Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
If you’re looking for a dog that will keep strangers at bay and vigilantly guard your home and family—but, at the same time, be a cuddly lovebug with you and your family—look no further than the Akita.
The Akita is a strong and courageous dog with an unflappable sense of loyalty to their family. They may be somewhat suspicious of strangers, but they love nothing more than to shower their close humans with adoration, love, and affection.
Let’s take a deep dive into this well-loved breed and learn more about all things Akita:
Also Known As...
“Akita” is actually a blanket term for two types of dogs—the Japanese Akita (or Akita Inu) and the American Akita. In most corners of the world (including Japan), these dogs are recognized as two separate, distinct breeds. But in the United States, they’re seen as one breed with type differences.
So, technically, the Akita may also be known by its “proper” names—Akita Inu, Japanese Akita, or American Akita.
Also, before they had an officially recognized breed name, Akitas were known as “snow country dogs.” How cute is that?!
The Akita breed got its start in Japan, where they were bred as a hunting and guard dog. In prior centuries, the Akita breed was reserved for Japan’s Imperial family and leaders. But eventually the breed’s popularity spread throughout the country.
The most famous and beloved Akita in Japanese history is Hachiko, whose story has become the stuff of legend. Hachiko was born in 1923 and belonged to Professor Hidesaburō Ueno of Tokyo. Every day, Hachiko would accompany Ueno to and from the Shibuya Train Station. One day, Ueno suffered a brain hemorrhage while at work and died from his injuries. That afternoon, Hachiko, who was just 18 months old at the time, arrived at the train station as usual to meet the professor. Obviously, he never arrived. But Hachiko continued traveling to and from the train station every day for 9 years hoping to find him. In 1934, a statue of Hachiko was erected at Shibuya Train Station. Today, the statue is still honored with an annual ceremony of remembrance. In fact, the Akita is so revered in Japan it was named a Japanese National Monument in 1931.
The Akita made its way to America in the late 1930s thanks to Helen Keller who, after traveling to Japan, was gifted with an Akita and brought it back to the States (that Akita died shortly after her arrival in the US, but another Akita was sent shortly after).
The Akita was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1955 and categorized in the miscellaneous class until 1972, when the AKC approved the breed standard and transferred the Akita’s categorization to working dog.
The ideal height for an Akita is between 26 and 28 inches for males and 24 to 26 inches for females.
Akitas are definitely on the larger size; in fact, they can grow to weigh as much as some humans! Fully grown, male Akitas weigh in at between 100 and 130 lbs—while females are slightly smaller, with a weight of between 70 and 100 lbs.
Sometimes, it can seem like Akitas have split personalities. With strangers, the best you can hope for is indifference—but, more often than not, Akitas can be extremely wary and suspicious of people they don’t know. And that’s doubly true for dogs. Akitas can be reactive with other dogs—particularly dogs of the same gender.
But when it comes to their family, Akitas are some of the most loyal, loving dogs in the animal kingdom. They'll do everything in their power to protect those they love. They’re also prone to acting more silly, goofy, and fun-loving when they’re around their humans.
So, in a nutshell, if you meet an Akita you don’t know, they probably won’t be too enthused to make your acquaintance—but if you add an Akita to your family and earn their respect and affection, they’ll be among the most loyal, loving, and fun companion dogs you could hope for.
Intelligence / Trainability
Akitas are an extremely intelligent breed who are eager to please their humans. But they also have an independent streak—and without consistent and early training, that independence can transform into stubbornness, making the training process more difficult.
Here are some tips to get the most out of training your Akita:
- Start early. Akitas are large, strong dogs—which makes properly training them even more important. If you want to get the most out of training your Akita, you need to start training them early—preferably while they’re still puppies. The earlier you start training, the better habits your Akita will form—and the better trained (and more safe) they’ll be when fully grown.
- Socialize. As mentioned, Akitas can be suspicious of (and even reactive toward) strangers and other dogs they don’t know. Socializing early and often will get your Akita more comfortable with unknown people and animals—which will make things much easier when they’re fully grown.
- Use positive reinforcement. Akitas love, love, LOVE their humans. And because they love their humans so much, they’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy—which can make training a lot easier. When you’re training your Akita, give them plenty of positive reinforcement (in the form of praise and treats) when they follow directions and engage in the training process. The happier they see you are, the more likely they’ll be to repeat the positive behavior—and the more successful training will be overall.
Akitas are large dogs—and because they’re so large, they’ll be happier in homes where they have space to roam. That doesn’t mean you need a mansion for your Akita to be happy and healthy! But if your space is cramped and there’s no much room to move around? It’s probably not the best fit for a dog that can easily grow to be over 100 lbs!
Akitas are an independent, reserved breed. So while they (obviously) love spending time with their humans, they’re also fine relaxing on their own. So if work keeps you out of the home for a large portion of the day, your Akita will be fine without you.
One other thing to keep in mind? Because Akitas can be reactive toward other dogs, they do better when they’re the only pet in the household. So if you already have a number of dogs in your home, it’s likely not the best environment for your Akita (or your other pups!).
Of course, that doesn't mean an Akita can't get along with other dogs. All dogs are unique, even within the breeds!
Good For Families And Kids?
As mentioned, Akitas are extremely loyal and loving to their families. But because of their tendency to get reactive, it may be best to add an Akita to your family when your kids are older.
Akitas have a fairly long lifespan, especially when you consider their size. The average lifespan for an Akita is between 10 and 13 years.
Overall, Akitas are a healthy breed. But, like any other dog breed, there are certain health issues that Akitas are prone to struggle with throughout their lifetime. And if you’re thinking of adding an Akita to your family, you want to have those potential issues on your radar.
Some of the more common Akita health issues include:
- a higher likelihood of sensitivity to vaccines and other drugs
- pseudohyperkalemia (a dangerous increase in the amount of potassium in the blood)
- autoimmune disorders
- endocrine disease (including hypothyroidism)
- hip and elbow dysplasia
Akitas (like any other breed!) should have regular visits with a veterinarian to evaluate, diagnose, and treat any potential health issues.
Akitas aren’t known as a high-energy breed. But just because they’re not the most active pups in the animal kingdom doesn’t mean that they don’t need any exercise at all! If you want to keep your Akita happy and healthy, plan on at least one brisk walk around the neighborhood each day.
Friendly with…(Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
Akitas are an extremely friendly breed—when they’re dealing with their families. They’re less friendly when it comes to strangers! So while Akitas are definitely good guard dogs, they may not be the best fit for households where they’ll need to interact with new people on a regular basis.
Akitas are also friendly with children—but again, because of their suspicious (and sometimes reactive) nature, they do best in homes with older children.
One thing Akitas are usually not friendly with? Other dogs—particularly dogs of the same sex. If you have other dogs in the home (or you have frequent canine visitors to the home), an Akita probably isn’t the right pup for you.
That being said, every Akita is different—and some are friendlier than others. Before you bring an Akita home, make sure to introduce them to every member of your family to make sure it’s a friendly fit.
Coat & Grooming
Akitas have an impressive (and thick!) double-coat, which will look its best with regular brushings. Once a week should be plenty—except during their seasonal sheds, which typically happen twice a year. When they’re in the process of shedding, plan to brush your Akita more frequently to get rid of dead hair.
Toys Akitas Would Like Best
Akitas can have a fun, playful energy, especially with their families. And one of the best ways to engage that playful energy and have fun with your pup? Toys, of course!
Some of the best toys for Akitas include:
- Super Chewer Toys. Akitas are big dogs. And big dogs have big teeth! Super chewer toys are engineered for excessive chewers, making them extra durable—so your Akita will get more chew time from their toy.
- Thinker Toys. Akitas are very intelligent—and, as such, they need plenty of mental stimulation. Thinker toys are a great way to engage your Akita’s brain—and keep them occupied solving the puzzle!
- Tug Toys. As mentioned, Akitas love playing with their humans. Tug toys are a great way to engage in playtime with your dog; your Akita will love a good, old-fashioned game of tug of war!
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Like any other pups, Akitas feel their best when they’re fed a diet of high-quality dog food—which means no unnatural ingredients, fillers, or preservatives. But don’t feed them too much! Not only can a calorie-dense diet lead to weight issues with Akitas, but as they get older (past the age of 7), a highly caloric diet can also cause kidney issues.
As Akitas age, they may also benefit from dietary supplements, like a daily multivitamin (to support general health) or a joint health supplement (to support mobility).
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Akita with any hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
For Akitas with joint issues - or any dog who just loves to lie around! - a nice comfortable bed with orthopedic support is probably a good idea.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed provides support for even the achiest of Akitas! The combination ergonomic memory foam and gel foam relieves pressure points, and helps ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and other orthopedic issues. It offers the best therapeutic support for your Akita. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Akita Of Your Dreams
As we always say, adopt, don’t shop! There are plenty of Akitas out there in need of loving, stable homes—so why go to a breeder when you can rescue an Akita in need?
If you’re ready to add an Akita to your family, here are a few notable Akita rescues where you can find your pup and give an Akita a forever home:
- Big East Akita Rescue, serving New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Northeastern United States
- Akita Rescue Mid-Atlantic Coast, Inc., serving the greater Washington DC area
- Midwest Akita Rescue Society, serving the Midwestern United States (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, and parts of Kansas and Kentucky)
- A Passion for Paws Akita Rescue, serving Southern California
- TikiHit Akita Rescue Association, serving Northern California
- Adoptable Akitas on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Akitas
Can’t get enough of the Akita? Then why not get your Akita fix on your Instagram feed?
Here are some notable Instagram Akitas you’ll definitely want to follow for your daily dose of Akita:
***Looking for a gift to blow your Akita's mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 super-durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 (!!!) meaty chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.
Featured image via BalooBear_Akita/Instagram