Akita Dog Breed

Other names:
Akai Dog
Akita Bear
Akita Inu
Akita Ken
Akita Spitz
America Akita
American Akita
American Hakita
Great Japanese Dog
Hakita Ken
Japanese Akita

The akita is a large dog breed which was originally bred to guard nobility and royalty in Japan. The breed does not frighten easily and is known for not backing down and was also used in hunting big game such as bear, boar, and deer.

The akita is known for their stubbornness, so they may not be the best choice for a first time dog owner. They make a good family dog, but can be aggressive towards other dogs (especially if they are the same sex).

Akita Breed Details

The Akita is a member of the Working group of breeds, and has been utilized as a guard dog and large-game hunter for centuries. These powerful, protective dogs are quite affectionate with and loyal to their families--and suspicious of (and often dangerously aggressive towards) everybody else. As such, Akitas are best suited for experienced owners in need of personal and/or property protection.

A few Akita facts: they're large-sized, with short- to medium-length, double-layered fur that comes in a wide variety of both solid and mixed colors. Here are some advantages and drawbacks to owning this mighty breed:


  • Courageous and loyal
  • Very intelligent
  • Unparalleled guard dog skills
  • Affectionate and playful with family members
  • Good work ethic
  • Low to moderate barking tendencies
  • Adapts well to cold climates
  • Extremely clean and self-maintaining


  • Potential for aggression around strangers; unsupervised Akita attacks are not uncommon
  • Stubborn and strong-willed
  • Early and constant socialization with humans and other animals required
  • Banned in some towns/cities
  • Sheds profusely
  • Not at all suited for first-time owners
  • Doesn't socialize well with other pets (recommended for "one-pet households")
  • Can be difficult to train
  • Regular exercise required
10 - 12 yrs.
24 - 28 in.
70 - 130 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Akita Breed Description

Since the breed was originally used for guarding it should come to no surprise that akitas are large dog breeds. Adults can reach 26 inches from ground to shoulder and can weigh up to 130 pounds. Their size and strength combined with their stubbornness can make it difficult for novice owners to control their akita which is why early obedience training is necessary.

As a guard dog, an akita will protect their family with their life regardless of the threat. With this in mind it is important to consider the safety of others when guests are over. The breed will do well with children it has been raised with, but proper socialization with strangers and other pets is necessary to keep the dog well rounded.

Akitas are heavy shedders (especially during seasonal changes) so expect to vacuum regularly to keep hair from accumulating on furniture. They will need to be bathed every few months to prevent a doggy odor from developing, or sooner if their coat becomes dirty. Akitas need daily exercise. Their energy needs can be met with a 30 minute walk or jog each day.

Akita Breed History

Akita history has its beginnings in Japan--specifically in the Akita Prefecture, a mountainous region in the northern part of the nation. Akita dogs existed there as far back as the 1600s, when they guarded Japanese royalty and hunted large game like bears and boar.

But it wasn't until the early twentieth century that Akitas started gaining worldwide notice. First was the legend of Hachiko, an Akita owned by a college professor in Shibuya, a Tokyo suburb. Beginning in 1923 when he was a puppy, Hachiko accompanied the professor to and from the Shibuya train station each day for the professor's commute into the city. But two years later, Hachiko made his customary trip to the station to meet his master after work--only the professor never arrived; he had died of a brain hemorrhage at work that day. Even so, Hachiko, though he went to live with the professor's relatives, traveled to the station every day for the next nine years to wait for his master. Hachiko's loyalty became known across Japan (and eventually worldwide), and a bronze statue of the dog was erected at the Shibuya station shortly before Hachiko's death in 1934.

Shortly thereafter, the Akita breed gained even more infamy when deaf-mute American author/activist Helen Keller visited Japan. She learned much about the breed during her trip (which included a visit to the Hachiko statue in Shibuya), and was given her own Akita--a pup named Kamikaze--to take with her back to the States. Sadly, Kamikaze died of distemper shortly after Keller's return, so the Japanese government arranged to send her another one--Kamikaze's litter-mate, a dog named Kenzan. Keller grew to love the breed, and called the Akita "an angel in fur" in her later writings.

During World War II, the Akita, like many breeds, grew scarce in number. Fortunately the breed's population has steadily increased in recent decades. In modern times, two variants of Akitas--the Japanese and the American--have emerged, and fierce debate rages over whether they are separate breeds.

Akita Appearance

Akitas are large, powerful, and solid in overall appearance--one reason they make such great guard dogs.

The breed's body is typically a bit greater in length than in height. The head is strong, triangular, and often compared to that of a bear ("bear-head Akita" is a common description); the eyes are fairly small, almond-shaped, and normally brown (though Akitas with blue eyes are possible); the ears are fairly large, triangular, and usually stand erect. The chest is deep, the shoulders extremely muscular, legs medium-length and straight, and the tail is bushy, of medium length, and curled over the back.

The typical Akita coat is medium-length, thick, and double-layered, in a wide variety of colors. Long-haired Akitas do exist, but are rare (and highly prized).

Akita Colors

The images below represent the coat colors and patterns associated with Akitas.

Black Brindle
Black Brindle
Brown Brindle
Brown Brindle
Fawn Brindle
Fawn Brindle
Red Brindle
Red Brindle
Silver Brindle
Silver Brindle

Akita Variations

In the past half-century, this breed has become known in two varieties: the Japanese Akita (also known as the Akita Inu, where Inu is Japanese for "dog") and the American Akita. Disagreement continues around the world over whether Akitas should be divided into two distinct breeds (the Japanese and American) or simply two variants of one breed. Currently, kennel clubs in only the U.S. and Canada recognize both variations as one breed; elsewhere, American Akitas and Akita Inus are considered separate breeds.

One distinct difference between the two variations is coat coloring. Japanese Akitas typically exist only in brindle, white, and various shades of red and/or fawn. The American variety, meanwhile, exists in a much wider variety of colors, including brown, black, and even blue, in both solid and multi-colored patterns.

Size difference is another distinction. The American Akita is typically larger (an average of 27 inches in height and 110 pounds in weight)--chiefly because the first Akitas in the U.S. were brought by U.S. servicemen returning after World War II, and the soldiers preferred the heavier, more solidly built dogs.

Akita Temperament

Protective, intelligent, alert, playful, and at times stubborn and highly aggressive, the Akita temperament is one of loyalty and confidence. Akitas are considered excellent guard dogs for good reason: they're devoted to their family members, and distrustful of everyone else. The most important variable in determining the Akita personality is socialization--and the earlier, the better! Akitas that are raised with humans and other pets are typically fun-loving and well-balanced (though still protective); mature Akitas introduced to a new home environment, meanwhile, can be unpredictable--which can spell grave danger.

As to training, Akitas are a mixed bag. They're highly intelligent and can learn tasks well, but can be stubborn and willful, so they will need a trainer who uses firm, incredibly consistent methods.

One area Akitas need zero training in, however, is protection! These dogs will instinctively neutralize any potential threat--but those instincts can in fact be dangerous to unknown people, so they will need constant supervision around others.

Living Requirements

Owning an Akita requires a special sort of mindset. Breed members don't bark much, nor are they too destructive if left alone--but any instance of a stranger entering an Akita's home could have potentially deadly consequences. Akita owners must be mindful of this, and train their dogs as best they can (starting as early in the dog's life as possible) to be respectful and calm around unknown people. And don't worry--an Akita will still retain its protective instincts, regardless of whether it's trained otherwise.

Akitas can live both indoors and out--and it's possibly a good idea to have these dogs capable of doing both, in case strangers visit for extended periods. But it's extremely important that any outdoor spaces are securely enclosed, because an Akita on the loose is, as expected, potentially deadly.

Keep in mind, though, that owners who allow their Akitas to spend time inside their homes will need to invest in a good vacuum cleaner! Akitas are not hypoallergenic, and shed quite a bit--and during shedding season, they shed extremely heavily.

Akita Health

Overall, Akitas are very healthy. The biggest problem is cancer which, according to a health survey conducted by the Akita Club health survey, is one of two leading causes of death in this breed. The other often fatal condition is bloat, and Akitas are the breed said to be second from the top that are most likely to get it. Together, these two ailments kill 42% of all Akitas.

Other possible health issues include:

  • Bloat
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sebaceous adenitis
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

The average life span of a typical Akita Inu or American Akita is 11 to 14 years.

Akita Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Akitas.

Sebaceous adenitis
Hip dysplasia
Progressive retinal atrophy

Random Details

There's very little about National Akita Day except for the online forums that mention it without stating too much or, often, even what it is. But it is on March 8, and it's based on the very thing that rarely mentions it: online chatter, the buzz on forums, and other virtual places where the Akita Inu is the focus of the site, forum, or thread. No nation, government, or kennel club appears to recognize this "holiday," and you won't get a day of work, a free doggy meal, or probably even a knowing glance if you mention this it in the real world.

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About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:February 4, 2019