Japanese Akita

The Japanese Bear Hunting Dog has a fierce reputation but what makes them such a loveable pet? Take a look at our guide below to learn all about the Akita!

japanese akita ready for a walk

Height: Male 26-28 inches, female 24-26 inches
Japanese Akita Weight: Male 45-59 kilos, female 32-45 kilos
Lifespan: 10-13 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Below are the positives and negatives of the Japanese Akita dog.

Pros:

  • Fantastic watchdog and guard dog
  • Extremely loyal
  • Tolerant to very cold weather
  • Easy to housebreak

Cons:

  • Heavy shedder and drooler
  • Not suitable for first-time owners
  • Prone to weight gain
  • Prone to wanderlust

japanese akita on sand

Overview

The Akita Inu is a powerful, dominant, and muscular breed that isn’t for the faint-hearted! Irresponsible ownership can lead to an aggressive and unmanageable dog.

These canines were bred to guard and protect, an instinct that is still seen today. Despite the related background, they’re a completely separate breed from their cousins the American Akita.

The Japanese Akita size is simply intimidating and horror stories have been told in the past.

Whilst many Akitas do well in family environments, they can be wary of children they don’t know.

Although rare, kids that have bent down to stroke this dog have been perceived as a threat and attacked in the past. Intense socialization is needed throughout their lives.

Due to their thick coat, Akitas do well in harsh winter climates, but summer is different story! They’re prone to heatstroke and must be walked during the cooler periods of the day.

Heavy panting, difficulty breathing, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhoea are all symptoms to look out for.

Akita puppies have won the hearts of many across the world including celebrities. In 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin received an Akita as a gift from Japan.

Yume has remained a loveable companion ever since! Even the London zoo is impressed with its bravery and partnered the dog with an abandoned tiger cub!

japanese akita winter portrait

History

The Akita originates from the Akita Prefecture, Northern Japan and has been in existence since the 1600s.

The breed is prized in its native land and was listed as a Natural Monument in 1931.

They’re a symbol of health, protection, and long life. In Japan, small statues of the dog are gifted to newborn babies.

Akitas were bred to be guard dogs, fighting dogs and hunters. Their typical prey includes elk, deer, boar, and the black grizzly bear.

At one stage they could only be owned by Japanese Royalty. Noble warriors known as the Samurai were accompanied by the Akita until the 1800s.

Crossbreeding in the 20th century affected the dog’s typical aesthetics. This resulted in a complete overhaul to breeding standards.

The Hokkaido Inu and the Matagi helped reform the breed. American Akitas are believed to have descended from crossbred Akitas, therefore, are not accepted by Japanese standards.

Hachiko is arguably the most famous Akita in history, proving the breeds undeniable loyalty.

Every day he would take his owner to work, waiting at the station. One day in 1925, his owner Professor Ueno, suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage.

For 9 years until his death, Hachiko waited at the station every day. In his honour, a statue was erected at Shibuya train station.

The Japanese government began culling non-service dogs for meat during World War II. This almost led the Akita to extinction!

Today, the breed is a family companion and guard dog. They also work alongside Japanese police and military personnel.

Personality

Akita Temperament:
The Akita is extremely loyal, loving and devoted towards its family. However, their previous guard dog past makes them highly territorial.

The potential for aggression is there, especially if they lack socialization. Only those with experience in powerful breeds should consider this dog. First-time owners… steer clear!

japanese akita standing on lawn

What makes the Akita unique is their occasional feline tendencies. They like staying clean and are known to lick themselves just like cats!

In the past, Akitas were known as ‘silent hunters’ but that isn’t so much the case now. Some Akitas like to bark and howl as a form of communication.

Their first training sessions should involve learning the Quiet command.

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Are Akitas Good with Strangers?

No, the Akita is aloof and reserved with strangers. As a natural guard and watchdog, they’re on constant alert. A well-socialized Akita will tolerate strangers, but won’t be overly friendly.

Some will ignore those they don’t know as if they aren’t even there… so long as they don’t pose a threat!

Are Akitas Good with Children?

Yes, the Akita can be a great addition to a family with older children, given the right socialization and training. They’re tolerant, loving, loyal, and protective of kids in their household.

Dogs used for guarding purposes are best kept away from family environments. Due to their large size, smaller children could be knocked over accidentally.

Are Akitas Ok with Other Dogs?

No, Akitas are dog-aggressive especially to those of the same sex. They display dominant behaviour which can spark confrontations in the dog park.

Wary by nature, an Akita will need constant socialization throughout their lives to enable comfortability around other dogs. Ideally, they should live in a single pet household.

Exercise

The Japanese Akita requires more than two hours of exercise each day. Set aside one hour for the dog to partake in vigorous play.

They make excellent jogging partners and enjoy long walks with their family. Akitas are suitable for smaller living spaces provided their activity needs are met.

Akitas have webbed feet enabling them to swim well. It’s a great form of activity! Whilst some may show an interest in the water, not every dog will take to it.

Due to their hunting background, Akitas have a strong prey drive. They should only be exercised off-leash in enclosed spaces.

japanese akita on bed

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Health

Check out the breed-related health conditions of the Akita dog breed below:

  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus- A potentially fatal condition causing the dog’s stomach to twist, trapping food and gases inside. Immediate veterinary attention required.
  • Hip Dysplasia- Poor development of the hip joint will cause the ball and socket to rub against one another. This can cause pain and over time, arthritis.
  • Entropion- The eyelid abnormally rolls inwards. The eyelashes scratch the surface of the eye which can cause pain, conjunctivitis, perforations, and ulcers.
  • Ectropion- The eyelid rolls outwards exposing the tissues normally hidden beneath. This will cause dryness to those tissues.
  • Glaucoma– An increase of intraocular pressure within the eye, will cause pain and eventual loss of vision.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy- The photoreceptor cells of the eye deteriorate, eventually causing blindness.
  • Cataracts- A cloudiness appears after a change of lens in the eye. If large enough, this can stop light from reaching the retina, thus causing blindness.
  • Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia– Folds within the retina’s tissue fade potentially causing blind spots in vision.
  • Hypothyroidism- A common endocrine condition affecting the dog’s thyroid glands. It will cause issues with a dogs metabolism.
  • Sebaceous Adenitis- An inflammatory skin condition causing scaling to the skin and alopecia.
  • VKH Type Syndrome- Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome is more commonly seen in male Akitas than any other breed. An immune disease where the T-Cells (similar to white blood cells) attack the eyes, coat, and skin of the dog.

Intelligence & Training

Most Japanese Akita information out there will tell you this breed won’t be easy to train. This dog is strong-willed and independent.

They’re instinctively inclined to protect and will quickly dominate an inexperienced owner. Akita’s are sensitive and whilst they can handle firm training, they will lose interest if this become harsh.

A Japanese Akita puppy must never be allowed to push boundaries. Correction should be issued instantly otherwise unruly behaviour could become the norm in adulthood.

japanese akita standing on road

The training period is crucial. Socialization should start the moment an Akita puppy enters their new home. Otherwise, they’ll be aggressive towards strangers and dogs.

Get this dog into a routine, so they know what is expected of them. Akitas are highly intelligent and will need mental stimulation to prevent boredom.

Training will be needed throughout an Akita’s life to nurture them into an obedient dog.

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Grooming

Akitas shed heavily, especially in the Spring and Autumn seasons. Don’t be surprised to find clumps of fur around the home!

Most of the time, they keep themselves clean preventing typical doggy odour. Their double-coat is luxurious to the touch and will need a brush 2-3 times a week to keep it in tip-top condition.

A slicker brush is best but a de-shedding rake is much more useful during the blow out seasons. Ideally, baths should be given every 6 weeks but some may only need a wash 2-4 times a year.

japanese akita on snow

Blow-dry their coat to remove moisture. Keep it on a low heat to avoid brittle, damaged fur.

A yeast and bacteria build-up in the ear canal can lead to infections. Avoid this by cleaning the ear from debris once each week.

Nails will need a trim every fortnight. To prevent gum disease, brush the Akita’s teeth three times a week. Familiarise this breed with grooming techniques as early as possible.

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