The American Akita is an impressive dog breed who shares a resemblance to a bear. It has an aloof and willful personality that makes for an excellent watchdog and powerful guard dog. Akitas have been used for guarding since the 1600s, but the American Akitas have become the largest of these brave spirits. They were originally referred to as ‘snow country dogs’ before becoming an official breed.
If you’re looking for a protector and loyal best friend all wrapped into one large dog, this might be the breed for you! However, there is a lot to know about this 20th Century fighting dog brought back from Japan. They need a patient owner who is as bold and strong as they are, and an overall understanding of their traits.
American Akita Characteristics
This heavy-boned breed is popular for being much larger than the other well-known Akita breed, the Akita Inu.
The American Akita is a powerful Spitz breed with a massive build and a sturdy stance. Their skin is pliant but not loose and they have solid muscular bodies covered with a double coat that’s short and lush.
The underlying hair is dense and fine, while the overlying hair is straight, coarse, and harsh. Their hair gets slightly longer towards the lower end of the neck, stomach, and hindquarters.
They do have some long hair but it’s only found on the tail.
This dog has a slightly tapered muzzle with a black nose, strong deep jawline, and black thin black lips. Their necks are thick, medium-length, and muscular. The erect, triangular ears are in line with the neck and they are relatively small compared to the head.
They have small, dark brown, almond-shaped eyes.
The breed standard has a wide and deep chest, giving them that powerful edge. They usually have longer tails that curl over and shoot straight back.
Their front legs are firm, and the hind legs are rather muscular with well-developed upper thighs.
In the past, these great dogs would use their dewclaws as ice picks to help them in frozen terrains. The cat-like feet have hard pads, plenty of fur, and are knuckled up.
The Akita has webbed toes, which help them walk on the snow easily by distributing their weight evenly.
These dogs were built for work but also make great indoor dogs despite their size.
American Akita Size
Akita’s are one of the biggest registered dog breeds.
Fully-grown females weight about 70 to 100 pounds and stand at 24 to 26 inches at the withers while males range from 100 to 130 pounds and they usually reach heights between 26 and 28 inches tall.
There is quite a size difference between males and females.
The American Akita is often confused with another similar dog – the Japanese Akita Inu.
Many believe the only difference is size, but there are many more differences to note upon taking a closer look.
American Akita Personality
The Akita may look like a typical outdoor dog, but they are perfectly happy living in your house.
American Akitas are known for their courageous, dignified, and profoundly loyal personalities. They are very devoted to their owners, and because of this, they make excellent watchdogs. Although, it also has a lot to do with the fact that they are quite territorial, protective, and fearless. Akita’s are widely known for being suspicious of strangers.
The great news is they are not a yappy dog, so when they warn you of strangers or a sudden change to their surroundings, you will know their alert is worth checking on.
When they become vocal, the bark somewhat resembles a murmur or moan.
Aside from a readiness to bark at intruders, the Akita dog won’t hesitate to confront and even bite, especially if they feel threatened. This is why they are considered a dangerous breed in some countries. Another part of what could make the Akita a threat is that they don’t show expression.
Most dogs will whine, growl, show their teeth or tuck their tail between their legs to show emotion, but this dog breed can strike suddenly and without a cue.
Dealing with an American Akita’s Personality
It would be wise to be present when your Akita meets guests or, at least, owners should post up a proper “warning sign.”
Additionally, their excess energy will manifest into an antsy dog that will take it out of their environment. It is typical of this breed’s behavior, as they are also known for being sensitive to how they are treated.
How you treat them will always reflect in their behavior.
If you do buy an American Akita, it might be best to keep it as your only pet. This is a very possessive and jealous dog, who will want to keep everything for itself. This includes food, toys, and perhaps you!
Therefore, it is understandable that this personality can lead to some trouble with other pets.
As a family dog, the Akita thrives on being in the company of the owner and will equally cherish calm and gentle moments and activities.
You will earn some bonus points if you take them to the snow as Akitas typically thrive in cold weather environments. They could joyously spend all day with you in the snow and ice!
American Akita Exercise
Akitas are not a very active breed, but daily exercise is still recommended so that they don’t become overweight or get bored. They do well with a long walk in cool weather, a hike, or some playtime in the yard.
Ensure there is plenty of space wherever you plan to have your playtime because they absolutely need room to run. They could also knock things over with their size and weight while playing, so be wary of their surroundings.
Have them play a game or learn tasks which requires them to carry something in their mouth. They enjoy these types of games as it stimulates their mind.
Because they are classified as a working dog, Akitas are used to getting their exercise while on the job. They are useful working dogs, primarily utilized for both watching and guarding.
If you are someone who likes to hunt, the Akita makes the perfect fighting and hunting dog and can get their daily exercise through this method. If you want to get creative, you could train them to pull your sleigh and become a sled dog.
American Akita Training
As you’d imagine, independent breeds are especially difficult to train. Some people enjoy this aspect and like to think of it as a challenge they are willing to accept. Akitas are notorious for becoming problematic when not trained properly.
This dog requires a strict, disciplinarian owner because they are intelligent and stubborn, making them a difficult student to train. For this reason, new dog owners may want to think twice about owning this breed.
However, there are some tips for training your Akita successfully.
Start by training your Akita puppy at an early age. This includes socialization to get them used to seeing other people and pets. It will be against what they are used to as antisocial animals.
Since they would much rather be inside with you, the Akita has been said to housebreak fairly quickly.
You can start by encouraging them to go potty outside.
Akita training guides strongly suggest the strategic use of a dog training collar. It will help this breed learn quickly and produce a well-behaved, obedient dog. You will also rest easy knowing you’ve trained them for the sake of others’ safety.
Obedience training with patience and persistence is essential for this reason.
Above all, this breed needs to be trained with love and respect. If you react negatively during training or treat them harshly, they will lash out in return. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with this breed.
A useful thing to know about the Akita is to let them guide you if they want to lead you somewhere. There is probably something they want to show you, especially if you aren’t paying them proper attention.
Remember, any use of force or bullying is unacceptable. It will set you up for an aggressive adult Akita dog!
American Akita History
The Akita is part of the Spitz breed family. Other breeds that likely played a role in their development include the English Mastiff, Great Dane, Tosa Inu, and the St. Bernard.
They have a long and interesting past due to breeding, controversial use, and introduction to North America.
The Japanese Akita Inu was the first, most similar breed of its kind to exist in Japan and was used during World War II. There was a lot of controversy for their use of inhumane fighting, while others were killed for their coats.
These breeds are characterized by their fox-like faces, standing ears, and their claim to fame included guarding Japanese royalty in the 1600s.
Many believe this to be echoed in the personality of their descendants.
Now, people will often confuse the Akita Inu with the American Akita, or say that the American descended from the Inu when it, in fact, has become its own breed.
The history of the American Akita (Great Japanese Dog –obsolete) began with the famous author, lecturer, and humanitarian, Helen Keller. She is credited with introducing the first Akita to the United States in 1937 when she imported it from Japan.
While touring Japan in 1937, she visited the Akita Prefecture, where she heard of Hachiko, the famed Akita dog.
Impressed with the story, she expressed she would like an Akita dog of her own. Mr. Ogasawara, a member of the Akita area police department, gave her a two-month-old Akita puppy named Kamikaze-go as a gift.
When Kamikaze-go died of canine distemper not long after returning to the United States, his brother, Kenzan-go, was sent as an official present from the Japanese government in July 1938.
Keller wrote this in her Akita Journal about Kamikaze-go:
“If ever there was an angel in fur, it was Kamikaze. I know I shall never feel quite the same tenderness for any other pet. The Akita dog has all the qualities that appeal to me — he is gentle, companionable, and trusty.”
The Akita’s Role in World War II
The American men who served in Japan during World War II shared the same feeling because they fell in love with the breed and began bringing them back after the war.
It was also done in an effort to save the dogs after almost being killed off during the war.
Many breeders took an interest and began shipping out more of the larger, Japanese Fighting Akita.
The American Canine Association (ACA) Stud Register is the original Akita register, and source register for all American Kennel Club (AKC) registered Akitas born in the United States.
It wasn’t recognized until 1955 by the AKC. The ACA stud register was closed in February of 1974, meaning all American born Akitas had to be registered with the AKC.
Although both Akitas derive from common ancestry, 50 years of breeding on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean have produced substantial differences between the two. The FCI General Assembly declared the ‘American Akita’ the new breed’s official name in January of 2006.
American Akita Health Problems
The American Akita lifespan is approximately 12 to 15 years. This is relatively long, even though they are larger dogs. The Akita is a healthy breed, but considering its small gene pool in the United States, it’s prone to various genetic and other diseases including the following:
The eyes might encounter progressive deterioration of cells over time. In such cases, it slowly destroys the photoreceptor cells in the eyes. Eventually, it leads to blindness in the affected dogs.
As a common skeletal condition, we often see this happen with larger dogs. It is a deformity of the hips that occurs during growth and affects mobility. Hip Issues is one of the inherited conditions that causes painful wear and tear later in life.
The glands located in their neck and makes a hormone called thyroxine that controls metabolism. When the gland doesn’t make enough of that hormone. It often affects larger dogs. Symptoms include hair loss, flaky skin, and sluggishness, among other things.
If caught on time, this condition is inexpensive and treatable. Although, if left untreated it can become problematic.
Akitas are prone to this condition. It is a genetic form of kidney problems that can start when they are a puppy.
Signs start as excessive water drinking and urinating, poor appetite and weight loss, and progress to loose stool or throwing up.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus is a rapidly progressive life-threatening condition for the Akita. Bloating is when a dog’s stomach fills with fluid, gas, or food, and expands to put pressure on other organs. Blood becomes trapped in the stomach, preventing it from returning to the heart and other areas.
This may send your dog into shock and give you only a few minutes to get them to a vet. It is suggested that owners watch a video of it occurring so that you can react immediately.
How to Care for an American Akita
The Akita definitely requires a lot of attention in every way, but they’ll undoubtedly reward your efforts. They are a very clean dog who enjoys taking care of themselves. It takes love, patience, and a firm owner for this dog breed.
These dogs will follow you from room to room or cuddle up next to you with a good movie because they love being with their human family.
Caring for an Akita also means spending a lot of time with them.
Even after socializing and training, it is still best to stay close to your Akita dog when around strangers or other pets. They can be unpredictable when bothered.
Talk to your vet about what to keep an eye out for when it comes to their health and take them in for their check-ups regularly.
Nutrition and Feeding for American Akitas
This is a dog breed that requires a proper diet of high-quality dry foods mixed with fresh foods. The protein needs are essential to maintain the robust structure of these dogs.
The best amount to go off of is 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
How much you feed your Akita will vary from their physical activity level. Have constant weigh-ins at the vet to determine whether you need to give more or less.
Coat Color and Grooming
The American Akita coat can come in numerous colors. There are 9 colors and 5 markings registered by the American Kennel Club: black, pinto, brindle, white, fawn, and red, which may sometimes vary in shades, combinations, and markings.
Unlike the Japanese Akita, this American version can have a black mask. The black mask is what you picture – a face covered with black fur that goes around their eyes and mouth, making it look like something is covering their face.
The American Akita can come in any color, including white, brindle, or pinto. Regardless of each individual dog’s coat appearance, the color will be rich, brilliant, and clear.
There should also be well-balanced markings, with or without the mask or blaze. Pinto colored Akitas have a white background with large patches covering the head and more than one-third of the body.
For such a big fluffy dog, they are one of the easiest to groom. This dog is similar to cats in that they like to groom and maintain their own appearance. You’ll find yourself grooming your house more than the dog because this breed sheds a lot. Grooming is suggested a few times per week to manage shedding and oil distribution.
You should bathe this breed a few times per month and trim the toenails once a month.
Children and Other Pets
The American Akita can get along with dogs of the opposite sex when socialized but has trouble with dogs of the same sex. If properly trained, the Akita will not be quite so suspicious of strangers.
The American Akita should be kept away from small pets like cats since they have a strong drive to hunt prey and will chase and kill them.
American Akitas are a large, hefty dog, making it capable of accidentally injuring any small children.
Children should be old enough to treat this dog breed properly and always be monitored when they’re interacting as a precaution.
If properly trained, these dogs may adapt to share their home, but it’s not recommended. If you do would like to get two, the best choice would be to get opposites sexes.
If you are ready to commit, there are a few options of rescue groups we recommend you check out. Any of these organizations can help you bring home your next best friend:
- Namaste American Akita – located in California.
- Big East Akita Rescue – located in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
- TikiHut Akita Rescue Association – located in Northern California
- Midwest Akita Rescue Society– Serves Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, and parts of Kansas and Kentucky.
- Rakki-Inu Akita Rescue– Serves North and South Carolina as well as Virginia
There were many back and forths between organizations about this dog breed before it received its own classification from the Japanese Kennel Club, who submitted a formal proposal to FCI for a breed split between the Japanese and American Akita dog breeds.
Check out these breed organizations, including the Akita Club of America- the only National Akita Breed Club.
More About This Dog Breed
Today, the American Akita is the 47th most popular purebred breed in the United States of America. This dog breed has certainly had a long history to get where it is today, but this dog will certainly make a great friend and companion.
Learn more about how to care for your Akita.