The Akita is a large and powerful dog breed with a noble and intimidating presence. They were originally used for guarding royalty and nobility in feudal Japan. These dogs also tracked and hunted wild boar, black bear, and sometimes deer.
The Akita does not back down from challenges and does not frighten easily. Consequently, they are fearless and loyal guardians of their families. Yet they are also affectionate, respectful, and amusing dogs when properly trained and socialized.
An Akita is bound to shed quite a bit, and you may be wiping some drool from their face if you bring one home. Certainly, owners should be prepared for some cleanup. Furthermore, they tend to be stubborn and are not overly fond of strangers. While those can be good traits for a watchdog, they’ll need an experienced trainer if they’re to interact with other animals or people. Novices beware.
That said, dogs of this breed are faithful companions that will be attached to the right human for life and shower them with adoration and love. Therefore, if you and your family are up for the challenge and consider adopting an Akita, you’ll have a lifelong friend who won’t let you down.
Also, see all Akita dog breed characteristics below!
To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a rescue or shelter that will vaccinate, provide veterinary care, and require applicants to meet dogs to make sure they are a good fit for their potential forever family.
- The Akita can aggressive with other dogs and is especially prone to same-sex aggression. They'll need socialization training to overcome these tendencies.
- The Akita is not a good choice for first-time dog owners.
- Positive socialization and consistent, firm training are essential for the Akita. If he is mishandled or mistreated, they often respond by becoming aggressive.
- The Akita will chase other pets in the house if not trained properly.
- The Akita sheds—a lot!
- Prolonged eye contact is considered a challenge by the Akita, and they may respond aggressively.
- Training the willful Akita can be challenging and requires understanding, experience, and patience. It's best to work with a trainer familiar with the breed, but be sure to be involved in the training, yourself.
The Akita is named for the province of Akita in northern Japan, where they are believed to have originated. The Akita's known existence goes back to the 1600s, when the breed guarded Japanese royalty and was used for hunting fowl and large game (including bears).
This valiant breed was introduced to America by a woman of no small stature: Helen Keller. The Japanese held Helen Keller in high esteem and took her to Shibuyu to show her the statue of Hachiko, an Akita who achieved worldwide fame in the 1920s for his loyalty. Hachiko's owner, a professor, returned from work each day at 3 p.m., and his devoted dog met him daily at the train station. When the professor died, loyal Hachiko continued his daily vigil until his own death a full decade later.
When Helen Keller expressed her desire to have an Akita for her own, she was presented with a puppy, the first Akita brought to America. Keller was delighted with Kamikaze-go and was deeply saddened when he died of distemper at a young age. Upon hearing this news, the Japanese government officially presented her with Kamikaze's older brother, Kenzan-go. Keller later wrote that Kamikaze had been "an angel in fur" and that the Akita breed was "gentle, companionable, and trusty."
After World War II, returning American servicemen who had been stationed in Japan brought back more Akitas. Thomas Boyd is credited with producing the first Akita stud to sire puppies in the U.S., starting in 1956. The American Akita eventually evolved into a more robust dog than the Japanese Akita and was valued by many for this reason.
Yet there were those who wanted to remain true to the Japanese standard. This split caused a decades-long battle that led to a delay in acceptance by the American Kennel Club. Finally, in 1972, the AKC accepted the Akita Club of America, but the split is still wide today and is a matter of great concern to Akita fanciers on both sides.
What is never debated is the Akita's historical and famous combination of fearlessness and loyalty. These traits were once put to the test at the London Zoo, when a Sumatran tiger cub was orphaned. The zookeepers needed special help in raising the cub, and they chose an Akita puppy for this important task. They knew the Akita would not be frightened and could engage in play that would help the tiger cub with necessary life lessons. Moreover, the Akita's dense fur would protect him from sharp claws, and the pup's inherent loyalty to his playmate would provide desired companionship and protection for the bewildered, orphaned cub. The Akita served in the role successfully and "retired" from the job when the tiger reached near-adulthood.
This is a dog who is truly fearless, fully confident, and will exhibit unfaltering devotion to family.
The Akita is a bold and willful dog, naturally wary of strangers but extremely loyal to their family. They are alert, intelligent, and courageous. They tend to be aggressive toward other dogs, especially those of the same sex. They are best suited to a one-dog household.
With family, the Akita is affectionate and playful. They enjoy the companionship of their family and want to participate in daily activities. They're mouthy and enjoy carrying toys and household items around. Despite the common belief that they never bark, they are in fact noisy, known to grumble, moan—and, yes, bark if they believe the situation warrants it.
Be aware, the Akita's strong personality can be overwhelming. They are not the dog for a first-time owner, and they are not for the timid. They need an owner who can provide firm, loving discipline.
Activity is essential for this active breed. They need plenty of exercise to keep them from becoming bored and, in turn, destructive.
The naturally protective Akita has a propensity to become aggressive if allowed, or if they aren't raised properly. Training the Akita is essential, and so is proper socialization from an early age. Keep in mind that this breed is stubborn, so extra patience is necessary to teach them proper canine manners.
Akitas are generally healthy, but like all breeds of dogs, they're prone to certain conditions and diseases.
- Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Reputable breeders offer proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus, commonly called bloat, is a life-threatening condition that affects large, deep-chested dogs like Akitas. It is especially a problem if they eat one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid themselves of the excess air in their stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is salivating excessively, and is retching without throwing up. They also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak, showing a rapid heart rate. It's important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
- Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland. It's thought to be responsible for conditions such as epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma, and other skin conditions. It is treated with medication and diet.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, affected dogs become night-blind; they lose sight during the day as the disease progresses. Many affected dogs adapt well to their limited or lost vision, as long as their surroundings remain the same.
- Sebaceous adenitis (SA) is a serious problem in Akitas. This genetic condition is difficult to diagnose and often mistaken for hypothyroidism, allergies, or other conditions. When a dog has SA, the sebaceous glands in the skin become inflamed (for unknown reasons) and are eventually destroyed. These glands typically produce sebum, a fatty secretion that helps prevent the skin from drying out. Symptoms usually first occur when the dog is from one to five years old: affected dogs typically have dry, scaly skin and hair loss on top of the head, neck, and back. Severely affected dogs can have thickened skin and an unpleasant odor, along with secondary skin infections. Although the problem is primarily cosmetic, it can be uncomfortable for the dog. Your vet will perform a biopsy of the skin if she suspects SA and will then discuss a variety of treatment options with you.
The Akita is happiest and does best when living inside with their family. This breed is not hyper, but they do need daily exercise. Thirty minutes to an hour a day is sufficient for an Akita; brisk walks, jogging (for an adult dog over two years of age), and romping in the yard are favorite activities. Visits to a dog park are probably not a good idea, given the Akita's aggressive tendency toward other dogs.
Due to this breed's high intelligence, a varied routine is best. What you don't want is a bored Akita. That leads to such behavior problems as barking, digging, chewing, and aggression. Include the Akita with family activities, and don't leave them alone for long periods at a time.
A securely fenced yard is important, too, both for the safety of the Akita and for the safety of strangers who may mistakenly come into their turf. While they aren't typically aggressive with visitors if their family is home, all bets are off if their owners aren't around. The Akita is a loyal guardian, and they'll protect against anything they perceive to be a threat.
Special care must be taken when raising an Akita puppy. These dogs grow very rapidly between the age of four and seven months, making them susceptible to bone disorders. They do well on a high-quality, low-calorie diet that keeps them from growing too fast. In addition, don't let your Akita puppy run and play on hard surfaces, such as pavement; normal play on grass is fine. Avoid forced jumping or jogging on hard surfaces until the dog is at least two years old and their joints are fully formed (puppy agility classes, with their one-inch jumps, are fine).