July: Akita

  • Highlights

To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.

  • The Akita is aggressive with other dogs and is especially prone to same-sex aggression.
  • The Akita is not a good choice for first-time dog owners.
  • Positive socialization and consistent, firm training are essential for the Akita. If he is mishandled or mistreated, he often responds by becoming aggressive.
  • The Akita will chase other pets in the house.
  • The Akita sheds — a lot!
  • Prolonged eye contact is considered a challenge by the Akita, and he may respond aggressively.
  • Training the willful Akita can be challenging and requires understanding, experience, and patience. It’s best to work with a trainer familiar with the breed, but be sure to do the training yourself.
  • History

The Akita is named for the province of Akita in northern Japan, where he is believed to have originated. The Akita’s known existence goes back to the 1600s, when the breed guarded Japanese royalty and was used for hunting fowl and large game (including bears).

This valiant breed was introduced to America by a woman of no small stature: Helen Keller. The Japanese held Helen Keller in high esteem and took her to Shibuyu to show her the statue of Hachiko, an Akita who achieved worldwide fame in the 1920s for his loyalty. Hachiko’s owner, a professor, returned from work each day at 3 p.m., and his devoted dog met him daily at the train station. When the professor died, loyal Hachiko continued his daily vigil until his own death a full decade later.

When Helen Keller expressed her desire to have an Akita for her own, she was presented with a puppy, the first Akita brought to America. Keller was delighted with Kamikaze-go and was deeply saddened when he died of distemper at a young age. Upon hearing this news, the Japanese government officially presented her with Kamikaze’s older brother, Kenzan-go. Keller later wrote that Kamikaze had been “an angel in fur” and that the Akita breed was “gentle, companionable, and trusty.”

After World War II, returning American servicemen who had been stationed in Japan brought back more Akitas. Thomas Boyd is credited with producing the first Akita stud to sire puppies in the U.S., starting in 1956. The American Akita eventually evolved into a more robust dog than the Japanese Akita and was valued by many for this reason.

Yet there were those who wanted to remain true to the Japanese standard. This split caused a decades-long battle that led to a delay in acceptance by the American Kennel Club. Finally, in 1972, the AKC accepted the Akita Club of America — but the split is still wide today and is a matter of great concern to Akita fanciers on both sides.

What is never debated is the Akita’s historical and famous combination of fearlessness and loyalty. These traits were once put to the test at the London Zoo, when a Sumatran tiger cub was orphaned. The zookeepers needed special help in raising the cub, and they chose an Akita puppy for this important task. They knew the Akita would not be frightened and could engage in play that would help the tiger cub with necessary life lessons. Moreover, the Akita’s dense fur would protect him from sharp claws, and the pup’s inherent loyalty to his playmate would provide desired companionship and protection for the bewildered, orphaned cub. The Akita served in the role successfully and “retired” from the job when the tiger reached near-adulthood.

This is a dog who is truly fearless, fully confident, and will exhibit unfaltering devotion to family.

  • Size

Males stand 26 to 28 inches and weigh 85 to 130 pounds. Females stand 24 to 26 inches and weigh 70 to 110 pounds.

  • Personality

The Akita is a bold and willful dog, naturally wary of strangers but extremely loyal to his family. He is alert, intelligent, and courageous. He tends to be aggressive toward other dogs, especially those of the same sex. He is best suited to a one-dog household.

With his family, the Akita is affectionate and playful. He enjoys the companionship of his family and wants to participate in daily activities. He’s mouthy and enjoys carrying toys and household items around. Despite the common belief that he never barks, he is in fact noisy, known to grumble, moan — and, yes, bark if he believes the situation warrants it.

Be aware the Akita’s strong personality can be overwhelming. He is not the dog for a first-time owner, and he is not for the timid. He needs an owner who can provide firm, loving discipline.

Activity is essential for this active breed. He needs plenty of exercise to keep him from becoming bored and, in turn, destructive.

The naturally protective Akita has a propensity to become aggressive if allowed, or if he isn’t raised properly. Training the Akita is essential, and so is proper socialization from an early age. Keep in mind that this breed is stubborn, so extra patience is necessary to teach him proper canine manners.