The American Akita | Discover Their Temperament, Personalities, Life Span & Much More
This article offers a comprehensive review of the American Akita breed. This breed is known for its loyal and courageous disposition, stunning and regal good looks, and big personality.
It is not a great choice for everyone. In fact, they can be a very poor choice in some cases.
If you are considering buying an American Akita, read on!
We will cover all the bases you need to decide if this is a good candidate for your next pet.
Here's the deal...
Our review will first consider the history of this ancient breed. We will explore its origins as well as its genetic departure from the Japanese Akita Inu.
Then we will take an in depth look at the temperament of the Akita, followed by the physical characteristics you can expect.
We will take a look at the pros and cons of the breed followed by a look at what kinds of lifestyles this dog is most suited for as well as who should avoid this breed.
We offer some great resources at the end of this article to help you find a reputable breeder and/or rescue operation in your area.
The American Akita
Did you know?
The ancestors of the American Akita go back as far as thousands of years.
They were among the native breeds in Japan used to hunt boar, elk and bear in the rugged and cold mountains of Honshu and the Akita prefecture. The job of this dog was to track their large and dangerous quarry then hold them at bay until the hunters could make a kill.
The bravest and most dominant of this breed were selected over centuries, creating the courageous dog we know today.
Great Danes, English Mastiffs, St. Bernards and Tosa Inu were also mixed into the breed to add size, strength and fighting abilities when the breed was used for dog fighting competitions in the early 1900’s.
They were crossed with German Shepard’s during WWII in order to make them fit into a wartime decree that all non-military breeds should be destroyed. The Japanese Akita was almost lost completely during this tumultuous time.
Thanks to some secret breeding programs, and orienting the breed towards military and police work, this beloved native breed to Japan was saved. HOORAY!
The first Akitas came to America with the help of Helen Keller in 1937. However, the breed really gained popularity after the war when U.S. servicemen fell in love with them during the post-war occupation.
Many brought these beloved dogs home with them. These canines became the foundational breeding stock for the American Akita.
The evolution begins...
From the start, American servicemen had a preference for the larger specimens of the breed that had been mixed with German Shepherds rather than those dogs that were more representative of the original Japanese breed.
Thus, the American Akitas were, from the start, much larger and stockier than the Japanese standard.
The AKC recognized the standard in 1972, which included significant differences from the Japanese preferences. A black face was allowed, larger sizes were the norm, and a fuller range of colors was accepted in America.
From 1974-1992 the AKC restricted the breeding of American Akitas with the Japanese Akita Inu, thus deepening the genetic divide between the two.
Today this breed is most commonly seen in the show ring, having won Best in Show awards at various prestigious confirmation competitions.
However, they are also sometimes used as therapy dogs given their affectionate nature.
The Legend of Hachikō
By far, the most famous Akita is Hachikō, a Japanese dog born in 1924.
His owner was Hidesaburō Ueno was a professor at the University of Tokyo. He regularly took a nearby train to work. After work he would return on the same train to find his loyal dog waiting for him to enjoy a walk home.
A year later Hidesaburō Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage while at work, never returning to the station. Undeterred, Hachikō went to the station every single day to wait for his master for over 9 years until his death.
The story of Hachikō is well known in Japan where he is celebrated widely for his incredible loyalty and devotion. An annual celebration is held on March 8 at the Shibuya railroad station where he waited for his master to return year after year.
In fact, Hachikō achieved worldwide recognition in his time.
Helen Keller, famous advocate for the blind, was so moved by Hachikō’s story that she developed a love for the breed and brought the first Akitas to America from Japan.
Hachiko with Dr. Hidesaburo Ueno statue
The most stand out feature of this breed is the intense loyalty they show to their people.
Frankly, this is probably the reason for the popularity among those that love the breed. This breed is affectionate with members of his family, but is often standoffish with strangers.
Bold and Fearless
This is a dog breed that shows incredible bravery. They do not back down from conflict and have a genuine curiosity about the world around them.
Bred to assist hunting boar and bear, it is safe to assume the Akita has a bold heart!
Most of these dogs have big personalities with plenty of room for fun! They often initiate fun games and often repeat the ridiculous behaviors that make you laugh most.
Still, they snap back to dignified in a heartbeat. Expect the turbo boost to go on when the snow falls too. This guy can’t help but to really come to life in cold weather!
These dogs have a reputation for being fastidiously clean. Some say they are cat like, even cleaning their faces with their paws after a meal. They are easy to housebreak because of their neat freak disposition.
This is an expressive breed, although they are not heavy barkers. Instead they tend to make quieter talkative sounds like howls and grunts.
They will bark if they think there is a reason, for instance, sounding an alarm or intimidating something they perceive as a threat.
Eager to Please
Although willful, this breed is also intelligent and willing to learn because of the love they have for their owners. Keep training methods positive and avoid stand-offs with this breed.
They are best kept by experienced dog owners that have a good grounding in basics of training.
They can be dominant and stubborn, especially if these strategies are rewarded by well-intentioned owners.
Although not a hyper breed, the Akita tends to be very alert, ever on guard and ready to protect his people. They tend to be wary of strangers and new situations, particularly if not well socialized as puppies.
The exercise needs of this breed are moderate. They are not typically hyper, but regular exercise is necessary to keep them mentally and physically sound.
They have been known to perform well in various dog sports such as obedience and agility. Giving these dogs a job is a great way to keep them physically and mentally active.
It is worth noting that the Akita loves to dig and climb so very secure fencing will be required to keep them safely contained in the yard. In addition, leaving this breed alone for too long is likely to encourage destructive habits.
Small Children and Other Dogs
The Akita is not a breed that is a good fit for a home with small children. Because they are on high alert and somewhat careful, these dogs can be unpredictable if provoked by small children who don’t know any better.
Due to having a high prey drive, this is not a good breed for a home with cats or other small dogs either. The Akita can perceive a game of chase as a hunt.
Their instinctive drive to guard their people and toys can turn into a fight with another dog in an instant. Because they are so powerful, a dog fight with an Akita in the mix could come to a tragic end in no time flat. If you do have an Akita and plan on introducing another dog to your pack, get some help from a professional trainer.
This is especially true with dogs of the same sex which seems to increase the likelihood this breed will sense the new dog as a threat. It is generally not recommended to keep two of the same sex.
Akita puppies must be socialized with other dogs and people in order to gain confidence around them. If this breed is allowed to grow up without the benefit of socializing, they can become a dangerous time bomb waiting to go off at any moment in a new situation that they perceive to be threatening.
This is not because they are vicious, it is because they have a very high guarding instinct – when they perceive that something is wrong, they bite first and ask questions later.
If you plan on adopting an Akita, we recommend you use a reputable Akita rescue organization so that you can know what you are getting into. The folks working with these non-profit organizations have a deep love and knowledge of the breed.
They can make sure you adopt a dog that is right for your experience level and lifestyle. We have included some links at the end of this article as a resource.
This is an extra-large and powerful breed with a significant difference between males and females. The AKC standard for males puts them between 26-28 inches and 100-130 pounds. Females range from 24-26 inches and 70-100 pounds.
The bones and muscles of this breed are very dense. They are quite a solid dog, particularly when kept in good condition. Expect to spend a good deal of money on quality dog food!
Coat and Appearance
The American Akita has a thick double coat. The outer layer is somewhat course and medium in length. The undercoat is soft and dense.
This is a breed that will have a heavy shed in spring, and a smaller shed in the fall.
Outside of the major seasonal molt, the care of the coat is easy. A brush outside once a week will help keep excess fur off of the furniture.
Physical characteristics of the breed include a thick, bear like head, webbed feet for extra agility in deep snow, and a thick curled tail that lays on the back.
The colors for the American Akita include white, brindle, and pinto with a full range of colors allowed in those patterns. The face is allowed to be black for the AKC standard, with the exception of those with a white coloration.
The thick coat of this breed makes it suitable for cold environments. In fact, they will really get excited and playful when allowed to romp in deep snow.
However, they are not able to tolerate a lot of heat so they are best not kept in hot climates.
Thicker than a huskies coat... (super adorable pic too)
Health and Life Expectancy
Because they are so large and massive, the life expectancy of this breed is fairly low at 10-13 years.
Another serious condition known to be a problem for this breed is sebaceous adenitis which is a skin condition that can potentially become quite severe.
It is caused by an infection of the sebaceous glands that produce moisturizing oils to protect the skin. Eventually the glands can fail and symptoms such as dry skin, hair loss, thickened skin and persistent skin infections can occur.
This is one of the breeds that seems to be particularly susceptible to bloat, a dangerous and life-threatening condition where the stomach can turn and become blocked.
It is particularly important to make sure an Akita is well rested after eating, eats several smaller meals a day slowly, and is prevented from drinking large volumes of water after meals
Difference Between American Akita and Japanese Akita Inu
As discussed in the history section of this article, the American Akita was genetically isolated from the Japanese Akita Inu for many years.
Different breeding standards have produced different looking dogs, although both have similar temperaments.The main differences are:
Pros & Cons
A Japanese Akita... pretty different hey!
Is the American Akita the Right Breed for You?
Here at WileyPup, we want to help you have the information you need to make important decisions about the dogs in your life.
If you are considering buying this breed, make sure it is going to be a good fit. Akitas are just not for everyone!
Akitas are a poor fit for:
Akitas are great for:
Where to Find Akita Puppies
It is critical to find a good breeder or reputable rescue operation before you purchase one of these dogs. Because they have a high market price, unscrupulous breeders of Akitas are common.
Given the many health problems this breed is prone to, responsible breeding is your best bulwark against having expensive vet bills for the life of your dog.
In addition, because they are not a good fit for many situations, there are a surplus of rescue dogs available.
Unfortunately, some of these dogs have been kept by inexperienced people during the most important training time of their lives before they became unruly in the household and were given up.
If you decide to adopt an adult Akita, we recommend you use one of the many regional rescue operations that specialize in the breed.
These groups usually provide special training and care and are also aware of the special needs any individual dog may have before sending them to a forever home. With such a powerful dog, this is an important precaution to take.
The Akita Club of America keeps a registry of the reputable regional rescue organizations and similar lists can be found through the breed specific clubs in other countries. Likewise, the parent clubs are a great resource for finding reputable breeders if an Akita puppy is what you seek.