American Akita

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Is the American Akita right for you?

Species group:

Other name(s): Japanese American Akita; Great Japanese Dog

The basics:
The Akita, the tallest of the Japanese dog breeds, was developed in the 1600s by a Samurai seeking to create a guardian dog with a warrior's spirit. When the sport of dog fighting came into fashion in the 1800s, the dogs were bred to be larger and larger. As a result of this heritage, the Akita is a powerful, protective breed that must be socialized with care. Its aggressive instincts means that it should probably be reserved for the single pet home with a responsible owner who possesses a good grasp on canine psychology.

In 1927, a group formed in Japan to restore the original appearance of the Samurai "Akita Matigas" look. As a result, the Akita is slowly diverging into two separate breeds-- the Akita Inu, which is more like the older Japanese breed, and the American Akita, which retains the larger size of the fighting dog heritage. In 2006, the Kennel Club (UK) recognized the Japanese Akita Inu and the (American) Akita. Most other countries worldwide do the same. However, the American Kennel Club (US) still regards the two forms as members of the same breed. If you plan to show your dog, know where your club stands on the issue so you can make the right choice for you.

A well-trained Akita can be a loyal pet indeed. Helen Keller was one of the earliest Americans to own an Akita. However, their demanding personality means they aren't considered a good choice for the novice pet owner.

Appearance / health:
The Japanese Akita and American Akita began to diverge in type through the middle and later part of the 20th century. Japanese Akita fanciers focused on restoring the breed as a work of Japanese art. American Akita fanciers bred larger, heavier-boned dogs.

Both types derive from a common ancestry, but marked differences can be observed between the two. First, while American Akitas are acceptable in all colors, Japanese Akitas are only permitted to be red, fawn, sesame, white, or brindle. Additionally, American Akitas may be pinto and/or have black masks, unlike Japanese Akitas where it is considered a disqualification and not permitted in the breed standards. American Akitas generally are heavier boned and larger, with a more bear-like head, whereas Japanese Akitas tend to be lighter and more finely featured with a fox-like head.

The coat of the Akita requires considerable grooming. Do not over-bathe as this will remove their coat’s natural waterproofing. Brush regularly to control shedding. The Akita has a heave shed twice yearly.

Akitas require a moderate amount of daily exercise, whether in the form of a walk or jog, or a good romp in an enclosed yard.

Some of the more common health issues in the Akita can include:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Patellar Luxation (and other knee problems)
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Gastric Dilation Volvulus (also know as “bloat” or “torsion;” requires immediate Veterinary intervention)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hypothyroid
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Polyarthritis Syndrome
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Sebaceous Adenitis
  • Entropion
  • Retinal Folds
  • Retinal Dysplasia
  • Degenerative Myleopathy
  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Uveodermatologic Syndrome
  • Pemphigus
  • Microthalmia

Behavior / temperament:
The first thing that should be kept in mind about the Akita is that they were bred for fighting as well as for a very good temperament. The Akita can be described only as fiercely devoted to their owner(s). While this seems a desirable trait to many, in the Akita it can lead to aggression towards people other than their owner(s). This is one breed where extensive, consistent socialization as a puppy, as early as possible, cannot be emphasized enough to prevent the later development of aggression, shyness to a grossly undesirable degree, suspiciousness, and even outright aggression toward other people.

All that said, the Akita is typically a dignified, composed, courageous, faithful, playful, and affectionate breed with their owner(s) and they will protect them with their life.

The Akita is rated high in learning rate; medium in obedience; high in problem solving. The Akita can be very domineering; therefore, an experienced owner who knows how to be firm, fair, consistent, and alpha is a necessity for the Akita. Please note the use of the phrase “experienced owner.” The word “owner” is pointed out because the training of an Akita cannot be left to a trainer or handler unless the only person you want them to obey is the trainer or handler! This is a “hand’s on” breed when it comes to training.

It is imperative that the owner(s) of the Akita establish their authority as soon as the puppy is acquired and maintain that dominance throughout the life of the dog. If the owner(s) do not establish that alpha position and, instead, entrust the training of their dog to a trainer or handler, the Akita will never see his owner(s) in the alpha position and the owner(s) will never be fully in control of the dog.

This is also the time when the puppy must be heavily socialized to people outside the family, as often and as regularly as the owner(s) can make it happen, even if it mean rearranging their usual schedule in order to get this vital socialization need met.

The Akita is known to challenge his owner(s) where matters of obedience are concerned – he is headstrong and his natural high level of intelligence will cause him to occasionally question your authority. Many owners have found that it necessary to physically take their Akita down in the proper manner of showing dominance, including shaking their scruff. You cannot force the Akita to do anything; instead, you must show them what they are to do. Never, ever hit or otherwise physically harm your Akita, or any dog, in order to show your dominance as doing so does not have the desired effect; rather, it will demonstrate to the dog that you are to be feared and, if you are feared, the natural instict is to strike out or run.

It vocalizes with many interesting sounds, but it is not an excessive barker. The Akita is far more likely to growl and grumble at strangers and intruders rather than bark. However, a bored Akita will become more vocal.


fluffy coat, original nanny dog, lovely life partner, strong guarding instincts


small animals, small children, strange people, high prey drive


firm hand, black masks, relatively silent dog, movie Hachi

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