All About Akita Dogs: The Loyal, Intelligent Japanese Breed

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Akitas are incredible dogs! Here is everything you've ever wanted to know about the Akita dog breed.

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Akita dogs are a popular dog that hails from Japan. They are known for being loyal and intelligent, making them great companions. In this blog post, we will discuss the history of the Akita, its physical characteristics, and some famous Akitas throughout history.

We will also provide tips on how to care for an Akita dog if you are considering adding one to your family!

Throughout this post, you’ll be able to see photos of my sweet American Akita, Kenzo. He was born on May 4, 2014. If you want to see more photos, follow me on Instagram. 

girl with akita dog

All About Akita Dogs

The Akita dog originated in the mountainous regions of northern Japan and is considered among the semi-large breed of dogs. Interestingly, there are two strains of the Akita breed – the Japanese strain and the American strain.

The Japanese strain comes in limited colors while the American breed covers practically all dog colors. The Akita breed features a double-coat which is common among spitz breeds such as the Siberian Husky.

They are an independent powerful large dog breed who are not too inclined toward strangers, but more comfortable and affectionate towards their immediate family.

A lot of people first learned about Akita dogs after hearing the story of Hachiko, a loyal dog who waited for around nine years for his owner to return home after he traveled to work – this was before World War II. His owner died of a cerebral hemorrhage while at work so the dog returned to the station where they met up every day until he later died.

akita dog kissing girl with hat

Japanese History

The Akita breed originated in the Odate, Akita, a snowy mountainous region. Adult Akitas were guard dogs and used to hunt wild boar, elk, and other large game. They were also great companions for samurai between the 1500s to the 1800s.

However, the Akita direct bloodline started to decline during the 20th century due to crossbreeding with more dog breeds like St. Bernard, Mastiff, and German Shepherd.

Their physical features began to alter such as them developing dropped ears, straight tails, and other colors originally associated with Japanese Akitas.

Breeders at the time had to mix a native Japanese Matagi (hunting dog) with the Hokkaido Inu breed to regain the spitz phenotype.

This may not be the type that came to America as they have adopted the mixed breed that was bred before the reconstruction of the original bloodline began. As such, Japan does not recognize the American Akita as the true bloodline of the breed they know based on the breed standard they have set.

American akita face

Helen Keller Loved Akitas

Helen Keller is responsible for bringing the first Akita to the United States as back in 1937 when she traveled to the country, she was presented with two of the dogs after she took a keen interest in them.

However, she had to get a second dog named, Kamikaze-go who died from a distemper a month after arriving in the country.

As the intelligent breed was gaining more popularity in its native country, World War II stuck and this caused the breed to hit a near extinction phase.

Many of them died as a result of not being able to get nutritious food and some were killed by the populace so they could eat and prevent starvation. Those that died had their pelts turned into clothes for the populace.

Sadly, there was a disease scare in the country and the government ordered all the remaining dogs to be killed to prevent the spread of the disease.

To keep their pets and the breed alive, owners had to release their Akitas into the mountains so they could mate with their ancestor breed, the Matagi, and keep the bloodline alive. The breed once again became popular and people started taking them in as pets.

American History

The Japanese and the American Akita have some similar traits but are regarded in most countries as two different strains.

Helen Keller was responsible for bringing the first set of Akitas to America after they were gifted to her by the Japanese government.

With the onset of World War II, many of the US servicemen fell in love with the larger “bear-like” fighting Akitas that they decided to each bring them home.

As the years passed, the various dog standard associations started accepting the breed based on selected criteria.

akita dog smiling at camera

Physical Features of An Akita Dog

The American Akita has a physical look that matches with the dressing of cold weather seeing they are from the Spitz breed. They are on the taller side compared to other breeds and sport heavy bones.

You will notice they have a large bear-like head with triangular ears and slightly arched necks. In addition, Akitas have small eyes that are dark and deep with a triangular shape. They have tucked-in “cat-like” feet with thick double coating.

Mature American male Akitas can weigh anywhere from 100-130 pounds and measure around 26-28 inches. Meanwhile, the mature females measure around 24-26 inches and weigh between 70-100 pounds. The Japanese strain is relatively smaller and lighter.

What are Spitz Type Dogs?

Spitz type dogs are characterized by their thick fur, pointed ears, and curled tails. They are a very old type of dog, and there is evidence that they were used as hunting dogs in ancient times.

Today, they are popular pets around the world. Spitz-type dogs are generally very friendly and good with children. They are also very active and need plenty of exercise. Some of the most popular spitz-type dogs include the Akita, Chow Chow, Samoyed, Husky, and Pomeranian.

Whether you’re looking for a cuddly companion or an energetic playmate, a spitz-type dog is sure to make a perfect addition to your family.

american akita

Akita Coats and Shedding

American Akitas have varying coat types to include the long coat and the standard coat. They also come in different shades and based on their coats, their character might differ as the genes contribute to the coat type and texture. However, some of the coat variations are categorized as genetic faults.

Akitas are low-maintenance dogs that somehow tend to groom themselves the same way cats do. They can be heavy on the shedding and to the extreme around two to three times per year.

I refer to their heavy shedding as a “blow out” but could be somehow controlled by brushing their fur daily. You should also consider bathing them every few months or more regularly if you desire.

How Will My Akita Dog Behave?

Akitas can be quite reserved around strangers and are very much protective of their properties. If there is any other dog that can be overly concerned about accuracy and is extremely curious, it is an Akita.

They may also be a bit intolerant of dogs who are of the same sex as themselves. They are large and considered powerful so it may not be a wise idea for first-time dog owners to go for an Akita.

Having some experience with other dogs as well as doing lots of research is critical to helping you function efficiently with an Akita. Akitas are generally good around children and make great family dogs.

However, as noted earlier, not all dogs in this breed are the same. They become curious around other dogs so it is important to keep an eye on them when you have other dogs around as it could become a serious issue.

They are not the best dogs to take to an “off-leash” dog park as they can somehow become aggressive seeing they are the powerful and dominant type.

Are There Any Health Concerns To Be Mindful Of?

Adult dogs in general are open to some kind of health issue, some a little more serious than others.

Akitas are known to experience certain autoimmune diseases such as:

  • Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada Syndrome: a condition that affects their eyes and skin.
  • Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia: an autoimmune blood disorder.
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: a condition that could affect any part of the body and may commonly be referred to as autoimmune connective tissue disease.

Some other conditions may affect your Akita dog, some of which are genetic, such as…

  • Addison’s Disease: this affects their adrenal glands.
  • Diabetes Mellitus or Type 1 Diabetes: affects the pancreas.
  • Gastric Dilation or Bloating: this could cause the stomach to twist on itself and could lead to further health issues if not addressed soon enough.
  • Primary Glaucoma: which is increased pressure in the eye which could eventually lead to blindness if not treated with caution.
  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: a condition that could result in arthritis but this mainly occurs in dogs that are getting older.

There are also a few breed-specific conditions to be mindful of such as…

  • Their immune sensitivity to vaccines, tranquilizers, anesthetics, and insecticides.
  • A drastic rise in potassium in the body could cause issues for them. They are among the selective dog breeds with a high potassium rate but increased amounts could be dangerous for them.

Also, it is important to clean their ears at least one to two times weekly and trim their nails at least once a month.

In addition, blood work is important so if your vet is not yet onto it, you might want to mention it.

american akita in the snow
Kenzo loves to play in the snow! During the winter it is hard to get him to come inside because he loves the cold so much!

What Should I Feed My Akita?

Feeding your Akita dog is not so much of a tedious process as once you have a mix of all the nutrients in their diet, that should be good enough.

For puppies, you can start them off with pre-made puppy foods (one of your choice) until they are around four months old. After which, you can start to give them adult food.

Akitas are known to have a hearty appetite so make sure they always have access to fresh water and don’t overfeed them as that could lead to obesity.

As with all dogs, it is important not to give them table scraps as this could create some bad habits.

Akitas generally have a lifespan of around ten to twelve years but with the right diet and care, they could live a little longer.

Do Akitas Make Good Family Dogs?

This is a difficult question to answer as it all boils down to the individual dog’s personality.

As noted earlier, not all Akitas are the same and some may take to family life better than others.

It is important to do your research before getting an Akita as well as introduce them to other family members, especially children, early on so that they can get used to being around them. Training Akitas may be a difficult task and require a lot of hours, but in the end, it is worth it for them to be raised properly.

With the right training and socialization, Akitas can make great family dogs but it is important to remember that they are still dominant dogs so you need to be the Alpha in the pack.

Are Akitas Protective?

Akitas are an intelligent breed and are known for being very loyal and protective of their families so it is no surprise that they make great guard dogs.

They have a natural instinct to protect and will do so if they feel that their family is in danger.

Akitas are also very territorial so it is important to make sure that they are properly trained and socialized from an early age to avoid any issues later on down the line.

American akita sleeping in bedroom

Are Akitas Aggressive?

Akitas are not naturally aggressive but they can become aggressive if they are not properly trained and socialized. Akitas are dominant dogs and if they feel that they are the Alpha in the pack, they may start to act out in an aggressive manner.

It is important to nip this in the bud as soon as possible by establishing yourself as the leader of the pack and providing them with ample training and socialization. With the right care, Akitas can make great family pets.

Is Akita easy to train?

The Akita is an intelligent breed, but they are also very independent and have a mind of their own. This can make training them a bit of a challenge as they may not always listen to you.

It is important to be patient when training your Akita and to use positive reinforcement methods such as treats or praise.

My Akita, Kenzo, is extremely food motivated. We use high-value dog treats: Beef Liver Treats or Chicken Liver Dog Treats when we are doing training sessions. With consistency and time, your Akita will eventually learn the commands that you are trying to teach them.

Why do you need high-value dog treats when you are training?

High-value dog treats are important when training your Akita because they need to be motivated to listen to you.

Akitas are very independent and have a mind of their own, so it is important to find something that will interest them and make them want to please you.

Beef liver treats or chicken liver treats are usually a good option as most dogs love the taste of the liver.

Whatever you do, make sure that the treats are small enough for your Akita to eat quickly so that they don’t get bored and wander off during training sessions.

akita playing in the snow

Akita Dog Breed FAQS

How much exercise does an Akita need?

Akitas are a relatively active breed and need a fair amount of exercise to stay healthy and happy.

They should be taken on at least one long walk per day as well as given some time to run around in a safe securely fenced yard space.

Some Akitas also enjoy playing fetch and other interactive games so make sure to include some of these in their daily exercise routine.

In addition to physical exercise, Akitas also need mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored or destructive.

Interactive dog toys such as the Kong Classic Dog Toy are a great way to keep their minds active and engaged.

Do Akitas bark a lot?

Akitas are not known for being particularly vocal dogs, but they may bark when they are bored or restless.

If your Akita is barking excessively, it is important to find out the reason why and address the issue.

Akitas may bark if they are not getting enough exercise so make sure to include plenty of physical and mental stimulation in their daily routine.

You may also want to consider getting a dog puzzle toy to help keep their minds active and prevent boredom.

Do Akitas like to cuddle?

Akitas are not typically a breed that enjoys being overly affectionate, but they do enjoy spending time with their families.

They are generally content to lay at your feet or next to you on the couch and will enjoy being petted and scratched.

Akitas are not usually “lap dogs”, but some may enjoy cuddling up on your lap for a short period of time.

Do Akitas need a lot of grooming?

Akitas shed a lot! Akitas have a thick double coat that needs to be brushed on a regular basis to prevent matting and tangles.

They should be brushed at least once a week, but more often is better. Akitas also shed their coats twice a year so you may need to brush them more frequently during these times.

Living with a double coated dog is quite an experience and your house will require vacuuming every day…sometimes twice a day, especially during a blowout. I cannot tell you how much I love our Dyson! Make sure if you get an Akita puppy that you also invest in a vacuum that is great for pet hair.

Why do you need to buy an Akita from a reputable breeder?

It is important to buy an Akita from a reputable breeder because this breed can be prone to health issues such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and autoimmune diseases.

A reputable breeder will have health clearances for the parents of the puppy and will be able to provide you with information about the health of the puppy’s siblings.

The Akita is a loyal and intelligent breed that makes a great family pet.

If you are looking for a dog that will be a devoted companion, then the Akita may be the right breed for you. Just make sure to do your research and buy from a reputable breeder to ensure that you are getting a healthy puppy.

Do not buy an Akita or any dog breed from a puppy mill. Always buy your dog from a reputable breeder who will raise their puppies with love, socialization, and great medical attention. You can find reputable breeders through Akita Clubs or the American Kennel Club.

Final Words

Thanks for reading! I hope this has helped you learn a little more about the wonderful Akita breed!

Do you have any questions about the Akita breed? Leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them!

Thanks for reading! Until next time, have a “pawsome” day! 🙂

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Join the Conversation

  1. Victor Weisbeker says:

    I was an OR RN for 43 years. The most dog bites I did, especially on children were from Akitas. Not Pits, Dobermans or Rottweiler. They were usually facial wounds and were unprovoked.

    1. Ren Lenhof Author says:

      That’s an interesting statistic. How many dog bites did you treat in your 43 years?
      After a dog bites, horrified owners are often the first to say, “I had no idea he was going to bite”. However, there’s a good chance the dog was displaying signs of distress and the owner (and the child) just didn’t know what they were seeing. Example: yawning, licking lips, avoiding eye contact, rigid body movement.

  2. Rick Anderson says:

    Too bad you only showed pictures on one dog. There are so many different color schemes that are more beautiful than this.

    1. Ren Lenhof Author says:

      That’s my akita Kenzo. It’s my personal blog and so I showed photos of him. 🙂

  3. Paula W Mangham says:

    Great article. My Akita, Goliath, will be 12 years old in October. He is our big baby. Would love to post a picture of him but that option is not available.

    1. Ren Lenhof Author says:

      Awe!!! I love that name you chose for him!!! Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. I have my 4th akita and loved them all!

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