Extremely loyal and affectionate, it is easy to understand why the Akita is often dubbed one of the “gentle giants” of dog breeds. Exceptionally people-oriented and fiercely protective of its family, the Akita typically makes a great addition to any home environment. Not overly demanding on the exercise front and barking infrequently and rarely without reason, this breed can thrive in urban and rural households alike. Fun-loving yet dignified, the Akita can sometimes appear reserved, particularly when outside of its comfort zone or away from those whom it regards as its particular people. Smart and tenacious, it is important to ensure your Akita is well socialised from a young age to produce a balanced, confident dog and wonderful four-legged companion.
Height: 24-28 inches (60-70 cm)
Weight: 65-115 lbs (29-52 kg)
Average Litter Size: 7-8 puppies
Life Expectancy: Up to 12 years
Good with Children: Yes
Kennel Club Classification: Utility group
According to the Kennel Club, Akitas can be almost any colour, apart from merle, so long as their colours are clear and all markings can be clearly defined.
The Akita has a double-layered coat, with the outer layer comprising straight, coarse strands that provide protection to its much denser and softer undercoat. This particular coat acts as substantial protection against extreme cold weather conditions, but it does require considerable maintenance. A daily brush is essential to prevent the longer fur from becoming tangled, and, particularly during the spring and autumn months, this may need to be increased, as Akitas are heavy shedders at those times of year.
Akitas are generally quite healthy, although there are a number of specific conditions to which it is sometimes prone. These include hip dysplasia, gastric dilatation-volvulus, hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy and sebaceous adenitis. In addition, it should be noted that this breed does not respond well to high temperatures, and care should be taken to keep your Akita cool in warmer weather.
Loving and devoted, the Akita is renowned for its protectiveness towards its family, although it is not overly enthused by unfamiliar people or animals and can sometimes develop aggressive tendencies if it feels that its family is being threatened in any way. Intelligent and independent, this large breed can be a challenge to those who do not understand how to manage it effectively. Akitas love their family and do not deal well with being left alone for long periods of time.
When it comes to training, Akitas can be a little more demanding than many other dog breeds. Although their considerable intelligence and love of one-to-one interaction with their family means that they are able to pick up new commands quite quickly, their independence and typical stubborn streak can cause them to rebel on occasion. That said, Akitas do generally have very sensitive natures, meaning that they often react badly to excessive negativity or harsh handling. As such, consistency, fairness and a reward-based approach are usually far more effective when training your Akita. As well as grasping basic obedience with ease, Akitas have been known to excel in a number of canine sports, including agility and rallying.
Akitas require a moderate amount of exercise, with at least one 20-30 minute walk each day being crucial for their good health and contentment. It is important to remember that Akitas have a remarkably strong prey drive, and it is therefore advisable to keep them on a lead if there is a risk of a smaller creature triggering this deep-rooted instinct.
The Akita originated in the cold and mountainous realms of Japan many centuries ago. This large and powerful breed was originally bred for fighting and hunting large prey, including bears, boars and deer. Akitas were historically trained to hunt in pairs, with the male Akita baiting the prey while the female attacked it from behind. It was the Akitas’ job to distract and hold the prey until it could be dispatched by the dogs’ owner. For this reason, the Akita still retains an incredibly strong prey drive.
In addition to hunting, Akitas were bred for several other purposes. One of these was to guard both people and property. Their faithful and protective instincts combined to make the Akita an excellent watchdog, a role which it continues to fulfil today. Furthermore, Akitas were used in herding all manner of animals, with the most common being cattle in the Japanese Highlands, but which also encompassed marine life too – thanks to its commendable water retrieval skills, the Akita was once used by Japanese fishermen to help herd the day’s catch into their waiting nets. The Akita’s thick, lustrous coat enabled it to cope in very cold temperatures, and it was sometimes used in sledding. In the past, Akita fur was used in the creation of warm clothing.
Japan has always been very proud of its native Akita breed. At one time, it was decreed that only rulers could own an Akita, and these dogs displayed individualistic collars portraying their owner’s rank. The popularity of the Akita rose and fell over the centuries, but its country of origin remained its staunchest supporter, and the Akita was declared a national treasure by the Japanese government in 1931.
It is believed that the Akita first arrived in the US in 1937, introduced to the continent by famous speaker and writer Helen Keller. This saw the creation of a different type of Akita, known as the American Akita, which is typically larger and heavier than its Japanese counterpart.
Sadly, World War II saw a dramatic decrease in the Akita’s numbers, as they were often used for their meat and fur. However, happily, a sufficient number survived to facilitate the breed’s resurrection following the end of the war, and the Akita’s popularity has remained consistently high throughout the world over the past few decades.
A Japanese Akita named Hachiko attained celebrity status for his devotion. Following the death of his owner, Hachiko continued to visit the railway station where they had met every evening for the rest of his own life, following which a statue of the faithful dog was erected in his memory.