The Akita is a big, bold dog with a distinctly powerful appearance: a large head in contrast to small, triangular eyes; and a confident, rugged stance. The mere presence of a powerful Akita serves as a deterrent to most who would cause trouble.
This breed is renowned for unwavering loyalty to their owners, and they can be surprisingly sweet and affectionate with family members. Imagine a loving protector who will follow you from room to room, whose entire mission in life seems to be simply to serve you.
The Akita is courageous, a natural guardian of their family. Stubborn and willful, they won’t back down from a challenge. They don’t usually bark unless there is a good reason, but they are vocal, making amusing grunts, moans, and mumbles. Some owners say the Akita mutters under their breath and seem to be talking to themselves, while others say the Akita offers their opinion on all matters, from how to load the dishwasher to when the children should be put to bed.
While these charming “talking” traits are exhibited to family, the Akita is often aloof and silent with visitors. They’re naturally wary of strangers, though they will be welcoming enough to a house guest as long as their owners are home.
Socializing the Akita puppy (or retraining an adult dog) with as much exposure to friendly people as possible can help soften the edge of their wariness, though an Akita will always be an Akita—a dignified and sober presence, not a party animal.
One of the Akita’s singular traits is mouthing. The Akita loves to carry things around in their mouth, and that includes your wrist. This is not an act of aggression, but simply an Akita way of communicating with those they love. They may lead you to their leash because they want to go for a walk, for example, or act on any number of other ideas that pop into their intelligent head.
Many owners are charmed by the Akita’s mouthing, but if you find it annoying, simply give your Akita a job that involves carrying something. They would happily get the newspaper or your slippers for you, or retrieve the mail or even those keys you keep misplacing.
The Akita also proves themselves unusual with their grooming habits, licking their body like a cat. And that’s not their only “feline” trait: like a tiger, they’ll stalk their prey silently, body low to the ground. This is not a dog that will growl or bark a warning before springing into action.
At 100 pounds or more, the Akita is a lot of muscular power. This is a dominating breed, and the Akita will want to dominate you. Proper training is essential, and training should be done by the owner. Because the Akita is so faithfully loyal, the bond between the owner and the dog must not be broken by boarding the dog with a trainer.
Before adopting an Akita, it is crucial to spend time researching how to train this particular breed. Akitas do not respond well to harsh training methods. If your training is respectful, the dog will, in turn, respect you.
But be prepared for training to take longer than it does for other breeds. Though the Akita is highly intelligent, stubborn willfulness is a part of their personality, which can and does interfere with training. The best results come from doing plenty of homework on how to train before ever bringing an Akita home with you. This is not a breed for the timid.
The willful and determined Akita is also, despite their public reserve, a very social pet who needs plenty of time with their family. They not do well as a backyard dog. Companionship holds hands with loyalty, which is what this breed is all about. To make them live outside without benefit of family is to deny the very essence of the Akita breed. A lonely and bored Akita can become destructive and aggressive.
The Akita is not recommended for first-time dog owners, for those who want a lapdog, or for those unwilling to take charge. But for owners who can and will invest time and effort in research and proper training, the reward is a fine, intelligent companion with unwavering loyalty.
In addition to all other considerations, choosing an Akita means deciding which side of a controversy you want to stand on. This controversy is “the split,” and it relates to the Japanese or American standard for the breed.
The Japanese Akita is considerably smaller, both in height and mass, than the American Akita—as much as 30 or more pounds lighter. Their foxlike head is decidedly different from the broad head of the American breed. The Japanese Akita has almond-shaped eyes, while the American Akita’s eyes are triangular. A black mask is much in vogue on the American Akita but is considered a show disqualifier in Japan, where markings on the face are white.
If you want your dog to compete in any American Kennel Club events, the black mask means the dog has been bred to the American standard and will be allowed to compete. In fact, in America, any color on the Akita is permitted; in Japan, only red, white, and some brindles are allowed.
So wide are the differences between the types that it would seem that a split would be best for the breed. There appear to be as many strongly in favor of the split as there are those who are strongly against it. Deciding which standard to choose should be done only after much research and is largely a matter of personal taste.
The Akita’s natural hunting skills translate well to various activities. They still hunt today and are able to hold large game at bay until the hunter arrives. They can also retrieve waterfowl. They are adept at tracking, and their catlike movements make them talented in agility. Akita owners are increasingly surprising those skeptics who believe that the Akita nature prevents success in this field. While it’s true that the breed’s stubbornness can make training a challenge, Akitas and their owners are taking home ribbons as more people discover the thrill of accomplishment in working with this dog.
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