Dogs in focus: the Akita
The Akita is a noble breed from Japan and an increasingly common addition to American homes.
Once owned solely by Japanese royalty, the Akita became popular in America after World War II, when soldiers stationed in Japan brought them back as pets.
So what do you need to know about owning one?
Akitas are intensely loyal to their owners but standoffish to strangers, and are not especially good with other dogs either, often acting aggressively to members of the same sex. Make sure they’re properly trained from a young age (don’t wait more than 16 weeks) as it’s easy to emotionally trigger an untrained member of this breed; even direct eye contact can be viewed as a challenge.
That said, their loyalty knows almost no bounds, as evidenced by a famous Akita who waited at a train station for his owner to return from work. He waited and waited and waited without realizing his owner had died – and stayed put for nine years. The story has been immortalised on film by Richard Gere (Hachi: A Dog’s Tale).
Despite their size, Akitas don’t need a lot of exercise and can get by with a daily walk. What’s more, despite their bulk (they tend to be a big, heavy breed), they’re typically well adapted to apartment dwelling.
That, and the ease with which they can be house trained, make them well suited to young couples beginning to climb the corporate ladder.
Things to bear in mind
- The Akita’s thick coat has a very real purpose: these dogs herald from the Akita region of Japan, which is mountainous and rugged and very, very cold.
- Akitas adore cold weather, so are well suited to climates that experience snow in the winter. (at these times, you’ll often notice they become more energetic).
- Akitas are one of the cleanest breeds around. In fact, they have almost cat-like qualities, such is their willingness to groom themselves.
- They’re also very smart and relatively easy to train as a result.
- Did you know? Helen Keller is claimed to be the first American to bring an Akita to American soil; the dog she brought back was a gift she received on a trip to the Far East in the 1930s.
Impressive to a tee, Akitas are beautiful, noble and regal creatures – but their temperament can make them hard to get along with as an outsider. To own one, however, is a real treat – just be sure to get them trained early.