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Subject: rec.pets.dogs: Akitas Breed-FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:09 GMT
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 04 Dec 2000
There are many FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
listing of these, get the "Complete List of RPD FAQs". This article
is posted bimonthly in rec.pets.dogs, and is available via anonymous ftp
to rtfm.mit.edu under pub/usenet/news.answers/dogs-faq/faq-list, via
the Web at http://www.k9web.com/dog-faqs/lists/faq-list.html, or
via email by sending your message to firstname.lastname@example.org with
in the body of the message.
This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other
documents without he Author(s)'s permission and is provided "as is"
without express or implied warranty.
Thanks to the Siberian Husky FAQ (we "lifted" a lot of information
from that FAQ); to Rob and Tammy Larsen of Cottonwood Akitas, who gave
us a lot of information in their Akita Information Packet and the book
references at the end of this FAQ; and of course to the following
people who directly contributed their time and efforts toward this
Kevin and Doraine McIntyre, Mar. 21, 1995 (rev 1.4) Stormy the Akita
Lisa and Ayla the Akita
Moko, Sam, Kodiak (7/1/81-8/19/92)
and Kita (ARSA orphan looking for a home)
Barbara Bouyet (see the Book reference)
Copyright 1994, 1995 by the authors.
Table of Contents
* Characteristics and Temperament
* Care and Feeding
* Health/Special Medical Problems
* Frequently Asked Questions
The Akita is the largest of the six Japanese spitz-type dogs. For
several hundred years, these dogs were used in male-female pairs to
hold game such as bear, boar, deer at bay until the hunter arrived.
They have also been used to retrieve waterfowl. They have been rumored
to have been kept by the aristocracy or wealthy people but
interestingly, when the Allied forces occupied Japan after WW2,
American G.I.'s saw the Akita, though there were very few left. The
GIs were very attracted to the massive sized dog and the Akita became
one of many "Japanese Souvenirs" brought to the US along with Japanese
swords, helmets, etc. The Japanese saw a business opportunity and
began mass producing Akita dogs to sell to the Americans from pet
stores in Tokyo. Some breeders began advertising the Akita as "a dog
of the Shoguns, a Dog of Royalty." The tall tales of royal dogs, etc.,
stuck with the Akita in the United States and was even incorporated
into the early literature distributed by the AC There was no truth to
the advertisements but the Americans fell for it (may have made them
feel as if they were taking a little piece of the Emperor with them).
At the end of the 19th century, the Japanese crossed this large dog
with non-native dogs (such as the Tosa Fighting Dog, German Shepherd
Dog, St. Bernard, Mastiff) to increase their size and strength for pit
In 1919, concerned by the Japanese breeds' potential extinction, the
Japanese included the large spitz-type dog (by then called the Akita
after the prefecture on the northern part of Honshu Island where it
had become well known as a fighting dog) in a list of natural
monuments to be preserved. At that time, most of the Akitas resembled
the crossbred fighting dog. It was not until 1931 that enough dogs
that resembled the current idea of a purebred Akita were found, and
the Akita became the first of the Japanese native dogs to be declared
a natural monument. The Akita gradually lost its popularity as a
fighting dog because other breeds proved more efficient fighters (and
dog fighting had been outlawed).
During World War II, the breed was nearly lost because many Akitas,
especially those in the cities, were killed for food or for their
pelts. The breed was re-established in Japan from the best of the
remaining dogs. Although the first Akita to come to the United States
was the puppy given to Helen Keller on her visit to Japan in 1937,
breeding stock did not arrive until Akitas were brought here in some
numbers after WWII by servicemen stationed in Japan. They were
probably not used as guard dogs by the military; both US and Japan
military used German Shepherd Dogs then (and Malinois today) [source,
Best suited as a companion now, some Akitas also work as sled, police,
therapy, guard and hunting dogs. Several have herding titles, and
several are trained companions of hearing- and sight-impaired people.
In general they are discerning guardians of their families. Because of
their dog fighting and hunting background, most Akitas are dog
aggressive and can be small animal aggressive.
In 1992 Akitas ranked 33rd in popularity among the 135 breeds
recognized then by the AKC. The Akita stud book in the United States
closed in 1972; no Akitas imported from Japan after that were able to
be registered with the AKC. That led to two main types of Akitas being
developed: American Akitas tend to be larger and stockier, often with
a black mask; while Japanese Akitas are more refined and stylized,
with the only allowed colors being brindle, white, and red with white
markings. Akitas in other countries are of both types. In 1992 the AKC
recognized the Japan Kennel Club, so Akitas from Japan
(JKC-registered) can again be registered with the AKC. Some people
would like to have two separate breeds, the Japanese Akita and the
American Akita; others prefer to have one breed, the Akita.
The breed seems to have stabilized after a dramatic increase in
registrations in the 1980s. Akitas are sold in pet shops; many of
these have been bred in "puppy mills," with little attention paid to
type, health, and temperament. See later sections on how to locate a
responsible breeder or how to get a rescued Akita.
The Standard is the physical "blueprint" of the breed. It describes
the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed
otherwise known as type. Some characteristics, such as size, coat
quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function
for the dog. Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye
color; but taken together they set this breed apart from all others.
The Standard describes an ideal representive of the breed. No
individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the
breeder to strive towards.
Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards
at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not
typically included in the Breed faqs. The reader is referred to the
publications at the end of this document or to the National Breed Club
for a copy of the Standard.
Note that the Japanese standard, which differs significantly from AKC,
among other things, does not allow black masks.
Characteristics and Temperament
Coat and Grooming
Twice a year, Akitas "blow" their undercoats, that is, they shed their
undercoats completely. It is a very intense shedding period that can
last up to three weeks from start to finish. The good news is that
this only happens twice a year. The remainder of the time, Akitas are
relatively shed-free. Some people feel that this periodic problem is
easier to cope with than the constant shedding and renewal of many
smooth-coated breeds. The bad news is that the shedding period can be
rather messy. The hair comes out in large and small clumps. Lots of
vacuuming and brushing are in order. Akitas that are neutered, live
indoors, or live in a temperate climate (without much seasonal change)
tend to shed smaller amounts year-round and don't go through such
dramatic loss of coat.
The Akita needs very little grooming except when blowing coat. No
trimming or shaving of coat hair is required or recommended, just
occasional regular brushing to remove de ad hair and keep the coat
fresh and shiny. Nails should be kept short (so you can't hear them
"click" as they walk) and hair on the bottom of the feet should be
trimmed to preserve the characteristic tight "cat foot" of the breed.
Note: There are long coated Akitas (a fault) that require more
grooming; wooden rakes with several rows of metal teeth work well on
The Akita is a noble breed - dignified, intelligent, loyal, devoted,
courageous , and aloof to strangers. Akitas can adapt to many
different situations and can be marvelous watchdogs (typically not
barking unless there's a good reason) and companions. They require a
great deal of socialization as puppies, and obedience training is very
important as Akitas are dominant dogs and tend to be aggressive
towards other dogs, especially of the same sex.
Care and Feeding
Akitas, as a rule, do not do well on a food high in soybeans, which is
the primary source of protein in most commercial, supermarket dog
foods. They do well on meat and bone meal-based foods and those with
fish meal. Twice daily feeding throughout their adult lives is
recommended to lessen the chance of bloat (see below for more
information on bloat). Some people add a daily natural kelp tablet for
the additional iodine.
One other thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food.
Some research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can
increase the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible
to it. The theory is that the higher percentage of protein found in
puppy formulas can accelerate growth before the developing skeleton
can support the weight. Some breeders start feeding adult food very
soon. Most people gradually switch to adult dog food at 8-10 months.
Again, this is something to discuss with your breeder and
Since some Akitas are jumpers, a high fence (5' or higher) is
necessary if they are kept outside. Akitas prefer to be with their
families and do well as house dogs. If they are kept outdoors, they
should have a dog run or a securely fenced yard. Leaving them tied
outside without a protective fence may make them more aggressive.
Because of their high pain threshold, invisible fences or electric
fences aren't a reliable method of containment. With their double
coat, Akitas handle cold weather well but should always have shelter.
With shade and fresh water, they can also tolerate hot weather. Akitas
should be kept on leash when off their property because of their
independence and animal aggressiveness.
Since Akitas can be dog aggressive, they must be "tempered" with
obedience training. They need to know who's boss and will test the
boundaries in an attempt to become the alpha. Early correction is
important to maintain control of an Akita.
Akitas do not respond well to harsh methods of training. Motivational
methods, with patience, kindness, consistency and firmness work
better. Early socialization in puppy kindergarten is highly
recommended. In general Akitas are clean dogs, which makes
housebreaking easier than in many breeds. Crates are highly
It is debatable how much exercise an Akita needs but a large fenced-in
yard is ideal for this breed. Akitas usually take well to
weight-pulling and sledding, though as a breed they are not highly
represented in such activities. Puppies should not pull any
significant weight or do roadwork until their bones and joints have
matured at about 18 months.
Look for a reputable breeder when selecting your Akita puppy. Ask if
the parents' hips were checked for hip dysplasia and their eyes for PR
(See below (FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS) for some suggestions on
locating a reputable breeder.)
Because of their background as a fighting dog, there are some breeders
deliberately producing Akitas with poor temperament. Be careful to
avoid these breeders when picking out your puppy. While many Akitas
are dog aggressive, especially when adult, they should not be vicious
nor aggressive with people, and puppies should not exhibit these
behaviors. If the breeder brags about what great protection dogs the
puppies will make, your alarm should go off. Also, examine the adult
Akitas the breeder has. Do they have the temperament you want your pup
to have when grown? A little care will let you avoid these breeders.
Look for someone who took considerable care in socializing the puppies
and who has adults that would be a joy to have.
When you pick up your puppy, your breeder can tell you the puppy's
schedule and brand of food and can recommend a future diet. Then you
can gradually change the diet to suit your preferences. Remember that
sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt the puppy's digestive
system and cause gastric distress. The Akita can eat quite a bit,
especially as a young and rapidly growing puppy.
The Akita is a large, impressive and strong working dog. Its heritage
must be taken into consideration by a prospective dog owner. This
breed cannot be fed and forgotten - it must be given a chance to be a
member of the family. It needs love, training, and exercise. More dog
than a first-time dog owner may want to try, the Akita is for
assertive, dog-oriented people.
Health/Special Medical Problems
Overall quite hardy with the following problem areas:
Canine Hip Dysplasia
The incidence of hip and elbow dysplasia in Akitas (as in many large
breed) can be a problem. However, any Akitas used for breeding should,
among other things, be OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) x-rayed
at 2 years of age, and only dogs that are certified normal (or better)
should be bred. OFA certification cannot be granted prior to 24 months
of age and many people get preliminary x-rays after 8 months of age.
Other alternatives to OFA are having x-rays read by a certified board
radiologist or having x-rays taken by a new system called PennHip.
Conscientious efforts of breeders have kept the incidence of this
condition moderate in the Akita.
Akitas are subject to hypothyroidism and allergic skin diseases, both
of which can often be treated. Incidence of hypothyroidism seems to be
increasing, and sometimes skin diseases are a result of thyroid
dysfunction. A number of Akitas have been put down because of skin
problems thought to be unmanageable. Current research indicates
maternal antibodies as a major cause of hypothyroiditis. An untested
mother, if affected by the disease and not demonstrating visible
symptoms, will have circulating antibodies to the disease. When the
fetus begins developing its own thyroid tissue, the antibodies attack
brain tissue. In humans, it causes mental retardation but in dogs, it
is believed to cause behavior problems. Once the fetus begins nursing,
additional antibodies are passed to the newborn in the colostrum,
eventually damaging the thyroid gland of the receipent. Studies
indicate a euthyroid (normal on medication) mother is no longer
circulating antibodies, thereby producing normal offspring. If each
female is tested BEFORE breeding, in 5-10 generations, lymphocytic
hypothyroiditis could greatly diminish. A complete thyroid panel,
including T3, T4. free T3, free T4 and an antibody test are important.
A subclinical bitch may not be showing visible symptoms therefore,
only a blood test could determine an affected bitch.
Possible congenital eye defects. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and
central progressive retinal atrophy (CPRA) have appeared in a number
of breeds, including Akitas. These problems are an inherited disease
and can cause sudden or gradual blindness. Careful screening of
potential breeding pairs has helped reduce the incidence of these
problem in the breed. Congenital ocular defects include micropthalmia
(small eyes), congenital cataracts (present at birth), posterior
lenticonous (lens abnormally shaped), retinal dysplasia (retina
developed abnormally). Entropion (eyelids rolling inward) and
ectropion (eyelids rolling outward) can also be problems. Two other
eye conditions that Akitas can get that have inherited tendencies are
glaucoma and uveitis (associated with the autoimmune syndrom, VKH).
Annual CERF exams are recommended for Akitas.
Other disorders include autoimmune hypothyroiditis, immune-mediated
blood disorders, sebaceous adenitis, pemphigus foliaceus, lupus,
atopic dermatitis, and vitiligo.
Some less common disorders are idopathic epilepsy, myasthenia gravis,
diabetes, Cushings' and Addison's disease, chondrodysplasia, and
congenital enamel hypoplasia (sometimes called "Akita teeth").
Akitas have several red cell anomalies in their blood - microcytosis
and high red cell K+ content (which can lead to a false diagnosis of
hyperkalemia). In any blood work on Akitas, red cells should be
separated immediately from plasma for accurate results.
As with other large, deep-chested breeds, Akitas are prone to bloat.
Bloat is a serious condition where the stomach rotates, closing off
both ends, and starts to produce gas; this condition can kill quickly.
Some preventive measures include feeding your dog in smaller multiple
portions (two smaller meals a day being better than one large meal a
day), refraining from exercising your dog immediately after his meal,
and either soaking kibble in water before feeding or ensuring your dog
doesn't drink a lot of water immediately after eating. You should
discuss this condition with your vet: s/he can list the obvious
symptoms and show you some emergency measures you can take to save his
life if you find yourself rushing to the emergency room in a race
Frequently Asked Questions
Akitas are supposed to be "dog aggressive". Will I have trouble with
other dogs in general? How about with other Akitas?
Akitas, even those that get along quite well with other dogs, often
become dog aggressive at adolescence or adulthood, basically
because they are a dominant breed and don't back down from
challenges. Because of this dominance, two strange Akitas may be
more inclined to be aggressive than one Akita with a less dominant
breed. Akitas of the same sex are more likely to fight than those
of the opposite sex. This is why it is recommended that Akitas not
be allowed off leash off their own property.
What is this business with "unusual blood cells"?
Akitas, along with one type of poodle, often have smaller red blood
cells than other dogs. It is not known why. This can sometimes lead
to misinterpretations of blood test results.
Why are the Japanese and American standards so different?
Most American Akitas came from breeding stock brought back by
servicemen after World War II. These dogs often came from pet shops
and, for the most part, did not represent the highest quality
Akitas. Also at this time many Akitas in Japan showed the results
of breeding with non-native breeds, e.g. some of the early American
Akitas had large, upright ears and German-shepherd-like coloring.
The Akitas brought back represented several different types. The
American standard was revised several times in the 1960s, and the
final version was approved by the AKC in 1972. After World War II,
the Japanese tried to restore a purer type of Akita, trying to
eliminate traits that might come from earlier crossbreeding. Some
of the traits they eliminated were loose skin, loose tail curl,
facial wrinkles, and large ears. They also permitted only the more
traditional colors of Japanese dogs - red, white, and brindle.
Are Akitas friendly or reserved with other people?
Typically Akitas are reserved with people other than their
families, but many are quite friendly. As with any dog, you should
ask permission before petting an Akita.
I've heard the breed called Akita Inu, too. Are they related to Shiba
"Inu" means "dog" in Japanese; the Akita is the largest of the
native spitz-type Japanese dogs and the Shiba is the smallest.
What about the dog I saw on the television, TARO?
This is a long story but basically Taro, an Akita, was literally
jailed in a New Jersey jail, for being a vicious dog and allegedly
biting a child. The exact circumstances of the incident are still
debated (it appears to be a real family feud type story) but
apparently the dog was tormented by the child (after being told to
leave the dog alone) and the dog may have pawed and NOT bitten the
child at all. After years of legal battles and thousands of dollars
in legal/jail costs, Taro was pardoned by the current Governor of
the state but was exiled from New Jersey and now lives elsewhere.
Where can I find Akita breeders in my area?
The Akita Club of America maintains a breeder list; the breeders
whose names appear on the list HAVE paid for this service. Contact
Jan Voss, 1016 Vermont Rd., Woodstock, IL. 60098-8842. (815)
for a FREE package on "How to Find A Reputable Breeder" send a
stamped, self-addressed #10 envelope to:
237 Venus Street,
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Contact your local Akita Club
Check the Akita World magazine (see below).
Check with an Akita Rescue Organization
Edita van der Lyn
T.F.H. Publications, Inc. (often available at pet stores)
1 T.F.H. Plaza
Third and Union Aves.
Neptune City, NJ 07753
Akita Treasure of Japan
Call: International Marketing Enterprises
Pennsylvania residents call: (610) 971-0329
The Book of the Akita
Joan McDonald Brearley
211 West Sylvania Ave.
Neptune City, NJ 07753
The Complete Akita
Joan M. Linderman and Virgina Funk
Howell Book House, Inc.
230 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10169
Akita World (published 6 times a year, ~$48/year)
4401 Zephyr St.
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-3299
HEADline News (published monthly, ~$20/year)
8461 Denallen Dr.
Cincinnati, OH 45255
Akita Club of America
President, Nancy Henry, AkitaEmu@aol.com.
Other contacts: Nancy Amburgey, email@example.com
Susan Duncan, via firstname.lastname@example.org
The Akita Club of America can help you locate member clubs in your
In the United States, contact the Akita Club of America or regional
clubs for breeder recommendations in your area.
Akita Rescue Society of America (ARSA)
Southern California (Parent Chapter)
237 Venus Street
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
805/492-2127 (FAX and phone)
covers Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
covers length of Florida
(404) 255-8522 or 578-0874
covers New York, New Jersey, Connecticut
Lee Kendrick (is an independent but now works with ARSA-MAC)
Covers Missouri, Kansas
Covers Ohio and parts of Michigan
(614) 879 5810
Judy King & Pam Claridge
Delaware Valley Akita Rescue
Kathy DeWees and Margie Rutbell
Covers New Jersey, Pennsylvania and parts of New England
Pam Wasson (Works with ARSA-Mid-West)
OTHERS DOING AKITA RESCUE
Akita Rescue of Kansas City
covers, Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri
Liz Harrell and Louise Winder
INTERNET Akita related groups
Web pages include:
* Akita Action Association: http://akitaaction.homestead.com/
There is currently an Akita (moderated) listserver group available on
the Internet. To subscribe send e-mail to:
with the body containing:
subscribe AKITA-L firstname lastname
Akita Inu FAQ
Kevin McIntyre, email@example.com