all-purpose hunter in the mountains of northern Japan, where it can be traced back several hundred years or more. Traditionally, the Akita represents health and good luck to the Japanese people. Japan declared the Akita a Japanese Natural Monument in 1931 and they instituted a breed standard in 1934.

World War II and the privations in Japan resulted in a government order to kill all of the Akitas. Some were only saved by being turned loose in the mountains or crossbreeding them with German shepherds. After the war, efforts began to reestablish the breed through careful breeding of the survivors and efforts to eliminate the characteristics of crosses with other breeds.

It is believed that the first Akita in the U.S. was brought over in 1937 by Helen Keller, who grew fond of the breed while traveling in Japan. After World War II, when Akitas were brought to the U.S. by servicemen, the popularity of the breed began to grow. The Akita was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1972.

Japanese Akita standards differ from American Akita standards. The Japanese Akitas have a limited range of colors while American Akitas are accepted in all colors. The American Akita retained more of the crossbred characteristics and are larger and heavier-boned. American Akitas have a bear-like head while Japanese Akitas have a more fox-like head. While American Akitas often have a dark mask, that is not allowed in Japanese standards.

The loyalty of the Akita is epitomized by the dog Hachiko, born in 1923 and owned by a Toyko professor. Hachiko accompanied the professor to the train each day and returned to escort him home each afternoon. When the professor died at work, he continued to walk to and from the station each day for nine years.

Akita Care

The Akita has a stiff, straight outer coat with a soft, thick undercoat. The breed sheds at a relatively high rate and will shed excessively about twice a year. Basic routine grooming is all that this breed tends to need for maintenance. Weekly brushing will keep the coat healthy and decrease shedding, and brushing should be done more frequently during peak shedding seasons.

Akitas are very smart dogs but are also known to be willful and stubborn.

This makes training a challenge but also a necessity. In addition, early socialization is key. The Akita has a strong prey drive, is often hesitant around strangers, and may not always get along with other dogs. They are known to especially be prone to same-sex aggression with other dogs and are best in a one-dog household.

Proper obedience training and socialization can help you keep your Akita under control and allow the better personality traits to shine through. In addition, this breed has a relatively high energy level and should get plenty of exercise—at least a daily walk or two. But you may need to avoid walking an Akita at a dog park where his aggressive tendencies towards other dogs may be seen. An Akita may develop some destructive habits when bored or left alone too much.

The Akita can thrive in the right household, showing affection and great loyalty to its family.

However, this may not be the ideal breed for the first-time dog owner. The breed may get along well with children if carefully socialized, and it will grow quite protective of them. But it is generally recommended that an Akita is not appropriate for a household with small children and you need to carefully supervise this dog around them. If you decide the Akita is the right breed for you, you will have a loyal and steadfast companion for life.

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition that can lead to arthritis and lameness. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: This is bloating due to eating and drinking too fast, leading to gas production. If the stomach twists, it cuts off the blood supply and becomes a medical emergency.
  • Hypothyroidism: This is an underactive thyroid gland and can be corrected with diet and medication.
  • Sebaceous Adenitis (SA): This is an inherited autoimmune skin condition in Akitas that leads to the inflammation and destruction of the sebaceous glands in the skin. It is mostly a cosmetic problem with loss of hair on the head and back.

Diet and Nutrition

Akita puppies will grow rapidly and need a high-quality, low-calorie diet so they don't grow too fast. Adult Akitas should be fed twice a day with a total of 3 to 5 cups of dry food. Be sure to monitor your Akita for weight gain and discuss any special needs with your veterinarian.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before you decide whether an Akita is the right dog for you, be sure to do plenty of research. Talk to other Akita owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you are interested in similar breeds, compare these:

Explore the many different dog breeds to find the one for you.