Akitas are one of the most striking and impressive animals with an attitude of nobility and an appearance of strength and power. Their most noticeable physical characteristic is a large, bear-like head with erect, triangular ears set at a slight angle following the arch of the neck. They have thick, standoffish coats, and their colours are rich and clear, like paint on a canvas.
Mature males stand a proud 25 inches plus and weigh more than 100 pounds. Mature females measure stand at least 23 inches and weigh approximately 80 pounds.
It has grown steadily in popularity, due in part to its extraordinary appearance and in part because of its captivating personality.
Their character is the result of centuries of breeding in Japan. Natives say this dog is one of the oldest of the native dogs. Centuries ago the breed was owned only by the Shogun. They were bred to hunt, guard, and herd. This swift, agile, unswervingly tenacious dog tracked large game and held it at bay until the royal hunters arrived to make the kill.
As a guard dog, the Akita was unsurpassed in its keen senses of smell, sight, and hearing. By nature a quiet dog that barked only when threatened, the breed needed no training in its guard duties.
World War II pushed the Akita to the brink of extinction. Early in the war the dogs suffered from lack of nutritious food. The starving population killed many for food, and their pelts were used as clothing. Finally, the government ordered all remaining dogs to be killed on sight to prevent the spread of disease. The only way concerned owners could save their beloved Akitas was to turn them loose in the most remote mountain areas. There the breed's hardiness and keen hunting instincts helped them survive the war years.
Because of its size, this breed is certainly not for everyone. Its personality is that of a survivor. The Akita learns quickly and can become bored easily. Those who don't understand the breed often describe it as stubborn, when in fact; the dog is showing signs of poor training. The Akita thrives on the love and respect of its owners and, with constant reinforcement training and a little creativity, can be a very good worker.
The Akita was never bred to live or work in groups like many hound and sporting breeds. Instead, they lived and worked singly or in pairs, a preference reflected today. The individual Akita is happy being an only dog or one of two dogs in a household, but can be very aggressive towards animals not part of his family group, particularly strange dogs.
There are many pluses to owning an Akita. They are affectionate to their owners and are excellent watchdogs, although they do not bark unless something is amiss. They require only moderate exercise, adjust well to apartment living as long as they receive daily walks, do not eat large quantities of food, and are long-lived. Negatives to ownership include a twice a year shedding of the thick, downy undercoat; the size and strength of the breed which, if not properly managed, can become a nightmare; and the predisposition to be aggressive to other dogs.