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Akita - Complex and Challenging

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The Akita is originally a Japanese bred dog but today there are two designations, the American Akitas and the Akita Inu or Japanese Akita. In Japan and several countries around the globe these are now classed as two separate breeds. In the US and Canada they are seen as a one breed but two different types. It is a giant purebred dog who today can often be found in hunting and guarding.

Here is the Akita at a Glance
Name Akita
Other Names American Akita, American Hakita, Japanese Akita, Great Japanese Dog, Akita Inu
Nicknames None
Origin Japan and America
Average size Large to giant
Average weight 65 to 130 pounds
Average height 24 to 28 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Dense, short, water-repellent, harsh
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, brown, red and white
Popularity Quite popular – ranked 46th by the AKC
Intelligence High – Very smart dog
Tolerance to heat Moderate – not good in warm or hot climates
Tolerance to cold Excellent – can handle even harsher cold weather
Shedding Constant – sheds a lot and then has blow outs twice a year
Drooling Low – not known to drool much
Obesity Above average – food and exercise should be monitored
Grooming/brushing Daily brushing needed but it is a self cleaning dog
Barking Low to occasional
Exercise needs Fairly active – will need daily walks
Trainability Difficult – very willful and hard to handle
Friendliness Moderate – not very friendly to anyone other than family
Good first dog No – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Moderate – best in homes with older children or with singles or couples
Good with children Low – socialization is essential as is supervision
Good with other dogs Low – socialization is essential and it is best to avoid places like dog parks
Good with other pets Low to moderate – socialization is essential
Good with strangers Moderate – not an approachable dog
Good apartment dog Low – too large and needs access to a yard
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Quite good though there are some issues such as bloat, dysplasia, hypothyroidism
Medical expenses $485 a year includes basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $1000 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Biting Statistics Attacks Doing Bodily Harm: 75 Maimings: 57 Child Victims: 46 Deaths: 8
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The Akita's Beginnings

The Akita comes from the Akita province in northern Japan and dates as far back as the 17th century. It was used by royalty as guard dogs and was also used for hunting large game like bear, deer and elk and other prey like fowl. It was bred to be powerful and fast, brave and very loyal. It is thought it was developed with crossing Tosa dogs and Chow Chows as well as with larger dogs from Europe and Asia like the Great Dane and English Mastiff.

For a while it was owned only by royalty in Japan and it is one of the oldest Japanese breeds. Into the 1920s came the story of an Akita called Hachiko. This was a dog that belonged to a professor in Tokyo. He commuted to work by train every day and Hachiko went with him to the station every day and walked back with him for the return walk. However one day the professor did not return at 4pm as usual, he had died at work. The loyal dog waited anyway and for another 9 years walked to and from that station. A statue was put up in his honor and there is a ceremony each year that remembers its devotion.

In 1931 the breed became a natural treasure. In 1937 Helen Keller brought the first Akita to America with her, gifted to her after she saw Hachiko's statue and admired the loyalty the dog had displayed. Sadly that first dog died of canine distemper but another was gifted to her in 1938 from the Japanese government. Keller once said this dog was 'an angel in fur' and loved the breed. In 1939 standards for the breed had been established but the arrival of World War II had quite an impact on the breed around the world.

New Lease on Life

During the war around the world larger breeds of dog were impacted because they were hard to feed. There was food rationing and barely enough for the people let alone the dogs. At first dogs died from poor nutrition and then in Japan starving people turned to killing dogs to feed themselves. The government there also ordered dogs to be killed on sight to stop diseases from spreading. To save the breed some owners went to remote areas like the mountains to hide them. A breeder named Morie Sawataishi was one of the key reasons the Akita is still around today.

He and other breeders after the war gathered together the Akita that remained and restored the breed to better numbers. Servicemen there from the US admired the breed and brough some back with them. In Japan in 1967 an Akita Dog Museum was built to commemorate the 50 years of the Akita Dog Preservation Society. It is commonly used today as a polcie dog. A tradition has also developed there where a child is gifted a statue of an Akita symbolizing long life, happiness and good health.

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In the US the Japanese Akita and the American Akita started to seperate. American breeders bred a larger dog, more intimidating and heavier. They come in all colors and have a larger head too. The Japanese Akita is smaller, more fox like, comes in more limited colors. In Canada and America the two are types of one breed. Other places like Japan, Australian and New Zealand see them as two seperate breeds. When referring to the American Akita they call it just an Akita. The Japanese one is called Akita Inu. The Akita is ranked 46th by the AKC today.

The Dog You See Today

The Akita is a large to giant sized purebred weighing 65 to 130 pounds and standing 24 to 28 inches tall. It is a powerful and sturdy looking dog with a large head, curled tail, broad chest and thick neck. It has small dark brown eyes and triangular ears that are erect. Its legs are well formed and heavy bones. In countries where it is still allowed the dewclaws on the back legs are removed.

The water-repellent coat on the Akita is short to medium and thick, dense, coarse outer coat and soft undercoat. Common colors are white, brindle, pinto, black, red and brown. The undercoat can be a different color to the outer coat. The hair around the rump and the tail is longer than the rest of the body. There can be long haired Akita, such pups are called Silkie or Woolie but these are not in the written standard.

The Inner Akita

Temperament

The Akita is a hugely complex and challenging dog to raise. It has a very dominant personality and any owner thinking of getting one should be ready for that and should be an experienced dog owner. It is very confident and bold and very devoted to the family but reserved around strangers and protective. Early socialization and training are absolutely essential.

When it has been raised properly and well cared for it is intelligent, obedient, fearless and affectionate towards its owners and family. Without those things it is willful, sometimes aggressive and difficult to control. It does not like being left alone and can suffer from separation anxiety. It does not bark excessively and while responsive is also independent.

It is a very good watchdog, being alert and will bark to let you know of any intruder or strangers approaching. It will also act to protect you or the family and is fearless when it comes to it being territorial in nature. Its devotion is such it will follow you around the home to offer you protection and companionship. While it is not usually aggressive towards people it is not good around other dogs or animals and strangers should still be careful how they approach.

With its family it is playful, affectionate and loves to be involved in daily activities. While its barking may not be frequent it does still make some noise, grumbles and such. It is important to make sure it has a varied day to day life so that it does not become bored. Include it in family events, exercise mental stimulation, outings, a yard, training and a rotation of dog toys are important.

Living with a Akita

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What will training look like?

As mentioned this is not going to work if you are not experienced, if you do not carry out socialization and training and if you are not consistent and firm with it. It is an intelligent dog but it is very dominant and willful so it needs a very strong confident owner who can deal with challenges to their leadership. This dog needs to know you are the boss at all times. There can be no wiggle room or blurred lines sometimes. Avoid eye contact that goes on too long though. This could be seen as a challenge.

Training should be done using positive methods such as praise and reward. It gets bored easily so training also needs to be kept engaging, challenging and you will need to be very patient. Socialization should be begun as soon as you have it home. It does not get on well with other animals, strange children or strangers and that socialization is key to getting it to respond in an acceptable and non aggressive manner.

How active is the Akita?

This is not a dog that should be kept in an apartment as it needs room to move around and a secure yard to go out in. It is a fairly active dog and will need a couple of long walks a day at least. This is not a dog to take to a dog park unless it has done very well with socialization and you have absolute control. It will enjoy going with you on your own outings, brisk walks, jogging, and so on. It does not do well in the heat but is quite happy to play out in the snow.

When it is still a puppy take care not to make its exercise too hard for its bones and joints. Have it play on grass rather than the pavement and don't let it jump from high distances until it is over two years old. A mix of different exercises and activities each day is an important part of being an Akita owner. Keeping it healthy and active is a great way to avoid it becoming bored which leads to aggressive and destructive behavior.

Caring for the Akita

Grooming needs

The coarse coat of the Akita will need a fair amount of grooming as it does shed a lot, often, plus it has blow outs twice a year. You will be vacuuming daily and cleaning loose hair off clothing and furnishings. Use a firm bristled brush when giving it a daily brush and give a bath just when it really needs one. Using a dog shampoo to wash it avoid frequent baths as it damages the natural oils in it skin.

What is interesting about the Akita is that they are clean dogs, it can be quite cat like in its self grooming habits. It is not a stinky dog but it will still need its nails clipped if they are not worn down naturally, and its ears cleaned and checked for infection once a week. It should also have its teeth cleaned at least three times a week.

Feeding Time

As a large dog it will need a fair amount of food each day. Make sure you use a good quality dry dog food as it is better for it. About 3 to 5 cups a day, split into at least two meals is average though to be sure it is getting the right amount take into account its size, age, health, level of activity and metabolism.

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It is important to keep in mind that the Akita does not share well and does not like its food bowl being touched or played with. It another dog or pet, or even a child tried to take its food bowl away or touch it even especially during meal times, it could bite.

The Akita with children and other animals

In Japan mothers often leave children with their Akita. The fact is if it has been raised with the children and it is well trained they are very protective and they will be dedicated to them. This dog can deal with and even accept and be good with children in its own family. However it is not a dog who can handle strange children and supervision is a good idea in case the strange children do something that startle it or upset it. If not well socialized it does bite and will be aggressive even with children.

You should not have two same sex Akitas together. It is aggressive with same sex dogs especially but in general it is not a dog that does well socializing with any other dog. It should be kept in a home where it is the only one and great care should be taken on dog walks and if you do try dog parks. Other pets too are not a good idea and it should be kept well fenced in and on a leash during walks so it does not go after them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

With a life span of 10 to 12 years it has a slightly shorter life than many breeds of similar size. Health issues that the Akita can be prone to include joint dysplasia, skin problems, bloat, hypothyroidism, eye problems and some immune diseases.

Biting Statistics

When looking at 34 years of reports covering dog attacks on people in the US and Canada the Akita can found to be involved in 75 incidents. 57 of those were maimings so the victim was left with permanent scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement. Of those 75 attacks 46 victims were children and in total there were 8 deaths. This means an Akita attacks someone an average of a little more than twice a year.

Some care and caution must be taken with this breed. While any dog can snap this breed is more aggressive than some and less able to take certain people and certain situations. It is absolutely essential that you have experience and that you socialize and train it well. It is also important you make sure it is well exercised, stimulated and cared for.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The cost of getting an Akita puppy is going to be about $800 for a good pet quality dog from a respectable breeder. That could go up to around $1000. If you are wanting a dog for showing the price can go up even more into a few thousand. However you can pay less if you are willing to take in a rescue and you do not mind if it is not a puppy. Rescue or shelter dogs are around $100 to $300.

With the puppy you will need some things like a crate, leash, collar and bowls which will cost around $180. It will also need to go to a vet for a physical exam, shots, deworming, neutering or spaying, chipping and blood tests. These initial medical procedures will cost around $300.

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Recurring medical costs such as pet insurance, check ups, vaccinations, flea and tick prevention come to a starting figure of $485 a year. Other recurring costs like toys, license, training and miscellaneous costs can come to $245 a year. Food which covers treats as well as a good quality dry dog food will start at about $270 a year.

This gives a yearly cost that starts at $1000.

Names

Looking for a Akita Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

  • Male and Female Akita Puppy Names
  • This is a large dog with a lot of great qualities about it. It is dedicated, faithful, intelligent, protective, alert, brave, affectionate and respectful. But this is when you have put in the work needed to get it to such a place. With owners who are too timid it will be difficult to live with, aggressive, hard to control and a dog you cannot trust around others.

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