American Akita dogs are confident, energetic, bold and protective medium sized dogs with show coats. These cute watch dogs can make great guard dogs, but are also found as loving companions. If you’re looking for an imposing dog and have plenty of extra time, this fluffy pup can make a wonderful pet. However, if you entertain guests a lot or don’t have much time to spend on socialization and training, an Akita is probably not the right dog for you.
- What is the difference between the American and Japanese Akita?
- Appearance and key characteristics
- Are American Akitas friendly?
- Rescue, breeders and puppies
We’ve got everything you need to know about the American Akita! We take a look at what sets it apart from the Japanese Akita, when and why they split, and what it means for the modern American Akita. We will also give you the information to decide whether this is the right breed for you, and let you know how to train them to be a friendly pet.
American vs Japanese Akitas
The Akita is a muscular, unique-looking canine that is native to Japan. They are known for their strong guarding instincts, imposing statue, and loyalty. There are actually two types of Akitas: the American Akita and the Japanese Akita. Both have unique characteristics due to their different locations and bloodlines.
American Akita History
The American Akita is descendent of the Japanese Akita. The two types did not diverge until after World War II. There were Akitas in American before the world war. But these dogs stayed very similar to their Japanese counterparts.
Helen Keller is credited with bringing the first Akitas to America after she was gifted with a pair by the Japanese government. There were a few dog shows for the breed held. But, then World War 2 began. At this time, USA service members began serving as part of the occupation force in Japan. Some of these service members met the Akita and were impressed. So, when they returned to the US, they brought these Japanese dogs with them.
Generally, the US servicemen were more drawn to the large, “bear-like” Akita than those with smaller frames. The dogs they brought to America reflected this sentiment. While the Japanese Akita breeders were concerned with keeping the breed as close to the original as possible, the American breeders worked to make the breed bigger and more imposing. This difference in breeding priorities led to the two types diverging.
The Akita was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1955 and was placed in the Miscellaneous class. However, it wasn’t until 1972 that the breed standard for the Akita was approved. The breed was then moved to the working class. However, imported Akita from Japan were still common. So, the types did not diverge too greatly due to interbreeding.
In 1974, the American Kennel Club stopped registering further Japanese imports. This caused the American Akita to develop their own unique bloodline and traits.
What Do American Akitas Look Like?
The American Akita is similar to the Japanese Akita in many ways. These dogs are very strong and muscular. They have large bones and can be very imposing.
Their muzzle is deeply set. Their dark brown eyes are small. And, their ears are slightly angled forwards. Many describe their massive head as “bear-like.” This differs from the Japanese Akita who typically has more fox-like features.
How Big Are American Akita Dogs?
They weigh upwards of 100 pounds. Males typically stand at 26-28 inches, while females stand at 24-26 inches.
Colors and Coats
Their coat is medium length and made up of two layers. The undercoat is thick and soft while the outercoat is thinner and course. The American Akita comes in a variety of colors, including:
- black brindle
- blue brindle
- brown brindle
- red brindle
- fawn, and
- fawn brindle.
All Akitas have a mask, but the American Akitas can have a mask of varying colors. White is most common, but black and pinto masks are also possible.
American Akita Temperament
The American Akita is known for being somewhat aggressive. They have intense guarding instincts and are very loyal to their families. They are suspicious of strangers and can be aggressive towards those they don’t know if not properly socialized and trained.
A well-trained Akita is accepting of non-threatening strangers. But those who are not trained will respond with aggression. They have hunting instincts and can mistake smaller pets and livestock for game. Even if they are not taught to hunt, they will chase and kill small animals.
Do They Make Good Family Dogs?
We do not recommend this dog for most families. Their high training and socialization needs combined with their intense guarding instincts can be difficult for most families to handle.
The Akita is generally good with children in their family, as they are loyal and protective. However, the same cannot be said for children who do not belong in their pack. This is worth keeping in mind if your kids like to have their friends over to visit regularly.
These dogs are described as feline in nature. They have a tendency to groom themselves and family members. They are extremely clean. The American Akita is not good with other dogs, especially those of the same sex. This is not a dog you take to the dog park.
Training Your American Akita
The American Akita can be difficult to train, and only thrive with posiitve reinforcement based training. They are very stubborn and resistant to commands that are only backed by punishment. These dogs are not good for first-time owners or those who prefer punishment based methods.
Positive training should begin as early as possible. It is not uncommon for Akitas to begin training before they even leave the breeder. Socialization is paramount for these dogs. If not socialized and trained, they will assume every stranger is an enemy and react accordingly. They are very territorial of their property and family members.
Aggression is not uncommon for the untrained Akita. But, with proper training, the Akita should learn to be accepting of strangers. Socialization with other dogs is also important. But it should be noted that not all Akitas will become accepting of other dogs, even if they are heavily socialized.
Training is extremely important for the American Akita due to their large size, powerful stature, and guarding instincts. This is not a breed of dog to get if you don’t have time for daily training.
Potty training is usually pretty easy for these dogs. They are naturally clean and have been reported to potty train themselves. Crate training is vital due to these dog’s guarding and aggressive behaviors. A crate can provide them with a safe place to be while you have visitors over and can help them learn to tolerate the presence of strangers.
Potential Health Problems
Like every breed, the American Akita does have a few health problems that are worth noting. They are prone to eye problems like Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which can cause blindness. Hip dysplasia and bloat are also common due to their large size. Hip dysplasia can gravely reduce your dog’s quality of life, while bloat can be life-threatening.
Autoimmune thyroiditis is also not uncommon. This disorder is characterized by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland and often causes hypothyroidism. Von Willebrand Disease is also reported in Akitas. This disease is genetic and prevents the blood from clotting normally.
It is important to ensure that the parents of any Akita you adopt have passed the appropriate genetic screenings. Hip dysplasia, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Von Willebrand Disease all have genetic components.
When taken care of, Akitas usually live between 10 – 15 years. They require minimum grooming and often do a good job of keeping themselves clean. They do shed heavily a couple times a year and will need to be brushed during these periods.
Rescuing an American Akita
If you decide to rescue an adult Akita, there are a couple things you should keep in mind. Firstly, you should give your Akita plenty of time to warm up to you and your family. These dogs do not trust strangers and can take week and months to warm up to you.
Secondly, training should start as soon as possible. Crate training is specifically important because it can help your Akita warm up to your home faster.
Thirdly, try to keep your home calm for a week or two after adopting your pet. During this transitional period, you Akita can be more on edge than normal, which can cause aggression problems.
American Akita Puppy Breeders
Finding an American Akita puppy should not be difficult. There are many breeders throughout the United States. American Akitas can cost quite a bit of money, however. Normally, they are around $1000 – $2500.
Be sure to adopt from a reputable breeder. Pet stores and puppy mills do not always follow ethical breeding guidelines, which can result in unhealthy puppies with bad temperaments.
Feed your puppy a high-quality commercial food or a raw food diet.
American Akitas will shed a couple times a year. You will need a quality de-shedding brush during this period. While you will not have to bath your Akita regularly, a good shampoo is still important for those times your dog gets dirty. You should also invest in lots of toys and a good quality crate.
Jessica Richman says
There is a typo in this. Under the heading “Finding an American Akita Puppy” the second paragraph is “Be sure to adopt from a reputable breeder. Pet stores and puppy mills do not always follow unethical breeding guidelines, which can result in unhealthy puppies with bad temperaments.” I think it was meant to say “Pet stores and puppy mills do not always follow ETHICAL breeding guidelines”
Meg Austwick says
Hi Jessica, good spot! That’s all fixed now.
My husband and I purchased our fist Japanese Akita 8 years ago he is a brilliant dog great nature and since then we purchased an American Akita a year ago who is also a male they get on great together very protective and loving dogs and great with other family members we just love them
We have two Akita’s A male and a female. They are wonderful dogs – but do not like other dogs or strangers. They are very protective of the home. We have a deck off our living room that leads to down to their 6 foot fenced in large yard. when on the deck they can view anyone walking past the house – they will bark and rear up onto the top railing of the deck – very imposing. They don’t like strangers to be any where near the house . They let us know that someone has come into the driveway. Did I say they are stubborn. While in dog training my female did not want to “come” when called and even when the trainer put a rope around her neck and gave a little tug when calling her – she refused to move. She tried pulling on the rope and literally KD did not budge on her own even when being dragged. Hard to train! Both dogs will not tolerate a stranger who when introduced to them drops on the floor to get down to pet them (much growling). They hate baths – but love being in the rain and snow. Love these dogs for all their idiosyncrasies
My American Akita loves people., even strangers. Guest come in and the first thing she does is go up to them to be petted. She is very good with children. (I do not leave any type of dog alone with small children, not even poodles nor Cocker spaniels.)
She does need lots of love. She got along great with my son’s Golden Retriever. Jake has died and she misses him.I go her at 4 years old. She minds well, but likes to roam. We had a Japanese Akita for 12 years. She was a great dog. We got her at 6 weeks. No problem training her, but she did like to roam. My son had her sister. I do not understand why Akita’s have a negative reputation. She had never met my little 5 year old cousin. We were all out on the deck and she was running around playing with him. All dogs are good if properly raised. My nephew raised Pit Bulls and they all thought that they were lap dogs. The meanest dog that our vet has had was a poodle. Any dog can be trained to be mean or loving.
A dog is as good as their owners. My nefiew raise Pit Bulls that thought that they wer lap dogs and loved people. My friend at the vets said the the meanes dog they ever had was a poodle.
and was out on the deck with all of us and running around playing with him.
We had a japanese Akita who loved a long
before Jake kies.
All of my post did not print. The last paragraph is a mess. I m not going to fix it.
Any dog can be made mean or loving. It all depends on the owner.
David Watson says
We have rescued three Akita over the past eight years
The first was an older female abandoned n street at 8 1/2 years. She took to us very quickly. My wife spent a whole evening devoted her and grooming her shortly after we adopted. After that she was our dog. After one year I suspected diabetes, and this was diagnosed. She was out on insulin. The vet advised a change of diet. A few weeks later she had an attack of bloat. We took her to a veterinary hospital in the middle of the night. She faded away in my arms, she raised her head to look at the face of my wife and I as she died.
The second was a young male, who had a very bad experience with a family. He was distrustful and my wife felt threatened by him. He badly bit my teenage daughter on one occasion. The rescue society took him back. They decided it was necessary to have him euthanised. If I had been single, I believe with patience I could have turned him round. Unfortunately, events dictated otherwise.
Our third, and present boy was offered to us by the same rescue society. He was also young with a bad background. We believe the family he came from locked him and an older female Akita in an under stair cupboard. Both dogs were presented to the rescue organisation by a vet. The dogs had been taken to the vet to be euthanised by the family, because they had attacked and killed a cat brought into their home by a friend. The vet accepted the dogs but refused to euthanise them and handed them over to the rescuers.
We have had him for almost four years now. He is now very affectionate, loyal, and protective. He patrols the 6 ft high perimeter fence of our garden. But he is tolerant of strangers we invite.
He was crazy as far as other dogs are concerned when we first adopted him. I have honestly never experienced anything like it. He tended to, and still does, attract aggression from some other dogs. He is however much calmer now, after a lot of patient work. We do tend to take care over areas we walk him in. We tend not to walk him in our neighbourhood, due to his territoriality. He will never be allowed off lead in public places. We would not part with him for anything.
They are a fantastic breed, for the right owners. They are not garden (yard) dogs and need to be integrated into the family and family home. A home with a large very secure garden or outdoor space is essential. Certainly, highly desirable. As is lots of patience, love and preparedness to expand significant cash as circumstances dictate.
As with any dog, they should not be left alone in the home for lengthy periods. No dog (including dogs with other pets for companionship) should be locked indoors for the hours of working week. This is a cruel and selfish practice in my opinion.
I have 3 y old American akita male. He is so wonderful dog, I have no problems with him, I got him when he was 7 months old. He protects our family, he never barks,beautiful dog, so clean and kind dog.. However he doesn’t like other male dogs, despite he was well socialized in young age.
We got into the huge fight already with gsd, akita wan if I can say so. He is very strong dog and doesn’t afraid nobody. I have him always on leash,when we go for a walk. I dont trust him,he wouldn’t attack another dog, if anotherapproach him. I noticed, my akita somehow irritates other male dog, that run directly to my akita, and wanted to fight. That’s why our walks are not easy and calm as before, because I’m somehow always afraid, if we will meet another unleash dog.
My son owns 2 American Akita’s and they have now had puppies 🙂
They are the most loyal loving and adorable dogs I’ve ever known .
I have them come to stay often and they are playful and so gentle with my grandsons .
I’m considering having one of their puppies but my son put a lot of hard work into training his babies and they literally go everywhere with them . They’ve bought a bigger house and a bigger car just for their dogs .
Can I also add that my son was a first time dog owner and had no problems in training his 2 .. he did start socialising them from the day he had them though . He had the male at 9 weeks of age and rescued the girl at 4 months of age .
Yolanda Russell says
I owned one of each American and Japanese they gave me 2 sets of beautiful puppies they were loyal to the family and loyal to each other it nearly killed me when I had to put them down together. I have never been able to really replace them and I have tried. This site has been wonderful
Marcus Jones says
I love this dog so much and I am sure that I can take care of this dog.
Donna webb says
We had a white Akita’s and we loved him best dog ever Very protective about who came around our house and that made us feel safe
My husband and I adopted an Akita and he has become our whole world. He is very smart, and loves to plead, however he does have a stubborn streak, but can easily be bribed with a cookie.
Jasmyne Jacobsen says
I adopted my Akita out of a shelter and he was there for about a month and a half. I’ve always wanted one because of their loyalty and protective traits. We do have a cat in the home and they have been friends for about 10 months now.
robert thompson says
I too adopted an akita from the shelter. a female 6 yrs old. I knew right away this dog had presence and smarts. While all the other dogs were barking up a storm this girl sat and stared at me quiet and dignified. I got lucky as the shelter had just gotten her in, but knew little about her past.I needed an older dog as I am the sole occupant and a nite worker. A GREAT dog w/regular reinforcement training. Yes , alot of work and personal time is required for this breed that considers itself a family member! I have had large breeds for many years,including some military involvement w/ guard dogs and such. I am very impressed w/ this breed and will likely get another if i am not too old by then, she is 10 yrs old now. Cant let her off leash as she will not come back on her own(hunting genes) Her mission in life is to kill all other animals (very gentle w/ children and people,but all business guarding the house and vehicle) Lastly I cant believe anyone would give up such a loyal companion ,but I am happy to have what they do not!
I am on my 5th
Akita my first one lasted 18yrs. It broke our heart to had put him down. He loved and everyone loved him. Although the my neighbor had a Shepard it was not a nice picture if they ran into each other.
These are things that failed to be mentioned. Akitas are silent attack dogs, they also are perfect apartment dogs regardless of their size. Also some can inherit a disease that blinds and turns there fur color white. Attacking their pigment. This last Akita of mine has experienced this. I also found that the all white (born) can be very unpredictable, and from experience would never again own a solid white Akita with anyone under 18 in my home. They are as mentioned loyal dogs. Under no circumstances should this breed be paired off with another Akita ESPECIALLY the same sex. Good luck to all you Akita owners. Its a great breed I first discovered in 1984. And have always replaced my Akitas with a new Akita.