History and Characteristics of the Akita Dog Breed

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

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. Also, 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.


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 twelve years.

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.

Akita (dog)

The Akita ( 秋田犬 , Akita-inu, Japanese pronunciation: [akʲita.inɯ] ) is a large breed of dog originating from the mountainous regions of northern Japan. There are two separate varieties of Akita: a Japanese strain, commonly called Akita Inu (inu means dog in Japanese) or Japanese Akita, and an American strain, known as the Akita or American Akita. [2] The Japanese strain comes in a narrow palette of colors, with all other colors considered atypical of the breed, while the American strain comes in all dog colors. [3] The Akita has a short double-coat similar to that of many other northern spitz breeds such as the Siberian Husky, but long-coated dogs can also be found in many litters due to a recessive gene.

The Akita is a powerful, independent and dominant breed, commonly aloof with strangers but affectionate with family members. As a breed, Akitas are generally hardy.

In all countries except the United States, the Japanese and American strains of Akita are considered two separate breeds. In the United States, however, the two strains are considered a single breed with differences in type. For a while, the American strain of Akita was known in some countries as the Great Japanese Dog. Both forms of Akita are probably best known worldwide from the true story of Hachikō, a loyal Akita who lived in Japan before World War II.

Final Thoughts

Powerful that an Akita is, it is also fearless and courageous. Challenge this canine and you end up facing a formidable opponent who will fight until its very last vestige of courage. Treat it with love and respect and train it well, and you will have gained one of the most affectionate and faithful companions.

As long as you have the confidence to handle an Akita, this dog breed could prove to be the best for you. So do your research and judge whether you are up for it in every way before bringing one home.

Similar Dog Breeds

The Akita Inu is most similar to the Shiba Inu and Shikoku Inu. Some say that the Akita is just the large version of the two. These dogs have often been compared to the Japanese Spitz as well, at least in terms of physical features.

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I was privileged to have once rescued a pup who looked very much like an Akita. I’d never knew much about the breed until our Vet pointed out all the similarities he saw that made him think she was mostly Akita.

I rescued the Akita & a male Pup dumped with her. Our Vet said they were siblings. He told us how he knew that + the fact a litter can have more than 1Father.

Her brother looked like a German Shepard-not at all like his sister with a Spitz type Tail & body & head like an Akita. We named her “Elly Mae” & her brother “Jed”.

When she was about 1yr old? My Dad moved into our in-law apt. He was in his 80’s & had Alzheimers.

He soon told us he was SO lonely! (having never lived by himself for over 50yrs).
He was having problems sleeping. (My Mom was in a nearby nursing home w/many physical problems.)

Our Akita was with 2 other large dogs we had-a male & a female. She was VERY submissive to them both
(& us).

So I thought she might love having her own “home” with no competition. Plus she might have the right dispossession to be company for my Dad.

I told my Dad about her & asked if she could stay with him a day or 2? He looked puzzled but said “Yes”.

But my husband thought since she was such a large dog. (60lbs?) That she might trip him etc.

But we took her to Dad & watched her & Dad closely. After 1night? My Dad & the Akita-Elly Mae) were inseparable.

After 1night of them together?
I asked Dad if he wanted to keep her? He said “YES! She’s MY buddy & sleeps on the floor beside my bed or my recliner.” We get along JUST fine!

We watched Elly Mae around him. The very 1st evening we saw that the minute Dad got up from his recliner & walked with his cane?

Elly Mae backed up & got OUT of his way. She never tripped him or got in his way once. She sensed how she needed to act.
She’d patiently remind my Dad over & over if he forgot to let her in or out.

Though she’d never been housetrained? She instantly knew to “yip” to go outside. Never had 1 Accident.

Dad was not nearly as lonely anymore & Elly Mae had her very own Master. She loved putting her head on the arm of his recliner for him to pet. She had patience , intelligence & unlimited Love for Dad. She was indeed in “HER” home.

Dad went to an Adult Day Care weekdays. They picked him up on a bus & brought him home each afternoon. Elly Mae soon learned what “time” the bus brought him home daily & waited faithfully each weekday for his return by the fence.

Dad always had a BIG grin on his face when he 1st saw her & said “There’s my dog! Elly Mae!” As the others on the bus saw her also & all waved at them both.

He went in & let her in daily. But? Sometimes she had to “remind” him at the door until he let her in.

He sometimes forgot about her as soon as he went in his back door but Elly Mae went to a big window by his front door & would look in it at him & BARK! To remind him. Then back to the front door. Sometimes several times back & forth to get her Master to “remember” to let her in!

Dad passed away about 6yrs later. He had passed quickly early 1 morning & my husband found him just minutes after.

We let Elly Mae in to “sniff” her old friend before they took him away. As soon as she saw he was “gone”? Her always-coiled Spitz Type Tail went DOWN.

It stayed that way for weeks & weeks after. She never again went to his door. She knew
Dad was no longer there to answer it.

Though we let her sleep on the floor beside us nightly after that? She never fully got over Dad passing. She literally died of a broken heart it seemed about 1year later. Though we took her to the Vet etc.

1day she too had passed quietly & quickly. I still had her brother JED who looked much different for several yrs after she passed.

I like to think my Dad again saw her return to him & Dad proudly told all. “Theres MY dog! Elly Mae!”

God sent Dad the perfect companion. We are eternally grateful for her.

Thank you so much for sharing that. What a beautiful story about the undying loyalty of the Akita Inu.


Large and in charge—that’s the Akita. “It’s a working breed, but it was bred to actually hunt and protect houses back in the day in Japan,” Caballero says. “So that’s in their breed: the protecting, the guarding.”

He adds that the Akita can be an excellent family dog, if trained early and consistently. The Akita can get along well with familiar children, preferring to be around his humans as much as possible. However, he’s also territorial and tends to be aloof toward strangers. Many Akita behave aggressively towards other dogs, so they tend to make good “only” pets, unless they’re introduced to other household companions—including dogs and cats—as puppies, and even then, only under close supervision.

Length: Medium
Characteristics: Double coat
Colors: Any color
Overall Grooming Needs: Moderate

AKC Classification: Working
UKC Classification: Northern Breeds
Prevalence: Common

The Akita is a large, powerful dog with a decidedly sturdy appearance. Being only slightly longer than he is tall, the Akita's appearance is well balanced.

The full, curled tail is proportionate with the large head. The male Akita stands between 26 and 28 inches and weighs about 110 pounds (50 kilograms). The female is between 24 and 26 inches and weighs about 80 pounds (36 kilograms). The broad chest and neck of the Akita serve as a solid base for the large head, the Akita's most distinguishing feature. The broad head and short muzzle form a blunt triangle when viewed from the top. The Akita has small eyes and erect ears, giving the breed a very dignified expression. The body is muscular and the legs are straight and strong. The tail is large and full, and carried high, usually curled over the body.

The coat of the Akita is short to medium in length and very dense. A thick, soft undercoat makes the Akita well suited to colder climates, although the coat will thin out considerably during warmer months. The outer coat, or guard hair, is slightly longer and coarser. Some Akitas have long hair, and although not correct for purposes of show, they are attractive dogs in their own right. Colors of the Akita include white, brindle and pinto. White Akitas have no mask. Pinto has a white background with large patches of color covering the body. The undercoat may be a different color from the outer coat, but the colors are always clear and bold. The striking appearance of the Akita has contributed to its steady growth in popularity.


The Akita was never bred to live or work in groups, rather to be alone or in a pair. Today's Akita reflects that breeding. The Akita is happy to be an only dog, and can be aggressive toward other dogs not in his family group. Properly socialised, an Akita can learn to tolerate other animals, but will most likely try to keep his status as top dog at any cost. The Akita is loyal and affectionate toward his family and friends, but quite territorial about his home and aloof with strangers. They are excellent watchdogs and will only bark when there is truly something amiss.

The large size of the Akita can make him difficult to control and so is not a breed suitable for everyone. He has extreme strength and endurance and needs dedicated training to help him properly channel energy. Being an intelligent breed, however, the Akita can easily become bored with training. He thrives when challenged and given a job to do.

Living With:

Even though the Akita is a large, hardy breed, they have been bred for centuries as a companion in the home. The loyalty and devotion they display is well loved among Akita owners. Typically the Akita will follow you from room to room in your home, as if its only purpose in life is to protect you and keep you company. The Akita can, however, have aggressive tendencies. Usually the aggression is toward other dogs. They are not typically aggressive toward people, but have highly developed protection instincts and care should be taken when unfamiliar people enter your home. As for children in the home, the Akita will be as loyal toward them as any family member. Of course, young children in general should never be left alone with any large dogs, especially when they are new to the family.

In addition to their extreme loyalty, the Akita likes to keep very clean, and is easily housebroken. These two characteristics make them desirable to have in the home. Some have described the Akita as being almost "cat-like," as they are so clean and odorless.


The Akita originates in Japan where he is considered to be "tender in heart and strong in strength." The breed gets its name from the Prefecture of Akita, a section of northern Japan, where the breed was developed through crossings of chow chows with Japanese Kari and Tosa dogs. Centuries ago the breed was owned only by the imperial leaders of the country. Originally the Akita's job was to hunt, guard, and herd. This swift, powerful dog was unsurpassed in his ability to track large game including deer, elk and black bear. The Akita continues to be regarded as a loyal and courageous dog, and the Japanese now use the Akita as a police dog.

Known as a symbol of protection, Japanese parents often receive a small statue of an Akita when their child is born. The Akita is not only a symbol of protection, but also one of health, happiness, and long life. In 1931, the government of Japan declared the Akita breed to be a national monument and one of Japan's national treasures.

Helen Keller was the first person to bring the Akita to the United States. In 1937, on a visit to the Perfecture of Akita, she commented on how much she admired the breed and would like to have one of her own. Her courage had inspired the people of Japan, and as a gesture of respect she was given a puppy named Kamikaze-Go. Although this puppy died at a young age, she was fortunate to receive a second Akita and enjoyed his companionship for many years.

Watch the video: Life with an American Akita puppy! Our daily routine with a 10 weeks old Akita (July 2021).