Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Japanese Akita Inu
Average Cost to keep/care for a Japanese Akita Inu
The Japanese Akita Inu is a Spitz-type dog that originates from the mountain regions of northern Japan. There are in fact, two types being the American Akita and the Japanese Akita Inu, with dogs being differentiated by their coat colours. They are powerful, large dogs that command a lot of presence. The Japanese Akita Inu is not the sort of dog that would suit everyone and they are definitely not a good choice for first time owners because they need to be trained and handled by people who are familiar with the needs and character of such a large and dominant dog.
Japanese history credits the ancient Matagi as the foundation dog for the Akita breed. They are one of the country's oldest native dogs that were originally bed to hunt large game which included deer, wild boar and bears. There are some people who believe the Akita might have European and Asian dogs in their ancestry and this includes Mastiffs, Great Danes and the Tosa Inu. These dogs were introduced into the mix to create a courageous fighting dog. However, breed numbers fell during World War II when many Akitas were culled by the military and to prevent diseases from spreading. Many dogs were also eaten by their owners because of the lack of food during the war years.
Their numbers fell so low that German Shepherds were introduced into the breed with an end goal being to guarantee the Akita’s future. In 1931 the Akita was declared Japan's national dogs and further efforts were made to restore breed numbers. Thanks to careful and selective breeding this led to a breed standard being established in 1934 to ensure the purity of these proud and noble dogs. In 2006, the Akita Inu was recognised as a breed in its own right and it is thought they are the closest to the original breed with only four coat colours being accepted under the very strict breed standard.
Height at the withers: Males 63 - 68 cm, Females 58 - 63 cm
Average weight: Males 34 - 54 kg, Females 34 - 50 kg
The Japanese Akita Inu is a well-balanced, large dog and one that boasts having a sturdy, solid build. These Spitz-type dogs are slightly longer than they are tall and have dark eyes which all adds to a dog's very unique and distinctive look. Their heads seem round in shape when seen from the front thanks to a dog’s well-muscled cheeks. Their skulls are broad and quite flat with no wrinkles. They have a very clearly defined stop and a distinct and charming furrow. Their muzzles have a good depth being straight but tapering gradually to a dog's large, black nose. White coated dogs usually have flesh coloured noses which is acceptable in their breed standard. Lips are tight and have a dark pigmentation.
The Akita Inu's eyes are set moderately apart being quite small and almond shaped. Eyes are a dark brown and set obliquely on a dog's face with the rims being tight and dark. Their ears are thick being slightly hooded and triangular in shape with rounded tips. They are set moderately apart which dogs carry pricked and facing forward. The Akita Inu has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Necks are thick and very muscular being moderately long without any dewlap. They have a pronounced crest that blends in with the back of a dog's skull.
Shoulders are quite well laid back with well-developed muscles. Their front legs are nicely boned and straight when seen from the front. Female Akita Inus have slightly longer bodies than their male counterparts but both male and female dogs have strong, level backs and deep chests with nicely developed forechests. Ribs are moderately sprung with dogs having a well-defined tuck up and broad, well-muscled loins. Back legs are powerful and muscular with nicely developed thighs and feet are round, well arched and tight with firm, thick paw pads. Tails are set high being thick and full which dogs carry tightly curled over their backs.
When it comes to their coat, the Japanese Akita Inu boasts having a double coat that consists of a course, straight outer coat that stands well off the body which is longer at the withers and rump as well as being more profuse on a dog's tail and a much softer, dense undercoat that provides dogs with a lot of protection from the elements. The four accepted breed colours are as follows:
The Akita Inu is a very dignified dog both in looks and character, but they are not the best choice for everyone including first time owners. With this said, these noble large dogs form strong bonds with their owners and families, but they retain an independent side to their nature which can often border on them being quite stubborn. As such they need to be handled with a firm, yet gentle hand so they understand their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household. This is crucial to an Akita Inu's training because if they are allowed, they will take on the role simply because it is in their nature to be dominant.
They are known to be extremely clean dogs and can at times be quite cat-like in their cleaning habits which sees dogs washing their faces with their paws. Although they are affectionate and loyal to their immediate family, the Akita Inu tends to be a little reserved around people they don't know which can see them becoming territorial and showing a more aggressive side to their characters.
Although they are thought to have an affinity with children, their sheer size alone means they are not the best choice for families with toddlers, being better suited to households where the children are older and who therefore know how to behave around such a large dog.
The Japanese Akita Inu is an intelligent dog, but they are known to be independent by nature which can make training them a challenge and which is one of the reasons they are not a good choice for first time owners. They need to be trained and handled by people who are familiar with the needs of such strong and powerful dogs.
Their training has to start early and it must be consistent so dogs understand what is expected of them. The correct amount of early socialisation also goes a long way in being able to control such powerful dogs because it’s crucial for them to know their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household for them to be more manageable.
Japanese Akita Inus respond well to positive reinforcement, but do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction of heavier handed training methods which could result in a dog becoming aggressive. They need to be handled firmly, yet always fairly which brings the best out of these dogs. They have to know who they can look to for direction and guidance to prevent them from showing the more dominant side of their nature.
if trained correctly, will respond and learn quickly. When fully mature, he will accept as little or as much exercise as you care to give him.
The Japanese Akita Inu is best suited to households where the children are older and who therefore know how to behave around such imposing, large dogs. As such, Pets4homes advises that Akitas are not a good choice for families with babies or very young children.
Anyone who already shares a home with an Akita Inu where there are younger children should always make sure they are never left together unattended. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.
They can be a little "off" with other dogs which is especially true of male Akita Inus so care has to be taken when walking them in public places where other dogs are often exercised. This is why it's so important for Akita Inus to be well socialised from a young age which has to involve introducing them to as many other dogs as possible, but introductions always have to be done in a safe and secure environment. If they grow up with a family cat in a household, they generally get on well together. However, any contact between an Akita Inu and smaller animals and pets should be avoided.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Japanese Akita Inu is between 11 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like many other breeds, the Akita Inu is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these high energy, handsome dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Japanese Akita Inus need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Japanese Akita Inu boasts having a short, but very thick double coat which means they need to be groomed at least once or twice a week to remove all dead and loose hair. They shed profusely all year round, only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary to keep on top of things.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Japanese Akita Inu is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need to be given a minimum of 2 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible, but only in very secure environments. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a dog would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which can make living with such a large dog very difficult.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active, energetic dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Japanese Akita Inus are known to suffer from bloat, it is really important for them to be fed twice a day instead of giving a dog just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand for their feed bowls which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from gastric torsion.
If you are looking to buy a Japanese Akita Inu, you would need to pay anything from £250 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Japanese Akita Inu in northern England would be £53.79 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £72.18 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Japanese Akita Inu and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1100 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Japanese Akita Inu would be between £100 to £130 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 or other puppy.
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