Akita Inus are often considered one of the most difficult dog breeds to own. They are known for their independent, dominant and protective temperament.
If you're considering adding an Akita Inu to your family, it's essential to educate yourself on the breed's character and weigh if they're suitable for your lifestyle. Too often, novice dog owners choose a breed that might not be appropriate for them. We'll discuss the breed's personality traits and challenges, so you'll know if the Akita is right for you by the end of this post.
History of the Akita Inu
The Akita originated from Japan. Akita Inu means "the dog of Akita", a prefecture in Japan. It's very snowy, rural and mountainous. Some people tend to call the breed the Akita Inu dog. As "Inu" means dog, people say the "Akita dog" dog. So let's start this blog post by referring to the Akita simply as the Akita Inu.
The Akita belongs to the six breeds of dogs native to Japan. They are: The Akita Inu, Hokkaido Inu, Kai Ken, Kishu Ken, Shikoku Ken and the Shiba Inu. The Akita is the largest breed in this family.
They were bred as fighting and hunting dogs, primarily to hunt larger animals like elks, deer and even bears. Therefore, they had to be feisty, independent and able to sustain themselves. Due to their bravery, they're seen as the national treasure of Japan, symbolising prosperity and good fortune.
Like so many dog breeds, they suffered near extinction during World War II. As a result, several breeders came together to breed the Akita that we know today, saving their future.
What are the differences between a Shiba Inu and an Akita Inu?
If there is a dog breed that gets muddled up constantly, it's these two! Although their similarity is striking, they're two different breeds. The Shiba Inu is a much older breed. The Shiba Inu shape is similar to the Akita, including the hooded ears and the plush coat; the Shiba Inu looks more fox-like and much smaller.
While the Akita can reach up to 39kg in weight for a male, the Shiba weighs a maximum of 11kg. Although matching the intelligence of the Akita, the Shiba Inu is not as dominating in their behaviour and is less territorial. Breed standard Akita colours are red fawn, white, sesame and brindle.
At this point, you might be asking yourselves another question. Isn't there an American version of the Akita? Yes, there is.
Differences between the American Akita and the Japanese Akita Inu
The American Akita is not a pure blood Japanese Akita. The American version of this dog was first brought to the US in 1937. Since then, they have been bred with different breeds, like the German Shepherd. This was necessary to avoid the extinction of the species during the Second World War.
It makes the American Akita larger and bulkier than their Japanese cousins. As a result, the American Akita and Akita Inu were separated by The UK Kennel Club in 2006. However, in some countries, they're still recognised as one breed.
Another thing to be aware of is that the Akita can fall on a list of dangerous dogs that are forbidden or need to be muzzled in public. Example countries are Ireland, Spain and Malaysia.
What is it like to live with an Akita?
Due to their breed history, the Akita has an independent temperament. They’re fierce and powerful athletic dogs. After all, they needed to be able to stand up to a brown bear. Living with and training an Akita comes with challenges.
Training needs to be done skilfully whilst being firm and gentle at the same time. Are you a novice dog owner? The Akita is very likely not the dog breed for you. Let's elaborate further.
The training method needs to be calm and consistent for this extraordinary dog breed. Think twice or thrice if you're the right person for this job. Show weakness as a leader, and this dog breed will walk all over you. Akitas will then establish themselves as the pack leader of the family, and too often, owners are forced to give the breed up to a rescue centre. On the other hand, be violent and harsh, and this breed will potentially turn on you and portray aggression. Walking this fine line is so tricky that even dog behaviourists and trainers regard the handling of an Akita as a real challenge.
It is imperative to socialise an Akita early in life. They tend to be same sex aggressive due to their territorial nature. Akitas are temperamental and will try to portray dominance when among other dogs. It is recommended to always keep an Akita on a leash when out walking and only let them roam free in fenced areas or when no other dogs are around.
They are very fastidious dogs. Akitas will go out of their way to keep their coat clean, and you will find them licking their paws and fur regularly. Therefore, in general, it's relatively easy to housebreak Akita puppies.
Akitas rarely bark unless it's an emergency. For this reason, they're formidable guard dogs with the trait coming naturally to them, not requiring any training whatsoever. They hunt close to the ground so an intruder wouldn't even know what is coming for them. Risking their life for you is something Akitas will do willingly.
As with most breeds, don't leave them unattended for several hours at a time. Because of their loyal nature, they can suffer from separation anxiety and become destructive. Ask yourself honestly how many hours you would leave your dog alone at a time. Akitas are distrustful toward people they don't know. Having a dog walker or a neighbour come into the house during the daytime can be tricky. Akitas don't like to be handled by strangers. They can display aggression and seriously injure someone due to their territorial temperament. Akitas are no lap dogs. However, they're efficient and robust working guard dogs, and their cleverness should never be underestimated.
Akitas need plenty of outside space, and apartment living will not agree with them. They are athletic and have a natural predisposition to patrol "their" area; hence a more extensive garden will contribute to tiring them out. As Akitas originated from Japan's mountainous and snowy Akita prefecture, long outdoor walks and hikes will make your dog thrive. Get a handsfree lead, and off you two go!
Akitas shouldn't be alone with small children if the dog hasn't been socialised. Always supervise interactions between the dog and the child and teach your child to approach the dog respectfully.
The Akita has an incredibly loyal and loving temperament if you've done everything right and earned their respect and trust. The Akita bonds very intimately with their family and can bond with children. Obedience training should be handled by the owner and shouldn't be outsourced to a handler.
Akitas are devoted, loyal, clean and very affectionate dogs at home. They will love you no matter what, and the mental bond you have with them cannot be found anywhere else. Snuggling on the couch or on outdoor adventures, your Akita will be up for anything.
Are you a novice owner and still determined to get an Akita? Set yourself up for success by focusing on developing a consistent leadership style. Knowing and being aware of all the above points is a decent start, but the experience is more important. If you have never handled a dog, try dog walking or volunteering in a dog rescue centre to get some experience.
Akita Inu temperament in a nutshell
Powerful and courageous making them exceptional guard dogs
Requires calm and consistent leader with the knowledge of training dominant dog breeds
Able to establish an extraordinary bond leading to unwavering loyalty towards their owner
Requires a lot of space and is not suited for apartment living
Can’t be left alone and a dog walker might not be an option
Potential diseases in the Akita breed
Some genetic predispositions in the Akita breed, as with many pure breeds, should be checked out regularly. Buying an Akita puppy from a reputable breeder is always the first step to ensuring your pup has reduced exposure. Also, this blog post does not replace a talk with your vet. There are simply some diseases to be aware of, and this post doesn't replace your own research with a vet before buying a puppy.
Be prepared for significant medical expenses when buying an Akita Inu. Naturally, bigger dogs amount to more medical expenditures when needing an operation. That said, not all Akitas will experience the below hereditary diseases. Therefore, it's essential to be aware of them to spot problems early on so you can follow up with immediate treatment.
A few common conditions are the below:
Hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus is also known as bloat. Deep chested dogs like Setters are prone to bloat as well.
Glaucoma and several eye problems.
Hypothyroidism can cause weight problems, skin issues and low energy levels due to underactive thyroid.
The UK Kennel Club has introduced a DNA test for Amelogenesis Imperfecta or Familial Enamel Hypoplasia. It's a hereditary disease where the affected dog can't produce average amounts of tooth enamel. Dogs can be either clear, a carrier or affected.
Many of these conditions can be treated if caught early, but it's essential to work with a reliable veterinarian familiar with this breed to ensure your dog receives proper care.
Most diseases are inherited in a recessive manner. It means that the puppy must inherit the gene from both parents to become affected. If the mutation is only present in one parent, the puppy becomes a carrier. Hence, it is vital to choose a reputable breeder who has done genetic testing on their litters.
The more aware you are of these diseases, the higher the chances you can prolong your dog’s life if problems arise. Same as with your child, be aware of all required vaccinations, risks and even risks outside your home. This blog post, for example, outlines all toxic spring plants that can be harmful to your dog.
The more you know, the better you will be prepared.
Many dog owners are unaware of the danger in some pet toys and accessories that can worsen health issues when they innocently buy cheap products from the Far East. Avoid synthetic rubber play things like chew bones or tug o' war ropes from polyester; polyester collars could cause skin irritation and are not breathable like natural materials. Swap out those harmful materials with eco-friendly pet products from hemp here at Hooman’s Friend. Breathable, eco-friendly and sustainable!
Akita fun facts
Interestingly, the Akita was seen as a status symbol in the 17th century. Only Japanese aristocrats were allowed to own the breed. Their ownership was celebrated with feeding rituals and presents like collars and leashes. The more extraordinary the accessories, the higher the owner's rank and status.
Emperor Taisho only changed the law in the 19th century, so any citizen was allowed to own their special Akita Inu.
"To follow soon"
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The Akita Inu is a loyal and brave dog with an independent temperament that can make an excellent pet for the right person. However, before you decide to bring an Akita into your home, it's important to read beyond this article, consult a breeder and speak to a vet.
Akita Inu Summary Info box
66cm - 77cm
around and up to 55kg
62cm - 66cm
Tendency to drool
Tendency to bark
Tendency to dig