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The American Akita

One of the most popular dogs in the USA.

The American Akita is a loyal, alert dog with a strong, muscular body build. The breed is well known for its intelligence, with many being seen performing in obedience trials.

While these dogs have plenty of energy to spare, they’re not known for being particularly outward-going with it.

Instead, their movements are agile and thoughtfully placed, giving the breed its esteemed personality a visual representation.

An American Akita dog jumping in blue sea water at the beachAmerican Akita

A Breed Apart: 
American Akita vs. Akita Inu

Many people do not realize that the American Akita and the Japanese Akita Inu are two separate breeds.  But what differentiates them?  You can break down the differences in color, body shape, size and personality.

A Japanese Akita Inu standing on grass in front of a green hedgeJapanese Akita Inu
An American Akita standing sideways to the camera, in front of a brick wallAmerican Akita


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Size

The American Akita outsizes his Japanese cousin both in height and weight.

Akita Inu

Height:  Akita Inus: 22 ¾ to 27 ½ in.  (58 – 70 cm)

    (Female Height: 23 to 25 inches  Males:   25 to 28 inches)

Weight:  Akita Inus   50-85 lb. 23-39 kg)

    (Females 50 to 65 lb and Males 70 to 85 lb.)

American Akita

Weight:  80-145 lbs (36-66 kg.)

        (Males range between 100-145 lbs;   Females 80-120 lb.)

Height:  24-28 in.  61-71 cm)

     (Males 26 to 28 inches where females are 24-26 in.)

American Akita
- Colors

The American Akita comes in all colors and markings.  Some even have black masks and white blazes on the forehead. The Japanese Akita Inu has four colors:  brindle, red fawn, red fawn with black tips and white. They do not have black masks.

Body Shape

American Akitas and Akita Inus differ in their head and eye structure. The American Akita has a broad head and small, deep-set eyes, rather resembling a bear. Conversely, the Akita Inu, has a fox-like face and almond shaped eyes.

Body shape also differs with the two breeds. The American Akita has a stocky, muscular body with big bones and the  Akita Inu appears to have a slimmer build. To me, the Japanese Akita Inu looks like a larger version of the Shiba Inu, but that is just my opinion.

Personality

Both breeds have similar temperaments, but some subtle differences are worth noting. Both are independent and stubborn, loyal and protective.  Both can be aloof with strangers and does not do well with smaller pets.

The differences lie in the degrees of the trait. The American Akita can get along well enough with dogs of the opposite sex, but will have trouble with dogs of the same sex.  If properly trained, the American Akita will not be as suspicious of strangers as is the case with the Japanese Akita Inu.

A grey American Akita puppy standing near the camera with trees in the backgroundAmerican Akita puppy

Personality

These dogs are not recommended for owners with children. While they are known to be affectionate with their families, they are not suited for the chaos that comes with kids.

The breed is dignified and careful, making them inappropriate for such a crazy household. On top of the personality difference, the American Akita is a large, hefty dog, making it capable of accidentally injuring any small children.

The American Akita doesn’t tend to play well with others. Don’t expect these dogs to be hospitable with other dogs, especially those of the same gender. 

They also tend to view smaller pets as prey. They treat many new dogs that are trying to integrate into the home as suspicious as they would any unknown dog, especially those of the same sex.

If properly trained, these dogs can adapt to sharing their home, but for the most part, it’s not recommended.  If you do decide to get two, the best choice would be to get one of each sex.

These dogs are not yappy, but when they do vocalize, their “bark” resembles a moan or a murmur. When they are barking, it is most likely for a reason. The best news is that you are not likely to get into trouble with nearby neighbors for nuisance barking – not with this breed. 

The American Akita is known to expand his territory.  Your yard or property line means little to him.  It is best to build a fence around your property when getting one of these dogs.

This is mainly due to the dog’s size, as an invisible fence would not cut it. A physical fence will also prevent the dog from chasing a squirrel into any nearby traffic.

An American Akita standing on grass, looking at the camera, with a building in the backgroundAmerican Akita

The breed is well known for being fairly mouthy, meaning they like to grab things in their mouth and guide their owners. It is important to make guests aware of this fact, as at first, it may seem alarming.

Most owners combat this tendency by giving them toys to carry around. They have also been seen retrieving for hunters, by this trait.

Due to the Akita’s large body and energetic personality, it’s important for them to get sufficient exercise. If they do not receive regular exercise, they may become overweight.

On top of this, their excess energy will manifest in an antsy dog that will take it out of its environment. This is typical of this breeds behavior, as it is also known for being sensitive to its treatment. How they are treated is always reflected in their behavior as a result.

History

An American Akita sitting down on grass, with a red gate in the backgroundPhoto Source: Winnie

The American Akita’s origins are, ironically, not in America, but in Japan. The modern-day American Akita is larger and differs slightly in physical appearance compared to the Japanese Akita, but they have a shared origin..

The Akita roots lie in 17th Century Japan, in the Akita Prefecture on the northern island of Honshu. An exiled nobleman started a breeding program to develop a hunting dog to hunt wild boar, deer, and bear. The breed became quite popular in Japan over the following decades.

The Akita Inu would be considered the Japanese type of this breed. These dogs have held a place in Japan as an ordinary working dog for hundreds of years, having originated in Japan’s northern mountains.

These breeds are typically characterized by their fox-like faces and standing ears. The breed’s claim to fame included guarding Japanese royalty, starting in the 1600s, which seems to be echoed in the personalities of their descendants.

Throughout Japanese culture, they can be seen depicted or read in the literature of the time period. These dogs maintained a very popular position in Japanese culture, although, in the early 20th century, the breed saw a population decline.

This was the direct result of dog fighting having been banned in Japan, leading many owners to abandon their dogs. It was around this time that the Japanese began to prefer certain physical appearances for their Akitas.

American Akita

Before World War 2, the most famous Akita Inu was shortly seen immortalized in bronze. The Akita in question is named Hachiko, born in 1923.

This dog had become a symbol of loyalty to its owner, Professor Ueno, when he continued to return to the same spot he had met him every day, after the professor had died. The statue of Hachiko was melted down for metal for the war effort.

However, after World War 2 was over, a new statue replaced the original one, after the distinct lack of the original bronze Akita Inu was too much to bear for the locals.

The first dog imported to the U.S. was owned by Helen Keller, in 1937, after her visit to Japan. World War 2 had a devastating effect on the breed, which became almost extinct.

It was after World War 2 that the now excluded physical types of Akita Inu were brought back to the US alongside those of the accepted colors.

Ex-soldiers had a particular admiration for the breed, although many had been crossed with German Shepherds over time. This may be the cause of the American Akita’s larger build than its Japanese counterpart. 

It was crucial that the Americans brought some Akitas back with them after the war ended, as the breed’s population in Japan dropped in the post war years.

This is likely due to the economic woes felt by the country as a result of its loss. This was following the decrease in the population before the war, due to the Great Depression. Thankfully, the breed was popular enough never to have been seriously threatened.

In the USA, the breed quickly became popular among those who had a passion for intelligent and challenging dogs to train. It wasn’t until 1955 that it was recognized by the AKC.

The importation of these dogs from Japan was finally stopped in 1974, which finished the process of the American Akita becoming a separate entity from its ancestors.

Today, the American is the 47th most popular purebred breed in the country.


Ease of Training

An American Akita standing on grass in front of a green hedgeAmerican Akita

Like other rather independent breeds, the Akita is notorious for being particularly difficult to train.

These dogs are not recommended for new owners, as their intelligent and stubborn personalities make them a tough student. These dogs require a disciplinarian owner for them to respond well to training.

Once someone has managed to tame this individualistic dog,  they become very loyal and affectionate pets.

They love to play with their owners, particularly when there are games or tasks in which the dog can mouth an item.

The overall consensus for raising these dogs, after maintaining the alpha position, is consistent positive reinforcement as opposed to punishing mistakes.

It is always important to socialize every breed from an early age. It is crucial with the American Akita, as it is well documented for being an antisocial dog.

To make the dog feel more comfortable in group environments, as well as less anxious of unknown people, it’s best to expose the dog to a variety of individuals from a young age.

Most owners recommend taking them on walks, where they can encounter both people and their pets.

Vital Statistics

Average Height: 24-28 in. (61-71 cm)

Average Weight: 70-130 lbs. (32-60kg)

Average Lifespan: 11-15 Years

Colors

There are 9 colors and 5 markings that are registered by the AKC for the American Akita:

  • Black
  • Fawn
  • Fawn, Black Overlay
  • White
  • Red, Black Overlay
  • Silver, Black Overlay
  • Brown Brindle
  • Brown, Black Overlay
  • Red

Color Markings

  • Black Mask, White Markings
  • Pinto, Black Mask
  • Pinto, White and Black Mask
  • White Mask, White Markings
  • Black and White Mask and White Markings
An American Akita Puppy sitting on a table next to a small treeAmerican Akita Puppy

Grooming

The Akita is not known to be too difficult to groom. Instead, your house will need grooming, as they are in turn known to be heavy shedders, leaving hairs everywhere!

Most owners recommend brushing at least twice a week to remove shed hair and distribute oils. The breed is also known to clean itself like a cat, leading owners typically to bathe their Akitas at least every 3 months.

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Every dog needs a toothbrush as much as a hairbrush. Providing essential dental care is just as important as a regular vet visit. Dogs should have their teeth brushed at least 2-3 times a week, with a dog-specific toothpaste, NOT a human toothpaste.

By regularly brushing a dog’s teeth, you can prevent bad breath, in dog terms, as well as avoid the buildup of tartar and plaque.

Unlike their coat, the American Akita cannot tend to its own nails. Dogs need their nails clipped at least every 3 weeks to prevent them from becoming too long and uncomfortable.

Owners will typically listen to their dog’s nails clicking against the ground as a sign of their nails growing too long. If you hear clicking, it’s time for clipping!

All dog breeds will also need their ears checked and regularly cleaned. Due to the formation of the Akita’s ears, they get more airflow than most dogs. This being said, they also allow for more foreign objects to be caught by the ear.

Regardless, these dogs will still need to have their ears checked and cleaned at least once a week.

Protection

When it comes to protection, the American Akita is the name of the game. Due to its muscular build and intimidating stature, they are a strong deterrent to unwanted company.

On top of their physical capabilities, these dogs will bark to alert its owner of an intruder’s presence. Despite its ability to stop a threat, no dog should be put in harm's way.

The breed’s intimidating build is paired with an intimidating personality. These dogs have the bite to back up the bark, notorious for being inhospitable towards strangers in general.

Due to their fierce loyalty to their owners, should their owner have trained them properly, they will gladly put themselves in between their owner and an intruder.

Health Considerations

Unfortunately, there is no universal healthcare for dogs. If you are considering getting a dog, you need to be capable of providing it with adequate healthcare and medicine.

Dogs are like people, in that they can get sick and injured too. Some dogs will be more prone to certain health issues than others, making it necessary to take them into consideration when getting a purebred.

The American Akita is a tough dog, although, they do not tend to have relatively long lifespans.

They are healthy on the whole, but as with most larger breeds, they do not live too long. While it is not inevitable that these dogs will be affected by any of these health conditions, it is important to be aware of them regardless:


  • Bloat
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sebaceous Adenitis

As with any breed, it is important to find a good breeder to purchase a dog from.

A good breeder will know their dogs inside and out, as well as be able to pass health checks. It is of particular importance due to the popularity of the breed, as well as some genetic health issues.

Famous Akita dogs

The most famous Akita ever was called Hachiko. He returned every day to the train station where he used to meet his owner, Professor Ueno, after work, for 9 years after Prof. Ueno died. This true story was made into a film starring Richard Gere, call "Hachi: A Dog's Tale".

A black and white image of Hachiko, the famous Akita who waited for his master every day.Hachi the Akita

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