Read up on what makes an Akita an Akita and whether this is the dog for you!! (courtesy of the Akita Club of America Public Education Committee)
1. Why is the Akita a good breed for the winter?
- Before Akitas had an “official” breed name they were referred to simply as "snow country dogs." The breed originated from the snowy, rural, mountainous region of Japan: Akita and Odate.
- Akitas were originally used to hunt bear and guard property. They have a thick double coat, which protects them from the elements. An Akita’s undercoat is thick, soft and shorter than the outer coat. This attribute in combination with their straight, harsh and standing somewhat “off the body” outer coat allows Akitas to be waterproof.
- “Long coats” are a fault in the Akita breed because ice sticks to their fur. It clumps up and may cause hypothermia leading to possible death. The Akita's coat is the perfect length, texture, and density in cold climates to not only insulate the dog, but to also keep the snow and ice off. That is why their coat should be rough and stand-off, not silky, too short or excessively long.
- Akitas have webbed toes to help walk on snow by distributing their weight more effectively. Historically, they keep their front dew claws because these "ice picks" help them climb out of icy water.
- When the weather turns cooler the dogs seem to have a “turbo” button that switches on. If there is snow on the ground, they will stay out all day hunting rabbit, squirrel, etc. in a securely fenced yard until relegated to come inside the house. It is safe to say they prefer colder weather, love eating snow, and rolling as a snow "scrub".
2. What should people know about your breed that makes it unique historically?
- The Akita is designated as a national monument in his native country of Japan.
- At one time, Akita ownership was restricted to the Imperial family and the ruling aristocracy; caring & feeding of the Akita were detailed in elaborate ceremony and special leashes were used to denote the Akita's rank and the standing of his owner.
- There is a spiritual significance attached to the Akita; when a child is born in Japan, the proud family will usually receive a small statue of an Akita signifying health, happiness, and a long life.
- The famous deaf, blind author and political activist (who considered the breed to be "gentle, companionable and trusty"), Helen Keller, is credited with bringing the first Akita into the United States in 1937.
3. What should people know about your breed that makes it special physically?
- Akitas coat can be any color including white, brindle or pinto. It may even be of long-coat type.
- An Akita’s trademark is the plush tail that typically curls over his back.
- Each dog has their own unique tail set; therefore when you see a group of Akitas’ tails, very few look the same.
4. Would you consider your breed of dog a good choice for a first time dog owner? Why? Why not?
- No - Akitas are large and powerful (often weighing over one hundred pounds and may be a substantial dog to handle daily).
- Akitas can also be strong-willed, so a dedication to formal obedience is necessary for a harmonious household.
- Akitas are intelligent and proud; therefore motivating them during training sessions can be a challenge.
5. Would you consider your breed of dog a good family dog? Why? Why not?
- Akitas are affectionate with their family and form strong bonds.
- The Akita will instinctively guard their owner’s home, which is one of the reasons they require extensive positive exposure to a variety of stimuli (people, places, and things) on and off their place of residence.
- Akitas tend to act aloof towards strangers and will need to learn that all people they do not know are not necessarily threats to them.
- Akitas are a breed that requires respect from all who encounter them (family, friends and strangers); a challenging concept for many people to process and implement in their actions towards them.
- Most households may not have the time to complete the level of obedience training and socialization that Akitas require in order to become well-adjusted companions and members of society.
6. What health issues are there with your breed?
- Bloat - Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV): a condition associated with stomach bloat. Akita dogs are particularly susceptible to this condition, when the stomach twists (also known as volvulus or "torsion") due to a variety of reasons. This condition is severe and requires immediate, emergency veterinary treatment. Akita owners should be alert to the symptoms of GDV and know the location of the nearest 24 hour veterinary medical facility. This condition without treatment (and sometimes with) is fatal.
- Thyroid problems and Autoimmune disorders
- Eye problems: Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): an adult-onset condition which gradual degeneration of the retina leading to blindness and cataracts.
- Canine hip dysplasia: a malformation of the hip joints that causes arthritis - reputable breeders test potential parents for this before breeding.
7. How trainable is your breed? Housebreaking? Obedience?
- Akitas respond best to respectful commands and positive training techniques that rely on motivation rather than force.
- Today, 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.
- The breed will groom itself like a cat, is clean, and housebreaking is usually not a problem.
8. What is your opinion on crate training?
- Crate training can be very valuable. For example, if an owner needs to leave their Akita at the vet or groomer, the dogs are usually housed in crates, runs, or pens. Therefore, a dog successfully exposed to a variety of confinement situations will be more relaxed and successful in the aforementioned stressful environments.
- Additionally, if an owner chooses to compete in conformation and/or performance events there are inevitably times when it may be a necessity to crate an Akita.
- Confinement training is best done when a dog is young and may be difficult with an older dog. Therefore, crate training is typically a plus for this breed all around.
9. Is there a myth about your breed that you would like to clear up?
- Akitas are listed by some insurance companies and represented in the media as "dangerous dogs". They are also a target of breed specific legislation (BSL).
- 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.
10. What are the grooming requirements?
- The breed has a thick double coat that should not be shaved.
- Usually two times per year the Akita "blows" out his coat by shedding heavily. c. Akitas require regular brushing and nail trimming year-round.
11. How much exercise will my dog need?
- An Akita’s exercise level is medium; therefore they will be happy with a good daily walk or jog.
- Akitas are not known to be an overly hyperactive breed, but they can both climb and dig, so a secure six foot fenced area is needed when confined outdoors.
- Akitas need to be an integral part of their family’s household, not one that is mainly kept as an “outside dog.”
- The Akita’s genetically strong hunting instinct requires that they should never be allowed to roam loose or off leash in an unfenced area.
12. If applicable, when should ears be cropped? Do I have to crop?
- Not applicable
- Akitas have naturally erect ears and therefore, should never be cropped.
13. I know all breeds were created to do a specific job. Is there something else that your breed is good at that may surprise people?
- Akitas are generally quiet and not prone to nuisance barking.
- Despite their quiet nature, they are natural guardians. They do not need and should not have special “watch dog” training.
- Akitas are working dogs (several hundred have been registered as therapy dogs) and can be seen visiting nursing homes/hospitals and doing reading programs with children at schools/libraries.