Akita: A Bold Large Breed with a Docile Nature


Developed in Japan as a guard dog to royals and nobles, the Akita has long been recognized for its loyalty and guarding ability. Also referred to as the Akita Inu, the great Japanese dog, the Japanese Akita, and the American Akita, the Akita is not only known for ferocity, it is also admired incredible for its sensitivity and devotion to the family unit.

Highlights

  • A large and powerful dog
  • A loyal family breed
  • A dog that does not do well with change, small spaces, or isolation
  • A playful and energetic breed
  • A dog that does well with colder climates

The History of the Akita

The large, thick coated Akita finds its roots in the Akita prefecture on the Japanese island of Honshu. Archeological discoveries date this sturdy and multi-talented dog back thousands of years.

In addition to serving as a protector of nobility and royalty, the Akita was also cross bred with other Japanese fighting breeds to create a strong fighting dog. These hybrid Akita’s would be entered in to fighting contests where the winner would be honored. This history is most certainly where the reputation of the Akita as a fighting breed originated.

Fortunately, or somewhat unfortunately for the breed, dog fighting was outlawed in Japan in 1907. While this movement saved many dogs from a cruel death in the ring, it did contribute to many Akita’s being turned loose by their owners. This resulted in a dip in the population of the breed as stray dogs were destroyed in record numbers.

It wasn’t until around 30 years later that the Akita regained popularity, this time among Americans when the breed became a favorite among American servicemen.

Appearance and Vital Stats

Breed Group

The Akita is a working group breed. Working group dogs are dogs that were bred with the express purpose of performing a job. Dogs in this category are large and muscular breeds.

Although bred as a guardian, the Akita has also been used as a hunting dog in the past. Frequent targets of the hunting efforts of this dog include black bear, wild boar, and deer. Deer hunting by the Akita is not as popular, however, simply due to the power of this large dog which makes it better suited to more muscular and possibly aggressive prey.

Size

The Akita stands between 2 feet and 2 feet 4 inches at the shoulder. Akita weight can range anywhere from 70 pounds to 130 pounds. The male dogs of the breed tend to be larger than the female, however, this is not always the case, Akita size can vary from dog to dog as well.

Another influencing factor on the size of an Akita is whether or not it was bred to the American standard of the breed or the Japanese standard of the breed – something which will be covered in detail shortly. Of the two breed varieties, however, the American Akita is much larger and heavier set than the leaner appearing Japanese Akita.

Lifespan

A particularly large dog, the Akita is not known for having a very long lifespan. The average Akita life span is between 10 and 12 years.

Coat Colors

Akita

The thick coat of the Akita is a double coat characterized by a thick soft undercoat that contains warmth and a short coarse top coat that protects from the elements. This often shedding coat comes in a very wide range of colors.

Coat colors that are standard to the Akita include brown brindle, black Akita, brown with black overlay, fawn, fawn with black overlay, red, red with black overlay, silver with black overlay, and white Akita. Colors that are often seen but are not standard for the breed include black brindle Akita, black with a brown undercoat, black with a fawn undercoat, black with a red undercoat, black with a silver undercoat, brown, fawn brindle, silver, red brindle, silver brindle, and white with red coloration.

Coat markings that are standard to the Akita dog include a black mask with white markings, a black and white Akita mask with white markings, pinto with a black and white mask, pinto with a black mask, and a white mask with white markings. Markings that are often seen but are not standard for the Akita breed include a black mask, pinto, white markings, and a white mask.

There are some Akita breeders who breed Japanese Akita puppies for a recessive gene to result in a pronounced long coat. This is not a standard characteristic for the breed, but there are many who believe that this long haired Akita (known as Moku) is a less aggressive and more subdued type of dog.

The Japanese Akita vs. American Akita

The Japanese Akita The America Akita
The Japanese Akita The America Akita

Although not technically considered to be two different breeds, there are significant differences between the Japanese and American bred Akita dogs. The Japanese Akita dog is a slenderer dog in general with a thinner curled over tail, a more pronounced muzzle, a foxlike face and longer, thinner legs. In comparison, the American Akita is a much more heavily built dog with thicker, shorter legs, a more bearlike face with a thicker muzzle, a heavier curled over tail, and a fluffier appearance.

Many people who analyze the difference between these two breeds liken it to the difference between the Alaskan malamute and the husky. While the two breeds look similar to the untrained eye, they are actually very dissimilar when compared side by side.

Personality

The Akita dog breed is a loyal dog when it comes to family, but it can be very picky when it comes to playmates. A breed that is well known to be aggressive with other dogs, especially those of the same sex, this is a dog that almost always demands to be an “only-dog.”

While this aggressive behavior does not tend to carry over to children in the household, Akita’s are mouthy dogs and this can prove a problem for families with young children. In order to stop this mouthy behavior when it starts in Akita Inu puppies, this is a dog that requires a strong owner both in the mental and physical sense.

Definitely not a dog for new dog owners, the Akita demands a firm owner who understand the importance of having the upper hand. Experience in ownership also proves beneficial when it comes to the Akita’s desire to learn.

The Akita certainly can be trained (and training and socialization should both begin early), but training can be challenging. This is a dog that is middle of the road when it comes to intelligence, but a high energy drive, need to play, and a desire to roam make this dog a challenge to say the least.

It is recommended to consult an experienced dog trainer when training any hardheaded breed and the Akita is no exception to this rule. The combination of this hardheadedness with the significant size of this dog make it crucial to enforce lifelong training and discipline.

Despite being challenging, the Akita rewards its family with undying loyalty and protection. The drop of a hat can encourage barking in this large dog and it would not hesitate to put its life on the line to protect its family. Unfortunately, what makes this dog so loyal also makes it a very poor candidate for a family that spends a lot of time away from home. This is a dog that thrives on the companionship of its family unit and becomes despondent when left alone.

Apartment Living

The large size, high energy level, high desire for play, and significant exercise needs of this breed make it a poor candidate for apartment living. In addition to this, the Akita breed that is well known for barking and will soon become reason for apartment neighbors to complain.

Children and Other Pets

As mentioned previously, the Akita does not do well with either children or other pets. There are occasions where this is not true and socialization and training can help with this problem, but it is generally safer not to test this breed with children or other pets.

Even if well socialized and safely tested with children, it should always be kept in mind that this is a particularly large dog. Like any other dog, it is not safe to leave the Akita alone with children, but particularly so because of their size which can result in unintentional crushing or falling injuries.

It should also be noted that the Akita is not a particularly sociable breed with people either. Aside from their own family unit, this is a dog that is very suspicious of strangers and very territorial of its family property. It is not advised to simply allow strangers in to the home before a thorough introduction to the Akita first, or the homeowner could find themselves with a very unhappy dog.

Care

Feeding

As a rather large breed, the Akita does require a significant amount of food on a daily basis. It is also not uncommon for this breed to exhibit food aggression when not appropriately trained in puppyhood.

Akita puppy

Grooming

Despite the daunting appearance of the Akita’s coat, this is not a very difficult breed to groom. Brushing once or twice a week will help to keep the coat healthy. Brushing will also help to reduce shedding, but be warned, this is a heavily shedding breed! Basic daily shedding is common and a couple of times a year dogs will “blow their coat” resulting in large amounts of hair being lost at one time.

Exercise

The exercise needs of the Akita are quite significant. This is in no way the right breed for a couch potato. A high level of energy combined with a playful nature mean that this is a dog that requires regular daily exercise in the form of walks and play. Failure to provide enough of an outlet for this high level of energy will lead to destruction within the home as well as “misbehavior” as a result of boredom. At least two long walks daily as well as play three to four times a week in the form of off-leash activity (in a safely confined area.) While doggy daycare is an option for many high-energy breeds, the Akita is not a good candidate for this outlet due to a propensity for dog aggression.

Health

A relatively healthy breed, the Akita faces only a handful of significant disease concerns.

Sebaceous Adenitis

A condition in which the oil glands in the skin become inflamed and eventually no longer secrete the oil which maintains healthy skin. This results in the dog having dry, flaky, and itchy skin. This is a particularly common problem in the Akita and is usually seen around late puppyhood to adolescence between 1 and 5 years old.

Hypothyroidism

A condition that is quite common for Akitas, this can result in a wide range of symptoms including hair loss, weight gain, poor skin health, lack of energy, and even epilepsy.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Also common in collies, this is a disease in which the retina of the eye progressively deteriorates. This deterioration can lead to night-blindness and later, partial or complete loss of all sight.

Hip dysplasia

A disease common to larger breeds in which the hip joint and head of the thighbone do not fit together as they should. This results in lameness, pain, and altered gait.

Bloat

A condition that is common among barrel or large chested breeds, bloat causes the stomach to become distended as it fills with gas. Common causes of bloat include eating too quickly, exercising after eating, or gulping air.

Similar Breeds

The Akita is commonly confused for the Korean Jindo and the Shiba Inu. The basis of most of this confusion lies in the foreign name and the foxlike face of these three dogs. When it comes down to it however, these three breeds are quite significantly different.

The Korean Jindo, as its name suggests, originates in Korea and is a much smaller breed in comparison to the Akita. In addition to the size difference, the shorter, flatter coat of the Jindo is a significant difference between these two dogs.

The Shiba Inu is also a smaller dog – smaller than the Jindo and it is much more adaptable than either the Akita or the Jindo. This is also a dog with a flatter, less “powder puff” appearance to its coat volume.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *