Akita Dog Breed.
Akitas are wonderful dogs, beautiful and powerful...


by: Mark Williamson

The Akita is one of the most visually striking of all dogs. Powerfully built with a large skull, thick coat, and a large bushy tail that arches over its back like a scorpions stinger, it conjures up images of nobility and grandeur that few other breeds can manage. This commanding presence is only natural as in times past these dogs were a companion of the Japanese Nobility, renowned for their hunting prowess and loyalty, as well their protective nature. So great was the value placed upon the them by the Samurai, Daimyo and Emperors of Japan, that according to legend the penalty for possession of such a noble beast by the peasantry was execution.

Although the exact origins are lost to the mists of time it is known that the breed originated in what is now the Akita prefecture of Japan during the late Tokugawa Shogunate. Legend has it that the local Daimyo, wishing to keep his Samurai's aggressive tendencies well fed, encouraged dog fighting as a way of quenching their bloodlust. As dog fighting became more and more popular, the interbreeding of local dogs with outside breeds for power and build created the original strain. After the Mejj Restoration and the end of Japan's isolationist policies, these proto-akita's were bred with German Sheppard, Mastiff's and other large western dogs and became increasingly popular. During WW2, the Japanese government ordered all dogs to be put to death due to food shortages and the need for thick fur to make winter coats for the soldiers. However in the mountains and rural areas of Japan defiant owners hid their dogs from the authorities and/or bred them with German Sheppard's which was the only breed that was exempt from the Emperors decree. After the war American G.I.'s, having fallen in love with the breed in their time there, brought them to America when they returned home.

It was at this time that the breed divided into two recognizable sub-breeds. The American Akita and the Japanese Akita. The American breed is usually larger and heavier built with a wider range of color and patterns, while the Japanese breed is more lightly built. While the USA and Canada only recognize one breed, the rest of the world differentiates between the two. Regardless of breed, they are well known worldwide for their hunting and tracking abilities, including the ability to track prey through thick snow, and the soft mouth which makes them ideal for bird hunting. In fact they are regularly used for hunting prey ranging from waterfowl to bears, and are universally praised for their courage and resolve.

Although officially classified by the AKC as a "working dog" this breed has a laid back temperament and a loyalty to its family that is legendary, making it an excellent family pet and household companion as well. These qualities have led the Japanese government to declare the them a "national treasure" and small statues of them are often given to those who are sick as a lucky totem. Their loyalty is probably best exemplified in the story of Hachiko, an Akita who would accompany his owner to the Shibuya train station every morning, and meet him there every night. After his owner died Hachiko continued to go to Shibuya station every evening to await his master, until Hachiko himself died over ten years later. To this day there is a statue in Shibuya station of Hachiko honoring the loyalty of this loving companion.

Generally standing between 24-28 inches high at the shoulder and weighing between 70-120 lbs depending on the sex and individual dog, they are classified as a large breed dog by the AKC, and require at least one hour of exercise per day to remain healthy and happy. Its well worth the effort though, as a happy dog is an excellent companion, hunter, protector, and friend.

Although they can be trained quite well for a large variety of tasks, it isn't easy or quick to do so, as this breed can be very stubborn. The one exception to this in housebreaking, which they are famously quick to take to primarily because of their penchant for cleanliness. In fact many will clean themselves with their tongue in a manner similar to cats. They quickly get bored with repetitive training techniques and are often unwilling to do the same trick more than a few times in a row, no matter what reward they are offered. In addition they are highly dominant dogs by nature and while rarely people aggressive, they have a justifiable reputation as being dog aggressive. Although an Akita will usually only "fight" until the other dog capitulates and shows itself to be submissive, this can cause problems at dog parks and other public locations unless they are broken of this habit early in life.

But don't let that scare you, this breed is easily one of the most affectionate and loving of the dog breeds. They are loyal to a fault and great with small children who often like to amuse themselves by pulling on the loose fur on the neck, or tugging on the poor beast's ears. In fact, in Japan they have been used in the past as babysitters keeping the nobles children out of danger and watching over them like a second mother. They will often show their affection for you by taking your hand or limbs in their mouth, or nipping at your clothes in an attempt to defeat you. Do not be alarmed by this as they have very soft mouths and excellent control. They will also often "talk" to you, howling and vocalizing in a vaguely wolf like and amazingly endearing manner. They are also known for their curiosity and will often watch their owners intently in even the most mundane activities.

Keep in mind however that they are extremely protective, especially of children and heaven help anyone foolish enough to pose a threat a to a family member while. When its family is threatened, this lovable teddy bear turns into a grizzly and the sight of a 100+ lbs dog with a head the size of a dinner plate and teeth like daggers in an ornery mood is enough to give even the most violent of threats pause. They are not known for barking excessively, in fact they rarely bark unless there is just cause.

Generally an Akita will give you between 9-11 years of loving companionship, and is not as prone to disease as some other breeds. There are some conditions which you need to watch for and be aware of. Among these potential illnesses are Bloat, Hip Dysplasia, Hyperthyroidism, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Pemphigus - an autoimmune disease that can lead to skin pustules. Hyperthyroidism is sadly prevalent, with an estimated 70% of the breed being afflicted with it. However this need not be a fatal or even debilitating disease as it's easily treated with hormone replacement therapy and is easily diagnosed by a simple blood test. In the event your dog begins to rapidly lose weight, paces excessively, or becomes inordinately aggressive or extremely shy, you should get it checked for this disorder. They are also susceptible to Bloat although feeding it a sensible diet can cut down on the chances of developing this potentially fatal condition. Like all large dogs, they are susceptible to hip dysplasia and later in life disorders of the knees and joints. They require regular grooming, as they have two coats, a stiff outer coat and a soft downy undercoat which they will shed twice a year.

Akita females go into "heat" approximately every six months, and have a gestation period of between 58-63 days on average. Unless your Akita has a show quality pedigree, he or she is probably not a good candidate for breeding as it is an expensive and time consuming process. Unless your dog is a pedigree to recoup these expenses upon sale of the puppies, it's probably better to have your he or she spayed or neutered. Once born, the puppies can be weaned at around the 28 day mark and will quickly take to solid food. Although they look like a giant ball of fluff and fur when young, the puppies grow quickly and their coloration may change as they approach maturity.

Due to their popularity and expense, you must be very careful when shopping for Akita puppies. Although there are many reputable breeders whose dogs have have pedigrees going back many generations, there are many others who are not as professional. Your best bet is to contact the AKC and to ask them for a list of reputable and professional breeders in your area, to avoid being conned.

Whether you purchase one as a hunting dog, watchdog, companion, and friend or just to become part of the family, your dog will reward you with warmth, affection, love and loyalty. He will comfort you when you are down, entertain you when you are bored, protect you from harm, and bring you countless hours of laughter, joy, and loving affection.

The Akita is also known by the names Akita American and Inu/Akita.