About the Breed
Akitas have a fascinating history with early records showing that these proud dogs were once not only highly prized as hunting and fighting dogs, but also as "good eating" in their native Japan. Their fur was used to make warm clothes and Akitas were also used by Japanese fishermen to herd fish into their nets. With this said, the actual history of the breed has been lost in time having become a little blurred over the centuries thanks to various translations from Japanese to other languages.
There is some evidence of similar looking dogs with erect ears and tightly curled tails having been around in 1150 AD and that dogs called Matagiinu having been highly prized by Japanese royalty for their hunting skills. At one point in history, only Japanese rulers could own an Akita and they gave their dogs unique collars that showed an owner's rank.
Over the following centuries, the Akita's popularity went through various stages of highs and lows, but it was during the Emperor Taisho's reign at the turn of the 20th Century that their popularity rose again after the breed became prized in other countries of the world which included the UK, Spain and France where Akitas had become status symbols with royals and other people alike.
Today's Akita owes much of their lineage and ancestry to the dogs that were breed in a mountainous region of Japan known as the Akita Prefecture although these dogs were bred and raised in many other regions of the land too. The Akita Inu Hozankai Society began recording a stud book in 1927 which kept a record of all parents and litters produced in Japan and the stud book still exists today with an end goal being to keep the breed as pure as possible in modern times.
Akitas are very intelligent dogs, they are independent thinkers with strong characters which means these dogs are not the best choice for first-time dog owners. They need to be handled and trained using a gentle yet firm hand and they need to know their place in the pack to be a truly well-rounded dog. It's in an Akita's genes to protect which is what they have always been bred to do which is a trait that should never be forgotten in this breed.
It would be fair to say that an Akita has an innate quality to defend and protect which means owners should always be very careful when introducing a dog to people and that anyone who visits the home is a welcome guest. Akitas are incredibly perceptive and easily recognise people whose intentions are not welcome without the need to be trained to do so. Their independent thinking is often mistaken for dog being stubborn which is not always the case. The Akita is quick to learn new things and this means they are ultra-quick to pick up any bad habits if they are allowed or if they are not handled correctly which is something to be avoided at all costs.
Although robust and strong dogs, they are quite sensitive by nature which means they benefit from positive reinforcement training and do not respond well to any heavy-handed handling. An Akita will form a very strong bond with an owner and they show their devotion in a calm and quiet way always wanting to know where an owner is, but never pestering them in any way.
They are known to be very good when around elderly people with many of them being used in retirement homes and hospices as therapy dogs. However, they are "bossy" dogs by nature and if left to their own devices will quickly display a dominant side to their character which is why they are not the best choice for first time dog owners.
The Akita is a good choice as a family pet, but with this said and as previously mentioned, it really does depend on how an Akita is socialised when young as to how they react around children. It goes without saying that kids must be taught to "behave" when they are around any dog and this includes how they act when they meet an Akita as to how the dog would react to them. It also goes without saying that any interaction between children and dogs needs to be supervised by an adult to make sure nobody gets too boisterous and that things remain nice and calm.
The average life expectancy of an Akita is between 10 and 11 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Akitas are generally healthy dogs, but they are known to suffer from certain hereditary and acquired disorders as well as being very sensitive to drugs often used in veterinary care and more especially to anaesthetics. The health disorders the breed is more prone to suffer from includes the following:
Mycrocytosis – a blood disorder
Akita thyroid – which causes skin disorders
Hip Dysplasia - KC/BVA tests available
Some Akitas are ultra-sensitive to certain drugs and medication which includes sedatives and anaesthesia which owners must remind a vet about should a dog need to be treated for any disease or condition. They can also have a negative reaction to some travel-sickness pills and many reputable breeders recommend that owners have their Akitas blood tested to check on the state of a dog's immunity before administering a vaccination or booster.