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The History and Characteristics of the Akita Dog Breed

Holle has owned two Akitas and has trained and bred dogs for decades.

The Akita is the smallest of the giant breeds of dogs, typically standing 24-28 inches tall.

The Akita is the smallest of the giant breeds of dogs, typically standing 24-28 inches tall.

History of the Akita Breed

The Akita is the national dog of Japan, and it is protected by law as a national monument. The breed was developed in the Akita prefecture on the island of Honshu, and according to DNA evidence, it’s one of the oldest dog breeds. In fact, the Akita is very primitive and is closely linked to the wolf. It’s actually part of the Spitz family. In Japan, the dogs were used for fighting, as sled dogs, and for hunting large prey, like bears and wild boars. For years, only members of the ruling class were allowed to own Akitas.

Near Extinction During the 1900s

World War II nearly made the dog extinct. With the shortage of food in Japan, many dogs died. Akitas were killed for their fur, which was used to line army uniforms. Ironically, the war also created a future for the breed. Many American soldiers fell in love with the dog and returned back to the states with Akita puppies. The first Akita in the U.S. was brought here by Helen Keller in 1937.

What's the Difference Between American and Japanese Akitas?

The American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club consider the Japanese and the American Akita as the same breed, while other kennel clubs list them as two distinct breeds. Japanese Akitas are a little smaller than their American cousins, and fewer colors are allowed in Japan.

Physical Characteristics

The Akita is the smallest of the giant breeds of dogs, typically standing 24-28 inches tall and weighing between 75 and 110 pounds. Males are usually larger than females. They have a large triangular head, small eyes, and prick ears. They have powerful, muscular bodies and a tail that curls over the back. Their plush double coat sheds twice a year. In the U.S., Akitas can be any color.

Akitas are intelligent, dominant, and loyal.

Akitas are intelligent, dominant, and loyal.


The Akita is naturally dominant in temperament. In fact, one expert told me that every Akita born thinks it is the alpha dog. These aren’t dogs for first-time owners. Akitas need owners who can establish pack leadership early. The dogs also need a lot of socialization at an early age. Most are naturally animal aggressive and consider just about everything as prey unless they are taught differently while they’re puppies. Because of the Akita's protective nature, they make excellent guard dogs.

These dogs are extremely intelligent, and it’s said that they know the pecking order of their human family. Akitas are protective of their territory and of their human pack, which sometimes creates problems. They’re usually suspicious of strangers and are sometimes aggressive. Insurance companies consider them high-risk dogs because of bites and attacks. An Akita should never be left unattended with small children. For one thing, since they’re so protective of “their children,” they might not understand typical playing and roughhousing among kids and think that their child is in danger. For another, a large energetic Akita could easily injure a small child accidentally.

I’m not trying to paint a bad picture of the Akita. I’ve owned two, and they were wonderful dogs. Mine never showed aggression toward people, but they did toward small animals. They absolutely hated cats! Ours lived in our large fenced-in yard, and they felt that anything that came into their enclosure was fair game, including birds, snakes, lizards, armadillos, and the dreaded felines.

My Akitas were otherwise very well behaved, calm, playful, and extremely loving and affectionate. They understood, however, that they were my dogs—not my husband’s. They were affectionate toward him, but they usually ignored his commands.

The Story of Hachiko

Akitas are fiercely loyal. One named Hachiko is legendary. In the 1920s, Hachi was owned by a college professor. The dog accompanied his owner to the train station every morning and returned every afternoon to wait for his master’s return. This continued for 18 months. In 1924, the professor died at work, and Hachi waited at the terminal for days. The professor’s family found Hachi and brought him home, but for 10 years, Hachi continued making the trip to the station in hopes of finding his master. In 1935, Hachiko died at the train station, still awaiting his beloved master. The Japanese erected a bronze statue of Hachiko at the same train station. In 2009, a movie was released about Hachiko called Hachiko: A Dog’s Story.

In Japan today, the Akita is a symbol of good health and well-being. Small statues of the breed are often sent to celebrate special occasions like the birth of a child.

Thinking About Getting an Akita?

If you’re thinking of getting an Akita, be sure first that you have the experience necessary to handle such a strong-willed dog. Half of all Akitas in the U.S. end up in shelters or rescues. Most reputable breeders recommend never having two Akitas of the same sex, especially from the same litter. In such a case, the dogs might “hunt” in tandem and “gang up” on other animals. Make sure to give your Akita puppy lots of socialization with all kinds of people, animals, and situations.

Akitas, like most large breeds, are prone to joint dysplasia. They also sometimes suffer from skin ailments, hypothyroidism, and bloat. A healthy Akita can live for up to 12 years.

Japanese Akitas are a little smaller than their American cousins, and fewer colors are allowed in Japan.

Japanese Akitas are a little smaller than their American cousins, and fewer colors are allowed in Japan.

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Questions & Answers

Question: What is the origin and meaning of the word "Akita"?

Answer: It's a region of Japan, where the breed was developed.


akita lover on July 23, 2014:

We had a akita for 13years (yoshi)before she past from bloat 4yrs ago.Best dog ever, wonderful with my kids or any other kids. Loving, protective. We have our second akita (Kaya) 4yrs sweetest dog ever..couldn't ask for a better dog..loves kids as well...i agree with everyone they hate cats, squirrels, and any rodent or animals..the hunt is always on...lololo we love our akita!!!

newenglandsun on January 31, 2013:

"In 1924, the professor died at work,"

This is so tragic. I just had a college professor of mine die recently this month. We got an e-mail telling us "Your instructor ... has passed away suddenly". At the beginning of the semester too. It's an online class so I actually never saw the professor face-to-face.

djordje on March 12, 2012:

you are fantastic dogs.

Do you sell puppies?

Shah.nawaz on November 18, 2011:

Breeds: The Akita good ye

Cesar on June 25, 2011:

On the picture is not original Akita(Japanese Akita Inu). This is american Akita... too bad they had to mix them with other breeds to create something big, fearfull... Original are better 100%.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on March 21, 2011:

Nice intro on a dog I have rarely seen kept by a family. They are mostly owned by adventurous people and are probably good for them. They are certainly not for me even though I love dogs and backpack with them a lot. I hope that the breed retains its root and that AKC does not experiment it on making those docile breeds like Irish wolfhound.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2010:

Thank you, JMJ!

Betty Bolden from Bucyrus Ohio on March 17, 2010:

Beautiful dog wonderful

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 15, 2010:

Marty, PLEASE read my hubs about Great Danes!! I have owned, bred, and trained many breeds, and the Dane is my all time fave!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 15, 2010:

Maita, compared to my Danes, akitas are smallish!

martycraigs on March 15, 2010:

I'm thinking that a new puppy could be in the picture for the near future, so I've been researching breeds lately. Thanks for helping and writing about the Akita.

prettydarkhorse from US on March 15, 2010:

even though they are the smallest among the giant breed dogs -- they still look big, they are going to crush me, LOL< Maita

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Aw, thanks, Veronica. You always say the nicest things!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Thanks, Sis. I always appreciate your comments!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Okay, Audrey - you're scaring me now! lol!

Veronica Allen from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Such a beautiful breed. I love your candor regarding the nature of the Akita, all the while letting your love for this particular breed shine through.

Angela Blair from Central Texas on March 14, 2010:

Love the Akita history -- wasn't aware of background although I knew they were Japanese. The Akitas I've known were, as you say, very protective of their families and often specific members. The lack of barking always interested me, too. Good Hub. Best, Sis

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on March 14, 2010:

Yes, brutally honest is right! Like mals and like sibes - you gotta know what you are doing? On second thought, why do I of all people have these dogs? Great info!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Jen, try one that doesn't shed - like a soft coated wheaten terrier!

JenDobson27 on March 14, 2010:

I wish I could get an inside dog, but I'm allergic :(

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

So true, Eth. Too many people buy a dog just based on its appearance. They never research the breed's characteristics.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on March 14, 2010:

They look gorgeous but would not be a dog for me. People should think very carefully before buying any dog. Good Hub Habee

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Thanks for visiting, Superman!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Thanks, UW! Nice to see you here!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 14, 2010:

Howdy, HH! Always good to see you, pal!

Superman05 from Philadelphia on March 13, 2010:

I really enjoyed reading this hub. I haven't read any information about the Akita to-date, so this was helpful. Thanks for the hub!

Susan Keeping from Kitchener, Ontario on March 13, 2010:

Beautiful dogs, very nice hub.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on March 13, 2010:

Thank you for an interesting hub where I learned a lot. In Germany many people owned a Spitz.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 13, 2010:

Our cats snag a squirrel once in a while, and I hate it!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 13, 2010:

That's exactly right, Sheila!

theherbivorehippi from Holly, MI on March 13, 2010:

They are beautiful dogs and it is important to paint a brutally honest picture to people considering them so they don't get overwhelmed and the dogs end up abandoned. I agree, they are not for the first time dog owner. They'll walk all over you if you don't know what you're doing. Oh...and let's talk about the prey two Malamutes are killing squirrels left and right. I'm quite honestly getting tired of the violent murders happening in the backyard. haha. Malachi devours his prey and Shiloh will drag them around all day like a stuffed animal or bring them to me and set them at the door. Ughhhh! Awesome hub!!

sheila b. on March 13, 2010:

A good follow-up to the movie review. And I like your honesty about the breed. Good dog for the right person. That's true of most pure-breds, I think. It's best to find the one to suit your life style and temperment.

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