In Japan, the Akita is a national monument. Whenever a child is born, well-wishers gift the family with an Akita figurine. It symbolizes long life and happiness. This breed was once a powerful hunter, fighting off wild boar and Yezo bears in the snowy, mountainous regions of Akita and Odate in Japan. Today, the breed still exhibits its regal persona but has also become a trustworthy human companion.
The Akita reminds some people of a bear due to its thick fur and powerful build. With adult males reaching a weight of 100 to 130 pounds and a height of up to 28 inches at the shoulder blades, they are quite close to the size of giant dog breeds. Females are usually a bit smaller, reaching 70 to 100 pounds and a height of 24 to 26 inches.
Akitas are clean dogs that groom themselves like cats, but they do need some grooming assistance from their owners when they shed. Double-coated dogs like the Akita "blow" their undercoat twice a year, usually once in the summer and once in the winter. A coat blow is a fairly rapid shed of the undercoat, and brushing your dog is essential for facilitating the process. In warmer weather, old fur can block airflow to the dog's skin causing hot spots, areas of red, wet, infected skin. Keeping up with a regular brushing routine will prevent your dog from experiencing this painful skin issue.
This breed's independent, bold nature and protective instincts make them excellent family guardians. Akitas are devoted to their humans but aloof toward strangers. Their quiet nature makes them an excellent pet for apartment dwellers, urban homes, or country life. Most experts agree that this breed is not the best choice for the novice owner, however. Their intelligence, size, and strength also make them strong-willed and they demand respect from everyone around them.
The Akita will stay in shape with daily walks or jogs. If available, a backyard provides them an additional place to exercise. However, these dogs are climbers and jumpers, plus their prey instinct is strong. They'll need at least a 6-foot fence to keep them in the yard. Owners should always keep Akitas leashed and prevent them from roaming around freely without close supervision. If you live in a locale with strong winters, you'll find that these dogs love romps in the snow.
Because Akitas have such a strong guardian instinct, they will fiercely protect the humans in their home domain should the need arise. They tend to become very protective of children but may misinterpret rambunctious behavior as someone needing their immediate intervention. Breed experts suggest that families with very young children wait until the children are older before adding one of these large dogs to the household.
Expect your adult Akitas to eat between three and five cups of food each day. Twice-a-day feedings are best. Puppies need a low-calorie but high-quality diet, split into two or three servings throughout the day to prevent them from growing too fast. Because large breeds like the Akita tend to grow at an accelerated rate, they can develop growth disorders such as abnormal posture, hip dysplasia, painful joints, and bowed legs if they grow too quickly.
A well-trained Akita will reward you with years of loyal and enjoyable companionship. Although they have an even temperament, like all dogs, they'll exhibit negative behaviors if not properly trained and socialized. If you want to take training beyond the basics, Akitas learn to perform at high levels in obedience, agility, and other dog sports. Their steady and quiet disposition makes them popular therapy dogs. Akitas tend to get along well with cats in their household. However, they do better with dogs of the opposite sex.
Like all purebreds, this breed has certain health problems that can occur. Hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and an immune disorder called acquired myasthenia gravis are common. Thyroid problems, autoimmune disorders, and bloat are also issues for some dogs. Veterinarians say that these conditions usually don't emerge until adulthood. That's why it's important to purchase your dog from an experienced, reputable breeder who works to diminish these conditions in their lines.
The Akita has a beautiful, large, full tail that it carries high over its back. Their double coats include a thick, dense undercoat and a softer, shorter, outer coat that stands off the body no more than two inches. The coats come in an array of colors, from solid black, white, fawn, silver, and brown to those with markings in black, red, and brindle. Akitas also have webbed toes, which help them walk on snow.
Many people may not be aware that Helen Keller was an avid dog lover. While in Japan on a speaking tour, the Japanese government presented the activist, speaker, and author with a puppy named Kamikaze-Go. It was the first Akita to arrive on American soil. Unfortunately, the puppy died of distemper eight months later. After hearing the sad news, the Japanese government sent Keller another Akita named Kenzan-Go in 1939, despite rising tensions between the U.S. and Japan. Keller often posed with her beloved Akita in photos.
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