The Japanese Akita is one of the most famous Japanese dog breeds, along with its cousin, the Shiba Inu. Did you know that there’s also an American breed of Akita, known in the UK simply as the Akita, which is quite distinct from the Japanese line? The Kennel Club separated the Akita and Japanese Akita breeds in 2006.

A Brief History

The Japanese Akita originated in the Akita region of northern Japan, a snowy, mountainous region. A descendant of the Akita Matagi, the Akita Inu was originally used for hunting bears, deer, and wild boar, and also participated in dog fights. During the 19th century, the Akita was crossbred with the Tosa and different types of Mastiff, which led to an increase in the breed’s size and strength. Paradoxically, the banning of dog fights led to an improvement in the breed. In 1931, the Akita Inu became a "natural monument" in Japan, but the breed nearly died out with the onset of World War II. As the American Akita line developed in the United States, Japanese breeders set out to preserve the original Akita type to save the breed. 

One of the most famous and revered Akita in the world was a Japanese dog named Hachikô, born in 1923 and famous for returning to Shibuya Train Station to wait for his deceased master every day for 9 years. A bronze statue of Hachikô has even been erected at the station in his honour.

The Japanese Akita was officially registered by The Kennel Club as a breed in its own right in 2006.

Physical Characteristics

Classified as a large, primitive dog breed, the Japanese Akita displays a large, imposing build. There is a difference in the size of male and female Japanese Akitas. An adult male Japanese Akita will measure between 64 and 70cm and weighs between 32 and 52kg. Females measure between 58 and 64cm and weigh between 30 and 48kg.

The Kennel Club classifies the Japanese Akita in The Utility Breed Group, which consists of miscellaneous breeds of dog mainly of a non-sporting origin.

Body: The Akita Inu has a compact, well-proportioned body. This is a muscular dog with a strong, straight back. Females may have a slightly longer body than males, relatively.

Head: The head is proportional to the body. The muzzle is broad at the base but tapers towards the tip (from above, the head looks like a triangle).

Ears: The ears are triangle-shaped, small in size, and quite thick. Rounded at the tip, they prick forward slightly.

Eyes: The eyes are almond-shaped, small, and dark brown.

Tail: The tail is thick, carried high, and tightly curled over the back.

Coat: The outer coat is quite short, straight, and coarse, slightly longer at the withers and the rump. The undercoat is soft and dense.

Colour: The Kennel Club breed standard accepts four colours: Red Fawn; Sesame; Brindle; and White. All colours except white must have urajiro markings, which constitutes a white patch on the muzzle and chest.

Japanese Akita Temperament

The Japanese Akita is known for being very social and affectionate with its family, but stubborn and aloof with strangers. This makes for a very good watchdog, with the large size of the breed being an added deterrent. The Akita Inu enjoys the company of children, for whom it makes a great playmate, so long as proper socialisation has been practised from an early age. This is a calm and quiet dog who never barks without reason. The Japanese Akita is also very intelligent.

Does the Japanese Akita Get Along Well with Others?

The Japanese Akita needs to be socialised correctly and from an early age to get along well with its peers. Originally bred as a hunting and fighting dog, it can prove difficult for the Japanese Akita to cohabit with other pets, such as cats or exotic pets. Create lots of positive experiences for your pup to ensure that they learn not to engage their predatory or fighting instincts with other animals in the home.

Is a Japanese Akita the Right Dog for Me?

The Akita Inu is suitable for athletes and homebodies alike. This dog will have no trouble accompanying you on a run or hike, but will also be quite happy with shorter, quieter walks as well. However, this dog breed is not recommended for first-time owners. If you’re new to dog training but you want to adopt a Japanese Akita, we recommend that you call on the services of a canine behaviourist to help you.

Japanese Akita Health Problems

Japanese Akitas are known for their robust health; like many primitive dogs, they have a strong constitution. The average lifespan of an Akita is between 10 and 12 years. However, the breed is known to be affected by two autoimmune diseases: Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome (VKH) and sebaceous adenitis. VKH is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the melanocytes, causing symptoms such as uveitis, inflammation of the eye. Currently, there is no screening test for VKH. Sebaceous adenitis, on the other hand, is a skin disease that can lead to alopecia.

Ideal Living Conditions of a Japanese Akita

Despite the relatively large size of the breed, the Japanese Akita can happily live in an apartment in the city. This is a dog that barks relatively little—unless it’s bored!—and therefore won’t disturb your neighbours. Be sure to take your Akita out for a long walk each day to allow them to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, and meet new friends. The Japanese Akita is not particularly energetic and, as such, doesn't need to exert itself excessively to feel happy and balanced. Of course, Japanese Akitas, like all dogs, can also thrive in a house in the countryside with a big garden.

Japanese Akita Training

The Japanese Akita is not the easiest dog to train. Being a Spitz-type dog, the Akita needs an experienced owner with a firm hand and a soft touch. Japanese Akitas are known for their strong, stubborn nature, so you will need to be very patient, while also asserting a natural authority to show who's in charge. Never use violence against your dog, either physically or verbally; you would run the risk of destroying your relationship with them for good. Training a Japanese Akita requires good knowledge of the breed, as well as a solid foundation in dog training. If you have any doubts, call on the services of a professional dog trainer or behaviourist. Bad habits are difficult to unlearn!


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Diet: What to Feed Your Japanese Akita

To keep your dog happy and healthy, it is essential to provide your Japanese Akita with a high-quality diet. It can be difficult to navigate your way around the endless choice of dry and wet dog food available on the market, but a few simple principles will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. To start with, avoid the industrial dog food found in supermarkets. This type of dog food, despite being attractive price-wise, tends to be very low in quality and made using primarily plant protein, which is incapable of meeting your dog's basic nutritional needs. It's better to opt for dog food that's a little more expensive but has a much higher quality composition. Remember that your Japanese Akita is an opportunistic carnivore who needs animal protein to be fully healthy.

Learn how to decipher product labels to understand exactly what you're feeding your dog, and be sure to choose a healthy composition that contains at least 25 to 28% animal protein. Be wary of added preservatives and other sweeteners. Remember that your Japanese Akita’s dietary needs are likely to change throughout their life. Dog food should be adapted to your dog's health condition, as well as their age.

If you want to make sure that your dog's food is perfectly adapted to their needs, opt for a tailor-made service like Hector Kitchen. Or, if you have the time, you can try feeding them homemade dog food or a BARF diet. Homemade dog food involves preparing your dog's meals yourself from cooked meat and vegetables. For a BARF diet, on the other hand, you use raw meat, raw eggs, and cooked vegetables. However, you should always seek the advice of your vet before implementing a new diet, to avoid causing any damage to your dog's health.

Japanese Akita Care and Maintenance

  • Vaccines: £30 to £60 for the first injection series, plus annual boosters

  • Dog food: from around £50 per month for high-quality dog food

  • Monthly budget: minimum £105 per month

Grooming your Japanese Akita is fairly straightforward and not particularly time-consuming. You only need to brush these dogs once or twice a week to maintain their coat during normal periods. However, during periods of moulting (shedding) in spring and autumn, the Japanese Akita loses a lot of hair. You'll need to brush your dog almost every day using a suitable brush. Akitas are renowned for being peculiarly clean dogs; they even groom themselves like a cat, very conscientiously! This means you don’t need to wash your dog too often; bathe your Japanese Akita once or twice a year. You also need to supplement this basic care with additional maintenance, such as cleaning your dog's eyes and ears and brushing their teeth to prevent tartar build-up. Also, don't forget to trim your dog's nails when they get too long. Finally, be sure to make an appointment with your vet once a year to keep your Japanese Akita's vaccines up to date, and take them for regular deworming and antiparasitic treatments against ticks and fleas.

Japanese Akita Price

The current average price of a Japanese Akita puppy is between £1000 and £1500. This price can vary according to several criteria. Some breeders may ask for a higher price if the dog is intended for exhibition or reproduction. Puppies may also be expensive if they come from an exceptional line. Demand for the breed can influence the price as well; the more popular the breed, the fewer puppies available for adoption, which allows breeders to charge more.  Although it can be tempting to resort to unregistered or black market breeders on the Internet, we urge you not to buy a puppy this way. If you're not set on adopting a puppy, it's also quite possible to find an adult Japanese Akita in a shelter or rescue centre. This type of adoption will cost you much less and, after all, adult dogs deserve love and affection too!

Japanese Akita Sleep

Given its thick fur, the Akita Inu is very well protected against bad weather and is thus quite capable of sleeping in your garden, provided you buy a kennel perfectly suited to your dog’s size. Your Japanese Akita’s kennel should be neither too big nor too small. Opt for a wooden kennel, which is much better insulated than plastic, although more expensive to buy. Wooden kennels constitute a great long-term investment. Never tie your dog up in front of their kennel, dogs need to be able to move about at will. Of course, your Japanese Akita can also sleep in the house with you, if you prefer. In this case, buy your dog a suitable dog bed or basket and create a sleeping area for them in a quiet corner of the house. The most important thing is that your dog can rest without fear of being disturbed.

Games and Physical Activities for Your Japanese Akita

Despite the calm exterior of the breed, Japanese Akitas need to be stimulated both physically and intellectually. They are not the sportiest of dogs, but still need some form of exercise every day. In addition to a long walk each day plus a few trips outside to do their doggy business, try doing some activities with your Akita Inu every now and then, such as tracking or canicross, if you like running, for example. If you’re not particularly athletic, a ball or Frisbee will do the trick, but be sure to play with your dog in a safe, well-secured space.

Additionally, make sure to buy lots of toys and puzzles to occupy your Japanese Akita while you're out. As an intelligent dog breed, the Japanese Akita needs intellectual stimulation to feel well balanced. Dog toys help prevent your pooch from feeling lonely and bored and, thus, developing problematic behaviours such as property destruction and compulsive barking.

Pet Insurance: Protecting Your Japanese Akita

In the UK, there is no legal requirement to have pet insurance for your Japanese Akita. However, as the dog's owner, you would be held responsible for any damage caused to a third party by an accident, be it material damage or bodily harm. The Japanese Akita is a big, powerful dog and accidents do happen. This is where pet insurance comes in. Most home insurance policies offer the option to include animal liability insurance. Additionally, there are four main types of pet insurance available in the UK, which cover your pet in the event of accident or illness: Accident-Only, Time-Limited, Maximum Benefit, and Lifetime insurance.

Although the Japanese Akita is a pretty robust dog breed, it is susceptible to various health problems and autoimmune diseases. Getting your dog insured from an early age guarantees them the necessary care they need at every point throughout their life. Health insurance for your pooch works the same way as for humans: you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and, in return, they reimburse you for any veterinary expenses. Veterinary costs can be very high and are not standardised in the UK, which means they can vary substantially. Consequently, sometimes the cheapest solution for a sick dog is, unfortunately, euthanasia. So don't wait for your Japanese Akita to get sick or old before taking out pet insurance; you may risk them not being properly taken care of. We always recommend getting your dog insured from an early age.

In any case, before deciding on a contract, take the time to shop around for quotes and assess the terms and conditions that best suit your circumstance. In terms of price, the average cost for pet insurance in the UK in 2020 was £436 per year. This works out to just over £36 per month. Certain criteria, such as your dog's age and breed, may cause prices to vary. On the other hand, the most comprehensive type of cover is lifetime dog insurance. This is also the most expensive option, you can expect lifetime dog insurance to cost closer to £80 per month. However, you will have much greater peace of mind with this type of insurance.