Dog Health & More
The Akita is a large and powerful dog breed with a noble and intimidating presence. He was originally used for guarding royalty and nobility in feudal Japan. The Akita also tracked and hunted wild boar, black bear, and sometimes deer. He is a fearless and loyal guardian of his family. The Akita does not back down from challenges and does not frighten easily. Yet he is also an affectionate, respectful, and amusing dog when properly trained and socialized.
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The Akita is a big, bold dog with a distinctly powerful appearance: a large head in contrast to small, triangular eyes; and a confident, rugged stance. The mere presence of a powerful Akita serves as a deterrent to most who would cause trouble.
This breed is renowned for unwavering loyalty to his owners, and he can be surprisingly sweet and affectionate with family members. Imagine a loving protector who will follow you from room to room, whose entire mission in life seems to be simply to serve you.
The Akita is courageous, a natural guardian of his family. Stubborn and willful, he won't back down from a challenge. He doesn't usually bark unless there is a good reason, but he is vocal, making amusing grunts, moans, and mumbles. Some owners says the Akita mutters under his breath and seems to be talking to himself, while others say the Akita offers his opinion on all matters, from how to load the dishwasher to when the children should be put to bed.
While these charming "talking" traits are exhibited to family, the Akita is often aloof and silent with visitors. He's naturally wary of strangers, though he will be welcoming enough to a houseguest as long as his owners are home.
Socializing the Akita puppy (or retraining an adult dog) with as much exposure to friendly people as possible can help soften the edge of his wariness, though an Akita will always be an Akita — a dignified and sober presence, not a party animal.
One of the Akita's singular traits is mouthing. The Akita loves to carry things around in his mouth, and that includes your wrist. This is not an act of aggression, but simply an Akita way of communicating with those he loves. He may lead you to his leash because he wants to go for a walk, for example, or act on any number of other ideas that pop into his intelligent head.
Many owners are charmed by the Akita's mouthing, but if you find it annoying, simply give your Akita a job that involves carrying something. He would happily get the newspaper or your slippers for you, or retrieve the mail or even those keys you keep misplacing.
The Akita also proves himself unusual with his grooming habits, licking his body like a cat. And that's not his only feline trait: like a tiger, he'll stalk his prey silently, body low to the ground. This is not a dog that will growl or bark a warning before springing into action.
At 100 pounds or more, the Akita is a lot of muscular power. This is a dominating breed, and the Akita will want to dominate you. Proper training is essential, and training should be done by the owner. Because the Akita is so faithfully loyal, the bond between the owner and the dog must not be broken by boarding the dog with a trainer.
Before buying an Akita, it is crucial to spend time researching how to train this particular breed. Akitas do not respond well to harsh training methods. If your training is respectful, the dog will in turn respect you.
But be prepared for training to take longer than it does for other breeds. Though the Akita is highly intelligent, stubborn willfulness is a part of his personality, which can and does interfere with training. The best results come from doing plenty of homework on how to train before ever bringing an Akita home with you. This is not a breed for the timid.
The willful and determined Akita is also, despite his public reserve, a very social pet who needs plenty of time with his family. He does not do well as a backyard dog. Companionship holds hands with loyalty, which is what this breed is all about. To make him live outside without benefit of family is to deny the very essence of the Akita breed. A lonely and bored Akita can become destructive and aggressive.
The Akita is not recommended for first-time dog owners, for those who want a lapdog, or for those unwilling to take charge. But for owners who can and will invest time and effort in research and proper training, the reward is a fine, intelligent companion with unwavering loyalty.
In addition to all other considerations, choosing an Akita means deciding which side of a controversy you want to stand on. This controversy is "the split," and it relates to the Japanese or American standard for the breed.
The Japanese Akita is considerably smaller, both in height and mass, than the American Akita — as much as 30 or more pounds lighter. His foxlike head is decidedly different from the broad head of the American breed. The Japanese Akita has almond-shaped eyes, while the American Akita's eyes are triangular. A black mask is much in vogue on the American Akita but is considered a show disqualifier in Japan, where markings on the face are white.
If you want your dog to compete in any American Kennel Club events, the black mask means the dog has been bred to the American standard and will be allowed to compete. In fact, in America, any color on the Akita is permitted; in Japan, only red, white, and some brindles are allowed.
So wide are the differences between the types that it would seem that a split would be best for the breed. There appear to be as many strongly in favor of the split as there are those who are strongly against it. Deciding which standard to choose should be done only after much research and is largely a matter of personal taste.
The Akita's natural hunting skills translate well to various activities. He still hunts today and is able to hold large game at bay until the hunter arrives. He can also retrieve waterfowl. He is adept at tracking, and his catlike movements make him talented in agility. Akita owners are increasingly surprising those skeptics who believe that the Akita nature prevents success in this field. While it's true that the breed's stubbornness can make training a challenge, Akitas and their owners are taking home ribbons as more people discover the thrill of accomplishment in working with this dog.