From the royal guardian to a therapy dog, the Akita Inu does not back down from a challenge and has both the brain and the brawn to face any that come his way. Let’s get to know our confident, rugged friend.
History of the Akita Inu
10. The Akita Inu or Akita Ken originates in Japan. The Japanese considered him to be “tender in heart and strong in strength” and a National Treasure.
He is the largest of the six distinct dog breeds native to the Land of the Rising Sun. The others are the Shiba Inu, Shikoku Inu, Kishu Inu, Hokkaido, and Kai Ken.
The Akita Inu gets his name from the Prefecture of Akita, the mountainous northernmost section of the island of Honshū in Japan. As I mentioned in the Shiba Inu episode linked in the card, the word Inu means “dog” in Japanese… so that’s a thing.
The Akita, originally known as the Odate Inu, was recognized as a national treasure in Japan in 1931. It was established as a “pure” breed by the Mayor of a region called Odate, the Akita Prefecture capital.
The People in the Akita Prefecture call the Akita Inu the Shishi Inu in the Akita Prefecture, which literally means “large dog.” To the point. I like it.
9. Like most other wolf-looking dogs, the Akita falls into the Spitz family, who typically have fox-like features—a long snout, pointed ears, and a curled tail.
Experts don’t know when exactly the Akita became domesticated, but believe that the breed developed from the Matagi Dog, considered the oldest of all Japanese native dogs.
With his size, athletic ability, and determination, the Akita Inu gained praise as a bold hunter of deer, wild boar, Japanese antelopes, and even bears. Hunters used the dogs in male-female pairs to hold the prey until the hunter arrived. Because of his soft mouth, the Akita retrieved waterfowl.
By the mid-1800s—as a response to a population boom in rural areas—his role expanded to include protecting family homes.
A Status Symbol
Before then, around the 17th century, the Akita occupied a status symbol and ownership restricted to the Japanese nobility. This pooch led a lavish lifestyle with elaborate feeding rituals and fancy collars. And, a special leash denoted his owner’s rank and stature on the Japanese social ladder.
The pampered dog hunted, alongside falcons, for boar, deer, and other large game. Some owners even hired special caretakers, often tasked with the care of just one dog. By the 19th century, Emperor Taisho had changed the law so that any citizen could own an Akita.
Today, the Akita mostly serves as a companion. However, many Akitas proved to be incredibly versatile working and sporting dogs.
Many Akitas now work as therapy dogs, guardians, and watchdogs. Well-trained Akita Inus are outstanding competitors in various dog sports, such as obedience and agility trials, weight pulling, tracking, conformation, and Schutzhund.
The Akita Inu nearly went extinct during War World 2
8. The Akita Inu represents a symbol of health and wellbeing in Japan. For this reason, small Akita statues are often gifted to sick people and pregnant women instead of flowers and similar gifts.
But, the Akita Inu nearly perished during the Second World War. The details of which are a bit grizzly for this channel. Needless to say, the early 1940s were dire times for the Japanese Akita Inu.
But, thanks to the post-war efforts of Morie Sawataishi and other devoted breeders, who collected dogs from remote areas and started new litters, the breed was finally saved and renewed.
The Akita Inu Loves Snow
7. The Akita Prefecture’s mountain terrain results in cold, harsh winters and rainy summers. The rocky and cold environment is hard for most living things, but the Akita thrives in it.
The Akita has webbed toes to help walk on snow by distributing his weight more effectively and historically, keeps his front dewclaws to help him climb out of icy water like ice picks.
If there is snow on the ground, he will stay out all day until relegated to come inside. It is safe to say he prefers colder weather, loves eating snow, and rolling in it.
He’s not going to get cold. The Akita has a short double-coat similar to many other northern Spitz breeds such as the Siberian Husky. This double layer of insulation keeps him nice and cozy in the deepest of snow.
6. The Japanese Akita is definitely not a good choice for novice owners. This dog is extremely stubborn, independent, willful, and is one of the most challenging breeds to raise and socialize. As an independent thinker with a dominant attitude and strong temperament, he will help literary push you to the limits.
The Akita Inu demands a good amount of experience working with dogs and a lot of patience, understanding, and dedication.
If unchecked, the dog can become defiant. In fact, he may become aggressive if he senses mistreatment.
5. One interesting observation about the Akita Inu is that he considers eye contact as aggression. To this end, training is necessary while the dog is still young, or else he may be difficult to tame once he is fully grown.
The Akita Inu is fairly calm and obedient. However, he is an alpha dog and naturally defensive and aggressive, and certain threats easily instigate confrontations. Other dogs’ presence especially threatens the Akita, but strangers may also become a problem when they cross certain boundaries.
4. Despite all that, he’s a family dog. Once used to his environment and his owners, the Akita integrates into the family quite well and is very gentle and loving with his owners.
He especially likes to cuddle and is very tolerant of even the most playful kids. Additionally, he is a topnotch guard dog with the imposing size and the defensive nature to keep the home safe from even the most determined intruders.
One additional caveat, however. The Akita is known to be “dog-aggressive” and, therefore, should not be trusted around other dogs even when they have grown up together. Cats and other smaller animals are a definite no-no, thanks to his high prey drive.
Akita Inu as a Guard Dog
3.The Akita Inu has always been used as a guard dog thanks to his commanding size. Both males and females can grow as tall as 26 inches and weigh up to 100 pounds, making both effective for tackling intruders.
However, Puppies tend to be just as small as other breeds when young, but they grow quickly. To this end, many people not familiar with the breed get a shock once their once-tiny puppy grows into a 25-inch tall dog.
2. Despite his thick coat, the Akita does not require intense grooming, only regular brushing. The only exception is when his coat “blows” out twice a year.
During these times, increased brushing sessions are recommended to help cut down on excessive cleaning around the house or fur in your breakfast cereal. Luckily, the Akita rarely gets dirty and hardly has that “dog smell” many other owners complain about.
Just like the Shiba Inu, the Akita is clean to the point of being obsessive. The dog self-grooms and has an almost cat-like enthusiasm for cleanliness.
Hachikō – The Most Famous Akita Inu
1. In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the University of Tokyo, took Hachikō, a golden brown Akita, as a pet. Ueno would commute daily to work, and Hachikō would leave the house to greet him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station.
The pair continued the daily routine until May 1925, when Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while giving a lecture and passed without ever returning to the train station.
Each day, for the next nine years, nine months, and fifteen days, Hachikō awaited Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station.
Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day.
Initial reactions from people, especially from those working at the station, were not necessarily friendly.
However, after the first appearance of an article about him on October 4, 1932, in Asahi Shimbun, people started to bring Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait.
After his death, Hachikō’s remains were cremated, and his ashes were buried in Aoyama Cemetery, Minato, Tokyo, where they rest beside those of Hachikō’s beloved master.
Hachikō’s fur, which was preserved after his death, was stuffed and mounted and is now on permanent display at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno, Tokyo.
Each year on March 8, Hachikō’s devotion is honored with a solemn ceremony of remembrance at Tokyo’s Shibuya railroad station. Hundreds of dog lovers often turn out to honor his memory and loyalty.
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