The Akita, also known as the Akita Inu, the Japanese Akita, the Japanese Deerhound, the Shishi Inu and the Nippon Inu, was recognized as part of Japan’s national heritage in 1931, and is treated as a national monument. Well-bred Akitas are affectionate with friends and family members and thrive on human companionship. They are somewhat reserved with strangers and can be extremely defensive and protective of their family if it is threatened.
Akitas are known to be fearless, brave, intelligent and adaptable if well socialized. This breed is known for being aggressive towards other dogs. Helen Keller reportedly brought one of the first Akitas into the United States in 1937. The Akita is a member of the Working Group and was admitted into the American Kennel Club in 1972.
Akita Dog Breed Quick Facts
Akita Inu Dog Breed - Appearance & Grooming
The AKC describes the Akita as, “strong, powerful, alert,” and “dignified.” Akitas are broad, muscular dogs with large triangular heads. They have a pointed, short muzzle and pointed ears. They are longer than they are tall, are broad-chested, and boast thick, muscular necks. Their coats are full and plush and come in a variety of colors and patterns, all of which are acceptable to AKC standard, though the brighter the color, the better. Akitas have brown or black noses (black preferred unless the dog is white), and dark, thoughtful eyes. They boast long, lean legs with webbed feet for swimming. The Akita's distinctive characteristic is their long, fluffy tail that curls over their back.
Size and Weight
The Akita is a large breed, standing between 24 to 28 inches at the shoulder and weighing from 70 to 130 pounds - males average 85 to 130 pounds, females average 70 to 110 pounds. They may come in larger or smaller sizes, but the 70 to 110 pound range is acceptable standard set by the AKC.
Coat and Color
The American Akita comes in many colors including white, black, chocolate, or brindle. They may also come in a combination of any of the aforementioned light and dark colors. Bright, clear colors are preferred in the show ring.
Their undercoat is soft and very dense, while their topcoat is short, and the combination creates a full, fluffy coat all over which sheds year round.
Akitas don't require fancy grooming. Baths should be given once every two or three months (more often if the dog likes to romp in the mud), and nails should be trimmed once per month. Akitas shed 365 days a year, and two or three times a year they will fully shed their coats. Daily or weekly brushing can reduce the amount of fur that is blown around the house, and will keep the coat soft and manageable.
Akitas are notorious for resisting grooming, so puppies should be brushed from a young age, and feet should be handled so they are open to nail trimmings.
Akita Inu Dog Breed - History and Health
The Akita originated in northern Japan many centuries ago, probably descending from northern spitz-type dogs. Akita is a rugged, mountainous area at the north end of the main island of Honshu. The Akita was known there as the matagi or the matagiinu, meaning the “esteemed hunter.” It was used to hunt deer, black bear and wild boar. According to an American Kennel Club publication: “The Akita’s hunting abilities include great strength, keen eye and nose, silence, and speed in a durable, sturdy body suitable for hunting in deep snows. His hard, intelligent, never-give-in attitude in the field was prized by his masters. His soft mouth enabled him to retrieve waterfowl after they had been brought down by the hunter’s arrow.”
In addition to its instinctive hunting skills, the Akita was bred specifically to be a pit-fighting dog, used to fight other dogs in specially staged competitions during the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries. As dog-fighting became unpopular - and in places, unlawful - the Akita found a number of other ways to use its talents. The breed continues to be used to hunt wild boar, deer and other large game. It also is a trusted guard dog, police dog and competitive show dog. Finally, the Akita has become valued as a loyal companion. Through generations of selective breeding, today’s Akita has superior size and a fearless spirit. He can be somewhat obstinate and requires firm but kind leadership from his owner. The Akitainu Hozankai Society of Japan was founded in 1927 to preserve the purity of the Akita breed. In July of 1931, the Japanese government designated the Akita as one of its country’s national treasures. Akitas were instrumental in World War II, and the breed rose markedly in popularity after the war, when returning American servicemen brought Akitas home to their families.
Akitas were first introduced in England in 1937. That same year, Hellen Keller visited the Akita prefecture and was given a two-month puppy by the Ministry of Education, which she brought back to America. The Akita Club of America was founded in 1956, and the breed was admitted to registration in the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1972. The Akita was fully accepted into the Working Group in 1973. In the United States, Canada and Australia, the American Akita and the Japanese Akita are considered to be the same breed. In all other countries, they are treated as separate breeds. Some American Akita fanciers are trying to split the breed in two. While the two “types” of Akitas share a common history, the American version is larger and comes in more colors.
The average life span of the Akita is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include:
- Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus): An extremely serious medical condition where a dog’s stomach becomes filled with gas that cannot escape.
- Deafness: Defined as the lack or loss, complete or partial, of the sense of hearing
- Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
- Elbow Dysplasia: Leads to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint, with accompanying front limb lameness
- Entropion: The inversion, or the turning inward, of all or part of the edge of an eyelid
- Glaucoma: Characterized by fluid build-up inside of the eye. It causes increased vision impairment and, if untreated, blindness.
- Hypothyroidism: Clinical syndrome caused by inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
- Meningitis: Inflammation of the meninges, which are the membrane layers that cover and protect the outer surface of the brain and spinal cord
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Refers to a group of degenerative eye disorders that eventually lead to permanent blindness in both eyes
- Sebaceous Adenitis
- Uveodermatological syndrome
- Von Willebrand Disease: the most common hereditary blood-clotting disorder in domestic dogs
Akita Inu Dog Breed - Temperament & Personality
The Akita dog breed was originally bred to guard Japanese royalty. Strong and imposing figures, their appearance alone can act as a deterrent to people with ill intent. Affectionate and loving with their families, Akitas can be a rewarding companion, but they have a strong will and a complex personality that can make them a challenge to train. While they do not bark much and are a clean housemate, they can be dominant and strong willed. Akita Inus are not ideal pets for the first-time dog owner.
Akita Activity Requirements
Akitas do not require the same level of physical activity as other breeds of comparable size. Several brisk walks a day will suffice, and they should be allowed to run a few times a week. Because of their aggressive tendencies toward other dogs, dog parks are not the best place to exercise an Akita. A fenced-in, private yard is the ideal space for him to run.
Despite the fact that they don't need too much running time, apartments are not the best home for Akitas. They are large and require space, and can feel confined in tight areas.
Akitas are among the “banned” breeds that many insurance companies may not cover. Home owners should check their policies and consult with neighborhood associations before adopting an Akita.
Akitas are a challenge to train, as they are strong-willed and dominant. They are not for the timid or inconsistent leader. Strength and confidence are the key to working with this breed, as they can sense a pushover from a mile away. They will make their trainer prove themselves as the leader before accepting commands.
Originally bred as protectors, Akitas are instinctively wary of strangers. Early socialization is a must, so that the Akita can learn what is “normal” behavior from a stranger and what is “abnormal” behavior. They must know the difference between a friendly visitor and an unwelcome stranger, or they will generalize all strangers as bad.
Akita Behavioral Traits
Aggression toward other animals is the biggest issue with an Akita. They do not give any signs of distress before they attack, so they may be playing well one minute, but then seemingly turn on a dime if pushed too far. Akitas should be the only pet in the house to prevent aggressive and potentially violent attacks.
Food aggression is also common among Akitas. Children should be taught never, ever to approach an Akita while eating or chewing a bone.
Akitas do not bark. They are known in the dog world as the “strong, silent type.” Those who appreciate a quiet dog will appreciate the Akita.