Akita

Table of Contents

akita portrait
Introducing the magnificent Akita, a dog breed that's equal parts beauty, loyalty, and charm. Hailing from Japan's snowy mountains, these captivating canines have won hearts worldwide with their plush coats, curled tails, and unwavering devotion.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Akita is best suited for experienced dog owners who appreciate a loyal and protective companion. They’re not recommended for families with small children or other pets, as their strong hunting instincts may pose challenges.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEAkita
OTHER NAMESAkita Inu
ORIGINJapan
BREED GROUPWorking Group
BREED SIZELarge
HEIGHT24-28 inches
WEIGHT70-130 lbs
LIFESPAN10-14 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSHigh
EXERCISE NEEDSHigh
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYLow
BITING TENDENCYModerate
DROOLING TENDENCYModerate
SHEDDING LEVELHigh
POPULARITY RANK55th
Akita lying down on a grass
Photo: Monicore/Pixabay

Appearance

The Akita is a large, muscular dog breed that exudes strength and elegance. Their well-balanced and sturdy physique is one of their most striking features. Males typically stand between 26 to 28 inches tall at the shoulder, while females measure 24 to 26 inches. Males can weigh between 100 to 130 pounds, and females usually range from 70 to 100 pounds.

The Akita’s head is broad, and they have a distinctive bear-like expression. Their eyes are small and triangular, set deep within their face, and their color varies from dark brown to a rich amber. The positioning of the eyes imparts a bold, intelligent, and keen expression.

Akitas have erect, triangular ears that are set wide apart and slightly angled forward, following the arch of the neck. The ears are relatively small compared to the size of the head, adding to their unique appearance.

The Akita’s body is well-proportioned and powerful, with a straight, level back, and a deep, broad chest. Their strong, muscular legs provide them with excellent agility and stability, while their round, cat-like feet contribute to their nimble movement.

Their tail is another distinctive feature – it is thick, full, and long, curling over the back in a gentle curve or a double curl. The tail’s set is high, resting upon the dog’s back when relaxed.

One cannot discuss the Akita’s appearance without mentioning their luxurious coat. Akitas have a double coat, with a dense, soft undercoat and a shorter, straight outer coat. The hair on the head, legs, and ears is short, while the remainder of the body has a medium-length coat.

Their coat comes in various colors, including white, brindle, and pinto, as well as shades of red and fawn. A black mask or white markings may also be present on their faces.

The Akita’s coat is designed to protect them from harsh weather conditions, as they originated in the snowy mountains of Japan. This breed is known for being fastidious and cat-like in its grooming habits, keeping their thick coat clean and well-maintained.

Overall, the Akita’s appearance is a stunning combination of strength, grace, and beauty. Their unique physical features, such as their expressive eyes, erect ears, and luxurious coat, contribute to the breed’s captivating allure. Whether standing guard or enjoying a leisurely stroll, the Akita’s striking presence is sure to turn heads.

akita dog standing
Photo: uadrienn/Pixabay

Temperament

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting an Akita, you’ll know that they’re a breed apart. With their noble and dignified demeanor, they could be mistaken for royalty in the canine world. Yet, beneath their composed exterior lie layers of complex and fascinating personality traits.

Akitas are intelligent dogs, with a mind of their own. They have a certain wisdom in their eyes, a knowing look that suggests they’re always a few steps ahead. They’re not the type to follow blindly; they’re thinkers, observers, making sense of the world in their unique way.

These dogs are courageous, not easily spooked, and always ready to protect their loved ones. If you’re looking for a loyal guardian, an Akita is your dog. They have a strong protective instinct and will stand their ground if they sense any threat towards their family.

At the same time, Akitas can be gentle and affectionate with their human family. They may appear aloof to strangers, but when it comes to their loved ones, they wear their hearts on their paws. They’re the kind of dogs who will rest their head on your lap after a long day, seeking comfort and companionship.

One of the most striking features of the Akita’s personality is their independence. They’re not overly clingy or needy. They appreciate their alone time and are content with their own company. This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy human interaction, but they value a balanced relationship where they can have their personal space respected.

Akitas are also known for their quiet nature. They’re not the type to bark without a reason. They communicate more through their expressive eyes and body language than through barking. When an Akita barks, you know there’s a good reason for it.

However, potential owners should be aware that Akitas can be willful and dominant, especially with other dogs. They’re not the best choice if you have other pets at home, particularly of the same sex. They like to assert their position in the pack and may not take kindly to sharing their territory.

Despite their strong-willed nature, Akitas are surprisingly gentle and loving with their families. They form deep bonds with their owners and are known to be incredibly loyal. Once an Akita has accepted you as part of its pack, you have a friend for life.

In a nutshell, the Akita is a complex and fascinating breed. They are intelligent, independent, and fiercely loyal, making them a unique addition to the right family. With an Akita by your side, you have not just a pet, but a loyal companion and protector.

akita standing outdoors
Photo: Ryhor Bruyeu/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The ideal environment for the Akita is one that caters to their unique temperament, physical needs, and socialization requirements.

Physical Environment

Akitas thrive in environments where they have ample space to move around and exercise, making a home with a securely fenced yard an excellent choice. However, they can also adapt to living in an apartment or smaller dwelling, provided they receive sufficient daily exercise and mental stimulation.

Climate Adaptability

As for climate adaptability, the Akita’s thick double coat provides them with excellent protection against cold weather. They are well-suited for living in regions with colder climates, as their ancestors originated from the snowy mountains of Japan. In fact, they often enjoy playing in the snow and can tolerate low temperatures quite well.

However, their heavy coat also means they are more susceptible to overheating in hot climates. In warmer regions, it is essential to provide your Akita with a cool, shaded area to rest and access to fresh water at all times. Avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day, and keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Ideal Owner

Akitas are best suited for experienced dog owners who understand the importance of consistent training, early socialization, and establishing a strong bond with their canine companion. They need a firm yet gentle hand to guide them, as well as an owner who is committed to providing the time and effort required for proper care.

Potential owners should also be prepared to handle the Akita’s independent nature and potential challenges with other pets.

Other Pets

In terms of other pets, the ideal environment for an Akita is one where they are either the only pet or share their home with compatible animals. Due to their strong prey drive and dominant tendencies, they may not be suitable for households with small pets or dogs of the same sex. Introducing an Akita to other pets should be done carefully and gradually, under close supervision.

akita behind tree branches
Photo: christina0chiz/Pixabay

Grooming

The Akita’s plush double coat and fastidious nature make their grooming needs a crucial aspect of their overall care. Regular grooming not only helps keep your Akita looking their best but also promotes healthy skin and coat, reduces shedding, and provides an opportunity to check for any signs of health issues.

Coat Care

One of the primary grooming requirements for an Akita is brushing their coat. Due to their dense double coat, Akitas are prone to shedding, particularly during seasonal changes when they “blow” their undercoat.

To manage shedding and prevent matting, it is essential to brush your Akita at least once or twice a week using a slicker brush and an undercoat rake. During heavy shedding periods, daily brushing may be necessary to remove loose hair and prevent excessive shedding around your home.

Bathing your Akita is another important aspect of their grooming routine. However, due to their self-grooming habits and natural oils in their coat, they do not require frequent baths. Bathing them every two to three months, or as needed if they get dirty, is usually sufficient.

Over-bathing can strip the natural oils from their coat and lead to dry, irritated skin. When bathing your Akita, use a gentle dog shampoo, taking care to thoroughly rinse out all soap residue to prevent skin irritation.

Dental Care

Dental care is a vital part of your Akita’s grooming routine, as it helps maintain good oral health and prevent dental diseases. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily using a toothbrush designed for dogs and a pet-safe toothpaste.

If daily brushing is not feasible, aim for at least two to three times a week. Providing dental chews, toys, or treats can also help support your Akita’s dental health, but these should not replace regular tooth brushing.

Nail Care

Nail care is another essential aspect of grooming for your Akita. Long nails can cause discomfort, affect your dog’s gait, and potentially lead to joint issues. Regularly check your Akita’s nails and trim them as needed – typically every three to four weeks.

Use a pair of dog nail clippers or a grinder, being cautious not to cut the quick, which can cause bleeding and pain. If you are unsure about trimming your dog’s nails, consult a professional groomer or your veterinarian for guidance.

Ear Care

In addition to coat, dental, and nail care, it is important to regularly inspect your Akita’s ears for signs of infection, such as redness, foul odor, or excessive wax buildup. Clean their ears gently using a soft cloth or cotton ball dampened with an ear-cleaning solution specifically designed for dogs. Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can push debris further into the ear canal and potentially damage the eardrum.

akita standing on the snow
Photo: monicore/Pixabay

Exercise

The Akita is a large, powerful breed with moderate exercise needs. Ensuring your Akita receives appropriate daily exercise is crucial for maintaining their physical health, mental well-being, and preventing behavioral issues that may arise from boredom or pent-up energy.

Exercise Amount & Types

Akitas typically require at least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise per day, which can be broken down into two or more sessions. This can include activities such as brisk walks, jogs, or hikes. Akitas enjoy exploring and sniffing their surroundings, so incorporating a variety of routes and terrains in your walks can help keep them engaged and stimulated.

Off-leash play in a securely fenced area is another excellent way for your Akita to burn off energy. They may enjoy playing fetch, tug-of-war, or engaging in other interactive games with their owner. However, it’s essential to remember that Akitas have a strong prey drive and may not always have reliable recall, so off-leash activities should only be conducted in a safe, enclosed environment.

In addition to physical exercise, mental stimulation is vital for the intelligent Akita breed. Incorporating puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, or interactive games like hide-and-seek into their daily routine can help challenge their minds and prevent boredom.

Dog Sports

Akitas can also participate in various dog sports and competitions, such as obedience trials, rally, or even weight-pulling events. These activities provide an excellent opportunity for your Akita to showcase their strength, intelligence, and bond with their owner. Training for these events can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your canine companion.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Akita, it’s important to consider their adaptability to different weather conditions. In cold climates, they are well-suited for outdoor activities, thanks to their thick double coat. However, in hot weather, take precautions to prevent overheating by providing ample shade and water, and avoiding exercise during the hottest parts of the day.

akita inu puppy running outside
Photo: Tomas Maracek/Getty Images

Training

Training is a crucial aspect of raising a well-behaved and well-adjusted Akita. These intelligent, independent dogs can be both rewarding and challenging to train, as they possess a strong will and tend to think for themselves. Understanding the Akita’s temperament and employing consistent, positive training methods are essential for successful training outcomes.

Akitas are highly intelligent and can learn commands quickly, but their independent nature may make them less eager to please than some other breeds. They may require more patience and persistence during training sessions, as they might not respond immediately to commands or may become easily distracted.

Consistency is key – setting clear expectations and reinforcing desired behaviors with praise, treats, or toys will help your Akita understand what is expected of them.

Early socialization is incredibly important for Akitas, as they have a natural wariness of strangers and may exhibit dominant behavior towards other dogs. Exposing your Akita to a variety of people, animals, environments, and situations from a young age will help them develop into a confident and well-adjusted adult.

Puppy socialization classes, trips to dog-friendly parks, and inviting visitors to your home can all provide valuable socialization experiences for your Akita.

Obedience training should begin as early as possible, starting with basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” As your Akita masters these foundational commands, you can progress to more advanced training or even participate in dog sports or competitions, such as obedience trials or rally events.

Positive reinforcement training methods, which focus on rewarding desired behaviors rather than punishing undesired ones, are most effective for Akitas. Harsh training techniques or physical punishment can damage the bond between you and your dog and may lead to fear or aggression. Instead, use treats, praise, or toys as rewards to motivate your Akita and reinforce good behavior.

akita relaxing
Photo: maxxxiss/Pixabay

Diet & Nutrition 

A well-balanced and nutritious diet is essential for maintaining the overall health and well-being of your Akita. Providing your Akita with the appropriate food, portion sizes, and feeding frequency will help ensure they receive the necessary nutrients for their size, age, and activity level.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting suitable dog food for your Akita, look for high-quality options that follow the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the food meets the minimum nutritional requirements for your dog’s specific life stage.

You can choose from dry kibble, wet food, or raw food diets, depending on your preferences and your dog’s specific needs. Consulting with your veterinarian can help you make an informed decision about the best diet for your Akita.

The amount of food your Akita requires will depend on factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and overall health. Puppies generally need more frequent, smaller meals to support their growth and development. A typical feeding schedule for Akita puppies might include three to four meals per day. As your Akita reaches adulthood, you can gradually transition to two meals per day.

Adult Akitas will typically consume between 3 to 5 cups of dry kibble per day, depending on their size and activity level. However, it is essential to follow the feeding recommendations provided by your chosen dog food brand and adjust the portions based on your dog’s individual needs.

Regularly monitoring your Akita’s weight and body condition can help you determine if adjustments to their diet are necessary.

Treats & Water

Treats can be a valuable tool for training and rewarding your Akita, but they should be given in moderation to prevent weight gain or nutritional imbalances. Treats should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats or consider using small pieces of your dog’s regular kibble as a reward during training sessions.

Fresh water should always be available to your Akita, ensuring they stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Regularly clean and refill their water bowl to encourage proper hydration.

Health

The Akita is generally a healthy and robust breed, with a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. However, like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. Providing your Akita with a healthy diet, regular veterinary care, and appropriate vaccinations can help minimize these risks and ensure their overall well-being.

Here are common health issues associated with the Akita:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition in which the hip joint does not develop properly, leading to arthritis and potential mobility issues. Regular check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is an inherited eye disorder that causes gradual vision loss, eventually leading to blindness. Responsible breeders should test for PRA, and affected dogs should not be bred.

Hypothyroidism: Akitas may be prone to hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Symptoms can include weight gain, lethargy, and skin issues. This condition can be managed with medication and regular monitoring by a veterinarian.

Sebaceous Adenitis: This is a skin condition in which the sebaceous glands become inflamed and may lead to hair loss, scaling, and secondary infections. Treatment may include medicated baths, topical treatments, and dietary supplements to improve skin health.

Bloat (Gastric Torsion): Akitas are susceptible to bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself. Immediate emergency treatment is necessary to save the dog’s life. To help prevent bloat, feed your Akita smaller meals throughout the day and avoid rigorous exercise immediately before or after eating.

To maintain your Akita’s health and well-being, it is essential to provide them with a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. Regular veterinary check-ups, including routine vaccinations and preventative care, can help detect and address potential health issues early.

Additionally, monitoring your Akita’s weight, exercise levels, and overall health can aid in preventing obesity-related health problems and ensuring a happy, healthy life.

akita playing fetch in the snow
Photo: christina0chiz/Pixabay

History

The Akita has a rich and storied history, dating back hundreds of years to its origins in the Akita Prefecture of northern Japan. Akitas were initially bred as hunting dogs, used primarily for tracking and capturing large game such as wild boar, elk, and even bears.

Their strength, intelligence, and perseverance made them highly valued by the Japanese nobility, who often employed them as both hunting companions and protectors.

Over time, the role of the Akita began to evolve, and they became more commonly used as guard dogs and family companions. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Akita’s popularity grew throughout Japan. In an effort to preserve the breed’s purity and distinct characteristics, the Japanese government designated the Akita as a national treasure in 1931.

The Akita’s journey to the United States began in the 1930s when Helen Keller, the famous American author and activist, visited Japan. She was introduced to the breed and became enamored with their loyalty and courage. As a gift from the Japanese government, she received her first Akita, named Kamikaze-go, who unfortunately passed away at a young age due to illness.

Later, the Japanese government gifted her another Akita named Kenzan-go, who accompanied her back to the United States. This marked the beginning of the breed’s introduction to America and the Western world.

During World War II, the Akita breed faced significant challenges in Japan. Many dogs were killed for their fur, which was used to line military uniforms, while others were confiscated for use as military dogs or simply died from starvation. After the war, efforts were made to revive the breed, and breeding programs were established using the remaining purebred Akitas.

In the years following World War II, American servicemen stationed in Japan also became enamored with the Akita breed and began bringing them back to the United States. These dogs were often larger and more robust than their Japanese counterparts, which eventually led to the development of two distinct types of Akitas: the Japanese Akita (also known as the Akita Inu) and the American Akita.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Akita breed in 1955, initially as part of the Working Group. Later, in 1972, the AKC reclassified the Akita into the Miscellaneous Class, before finally returning it to the Working Group in 1973.

In popular culture, the Akita breed is perhaps best known for the story of Hachiko, a loyal Akita who waited at a train station in Tokyo for his owner’s return every day for nine years after the owner’s death. This heartwarming tale of loyalty and devotion has been immortalized in several films, most notably the 2009 Hollywood movie “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” starring Richard Gere.

Today, the Akita is admired worldwide for its loyalty, intelligence, and striking appearance. The breed continues to serve as a symbol of Japanese culture and heritage, while also capturing the hearts of dog lovers in the United States and around the globe.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Akita dog breed in the United States is the Akita Club of America (ACA). Founded in 1956, the ACA is dedicated to promoting the welfare of the Akita breed, providing education about the breed, and encouraging responsible breeding practices.

The club also sponsors various events and activities related to Akitas, including conformation shows, obedience trials, and more. To learn more about the Akita Club of America, you can visit their website here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities.

Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Akita’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

akita standing on green grass
Photo: DevidDO/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring an Akita, it’s essential to do thorough research and preparation. This breed requires a dedicated owner who understands their unique needs and temperament. First, evaluate your lifestyle, living situation, and the time you can commit to training, socialization, and exercise.

Opting for rescue over buying is a commendable choice, as it provides a loving home for an Akita in need. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Akita Club of America (ACA) can assist with rescuing Akitas by connecting you with reputable rescue organizations.

Before bringing an Akita into your home, prepare by gathering essential supplies such as a crate, collar, leash, food, water bowls, and toys. Additionally, locate a veterinarian experienced with the breed and schedule an initial check-up.

Remember to be patient and give your new Akita time to adjust to their surroundings. With commitment, love, and understanding, you’ll create a strong bond with your rescued Akita, ensuring a happy and fulfilling life together.

FAQs

Why are Akita dogs so expensive?

Akita puppies can be expensive due to factors such as the cost of breeding, raising, and caring for the puppies, as well as the reputation and location of the breeder. Additionally, Akitas are a relatively rare breed, which can drive up demand and prices.

Are Akitas easy to train?

Akitas are intelligent and can learn commands quickly, but their independent nature may make them less eager to please than some other breeds. Training an Akita requires patience, consistency, and an understanding of their temperament. Early socialization and positive reinforcement techniques are crucial for successful training.

How powerful are Akitas?

Akitas are large, muscular dogs known for their strength and endurance. They were originally bred for hunting large game in Japan, which required a powerful and agile build. Their physical prowess makes them well-suited for various activities, including guarding, tracking, and even weight pulling.

Are Akitas aggressive?

Akitas have a natural wariness of strangers and may exhibit dominant behavior towards other dogs. However, they are not inherently aggressive. Proper socialization, training, and responsible ownership can help prevent aggression and ensure a well-adjusted, well-behaved Akita.

Are Akitas similar to wolves?

While Akitas share some physical similarities with wolves, such as their thick double coat and erect ears, they are domesticated dogs with distinct temperaments and needs. Akitas are more independent and aloof compared to many dog breeds, but they are loyal and protective companions when properly trained and socialized.

Are Akitas good family pets?

Akitas can make excellent family pets for those who understand and appreciate their unique characteristics. They are loyal, affectionate, and protective of their families. However, they require consistent training, socialization, and a strong, experienced owner to ensure they become well-adjusted members of the family.

How much exercise do Akitas need?

Akitas require 30-45 minutes of daily exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. Daily walks and play sessions are essential, along with occasional opportunities for more strenuous activities such as hiking or running. Providing adequate exercise can help prevent obesity and behavior issues related to boredom or pent-up energy.

Fun Facts

  • Akitas have a noble lineage that dates back centuries, originating from the snowy, rugged terrains of northern Japan. They were initially bred by samurai to hunt large game such as boars, deer, and even bears. With their powerful build and keen senses, Akitas are truly an embodiment of samurai spirit — resilient, dignified, and courageous.
  • In Japan, Akitas are considered a symbol of good health. When a person is ill or a baby is born, friends often send a statue of an Akita signifying health and longevity. This tradition is a beautiful testament to the breed’s significance in Japanese culture.
  • Akitas have an interesting vocal range. They can produce sounds that are much more than just barks. Owners often hear them making ‘talking’ noises, and some even swear their Akitas ‘sing’ with certain types of music! These unique vocalizations add another layer to their charming personality.

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