The Akita breed is known for its loyalty and companionship now, but when the breed originated in the 1600s, it was used as a fighting dog and to hunt bear. With the thick double-layered coat, the Akita is safe from the snow and the cold all winter long. The Akita is an excellent companion dog, loyal and protective of its family and will forever be devoted to all of you. The Akita does not require much grooming because they are very clean dogs that groom themselves like a cat. Brushing them once a week and trimming their nails is recommended but they do not need to be bathed except maybe once a month or if they get especially dirty. They are energetic and need exercise daily so you should be prepared to take them on long walks or for a trip to the park. When it gets cold, your Akita seems to have more energy and wants to spend hours out in the yard hunting and rolling in the snow.
The Akita breed was named after the Akita prefecture on the island of Honshū where the dogs originated in Japan in the 1600s. These dogs were originally found in the snowy mountains and were referred to as snow country dogs by the natives before they were named Akita. There is a debate about the name between the United States, Canada, and the rest of the country. According to the US and Canada, there is only one breed of Akita and there are two types, the American Akita and Japanese Akita. However, the rest of the world considers these two as separate breeds.
The Akita Inu Hozonkai Society of Japan was founded in the late 1920s and the breed was designated as a national treasure to Japan in 1937. The reason for this decision was the loyalty of the Akita, Haichiko, who met his owner at the train station every day at a certain time. Haichiko continued to go to the train station every day to wait for him for almost three decades after his owner died. The first Akita in the United States was given as a gift to Helen Keller from the Japanese government while she was there visiting. Her name was Kamikaze-Go. However, the American Kennel Club did not officially recognize the breed until 1972, almost 40 years later.
The Akita comes from the Northern Spitz breed. The original purpose of the breed was to hunt large animals such as elk, bear, deer, and wild boar. The hunters had the Akita flush out and corner the game until they were able to come and shoot it. Some also trained their Akita for fighting by mixing them with a fighting dog breed, called the Tosa. After a fatal outbreak of rabies in the early 1900s where over 3,000 Akitas died, that tradition was stopped. Several years after Helen Keller got her Akita, soldiers in World War II smuggled many Akitas home from war to save them from being killed for food or shot.
The Akita has a very powerful and muscular body type with large bones and a powerful appearance. The muzzle is deep, their dark brown eyes are small and alert, and they have pointed ears that are slightly angled. Some say their massive triangular head is bear-like. They look fierce and determined, which fits with their stubborn personality. They have a broad black nose with a lighter (preferably white) mask. Teeth are strong with a scissors or level bite in a powerful jaw. Their paws are huge but cat-like and well-knuckled with thick foot pads. The thick and furry tail is the trademark of the Akita, and curls up over the back and no two tails are alike. Some have a double curl. The medium length coat is double-coated. The undercoat is thick and soft with a longer protective hair coat called guard hairs. These are not as soft as the undercoat. It is dense enough to keep them warm and dry in the harshest conditions such as the mountains of Japan where they are from. There are many types of coat colors such as red, gray, black, silver, pinto, white, black brindle, blue brindle, brown brindle, red brindle, fawn, and fawn brindle. Some have a mask that is white or a lighter color than the rest of the coat. Also, the undercoat may be a different color than the outer coat.
Although the Akita is a clean dog that grooms regularly, you should brush them at least once a week to keep them from shedding too much. Just a short brushing with a soft brush is sufficient. They do not need to be bathed unless they get unusually dirty since they do most of their own grooming. A shampoo once every few months is suggested. The Akita sheds quite heavily a few times per year. Because of this, they are not considered hypoallergenic. It is always a good idea to brush your dog’s teeth once a day but you should ask your veterinary care provider for tips and what you should use to clean them with. You should not use toothpaste unless recommended by the veterinarian. Pay special attention to your Akita’s eyes because they are prone to many eye conditions. Call your veterinarian if there is any whiteness, redness, or discharge from the eyes.
The Akita needs plenty of exercise and you should plan to take your dog for a brisk walk or jog daily as well as allowing him to run in a large fenced yard. In fact, they can (and prefer to) live outside in colder climates. You should provide shelter (like a dog house), shade, and plenty of water for your Akita while outside. They like to play and hunt, especially in the winter when it snows. Akitas love the snow.
Because Akitas are so large and have so much energy, they get hungry fast and tend to eat too quickly. The veterinarian can recommend a special bowl to help with this habit and can recommend a feeding schedule. It is suggested that you feed your Akita twice a day to total about six cups of food per day, depending on the size of your dog. A premium commercial dog food with meat as the first ingredient should be fed with fresh food as well. Cubed vegetables such as peas, carrots, potatoes, and yams; hard boiled eggs, and rice are good fresh foods to feed your Akita.