The Akita is a large, noble, loyal, and courageous working dog of Japanese descent. The Akita has distinctive physical characteristics, including its short, thick, double coat, thick neck, erect triangular ears, and full, upright curled tail, all of which make it look like a big and cuddly stuffed animal. In general, the Akita is deliberate, strong-willed, and quiet although it will bark when it thinks necessary. Overall, the Akita makes an excellent protector as well as a valued companion, but it's not recommended as a family dog with small children and other pets.
HEIGHT: 26 to 28 inches (males); 24 to 26 inches (females)
WEIGHT: 100 to 130 pounds (males); 70 to 100 pounds (females)
COAT: Short, thick, double-layered coat and some Akitas have a recessive gene that gives them a long coat
COAT COLOR: Brindle and pinto (each with white markings)
LIFE SPAN: 10 to 13 years
TEMPERAMENT: Affectionate, loyal, independent, protective
Characteristics of the Akita
While the Akita can be surprisingly sweet and affectionate with family members, this breed best suits an experienced owner and a home without young children or other dogs. If you have a small household and decide the Akita is the right breed for you, you will have a loyal and steadfast companion for life.
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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 by 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.
Akitas are very powerful, strong, and athletic, which means they require plenty of exercise and serious training. They are also known to shed considerably more than most dogs, so you'll need to be a vigilant groomer. This dog is also known for its catlike behavior to clean itself after eating. In addition, this breed does not like hot weather, mostly because of its thick coat, so the owner of an Akita needs to be aware of when the dog may be overheated.
This breed has a relatively high energy level and should get between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise daily consisting of at least a brisk 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 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. Proper obedience training and socialization can help you keep your Akita under control and allow the better personality traits to shine through. 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.
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 inherited autoimmune skin condition in Akitas 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 three to five cups of dry food. Be sure to monitor your Akita for weight gain and discuss any special needs with your veterinarian.
Where to Adopt or Buy an Akita
Before searching for an Akita, know that breeders and rescue groups will typically not release this breed into a home with young children. The Akita Club of America is a great place to start your search for a puppy. Their list of member breeders covers the U.S., Canada, and Spain. The best way to find an Akita rescue is to research local rescue groups; you may also get leads from the Akita Club of America Rescue and the Namaste Akita Rescue Alliance.
Akitas are considered a pricey breed, averaging between $700 to $1,600 for a puppy, but it can cost as much as $4,000 for a purebred offspring of competition-winning parents. If you are lucky enough to find an Akita that needs to be rehomed, you will pay considerably less in fees.
Stubborn and may be difficult to train
Dominant and can be aggressive toward other dogs
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
Before you decide whether an Akita is the right dog for you, do plenty of research and talk to other Akita owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.
If you are interested in similar breeds, compare these:
There is a wide variety of dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.
Are Akitas good with small children?
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.
Is an Akita good for a first-time dog owner?
This may not be the ideal breed for the first-time dog owner for two main reasons. First, it takes a lot of patience, understanding, and experience to train a heavy, willful Akita. Second, the breed can be aggressive if not trained properly. For example, extended eye-to-eye contact with an Akita may trigger an aggressive reaction as it sees it as a threat.
Will an Akita get along with other dogs?
The breed is known to especially be prone to same-sex aggression with other dogs. An Akita will do better when living in a one-dog household.