The Akita Inu is the most common large Japanese dog.

Akita Inu: Temperament, History & Care – Complete Guide to the Hachiko Dog Breed

Upon meeting an Akita Inu for the first time, your instincts will tell you not to mess with this majestic canine. The Akita has a striking appearance with its robust physique, firm muscles and large head. With a simple glance, you’ll notice a certain arrogance that discourages strangers from getting too friendly. However, don’t let this deter you from getting to know an Akita Inu.

By nature, an Akita is not exactly a social butterfly and requires plenty of social training to learn how to interact with strangers. In fact, this dog breed is inherently wary not just of unfamiliar humans but also of unknown animals, particularly male members. So unless the dog has been trained by its owner to socialize, you probably want to maintain a safe distance.

That being said, these dogs will showers their master with unquestioning devotion. Legend has it that once an Akita identifies its master, it will stand by its commitment through hell, high-water and whatever else. What could be a better proof of this than the legendary tale of Hachiko. The dog kept a daily vigil at the train station for nine years in the hopes that its master would eventually return. Talk about loyalty.

Of course such unwavering dedication deserves appreciation. Hachiko breathed his last in 1934, yet his saga of loyalty lives on. This dog has been honored with two globally acclaimed movies depicting his life, a bronze statue gracing the waiting spot outside the Shibuya station and the day of remembrance which is observed every year.

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Akita Inu Basic Profile

Friendliness: The Akita Inus are not the friendliest of dog breeds. In fact, they aren’t recommended if you have other pets (especially male dogs). On the bright side, they’re very affectionate and friendly towards their family. They’re extremely cautious around strangers, making them great guard dogs.

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Trainability: Make no mistake, the Akita Inus are intelligent dogs. The problem is, they may have a stubborn “what’s in it for me” attitude when it comes to training. The more respect and incentives you provide them, the easier it’ll be to train.

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Grooming: They generally don’t require much grooming, as the biggest grooming task is cleaning up after their shedding. All the basics like brushing their teeth and coat are still needed. However, they don’t require professional assistance by any means.

DifficultEasy

Adaptability: Because they need daily exercise, an Akita stuck alone in an apartment all day will end badly. Because of their thick coat, they can tolerate cold extremely well, but being out in the heat will take a major toll on them.

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Activity: The Akita Inu requires daily exercise. Failure to do so can lead to destructive behavior. Simply put, these working dogs need to work. Without daily ‘work,’ it could put a strain on them both physically and mentally.

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Akita Inu - Vital Stats
  • Height: 24 – 28 inches
  • Weight: 70 – 130 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 – 12 years
  • Dog Breed Group: Working Dog

Akita Inu Highlights

Discussed as follows are certain traits that are typical of Akita Inu –

  • Avoid choosing an Akita if you are a first-time dog owner. Not only will you have a tough time training it, but may also find its aggression a little difficult to handle.
  • Having acquired one, you must train it yourself to be able to earn the canine’s respect. For an Akita, nothing is more sacred than the bond between the master and the dog. The essence of this equation is built through training. So do not make the mistake of entrusting training to someone else, as you will have lost your Akita’s faith.
  • Mouthing is what an Akita loves to do, and the objects that it carries could range from a leash, newspaper and keys.
  • By grabbing your wrist, an Akita does not intend any harm, but is trying to lead you on to something.
  • An Akita is very vocal as long as there are family members around. Surprisingly, it hardly barks, and prefers to express its opinions and intent through grunting, moaning and mumbling sounds. Experienced dog owners attribute these sounds to self-talk and explain that it is the canine’s way of participating in all household activities.
  • Don’t be surprised if you find your Akita behaving like a cat in more ways than one. Members of this dog breed lick themselves incessantly in a bid to remain clean. They also prowl around a potential prey in a way which is strongly reminiscent of a tiger in action.
  • Today, the Akita is considered to be one of the top 10 most expensive dog breeds in the world.

An Akita appreciates consistency and detests being mishandled. As an owner, keep these facts in mind and you.

History of the Akita Inu

The Akita Inu has a long history of being a revered dog breed in Japan.

This dog breed was named after the Akita prefecture – a cold, rugged and mountainous region located in the island of Honshu in Northern Japan. The earliest generations of the Akita can be traced back to the 1600s’ and, like several other Asian dog breeds, was often associated with royalty.

Some experts believe the Akita had descended from the Matagi dog, a breed revered for its hunting skills. Indeed the Akita is one of the most prolific and versatile hunters in the canine kingdom. Their talents have long been used for hunting big game like elk, boars and bears. In olden days, Akitas were sent out to hunt in pairs and soon proved its efficiency in tracking down the most elusive of prey. Because of their strong predatory instincts, the Akita soon found itself aiding the police and guarding premises. Others link the Akita to the Japanese Spitz – another Japanese dog breed – because of physical similarities between the two.

Akita Inu in the 20th Century

The twentieth century turned out to be an era of mixed fortunes for this dog breed. On one hand, Hachiko’s devotion to its master earned the breed worldwide recognition and stature of being a national treasure in Japan in 1931. Members of this breed travelled to America for the first time in 1937 under the ownership of Helen Keller, who seemed to have taken an instant liking to them.

Much of this good fortune reversed during WWII when people began to hunt Akitas for food. Their population dwindled drastically due to a combination of several factors, but the breed managed to survive the ravages of war through cross-breeding. Post-war, efforts were made to revive the original breed in Japan while several accompanied their new masters to America.

Eventually during the latter half of the twentieth century, the Akita was reinstated as the national symbol of Japan. Parallel to it, the American Akita came into existence thousands of miles away and soon carved its own distinct identity.

Akita Temperament

The Akita is a fiercely loyal and protective Japanese dog breed.

‘Complicated’ is the word that best describes an Akita’s temperament and personality. These are a few points to consider when examining this breed’s temperament:

  • Just because they are calm and quiet does not mean that they will not react. An Akita maintains calmness only to assess the situation and weigh its options. Having done that, it can launch a ferocious attack when you are least expecting it.
  • Because obedience does not come naturally to an Akita, it is difficult to train them. So if you’re a first-time dog owner, then avoid picking an Akita and instead settle for a breed that’s a lot more compliant.
  • You need to be firm with an Akita and establish yourself as the leader. Having laid down the rules and maintained consistency, you can trust this canine with anything ranging from your kids to your life and everything in between.
  • An Akita does not like being teased and regards this as an insult to its dignity and pride. So, as an owner, you must ensure that they do not have to face any kind of humiliating behavior from anyone.
  • Akitas are also possessive about their food, toys and territory. Expect others to honor the boundaries that they set. They do not like being disturbed during meals, and any attempt at snatching their toys and/or food could trigger an aggressive attack.
  • Members of this dog breed can easily get bored, which may result in destructive behavior. To prevent such a situation, you must ensure that your Akita gets plenty of exercise – physical and mental – on a daily basis.

Other Dogs and Children

Usually a pet dog loves being around children and an Akita is no exception. However, unlike some of the other canine breeds, an Akita has a short temper with little patience. They will guard and protect your child with the same fervor as they would in your case. These dogs also love to play and interact with children. However, a problem arises when there is a disagreement of any sort.

Given its noble and valiant nature, an Akita plays by the rules and expects the same from everyone else, including kids. So the moment there is a deviation, this dog takes it as a personal affront and reacts with aggression. As a pet owner you must accept this characteristic and teach your child how to properly interact with them. The last thing you would want is for the child to inadvertently provoke an Akita into anger, because the consequences can be terrifying.

Being an innate hunter, an Akita finds it difficult to suppress the urge to chase other animals. This behavior is primarily out of instinct than anything else, like animosity or sadism. On your part, you can respect this instinctive nature by not keeping any other pets.

Likewise, outdoor exercise is a great idea but choosing a park full of children and other animals is a complete no-no. There is a possibility of your Akita getting agitated at every strange entity, no matter how hard you try to pacify it.

Akita Inu Care

Caring for an Akita requires enough exercise and grooming.

Caring for an Akita entails keeping it engaged. Ensure that your dog remains occupied with a moderate form of mental/physical exercise throughout the day. By doing so, you will enjoy the presence of a happy and healthy pet dog.

For physical exercise, a daily walk/jog for 30 minutes is sufficient for an Akita. Other than this, give your Akita the freedom to romp around the backyard and watch it relish its natural elements. Switch up your activity routine by playing games with your Akita, such ask Frisbee and fetch-the-object.

Mentally, keep your Akita busy by involving it in all household matters. Let it participate in all family activities and remain in everyone’s company for as long as possible. While going out, do not leave it alone for stretches of long hours as it could render the canine indignant. Always monitor your Akita’s interaction with everyone. Remember that while the canine may be polite to strangers in your presence, this may not be the case in your absence.

Another aspect of an Akita that you should be careful about pertains to its health. The moment Akita pups turn four months old, their growth is rapid enough to put them at the risk of bone deficiency. To prevent this problem, do not allow your Akita pup to run, jump or jog on hard surfaces. Also maintain a high-nutrient diet that enables them to grow without gaining unwanted pounds.

Akita Inu Diet Guide

The ideal diet for an Akita Inu should comprise of food choices that emphasize quality rather than quantity. For a well-nourished Akita Inu, serve between 3 to 5 bowls of food daily. The food choices should be high in nutrients and low in calories. This would ensure that while your Akita has the energy to remain active throughout the day, it would not pack on extra pounds.

Akita pups need a sumptuous daily dose of nutrients and you can provide by observing the following dietary practices –

  • Serve breed-formulated food since it is concentrated to cater to the growth requirements of the specific breed;
  • Quantity of food on an average should not be too little or too less;
  • Diet should facilitate slow and sustained growth so as to keep orthopedic problems at bay;
  • Maintain meal times with your Akita so that he gets used to a particular eating schedule;
  • Never feed an Akita pup human food since it is both unsuitable and inappropriate;

Once your Akita is two years old, dietary considerations you must bear in mind are –

  • Choose a commercial brand of dry food since they are high-quality and have a long shelf-life;
  • Use canned food for flavor but serve in combination with dry food;
  • Consider vegetarian meals as an option as long as they are wholesome.

Akita Inu Grooming

As an owner, you’ll need to incorporate grooming as part of your Akita’s daily routine. Not that the grooming needs to be particularly detailed, but there are basic grooming necessary for these dogs. Get your Akita used to a grooming routine from an early age for it to get accustomed to the habit.

Start grooming your Akita by maintaining its thick short double-coat. An Akita’s fur is not just dense, but is also prone to shedding. Usually, households that keep an Akita are likely to have its fur spread over everything, from carpets and furniture to food. The only way you can get rid this is by frequent vacuum cleaning and regular brushing of the fur.

About twice/thrice during the year, notably spring and autumn, shedding of fur is particularly heavy. Prepare yourself for the onslaught, as you’ll likely vacuum your home tirelessly to get rid of the incessant fuzz. Because this is an inevitable part of an Akita’s upbringing, people who suffer from allergies or asthma must avoid choosing this dog breed.

Other grooming tips for an Akita include –

  • Bathe the Akita at least once every two months, and more frequently if it has been rolling around on muddy surfaces;
  • Trim the dog’s nails every month;
  • Check its ears every week for redness, infection, swelling or other problems;
  • Wipe ears once a week with a cleaner to remove dirt and mites;
  • Ideally brush its teeth once a week depending on what you feed it.

An Akita’s obsession with cleanliness is often likened to a cat. But if you observe these tips over a period of time, your beloved Akita will be primed for a well-being through many long years.

Akita Inu Health

The Akita doesn't experience many health problems, but keeping them to a healthy diet is essential.

Although they’re tough and resilient dogs, the Akita is still vulnerable to certain medical conditions. Health-wise, there are some medical conditions that your Akita might suffer from.

Bloating

In this condition, the stomach expands and then twists around itself. When this happens, the Akita is unable to belch to release the excess gas. Instead, it may vomit to relieve itself of the extra food or water. If it suffers from shock due to his heart being deprived of blood supply, it can potentially die if not immediately attended to.

If you find your Akita dragging around a distended belly, salivating too much, feeling restless or feeling weak, suspect bloating and seek medical help. This can occur due to a number of reasons. Given its serious nature, you must always be watching over your Akita in case of potential bloating problems.

Dysplasia

An orthopedic condition, Dysplasia normally affects hips and elbows in Akitas. At times, the bones do not fit as snugly into the hip/elbow joint as intended, leading to inflammation of the area. As a result, your Akita may start limping around painfully. This is usually a big sign of distress.

This genetic condition ultimately leads to arthritis, which is incurable, as the canine grows older. The only way to avoid it is for you to check the pup’s ancestry for this condition before buying. This is another reason why its so crucial to buy a puppy Akita from a reputable breeder.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

This disease impairs the canine’s vision to the point where it eventually becomes completely blind. The condition causes the cells of the retina to deteriorate in phases and no therapy in the world can stop this onslaught.

Watching your Akita go blind can prove to be a truly painful experience. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to ensure that the environment remains unchanged. This way, the Akita can still find its way about despite not being able to see anything.

Miscellaneous Health Conditions

Akitas are prone to suffer from autoimmune conditions, which manifest in the form of skin lesions. What’s worst is that this condition could potentially aggravate into anemia or enzyme deficiency. Like other dog breeds, an Akita can also suffer from cancer of lymph nodes or bone.

Hyperthyroidism is another condition which can cause hair loss, epilepsy, lethargy and so on. However, it is not as invasive as other conditions and if caught during its initial stages, you can rectify it through a balanced dose of diet and exercise.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Akita Inu is a fantastic guard dog for any family.

Powerful that an Akita is, it is also fearless and courageous. Challenge this canine and you end up facing a formidable opponent who will fight until its very last vestige of courage. Treat it with love and respect and train it well, and you will have gained one of the most affectionate and faithful companions.

As long as you have the confidence to handle an Akita, this dog breed could prove to be the best for you. So do your research and judge whether you are up for it in every way before bringing one home.

Similar Dog Breeds

The Akita Inu is most similar to the Shiba Inu and Shikoku Inu. Some say that the Akita is just the large version of the two. These dogs have often been compared to the Japanese Spitz as well, at least in terms of physical features.

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2 Comments

  • AN UNDERSTANDING FRIEND FOR LIFE

    I was privileged to have once rescued a pup who looked very much like an Akita. I’d never knew much about the breed until our Vet pointed out all the similarities he saw that made him think she was mostly Akita.

    I rescued the Akita & a male Pup dumped with her. Our Vet said they were siblings. He told us how he knew that + the fact a litter can have more than 1Father.

    Her brother looked like a German Shepard-not at all like his sister with a Spitz type Tail & body & head like an Akita. We named her “Elly Mae” & her brother “Jed”.

    When she was about 1yr old? My Dad moved into our in-law apt. He was in his 80’s & had Alzheimers.

    He soon told us he was SO lonely! (having never lived by himself for over 50yrs).
    He was having problems sleeping. (My Mom was in a nearby nursing home w/many physical problems.)

    Our Akita was with 2 other large dogs we had-a male & a female. She was VERY submissive to them both
    (& us).

    So I thought she might love having her own “home” with no competition. Plus she might have the right dispossession to be company for my Dad.

    I told my Dad about her & asked if she could stay with him a day or 2? He looked puzzled but said “Yes”.

    But my husband thought since she was such a large dog. (60lbs?) That she might trip him etc.

    But we took her to Dad & watched her & Dad closely. After 1night? My Dad & the Akita-Elly Mae) were inseparable.

    After 1night of them together?
    I asked Dad if he wanted to keep her? He said “YES! She’s MY buddy & sleeps on the floor beside my bed or my recliner.” We get along JUST fine!

    We watched Elly Mae around him. The very 1st evening we saw that the minute Dad got up from his recliner & walked with his cane?

    Elly Mae backed up & got OUT of his way. She never tripped him or got in his way once. She sensed how she needed to act.
    She’d patiently remind my Dad over & over if he forgot to let her in or out.

    Though she’d never been housetrained? She instantly knew to “yip” to go outside. Never had 1 Accident.

    Dad was not nearly as lonely anymore & Elly Mae had her very own Master. She loved putting her head on the arm of his recliner for him to pet. She had patience , intelligence & unlimited Love for Dad. She was indeed in “HER” home.

    Dad went to an Adult Day Care weekdays. They picked him up on a bus & brought him home each afternoon. Elly Mae soon learned what “time” the bus brought him home daily & waited faithfully each weekday for his return by the fence.

    Dad always had a BIG grin on his face when he 1st saw her & said “There’s my dog! Elly Mae!” As the others on the bus saw her also & all waved at them both.

    He went in & let her in daily. But? Sometimes she had to “remind” him at the door until he let her in.

    He sometimes forgot about her as soon as he went in his back door but Elly Mae went to a big window by his front door & would look in it at him & BARK! To remind him. Then back to the front door. Sometimes several times back & forth to get her Master to “remember” to let her in!

    Dad passed away about 6yrs later. He had passed quickly early 1 morning & my husband found him just minutes after.

    We let Elly Mae in to “sniff” her old friend before they took him away. As soon as she saw he was “gone”? Her always-coiled Spitz Type Tail went DOWN.

    It stayed that way for weeks & weeks after. She never again went to his door. She knew
    Dad was no longer there to answer it.

    Though we let her sleep on the floor beside us nightly after that? She never fully got over Dad passing. She literally died of a broken heart it seemed about 1year later. Though we took her to the Vet etc.

    1day she too had passed quietly & quickly. I still had her brother JED who looked much different for several yrs after she passed.

    I like to think my Dad again saw her return to him & Dad proudly told all. “Theres MY dog! Elly Mae!”

    God sent Dad the perfect companion. We are eternally grateful for her.

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