Other names: Akita
The American Akita is an extraordinary dog with its own character and is definitely not for everyone! Independent, proud, stubborn and often considered “disobedient”, they need constant, firm but gentle training at a young age. Often confused with Huskies, these dogs aren’t very athletic. They like peace and quiet and spending time with their family, to whom they can be both close and distant. American Akita are known to be difficult to handle. Therefore they are most suited to experienced owners who are ready to take the dog as it is.
Key facts about the American Akita
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Origins and history
Originally, their history coincides with that of the Japanese Akita. From the 17th century, in the region of Akita, Akitas Matagis (or bear hunting dogs) were used as fighting dogs. From 1968, they were crossed with Tosa and Mastiff, which increased their size at the expense of other characteristics specific to Spitz-type dogs. During the Second World War, the police were ordered to capture all dogs (except German Shepherds) to make military clothing. Thus, many breeders tried to circumvent this law by simply breeding their dogs with German Shepherds. In fact, at the end of the war, three types of Akitas were distinguished, despite their numbers being significantly reduced: Matagis Akitas, Combat Akitas and Akitas/German Shepherds. It was then that many dogs were taken to the United States to further develop this breed. The first American Akita was born in 1956 and was first registered in 1972. Since then, Japan and the USA have never managed to agree on the origins of the paternity of the breed. Thus, nowadays, the American Akita and the Japanese Akita are very different, as no new Japanese blood has been integrated into that of the American Akita.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types
Section 5 : Asian Spitz and related breeds
Physical characteristics of the American Akita
Female : Between 24 and 26 in
Male : Between 26 and 28 in
Female : Between 99 and 132 lb
Male : Between 99 and 132 lb
All colours are accepted except merle. The Akita's colours include white,brindle or pinto, etc., this includes spotted / striped patterns. Totally white American Akitas have dark/black masks . Spotted dogs have white base coats and evenly distributed patches that cover more than a third of their body. Their undercoats can be a different colour to that of their main coat hair.
Type of coat
The hair is short to mid-length, up to 2 inches at their withers (ridge between their shoulder blades) and their hindquarters.
Their coats are double layered: a thick, soft and dense undercoat and then a straight top coat, which has a hard/stiff texture.
Their eyes are dark brown.
The American Akita (formerly known as the Large Japanese Dog) is a large, well-balanced dog with a solid build and heavy frame. Their eyes are relatively small and quite triangular. Their ears are upright and are quite small compared to the rest of their head. These ears are mostly triangular and are slightly rounded at their ends. Their tails are large and covered in thick hair, and often arch onto their backs, or dangling underneath their back.
Good to know
Until the 2000s, the Akita Inu and the American Akita were not considered two different breeds and cross breeding between the two was common.
The American Akita is a family dog, who pays attention to more than one member of a group. They are the type of dog who greatly distinguish their family from the rest of the world.
They know how to be tender and are sometimes clingy but they are still independent and certain individuals can be quite distant with their owners.
For example, in public, do not expect them to show affection as they tend to save this for their family in private when they are out of sight.
The American Akita can be a very good playmate, especially for older children, but only when they want to play. You cannot force this dog to cooperate, even in fun activities. Their behaviour changes greatly depending on their mood.
The American Akita is very calm and likes to nap for hours. However, they can be easily riled, particularly if they feel danger approaching. They are very alert and vigilant dogs, despite their calm appearance.
Even though the American Akita is not a working dog, they are still very intelligent. They can be quite cunning because they ignore their owners’ commands and make them think that they haven’t understood!
Despite never being used as hunting dogs; these dogs have a strong predatory instinct. For example, it can be difficult to let them loose in a forest or to play chasing game, even if you call them back, their predatory instinct will take the lead.
You should be aware that the Akita never completely acknowledges anything. You cannot train an instinct out of them, but you can educate them to fight against it. Most importantly, you must respect the nature of these dogs.
Fearful / wary of strangers
When they are puppies, they love everyone and enjoy interacting. However, when they hit puberty and adulthood, they become more reserved.
They do not appreciate being stroked by strangers and will make this clear by dodging them or moving away.
The American Akita is not usually aggressive towards humans; however, they can show annoyance if people insist on physical contact.
The American Akita, named by the Anglo Saxons, is a proud and independent dog who likes peace and quiet, and can sometimes seem very distant. However, this does not prevent them from being very close to their own social group.
Behaviour of the American Akita
The American Akita is independent, proud and above all, appreciates peace and quiet. They keep an eye on their family and are calm in their presence. In fact, long periods alone do not bother them at all.
They should be taught independence from when they are first brought home as a puppy by being left alone, but not for prolonged periods of time.
Easy to train / obedience
The American Akita is not a ‘working’ dog, so it doesn’t have the same ability to learn as a Sheepdog for example. They are sometimes stubborn, or rather very opportunistic, and do not appreciate constraints or obligations. Therefore it is important to take their personality into account when choosing training methods.
As a trainer, perseverance, self-confidence, patience and consistency are needed to achieve the desired results. Training sessions should be kept short, playful and regular as they quickly tire of repetition.
Mutual trust between the dog and their master is essential in order to achieve cooperation. If there is a lack of trust, then it will be very difficult to get the desired results.
Brutal methods of training are to be avoided because they will hinder the relationship between the dog and their master. A positive approach to training must be taken, whilst remaining firm and consistent.
However, do not expect the American Akita to be obedient. If they sense a lack of consistency, they will not obey commands. When they do decide to obey a command, it will be as and when they want and in their own time.
The American Akita is famous for not barking. There are of course exceptions, but in general, they are not very talkative and know how to be discreet.
The dogs who bark tend to be those who are left locked in the garden without ever leaving it.
Tendency to run away
As long as there is nothing that catches the Akita’s eye or nose outside their home, they have no reason to run away.
Often confused with Huskies (who do like to run away due to their need to run) Akitas prefer to take a nap at home.
However, if they live in the garden, it is advised to secure it with a high, solid fence because nothing can prevent this keen predator’s attention to prey.
American Akitas are calm and poised; however, they can be destructive if they need something! Their laziness can sometimes mislead owners into thinking they do not require anything, causing them to become aggravated and destructive.
It is important to encourage them to go for walks, because whilst they may rarely show their desire for exercise, it does not mean that they do not need it!
Greedy / Gluttony
The American Akita is generally a fussy, not greedy eater. Some say that it can be difficult to find food that they like, but once they do like a food, it is a great source of motivation for them.
Vigilant and very courageous, the American Akita is a good watchdog and its mere presence dissuades anyone from approaching.
You must not rely on their appearance, as although they come across as calm dogs (which they often are) they can change their attitude in a few seconds if they feel that their owner is in danger.
American Akitas have strong characters and strong primal instincts due to their primitive side, so they are not the dog for every master.
It is very important to let the American Akita be themselves and not to force them to change their nature.
Before getting an Akita, it is very important to be aware of their characteristics, qualities and ‘defects’.
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American Akita in a flat
Living in an apartment will suit the American Akita but only if they get several long daily walks.
They also easily adapt to city life as long as they’re in a house with a garden.
In any case, whether they’re living in an apartment or a house with a garden, the American Akita needs daily outdoor walks to mentally and physically exercise.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Often considered a sled dog, especially due to their Husky resemblance, these dogs are not particularly sporty. Their physical build does not allow them to tow or do intense physical exercise.
It is advised to wait at least a year before encouraging strenuous physical activity to avoid harming their growth.
The American Akita particularly likes quiet walks and hikes where they can take time to enjoy the smells around them. They also enjoy wading or swimming, and so being near a lake is an advantage.
Finally, although some Akitas that are livelier than others, in general, they are quiet dogs who prefer sleep to going for walks. However, you do still need to walk them sufficiently every day, at least twice and more frequently if they live an apartment.
Travelling / easy to transport
It is easy to understand why American Akitas are not the easiest dogs to transport. Their weight makes transportation rather awkward.
American Akita and cats
Relationships between American Akitas and cats are possible but they require the two animals to grow up together. A dog (who has a strong predatory instinct) who has never been with a cat will tend to consider it to be a prey if he is confronted to the cat for the first time as an adult.
American Akita and dogs
The American Akita can often act confrontationally towards other dogs, especially those of the same sex. Two dogs of the same sex living together is usually quite risky.
If two dogs are socialised in the first three months of their lives, and this socialisation continues regularly in a controlled and positive way, then the dogs will establish a code which will facilitate encounters with other dogs.
American Akita and children
The American Akita is independent and likes its peace. In fact, the presence of young children may not be suitable for this big dog, despite their teddy-like appearance.
They can be patient but will quickly reach their limits, especially if rules are not obeyed, such as not disturbing them whilst they are in their basket.
On the other hand, it will be a good playmate for older children who know how to communicate respectfully and read their calming signals (licking their nose, bristled hair, grunting, ‘smiles’, yawns etc.)
American Akita and the elderly
This dog is not intended for dynamic and sporty people, in fact, elderly people can definitely own an American Akita but they must be able to invest sufficient time and energy, especially into training and socialising their dog.
Be careful though, walking should not be neglected and therefore sedentary people are not compatible with this breed.
American Akitas price varies according to their origin, age and sex. On average, the price of a pedigree dog is £780.
It will cost, on average, £60/month to meet the needs of this dog (quality food and health care etc)
American Akita maintenance is tedious due to the amount of hair loss during moulting periods. Outside of these periods, only weekly brushing is needed, however this can take a long time due to their size.
Their ears and eyes should be inspected and cleaned regularly and it is also important to keep an eye on their skin which can quickly become problematic.
Baths are only required if the dog is particularly dirty, which may only be several times a year, depending on the dog’s activities.
It is important to be aware of the amount of hair that an Akita loses. Moulting periods can last for months and very thorough maintenance is necessary to get rid of all their dead hairs (daily brushing etc.). Some say it’s endless!
Nutrition of the American Akita
The nutrition of an American Akita is not complicated because this dog enjoys dry food (premium quality), household food (approved by vets), or raw meat. Each diet has advantages and disadvantages.
It is recommended to seek advice from a vet to choose the most appropriate diet, especially when they are puppies to ensure good growth, particularly given how big they get when they become adults.
Nevertheless, these hungry dogs do like meat, but their Japanese origins means that they love fish.
Fatty fish often fulfils the needs of the American Akita due to its fatty acid and omega 3 and 6 content.
However, it is necessary to find a balance according to the dog’s preferences, their needs and their master’s lifestyle, budget and ability to find food which will be best suited to the dog.
Just one daily meal may be enough for an American Akita (preferably in the evening to promote better digestion). However, two meals a day are preferable, with a light meal in the morning and a heavier evening meal. You must avoid the dog helping itself to food to keep the dog in shape.
Health of the American Akita
Their estimated lifespan is 10 years.
Strong / robust
American Akitas are often considered as robust due to their origins and build… but this is until they get sick which is, unfortunately, quite regular.
As with all dogs, heat is very rarely popular and requires, firstly, regular trips outside (early morning and late evening with the potential to cool off in water), and secondly, readily available fresh water and a shady corners to rest in!
Due to their double coat, American Akitas are very well protected against the cold and bad weather.
Tendency to put on weight
As for many dogs who don’t need too much food, one should pay attention to their diet to stop them gaining too much weight.