- Breed group – Working group
- Height – 23 to 28 inches
- Weight – 74 to 110 pounds
- Coat length & texture – Medium-length fur and a double coat
- Coat color – White, red, brown, beige, black, or silver. American Akitas are generally patterned with stripes on solid dark fur or they’re solid white.
- Exercise needs – Moderate
- Intelligence – High intelligence
- Barking – Rarely without reason
- Life span – 12 to 15 years
- Temperament – Loyal, strong-willed, affectionate, and protective
- Hypoallergenic – No
- Origin – Japan
Akita fun facts
- There’s an Akita dog museum.
- Webbed toes help distribute weight and aid in walking on snow.
- Akita statues are a popular baby gift in Japan — they’re symbols of happiness and health.
Akita temperament and characteristics
Akitas are affectionate dogs that don’t require much exercise, but they must be properly socialized when young to avoid aggressive behaviors in adulthood. This is one reason they should always be supervised around young children or those with little exposure to dogs.
Because the Akita is often difficult to train, undersocialized Akita adults may become overprotective or aggressive toward other animals, children, and strangers. To overcome their protective instincts, Akitas will likely require additional extensive socialization and training.
Common Akita health problems
Though Akitas are a generally healthy breed, they can be susceptible to certain health conditions, such as skin issues and other genetic conditions. Some of these health problems include:
- Hypothyroidism. This occurs when the body’s endocrine system doesn’t produce sufficient levels of thyroid hormone, leading to fatigue, depression, weight gain, and other symptoms. In Akitas, hypothyroidism may present with a dry coat and skin, aggression, hair loss, or weight gain.
- Hip dysplasia and arthritis. Both the hips and elbows are at risk of dysplasia, which is the development of relatively unstable joints and may result in arthritis. If you notice lameness or stiffness in your Akita’s legs, contact your veterinarian to discuss treatment options.
- Obesity. Keep an eye on your Akita’s weight as obesity is a significant health problem within the breed. Obesity can worsen an Akita’s joints and lead to metabolic disorders, back pain, heart disease, and more.
- Cancer. Because Akitas live longer than many other breeds, they are susceptible to cancer, especially lymphoma or lymphosarcoma, in their golden years. Watch out for swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, or labored breathing.
- Sebaceous adenitis. This skin condition appears in Akita pups as dry, scaly skin and patches of hair loss along the back, top of the head, or back of the neck. Your vet may recommend a variety of treatment options to address the issue.
- Eczema. Because Akitas shed a lot, especially during the molting seasons of winter and summer when their dense undercoat comes out in clumps, they are especially susceptible to eczema, or inflammation of the skin. Your pup may experience itching and dryness, but brushing and grooming its coat every day during the fall and spring months can help prevent eczema. To treat this condition, your vet will likely prescribe a topical anti-inflammatory medication.
Cost of caring for Akitas
Between grooming and wellness, you may need to shell out a chunk of change every month while caring for your Akita. Some ways to reduce out-of-pocket expenses include (properly) grooming your Akita at home, signing up for pet insurance, and/or opening a pet savings account.
History of the Akita
Hailing from the snowy, mountainous Akita Prefecture region of northern Japan, the Akita was historically bred to hunt boar, elk, and Yezo bear, and later trained for police and guard work. At one point, only the ruling aristocrats in Japan had access to Akitas. In 1931, the government even designated Akitas a natural monument, meaning they were among the few breeds that Japan preserved from traditional crossbreeding to preserve their purebred form.
Akitas in America
It wasn’t until 1937 when the renowned Helen Keller visited Japan for a tour and presented with her own Akita puppy, that the breed found its way to the United States. In the 1950s, Akitas piqued the interest of American soldiers stationed in Japan during the postwar occupation, leading to a significant increase in Akitas imported to the U.S. Today, the Akita remains a popular breed around the globe.
Caring for your Akita
Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet, schedule your dog’s vaccinations, and puppy-proof your home. Here are some other basics specific to Akitas.
Akitas only need moderate exercise, meaning a brisk daily walk will typically suffice. Because this breed isn’t considered high-energy, they do well in more sedentary households and relatively small homes. Akitas especially love the cooler weather and will spend hours eating snow, rolling around in the snow, and simply spending time outdoors during the winter. They’re happy to join their humans for outdoor activities, such as camping, swimming, hiking, or snow sports. Quality time with their owners, whether that’s on a brisk walk or lazing on the couch, is key to avoiding aggressive behavior.
These heavy shedders have a soft, thick undercoat and a dense overcoat. Though they like to groom themselves, Akitas need at least weekly brushing to keep their skin and coat healthy. Here are some general grooming tips to keep your Akita looking and feeling healthy:
- Brush regularly — Daily or weekly brushing or line combing stimulates a healthy coat. Because Akita fur attaches to any surface it can cling to, groom your pup in a small, easy-to-clean room indoors.
- Avoid summer heat — Akitas do better in cooler temperatures.
- Give baths infrequently — Use warm (not hot) water and formulated dog shampoo to bathe your Akitas a few times a year. Dry them thoroughly afterward.
- Trim nails often — This should be done once or twice a month. The same goes for ear cleanings.
- Don’t forget to brush — Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets and can lead to other serious health conditions — daily brushing reduces the risk.
Diet and nutrition
Akitas originate from Japan where rice, fish, and sea plants were among their traditional diets. Though your Akita’s diet varies depending on their age, lifestyle, and medical conditions, you may want to look for these nutrients when purchasing your high-quality dog food.
Consult your veterinarian when deciding on portion sizes or any changes in diet, but in general, adult Akitas typically eat between 500 and 800 grams spread across two to three portions per day, depending on their weight. Because Akitas are especially susceptible to obesity, which can lead to joint issues, back pain, metabolic disorders, and more, your vet may recommend smaller portions. With proper care and nutrition, Akitas can live a healthy 12 to 14 years.
Training your Akita
Akitas are incredibly strong-willed and therefore more difficult to train, but it’s certainly possible. A well-trained Akita is a key to avoiding aggression towards other animals and strangers.
- Start training between seven and 16 weeks — Puppy training should include slow, gentle exposure to other young dogs and new environments. It’s important to start young as puppies are more curious than fearful.
- Avoid harsh corrections or shows of dominance — Akitas are naturally fearful of people, so be gentle and focus on promoting your pup’s confidence while building trust.
- Avoid dog parks — Dog parks are generally not recommended for most dogs without close supervision and full vaccinations, let alone breeds like the Akita, which are naturally fearful of other animals and strangers. Instead, set up small home playgroups with familiar animals.
- When in doubt, reach out to a professional — A licensed behaviorist or trainer who’s familiar with Akitas can be extremely helpful and perhaps necessary for some pups.
Breeds similar to the Akita
Not quite sure that an Akita is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Samoyed. Samoyeds, part of the working group breed, are highly affectionate and gentle and typically don thick, white coats.
- Shiba Inu. This small, alert ancient Japanese breed is considered the most popular companion dog in Japan.
- Chow chow. Chow chows, renowned for their lion manes, originate from ancient China and are considered dignified and bright.
- Siberian husky. This breed is often mischievous but also loyal, friendly, and gentle. Their thick coats and high endurance make them the perfect pack dogs for frozen expanses.
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Frequently asked questions
Is the Akita a good family dog?
The Akita can be good with young children when properly socialized, but these dogs should always be supervised around young children or those with little exposure to dogs.
How much do Akitas cost?
Akitas are one of the most expensive dog breeds to buy — eight-week-old puppies run anywhere between $1,800 and $3,500.
Are Akitas susceptible to certain medical conditions?
Though Akitas are a generally healthy breed, they are susceptible to certain skin issues and other genetic conditions, including eczema, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and cancer.
Are Akitas high energy?
Akitas are not considered hyperactive and only need moderate exercise, meaning a brisk daily walk will typically suffice.
What’s it like to own an Akita?
Akitas are incredibly loyal and want to spend much of their time around you whenever you’re home. However, because they are naturally fearful, Akitas can become aggressive toward strangers and new animals when undersocialized.