Welcome to the Akita, a companion dog experience like no other. Whether your goal is a family pet, a show dog, or obedience competition, we are excited about your interest and obvious good taste. Our organization, the Akita Club of America is a member club of the American Kennel Club. Our goals are to educate the public concerning Akitas, and to further establish the breed in a healthy, positive fashion. This brochure is intended to familiarize you with the Akita.
History The Akita is native to Japan. Its exact origin is not clear, but this ancient breed dates as far back as 500 BC. The Akita in Japan holds a very esteemed, almost mystical reputation. In the early years the Akita was restricted to Royalty. The Akita was used as a palace guard, and wore ceremonial leashes and collars that identified the rank or nobility of its owner. The people who attended to the dogs also wore ceremonial outfits, and spoke in a separate dialect to the dogs.
As the horrible sport of dog fighting gained popularity, the Akita's size, strength, and spirit made it an obvious favorite in the pits. For years Akitas were bred to cultivate size and aggression. The Japanese government realized that the future of the breed was at stake, declared the breed a national treasure, and outlawed the sport of dog fighting. But it was these centuries of breeding that created the dog aggressive tendencies you will still find today in varying degrees.
In the twentieth century the Japanese government still guarded the Akita jealously. The dogs were rarely allowed out of the country, and when they were it was usually as a gift to a foreign dignitary. The first Akita in the United States was a gift from the Japanese Foreign Minister to the well-known Helen Keller. And as World War II ended, the returning soldiers began to bring the dogs back to the states with them. The Akita gained popularity quickly in the states and was
recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1956 in the miscellaneous class. The Akita was allowed to compete for championship points in 1973.
Physical Appearance The Akita always makes a lasting first impression. Akitas are large, powerful dogs with substantial bone and musculature. The broad chest and neck serve as a solid base for the Akita's large head, the Akita's most distinguishing feature. The broad skull and the short muzzle form a blunt triangle when viewed from above. The massive head in combination with the small triangular shaped eyes, and small erect ears give the Akita an intimidating, yet dignified,
The Akita is a very balanced looking dog, being only slightly longer than it is tall. The tail is curled and carried over the back, which serves to balance with the dog's head. Typically the male Akita is substantially larger than the female. The males range in weight from about 100 to 130 pounds, from 70 to 100 pounds.
The coat of the Akita has the appearance of the typical northern breeds. The double coat is short to moderate in length, but very dense. The coat consists of two layers. The undercoat is very soft and is the primary insulator, while the outer coat, or the guard hairs, is slightly longer and more coarse. The Akita is very well suited to the coldest of climates, and while they might not enjoy hot weather, their coat does lighten considerably in the warmer months to compensate for the heat.
Temperament: The personality of the Akita is very complex. While temperaments vary, most would agree that the Akita is very intelligent, extremely loyal, and can exhibit aggressive tendencies. The aggressive tendencies are almost exclusively towards other dogs of the same sex. Typically, Akitas are not aggressive towards people, but do have a very well developed guarding and protective instinct. Akitas also have a high and well-developed prey drive. An Akita is not likely to shower affection on someone that is not a member of his family or a close friend that he sees frequently.
The loyalty and devotion displayed by an Akita is phenomenal. The typical pet Akita will follow you from room to room, yet has the uncanny ability not to be under foot. Your Akita lives his life as if his only purpose is to protect you, and spend time with you. This trait is evident in a favorite tale told by Akita owners all over the world. This tale is the story of Hachiko. In Tokyo, Hachiko would accompany his master to the train station every morning, and return to retrieve him every afternoon. Hachiko's master was a professor at Tokyo University, and one day he died at work. It is said that every day for the rest of the dog's life, Hachiko returned to the train station twice daily looking for his master. The story was quite famous in Tokyo, and the general public cared for the dog until his death. Hachiko is preserved in a museum in Tokyo, and a statue stands at the train station in tribute to his undying devotion. And to this day the statue is a popular romantic place for lovers to meet.
The Akita as a House Pet Even though Akitas are large, hardy dogs that can withstand the elements, they have been bred for centuries to be house companions. The two most outstanding characteristics of the Akita as a house pet are, that they are very clean dogs, and that they are very easy to housebreak. Akitas have been described as almost "cat-like" they are so clean and odorless. This may also be one of the reasons why they housebreak so easily. Most Akitas respond so well to housebreaking that they are trained in a matter of weeks.
As far as the family children are concerned, there are a few worries. Akitas are devoted, patient friends and protectors of children. Akitas are typically very gentle with children, and it is said that Japanese mothers often left their children with only the Akitas to watch over and protect them. Of course with a new baby entering into a home with an Akita, proper introductions and precautions should be taken until the Akita understands the situation. Of course, young children should never be left unsupervised with large dogs of any breed, as the potential for an accident is not worth the risk.
Is the Akita the Dog for Everyone? Right about now, you are probably thinking . . . What's the catch? Well, the Akita is not the right dog for everyone. The person who assumes responsibility for an Akita MUST be able to take control of the dog at an early age. This means that the person has to be the dominant party in this relationship. Dominance is more a state of mind, but you must also be prepared to physically dominate the dog if necessary. Akitas, as with most dogs, live their lives in a pack environment, whether the pack be animals or people. If you are not willing to be the leader of the pack, the Akita most certainly will. So the Akita owner must have the energy and will to keep a firm, consistent discipline as the dog matures. A little work and persistence in training in the early months with an Akita will reap you huge benefits as a well-behaved member of the family down the road. (John Newland, President, ACUMW)
Is the Akita the Right Dog for You?
Before you buy an Akita puppy, THINK: What do I want my dog to be like? How will this dog fit into my lifestyle? What is my living situation? Consider what your needs are and what the dog's needs will be. Do they conflict? Think of the dogs you've enjoyed owning in the past. Were they easygoing or intense? Self-willed, or independent; outgoing or reserved; placid or energetic? Then ask yourself if you have the TIME needed to devote to socializing, training, and loving your dog.
The Akita is an extremely intelligent, large, energetic, and strongly territorial dog whose life is oriented toward his owners. If he is the right dog for you, he is one of the most rewarding breeds to own, but this is also a demanding breed, and should not be casually added to the household on a whim.
Will you enjoy owning an Akita? If you are looking for a bright, sensitive, responsive dog with whom you will be able to spend time, will be able to train and will be protective and loyal and devoted to you and your family for the rest of his life, then perhaps you will enjoy owning an Akita.
The Akita can be a guard dog. He feels that one of his jobs is to protect his family. You don't need to train him to do this; it comes naturally to him. He will be watchful of people on your property, expressing suspicion with a low rumble; Akitas are not barkers. They quickly learn to differentiate between strangers and friends. Akitas are not tolerant of other dogs especially those of the same sex. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD AN AKITA BE ALLOWED TO ROAM THROUGH THE NEIGHBORHOOD!!
The Akita, although a large dog, does not require huge amounts of exercise. Like any dog, an Akita will thrive on a moderate amount of exercise and enjoys playing energetically. You will be happier and so will your dog if you choose a breed that fits into your present lifestyle. Don't expect to change your way of life once you've acquired a dog.
Akitas do not shed on a continual basis; however, they do "blow their coats" about twice a year. As the new coat is beginning to grow into place, large tufts of hair will loosen. The coat can be easily removed by using an undercoat rake or wire slicker brush. The dog seems to enjoy this extra attention and if done on a regular basis as the coat is shedding, the new coat will come in more quickly.
The Akita is a working dog. The working dog group includes some of the most intelligent breeds of dogs. You'll be amazed at how quickly he learns, and at the number of things you can teach him. But his intelligence carries an obligation with it. An Akita won't be happy if left alone in a pen or house all day. A working dog enjoys life most when he is given a responsibility and a job to do, whether the job is obedience, baby-sitting, backpacking, or hunting. The Akita demands your attention and thrives on it when trained and worked regularly.
DON'T BUY AN AKITA because of the pictures you've seen, stories you've read or because they are the "IN THING". MEET THE DOGS. Watch them at shows and visit them at home. There is a big difference between a cute eight-week-old ball of fur and a full grown adult. If, after all of that, you still want an Akita, then welcome to a most pleasurable experience. (ACA, Inc. - compiled by S. Thomas 1992) (Updated by Nadine Gilomen 1993)
Facts About Akitas . . . The Akita is a Japanese breed and in his native country, the Akita has been declared a national treasure. An Akita in a home is believed to be a symbol of good health, prosperity and good fortune. Helen Keller brought the first Akita to the United States in 1937.
. . . Akitas do not bark unless there is a good reason. When an Akita is barking, pay attention. . . . Akitas are natural guardians of the home and do not require any training to turn them into guard dogs. When there is a reason to protect family and property, your Akita will act to do so
. . . Akitas are inherently aggressive toward other animals and for this reason, they should not be allowed to run free or roam at will. You can exercise your Akita off leash when you are in an area where contact with other animals and people is unlikely
. . . Male Akitas show aggression toward other male dogs, and female Akitas usually will not tolerate another female. Akitas can live peacefully with a dog of the opposite sex, though some Akitas prefer being an only dog!
. . . Akitas may consider small animals as prey and hunt them. This includes cats, rodents, birds, small wildlife and small dogs. Akitas can be raised to accept animals in residence. Some adult Akitas can even be trained to fit into a home where other animals are already established. It is, however, imperative that the Akita be closely watched around the other animals until you have established a peaceful co-existence.
. . . Akitas are VERY food possessive. If you have other pets, you will want to be certain the Akita is given it's own food bowl or treat well away from any other animals and that no other animal is allowed near the Akita until the food is gone.
. . . Akitas not raised with children are not always tolerant of small children and the Akita should never be left alone with a child until you are certain you have a dog who adores all children. Often, Akitas raised with children will tolerate their own children but may not accept the neighborhood kids. As a general rule it is wise not to leave an Akita or any large dog alone with children under 12 years of age.
. . . Akitas do not like to be teased and can respond by biting. Some children are allowed to treat animals unkindly, a behavior that often leads to cruelty to animals. These children should be kept away from an Akita, whose large size and hunting instincts can endanger the child's life.
. . . Akitas like to take charge - an inherited trait from their wolf ancestry - and may at some time, challenge you for the dominant position. This behavior cannot be tolerated and a firm, consistent correction should be your immediate response. Akitas with good temperament accept discipline well - not beating, but intelligent discipline. A good scruff shaking is an effective form of discipline for an Akita. Frequently, a firm verbal command will get your point across.
. . . Akitas should be obedience trained BY their owner and not sent away to school like other breeds! A good obedience class, perhaps beginning with puppy kindergarten, will guarantee you a firm bond with your dog and a well-behaved dog.. Remember though, Akitas are extremely intelligent and tend to get bored easily. They learn quickly, so short training periods are suggested. This keeps the dog from becoming bored. Akitas are also very stubborn and when the dog thinks it's a waste of time to "sit" or "stay" one more time, he will simply walk away! Obedience training requires patience!
. . . Some Akitas are talkers! They may grunt, groan and mumble to entertain themselves and you. This conversational verbalizing IS NOT growling and should not be interpreted as a growl, which sounds quite different. Akita "talking" is an endearing trait and should not frighten you. After living with your dog, you will easily distinguish between talking and growling.
. . . Most Akitas enjoy carrying things around in their mouth, including your wrist! They may take you by the wrist to lead you to the cookie cupboard or to their lead. It is not an aggressive act, it is an endearing trait. Try allowing your Akita to bring in the newspaper or the mail. They love to do these types of jobs.
. . . Akitas are very family-oriented and are not happy when kept apart from the family. If you do not plan on having your dog live with you inside both your home and yard, you should not seriously consider an Akita for a pet.
. . . Akitas are not hyperactive and fit into a sedentary household, but for optimum health for both YOU and your Akita, regular exercise is important.
. . . Akitas will live from 10-14 years with good care and proper nutrition.
. . . Hypothyroid disease affects a large percentage of the breed and is easily treated by twice daily hormone replacement therapy. A simple blood test, including a T3 and T4 thyroid levels test, will determine the existence of the condition. The symptoms may include one or all of the following: skin and coat problems, sudden onset aggression, itching, lethargy, and musky odor. Before treating skin conditions with any drugs, have your vet check for sarcoptic mange, sebaceous adenitis, and Hypothyroid disease. Other diseases found in Akitas include Progressive Retinal Atrophy (blindness) manifested by impaired night vision, hip and elbow problems, autoimmune diseases, degenerative myelopathy, and some blood disorders, though these are not common problems in the breed.
. . . Akitas require a good quality meat and bone meal based food and do not thrive as well on soybean based dog foods. Akitas 7 years and older should be fed one of the commercial LITE foods to lessen the onset of kidney disease which is a problem in older Akitas. (Akita Rescue Society of America)
How to Choose a Reputable Breeder: When you are looking at a cute bundle of black fur the important facts about just who is offering this Akita pup for sale may escape you. Often the buyer takes the darling pup home only to find out later that the person who sold the pup is either unable or unwilling to help the buyer.
Come-ons like "A.K.C. Registered", "CH. Bloodlines", etc., in no way assure that you are getting a quality pup or that you are dealing with a reputable breeder. Big flashy ads in national magazines may be impressive, but what do you really know about the advertiser? Unethical breeders thrive because the average buyer is uninformed. Some buyers do less research on the purchase of a pup than they do on a new washing machine! Armed with knowledge, you can avoid being "taken in". Remember that "AKC registered" is not a guarantee of quality; it simply means that the pup is registered, and that even the most poorly bred dogs have "CH. bloodlines".
You will need a breeder who is available to you for the many questions you will have on rearing your dog, feeding, basic obedience, housebreaking, etc. You'll need someone who knows what makes the Akita tick. If you are interested in showing/breeding, you need a breeder who will help you get started in training and entering shows.
It does not cost any more to buy from a good breeder, and in fact, the "bargain" Akita may end up costing more in problems than a show pup! Your best possible choice of a breeder is a "hobby breeder". Stress is placed on the word hobby. The dedicated hobby breeder views his dogs as a hobby from which he expects no profit. When an individual breeds dogs for enjoyment, with the AKC Standard as a goal rather than a profit motive, the end result is superior pups. Such a breeder feels responsible for each little pup and stands behind every dog he has bred.
You should have certain requirements in order to assure that you are making a wise purchase. 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. The second requirement is that the breeder be involved in showing his dog(s). At this point you may be asking "But I only want a pet! I'm not interested in showing so what difference could that make to me?" PLENTY! For one thing, showing dogs gives the breeder the same opportunity that belonging to a club does. It gives the breeder a chance to share information and thoughts with others. Showing provides the competition that makes breeders want to produce better dogs. Breeders who do show are putting everything on the line; they are not depending on impressive pedigrees to carry them. They wish to show how good their dogs are in competition. "Show people" are not necessarily jet setters or even very wealthy people. On average, they are just ordinary people who want to prove that the dogs they breed are worthy. Every dog that a breeder raises may not be worthy of being shown. In every litter there will be those pups that are strictly pet quality. However, a breeder who does not show his dogs has no idea how his dogs would fare in competition and deprives himself of the learning experience that showing provides. OK, so maybe you don't want a "show dog", but don't you want a pet that was the end result of a carefully planned litter, rather than the result of an accident or a litter bred for profit alone? Don't you want a pet that got the same care as the potential champions in the litter? The breeder who shows is known by others in the breed, he has a reputation to maintain. He is more likely to be careful and honest.
BEFORE YOU BUY, read the checklist of questions to ask the breeder and read the ACA or your local Breed Club's CODE OF ETHICS. It would behoove you to use these tools in questioning the breeders you contact. (Akita Club of America)
Checklist for the Puppy Buyer
- Be sure the pups come from American Kennel Club registered parents, and insist on seeing the registration papers.
- Ask for proof that both the sire and dam have been x-rayed for hip dysplasia and cleared of eye diseases. Make sure the sire and dam x-rayed normal, and their eye exam showed no abnormalities. It's one thing to say, "Oh yes, they've both been x-rayed" or “A vet checked their eyes”. Let's see if they're both normal. Ask to see the OFA and CERF certificates; if the parents are not OFA'd or CERF’d, ask to call the vets for x-ray information and eye information.
- Be sure the pups have been wormed for ascarids, and have been given the necessary vaccinations (Parvo, Distemper, Lepto, Hepatitis, etc., according to the age of the puppy). This should be in writing.
- Be sure the breeder provides you with a health record and directions for feeding the pup. Information on supplements and how often to feed are quite important.
- Read a copy of the A.K.C. Standard for the Akita so that you will know something about the requirements for the breed. There are size limitations, for instance. A puppy from parents barely making the breed standard in height will not likely grow comfortably to the 25" height required for Akita males, or the 23" height required for the Akita females.
- Observe the parents. Is the dam friendly? If she panics and hides under a table, how many of the pups will take after her? If you want a personable, outgoing puppy you had better buy one produced by a personable, outgoing dam. Same goes for the sire of the litter.
- If you are buying a male pup for show or breeding make sure the testicles have dropped into the scrotum. If a testicle is retained and the seller still wants you to take the pup, make sure the seller puts it in writing . . . dated . . . that he guarantees the other testicle to drop within a reasonable period. Most testicles are down and stable by the time the pups are six weeks old. If you are still waiting for one to drop at four months, you have a problem. Even if the testicle does drop that late, the dog is NOT a good bet for breeding. Your Veterinarian will explain. A dog with a retained testicle should be neutered, as cancer can develop.
- Akitas may have a variety of problems you should be aware of, such as long silky hair, flopped ears (in a pup 8 months or older), sickle tail, splayed feet, entropion (your vet can explain this to you). Be cautious of buying a pup with really runny eyes. Hernias require surgery. A true hernia gives the pup a large (quarter-sized) bulge in the abdominal area.
- The tail must curl. The lips, eye rims and nose should be black. The pup should look well fed, but if the belly is too distended it might be full of worms rather than food. The pup should show no signs of limping and should be able to use its legs easily in a trotting gate.
- The pup should have a jolly attitude. He should look well fed and cared for. He should be easy and comfortable in the company of his litter-mates and breeder. Take the time to observe the pups. Watch how they play. Remember . . . Akitas live to be about 10-14 years of age. That's a long time to live with a dog. How nice if you and the dog are good companions. How dreadful if you and the dog don't like each other after a couple of months. People that buy and get rid of pups every few months are missing the fun of a good relationship with a dog . . . a relationship that requires time to make it mellow.
- Akitas can also have eye problems: cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), etc. Both dam and sire should have eye checks dated within the past year. Ask to see the certificates. (Akita Club of America)
If what you have read piques your interest in the Akita, and you would like to know more about the Akita Club of America, or the Akita in general, please feel free to contact an Akita Club of America board member.