Akitas are dignified, brave, loyal dogs that are devoted and affectionate to their family. Almost feline in nature, these dogs are usually clean and tidy in the house and can be rather independent. Their double coats are relatively short (only about two inches long) but the coats still manage to protect them from harsh conditions. While Akitas can be devoted and loyal, they can also be stubborn at times and will need a confident, dedicated trainer in their owner.
This breed originally hails from Japan, where they are considered to be a national treasure and were historically bred to be an adapting hunting dog in the mountains of Northern Japan. While the breed goes back to the 17th century, they were saved from extinction in the 19th century (when a collective effort in the country happened to save seven different native Japenese dog breeds happened). Today, these dogs have long held a special place in the country’s heart.
One truly beloved Akita was a dog named Hachiko, who would wait for his owner every single day at the train station to walk home. Unfortunately, his owner passed away unexpectedly while at work. But even after his owner’s death, Hachiko spent nine years waiting at the train station for his owner to come home. After Hachiko’s death in 1935, a statue was built to celebrate his commitment; annual celebrations are still held to celebrate Hachiko!
Helen Keller is often credited with bringing the breed over to the United States, where it was eventually recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1955 and classified as a ‘working class’ breed in 1972. Nowadays, many consider Japenese Akitas (often called the Akita Inu) and American Akitas to be quite separate. Japan and several other countries consider the two to be separate breed but in the US, the differences between American Akitas and Akita Inus are considered to be just different in type rather than two separate breeds.
Akitas often make great watchdogs, as they are often loyal and utterly devoted to their families and can be a bit wary of strangers. Plus, they are quite courageous, never back down from a challenge, and usually only bark when there is a good reason. Training and proper socialization can make all the difference in an Akita’s treatment of strangers; while they will never be a party animal, these things can soften their tough, wary personalities.
While this breed will usually only bark when necessary, they are quite vocal in different ways. They can be quite opinionated about how the house is run (like when bedtime is or how to clean up!) and will make amusing grunts, mumbles, or moans. They can also be a bit mouthy and love to carry things in their mouth, including your wrist! Doing so is usually not a sign of aggression but a way of communicating. Often, they might try to lead you to their leash, food bowl, or more, as if to try and communicate a message (like time for a walk or dinner!). If this is something you don’t find particularly amusing, simply giving an Akita a job, like carrying the newspaper or finding your keys, can help!
Akitas are quite large dogs, often weighing 100+ pounds and standing 24-28 inches at the shoulder. Their heads are broad and quite large while their tails are fluffy and curled. While they are rather muscular, they are actually quite graceful and agile. Some have said these dogs are quite feline in nature, as they will often stalk prey silently and low to the ground. Additionally, their grooming habits often remember folks of a cat’s grooming habits!
While these dogs tend to be clean and tidy, they will need regular grooming and care. Their double coats require significant brushing year-round but need brushing several times a week while they shed heavily in the spring and fall. The good news is that Akitas really only need bathing when absolutely necessary, as too many baths can strip their coat of the natural waterproofing.
These dogs would not make good backyard or lap dogs. They prefer to be with their people and make great companions, which means they really do not do well spending hours alone in a backyard. Akitas are also not generally recommended for first-time owners or for those who aren’t able to take charge or invest in the proper training and socialization.
If you’re looking for a loyal, affectionate dog (and potentially a watchdog!) and you’re able and willing to invest in training, you will not be disappointed in an Akita. These dogs have a long history in Japan, where they are still quite beloved by many. It’s not hard to see why they are held in such high regard.