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"There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face."

Ben Williams



The Akita or Akita Inu is a breed of large dog originating in Japan, named for Akita Prefecture, where it is thought to have originated. It is sometimes called the Akita-ken based on the Sino-Japanese reading of the same kanji.


The breed stands 64 to 70 cm at the shoulders. Females weigh anywhere from 34-50kg. Males are 34-54kg. The Akita Inu come in only five colours: Red, Fawn, Sesame, Brindle, and Pure White. All except white must have whitish hair on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, the neck, chest, body and tail.

All colors are accepted in the American Akita. The Pinto color is not accepted as a Japanese Akita color, but is as an American Akita color. In the U.S., some breeders interbreed the original Japanese type with the heavier American type, which is larger, and allows more colors. It is felt by some that combining the two types leads to improved appearance and genetic health by increasing genetic diversity. In the United States, there is only a single Akita breed registered by the American Kennel Club, whereas they are separated into two breeds in every other country in the world except Canada. In other countries the breed has been separated into two breeds: the Akita Inu and the American Akita. However, the American Akita is seen by some American breeders as being a different breed than the Japanese and these breeders advocate a splitting of the one breed into two.

Akitas possess a double coat, with a dense straight undercoat, and a thick outer coat. This coat makes the dog waterproof, as well as being well-equipped for the fierce winters in northern Japan. Due to the thickness of their coat, the breed requires daily grooming, and also an awareness of the dog's heavy shedding, especially during warm weather.

Akitas are a large breed. They are not considered to be a dog for novice owners, as the dog's master should be assertive in showing the dog its place in the pack, and to have some experience of dog behaviour. They are naturally wary of unknown people and animals and should be well socialised to avoid undesirable aggression. Left unattended in the backyard or in a kennel, they can develop "personality" problems, and may become destructive to the yard due to boredom. They are highly pack oriented, thus, isolating them from a social environment (i.e., the owner) causes them great stress. The Akita is a dominant dog which may expect other dogs to be submissive.

Akitas are devoted protectors of children in its pack, and it is said that Japanese mothers often left their children with only the Akitas to watch over and protect them. This devotion will not necessarily extend to other children, especially if teased, and can be aloof with strangers. Common sense should prevail, and adequate supervision of pets and children is generally a good idea. Having said this, a well socialized Akita will be more comfortable with this.

They are excellent house dogs. They require moderate, but regular exercise. Akitas are known to be very quiet dogs, only barking "when there is something to bark about".

Akitas may take a while to train because they are easily bored and can be stubborn. Akitas are highly intelligent, and will only obey a task if they see the point of it. They are not trick dogs. They are also a dominant breed, and will not take orders from a weak or abusive leader, requiring a firm but loving education where "no" always means "no" and never "whatever".

An Akita is not likely to shower affection on someone that is not a member of his family or a close friend that he sees frequently, and can be extremely aloof. The dogs are known for their loyalty, and a pet Akita will patiently follow its master from room to room, without ever getting underfoot. This trait is evident in the tale of Hachiko, a dog remembered in Japan for his loyalty, who daily met his master at the train station. After his master's death, Hachiko returned to the train station every day for 10 years until the end of his life.

Akitas in UK and USA/Canada surveys had a median lifespan of about 10 years, which is similar to other breeds of their size.

In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (32%), cardiac (14%), and gastrointestinal, including bloat/torsion (14%).[3] In a 2000-2001 USA/Canada Health Survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (21%), GDV (=bloat/torsion, 21%), musculoskeletal (15.5%), and autoimmune (7%).

Some of the health conditions known to affect this breed include:

• Canine herpesvirus, a strain of the Herpes virus that happens to affect canines
• Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), a condition associated with bloat
• Pemphigus, which causes the autoimmune system to attack the dog's skin (leading to pustules)
• Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), an adult-onset condition which gradual degeneration in the eye cells (i.e. rods & cones)
• UveoDermatological Syndrome (UDS)
• Sebaceous adenitis, an autoimmune condition which attacks and destroys the dog's sebaceous glands
• Canine Hip Dysplasia
• Hypothyroidism
• Hyperkalamia, as a breed, Akitas have abnormally high blood potassium concentrations compared to other breeds
• Heart size, as a breed Akitas have an unusually small heart for their size. For that reason, to avoid anaesthetic-induced death, only the bare minimum dose of general anaesthetic sufficient to produce anaesthesia should be used.


AkitaOther Names: Akita Inu, Japanese Akita
Country of origin: Japan
Weight: Male 34-54 kg; Female 34-50 kg
Height: Male - 61-71 cm
Coat: Coarse, straight, with soft undercoat
Color: Red, fawn, sesame, brindle, white
Litter size: 3-12 puppies, avg.7-8
Life span: 11-15 years

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus
Akita owners should take special note of the high incidence of GDV (Gastric dilatation volvulus) in this breed. Excess gas trapped in the dog's stomach causes "bloat." Twisting of the stomach (volvulus or "torsion") causes or is caused by excess gas. GDV is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Akita owners should be alert to the symptoms of GDV and know the location of the nearest emergency veterinary facility.

The Akita's ancestors were dogs used by matagi for hunting. These dogs, usually called matagi inu, were not as large as modern Akita dogs. Many of these dogs were used as guard dogs. Many were used to guard the emperor and his children. Akitas would sometimes be used instead of babysitters. They were also used for hunting bears, usually trained as mated pairs, with an eagle. The two dogs would attack the bear as it was distracted by the eagle.

Recent DNA analysis found that the Akita was among the most ancient dog breeds.

Edo Period
In the Edo Period, Dewa Province (present-day Akita prefecture) was ruled by the Satake clan. Since the Satake were tozama daimyo (considered potentially rebellious), they received severe restrictions by the Tokugawa Shogunate in all military areas. The clan decided to encourage dog fighting around 1630 in order to make it possible for the samurai to retain their aggressive edge in a way that would not offend the shogunate. Dog fighting became especially popular in the Odate area. Dog fighting enthusiasts in the area began to interbreed matagi inu with dogs indigenous to the area. These dogs, which later turned into the Akita, were called Odate inu at that time.

Before World War II
After the Meiji Restoration, people began to breed Akita with many dogs from other regions in Japan, such as the Tosa. The Meiji Restoration also ended Japan's closed door policy, and large, western dogs began to enter Japan. As a result, Akita were also bred with German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Mastiffs. This resulted in the breed losing many of its spitz-like characteristics. Akita were later bred with Hokkaido and Karafuto dogs (also known as the Sakhalin Husky), which were introduced to mainland Japan after the First Sino-Japanese War.

In the Taisho Period, people such as the mayor of Odate Town began a movement to preserve the Akita breed. By this time, the Akita had begun to turn into a mixed breed as a result of excessive breeding with other dogs. Watase Shozaburo, a Japanese zoologist that successfully proposed the Law for Protection of Natural Monuments also worked towards preserving the Akita breed. As a result, the Akitainu Introduction Foundation was created in May 1927 by the mayor of Odate, and nine Akita dogs were designated as natural monuments in 1931. In 1932, the faithful Akita dog Hachiko was featured in an article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which contributed to the popularity of the breed. When Helen Keller visited Akita prefecture in 1937, she expressed that she would like to have an Akita dog. An Akita called Kamikaze-go was given to her within a month. When Kamikaze-go later died because of canine distemper, his brother, Kenzan-go, was promptly sent to her. By 1938 a breed standard had been established and dog shows had been held, but such activities stopped after World War II began.

The War and its aftermath
During World War II, the number of Akita dogs greatly diminished because of the lack of food. There were also orders to capture all dogs except German Shepherds in order to use their fur for warm army uniforms. Many people bred Akita with Alsatians to avoid capture. When the war ended in 1945, there were fewer than twenty purebred Akita dogs in Japan.

However, the Akita became quite popular during the postwar period. Many occupation soldiers liked the Akita, because it was by far the largest Japanese dog. The fact that Helen Keller had an Akita also became well-known when she came to Japan in 1948 and thanked people in Akita for the dogs she was given. Most of the Akita dogs at this time had many German Shepherd-like characteristics. These dogs are currently known as Dewa line, or Dewa type Akita.