If ever there was an angel in fur, according to Helen Keller, it would be the Akita. A large, powerful, and gentle breed, that was so important to Japan, they officially declared the dog a Japanese natural monument.
It’s hard to fathom that such a momentous breed was nearly driven to extinction. Remarkably, thanks to the trying efforts of one Japanese man, this dog has continued to win the love of dog enthusiasts everywhere, and is considered one of the most popular large breeds in the world.
His history is proud but marred in passionate debate. So why the debate and what makes this dog such a popular breed?
Here is what you need to know about the Akita.
When you describe the history of the Akita, you are really talking about two dogs. Only the United States and Canada believe that the Akita is one breed of different traits. However, it is where the dog originates from, Japan, that believes that their version (along with 84 other countries) is a different breed than the American Akita.
We begin with the Japanese Akita breed. The Japanese describe the Akita originally as a Matagi dog. The breed was subsequently named after the province it flourished in the most, which was the Akita region. The Japanese used the Akita to hunt larger game such as, boar, deer and even bears. They served as great hunting companions but even better at tracking large game until their masters arrived for the kill.
The Akita would be crossed with other large breeds such as the Saint Bernard, Tosha Inu, English Mastiffs and Great Danes. The idea was to create the best fighting dog possible.
During World War 2, the breed was on the cusp of near extinction. Like other dogs throughout the world, this breed suffered from lack of nutrition and at times were being killed and eaten by those who were starving. Diseases were rampant then, so the Japanese government ordered the breed to be eradicated. However, Akita enthusiasts had other plans, and since they cherished this national treasure, they decided to free the breed to roam naturally with their ancestors or hide them.
It was said that during World War 2, a Japanese man named, Morie Sawataishi, was one of the biggest contributing factors in saving the breed. In his effort to hide the breed from the government, he would breed the Akita with German Shepards, even passing them off as that breed.
Eventually, the breed would be restored into grace, and during the World War 2 occupation years, a new history was created for the Akita.
U.S. military members during the World War 2 occupation in Japan, were so enamored and impressed with the Akita, that they decided to bring them back into the U.S.
Political activist and poet, Helen Keller, during her visit to Japan back in 1937, was also quite fond of the breed herself. She was given a dog by a proud Akita owner and Master in Kendo, Ichiro Ogasawara. She named her gift, Kamikaze-go. Keller and other Americans continued to speak fondly about the breed, which was a much more bulky and meaty version than the Japanese. It was said that the occupation soldiers preferred the German Shepherd/Akita version over the smaller framed type.
Indeed, after the breed touched down on American soil, fanciers decided to breed a bigger and more imposing version. Today, the breed standard for color in America can be of all major dog colors, where the Japanese Akita is only acceptable in red, fawn, white, brindle or sesame.
Both breed types are different in size. American Akita is the bigger of the two versions.
In 1955, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Akita as a breed. In 1972, the breed was moved out of the “miscellaneous” class and into the working group. Two years later, due to the American Kennel Club’s decision to disallow any Japanese imports into their registration, thus sparking a disagreement in breed protocol or divergence.
Even today, the two countries disagree about the breed. All that aside, the breed is cherished by both countries as well as it is throughout the entire world. The American Kennel Club ranked Akita the 46th most popular breed.
The American Kennel Club considers the Akita to be a large sized breed. It is accepted that a male Akita stands at 26 to 28 inches, while a female to stand at 24 to 26 inches. A male Akita can weigh between 100-130 pounds, and a female is allowed the range of 70 to 100 pounds, according to the American Kennel Club.
The Akita is a proud breed, said to be courageous and loyal to their family. Aside from their bold appearance as a spitz breed often is, there personality reflects their imposing physique.
If you give your Akita proper early socialization, then you should be getting a great dog with children. Keep in mind, that this large breed can easily and unintentionally injure a small child by running into them or playing. You should always supervise children with full grown Akitas. Since they are a large breed, they may not be ideal for a first time dog owner.
The American Kennel Club claims the Akita may have issues getting along with the same sex dog. That shouldn’t be surprising consider this breed can be protective of their domain.
Akitas would love nothing but to please their masters, however, training must be done with patience as this breed can be stubborn and willful.
Not considered to be a hyper breed, but they do enjoy occasional walks and activity.
Much like a cat, you can find an Akita cleaning and grooming itself.
They can be somewhat combative with strangers, if they aren’t socialized properly earlier on as pups. Considered a quiet dog, the Akita does make a point when they do bark or growl. It is advised to listen when this breed talks.
Ultimately, a seasoned and experienced dog owner should take on a breed of this caliber. They are independent and require attention as well as respect. They will adapt into apartment living, but they should be walked or entertained so they don’t grow into destructive habits.
If you purchase an Akita from a breeder, make sure they are reputable and present you with the proper documentation to assure you that the dog isn’t riddled with health issues. Routine visits to the veterinarian is always a good idea.
The most common health issues affiliated with this breed are, Hip Dysplasia, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Von Willebrands Disease.
The biggest problem facing Akitas today is Sebaceous Adenitis. This is a genetic condition, that remains a mystery as far as the reason Akitas often inherit this condition. Nonetheless, when an Akita has this condition, their sebaceous glands become inflames and eventually destroyed. This will result in the dog losing its hair.
Other diseases that effect the skin are Foliaceous and Uveodermatologic Syndrome.
With diseases like Progressive Retina Atrophy, it can actually cause your Akita to lose some of their vision or incur night blindness.
Hip Dysplasia is common with many larger dogs, in which the thighbone doesn’t fit properly causing lameness and pain.
Other issues for this breed may include:
- Gastric Dilatation Volvulus or Bloat
- Elbow Dysplasia
The Akita would much prefer a larger backyard to a cramped up apartment. That doesn’t mean they won’t be okay with apartment life, they will, just as long as you give them enough attention, indoor space for play, and outdoor exercise.
If you buy the Akita as a puppy, then you will definitely want to begin early training and socializing. This breed is a natural hunter known for its fierce battles against creatures like bears, boars, and deer. They do not get along with male dogs and you should avoid dog parks with your Akita.
The Akita is fairly simple to groom, but they do shed heavily twice a year. Regular brushing will help alleviate that issue. You can bathe an Akita once every two months or as needed.
When training, it is important to set the tone with your puppy Akita and let them know who is above who in the pecking order. A dog is more than fine following this role, but when they start believing that they are in charge, you may have aggression and destructive issues to deal with. They can be persistent during training, you will need patience and to reward them often for their accomplishments.
How much your Akita will help itself to depends largely on how active your dog is. Of course, things such as metabolism and age, as well as if they are a working dog or not, will play a part in how much your dog will require for proper nutrition.
The average amount recommended for this breed is four to six cups of kibble per day. You can always break that up into two meals per day to make the dog feel according to the family’s eating schedule.
Generally, a puppy will be more hyper than an adult, which means you will be feeding its tummy 3 or 4 meals a day of puppy food until 4-6 months, when you reduce the servings. At about nine months, you can begin introducing your puppy to an adult like eating regimen.
How much is important but ultimately what you feed your dog is much more significant. High quality dry kibble is widely available. Food that is rich in top-rated protein sources such as Chicken or Lamb is best.
As always, you should always keep fresh drinking water available for your dog.
You will need two items when you start grooming this kind of breed. First, a vacuum, as this breed sheds in abundance twice a year, and secondly, but just as important, a firm bristle brush. You will want to stay on top of their double coat.
The top coat can be described as thick, yet soft. While the undercoat is straight and plush.
An Akita’s coat can come in a variety of colors. Black, white, chocolate and brindle.
Fun Facts About Akita
- The Akita was considered such a good watchdog and excellent with children, that Japanese mothers and fathers, who would go out fishing left their kids in the care of this breed.
- Helen Keller grew interested about the Akita after hearing about the breed’s most famous dog, Hachiko. The story about Hachiko is one for the ages. The Akita was the pet of a professor and the dog would accompany him to and from work every day. One day, the professor died at work nearby from a brain hemorrhage, but the dog waited for him regardless and continued to do so for the next nine years until his own death. The Japanese honored the dog with a statue in 1934 and it was Hachiko’s loyalty that has established the country’s perception of honor and faithfulness.
- The first Japanese breed standard for an Akita was established in 1934.
- In 1931, the Japanese declared the Akita a “Japanese Natural Monument.”
- The Japanese tradition for the birth of children, is to give the child a statue of an Akita. It is said to bring health and happiness to a long life.
- This breed make good swimmers due to their web shaped feet.
- Along with Shiba Inu, this breed is one of the six original spitz breeds from Japan.
Regardless of country, both the U.S. and Japan realize just how great of a breed the Akita is. They are big, bold, and proud like the warriors they were in 1600’s, when they went up against bears in battle. They are faithful companions, who make excellent watchdogs and equally as good service dogs.
The Akita has proven with their history and devotion to family, that they aren’t just a breed from Japan, or a variation from the United States, rather, the Akita is a world class dog that will incessantly remain true by and for his people.