he Akita is a very striking and handsome breed of dog. Akita puppies in particular are extremely cute, and it can be very tempting to purchase one without thinking about how they will fit into your lifestyle and home. They aren’t the breed for everyone, so there are many things to consider before purchasing or adopting an Akita.
History of the Akita
The Akita breed is steeped in history. Early historical accounts reveal that its flesh was served as a menu item, and its skin was valued for making warm garments. It served as a working dog, a fighter, and a hunter – some have also been used in the fishing industry. Details of the Akita’s history have been obscured by centuries of isolation on the remote Japanese island of Honshu, as well as language and translation problems. Typical Akita-like dogs, with tightly curled tails and erect ears, were evident as early as 1150 A.D and popularised in recent months by the film ‘Hachi – a Dog’s Tale’.
Appearance of the Akita
The males stand 26 to 28 inches (66 to 71 cm); females are 24 to 26 inches (61 to 66 cm). Their weights average 95 to 110 pounds (43 to 50 kg) for males and 75 to 90 pounds (34 to 41 kg) for females. Their thick, short, arched necks, dense coats, and bulky bodies give them the appearance of much larger animals. Akita coats, like those of other northern dogs, are double, and have coarse, dense, plush guard hair and soft undercoats. They often have a wide variety of body colours and markings.
One of the most noticeable features of an Akita is its tail which is large and full. It’s set high, and carried over the back or against the flank in three-quarter, full, or double curl and always dips to or below the level of the back.
Akitas’ faces are dominated by wide-set small ears that tip forward, giving them an alert or curious appearance, even when resting, and these seem to lead your gaze next to their dark brown, smallish, almond shaped, oriental eyes.
Temperament of the Akita
The Akita originated as a hunting dog, and although they are no longer used for this purpose, they do retain a strong instinct to hunt. The breed are also known for their ‘selected deafness’ and are attracted to chasing. For this reason it is always recommended that Akitas are kept on lead unless in a securely fenced area. They are also great jumpers and many can clear a 5ft fence with ease, especially when something catches their attention on the other side! Therefore, 6ft fencing is recommended.
All dogs need training in order to be a settled and involved member of the family. A lack of training is a key reason that dogs are returned to the breeder or given up to rescue. The Akita is renowned as an independent thinker, although this means that they can learn exercises very quickly it also means that they are more likely to question and challenge their owners when asked to perform what they perceive as meaningless activities. This can often include coming back when called if there is clearly something more interesting to chase. Training is an on-going task, and will be a lot harder work than one of the more trainable breeds; if you want a dog that is eager to please you then this is NOT the breed for you.
An Akita is a medium-large sized dog which means they often incur more expensive vet fee charges than smaller dogs, as sedation/anaesthetic costs will be higher. Akitas can be prone to auto immune, hip dysplasia and bloat and may be susceptible to reactions from certain medications (particularly anaesthesia and sedatives). Although food allergies are rare in the Akita, it is thought by many to be better to feed a gluten-free all-in-one type diet. Some owners use the BARF (Bones as Raw Food) diet with great success, although this should not be undertaken without careful reading and understanding of the principals involved.
How Best to Care for Your Akita
Twice a year Akitas will ‘blow’ their coats, which is when all of the undercoat is shed over a 2-3 week period. The process can look quite alarming as their fur comes out in large clumps like “Bunny Fur”. During this time there will be balls of fur on clothes, flooring and most likely floating around in the air too! It is impossible to remain fur-free and a thorough daily grooming is required. The removal of these clumps with a rake type comb will speed up the moulting process and improve the quality of the Akita’s coat. However, don’t let this put you off! For most of the year they shed very little and a weekly grooming is adequate.
Akitas require at least 45-60 minutes’ walk twice a day. Running with an adult dog is ideal exercise and keeps both the dog and owner fit. If the dog is bored they will find their own entertainment and this is likely to involve chewing or destruction of items, so be sure to allow your Akita to regularly exercise!
The Best Bits
What is the best thing about owning an Akita? They are loving and loyal, stubborn and strong-willed, playful and intelligent, and never cease to entertain you. ‘Kita kisses and cuddles are legendary, and even when you’ve just gone to put the bin out, they are so overjoyed to see you that they shout ‘woo, woo’ everytime you walk through the door. Oh, and to set the record straight, you don’t own an Akita – they own you! Once owned you will lose your heart to them forever and no other breed will do.
To get more of a playful insight into what Akitas are really like, visit Stella’s blog at: hugodiaries.blogspot.co.uk
Cover image sourced from animalplanet.com