Akitas originated from the Akita prefecture located in Honshu, Japan. There are two types of Akitas recognised by The Kennel Club as separate breeds: The Japanese Akita Inu and the American Akita (simply called Akita). The Japanese Akita Inu is a well-balanced and sturdy dog that stands 58 to 70 centimetres at the withers and weighs 75 to 118 pounds.
Do you prefer the Japanese Akita Inu over the American Akita? Here is a brief background of the original Akita, also called the Akita Ken in Japan.
The origin of the Japanese Akita Inu is a bit of a mystery as there are varying stories. The common belief is that the name was derived from its place of origin, the Akita prefecture located in Honshu, Japan. Breed experts believe that that the foundation dog for the Akita breed is the ancient Matagi. It is one of the most ancient native dogs in the country that was developed to hunt game in the 1600s. Some people say that it also may have descended from the Great Dane, the Tosa Inu and Mastiff-type dogs.
The Japanese Akita Inu’s numbers went down after World War II as some were eaten because of the lack of food while others were killed to prevent the spread of diseases. Japan started efforts to restore its numbers and declared the Akita Inu its national dog in 1931. To ensure its survival, German Shepherds were incorporated into the breed. In the USA, breeding programs deviated from the original appearance and went on to create larger and bear-like fighting Akitas.
Major international breed organisations are divided regarding the status of the breed. While most registries, including The Kennel Club, recognised the Japanese and American strains of Akita as separate breeds, the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club consider the two strains a single breed.
Appearance and Grooming
The Japanese Akita Inu is a well-balanced, solid and sturdy dog that is slightly longer than it is tall. Standing 58 to 70 centimetres at the withers and weighing 75 to 118 pounds, it is a large Spitz-type breed, a bit smaller than its American cousin. It has a round head, broad and flat skull, well-defined cheeks, and straight and deep muzzles. It has a large nose (flesh for white dogs), tight lips with pigmentation, small almond-shaped and dark brown eyes, thick triangular ears with round tips, and strong jaws with a perfect scissor bite.
Akita Inus are double-coated dogs. They boast of a straight, coarse outer coat that stands off, which is slightly longer at the withers and rump, and more profuse on the tail. Their undercoat is soft and dense with no feathering. According to KC standards, the accepted colours are fawn, brindle, sesame, and white.
The Akita Inu is a very clean dog that often exhibits cat-like cleaning characteristics. This breed has a short coat so it does not have any special grooming requirements aside from regular brushing to remove dead hair. However, it sheds heavily all year round especially during spring and autumn so prepare to have hair all over the house, including on furniture and your clothes. While grooming your Japanese Akita Inu, inspect for spots and fleas. It is also important to brush its teeth twice a week to maintain good oral health. Keep its ears clean to prevent infections and nails trimmed as overgrowth can be painful and uncomfortable.
Temperament and Intelligence
Japanese Akita Inus are known to be noble, loyal and courageous dogs that build strong bonds with owners. However, they hold into their independent nature so they are quite stubborn, making them difficult for new dog owners. They are better off in the hands of a firm and experienced owner that can establish its alpha role early on. Akitas tend to be dominant so early trainings are important for them to know their place in the pack, which is below everyone else in the household.
Akita Inus are affectionate toward family members but are reserved toward unfamiliar faces. This wariness toward strangers makes them good watchdogs and guard dogs but early socialisation should teach them not to be aggressive when uncalled for. This breed is fond of children but its size and aloof personality may not fit well with families with very young children. They are better suited for households with older kids that are more mature. It is important for parents to teach kids how to approach dogs regardless of the breed. Akitas have a tendency to be aggressive toward other dogs especially those of the same gender, which is why early socialisation is needed. Every interaction should be handled with caution especially if your dog is starting to show negative reactions. Small animals should be avoided altogether.
The Japanese Akita is an intelligent breed that can easily learn new things. However, training is difficult because its independent nature drives it to become disobedient. This is the reason why it needs to be in handled by a consistent and firm owner that can handle this physically powerful and strong-willed dog.
Nutrition and Feeding
A typical serving for an adult Japanese Akita Inu is 2.5 to 4 cups of excellent quality dry dog food per day. Since each dog has unique needs, consult your veterinarian to determine the right amount of food and frequency of feeding suitable to your dog.
Typical calorie needs of adult Japanese Akita Inus per day:
- Senior and less active: up to 1890 calories daily
- Typical adults: up to 2,120 calories daily
- Physically active/working dogs: up to 2,360 calories daily
To ensure the nutritional needs of your Akita are met, choose a premium brand of dog food with limited ingredients and specifically formulated for large dogs. Since protein is considered an important building block in dog nutrition, the number one ingredient should be animal meat such as chicken, beef or lamb. Experts recommend adding rice, fish and vegetables to their meals since the breed thrived on this diet back in the day.
Health and Exercise
A properly cared for Japanese Akita Inu can live up to 15 years. It is predisposed to quite a number of health conditions. It does not mean it will develop any or all of them but it awareness is key in keeping your dog healthy. These include bloat, eye issues, dwarfism, Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, Diabetes, Entropion, Sebaceous Adenitis, Autoimmune Haemolytic Anaemia, Addison's Disease, Cushing's Disease, Hyperthyroidism, and Von Willebrand's Disease.
Akita Inus are high-energy and smart dogs that need at least 2 hours of exciting physical and mental exercises. If they are unable to let off steam, they tend to be destructive and noisy. They can go on a walk in the morning but they should have more interesting activities in the afternoon. They also should also have access to an extremely securely fenced yard. Emphasis should be given to fencing since they will try to escape when they see a weak spot.
Cost of Ownership
If you are set on getting a Japanese Akita Inu, be ready to pay £250-£1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. To ensure it stays healthy at whatever age, you will need to feed your dog high quality dog food and treats, which can set you back £40-£50 a month. You would also need to spend on dog accessories such as leads, collars, bowls, crates, beds, and toys. The combined initial cost for these things is estimated at £200.
Moreover, you may have to consider paying for pet insurance to offset veterinary bills in case your dog suddenly falls ill or gets into an accident. Depending on where you live and your dog’s health and age, a time-limited cover can cost £56 a month while a lifetime one can cost up to £75 a month. Generally, insurance companies do not cover routine veterinary consultations, initial vaccinations, boosters, and neutering or spaying, so you may also have to spend an additional £1000 annually for these services.
On average, the minimum cost to care for a Japanese Akita Inu is £100-£130 per month depending on your pet insurance premium. Lastly, this estimate does not include the rates for other services such as walking and grooming.
Japanese Akita Inu Breed Highlights
- The Japanese Akita Inu is a loyal and courageous breed.
- It can develop a strong bond with its owners.
- It is indifferent and wary of strangers, making it a good guard dog.
- The Akita Inu has easy grooming needs but since it sheds profusely all year round, prepare to have hair around the house.
- Its independent and stubborn characteristics prove to be challenging for inexperienced owners.
Are you sure the Japanese Akita Inu is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.
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