The Akita Inu, also known as the Akita, is categorized under the AKC (American Kennel Club) category of working dogs. Akitas, named after the province of Akita in Japan, are of Japanese descent, dating back to the 1600s, and are most likely descended from northern Spitz-type breeds (breeds with long and thick fur, pointed ears, and pointed muzzles). The Akita is one of the largest Japanese Spitz-type breeds, and was originally bred to guard Japanese royalty. As time passed, the Japanese starting using Akitas as hunting dogs, mainly for hunting fowl and large game.
Akitas have a general height range of 24 to 26 inches (61 – 66 centimeters), and an average weight range of 70 to 120 pounds (32 – 54 kilograms), depending on the gender. They have an average lifespan of 10-12 years.
With roots in the mountainous region of Akita in Japan, the Akita is considered a national dog of Japan and one of the seven Natural Monument breeds. Possessing sharp eyesight, a keen eye, and paired with great strength and stamina, the Akita was – and still is – an ideal choice for a hunting dog. In addition to its role as a hunting dog, the Akita was also bred to be a pit-fighting dog, and it was utilized as one throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries, and into parts of the 19th Century. Now, the Akita is used as a guard dog, a police dog, and a competitive show dog, but most importantly, it is regarded as a loyal pet and companion.
The Akita was first introduced to the United States in 1937 when an Akita was given to the famous Helen Keller during a trip to the Akita Prefecture. As a result of its introduction to the USA, there are now two major breeds of the Akita – the original Japanese Akita and the American standard Akita. They differ in weight and size, and the American Akita may boast a black mask.
The Akita is a broad, powerful breed, with wide chests and thick, muscular necks. They have a pointed muzzle as well as pointed ears. Their coats are thick and dense, and come in a variety of colors, including white, red, and fawn. Japanese Akitas are not allowed to have black masks. Akitas are double-coated – they have a topcoat and an undercoat. The hairs of the topcoat are dense and coarse, whereas the hairs of the undercoat are softer and thicker, acting as insulation during cold winter months. They have a distinctive tail, one that is plush and carried down their back. Their legs are lean and strong, and they have webbed feet that aid in swimming and hunting waterfowl.
Akitas are quite aggressive dogs, especially when faced with members of the same sex. As a result, they are usually not recommended to first time dog owners. Intelligent, courageous, and fearless, Akitas are also extremely careful and affectionate towards its owner and his/her family. Although dominant and strong-willed, they can make great companions as long as they receive proper and positive training from a young age. They are relatively quiet and do not bark much.
As an active breed, they do require daily exercise, or they will end up becoming bored and will engage in destructive behavior – chewing, digging, etc. Yards should be securely fenced in, as Akitas may be aggressive towards individuals that they do not recognize. It is not recommended that Akitas be brought to dog parks, as their aggressive personality will most likely trigger conflicts with other dogs.
General Care & Health
The coats of Akitas should be brushed weekly in order to reduce the amount of hair that may end up around the house as Akitas shed frequently. Heavy shedding occurs two to three times a year, so owners should make sure that no one in the family is allergic to dog fur. Akitas can be bathed every three months or so, and if they get excessively active and dirty, they can be bathed more often than that. Do not over-bathe them, however, as bathing will remove their coats’ natural waterproofing. Their ears should be checked weekly, and the outer ear should be cleaned with a cotton ball and a cleanser obtained through a vet. Teeth should be brushed regularly, and nails should be trimmed once or twice a month. Check for signs of infection whenever grooming occurs, and keep an eye out for redness and inflammation of the skin, eyes, nose and mouth.
The recommended daily amount of food an Akita should be getting is 3 to 5 cups of dry food, divided into two or three meals throughout the day. Despite the presence of a guideline, the amounts can be altered if the dog is highly active or otherwise.
Akita Inus are prone to the following diseases:
• Sebaceous Adenitis – a genetic condition, it is often mistaken for hypothyroidism, allergies, or other conditions. Dogs with SA have inflamed sebaceous glands in their skin, and these glands are eventually destroyed over time. Dogs with severe SA will experience dry, scaly skin, as well as hair loss on the top of their heads, necks, and backs. Treatment will be determined between the vet and the owner.
• Progressive Retinal Atrophy – an eye disease that results in the gradual deterioration of the retina. Night vision is the first to go, followed by vision in the day as the disease progresses.
• Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus – also known as bloating, this condition can be life-threatening. Bloating can occur when a dog eats a lot at a fast pace, followed by drinking large volumes of water. This causes stomach distention and if the dog is unable to get rid of the excess amount of air, the flow of blood to the heart will be affected. If blood pressure drops too low, the dog could go into shock. Dogs suffering from bloat will also seem to be depressed and lethargic. Dogs with bloat should be sent to a vet immediately.
It should also be noted that because Akitas experience rapid growth between the ages of 4 -7 months, they are highly susceptible to bone disorders. As a result, they should be subjected to a diet high in quality.
A large and powerful breed, Akitas carry around a regal and intimidating presence. Although aggressive, strong-willed and hard to train, Akitas are extremely loyal and affectionate dogs that will protect its family with all its abilities. With a capable owner, Akitas will make great companions.