Akita
Akita dog lying in the snow (Photo: Adobe Stock)
helloBARK! staff
By helloBARK! staff
Updated on August 21, 2019
Fact Checked

Akita are working dogs of ancient Japanese lineage.

These Asian dogs are immediately recognisable thanks to their striking appearance, muscular physique and eye-catching coat colors.

They can weigh up to 130 pounds, which makes them one of the heaviest breeds in the dog world.

It’s not all about their powerful appearance – though.

Akita are famed for the courage, loyalty and nobility in their native Japan, which are all key characteristics that make them protectors of the family.

In Asia, Akita are often seen as symbols of good health, happiness and long life.

The American Kennel Club rank the Akita as the 47th most popular dog in the United States.

In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of Akitas.

We’ll break this article into the following sections to give our readers a clear insight into the physical traits and the temperament of these dignified dogs.

• What is an Akita?
• Where are Akita from?
• Akita breed standard
• Akita size
• Akita appearance
• Akita colors
• Akita temperament
• Is an Akita a dangerous dog?
• Is an Akita a good family dog?
• Are Akitas good with kids?
• Are Akita aggressive?
• Are Akita dogs friendly
• Are Akita easy to train?
• How much exercise do Akitas need?
• Can Akita be left alone?
• Will Akita protect you?
• Do Akita dogs howl?
• Are Akitas hypoallergenic?
• Do Akitas shed a lot?
• How often should you wash your Akita?
• Akita lifespan
• Akita health problems
• How much do Akita puppies cost?
• Akita to adopt
• Should I get an Akita?
• Are Akita dogs banned in the UK?
• Akita to follow on Instagram
• Anything else to consider?
• In conclusion

With the introduction over, here’s an insight into Akitas.

What is an Akita?

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)
Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

The Akita is a large, working dog that is a member of the Spitz family.

However, there are two different strains of Akita: the Japanese Akita, which is otherwise known as Akita Inu, and the American Akita, which is otherwise known as Akita.

Where are Akita from?

The Akita originates in the mountainous regions of northern Japan. They’re thought to be related to ancient dogs in Asia.

The American Kennel Club write that the Akita is “Japan’s entry in the ancient canine clan of spitz-type dogs” which are bred in the northern regions of the world.

Spitz breeds are a type of domestic dogs that have long, thick fur (that is often but not always white), with pointed ears and muzzles.

The Akita that we know and love was developed in the 17th century in Japan. Legend says that an exiled nobleman was responsible for developing this large, versatile hunting dog.

The American Kennel Club explain on their website:

Generations of selective breeding produced the Akita, a powerful hunter with a strong work ethic and stout heart who worked in packs on such big game as wild boar, deer, and the fearsome Yezo bear.

Akitas are often described as a dignified or noble breed. Perhaps that’s because there was a time in Japan when only the imperial family and their court could own an Akita.

Their dogs with huge symbolic value in Japan. For example, Akita figurines are presented upon the birth of children to denote a happy and healthy life for the newborn.

The story of Hachiko has achieved worldwide notoriety. This Akita accompanied his master Professor Hidesaburo Ueno to and from the train station every day for his master’s commute. When his owner didn’t arrive at the station following a fatal brain haemorrhage at work, Hachiko continued to wait for his master’s return. He went to and from the station every day for the next nine years.

These large dogs were bred with Tosas and Mastiffs in the 19th century. Further cross breeding occurred during World War II when Akitas were mixed with German Shepherds in a bid to save them from the wartime government that demanded the cull of non-military dogs.

In 1937, American Helen Keller travelled to Japan and returned with two Akitas to breed. By 1939, a breed standard had been established.

During this time, the Akita dogs started to diverge into Japanese Akitas (Akita Inus) and American Akitas (Akitas).

Difference between Japanese Akitas and American Akitas

American Akitas are acceptable in all colors, unlike the Japanese Akitas which can only be red, white or brindle. The American Akitas can have pinto and/or black masks, while Japanese Akitas can’t have such as mask.

The Akita are bigger and heavier boned, with a bark-like head. The Akita Inu is lighter and slender, while they have a fox-like head.

Akita breed standard

The American Akita (or Akita) were recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1955 before they placed them in the working group in 1972. Here’s the Akita breed standard:

Large, powerful, alert, with much substance and heavy bone. The broad head, forming a blunt triangle, with deep muzzle, small eyes and erect ears carried forward in line with back of neck, is characteristic of the breed. The large, curled tail, balancing the broad head, is also characteristic of the breed.

The AKC breed standard for American Akitas goes on to say:

Akita is muscular, double-coated dogs of ancient Japanese lineage famous for her dignity, courage, and loyalty. In her native land, she’s venerated as family protectors and symbols of good health, happiness, and long life.

Akita size

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)
Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

Akita is a large-sized working dog.

A male American Akita can grow to a size between 26 and 28 inches and can weigh between 100 and 130 pounds.

Females are slightly smaller and lighter. They can be between 24 and 26 inches tall and weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.

Akita colors

As we’ve already mentioned above, the American Akita or Akita can come in any color. However, the Akita Inu or Japanese Akita can only be red, white or brindle.

Akita appearance

Akita are a spitz-type dog so they do share similarities with other northern breeds.

The American Akita has what is described as a “large, bear-like head with erect, triangular ears”. They’ve got relatively small eyes that are deep set and triangular in shape.

Like other Spitz breeds, the Akita has a double coat to protect them against inhospitable weather conditions. Their tales usually loop over or rest on their back. However, each Akita’s tail will vary slightly.

Here’s the Akita Club of America to explain:

Each dog has their own unique tail set; therefore when you see a group of Akitas’ tails, very few look the same.

Akita temperament

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)
Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

When you think about Akitas, you’ll usually consider the breed a guard or protective dog. Their huge size and undoubted power make them a formidable force that should act as a sufficient deterrent.

These Japanese dogs have been described as “protectors of the family” for centuries. So it’s little surprise that some Akitas can be protective of their family home.

Unlike Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes that can be quite sociable, Akita are quite aloof or reserved around strangers or people they don’t know that well.

The American Kennel Club write on their website that these quiet Akitas can be “wary of strangers and often intolerant of other animals”.

The Akita breed are often likened to felines rather than canines. They can be independent thinkers and fastidious in the house.

These working dogs don’t always get along with other dogs, especially canines of the same sex.

Is an Akita a dangerous dog?

You may think of the Akita as a dangerous or unpredictable dog. It’s a stereotype that’s often painted in the media.

However, the Akita Club of America attempt to clear up this myth about the Japanese breed on their website:

A well-socialized and trained Akita is not unsafe, but individuals should always give an Akita space and respect, not forcing themselves on the dog.

Akitas are sometimes a target of breed specific legislation.

Is an Akita a good family dog?

If you’re considering an Akita as a pet but you’ve got a family, you’ll want to know whether the breed will be a good fit for your home environment.

Akita have traditionally played a role within the family unit as the protector. Therefore, most Akitas will forge a strong bond with family members.

Their instinct will be to guard the family home, which can act as a great deterrent. Alternatively, you’ll want to socialise an Akita a lot as a puppy. Clearly, it’s not realistic for an Akita – or any dog – living in a family home to be wary of every outsider.

You’ll have friends and relatives who visit the home, so an Akita needs to exposed to people, places and things both in and outside their “territory” to learn proper manners.

Are Akitas good with kids?

As guardians of the family, Akitas should be fine with children.

Author Sherry E Wallis has the following to say about Akitas and children:

An Akita should like children. Just as retrievers like sticks and balls, this breed should have an affinity for children.

That being said, their sheer size means they’ll need constant supervision when around children or vulnerable people.

As with any dog, no matter what breed or mix, we don’t recommend leaving young children alone with a canine without the presence of adults.

The American Kennel Club suggest feeding an Akita away from small children:

It’s important to remember that some Akitas can be food-possessive, and should be given their food bowl or treats well away from other animals or children.

Are Akita aggressive?

This is a stereotype that often follows around the Akita breed.

Akitas are sometimes billed as an aggressive or dangerous dog. This can be said of any dog breed.

With consistent and persistent training, a skilled dog owner can train an Akita to be a perfectly socialised dog.

Are Akita dogs friendly

The American Kennel Club warn on their website that the ancient Japanese breed are “often intolerant” of other animals.

Therefore the organization recommend socializing an Akita from birth with people and other dogs.

Are Akita easy to train?

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)
Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

These working dogs are described as “independent” and “aloof”. The breed demand respect from their fellow family members, friends of the family and strangers.

Akitas are extremely intelligent but like a lot of Spitz-type breeds, they’re considered strong-willed dogs that can be challenging to train.

This Japanese breed respond well to respectful commands and positive training techniques that rely on positive reinforcement rather than brute force.

The Akita Club of America go on to explain that Akitas do well at performance events:

The Akita is popularly seen in the breed (conformation) ring, but many also participate in performance events such as obedience, rally, agility, tracking, and nose work. Some Akitas excel as therapy dogs.

In contrast, the Intelligence of Dogs ranks the Akita at 104th in the list of the world’s smartest dogs. According to the author Stanley Coren, an Akita needs 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new command, while they’ll obey a first command 50 per cent of the time or better.

How much exercise do Akitas need?

Akitas need a moderate amount of exercise. It’s recommended that to walk these noble dogs on a daily basis.

WagWalking recommend 60 minutes of exercise per day for an Akita.

They make good dogs for hiking given their origins in the mountainous regions of northern Japan.

Akitas do enjoy snowy conditions, which is hardly a surprise because they were previously called “snow country dogs” before being given the name we know and love today.

Often credited with loving cold weather, they’ve got webbed toes to help them distribute their weight. They’ve also got front dew claws to provide grip in ice and snow.

Can Akita be left alone?

A quick search on Google will suggest that there are some Akita owners who have experienced first hand chronic canine disorder separation anxiety.

Having said that, separation anxiety doesn’t appear to be a condition that is particularly associated with Akitas, unlike other breed such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Given the Akita breed are confident and independent thinkers, it suggests these dogs won’t struggle with some time alone. However, this isn’t to stay separation anxiety definitely won’t be an issue for an Akita.

Will Akita protect you?

Like we’ve already discussed, Akitas do have a reputation for being natural guard dogs or protection dogs.

The Akita Club of America add some valuable insight on the topic of these “natural guardians”:

They do not need and should not have special “watch dog” training.

Their instinct to guard their owner’s home is a nod to their heritage. They were traditionally used to hunt bears and guard the property.

Do Akita dogs howl?

Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)
Akita Inu Masami (Photo: @masamiakitainu / Instagram)

Unlike a lot of Spitz breeds, the Akita isn’t branded as a noisy dog.

They usually won’t make a lot of noise. In fact, Akitas are considered relatively quiet dogs that don’t indulge in excessive barking.

Indeed, you’ll often see an Akita described as a “strong and silent”.

Are Akitas hypoallergenic?

A hypoallergenic dog is one that doesn’t shed a lot or produce a lot of dander. Therefore, they could potentially be a perfect fit for homes with someone who has an allergy to dogs.

Akitas aren’t hypoallergenic as these Japanese dogs have a double coat that will blow out twice a year.

Otherwise, Akitas are usually pretty clean dogs given their fastidious nature. They don’t omit a “doggy odor”.

Do Akitas shed a lot?

These large dogs don’t shed a lot during most of the year. However, Akita dogs will blow out their undercoat twice a year. These seasonal shedders will leave a trail of dead hair or clumps of hair all over the house.

You’ll need to brush your Akita on a daily basis while they blow out their undercoat. They won’t require a lot of grooming the rest of the year.

Their thick double coat shouldn’t be shaved.

How often should you wash your Akita?

It’s a good idea to avoid bathing your Akita too much to avoid drying out their skin.

Given they aren’t smelly dogs thanks to their cat-like self-grooming routine, your Akita will only need a bath two to four times a year.

Akita lifespan

The Akita has a life expectancy of 10 to 13 years.

Akita health problems

Akita are prone to a number of potential health problems. This can include bloat (Gastric dilatation volvulus), thryoid problems, eye problems and canine hip dysplasia.

The Akita Club of America shed more light on bloat as a potential issue on their website:

Akita dogs are particularly susceptible to this condition, when the stomach twists (also known as volvulus or “torsion”) due to a variety of reasons.

The ACA recommend contacting an emergency vet immediately if you suspect your Akita could be suffering with this life-threatening condition. A responsible Akita owner should learn the signs and symptoms of bloat.

How much do Akita puppies cost?

An Akita puppy cost cost between $750 and $2000.

Before you consider purchasing an Akita, we recommend visiting the Akita Club of America. They provide a useful checklist for a puppy buyer.

One requirement should be that the breeder belong to a local Akita Club, if possible, the Akita Club of America (ACA), an obedience club, or an all-breed club. Why? Through membership in one or all, the breeder is exposed to others who are also interested in Akitas, and dogs in general, and learns more about his breed, dog care, modern breeding practices, etc.

You can find a list of Akita Club of America breeders here. The breeders have signed up to the organization’s code of ethics.

Akita to adopt

Of course, you may prefer to adopt an Akita looking for a forever home.

If so, you can check out the Akita Club of America Rescue. They’ve got a list of approved rescues that you can check out.

Should I get an Akita?

Akita dogs aren’t recommended for first-time dog owners.

They’re a large breed that are powerful and can overpower a slight handler.

Although Akitas are smart dogs, they require a lot of training to improve their obedience. These training lessons can be both challenging and time consuming.

Are Akita dogs banned in the UK?

Akitas aren’t one of the four breeds that are banned in the United Kingdom. The prohibited breeds are Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

Akita to follow on Instagram

If you want to learn more about the Akita breed, you can check out these majestic dogs on Instagram.

In our experience, dog owners are forthcoming with information about the breed. They can often be a useful tool when you’re doing research about a particular breed.

Here are three Akitas to check out on Instagram.

1) Malcom the Akita (@malcolm_the_akita)

2) Akira (@akiramyakita)

3) Kuma (@kuma_the_akitaa)

Anything else to consider?

If you’re still considering an Akita as a pet, we recommend contacting one of the breeders listed on the Akita Club of America’s website.

We don’t advise buying an Akita – or any dog for that matter – from a website, third part breeder or in a pet store.

You should always ask to see the puppy with his/her mother, as well as AKC or UKC documentation for the parents, plus proof of health checks and veterinary exams.

The AKA offer a list of requirements that potential puppy buyers should ask Akita breeders on their website.

In conclusion

So there you have it, Akitas are dignified breed that orginated in Japan.

Protectors of the home with a deep sense of loyalty to the family, Akitas can make wonderful pets in the right environment with the proper training.

These dogs have moderate exercise requirements and they’ll blow out their coat twice a year.

Weighing up to 130 pounds, you’ll want to do careful consideration and research before you bring home an Akita.