The courageous Akita breed is known for its muscular build, dignified persona, and profound loyalty. These snow dogs have a double coat in nine different colors, including the hallmark white. They can also have brindled or overlay coloring. Akitas have a broad, large head balanced out by a thick curled-over tail. Their large stature, round, erect ears and dark attentive eyes portray a burly, almost bear-like impression. A male Akita stands between 26-and 28 inches tall and weighs between 100-and 130 pounds. Female Akitas run between 24-and 26 inches tall and weigh around 70-100 pounds. The hardy breed is known to live somewhere between 10-and 14 years old.
Akitas are brawny, spitz-type dogs of Japanese lineage. Around a thousand years ago, they originated from what is now called the northern Akita Prefecture, from which the breed gets its name. According to the AKC website, Akitas belonged to the working group classification and were initially bred for hunting purposes. For centuries, the Akita's ancestors hunted elk, boar, and bears in the snow-covered mountains. Akitas would fearlessly face wild boar and even bears to protect their owners in the face of large predators. The breed was and still is highly prized for its courage and loyalty, which people depended on for survival. Their unrelenting devotion is so pure that the Akita breed would eventually become a symbol and standard Japanese parents held their children to as the perfect embodiment of family loyalty.
An Akita named Hachikō partly inspired the legend of the Akitas' profound loyalty and courage. One day his owner unexpectedly died at work, but Hachikō refused to give up faith and still went to the Shibuya train station every day in Tokyo to meet him for nearly a decade until he died in 1935. Ever since, Hachikō has been memorialized in books, movies, and as a statue in front of the train station where he waited. The Akita breed was scarce in number but became known as Japan's national treasure. In Japan, the breed is revered as a symbol of good health, fortune, and long life.
In 1937, two years after Hachikō the Akita passed, Helen Keller traveled to Japan to speak about overcoming her personal challenges. While she was there, she heard the tale of Hachikō and was very moved by it, saying she would love to own one of her own. The Japanese thanked her by gifting two purebred Akitas. This is the story of how the first Akitas came to America.
Around 1939, World War II began and brought trouble for the Akita breed. The Japanese government ordered all non-combat dogs to be disposed of. Akitas were especially sought after because the military paid a premium price for their double coats, which they used to line the uniforms of officers. An already small population of Akitas diminished even further. A single year later, the war came to an end, but only a small number of Akitas survived. Two belonged to a Mitsubishi engineer named Morie Sawataishi, who subverted the law when it was illegal to have them. He kept two prized purebred Akitas hidden in a shed on his remote mountain property, even as the family struggled to feed themselves during the war. After the war, Sawataishi worked tirelessly, planning litters and dog shows in order to build back the beloved yet nearly extinct breed.
However, due to a lack of dogs, breeders were forced to cross outside the breed in order to expand the gene pool. Two main versions of the Akita emerged: American Akita- a burlier breed that emerged in the United States and Akita Inu, the more spitz-type kind in Japan. Most other countries recognize the two as distinct breeds. However, in the U.S., they still compete together. It's highly likely that will change in the near future because just last year, the Akita Club of America members voted to define the two as separate breeds formally. The AKC first recognized the Akita as a breed in 1972. Today, the Akita is a popular and well-loved breed around the world. They rank number 47 as the most popular dog in America. The largest population of Akitas exists here in the United States.
The U.S. Service Dog website claims that a pup's personality and temperament largely stem from their mother's genes, environment, and temperament while raising them. Early socialization and learned behaviors (from mother and sibling pups) can greatly affect a dog's overall temperament. In order to become well-adjusted adults, pups need plenty of socialization both before and after moving into their new home. A safe, loving home encourages an even keel temperament.
The Akita breed is a natural guard dog with a determined and focused energy, perfect for anyone looking for help with keeping their home safe but doesn't want or know how to train them how to do so. However, they are not a very vocal breed, which is a relief to most. They will likely need to be taught that not all strangers are alike or a threat. At first, Akitas tend to be a bit more on the reserved side when it comes to strangers. Take the time to introduce friends properly so your dog knows who to trust. Once they get comfortable, their goofy, loving side opens up. This quieter breed must be very well socialized from birth and trained from a young age because Akitas are not natural social butterflies and don't always get along with other pets, especially ones they do not know. This breed prefers to share its company with pups and people they know well and have established trust with. For this reason, the Akita's Rescue Society recommends that you skip the dog park for this breed. Dogs should always be supervised during any introductions and/or interactions with other dogs.
The younger the Akitas are introduced to another pup, the better. However, some Akitas may operate better as solitary pets, so owners should be aware and prepared for this instance. We highly recommend reading PETMD's informative guide that includes wonderful tips on introducing two dogs.
It's important to recall that Akitas are smart, working dogs with an independent side. They will enjoy dog puzzles and other challenges. This breed was bred not to back down from bears, so they are headstrong and very protective. Some may see their persistence and fearlessness as stubbornness, while others see it as endearing. Either way, Akitas require a fair, sedulous approach to training. AKC ranks them as moderately easy to train. Some even say the breed's homeland deeply influences their character because only diligence and hard work will garner trust and respect in the dog. Others go as far as to describe this independent nature as fastidious.
Akita puppies will need a safe space to run, tumble, and do puppy things. They require access to freshwater, a dog bed/rest area, and plenty of fun toys. Puppies benefit from having bone or chew toys, not just for entertainment but also because teething can be particularly painful for puppies. Bones, treats, and chew toys, can help alleviate the pain and keep them entertained for hours! For young dogs, puppy gates can be a good idea to help set boundaries inside.
Teaching your puppy how to be alone is an important step in growing up. Crate training your puppy can help. Make sure to make the crate as warm, safe, and relaxing as possible. To make it really feel like home, feed them meals in there and give them special treats and toys they only get while in their crate. You want them to associate the crate with all positive things and not see it as a punishment. An especially anxious puppy may benefit from a white noise machine or other anxiety-easing products. Put the puppy in the crate or exercise pen and leave the room to see how he reacts. If the puppy whines, wait to see if he will self-soothe. Once the puppy responds positively and self soothes, leave the room for a little bit longer each time.
The northern Japanese native thrives in cold weather that resembles the snowy, mountainous region they hail from. However, even though Akita are working dogs, they adapt well to home life and even warmer weather. It's recommended to take your Akita for jogs in cool/shady areas where it's around 68 degrees F. If it's hotter out, a brisk walk in the shade may do, as long it doesn't exceed 86 degrees F. With sufficient daily exercise, Akitas can do well in a relatively small home.
Luckily, the Akita breed is on the clean side and does not drool much at all. Owners do not complain of doggy odor as much for this breed. Their thick, medium-length double coat does not require much grooming but should be brushed at least once a week to look its best. Their coat sheds most of the time minimally, but be prepared for the coat to blow, shed profusely twice a year due to temperature changes. During this time, it helps to brush the dog outside more often to help shed their summer coat outside of the home. The nails will need to be trimmed regularly to avoid pain. It is also good to brush the dog's teeth often to ensure dental health.
Veterinarians ask owners to consider factors such as age, size, and personality to help gauge exercise needs. Akitas are working dogs originally used for hunting purposes. They have a good amount of energy. AKC ranks their energy level one notch below the highest tier, which is the same as the Poodles'. Puppies will need more exercise during the first two years of life. Many veterinarians generally recommend 5 minutes of exercise for every month of age twice a day for puppies. This means a three-month-old would need 15 minutes of exercise twice a day, six months would be 30 twice a day, and nine months would require about 45 minutes twice a day. Your Akira pup could potentially need a little more.
All dogs must get time outside every day for their overall mental and physical health. Owners with a fenced-in backyard should have no problem meeting the Akiras' exercise needs. A jog or a brisk walk around the block at least once a day should meet their needs. Akitas are playful and love different types of fun games. Fetch, wrestling, hide-and-seek, and tug-of-war are some all-time favorites. These games can be played outside or inside.
The Akita will do well on any type of high-quality dog food. Commercial dog food or home-prepared food is recommended with your veterinarian's approval. According to the PetMD website, some studies have shown that dry food is overall more beneficial to dogs' health than a canned food diet, especially kibbles that are larger. One study found that increasing the kibble size by 50% resulted in a 42% decrease in the accumulation of dental tartar. Supplementing their food with a daily dental chew can further help oral hygiene. However, if the veterinarian says the dog is lean and needs to put on some weight, incorporating canned meals with their dry food diet works well. However, a diet that consists of purely wet food can make stools loose, not always!
It is very important to select age-appropriate food for your dog (puppy, adult, or senior). Dogs' nutritional needs vary slightly with age. Typically, a pups' food contains more calories, while a senior dog's food usually contains fewer calories and more fiber. As dogs age, they need to consume fewer calories (than a puppy). Some breed experts recommend that Akitas aged seven years and older receive light or less calorie-dense food to prevent the possible onset of kidney disease and potential obesity. Treats should be given in moderation and according to instructions. If your dog is obese, speak to your veterinarian to learn about weight and diet options. To keep your dog in optimal health, learn about which human foods are safe or unsafe for canine consumption. Make sure your dog gets plenty of freshwaters every day! Multiple water sources are encouraged.
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