Akitas are actually divided into two kinds: the Japanese Akita (also known as Akita inu) and the American Akita. While there remains to be debate as to whether these two should be classified as two different breeds, most kennel clubs categorize these two kinds of Akita as two types of the same breed.  

The Akita is loving and affectionate. While they are easily socialized towards other people, they are very protective and alert, especially when they perceive their owners are in danger. While smart, they can be very territorial and are known to be intolerant, if not hostile, toward other dogs.

Because of their large size and their high need for protectiveness, the Akita isn’t for first-time dog owners. They benefit from the steady hand of a good and consistent trainer.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) categorizes dogs into 7 groups:

  • herding
  • hound
  • non-sporting
  • sporting
  • terrier
  • toy
  • working

The Akita is classified as a working dog by the American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, and the UK Kennel Club.

Characteristics attributed to the Akita include:

  • Loyal
  • Intelligent
  • Alert
  • Fiercely protective
  • Courageous
  • Brave
  • Devoted
  • Aggressive toward dogs of the same sex
  • Reserved
  • Willful
  • Territorial
  • Clean

The Akita got its name from the Akita Prefecture in the Honshu island of Japan, where the breed originated. The Akita was originally bred as a guard and hunting dog, particularly for prey such as elk, boar, and bears, which explains the large size of the breed, as they were tasked to subdue their prey until the humans get to the area. As guard dogs, their owners and the pets served equal devotion to each other. In fact, Akitas were highly revered by the Japanese, and the breed was even associated with fortune and good luck. You can expect an effigy of an Akita brought to your house if your household celebrated a new birth, or if there was someone ill or injured in the family.

During the 19th century, breeding experiments of the Akita led to the creation of the Tosa, a breed that resembled its parents but was larger and more fearsome. However, the Tosa breed eventually died out because of a rabies outbreak. Most of the surviving Tosa dogs were also slaughtered for their fur, as the World War II soldiers needed the material for their uniforms. As an attempt to save the breed, Akitas were bred by German Shepherds to produce military dogs so that they won’t be killed for fur.  

The Akita has come a long way since those days. Today, dogs from the breed are well-loved by their owners, and they show equal love and devotion to their families.

The Akita is quite large, coming in between 26 and 28 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 75 and 120 lbs. The coloring of the Akita will depend on whether you have an American or a Japanese dog in your hands. Japanese Akitas usually have thick coats in red, fawn, or brindle, whereas American Akitas have more color mixes. Akitas have small, erect ears and curly tails that usually reach their hindquarters.

While the Akita is undeniably powerful, the breed is renowned for its protectiveness. While they can be friendly to people, even those that they meet for the first time, they are always on the alert when it comes to their families. Hachiko, the most well-known dog in Japan, is an Akita. He was a dog owned by Professor Hidesaburo Ueno. Every day, Hachiko accompanied his owner to the Shibuya Train Station and fetched him when he arrives. On May 25, 1925 Professor Ueno suffered from a stroke which led to his death. Despite this fact, Hachiko continued to go to the train station in order to wait for his owner to come back for 9 years. Upon his death, Hachiko’s loyalty was commemorated by the whole country, with a national day of mourning declared in honor of him. A bronze statue of the Akita was eventually built near the Shibuya Train Station, where the dog spent his remaining years waiting in devotion for his master.  

While this is admirable, the Akita can become extremely protective, which is why it is essential for the dog to be trained in order to understand that not all situations are potentially threatening to its owners, as Akitas may attack those that they feel may cause their families harm.

Akitas are quite neat, known to do self-grooming as well as cleaning other dogs in the family. However, Akitas are known to be intolerant of dogs they are not familiar with, especially those that belong to the same sex.  While not hostile to children, it’s not advisable for Akitas to be brought to places where they are surrounded by small kids. While they do not attack without warning, the Akita is intolerant of teasing and can get annoyed when it is annoyed by kids.

The Akita has an average lifespan of between 10 and 12 years.