1. Key Breed Facts
2. Breed Characteristics
3. Looking for a Akita ?
8. Intelligence / Trainability
9. Children and Other Pets
11. Caring for a Akita
15. Average Cost to keep/care for a Akita
The Akita has fast become a popular breed in the UK and elsewhere in the world over recent times. The breed is native to Japan where these dogs are highly regarded not only for their dignified, proud looks, but also for their loyalty and devotion to their owners as well.
There are in fact two types of Akita which although very similar have slight differences in appearance with the Japanese Akita being quite a bit lighter and smaller than the American Akita. They are part of the "Spitz" type of dog and have been around for around 300 years in their native Japan where they were bred as fighting dogs, but this changed and Akitas were used to hunt deer, wild boar and black bears.
The Akita is an impressive looking and courageous dog, but one that needs to be well socialised and trained from a young age to be a truly well-rounded dog. As such they are not the best choice for first-time dog owners, but do very well with people who know how to handle and manage them.
Although as a breed the Akita was originally developed in Japan, it is thought their bloodlines can be traced much further back in time. They got their name from the northern region of Japan where they were originally bred called the Akita Prefecture, which is an isolated and exceptionally beautiful region of Japan. The breed was originally known as an Odate Dog and their name was only changed in 1931.
Their actual origin is a bit of mystery, but some believe that a Matagi-Inu dog did exist back in 8000 BC and 200 BC and that these dogs could well be an ancestor of the breed. It is also thought the Matagi-Inu was introduced by Mongoloid tribes from Korea who invaded Japan during that period of history.
As time progressed, fighting dogs became guard dogs which were in high demand in Japan all thanks to the Iron Age when more Japanese people moved from towns to live in rural areas. The need for aggressive watchdogs was due to the fact the crime rate went up dramatically with the influx of people to rural areas of the country. At the same time, foreign traders started to arrive in Japan with many of them taking these dogs back to Europe with them when they returned home.
It's thought that the Akitas we see today were the result of cross breeding the Matagi-Inu with Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, Bulldogs and the Shin-Akita. The end goal at the time was to produce a larger, more aggressive dog which as previously mentioned was in high demand back then. By the end of the 19th Century, records show the crossings were successful with larger, more courageous and aggressive dogs appearing ont the scene. However, pure bloodlines were becoming rarer and rarer which saw the powers that be of the land rule that any dogs with pure bloodlines were to be considered as national treasures.
The breed almost vanished off the face of the earth during World War II, but fortunately the Akita was saved in the nick of time when the Japanese government of the day rewarded anyone who could produce a champion dog by paying for the food and keep of these dogs. In 1950, just over one thousand Akitas were registered, but by the sixties the number of dogs doubled.
The breed was diversified in the early 20th century with the introduction of the 'American Akita'. In 1937 Helen Keller, the famous deaf blind linguist and activist, developed a fondness for the breed and was sent a dog named 'Kamikaze' who sadly died at a young age from distemper, but one of his litter mates named 'Kenzan-go' was sent over to her to replace the dog she lost. From this point the Japanese and the American breeds were bred differently from each other with Americans breeding dogs with heavier, larger physical traits while in Japan, breeders concentrated on producing smaller dogs. Today, the Akita is a well-recognised breed the world over and they have earned themselves the place in the hearts and homes of many people here in the UK too.
Height at the withers: Japanese Males 64 - 70 cm, Females 58 - 64 cm
Height at the withers: Amercian Males 66 - 71 cm, Females 61 - 66 cm
Weight: Japanese Males 32 - 39 kg, Females 50 - 65 kg
Weight: American Males 45 - 56 kg, Females 45 - 66 kg
Akitas are large and impressive looking dogs and they reflect perfectly the job they were originally bred to do. They boast large heads which are well proportioned in relation to the rest of their body. Their muzzle is strong, broad with well-developed cheeks. They have black noses and tight black lips although in lighter coloured dogs, a little pigmentation is perfectly acceptable as a breed standard.
An Akita's eyes are quite small, but nicely almond shaped set neatly apart and brown in colour although the rims are dark. Their ears too are quite small and triangular in shape with rounded tips and they are thickly set with dog's carrying them in a forward position. Their jaws are strong with a perfect scissor bite. Their necks are powerful, muscular and quite short compared to the rest of their body. They boast a pronounced crest on their necks and this blends in neatly with the rest of their coat at the back of a dog's head.
Their forequarters are powerful and their front legs are well boned and straight. One thing about Akitas is that their bodies are longer than they are high with males being slightly taller than their female counterparts. An Akitas chest is deep and broad and their backs are level and well muscled. Hindquarters are powerful, well muscled with strong thighs and back legs. Their feet are tight and well-knuckled with hard nails and pads. An Akita's tail is full and large with either a full or even a double curl which dogs carry over their backs. Tails do not have any feathering on them.
When it comes to their coat, an Akita boasts a very coarse, straight outer coat with a much softer and denser undercoat which offers these dogs a lot of protection against the elements. Their coats are longer in length around their withers and rumps but with no ruffs or feathering. Akitas can be any colour and this includes pinto and brindle with the one constant being that their colour should be brilliant. Any markings on their bodies or faces are well-defined which includes a mask or a blaze.
Akitas are very intelligent dogs, they are independent thinkers with strong characters which means these dogs are not the best choice for first-time dog owners. They need to be handled and trained using a gentle yet firm hand and they need to know their place in the pack to be a truly well-rounded dog. It's in an Akita's genes to protect which is what they have always been bred to do which is a trait that should never be forgotten in this breed.
Their independent thinking is often mistaken for stubbornness which is not true at all. The Akita is quick to learn new things and this means they are ultra quick to pick up any bad habits if they are allowed to or if they are not handled correctly.
Although robust and strong dogs, they are quite sensitive by nature which means they benefit from positive reinforcement training and do not respond well to any heavy handed handling. An Akita will form a very strong bond with an owner and they show their devotion in a calm and quiet way always wanting to know where an owner is, but never pestering them in any way.
They are known to be very good when around elderly people with many of them being used in retirement homes and hospices as therapy dogs. However, they are "bossy" dogs by nature and if left to their own devices will quickly display a dominant side to their character which is why they are not the best choice for first time dog owners.
Akitas are known to be intelligent, but they are "dominant" dogs by nature and as such they really do need to trained by someone who is familiar with this sort of bossy dog. Their education has to be started as early as possible because Akitas need to know who is the alpha dog in a household. If they are allowed to show the more dominant side to their character, these dogs become unmanagable and unruly which can make life difficult for everyone in a household.
Akitas do not respond well to any sort of harsh training or correction, but they do respond well to positive reinforcement. However, they need to be handled very firmly and fairly for them to become obedient, well-rounded characters. It's essential for their training to be consistent and to continue throughout their lives which is another thing that should never be overlooked when living with an Akita.
The Akita can be a good choice as a family pet for families with older children, but with this said, it really does depend on how an Akita is socialised when young as to how they react around children. It goes without saying that kids have to "behave" when they are around any dog and this includes how they act when they meet an Akita as to how the dog would react to them.
It also goes without saying that any interaction between children and dogs needs to be supervised by an adult to make sure nobody gets too boisterous and that things remain nice and calm.
Akitas can be aggressive around other dogs and they tend to see any small animals as "fair game" which means making sure a dog is well under control at all times when they meet other dogs, small animals or any other pet they have never encountered before. The one thing that should never be forgotten about an Akita, is their strong prey drive and although they could well accept being around a family cat, it would never be wise to trust with a cat or other pet they don't know which could well end up being disastrous.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of an Akita is between 10 and 11 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Akitas are generally pretty healthy dogs, but they are known to suffer from certain hereditary and acquired disorders as well as being very sensitive to drugs often used in veterinary care and more especially to anaesthetics. The health disorders the breed is more prone to suffer from includes the following:
As with any other breed, an Akita needs to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in tip-top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to make sure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, an Akita needs to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Akitas have thick coats and they do tend to shed quite a bit which means they need a lot in the way of grooming to keep on top of any loose hair. These dogs love a routine which means it's always a good idea to set up a daily or weekly grooming session which a dog would then look forward to. Puppies need to be taught early that grooming and touching ears, paws and nails is a nice experience and one they find extremely pleasant enjoying the one-to-one attention they are given.
As with other breeds, the Akita sheds the most during the Spring and then again in the autumn when more frequent brushing would be necessary. These dogs also really benefit from being professionally groomed at least three times a year. When it comes to bathing, this needs to be a few times a year or when necessary. However, getting an Akita's coat wet is not as easy as it sounds which is why it's often easier to leave the task up to a professional groomer who would also ensure a dog's coat is completely dried off after they've been bathed too.
Akitas are large and very intelligent dogs which means they need to be given a lot of daily exercise and mental stimulation to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. Ideally, an Akita needs to be taken for a good hour's walk twice a day and if possible to let them off their leads so they can really let off steam. However, this should only be done in a safe environment where there are no other animals or livestock around due to an Akita's a high prey drive. It's important never to forget these dogs were bred for hunting, a trait they still retain.
Akitas should be let out into a back garden as often as possible, but the garden needs to be made ultra-secure or you may find a dog would find their way out of it when the mood takes them and they are known to be great escape artists.
Akitas have a tendency to suffer from bloat/gastric torsion and as such it's not a good idea to feed them one big meal a day. It's far better to split the amount you feed a dog into two meals and feed them once in the morning and then again in the evening.
Puppies need to be fed a good quality, well-balanced diet and the breeder would have given you their feeding schedule when you picked the puppy up from them. It's essential to keep to a feeding routine when you first get a puppy or you may find they suffer a serious tummy upset. You can change their diet, but this needs to be done gradually over a period of time and if a puppy gets an upset tummy to put them back on their original diet. You should then discuss things with the vet before attempting to change their food again.
Older dogs need to be fed a good quality, well-balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs. Although Akitas are not known to be fussy eaters, it would be a mistake to put them on a lower quality dog food because it would not contain the right levels of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients a dog needs to remain healthy.
If you are looking to buy an Akita , you would need to be prepared to pay anything from £300 to well over £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3 year old Akita in northern England would be £52.58 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £70.55 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate pet insurance, they factor in a few things and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and breed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Akita which includes their initial vaccinations, their boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which can quickly add up to well over a £1200 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Akita would be between £110 to £140 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Akita puppy.
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