The Akita enjoys a special appreciation in Japan. It has been considered a national monument and is a symbol of good health and a protector of the home. It’s a custom that when a child is born, the parents are given a statue of the Akita to signify happiness and health. A statue is also sent to an ill friend as a way to express a desire for a fast recovery.
Up until the early 1900s the Akita was well- known in his homeland but was not popular outside Japan. This changed when an Akita named Hachiko brought the breed into the worldwide focus. This dog accompanied his owner to the train station each day on his way to and from work. One day, the dog’s owner had a fatal stroke at work. Regardless, Hachiko has returned everyday to the train station for 9 years waiting for his owner’s arrival. This story of the loyal Akita became known throughout the world and at the time of Hachiko’s death, a bronze statue was erected at the train station in his honour.
Throughout history, the Akita has had many jobs. He has been a fellow of the Samurai, accompanied the Shogun, was a deer and bear hunter, sled dog and has worked as a police and army dog.
Soon after the story of Hachiko, Helen Keller visited Japan and in 1937 she was given two Akitas as gifts. She is said being the first person to bring the Akita to the United States. More Akitas then found their way to the US after World War II. During the war, the breed almost became extinct. The ravages of war resulted on the dogs starving, being used for food and eventually being killed to prevent the spread of disease or to use their fur for military garments. Only a few survived in remote mountainous regions and after World War II American soldiers smuggled Akitas home.
The Akita Club of America was established in 1956 and the American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted the breed in October 1972. However, at this time, the AKC and the JKC (Japan Kennel Club) did not have reciprocal agreements for recognizing each other’s pedigrees and therefore the door was closed for the introduction of the new bloodlines from Japan. Consequently, Akitas in the United States became considerably different from those in Japan, the country of their origin. Basic differences to the Japanese Akita are: much substance and heavy bone structure and any colours or combination of colours (including black mask and pinto).
In Germany the breeding has developed into two lines, too: the Japanese Akita (only called Akita) and the American Akita (or Great Japanese Dog – as it was named in the meantime).
The American Akita is a large, heavy-boned dog, sturdily built, with a triangular-shaped head, small erect ears, and a curled tail carried over his back. His coat is thick and warm, which equips him for cold countries, but he adapts well to warm climates. He comes in all colours, including pure white, black, red, silver-grey, brindle and pinto. His face is often covered by a black mask.
Typically reserved in manner, the Akita carries himself with dignity. He is loyal and affectionate with family and friends but cool with strangers and fierce with intruders. He is a calm dog, and a family may own him for months before the neighbours ever hear him bark.
The Akita excels as a guard and watchdog. He will normally announce visitors before they have rung the doorbell, but he does not bark unless there is a stranger on the property. He is also good at personal protection. When out on walks, the Akita will be mindful of the security of family members whenever strangers or threatening animals appear.
Many Akitas have been obedience trained, even up to the utility dog degree. The breed is intelligent and responds will to discipline. Puppies can be housebroken in a remarkably short time.
Akitas have been trained successfully as sled dogs. They are believed to be related to the other northern breeds, and are close to the Alaskan Malamute in size and overall structure.
The Akita is a patient dog. He will put up with a lot of pestering that might make another dog nervous, as long as that pestering is not painful to him. He loves his master’s family as his own, and easily becomes fond of family friends, children or adults. He is never vicious but like all dogs move to protect himself if he feels threatened. Like most dogs, an Akita who is raised with a cat, a rabbit, a cow or any other pet as a companion will grow up with a regard for the pet. Just as he has a fond regard for the family. Stories of the Akita’s rescuing their pet friends from aggressors are common. The Akita was developed as a hunting dog in Akita Prefecture, in northernmost province of the island of Honshu, Japan. They are said to have been excellent at tracking bears and holding them at bay.