The Japanese Akita, also known simply as the Akita, is a national monument is Japan. The breed is described as “tender in heart and strong in strength.” The Akita is a fiercely loyal family member, leery of strangers and would prefer to be the only pet in the home.
History and Origin
The Akita hails for the region of Akita on the island of Honshu in Japan. Since 1931, the Japanese Akita has been considered a national monument in Japan and is a symbol of good health and a protector of the home. Legend has it that when a child is born, the parents are given a statue of the Akita to signify happiness and health. A statue is also sent to an ill friend as a way to express a desire for a speedy recovery.
Throughout history, the Akita has had many jobs. He has been employed as an Imperial guard dog, fighting dog, deer and bear hunter, sled dog and has worked as a police and army dog. Until the 1800s, the Akita had been unchanged. When the sport of dog fighting became popular in Japan, the Akita was crossed with the Tosa, a Japanese fighting dog. This resulted in an increased size in the Akita and an increase in aggressive tendencies, particularly toward other dogs.
Up until the early 1900s, the Akita was well known and revered in his homeland but was not known outside Japan. This ended when an Akita named Hachi-Ko brought the breed into worldwide renown. This dog would accompany his owner to the train station each day on his way to and from work. One day, the dog’s owner had a fatal stroke at work. Regardless, Hachi-Ko returned everyday to the train station for 9 years waiting for his owner’s return. This story of the loyal Akita and his amazing breed became known throughout the world and at the time of Hachi-Ko’s death, a bronze statue was erected at the train station in his honor.
Soon after the story of Hachi-Ko, Helen Keller visited Japan and in 1937 was given 2 Akitas as gifts. She is credited with being the first person to bring the Akita to the United States. More Akitas then found their way to the US after World War II. During the war, the breed almost became extinct. The ravages of war resulted on the dogs starving, being used for food and eventually being killed to prevent the spread of disease. A few survived in remote mountainous regions and after World War II, American servicemen smuggled Akitas home with them.
Eventually, the Akita Club of America was formed and the Akita was accepted into the American Kennel Club as part of the working group.
The Japanese akita is a strong, powerful and distinctive looking dog. The head is heavy with a short muzzle and no wrinkles. The chest is deep and broad. The ears of the Akita are small and erect and the eyes are almond-shaped and typically dark brown. The tail of the Akita is very characteristic and should be full, carried high and curled over the back. The overall appearance of the Akita is that of a muscular, well-proportioned dog.
The double haircoat can be any color or a combination of colors.
The adult Akita stands around 26 to 28 inches at the shoulder and weighs about 80 to 120 pounds.
The Akita is an intelligent and agile dog but can be head strong with a dominate personality. This breed is not a good choice for the first time dog owner and can be aggressive toward other dogs.
The Akita has a strong hunting drive and should not be allowed to roam freely. The breed tends to be very fastidious and is often compared to a cat in matters of personal hygiene.
Home and Family Relations
Akitas are friendly, faithful dogs to family members but do not trust strangers. This makes them good guard dogs but should be supervised when around children they do not know.
Akitas prefer to be the only dog in the home but can do well with other dogs if raised with them from a puppy. They do not enjoy small children but if raised with children and other pets, can tolerate them.
Akitas requires firm and consistent handling with positive reinforcement. Some are dominant and independent and are best handled by an experienced dog owner.
The coat of the Akita requires grooming to prevent matting. Twice a year, the Akita will shed heavily.
Common Diseases and Disorders
- Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint develops abnormally and can result in pain, lameness and arthritis.
- Elbow dysplasia occurs when the elbow joint develops abnormally and can result in pain, lameness and arthritis.
- Ruptured cranial cruciate ligament is a problem that results from tearing of the cruciate ligament in the knee, causing lameness that may be severe .
- Gastric torsion, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.
- Congenital deafness can occur in some dogs.
- Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland does not function adequately. Without enough thyroid hormone, illness can occur.
- Juvenile onset polyarthritis occurs in young Akitas and results in lameness and arthritis in several joints.
- Congenital cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
- Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
- Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that develops when the pressure within the eye increases which can lead to blindness.
- Progressive retinal atrophy is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
- Retinal dysplasia is a congenital disease of the retina.In addition, although these occur infrequently, the following disorders have also been reported:
- Ventricular septal defect (VSD) a defect of the ventricular septum of the heart.
- Pericardial effusion is an accumulation of fluid within the pericardial space. It can be caused by tumors of the heart or idiopathic (no known cause).
The average life span of the Akita is 10 to 12 years.
We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.