Akita: The Ultimate Guide


Akitas are also known by the names Akita Inu, Japanese Akita, American Akita, and the Great Japanese Dog.

Akita The Ultimate Guide

Key facts

Average lifespan

On average, an Akita will live for 10 to 13 years.

Minimum exercise (per day)

The Akita is a very high-energy breed and needs a decent amount of regular exercise. They should have a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day. They are ideal for hiking or jogging companions. We do not recommend taking them out on runs or hikes until they have turned 2 as the strenuous exercise could put undue strain on their developing joints.

Coat length

Akitas have a short double-coat. There are some outliers in the breed, and it is not impossible to see the occasional long-coated puppy in a littler. This is because the long coat is a recessive gene and only appears infrequently.

Their coat comes in a range of colors from black and brown to fawn, red, white, silver, and brindle. They will often have markings on which are black, pinto, or white.

Minimum cost (per month)

After the first year of ownership, the average monthly cost of an Akita is around $163. During the first year, average monthly costs equate to around $368.

Appearance

Size

This is a medium to large dog breed.

Average height

There is a slight discrepancy in height between the Japanese and American breeds. Both exhibit sexual dimorphism, where the males are larger than the females.

The Japanese Akita males will range from 25 to 27.5 inches tall at the withers. The females will range from 22.5 to 25 inches tall.

The American Akita males will range from 26 to 28 inches tall at the withers. The females will range from 24 to 26 inches tall.

Average weight

As with the height, there is a discrepancy between the Japanese and American Akitas.

The Japanese Akita males will weigh between 110 and 140 pounds. The females will weigh between 70.5 and 86 pounds.

The American Akita males will weigh between 100 and 145 pounds. The females will weigh between 100 and 123 pounds.

Temperament

Apartment living

Akitas are not well suited to apartment living. They need a lot of space to roam about to keep them mentally stimulated. An apartment is simply too small for these dogs to thrive in and it is cruel to contain them in this way.

Good for novice owners

Due to their stubborn temperament, Akitas are not recommended as a first dog. It will be better for everyone, the dog included, for them to be with a more experienced owner.

Akita Guide

Sensitivity level

Akitas are quite a sensitive dog breed and will need to be treated with care, love, and kindness. They thrive in a setting that has a solid and established routine. They do not cope well with irregular routines, a lot of noise, or a constant stream of house guests.

Tolerates being alone

Akitas are a sociable breed and do not cope well with being left alone for extended periods.

Tolerates cold weather

Akitas are very hardy dogs and are quite fond of the winter months and cooler temperatures. They are originally from the colder mountainous regions of Japan and have evolved to cope with colder climates. The double coat helps to insulate them against low temperatures.

Tolerates hot weather

Akitas do not enjoy hot weather as much as they do cold. They are generally okay in temperatures of up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. You will notice their activity levels dropping as temperatures rise above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and they will begin to become lethargic.

Affectionate with family

This is a very loyal and protective breed of dog. Once they have bonded with your family, they will be incredibly affectionate and loving.

Kid-friendly

Akitas are naturally suspicious animals and should be closely supervised around children. This is particularly important during the initial few meetings. When introducing your Akita to new children you should ensure they are properly educated on how to approach and interact with dogs.

Dog friendly

Akitas were not bred to be pack dogs. This means that they have a tendency to be a little aggressive with other dogs. For this reason, it is advised that they are the only dog in the household.

If you are planning on bringing an Akita into a home with other animals it is important to pay attention to their gender. We advise getting an Akita puppy that is the opposite gender to those that currently live in your home. This is because Akitas are known to exhibit same-sex aggression.

Friendly towards strangers

Akitas are friendly dogs but have been bred to be excellent watchdogs. If they suspect that their owners are in danger, they will leap to the defense. They will build a great bond with their owners and family but tend to be relatively disinterested in strangers. It takes a lot of time and effort to gain the trust of an Akita.

Health and grooming

Shedding

Akitas will shed heavily twice per year. This often aligns with the seasons of spring and autumn.

Drooling

These dogs drool occasionally but do not have floppy lips. This means that they will drool significantly less than other dog breeds.

Grooming

Akitas are somewhat like cats, in that they like to keep themselves fairly clean. This makes them easy to housetrain. You will not need to groom them too frequently as a result.

You should brush their coat once per week to help them shed any loose hair. During shedding periods, you may wish to brush them more frequently. We advise using a metal, double-toothed comb.

It is advised to take your Akita to the groomers for seasonal flea treatments. You should monitor the length of their nails and clip them when you begin to hear them clicking on the floor. You should also regularly wipe out the inside of their ears (not the ear canal) and the area around their eyes too.

General health

The general health of Akitas tends to be good. As with all dog breeds, there are certain health conditions that they are more prone to experiencing. Some common health problems are listed below.

Common health problems

Hip dysplasia, bloat, hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy, myasthenia gravis, and sebaceous adenitis are all common health problems in Akitas.

Hip dysplasia is a condition where the ball and socket of the hip joint do not fit together correctly. This means that they are very prone to hip dislocations which can be very painful. If left untreated, this can lead to arthritis and lameness of the limb.

Bloat is a condition also known as gastric torsion or gastric dilation volvulus syndrome. It occurs when your dog’s stomach becomes filled with gas, causing it to become twisted.

This is a very serious and life-threatening condition that requires emergency treatment. If left untreated, the twist in the stomach can reduce the blood flow through the body and can cause the stomach wall to become necrotic and die off.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland in the neck cannot produce enough of the hormone thyroxine. This hormone is responsible for controlling metabolism, the conversion of food into energy. This is not a life-threatening condition and can easily be treated with a daily oral drug.

Progressive retinal atrophy is a degenerative disease that affects the photoreceptor cells in the eyes. The retinal cells will continue to deteriorate and eventually, your dog will become blind.

Myasthenia gravis is a condition that impairs the transmission of signals between muscles and nerves in the body. Common symptoms of this include extreme weakness and fatigue.

There is a chemical messenger known as acetylcholine that helps the transmission of electrical impulses, which does not function correctly in dogs with this condition. They will need to take daily medication to counteract the effects of the disease.

There are 2 forms of myasthenia gravis – congenital (that the dog was born with) and acquired (the onset is during their life).

Sebaceous adenitis is a dermatological (skin) condition. It often displays as inflammation, scaling of the skin, and alopecia (hair loss). It is believed that in Akitas this is an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.

If you suspect your Akita may be suffering from this, there are some other common symptoms to keep an eye out for. Look for silver dandruff that sticks to their fur, a dull and brittle coat, a musty smell, and thickened skin or lesions along the ears and back.

Other common health issues with Akitas are uveodermatologic syndrome and von Willebrand disease.

Uveodermatologic syndrome is an autoimmune condition. It causes the eyes to become inflamed and you may notice a loss of pigmentation in the skin. Von Willebrand disease is a blood disorder.

It impedes the clotting of the blood and can cause excess bleeding. This can be very dangerous if your dog gets a cut.

Potential for weight gain

Akitas can quickly gain weight if they are overfed or under-exercised.

Trainability

Easy to train

Akitas are a stubborn breed of dog and can be harder to train, especially at the beginning. They are incredibly brave and courageous breeds that will pose a challenge when training first begins.

It is important to establish boundaries and to reinforce them consistently during training. The Akita must know their place and understand the importance of following commands. They respond well to treats and praise.

Intelligence

Akitas are very intelligent dogs. They will need a lot of frequent mental stimulation to keep them entertained. If they are allowed to become bored, Akitas are known to become annoying and have the tendency to be destructive.

It is said that Akitas will understand and retain new commands in as few as 25-40 repetitions. Around 50% of the time, they will obey the command the first time.

Potential to bite

They are not an overly aggressive breed. As puppies, they will nip during play sessions, but this is true of all puppies. With proper training, biting should not be an issue as your dog ages.

Tendency to bark or howl

Akitas are not a particularly loud breed and will only bark when necessary to alert you.

History

Akitas belong to the Spitz family of dogs and have existed in the mountains of northern Japan for more than 300 years. Here they were bred as fighting dogs initially. Over time their purpose altered and they began to be used to hunt black bears, boars, and deer.

From the 1500s to 1800s they were seen as companions for Japanese samurai soldiers. In the early 20th century their population began to decline. This was because the breed kept being crossed with other breeds such as German Shepherds. This meant that the breed’s characteristics were disappearing.

A native breed to Japan, the Matagi hunting dog, and the Hokkaido Inu dogs were selectively bred with the Akitas to restore the spitz phenotype and ensure Akitas did not die out.

During the Russo-Japanese war between February 1904 and September 1905, the Akitas were used to find lost sailors and prisoners of war.

They were also used during World War II to cross-breed with German Shepherds again. This was to ensure the breed did not die out once more. These dogs were set to work as guards and scouts.

By 1931 the breed had been named as a Natural Monument for Japan. A society known as the Akita Inu Hozonkai was established in an attempt to preserve the original Akita breed through selective breeding.

When World War II began it nearly spelled disaster for Akitas. In the beginning, there were incredible food shortages which led many to perish. Akitas then began being killed by the starving citizens for food and to wear their pelts as clothing.

At this time, the government had issued an order for the culling of all non-military dogs, so many were released into the mountains in an attempt to save their lives.

In 1937 a woman called Helen Keller traveled to Japan. She was very interested in the Akita breed and was credited with bringing the first 2 Akita dogs into the United States. Post World War II many American soldiers returning to the US brought Akitas back with them.

In 1955, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club and added to the Miscellaneous class. By the end of 1972, the breed had been moved into the Working Dog class.

Costs

An Akita puppy is likely to cost you somewhere in the region of $800 to $1,200. If you are looking to purchase an Akita puppy with a superior pedigree and top breed lines, you should expect to pay more in the region of $3,500 to $5,500.

The first year of owning an Akita will be the most expensive as you will need to purchase bedding, toys, accessories, and puppy, training classes. Experts estimate that you will splash out around $4,415 on your Akita in the first year.

Once the initial costs have passed, the average annual cost of owning an Akita will drop to just under $2,000. This accounts for food, toys, insurance, veterinarian bills, and more.

Fun facts

Akita dogs have webbed toes. This helps them to be able to distribute their weight more evenly when they walk across snow. It is believed that their dew claws remain as they were used to help the Akitas climb out of icy water.

When children are born in Japan, it is traditional to present them with a small Akita statue. This is believed to bring happiness and longevity to their life.

During the 17th century, Akitas were seen as a status symbol and were only really owned by the Japanese aristocracy. They lead very extravagant lifestyles and engaged in many elaborate feeding rituals.

The collars and leashes were designed to reflect the dog owner’s rank on the Japanese social ladder. Some Akitas were so valued that the owners would hire a person whose only job was to care for the dog.

The most famous Akita is a dog named Hachiko (check out our list with funny dog names) who was born in 1920s Tokyo. Here he would walk with his owner to the train station daily, and wait there all day.

He would then join his owner as they disembarked the train and walked home with him. Hachiko’s owner died in 1925 at the office, meaning he never returned to the train station.

The dog waited patiently at the station for 10 years, proving the breed’s extreme loyalty. When Hachiko died in 1935 the whole of Japan mourned and a bronze statue of him was erected in his honor.

There is a museum dedicated to the Akita breed located in the Akita Prefecture of Japan. The museum is located in the city of Odate. It was built by the Akita Dog Preservation Society in 1967 to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

One of the Japanese rulers in the past issued a decree that threatened life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone who hurt or killed an Akita.

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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