The Akita Inu (秋田犬?)

is a breed of large dog originating in Japan, named for the
Akita Prefecture, where it is thought to have originated...

The Akita

About the Akita Inu

The Akita Inu (秋田犬?) is a breed of large dog originating in Japan, named for the Akita Prefecture, where it is thought to have originated. It is sometimes called the Akita-ken based on the Sino-Japanese reading of the same kanji. The Japanese Akita is considered a separate breed from the American Akita in most countries (with the exception of the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs) as requested by the Japanese Kennel Club. The Japanese Akita Inu is rare in most countries.


Written and oral Japanese history describes the ancestor of the Akita Inu, or the Odate or Matagi Inu, as one of the oldest of the native dogs of Japan. The Akita Inu of today developed primarily from these dogs in the northernmost region of the island of Honshū in the Akita prefecture, thus providing the breed's name. The Matagi's prey was the elk, antelope, boar, and the Yezo or Asian brown bear. This swift, agile, unswervingly tenacious dog tracked large game and held it at bay until the hunters arrived to make the kill.

In 1931, the Akita was officially declared a Japanese National Monument. The Mayor of Odate City in the Akita Prefecture organized the Akita Inu Hozankai (AKIHO) to preserve and improve the original Akita as a national treasure through careful breeding.

The arrival of Helen Keller in Japan in 1937 helped to bring the breed to international attention. She expressed a keen interest in the breed and was presented with the first two Akitas ever to enter the United States.

Just as the breed was stabilizing in its native land, World War II erupted and pushed the Akita to the brink of extinction. Early in the war, the dogs suffered from lack of nutritious food. Many were killed to be eaten by the starving populace, and their pelts were used as clothing. At one point, the government ordered all remaining dogs to be killed on sight to prevent the spread of disease. The only way concerned owners could save their beloved Akitas was to breed them to German Shepherds, turn them loose in the most remote mountain areas or conceal them from authorities.

Thus, it is important to note that three types of dogs were generally included under the name "AKITA." These were the Matagi-type Akita, which was the original hunting dog; the fighting Akita which was a mixture of Matagi with several other breeds, most likely including Tosa, Great Dane and St. Bernard (as evidenced in the Ichinoseki line); and the so-called German Shepherd Akita (now referred to as the Dewa line).

By the end of WW II in 1945, there were fewer than twenty purebred Akita dogs in Japan.

During the US occupation of Japan following the war, the breed began to thrive again through the efforts of Morie Sawataishi and others. For the first time, Akitas were bred for a standardized appearance. Akita fanciers in Japan began gathering and exhibiting the remaining Akitas and producing litters in order to restore the breed to sustainable numbers and to accentuate the original characteristics of the breed muddied by crosses to other breeds. US servicemen fell in love with the Akita and imported many of them into the US upon and after their return.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the goal to restore the breed and preserve it according to its origins was taken upon most fervently by AKIHO. At this time, Japanese breeders were able to improve the Akita in Japan and rid the breed of loose skin, wrinkled foreheads, rounded eyes, dewlap, various coat patterns and colors (such as pinto, black masks, sesame, etc.). Those characteristics were seen as incorrect characteristics of the past -- characteristics that do not conform to an aesthetically correct Japanese Akitas today.

The Akita was officially recognized by the AKC in 1973. Since then, in North America, breeding practices have diverged from the country of origin and the rest of the world. Apart from Canada and the US, the standard recognized by every country follows the country of origin. Hence, the dog world is left with two separate breeds, the Japanese Akita and the American Akita (for more information, see THE SPLIT).

The Story of Hachiko

Hachikō (ハチ公), November 10, 1923–March 8, 1935), known in Japanese as chūken Hachiko (忠犬ハチ公), "faithful dog Hachiko"), was an Akita dog born on a farm near the city of Ōdate, Akita Prefecture, remembered for his loyalty to his owner, even many years after his owner's death.

In 1924, Hachiko was brought to Tokyo by his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. During his owner's life Hachiko saw him off from the front door and greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return on the usual train one evening. The professor had suffered a stroke at the university that day. He died and never returned to the train station where his friend was waiting.

Hachiko was given away after his master's death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again at his old home. Eventually, Hachiko apparently realized that Professor Ueno no longer lived at the house. So he went to look for his master at the train station where he had accompanied him so many times before. Each day, Hachiko waited for Professor Ueno to return. And each day he did not see his friend among the commuters at the station.

The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachiko attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachiko and Professor Ueno together each day. They brought Hachiko treats and food to nourish him during his wait.

This continued for 10 years, with Hachiko appearing only in the evening time, precisely when the train was due at the station.


Japanese Akitas typically live to be about 10 – 12 years of age, on average, though some may live longer.


Wet? Dry? Raw? Home cooked? Store bought? Although in Japan, some Japanese Akita breeders have espoused a traditional Japanese human diet of miso soup, rice and fish for their dogs, most of us in the western world feed a PREMIUM dog food. Dog food bought in grocery stores, which contain too much grain or processed soy, can result in skin allergies and other health complications. It is up to each individual owner, after conducting research and considering your own dog's personality and taste (yes, they can be finicky), what to feed your dog. Snacks and supplements can be given but food portions must be adjusted so the dog will not put on weight as obese dogs, just like humans, have health problems.

Fresh, clean water should always be made available to your dog. Some people may choose to limit water in-take in their puppies and young dogs after a certain hour at night while potty training.

Since the Japanese Akita is a deep-chested dog, it is a breed prone to bloat or gastric torsion. Therefore, veterinarians make two recommendations: 1) feed a varied diet – for example, wet and dry food or a combo of dry and home cooked - to such dogs twice a day. 2) Never let your dog participate in vigorous activity within one hour of feeding or ingesting water.


The Japanese Akita, though very smart, is not an easy breed to train. Most are not as eager to please as, for instance, a Golden Retriever or Border Collie. While some Japanese Akitas have done well in obedience classes, going on to earn certificates and recognition in Canine Good Citizenship tests and Agility, they tend to get bored easily and can be stubborn. It is important not to mistake your Japanese Akita as being dumb, when, in reality, it may just be uncooperative because it does not see the point in doing what you are asking it to do. In order to train your dog, you would do well to find out what it responds to. Some Japanese Akitas are food-motivated, others are toy-oriented and still others respond well to praise.


A fit dog is a healthy dog. Expect to take your Japanese Akita out for vigorous walks on a daily basis (at least one long walk or two or three shorter ones). Exercise can help in the areas of conditioning, behavior and weight loss. Whether you live in a city, suburb or rural area, in order for your dog to be in the best shape possible, it will need physical and mental stimulation to help alleviate boredom and frustration. Avoid over-exercising a young dog. If your dog exhibits any physical discomfort, consult your veterinarian before exercise.


Japanese Akitas are not difficult to groom if they are used to being groomed from a young age. All that is necessary is regular brushing, nail trimming and bathing. The Japanese Akita is pretty much a wash and wear breed that requires no fancy haircuts, special scissors or shavers. The preferred style for conformation is a natural look. Because the dogs can be washed at home or at a do-it-yourself bath facility, grooming costs are limited. Skin sensitivities to certain shampoos can occur, especially those containing harsh chemicals, so please keep that in mind when selecting a shampoo.


All Akitas are prone to certain illnesses, mostly with diseases having to do with the auto immune system which can present as skin, coat, or eye problems (among other symptoms), allergies, joint ailments, such as arthritis when older, or hip dysplasia, and gastric torsion.

The reality…

For practical purposes, the Japanese Akita is not for everyone, so for those of us who love them and live with them, we thought we should give you the reality. It is not our purpose to discourage you from owning a Japanese Akita; we sincerely want prospective owners to know what they are getting into, so the dog does not end up at a shelter or at the pound.

Please keep in mind that all dogs have distinct personalities; thus, there are some breed characteristics which may or may not be present in any individual Japanese Akita. The following information is based on general observations and personal experience.

  • Japanese Akitas are a large breed. If not properly trained, a 75 lbs. male or 65 lbs. female can do some damage. All it takes is one moment of not having control over your dog and an incident can occur.

  • The breed can make excellent house dogs as long as they are exercised regularly, have access to the outdoors and owners are well aware of the amount of shedding. Although they tend to be very clean, they shed. Profusely. Twice a year. And sometimes for several months. Be prepared to brush the dog, vacuum and sweep a lot. Avoid dark-colored clothing if you have a red or white Japanese Akita and light colored-clothing if you have a brindle. Have a hair removal product at the ready for upholstery and clothes.

  • Generally speaking, this breed can be lazy and stubborn. However, as with all breeds, an improper amount of exercise can result in boredom, psychological problems and unwanted behaviors such as chewing furniture or other mischief making. Pet Japanese Akitas require a moderate amount of exercise at least once a day. Adult show dogs require more for their musculature to be developed and evident in the ring.

  • This is a breed that needs to be socialized as puppies to encourage friendliness. It has been said that Japanese Akitas are a one-family dog and they can be territorial, but with early socialization and training, aggressive behavior can be avoided.

  • Akitas are known to be quiet dogs, only barking "when there is something to bark about" and sometimes not at all. On the other hand, some Japanese Akitas bark quite a lot. In fact, they can have a lot to say on a variety of subjects - a warning low growl to a perceived threat or a half-howl/half-yodel greeting when you come home or when their food is being prepared. Incessant barking can be a sign of boredom, neglect or obsessive compulsive behavior. On the rare chance that your Japanese Akita barks non-stop, it would be best to consult an animal behavior expert, trainer or vet to avoid disturbing your neighbors.
  • The two most outstanding characteristics of the Akita as a house pet are that they are very clean and that they are very easy to house break. Akitas have been described as fastidious as cats as they are clean and odorless when healthy. This cleanliness may also be one of the reasons why they housebreak so easily.

  • You will need a consistent upper hand to live with a Japanese Akita. "No" must always mean "no" and never "okay, this time," or "whatever." It will only confuse the dog if you let him get away with unwanted behavior and he may question his place in the hierarchy of the pack.

  • Although they love human companionship, they are quite happy to be outside dogs as well, but should still be taken out for walks to prevent destruction of the yard. Left unattended in the backyard or in a kennel, they tend to develop "personality" problems and become very destructive to the yard, which is due to boredom. They are highly pack oriented, thus, isolating them from the pack (e.g., the owner) causes them great stress.

  • It is advisable to never let your Japanese Akita off-leash in a public place. The breed is listed as a dangerous breed in many counties and states.
  • Owning a Japanese Akita could adversely affect your homeowners’ insurance.

  • The Japanese Akita has a tendency to be a dominant dog who may expect other dogs to be submissive. If they fail to live up to the Akita's expectations, incidents can happen.
  • Japanese Akitas have an acute and well-developed prey drive, particularly toward smaller animals, including cats. Akitas properly socialized and raised with other animals usually accept them as members of the family.

  • Japanese Akitas tend to not get along with other dogs of the same gender. That means a male Japanese Akita may act aggressively toward another male dog and a female Japanese Akita may act aggressively toward another female dog.

  • A Japanese Akita is not likely to shower affection on someone that is not a member of his family or a close friend that he sees frequently. Dogs of this breed can be extremely aloof. If you want an affectionate or needy dog, consider another breed.


FCI Standard

Akita InuORIGIN : Japan.


UTILIZATION : Companion dog.

Group   5 Spitz and primitive type.

Originally Japanese dogs were small to medium in size and no large breeds existed.  Since 1603 in the Akita region, Akita Matagis (medium-sized bear-hunting dogs) were used as fighting dogs.  From 1868 Akita Matagis were crossed with Tosas and Mastiffs.  Consequently, the size of this breed increased but characteristics associated with Spitz type were lost. In 1908 dog fighting was prohibited, but this breed was nevertheless preserved and improved as a large Japanese breed.  As a result, nine superior examples of this breed were designated as « Natural Monuments » in 1931. During World War II (1939-1945), it was common to use dogs as a source of fur for military garments.  The police ordered the capture and confiscation of all dogs other than German Shepherd Dogs used for military purposes.  Some fanciers tried to circumvent the order by crossbreeding their dogs with German Shepherd Dogs. When World War II ended, Akitas had been drastically reduced in number and existed as three distinct types; 1) Matagi Akitas, 2) fighting Akitas, and 3) Shepherd Akitas.  This created a very confusing situation in the breed. During the restoration process of the pure breed after the war., Kongo-go, a dog of the Dewa line, which exhibited characteristics of the Mastiff and German Shepherd However, sensible learned fanciers did not approve of this type as a proper Japanese breed, so they made efforts to eliminate the strain old foreign breeds by crossbreeding with Matagi Akitas for the purpose of restoring the original pure breed. They succeeded in stabilizing the pure strain of large sized breed as known today.

Large-sized dog, sturdily built, well balanced and with much substance; secondary sex characteristics strongly marked, with high nobility and dignity in modesty; constitution tough.

The ratio of height at withers to length of body ( from the point of the shoulders to the point of the buttock) is 10 : 11, but the body is slightly longer in bitches than in dogs.

The temperament is composed, faithful, docile and receptive.

   • Skull : The size is in proportion to the body.  The forehead is broad, with distinct furrow.  No wrinkle.
   • Stop : Defined.
   • Nose : Large and black. Slight and diffuse lack of pigment accepted in white dogs only, but black is always preferred.
   • Muzzle : Moderately long and strong with broad base, tapering but not pointed.  Nasal bridge straight.
   • Jaws/Teeth : Teeth strong with scissor bite.
   • Lips : Tight.
   • Cheeks : Moderately developed.
   • Eyes : Relatively small, almost triangular in shape due to the rising of the outer eye corner, set moderately apart, dark brown : the darker, the better.
   • Ears : Relatively small, thick, triangular, slightly rounded at tips, set moderately apart, pricked and inclining forward.

Thick and muscular, without dewlap, in balance with head.

Back : Straight and strong.
Loin : Broad and muscular.
Chest : Deep, forechest well developed, ribs moderately well sprung.
Belly : Well drawn up.

Set on high, thick, carried vigorously curled over back ; the tip nearly reaching hocks when let down.

Shoulders : Moderately sloping and developed.
Elbows : Tight.
Forearms : Straight and heavy-boned.

HINDQUARTERS : Well developed, strong and moderately angulated.

FEET : Thick, round, arched and tight.

GAIT : Resilient and powerful movement.

HAIR : Outer coat harsh and straight, undercoat soft and dense ; the withers and the rump are covered with slightly longer hair ; the hair on tail is longer than on the rest of the body.
COLOUR : Red fawn, sesame (red fawn hairs with black tips), brindle and white.  All the above mentioned colours except white must have « urajiro ».
(Urajiro = whitish coat on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, on the underside of jaw, neck, chest, body and tail and on the inside of the legs).

Height at the withers : Dogs: 67 cm, Bitches: 61 cm.
There is a tolerance of 3 cm more or less.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

  • Bitchy dogs / doggy bitches.
  • Undershot or overshot mouth.
  • Missing teeth.
  • Blue or black spotted tongue.
  • Iris light in colour.
  • Short tail.
  • Shyness. 


  • Aggresive or overly shy.
  • Ears not pricked.
  • Hanging tail.
  • Long hair (shaggy).
  • Black mask.
  • Markings on white ground.

Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.

N.B. : Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.


AKIHO Standard

AKITA-INU STANDARD : Adopted September 18, 1955

An Akita is quiet, strong, dignified and courageous.  He is also loyal and respectful, reserved and noble.  He is sensitive and deliberate yet possesses quickness.

The body is well balanced with a sturdy bone structure and well developed tendons and ligaments while the skin is free of wrinkles.  Differences in sex should be readily apparent 
through general appearance.  In the dog (male) the ratio of height to body length is 100 co 110.   The bitch is slightly longer in length.  The height of the dog is 26  inches while the height of the bitch is 23-7/8 inches, plus or minus 1-1/8 inches.  The ratio of the height to the depth of chest is 2 to 1.

The skull is large and a little flat at the top.  Its forehead is wide without wrinkles but has a definite longitudinal crease. There is a well proportioned stop (depression between the cranial and nasal bones) between the forehead and the muzzle. 
The cheeks are full.

The neck is thick and powerful.  The skin around the neck is free of wrinkles and the coat appropriately bristled.

The ears are thick, rather small, triangular in shape, and tilts slightly forward.  The lines are straight and the ears stand erect.  The distance between the ears are not narrow but not too wide.

The shape of the eyes is approximately triangular.  They are deep-set and slightly slanted.  The eye-rims are dark-brownish in color.  The distance between the eyes is proportionate 

The nose (black portion) is full and the ridge straight.  The  base of the mouth is wide, the frontal portion not pointed, and the lips drawn.  The whiskered region is full.

The teeth are strong and have a scissor bite.

The chest is broad.  The rib cage is full.  The forechest is well developed and defined.  The stomach is drawn without flabiness (tucked up).

The back is straight and the hip is powerful.

The shoulders are well developed with proper shoulder angulation.  The elbows (joint) are strong.  The upper forelegs are straight, strong and thick.  The pasterns (portion directly above paws) are slightly slanted.  The paws are round, large, and thick and has a firm grip.          

The hind legs are well developed, springy, powerful and sturdy. The rear pasterns have proper angles and possess a strong kick or thrust.  The paws are thick with a strong grip.

The tail is thick and tightly wound.  The length of the tail when extended must reach the hock joint.  The type of curls are called right curl, left curl, single straight, and double curl.

The outer coat is coarse.and straight, while the under-coat is fine and thick.  The coat at the withers (shoulder region) and rump is slightly longer than the rest of the body.  The tail has the longest coat.

White, black, red, silver-tipped, brindle and pinto.

1.   Permanent injury and dietary deficiency. 
2.   Color of coat unbecoming to an Akita. 
3.   Undesirable color combination of coat and eye-rim. 
4.   Loss of tooth or teeth.  Undershot and overshot jaws. 
5.   Black spotting on tongue. 
6.   Lacking in courage, being timid, or displaying ferociousness or otherwise lacking the qualities suitable for Akitas.

1.  Floppy ears by birth (ears failing to stand). 
2.  Straight tail by birth. 
3.  Excessively long or short coat. 
4.  Color of nose not matching the color of coat (reddish or pink nose acceptable with white coat) .
5.  Bilateral or unilateral cryptorchidism. 
6.  Other defects detracting from the qualities of Akitas.


JACA Standard

To current fanciers, the Japanese Akita is well known for its faithful and loyal companionship and is recognized as a symbol of courage and luck to the Japanese. An arrogant pride is clearly visible and his courage comparable to the Samurai warrior. Once used as a hunting dog, the Japanese Akita today is a devoted companion.

General Appearance
This square upright dog, one of two large breeds in Japan, is well balanced, with well-developed muscles and tendons. The skin is free of wrinkles and not loose. The male and female are clearly distinguishable from each other. Japanese Akitas are dignified, quick, and agile. Balance is very important in the overall picture of the dog. Because of efforts made to restore the breed to its origins, upon first glance, an oriental look must be evident, as well as an expression of intelligence and air of aloofness.


Akita Inu - Head

The head is in proportion to the body with no loose skin or wrinkling. When viewed from the front, the head should look as though it would fill a circle. The fullness of the cheeks as well as the coat on the cheeks and neck contribute to this look. The forehead is broad, flat with a distinct furrow extending from the stop toward the top of the skull.


Akita Inu - Ears

The ears of a Japanese Akita are pricked and rather small in size, equally triangulated, thick and slightly cupped, and correctly angulated forward off the back of the neck. They are rounded at the tip and should be wide set.

Eyes should be relatively small, equally triangular in shape and slightly raised at the outside corners. They should be deep set, and dark brown in color – the darker the better. Eye rims should have very dark pigment, almost giving the appearance of eyeliner.

Muzzle and Nose
When viewed from the top of the head, the muzzle should be round and full tapering to a blunt triangle but not pointed. Nose should be black with flesh or liver color permissible on white dogs only. Lips should be tightly drawn with no looseness and with dark pigment.

Teeth should be strong and powerful and have a scissor-bite with no missing teeth.

Neck should be short, thick and muscular with tight skin and no dewlap. Neck has proper angle in balance with the head.

Chest and Body
Well developed deep chest, with full rib cage and a well drawn up tuck up in abdomen. Back is strong and level with a broad and muscular loin. Males are square 10 to 10. Females may be slightly longer in proportion than males.


Akita Inu -  Forequarters

Shoulders are very moderately sloping forward and developed. Forearms are straight and elbows tight, neither turning in nor out. Adequate bone is essential for the proportion of dog. Pasterns are slightly slanted with 15 degrees the ideal.


Akita Inu -  Hindquarters

The hind legs are thick and well developed with a powerful grip, thrust and stance. Back legs are moderately angulated with hocks neither turning in nor out.


Akita Inu - Feet

Feet are cat-like, thickly padded, round, well knuckled and tight with a firm grip.


Akita Inu -  Tails

Tail is set high with a strong thick root. Thick and well curled over the back. When let down, it nearly touches the hock. Types - acceptable tails are: single curl, double curl, three-quarter curl, left or right curl.

Tight, clean and dark in color.

Triple coated. Outer coat is a coarse, straight guard coat. The other two coats are as follows: One is thicker and somewhat soft and generally enhances the coat color. The other is closest to the skin and is generally thicker and wool-like in texture.

Acceptable coat colors are red, brindle and white. All colors except white must have urajiro (light cream or white markings or shading) on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, the underside of the jaw, neck, chest, body and tail, and on the inside of the legs. Colors should be clear and bright.

Males, preferred is 24 ½ and over. Females, preferred is 22 ½ and over.

Brisk, powerful, and agile with the impression of stamina. Light on the feet. The dog will single track as speed increases.

Independent and reserved, especially around strangers, the Japanese Akita can give the impression of being aloof. Confident, smart and docile, it is a loyal and highly protective companion to its family members.

Round eyes, light eyes, short flat coat. Missing teeth, over or under shot bite, spotted tongue, straight erect ears, flat splayed feet, any dewlap or loose skin, over all poor condition.

Disqualifying Faults
Long coat, pinto markings, hood, mask, dropped ears, sickle or uncurled tail, cryptorchid or monorchid, butterfly or speckled nose, and overly aggressive or timid temperament.

The following illustration shows the correct measurement and proportions of the considered "perfect" Japanese Akita. It clearly shows the Japanese Akita to be a square, 10–10 dog. This is the diagram used by the Japanese in all the seminars.

Akita Inu - Full Body diagram of Japanese Akita

*All images above are used with permission from the Japanese Akita Club book, "Akita".