The Japanese Akita is a large dog breed from the Spitz grouping, which originates, as the name suggests, in Japan! The Akita is one of the oldest recognised dog breeds in the world, and its history encompasses a long relationship with humans, and undertaking various different working roles including tracking and hunting large game, guarding roles, and home protection. The breed almost died out entirely during World War Two, but efforts to revive the breed were largely successful, and today, the Japanese Akita is well known both in its home country and across the world.
Due to their famous reputation for loyalty and bonding strongly with their families, and their large, impressive appearance, many people desire to keep an Akita as a family pet, both within the UK and further afield. However, it is fair to say that the Akita is a challenging dog to keep in terms of its training, management and temperament, and the decision to buy an Akita should not be entered into lightly. Within the UK, the Japanese Akita is listed as one of the breeds of dog most likely to be surrendered to rehoming shelters due to their owners not being able to manage them, so fully researching the breed prior to deciding that the Akita is right for you is vitally important.
In this article, we will provide a basic insight into the temperament and training requirements of this large, intelligent dog breed.
The Japanese Akita is renowned for being a very territorial dog, and will view their home, garden and other areas they visit regularly as part of their territory, and may be very defensive about them with strangers. In some countries, breed-specific legislation controls or prohibits ownership of the Akita for safety reasons, and while this is not the case within the UK, it is worth bearing in mind to ensure that you know what you are getting into and do not bite off more than you can chew!
They are very loyal to their immediate family and handlers, however, and are strongly protective of the people in their pack, particularly children; although they may also try to take the dominant role over the little people too!
Within the home, the Akita tends to be a quiet dog, and not one that is prone to being messy or destructive. However, as a large, powerful and active dog, they do need to be given plenty of opportunities to exercise, and provision should be made to walk them at least twice a day for at least an hour at a time, giving them plenty of opportunity to stretch their legs and work off their excess energy.
The Akita tends to be very territorial about the house, and displays strong guarding instincts.
The Akita requires a firm, consistent handler, and one that the dog can learn to respect and recognise as the alpha. Without this, the Akita will soon take the alpha role for themselves, and may become unmanageable and difficult to handle, as well as used to getting their own way.
Akitas are naturally wary of strange people, and introductions should be handled carefully. When inviting a newcomer into your home, it is important to introduce them to the dog properly, and discourage people from approaching your dog when out and about without checking with you first and meeting the Akita on a supervised basis.
While dogs are of course well known as pack animals, the Akita was not historically bred and kept in working groups and packs with other dogs, and is much more used to being kept either alone or as part of a pair. They are also known to be reasonably intolerant of other dogs of the same gender as themselves, something that the owner should bear in mind when walking their Akita in communal spaces.
When meeting other dogs, the Akita tends to take the dominant role, and may bully other dogs. Intensive socialisation and training when young can help to tackle this issue, but care should be taken when walking the Akita or allowing off the lead play in areas where other dogs are present.
The Akita is definitely not a good choice of dog for an owner who has never owned and trained a dog before, and if this is the position that you are in, you will almost certainly need to get some help.
The Akita requires firm, consistent and unambiguous positive reinforcement training from a handler that the dog accepts and respects as the alpha of their little pack. Incorrectly trained or managed, the Akita can soon become out of control and disobedient, and even snappy when they do not get their own way. It is important to set clear boundaries for the dog and stick to them, and to view training as an ongoing process that should be tackled and reviewed on an ongoing basis.