Akita

Breed At A Glance

Classification
Working

Personality
Intensely loyal, intelligent and territorial

Life Expectancy
10-14 years

Average Height
20-28 inches

Average Weight
Males 100-130 lbs, Females 70-100 lbs

Coat Color
Varies

Coat Length/Texture
Short and coarse with dense undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Heavy twice a year

Also known as Japanese Akita, Akita Inu, Akita Ken

General Temperament

The most notable personality trait of the Japanese Akita is their intense loyalty to their families and their willingness to protect them with their life. They have a reserved manner and carry themselves with great dignity. They are powerful and alert, responsive and courageous. The Akita is a noble and dominating breed.

They thrive on human companionship and are protective of their family and those they know well; subsequently, they are suspicious of strangers. It’s territorial instincts make the Akita an excellent guard dog, although they are not excessive barkers: they are more likely to growl or rumble when suspicious of strangers. Other dogs and pets can bring out this breed’s aggression and hunting instincts – especially smaller pets such as cats and rabbits that it would consider prey – so they generally function best as the sole pet. Akitas will often get along well with older or well-behaved children, but since they do not react well to teasing or roughhousing, are not appropriate for familes with young children.

Training an Akita takes consistency and firmness. Given that they are naturally pack dogs, it is important for the owner to establish dominance from the start and maintain that hierarchal structure throughout the dog’s life, otherwise they will challenge you and take charge. It may even be necessary to physically dominate the dog at times (not beating, of course, but a good scruff shaking can do the trick). Also, in order for the Akita to see it’s owner as “Alpha Dog,” it’s essential that the dog be trained by it’s owner, and not sent away to an obedience school. Akitas are not recommended for the novice dog owner, or owners who are placid and submissive.

As state above, this breed craves attention, and they do not do well if left alone for extended periods of time, and for this reason are not well suited for a two-career family. They are, however, easier to housetrain than many other breeds.

Breed History

The Akita originated in Japan, where it is considered the national dog and a natural monument. This Spitz-type breed was highly prized and owned largely by the aristocracy, who bred them for hunting of bear and boar, waterfowl retrieval, and even imperial guards. Akitas arrived in America after World War II, when U.S. soldiers, who had fallen in love with the breed in Japan, brought them back to the States.

Body Structure and Composition

Akitas are large, muscular and powerful dogs. The paws are webbed which makes them excellent swimmers. Their ears are strongly erect and angle slightly forward from the head. The neck is thick and somewhat short, leading up to a massive skull that is in balance with the body. The legs are heavy-boned and powerful, giving them a brisk and powerful gait. The tail is set high and curls up over the back.

Medical Information

The Akita can suffer from the same medical issues as many of the other large breeds, including Hip Dysplasia (when the head of the thigh bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the hip socket, causing loss of mobility and arthritis-like symptoms), bad knees, and popping hocks. They can also develop Gastric Dilation Volvulus, or GDV, also know as bloat/torsion. Excess gas trapped in the dog’s stomach causes “bloat,” and twisting of the stomach (volvulus or “torsion”) causes or is caused by excess gas. GDV is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Another condition Akitas can suffer from later in life is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), which leads to degeneration of the retina and eventual loss of sight.

Akitas sometimes develop Hypothyroidism, which causes underactivity of the thyroid gland. This gland has a number of functions, but is most well known for regulating your dog’s metabolic rate. This can cause lethargy, weight gain, skin infection and hair loss, cold intolerance, chronic ear infections or severe behavioral changes. Hypothyroid dogs who receive proper treatment, including a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone, can have a normal life span and are able to maintain good health well into their golden years.

The Akita sheds twice a year, and requires brushing a minimum of twice a week. They do not require an extensive amount of exercise, but they do enjoy a daily walk and play sessions with family members.

Anecdotal Information

An example of the Akita’s intense loyalty is the legendary dog Hachiko. In the 1920s he lived with a Tokyo University professor. Every day he walked with his owner to the train station to see him off to work; every evening he returned to the station to greet the professor and walk him home. One day the professor didn’t return on the regular train; he had died at work. But the faithful Hachiko continued to come to the station every afternoon hoping to find him. He returned, day after day, for nine years, until his own death in 1934. There is now a statue at the train station in memory of this devoted dog.

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