Akitas are classified as working breed dogs who have
been used for hunting, sled & draft work, and protection of family & home. Most
commonly they serve mankind as an adored companion and family member. Akitas are described
with terms like: stocky (80-115 pounds), power-packed, animal aggressive, majestic, aloof
with strangers, alert, dominant, dignified, loyal, fierce, beautiful, easy-care and
protective. According to the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) standard they have much
substance and heavy bone.
The head is broad, forming a blunt triangle with deep muzzle.
Small eyes and small erect ears carried forward in line with the neck are characteristic
of the breed. The large, curled tail balancing the broad head is also characteristic of
the breed. Akitas come in all colors with or without black masks or muzzles. Solid
whites must have black-rimmed eyes and a black or liver nose. Despite their formidable
size (24-28 inches at the shoulder), they are agile and will be as athletic, or fat and
lazy as the owner chooses. To own an Akita can be one of the most rewarding experiences in
life or it can be a living hell. Often misunderstood and mistreated, these treasured
creatures are much admired worldwide.
First time dog owners are cautioned about bringing an Akita into
their lives. Owners must be committed and prepared to socialize, socialize, and socialize
again. That adorable teddy bear puppy can become a lethal weapon. Because of the
destructive potential of this big, sometimes willful breed, the legal and financial
implications of an untrained Akita are not to be dismissed. The majority of Akita bites to
humans were by males not neutered.
In the Home
Akitas are excellent family companions, adapting comfortably to
city and rural surroundings. Early and regular obedience training is a must if the Akita
is to become an acceptable companion in the home. Neutered males make better, more
trustworthy companions. Females will be happier, less moody if they are spayed.
Fixing both males and females makes them less susceptible to cancer and other
Well-trained and socialized Akitas are welcome anywhere, anytime.
Many are now involved in hospital therapy work. Others are competing in obedience,
tracking and agility as well as the conformation show ring.
A Natural Dog
Man has not changed the Akita very much from its centuries-old
natural state. It has few grooming needs but should have some weekly attention (brushing,
toenails cut, ears cleaned, teeth brushed and the odd bath) to maintain that
Their thick double-coat does not shed much but about twice a year they
blow coat (lose most of their fur). This can be quite profound and the dog may look like a
molting buffalo for several weeks. Frequent brushing will help. Pristine housekeepers may
not be able to accept this messy period.
Unfortunately, Akitas do have some health problems and every care
should be taken to choose an Akita from a reputable breeder to assure a sound mind as well
Akitas originated in a remote northern province of Japan known as
Akita Prefecture. In Japan the Akita has been officially declared a national treasure and
they are much revered. It is believed that an Akita in the home is a symbol of good
health, prosperity and good fortune. In the 1930s, the Japanese Minister of
Education presented an Akita named Kamikaze to the famous deaf and blind Helen Keller.
Miss Keller was taken with the spirit and character of the breed. Kamikaze was
the first Akita to land in North America. After 1940 American servicemen returned home
bringing this beautiful breed permanently to our shores.
Regardless of the type preferred, this is not a breed for
everyone. Akitas are strong and demand a close bond with owners of equally strong will.
They are extremely loyal and naturally protective of their families. Their intelligence
and dominance can challenge even the most seasoned dog owner.
The Akita Guardian
Akitas are often valued because of their quiet dignified nature.
They rarely bark unnecessarily so it is a good idea to pay attention when they give
warning. Akitas do not require guard dog training. When there is a reason to protect
family and property, Akitas will act to do so. Guests normally welcome in the home when
the owner is present, may find the welcome mat lifted when entering the home when the
owner is away. A confident Akita will make judgements based on an owners reactions
or commands, but if the owner isnt there, the Akita will make its own decisions.
Akitas And Other Animals
They hunt low to the ground and silently like a cat, which can take novice owners by
surprise. Cats, rodents, birds, wildlife and small dogs may be considered prey and hunted
by even the best trained Akitas. They can be raised to live with other animals but adult
Akitas brought into a home with resident animals need strict supervision at all times and
may never adjust.
There is no denying that Akitas have been used for the cruel and inhumane blood sport of
fighting. This does not mean that they pose a threat to humans but it does mean that they
are inherently aggressive towards other animals. They should never be allowed to run free
or roam at will. Akitas will usually tolerate living with a dog of the opposite sex,
although many are better companions as the only dog in the home.
Akitas and Children
Akitas not raised with children do not always accept small
children. No dog, and especially an Akita, should ever be left alone with children under
12. Healthy, socialized Akitas adore the children in their own family but may feel
protective when neighbor children come to play. The Akita may perceive rowdy play as a
threat to their own child and act accordingly. The Akita must be respected and understood
as a guarding dog. Children too, must be taught to respect the Akita and to treat the dog
kindly - no teasing or poking.
Because many Akitas are food aggressive, other animals and
visiting children should be kept away until all food has disappeared. The Akita must be
protected from situations where its natural instincts may erupt into dangerous behavior.
A Dominant Breed
Akitas usually consider sustained eye-contact as a challenge and respond with
aggressive behaviour. Since children are always at eye-level to an Akita, it is important
to discourage this trait in the family dog. Children must be taught not to approach any
strange dog without adult permission and supervision.
Because Akitas are so dominant, they may challenge owners from time to
time, especially males. This behaviour must be checked immediately every time it happens.
It is not acceptable. Firm, consistent correction must be the instant response. Puppies
should begin training the moment they come to live in the home. It is easier to guide and
condition the dogs mind as a puppy than to adjust its attitude after it is full
grown. Akitas are very clever at pushing their owners around if allowed.
There should be no misunderstanding about the method of
discipline. To attempt harsh physical discipline with a dominant 100 pound Akita is
dangerous. Nor is force effective especially if all family members dont have the
physical strength to follow through. Better results come from the use of verbal commands
coupled with positive re-enforcement training methods.
However, most feel that young puppies respond well to a
good scruff-of-the-neck shaking. Often no other physical correction is ever required. The
general feeling is that it is more productive to direct a dog rather than force
Regardless of the precise training methods used for Akitas, all
agree that punching, hitting or kicking is a nasty sign of human weakness and serves no
training purpose. And it can actually bring out very negative behaviours in the dog that
you are trying to avoid. Experienced professional Akita trainers (preferably in a
classroom setting) offer the best advice for each individual dog and owner team, as
socialization is very important to this breed. Classes should be small and trainers must
not have a dislike or fear of the Akita. Akitas learn quickly and become bored just as
quickly. So training sessions are better at short intervals followed by positive
experiences. This is the only way to avoid owner and Akita frustrations. Training an Akita
is fun if the owner chooses to enjoy the experience. Akitas are very sensitive and take
their cue from the owner.
Puppy training classes, not only seal the owner/dog bond but they
teach dominant Akita puppies proper canine etiquette. This early socializing of the puppy
with other animals is a must if the dog is to be taken out in public. They may never enjoy
other dogs but they can learn to behave in a fashion acceptable to human and dog society.
Akita puppies need the best possible food for the rapid
growth of the first year or two. Adult Akitas and the senior Akita should not be allowed
to become obese but still need high-quality nutrition throughout their lives. Steer away
from soy based foods as they can trigger thyroid reactions. Also avoid commercial
foods which use Ethoxyquin, BHA and BHT as preservatives as they have been linked to
cancer. Dry food should be soaked until it expands prior to feeding as Akitas can suffer
from gastric torsion (bloat), a painful, life-threatening condition. There has also been a
link between soy-based dog food and bloat. In Japan, Akitas thrive on a staple diet of
rice, fish and sea plants. There are many books available on feeding your dog home-cooked
food. Table scraps are not recommended. However, human food, properly prepared and
balanced is a growing trend in feeding Akitas. Always check with a veterinarian before
changing a dogs diet.
All dogs need fresh air, clean water and regular outdoor exercise.
Akitas can tolerate extremely cold temperatures but they are happiest when they live in
the house. Akitas should never be tied to a post or tree because their aggressive and
territorial tendency will be intensified. Akitas are not lawn ornaments and will revert to
destructive or aggressive behavior if denied the closeness of their family.
Their exercise requirements are moderate but they can adapt to
high or low exercise levels. They do not need to run free in the park. They should be
walked on leash by their owner daily. Some Akitas can climb even a 6 foot fence so a safe
secure fenced yard or dog run is important. Regular vaccines and health checks by a vet,
common sense nutrition and normal exercise will keep an Akita healthy for its life of 10
to 14 years.
Like other large dogs, Akitas have been known to suffer from
painful hip displasia as well as PRA, a group of blinding eye diseases. It has been
estimated that 70%-90% of Akitas have hypothyroid disease which can be treated by twice
daily hormone replacement therapy. Symptoms of thyroid disfunction in Akitas are not
typical. They do suffer the commonly seen symptoms of skin and coat problems. But often
the Akita may have sudden onset aggression, itching, lethargy, or a musky odor which
proves to be an underlying thyroid imbalance.
Before treating for skin conditions with any drugs, Akitas should be
checked for sarcoptic mange, sebacious adenitis, and hypothyroid disease.
Purchasing an Akita
Akitas are different from other breeds. They are not what could
be termed easy dogs. Not everyone would enjoy living with an Akita. Be sure of
your decision. Meet other Akitas in their own environment or call Akita Alumni.
You may attend some of our Akita specific activities to learn
more about the breed and to meet many different ages living in many different
Before purchasing an Akita, read all you can find about the
breed to be certain it is the breed for you. Visit several kennels who are not connected
through a breeding program to view the variety of colours and types of Akitas. Dont
just grab the first sweet little pup you meet. Youre going to invest a significant
amount of money, time and emotion so research carefully.
Expect to pay about $750 for a pet Akita and $1000 plus for
breeding and show puppies. Older displaced dogs can be adopted for about $250. If a puppy
is being sold for less than $500, there may be something wrong. Be prepared for
approximately $150 per year for inoculations, heartworm/thyroid tests. There will be an
additional charge of about $150 to spay or neuter your puppy in the first year.
Pet insurance is about $250 per year and well worth the
investment, and there is now a plan that covers yearly testing and shots as well as
spay/neutering. The costs for treating an illness or accident can reach thousands of
dollars. Few have that much cash to spare. And dont forget to include food, toys,
bowls and leashes in your budget.
Please visit the rescue section of this web site for information about
adopting an Akita from a rescue organization.
Choosing an Akita Breeder
Inspect the premises for cleanliness and general care of the
animals. Insist upon seeing the brood bitch (mother). The stud (father) is not always
living with the breeder but photos or videos should be available.
An experienced breeder is usually a better choice but only if
they have remained current on health issues and breeding policies. Most breeders belong to
an organization such as the Canadian Kennel Club or american Kennel Club. An honest
breeder will be blunt regarding the aggressive, dominant traits of Akitas. They dont
deny the negative aspects of Akita health and temperament. Conscientious breeders love the
Akita and are involved in other areas with their dogs. Dont be offended when a
breeder screens you and your life style before selling you one of their special puppies.
Any ethical breeder will insist that you return the dog to them (regardless of its age) if
you are unwilling or unable to keep your Akita.
Get the Paper Work
Do not purchase an Akita unless you have:
1. At least a three generation pedigree on both parents.
2. Hip certification (OFA-USA or
OVC-Canada) on both parents (grandparents too if available). This test is done only once
in a dogs life.
3. Eye certification (CERF-Canine Eye
Registry Foundation) on both parents (grandparents too if available). This test must be
performed yearly or before each breeding, so check the dates.
4. Complete thyroid panel results (6
tests) on both parents proving both to be normal to high-normal. Low-normal is not
acceptable for breeding Akitas. This test also must be performed yearly or before each
breeding, so check the dates. An Akita on thyroid medication is not suitable for breeding.
5. Written guarantee on the health of
the puppy for a specific period of time (usually 2 years) which does not ask that you
euthanize the dog in order to receive a replacement puppy or a refund.
6. Registration of your puppy with the American Kennel Club or Canadian Kennel Club within 6 months of your
purchase. It is illegal for a breeder to withhold or charge for this.
7. A written non-breeding agreement
which the breeder will register free of charge with the AKC or CKC. This can be lifted
only by the breeder.
8. Results of any other tests performed
on either parent. If a breeder cannot or refuses to supply any of these, then you
dont want that puppy. Go elsewhere. If a breeder pushes you into a purchase or
doesn t seem to be knowledgeable or supportive, then youll want to keep
For more information about this unique breed read:
Akita, Treasure of Japan (by Barbara Bouyet)
MIP Publications (1982) ISBN 0-9617204-3-3.
The Book of the Akita (by Joan McDonald Brearley)
T.F.H. Publications Inc. (1985) ISBN 0-86622-048-8.
The Complete Akita (by Joan M. Linderman and Virginia Funk)
Howell Book House Inc. (1983) ISBN 0-87605-006-2.
The Akita, Book of the Breed (by Gerald and Kath Mitchell)
Ringpress Books Ltd. (1990) ISBN 0-948955-11-2.
Akita Akademics (by Nancy Webb)
The World of Fighting Dogs (by Dr. Carl Semencic)
Akitas (by Edita Van Der Lyn)
T.F.H. Publications Inc. (1981) ISBN 0-87-666-710-8.
For additional information about Akitas or on choosing a breeder call Akita Alumni at
(905) 775-6320. Akita Alumni is the largest group of Akita fanciers in North America.
Membership is optional. Participation in all activities is encouraged.
Akita Alumni offers free Akita information and support to Akita owners as well as a
network for adoption and placement services.