The bold and intelligent Akita shows unequaled loyalty to his family.
- Dog Breed Group
- Working Dogs
- 2 feet to 2 feet, 4 inches tall at the shoulder
- 70 to 130 pounds
- 70 to 110 pounds
- Life Span
- 10 to 12 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
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The Akita is a large and powerful dog breed with a noble and intimidating presence. He was originally used for guarding royalty and nobility in feudal Japan. The Akita also tracked and hunted wild boar, black bear, and sometimes deer. He is a fearless and loyal guardian of his family. The Akita does not back down from challenges and does not frighten easily. Yet he is also an affectionate, respectful, and amusing dog when properly trained and socialized.
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The Akita is a big, bold dog with a distinctly powerful appearance: a large head in contrast to small, triangular eyes; and a confident, rugged stance. The mere presence of a powerful Akita serves as a deterrent to most who would cause trouble.
This breed is renowned for unwavering loyalty to his owners, and he can be surprisingly sweet and affectionate with family members. Imagine a loving protector who will follow you from room to room, whose entire mission in life seems to be simply to serve you.
The Akita is courageous, a natural guardian of his family. Stubborn and willful, he won't back down from a challenge. He doesn't usually bark unless there is a good reason, but he is vocal, making amusing grunts, moans, and mumbles. Some owners says the Akita mutters under his breath and seems to be talking to himself, while others say the Akita offers his opinion on all matters, from how to load the dishwasher to when the children should be put to bed.
While these charming "talking" traits are exhibited to family, the Akita is often aloof and silent with visitors. He's naturally wary of strangers, though he will be welcoming enough to a houseguest as long as his owners are home.
Socializing the Akita puppy (or retraining an adult dog) with as much exposure to friendly people as possible can help soften the edge of his wariness, though an Akita will always be an Akita — a dignified and sober presence, not a party animal.
One of the Akita's singular traits is mouthing. The Akita loves to carry things around in his mouth, and that includes your wrist. This is not an act of aggression, but simply an Akita way of communicating with those he loves. He may lead you to his leash because he wants to go for a walk, for example, or act on any number of other ideas that pop into his intelligent head.
Many owners are charmed by the Akita's mouthing, but if you find it annoying, simply give your Akita a job that involves carrying something. He would happily get the newspaper or your slippers for you, or retrieve the mail or even those keys you keep misplacing.
The Akita also proves himself unusual with his grooming habits, licking his body like a cat. And that's not his only feline trait: like a tiger, he'll stalk his prey silently, body low to the ground. This is not a dog that will growl or bark a warning before springing into action.
At 100 pounds or more, the Akita is a lot of muscular power. This is a dominating breed, and the Akita will want to dominate you. Proper training is essential, and training should be done by the owner. Because the Akita is so faithfully loyal, the bond between the owner and the dog must not be broken by boarding the dog with a trainer.
Before buying an Akita, it is crucial to spend time researching how to train this particular breed. Akitas do not respond well to harsh training methods. If your training is respectful, the dog will in turn respect you.
But be prepared for training to take longer than it does for other breeds. Though the Akita is highly intelligent, stubborn willfulness is a part of his personality, which can and does interfere with training. The best results come from doing plenty of homework on how to train before ever bringing an Akita home with you. This is not a breed for the timid.
The willful and determined Akita is also, despite his public reserve, a very social pet who needs plenty of time with his family. He does not do well as a backyard dog. Companionship holds hands with loyalty, which is what this breed is all about. To make him live outside without benefit of family is to deny the very essence of the Akita breed. A lonely and bored Akita can become destructive and aggressive.
The Akita is not recommended for first-time dog owners, for those who want a lapdog, or for those unwilling to take charge. But for owners who can and will invest time and effort in research and proper training, the reward is a fine, intelligent companion with unwavering loyalty.
In addition to all other considerations, choosing an Akita means deciding which side of a controversy you want to stand on. This controversy is "the split," and it relates to the Japanese or American standard for the breed.
The Japanese Akita is considerably smaller, both in height and mass, than the American Akita — as much as 30 or more pounds lighter. His foxlike head is decidedly different from the broad head of the American breed. The Japanese Akita has almond-shaped eyes, while the American Akita's eyes are triangular. A black mask is much in vogue on the American Akita but is considered a show disqualifier in Japan, where markings on the face are white.
If you want your dog to compete in any American Kennel Club events, the black mask means the dog has been bred to the American standard and will be allowed to compete. In fact, in America, any color on the Akita is permitted; in Japan, only red, white, and some brindles are allowed.
So wide are the differences between the types that it would seem that a split would be best for the breed. There appear to be as many strongly in favor of the split as there are those who are strongly against it. Deciding which standard to choose should be done only after much research and is largely a matter of personal taste.
The Akita's natural hunting skills translate well to various activities. He still hunts today and is able to hold large game at bay until the hunter arrives. He can also retrieve waterfowl. He is adept at tracking, and his catlike movements make him talented in agility. Akita owners are increasingly surprising those skeptics who believe that the Akita nature prevents success in this field. While it's true that the breed's stubbornness can make training a challenge, Akitas and their owners are taking home ribbons as more people discover the thrill of accomplishment in working with this dog.
To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.
- The Akita is aggressive with other dogs and is especially prone to same-sex aggression.
- The Akita is not a good choice for first-time dog owners.
- Positive socialization and consistent, firm training are essential for the Akita. If he is mishandled or mistreated, he often responds by becoming aggressive.
- The Akita will chase other pets in the house.
- The Akita sheds — a lot!
- Prolonged eye contact is considered a challenge by the Akita, and he may respond aggressively.
- Training the willful Akita can be challenging and requires understanding, experience, and patience. It's best to work with a trainer familiar with the breed, but be sure to do the training yourself.
The Akita is named for the province of Akita in northern Japan, where he is believed to have originated. The Akita's known existence goes back to the 1600s, when the breed guarded Japanese royalty and was used for hunting fowl and large game (including bears).
This valiant breed was introduced to America by a woman of no small stature: Helen Keller. The Japanese held Helen Keller in high esteem and took her to Shibuyu to show her the statue of Hachiko, an Akita who achieved worldwide fame in the 1920s for his loyalty. Hachiko's owner, a professor, returned from work each day at 3 p.m., and his devoted dog met him daily at the train station. When the professor died, loyal Hachiko continued his daily vigil until his own death a full decade later.
When Helen Keller expressed her desire to have an Akita for her own, she was presented with a puppy, the first Akita brought to America. Keller was delighted with Kamikaze-go and was deeply saddened when he died of distemper at a young age. Upon hearing this news, the Japanese government officially presented her with Kamikaze's older brother, Kenzan-go. Keller later wrote that Kamikaze had been "an angel in fur" and that the Akita breed was "gentle, companionable, and trusty."
After World War II, returning American servicemen who had been stationed in Japan brought back more Akitas. Thomas Boyd is credited with producing the first Akita stud to sire puppies in the U.S., starting in 1956. The American Akita eventually evolved into a more robust dog than the Japanese Akita and was valued by many for this reason.
Yet there were those who wanted to remain true to the Japanese standard. This split caused a decades-long battle that led to a delay in acceptance by the American Kennel Club. Finally, in 1972, the AKC accepted the Akita Club of America — but the split is still wide today and is a matter of great concern to Akita fanciers on both sides.
What is never debated is the Akita's historical and famous combination of fearlessness and loyalty. These traits were once put to the test at the London Zoo, when a Sumatran tiger cub was orphaned. The zookeepers needed special help in raising the cub, and they chose an Akita puppy for this important task. They knew the Akita would not be frightened and could engage in play that would help the tiger cub with necessary life lessons. Moreover, the Akita's dense fur would protect him from sharp claws, and the pup's inherent loyalty to his playmate would provide desired companionship and protection for the bewildered, orphaned cub. The Akita served in the role successfully and "retired" from the job when the tiger reached near-adulthood.
This is a dog who is truly fearless, fully confident, and will exhibit unfaltering devotion to family.
Males stand 26 to 28 inches and weigh 85 to 130 pounds. Females stand 24 to 26 inches and weigh 70 to 110 pounds.
The Akita is a bold and willful dog, naturally wary of strangers but extremely loyal to his family. He is alert, intelligent, and courageous. He tends to be aggressive toward other dogs, especially those of the same sex. He is best suited to a one-dog household.
With his family, the Akita is affectionate and playful. He enjoys the companionship of his family and wants to participate in daily activities. He's mouthy and enjoys carrying toys and household items around. Despite the common belief that he never barks, he is in fact noisy, known to grumble, moan — and, yes, bark if he believes the situation warrants it.
Be aware the Akita's strong personality can be overwhelming. He is not the dog for a first-time owner, and he is not for the timid. He needs an owner who can provide firm, loving discipline.
The naturally protective Akita has a propensity to become aggressive if allowed, or if he isn't raised properly. Training the Akita is essential, and so is proper socialization from an early age. Keep in mind that this breed is stubborn, so extra patience is necessary to teach him proper canine manners.
Akitas are generally healthy, but like all breeds of dogs, they're prone to certain conditions and diseases.
- Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus, commonly called bloat, is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs like Akitas. It is especially a problem if they eat one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in its stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is salivating excessively, and is retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak, showing a rapid heart rate. It's important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
- Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland. It's thought to be responsible for conditions such as epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma ,and other skin conditions. It is treated with medication and diet.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, affected dogs become night-blind; they lose sight during the day as the disease progresses. Many affected dogs adapt well to their limited or lost vision, as long as their surroundings remain the same.
- Sebaceous adenitis (SA) is a serious problem in Akitas. This genetic condition is difficult to diagnose and often mistaken for hypothyroidism, allergies, or other conditions. When a dog has SA, the sebaceous glands in the skin become inflamed (for unknown reasons) and are eventually destroyed. These glands typically produce sebum, a fatty secretion that helps prevent the skin from drying out. Symptoms usually first occur when the dog is from one to five years old: affected dogs typically have dry, scaly skin and hair loss on top of the head, neck, and back. Severely affected dogs can have thickened skin and an unpleasant odor, along with secondary skin infections. Although the problem is primarily cosmetic, it can be uncomfortable for the dog. Your vet will perform a biopsy of the skin if she suspects SA and will then discuss a variety of treatment options with you.
The Akita is happiest and does best when living inside with his family. This breed is not hyper, but he does need daily exercise. Thirty minutes to an hour a day is sufficient for an Akita; brisk walks, jogging (for an adult dog over two years of age), and romping in the yard are favorite activities. Visits to a dog park are probably not a good idea, given the Akita's aggressive tendency toward other dogs.
Due to this breed's high intelligence, a varied routine is best. What you don't want is a bored Akita. That leads to such behavior problems as barking, digging, chewing, and aggression. Include the Akita with family activities, and don't leave him alone for long periods at a time.
A securely fenced yard is important, too, both for the safety of the Akita and for the safety of strangers who may mistakenly come into his turf. While he isn't typically aggressive with visitors if his family is home, when he's reserved and polite, all bets are off if his owners aren't around. The Akita is a loyal guardian, and he'll protect against anything he perceives to be a threat.
Special care must be taken when raising an Akita puppy. These dogs grow very rapidly between the age of four and seven months, making them susceptible to bone disorders. They do well on a high-quality, low-calorie diet that keeps them from growing too fast. In addition, don't let your Akita puppy run and play on hard surfaces ,such as pavement; normal play on grass is fine. Avoid forced jumping or jogging on hard surfaces until the dog is at least two years old and his joints are fully formed (puppy agility classes, with their one-inch jumps, are fine).
Recommended daily amount: 3 to 5 cups of high-quality dry food a day
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Coat, Color and Grooming
There are many different colors and color combinations in the American Akita, including black, white, chocolate, a combination of color and white, or brindle. The Akita is double-coated, with the undercoat being very dense and plush; the topcoat is short.
Overall, grooming the Akita isn't terribly difficult. But the Akita is a shedder, so frequent vacuuming will be your new lifestyle if you choose this breed. Akita fur will be found on furniture, clothing, dishes, in food, and will form myriad dust bunnies on floors and carpets. Heavier shedding occurs two or three times a year. Weekly brushing helps reduce the amount of hair in your home, and it keeps the plush coat of the Akita healthy.
Despite his self-grooming habits, the Akita also needs bathing every three months or so. Of course, more often is okay if your dog rolls in a mud puddle or something smelly. The nails need to be trimmed once a month, and the ears checked once a week for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. Also wipe the ears out weekly, using a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner, to prevent problems.
As with all breeds, it is important to begin grooming the Akita at an early age. Making grooming a positive and soothing experience will ensure easier handling as your Akita puppy grows into a large, willful adult.
Children and other pets
Adults should always supervise interactions between dogs and kids, and this is especially true with this breed. No child could have a more loyal guardian and playmate than an Akita — but a mistreated Akita can become a liability and may even endanger your child's life. It is imperative to teach youngsters to be respectful and kind in all their interactions with him.
That said, the Akita is suitable for families with older children. He should live in a one-pet household, however, because he is aggressive toward other dogs and will chase other pets.
Akitas are often obtained without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Akitas in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward an Akita rescue organization.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Akita.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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