The Akita, also known as the Akita Inu, the Japanese Akita, the Japanese Deerhound, the Shishi Inu and the Nippon Inu, was recognized as part of Japan's national heritage in 1931 and is treated as a national monument. Well-bred Akitas are affectionate with friends and family members and thrive on human companionship. They are somewhat reserved with strangers and can be extremely defensive and protective of their family if it is threatened. Akitas are known to be fearless, brave, intelligent and adaptable if well socialized. This breed is known for being aggressive towards other dogs. Helen Keller reportedly brought one of the first Akitas into the United States in 1937. The Akita is a member of the Working Group and was admitted into the American Kennel Club in 1972.
Akitas are perhaps most notable for looking like a fluffy bear, with a thick double coat, stocky legs and characteristic masked facial markings. The typical male Akita averages 26 to 28 inches at the withers and weighs between 100 and 130 pounds. Females range between 24 and 26 inches in height and weigh from 70 to 100 pounds. The Akita's dense coat requires regular grooming and comes in a variety of colors.
The Akita originated in northern Japan many centuries ago, probably descending from northern spitz-type dogs. Akita is a rugged, mountainous area at the north end of the main island of Honshu. The Akita was known there as the matagi or the matagiinu, meaning the "esteemed hunter." It was used to hunt deer, black bear and wild boar. According to an American Kennel Club publication: "The Akita's hunting abilities include great strength, keen eye and nose, silence, and speed in a durable, sturdy body suitable for hunting in deep snows. His hard, intelligent, never-give-in attitude in the field was prized by his masters. His soft mouth enabled him to retrieve waterfowl after they had been brought down by the hunter's arrow."
In addition to its instinctive hunting skills, the Akita was bred specifically to be a pit-fighting dog, used to fight other dogs in specially staged competitions during the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries. As dog-fighting became unpopular - and in places, unlawful - the Akita found a number of other ways to use its talents. The breed continues to be used to hunt wild boar, deer and other large game. It also is a trusted guard dog, police dog and competitive show dog. Finally, the Akita has become valued as a loyal companion. Through generations of selective breeding, today's Akita has superior size and a fearless spirit. He can be somewhat obstinate and requires firm but kind leadership from his owner. The Akitainu Hozankai Society of Japan was founded in 1927 to preserve the purity of the Akita breed. In July of 1931, the Japanese government designated the Akita as one of its country's national treasures. Akitas were instrumental in World War II, and the breed rose markedly in popularity after the war, when returning American servicemen brought Akitas home to their families.
Akitas were first introduced in England in 1937. That same year, Hellen Keller visited the Akita prefecture and was given a two-month puppy by the Ministry of Education, which she brought back to America. The Akita Club of America was founded in 1956, and the breed was admitted to registration in the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1972. The Akita was fully accepted into the Working Group in 1973. In the United States, Canada and Australia, the American Akita and the Japanese Akita are considered to be the same breed. In all other countries, they are treated as separate breeds. Some American Akita fanciers are trying to split the breed in two. While the two "types" of Akitas share a common history, the American version is larger and comes in more colors.
The average life span of the Akita is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include:
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus): An extremely serious medical condition where a dog's stomach becomes filled with gas that cannot escape.
Deafness: Defined as the lack or loss, complete or partial, of the sense of hearing
Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
Elbow Dysplasia: Leads to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint, with accompanying front limb lameness
Entropion: The inversion, or the turning inward, of all or part of the edge of an eyelid
Glaucoma: Characterized by fluid build-up inside of the eye. It causes increased vision impairment and, if untreated, blindness.
Hypothyroidism: Clinical syndrome caused by inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
Meningitis: Inflammation of the meninges, which are the membrane layers that cover and protect the outer surface of the brain and spinal cord
Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Refers to a group of degenerative eye disorders that eventually lead to permanent blindness in both eyes
Von Willebrand Disease: the most common hereditary blood-clotting disorder in domestic dogs
The Akita dog breed was originally bred to guard Japanese royalty. Strong and imposing figures, their appearance alone can act as a deterrent to people with ill intent. Affectionate and loving with their families, Akitas can be a rewarding companion, but they have a strong will and a complex personality that can make them a challenge to train. While they do not bark much and are a clean housemate, they can be dominant and strong willed. Akita Inus are not ideal pets for the first-time dog owner.
Akita Activity Requirements
Akitas do not require the same level of physical activity as other breeds of comparable size. Several brisk walks a day will suffice, and they should be allowed to run a few times a week. Because of their aggressive tendencies toward other dogs, dog parks are not the best place to exercise an Akita. A fenced-in, private yard is the ideal space for him to run.
Despite the fact that they don't need too much running time, apartments are not the best home for Akitas. They are large and require space, and can feel confined in tight areas.
Akitas are among the "banned" breeds that many insurance companies may not cover. Home owners should check their policies and consult with neighborhood associations before adopting an Akita.
Akitas are a challenge to train, as they are strong-willed and dominant. They are not for the timid or inconsistent leader. Strength and confidence are the key to working with this breed, as they can sense a pushover from a mile away. They will make their trainer prove themselves as the leader before accepting commands.
Originally bred as protectors, Akitas are instinctively wary of strangers. Early socialization is a must, so that the Akita can learn what is "normal" behavior from a stranger and what is "abnormal" behavior. They must know the difference between a friendly visitor and an unwelcome stranger, or they will generalize all strangers as bad.
Akita Behavioral Traits
Aggression toward other animals is the biggest issue with an Akita. They do not give any signs of distress before they attack, so they may be playing well one minute, but then seemingly turn on a time if pushed too far. Akitas should be the only pet in the house to prevent aggressive and potentially violent attacks.
Food aggression is also common among Akitas. Children should be taught never, ever to approach an Akita while eating or chewing a bone.
Akitas do not bark. They are known in the dog world as the "strong, silent type." Those who appreciate a quiet dog will appreciate the Akita.
Large, powerful, alert, with much substance and heavy bone. The broad head, forming a blunt triangle, with deep muzzle, small eyes and erect ears carried forward in line with back of neck, is characteristic of the breed. The large, curled tail, balancing the broad head, is also characteristic of the breed.
Massive but in balance with body; free of wrinkle when at ease. Skull flat between ears and broad; jaws broad and powerful with minimal dewlap. Head forms a blunt triangle when viewed from above. Fault--Narrow or snipey head. Muzzle--Broad and full. Distance from nose to stop is to distance from stop to occiput as 2 is to 3. Stop--Well defined, but not too abrupt. A shallow furrow extends well up forehead. Nose--Broad and black. Black noses on white Akitas preferred, but a lighter colored nose with or without shading of black or gray tone is acceptable. Disqualification-- partial or total lack of pigmentation on the nose surface. Ears--The ears of the Akita are characteristic of the breed. They are strongly erect and small in relation to rest of head. If ear is folded forward for measuring length, tip will touch upper eye rim. Ears are triangular, slightly rounded at tip, wide at base, set wide on head but not too low, and carried slightly forward over eyes in line with back of neck. Disqualification--Drop or broken ears. Eyes--Dark brown, small, deep-set and triangular in shape. Eye rims black and tight. Lips and Tongue--Lips black and not pendulous; tongue pink. Teeth--Strong with scissors bite preferred, but level bite acceptable. Disqualification--Noticeably undershot or overshot.
Neck and Body
Neck--Thick and muscular; comparatively short, widening gradually toward shoulders. A pronounced crest blends in with base of skull. Body--Longer than high, as to 10 is to 9 in males; 11 to 9 in bitches. Measurement from the point of the sternum to the point of buttocks. Chest wide and deep; reaching down to the elbow, the depth of the body at the elbow equals half the height of the dog at the withers. Ribs well sprung, brisket well developed. Level back with firmly-muscled loin and moderate tuck-up. Skin pliant but not loose. Serious Faults--Light bone, rangy body.
Large and full, set high and carried over back or against flank in a three-quarter, full, or double curl, always dipping to or below level of back. On a three-quarter curl, tip drops well down flank. Root large and strong. Tail bone reaches hock when let down. Hair coarse, straight and full, with no appearance of a plume. Disqualification--Sickle or uncurled tail.
Forequarters and Hindquarters
Forequarters--Shoulders strong and powerful with moderate layback. Forelegs heavy-boned and straight as viewed from front. Angle of pastern 15 degrees forward from vertical. Faults--Elbows in or out, loose shoulders. Hindquarters--Width, muscular development and bone comparable to forequarters. Upper thighs well developed. Stifle moderately bent and hocks well let down, turning neither in nor out. Dewclaws--On front legs generally not removed; dewclaws on hind legs generally removed. Feet--Cat feet, well knuckled up with thick pads. Feet straight ahead.
Double-coated. Undercoat thick, soft, dense and shorter than outer coat. Outer coat straight, harsh and standing somewhat off body. Hair on head, legs and ears short. Length of hair at withers and rump approximately two inches, which is slightly longer than on rest of body, except tail, where coat is longest and most profuse. Fault--Any indication of ruff or feathering.
Any color including white; brindle; or pinto. Colors are rich, brilliant and clear. Markings are well balanced, with or without mask or blaze. White Akitas have no mask. Pinto has a white background with large, evenly placed patches covering head and more than one-third of body. Undercoat may be a different color from outer coat.
Brisk and powerful with strides of moderate length. Back remains strong, firm and level. Rear legs move in line with front legs.
Males 26 to 28 inches at the withers; bitches 24 to 26 inches. Disqualification--dogs under 25 inches; bitches under 23 inches.
Alert and responsive, dignified and courageous. Akitas may be intolerant of other dogs, particularly of the same sex.
Partial or total lack of pigmentation on nose.
Drop or broken ears.
Noticeably undershot or overshot.
Sickle or uncurled tail.
Dogs under 25 inches; bitches under 23 inches.
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Sources: American Kennel Club