You probably know the most famous Japanese dog in the world called “Hachiko,” but are you familiar with his breed, the Akita Inu? I will introduce it to you through my knowledge and experience as a happy owner of this beautiful Japanese dog.
The arrival of “Yuki” (my male dog) in 2012 marked the beginning of an overflowing passion for the breed of Akita Inu. Then “Yume,” a female American Akita came into my life in 2014.
I was also able to volunteer with the AKITA HOME Association as a District Manager. For nearly a year and a half I learned a lot about Japanese dog breeds: the Shiba Inu, the Akita Inu and the American Akita. That is when I really realized, among other things, the importance of owner awareness and information sharing.
It is essential to learn about the breed before embarking on this crazy and wonderful adventure. This is what I am trying to convey through my various social networks under the name “AKITA THE REAL LIFE” on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and soon a blog. I strive to share my passion, inform, advise, and guide (future) Akita owners as best I can.
So without further ado, here is a guide to living with an Akita!
How the Akita Inu behaves with other dogs
The Akita Inu is a Japanese dog that holds a specific notion of “respect.” It really reflects its country of origin! And the way it communicates with humans is similar to the way it communicates with other dogs.
When bumping into other dogs, the situation can be a bit tense, sometimes even complicated for many owners on a walk with their Akita. It will not stand impolite encounters. If a situation is too direct and too aggressive, it will let its owner know, often in a really strong way…
Many owners who feel overwhelmed in this situation have a lot of trouble controlling their Akita Inu (remember that it was used as a fighting dog). Very fussy on canine codes and “encounter protocol,” it will make a point of ensuring that the other dog shows respect.
Socializing your dog at an early age is very important. Even if it seems easy in the beginning, everything can change, often at around a year of age, or even two or three years for the little late bloomers. Socialising and contact with other dogs are a daily effort throughout its life. I think it’s important to know how to respect the personality of this Japanese dog. Never force your dog, and accept the limits of what you can expect from it.
Here is an essential point to know as well: in most cases a Japanese dog is more sensitive to other dogs of the same sex. This has been the biggest challenge I encountered with Yuki and it is still something we have to work on to this day, but much less so, due to her age (now 7) and daily training.
Can you walk your Akita Inu off-leash?
What you should know is that it is often difficult, at a certain age, to walk your Akita Inu without any leash, mostly because of the sensitive side I mentioned earlier with the other dogs. That said, the instinct for the hunt is very much awake in this breed. If my Akita Inu has decided to follow a track, he will go, and will return only once that instinct is satisfied. This instinct manifests differently in each dog: my American Akita is a very big hunter, while Yuki goes off in his own little world.
The Akita Inu can be very receptive to its owner while walking in one moment, and in the next it can suddenly decide otherwise and stop listening to any instruction in pursuit of whatever thing has its interest… This means calling your dog back is not always successful. That’s why we often recommend holding your Akita Inu on a leash.
Can the Akita Inu live with another dog?
It is not advised to have an Akita and another dog of the same sex (Akita or not) under the same roof. Doing so could be too risky for a peaceful everyday life. It was for this reason, having already a male Akita, that I chose a female Akita. But even after taking this precaution, it is entirely possible that it won’t always be fun and games…
I am very happy with the relationship between my two Akita. They are very close and friendly to each other even if they are very different on many points.
Is the Akita close to its family?
This Japanese dog is very close to its family circle. However, it can be very independent, imposing sometimes physical distance, while still being close to its family.
The Akita Inu may not be very affectionate, as you might expect from Japanese dogs. With him things are done in a much more subtle way. My Akita taught me how to appreciate this, how to enjoy even the smallest displays of affection from him, sometimes just a look. They also taught me to respect their independence, their wish to remain alone, in peace. I personally became totally addicted to this way of interacting with my dogs. For example, when I ask my Akita Inu for a kiss, I love to see him look like a desperate dog followed by a sigh “I don’t like kisses! ” My Akita is very close to us, but in his own way.
Does the Akita Inu like strangers?
The Akita is often indifferent to strangers. It will not necessarily appreciate the pets everyone wants to shower it with.
This Japanese dog will impose a certain distance. It is often said that it is better to let him come to you than the other way round. Trust has to be gained first.
It is a dog that is often very exclusive with its affection, which many owners like, to be honest.
People say Akita Inu can be a bit stubborn, is that true?
Akita Inu are not the kind of breed that will listen and accept anything. You will often hear people say it can be a “stubborn” Japanese dog. I would rather say that it is a “decision-making” Japanese dog who knows what he wants, when he wants it, and how to get it… He knows how to make himself understood! This is something I particularly like about Akita. With him you have to be patient and find the right motivation.
Yuki excels in this aspect: his life is slow-paced! When you ask him something, you can picture what he thinks and you laugh at it. For example:
“Come back to my owner? Do I really feel like it? If I get up and go, is it really worth it? Does this justify the energy I will have to spend, or do I have better things to do before I go?” With an attitude that gives the impression that life is so difficult! You really have to go all in to motivate him!
Can an Akita Inu live in an apartment?
This Japanese dog, like others, can perfectly live in an apartment. It is a very quiet dog (perhaps less as a young puppy) that will spend most of his time sleeping in his corner. As long as his needs in terms of walks are respected, as well as entertainment to mentally stimulate him, he can perfectly adapt to any decent-size apartment.
Is the Akita Inu a sporty dog?
If nap is a recognized sport, then yes, the Akita Inu excels in this field!
It a breed of Japanese dogs that are not usually very active. They do not have the morphology for traction sports or jumps (which are strongly not recommended anyway). But if you adapt to your dog, your dog likes the activity and you take all the necessary precautions, why not.
On the other hand, Akita Inu can be perfect companions for walks and hikes (once their growth is over). I personally love to walk my Akita or go on hikes. Of course at their pace… Especially Yuki’s! It teaches us to enjoy every moment of walking, to observe and listen to the nature around us. I love being alone in the world with them for hours.
The Akita Inu is therefore a perfect companion for a walk, when he decides that a break in his nap is necessary!
Do Akita require a lot of care?
This Japanese dog breed has a self-cleaning fur which is very convenient every day, especially when returning from a walk. However, a good daily brushing is necessary.
That being said, you may want to ask yourself: Are you obsessive about cleanliness? Or allergic to dog hair?
We all agree that an Akita’s coat is just beautiful! But where do you think all that hair goes after the dog molts? Well, you have to be prepared to share your life with dog hair because the molting of this Japanese dog takes place for half the year, if not more! I let you discover a small part of my daily life in the links provided at the end of this article. Having access to such magnificent fur does not come for free.
Health of Akita and its future
Finally, I want to mention two things that are of particular concern to me:
First, it is important to know that the Akita Inu is unfortunately affected by two diseases: Sebaceous adenitis (SA) and VKH (Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease). Here is an article where you can learn more about Akita’s diseases.
Akita Inu is a Japanese dog that has become fragile, affected by multiple diseases and concerns (dysplasia, allergies, ligament fragility, epilepsy, etc.). I am personally concerned about the health of my Akita Inu. It’s extremely important to pay attention to where your dog comes from but that does not solve everything…
Second, the Akita Inu and also the Shiba Inu (another Japanese dog), as well as the American Akita have experienced exponential increase in dog abandonments of late. This is all too often linked to “behavioral issues,” as mentioned above, even if these traits are pointed out to future owners on social networks and websites.
Surely by now you understand the importance of being prepared. Be sure to ask yourself the right questions beforehand! Try to learn whether you are right for this Japanese dog first, and not the other way around!
Conclusion about this wonderful Japanese dog
The Akita Inu is a magnificent and complex Japanese dog. Many will see “defects” where I see daily quirks that teach me so much, both about myself and the dog world.
Constant awareness is essential. You have to be ready to share your life with your Akita Inu, accept its identity, help your dog adapt to its environment. Be aware: nothing is ever easy with an Akita, but isn’t that what is interesting and so rewarding?
People often ask if I could own another Akita (Inu and/or American) in the future. My answer is obvious: YES!
I have become enamored with this beautiful Japanese dog breed. It is so interesting and exciting on a daily basis. I take great pleasure in sharing information about the Akita Inu (and same for American Akita), warning future owners of what things can be like, but I also love sharing my passion and my affection for this Japanese dog breed.
NB: Everything mentioned above about Akita Inu can be also applied to the American Akita; that is why I often refer to them only as “Akita”.
Article and testimony written by Laetitia.
Instagram @Akita_thereallife with beautiful pictures of Akita.
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For many other articles and testimonies about Japan, visit the Go! Go! Nihon blog.