Complete Guide To The Akita: Health, Feeding, Exercise and More

To an outsider, the Akita appears to be an aloof, intimidating, and standoffish dog. To those who have had Akitas as pets, they understand the softer, affectionate, and sometimes downright silly personality of this charming dog. Strong, stubborn, and independent, this is a large breed of dog that is not recommended for novice dog owners.  

I’ve seen many Akitas during my 20 years as a veterinarian and I liken them to giant teddy bears. This isn’t a breed for someone who doesn’t want to put in the work needed for training as this breed’s stubbornness can be a challenge. However, for the educated and determined person, an Akita makes a wonderful pet.

How Big Do Akitas Get?

Male26″ – 28″ at the shoulder100 – 130 lbs
Female24″ – 26″ at the shoulder70 – 100 lbs

What Do Akitas Look Like?

There are two different types of Akitas, and the breed standard varies significantly between the two. The Japanese Akita is usually more miniature and can weigh as much as 30 pounds less. The head tends to be more foxlike compared to the broad head of the American variety.

Japanese Akitas have oval or almond-shaped eyes, compared to the standard American Akita with almost triangular eyes. Both the American and the Japanese Akita have a thick, double coat. The coat comes in a range of colors, including white, brindle, chocolate, and black. The undercoat is soft and wooly, while the topcoat is short, dense, and coarse.  

What Is The Personality Of An Akita?

The Akita was bred to be a guard dog, and it follows that many of these instinctual traits still exist in the dog today. This dog can be highly standoffish and somewhat suspicious, and aloof toward strangers. However, to those that they consider family and friends, they will be loving and affectionate. This dog is loyal to a fault and loves to be in the company of its favorite human. If the Akita loves and trusts you, it may even be possible to catch a glimpse of the downright silly side of this dog.  

This dog has an extremely stubborn streak, and as such, can be challenging to train. The dog has a strong personality and can be rather assertive. This dog is not the breed of dog for a novice or first-time dog owner. You must have a consistent and experienced owner to socialize and train this large and stubborn dog properly.  

How Much Grooming Does An Akita Need?

Despite having a thick and wooly coat, the Akita is only a moderate shedder. A quick brush once per week should be enough to keep most of the heavy shedding at bay. About twice per year, an Akita will “blow” its coat. This time is a period of heavy shedding that usually coincides with changing seasons.

The Akita should only be bathed as necessary and rarely develops a “dog” smell. Be sure to keep your dog’s nails trimmed short, especially if they are not naturally worn short by walking over rough surfaces. Keep the ears and eyes clear and clean and monitor the teeth regularly.  

How Much Exercise Does An Akita Need?

Although this is a large dog, the Akita does not need too much energy. A simple, quick walk or jog once per day should be enough to keep the Akita happy. While this dog regularly tops 100 pounds, it can be well suited to living in a small house or apartment. Be sure to give this dog moderate exercise to keep him happy and deter him from nuisance behaviors.  

Due to the double coat, the Akita is well-equipped to live in harsh and cold environments. This dog will be perfectly fine living in cold and snowy conditions. Keep in mind that the Akita was designed to live in cold climates and can quickly become overheated in hot or humid locations. Always keep a close watch on your dog and be aware of signs of heatstroke.  

Activities That I Recommend With This Breed:

  • Walking
  • Hiking (both walking and hiking can be done with your dog also wearing a weighted pack; the weight in the pack will help to tire your dog out faster; don’t do this if your dog has any orthopedic issues)
  • Swimming
  • Agility Training
  • Dog Parks

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For An Akita?

For Akita puppies, you will need to make sure you don’t feed them too much too fast. It’s easy because they are usually chow hounds, but you want to control their growth. Growing too fast can cause some early bone and joint problems that are easily avoided.

Best Puppy Food For Akitas:

Best Adult Food For Akitas:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

It’s very important they remain at their optimal weight throughout their life. Have your vet go over with you exactly where to feel to know when your dog is too big.

How Long Does An Akita Live?

10-13 years according to information from the AKC

What Health Problems Can Akitas Have?

The most common health issues I see in my Akita patients involve orthopedic issues:

Due to their thick coat, obesity is something that is quite common in Akitas because owners really don’t know just how “big” their dogs are. You should be able to feel the ribs through the coat and the abdomen should be narrower than the hips or the chest. If you’re not sure, just ask your vet is your dog is at its optimal weight.

This is a dog breed that I highly recommend my owners start on a joint supplement by the age of 3-4 years to try and keep those joints as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Where Can I Find Out More About The Akita?

Akita Club of America

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find an Akita?

The Akita is a popular dog breed, and many reputable breeders across the United States regularly have puppies available. When choosing a breeder, be sure to find one that performs regular health checks and certifications.

Breeder List from the Akita Club of America

AKC Puppy Marketplace 

It may also be possible to rescue an Akita from a rescue group that specializes in the breed.  The Akita Club of America is an excellent resource to locate a local Akita rescue group. Rescuing a dog not only ensures you will get the dog of your dreams, but it helps to give a pup a much-needed home.  

Fun Facts About the Akita

  • The Akita was originally bred in the 1600s in Japan. The dog was owned by nobility and was used to help guard and protect the elite. Occasionally, this dog was also used to track and hunt black bears, deer, and wild boar.  
  • The Akita can be a talkative dog, and many owners love this endearing trait. Between muttering under their breath or voicing a loud opinion, the Akita has a wide vocal range, and they regularly put it to good use.  
  • Some people compare the Akita to a cat, and they have several feline characteristics. Not only will the Akita groom and lick itself to stay clean, but the Akita has also been known to stalk and track its prey much like how a tiger hunts in the wild.
  • Helen Keller fell in love with the Akita upon her first visit to Japan. As a gift, the Japanese gave her a puppy named Kamikaze-go. Unfortunately, this dog died at an early age after contracting distemper. Upon hearing the news, Japan gifted her with another dog named Kenan-go.