In hopes that I can give my readers some insight into dog breeds’ personalities, I am featuring different breeds each week. I will give a little history about the breed, i.e., what they were bred to do, talk about their personalities, and provide advice on the lifestyle needs of the breed. Remember, as I always say, every dog is an individual. Some dogs will exactly fit the breed characteristics while others may be nothing like it.

Japan only has a couple of native dog breeds, and the Akita is probably the most recognizable. Its large size and head, dense and stunningly colored coat, and alert personality distinguish the Akita. The most famous Akita, Hachiko, was immortalized in the movie called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale starring Richard Gere, the true story of a dog who accompanied his owner to the train station every day and waited for his return. When the owner died at work, the dog kept vigil at the station for nine years until his death. Don’t watch the movie without a box of Kleenex!

Akitas are thought to have originated on the Japanese island of Honshu in the 17th century when land barons where challenged to create a dog who could hunt bear and deer. The Akita is thought to originate from the Matagi dog (an ancient Japanese breed), then mixed with Mastiff, Great Dane, and St. Bernard. An outbreak of rabies in 1899 and the killing of most dogs almost caused the extinction of Akitas in Japan. In the 1920’s, a concerted effort took place to ensure that the breed persevered.

U.S. servicemen brought Akitas back to the states after World War II and they were admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1955.

Akitas are not a breed for the first-time dog owner. They are physically strong and prone to have quite powerful personalities. Without the knowledge and ability to be an appropriate leader so that the dog knows he is not in charge, an Akita can become a very difficult dog to live with. They will not accept punishment-based training; they are smart and courageous, and will not allow themselves to be mistreated. Love, patience, and consistency is required.

By breeding, they are hunters so they have a significant prey drive. They also may not get along with other dogs. They have a tendency to try to exert dominance over other dogs. Early socialization to all animals, children, people, places, and things is of the utmost importance.

Akitas have the tendency to be very protective of their families, and consequently may be leery of strangers, another reason for early socialization. Early obedience training is a definite in order to ensure the dog listens to you. Because they were bred to hunt independently, they prefer to think for themselves. Training will help to develop the bond with the owner.

Despite their strength, Akitas are loving, devoted dogs. Their disposition should be kind with their families and very loyal.

Be sure to keep them out of the heat. Their coats are so dense that they prefer the cold.