The bear-like massive head, the gentle, intelligent eyes and the striking color combinations of the Akita make them a dog that is hard to miss. A well trained Akita is also so amazing to watch as they seem to have a natural ability to interact with their owners, but are also independent enough to sit back and relax, watching over everyone in their domain.
While these traits are certainly a key component of the Akita breed, they are developed by a lot of work and interaction between the owner and the dog. The Akita is a dominant breed that has to have three very basic needs fulfilled to be an outstanding pet and companion dog. The first is that they need to have a human leader that knows how to be the alpha in the household and how to work with a dominant dog. The second requirement is that the people work with and obedience train the dog consistently and include a large amount of socialization into the training program. The third aspect is that they need to feel loved and a part of the family, with a unique and important job to do.
Humans that are able to give 100% to those three factors will typically have a great relationship with their Akita and will also have an outstanding dog. People that don't know how to work with dominant and somewhat independent breeds or those that don't have the time or energy to work with the Akita will soon find the independence and dominance factors that are high in this breed will become unmanageable. Akitas that are taken in by rescues are typically dogs that were never properly trained or socialized or that had owners that didn't commit any time to interacting with and working with their dogs in a positive fashion.
With that being said there are still some issues that are common with the Akita that may make this dog a good match for you and your family or it may make them a breed to admire but not actually own.
The Akita is definitely a large size, although the Japanese Akita is smaller and less heavily boned than the American Akita. Typically a male Akita will mature at about 120 plus pounds and will measure up to 28 inches at the shoulder. Females are slightly smaller at about 100 pounds with a shoulder measurement of 24 or so inches. Both males and females can also be slighter and weigh closer to 75 pounds, however it is always best to plan on a larger dog when making the decision if an Akita is right for you.
Young Akitas, typically under one year of age are notorious for destructive chewing. It is not because they chew any more than other dogs, it is simply because they are so large and have such powerful jaws. With proper toys, of course only heavy duty will last, this problem is often eliminated. Dogs that are not provided enough exercise and attention, even after the age of one year, can revert back to chewing as a way to deal with boredom.
The Akita is naturally very food and toy possessive towards other dogs. Typically they will happily allow their human friends to remove foods or toys provided they are obedience trained and use to interacting with people. However, even a very well trained Akita may remain food and toy possessive when it comes to other dogs in the family. Typically an Akita needs to be fed separately from other dogs and the dish should be removed after the Akita has finished eating. Even another dog going over to sniff at an empty bowl can sometimes trigger aggression in the Akita. This is part of the dominance issue that is so prevalent in the breed.
4. Best As An Only Pet Or With Another Akita
Akitas are not pack dogs and are not comfortable as one of a group of pets in a family. They take their role as protector of the family and dominant dog very seriously and typically do not adjust to other dogs unless raised together. If you are considering another dog always select a less dominant breed that is the opposite sex to the Akita. Spay or neuter both dogs before any hormonal behavior starts as this can lead to increasing aggressiveness in the Akita.
Akitas that are raised with cats and other dogs and properly socialized can be good companion dogs. It is essential, however, to carefully monitor an Akita with any other pet to ensure they are getting along well before leaving them together. Remove any toys or objects that the Akita sees as hers or his before other dogs are brought into the area.
5. High Prey Drive
The Akita has been bred from the original hunting dogs of Japan and then was also further refined to be a pit fighting dog in the early part of the breed development. These dogs have a very high prey drive that is natural and instinctive, part of the temperament and traits of the breed. Households with small animals, neighborhoods with lots of cats, dogs or wildlife may not be suitable for an Akita as they will catch and kill smaller prey animals. If you want a yard with squirrels, birds and other animals the Akita is not a good match.
6. Heavy Seasonal Shedding
The Akita has a very heavy, thick double coat that sheds all year round. The inner coat is very fine and attaches itself to carpeting, furniture and your clothes when it sheds. During the spring and summer the inner coat is completely "blown" resulting in a massive amount of hair loss. This is often in clumps or tufts and it will literally cover your yard, flooring and furniture. Regular grooming during this time is essential and you may need to groom twice a day. The shedding season usually lasts approximately 2 to 4 weeks twice a year.
For people that love Akitas their vocalizations, playfulness and beauty make them an ideal pet. They are not a low maintenance dog and do need consistent and lifelong work in obedience and training to stay happy and content. With a good match between the Akita and the right family or person a very strong, loving bond will form with the dog clearly a member of the family in every sense of the word.