Vital Stats:Dog Breed Group: Working Dogs
Height: 2 feet to 2 feet, 4 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 70 to 130 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
- 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.
HighlightsTo 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.
HistoryThe 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.
SizeMales stand 26 to 28 inches and weigh 85 to 130 pounds. Females stand 24 to 26 inches and weigh 70 to 110 pounds.
PersonalityThe 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. Activity is essential for this active breed. He needs plenty of exercise to keep him from becoming bored and, in turn, destructive. 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.
HealthAkitas 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.
CareThe 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).
FeedingRecommended 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. For more on feeding your Akita, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat Color And GroomingThere 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 PetsAdults 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.
Rescue GroupsAkitas 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.
Breed OrganizationsBelow are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Akita.