The striking and noble appearance of Japanese Akita attracts many admirers. The dogs are loyal and affectionate but can be aggressive to other animals and rather difficult to train. Their independent streak and tendency to escape demand a firm approach to training and a very secure garden. They are energetic dogs requiring regular exercise and can be wary of strangers.
Which breed group is the Japanese Akita in?
Breed group: Utility
Japanese Akita breed history
Named for the province where it is thought to have originated, the Japanese Akita dates back to the 17th century. Bred as a guard dog and for hunting game, the Akita was favoured by Japanese royalty. It is believed that the matagi was the foundation of the breed and that this was crossed with European dogs to produce the Akita that we know today.
In the 1920s, an Akita called Hachiko became famous for his loyalty. His owner, a professor, would return home daily at 3pm. The dog would meet him at the station every day. When the professor died, Hachiko continued his daily trips to the station until his own death. A statue of the dog was created to honour his devotion. The American author and activist Helen Keller was taken to the statue when visiting Japan and decided that she wanted an Akita of her own. She was presented with a puppy and later a second dog by the Japanese government.
Further Akitas were taken to America by servicemen following World War II. American Akitas evolved into more robust dogs than their Japanese cousins which are known as Akita Inu. Many people believed that the breed should remain true to its Japanese standard. The arguments delayed the acceptance of the Akita by the American Kennel Club and opinions remain divided. The breed wasn’t recognised in the UK until 2006.
Japanese Akita breed characteristics
These spitz-type dogs are slightly longer than they are tall. Their signature dark, almond-shaped eyes create a unique look. Their heads appear round when viewed front-on due to muscular cheeks and their broad heads feature a furrow. Muzzles taper towards black noses and the dogs’ lips are dark. (white Akitas may have flesh-coloured noses). Akitas’ ears are thick and partially hooded while their tails are bushy and carried tightly curled over the dogs’ backs. Double coats feature a course outer coat and dense undercoat. Akitas may be brindle, red fawn, sesame or white.
Valued for their loyalty and intelligence, Akitas are quiet and yet make for excellent guard dogs. They shed significantly and can be aggressive towards other dogs. While Akitas rarely bark, they are renowned for their other vocalisations which make them sound as if they are muttering under their breath!
- Lifespan: 11-15 years
- Height: up to 58cm
- Weight: up to 55kg
- Dark, almond-shaped eyes
- Broad cheeks
- Tapered muzzles
- Thick, partially hooded ears,
- Thick, curled tail
- Double coat
- Shed profusely
- Can be aggressive to dogs
- Don’t suffer from separation anxiety
- Low-maintenance coat
- Tendency to escape
- Rarely bark
Health issues with Japanese Akitas
Akitas are prone to numerous hereditary health problems which prospective owners should be aware of:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Congenital deafness (especially white dogs)
- Autoimmune Disease
- Lupus Erythematosus
- Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA)
- Von Willebrand’s disease
- Sebaceous Adenitis
- Cutaneous Asthenia
- Bloat/gastric torsion
What is the Japanese Akita bred for?
Originally bred to hunt, Akitas tend to have strong prey drives. They were used as guard dogs by royalty and the nobility in Japan and developed into protective companions.
What sort of owners does the Japanese Akita suit?
As Akitas can be skilled escapologists, they require homes with secure gardens. They don’t suffer from separation anxiety and so can be left at home on their own. However, they do require a considerable amount of exercise and can be boisterous. Their independent streak often verges on stubbornness, making them difficult propositions for first-time owners. Akitas shed profusely, especially in spring and autumn, and this could be a problem for the seriously house proud!
Akitas can be extremely protective of their food and must be left to eat alone. They may be aggressive to other dogs, particularly dogs of the same sex, while their strong prey drive makes them unsuitable for households with cats. They are wary of strangers but incredibly devoted to their owners and surprisingly affectionate.