The Akita may well be the only breed in the world considered a natural monument in his home country. He is a Japanese breed, developed to hunt big game such as bear, elk and boar. In Japan today he is often found working as a police or guard dog. The Akita is a large verging on giant breed, weighing 65 to 115 pounds. He has the typical spitz appearance: wedge-shaped head, prick ears, rectangular body with a dense double coat in any color or combination of colors and plumed tail curled over his back. Here's what you need to know if you're considering bringing an Akita into your home.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

Only if you are capable of managing a powerful and independent dog with a bold nature. The Akita is devoted to and protective of his family, especially children, but aloof towards strangers. He is potentially aggressive towards dogs he doesn’t know. Early and frequent socialization are essential to help him develop the confidence and discrimination he needs to recognize what is a threat and what is normal. Unlike many spitz breeds, the Akita is not known for barking, but that does not detract from his abilities as a watchdog.

The Akita needs a 20- or 30-minute walk or run daily, always on leash. He performs well in dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally

This intelligent but independent dog can be a challenge to train. He responds well to clicker training and positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise and food rewards, but he also likes to do things his own way. To be successful, you must be patient and willing to try many different methods to see what works. Find an experienced trainer who has an extensive bag of tricks. Keep training sessions short and fun so the Akita doesn’t get bored.

Brush the Akita’s double coat weekly to keep it clean and remove dead hair. During spring and fall shedding seasons, daily brushing will help to keep excess hair under control. In addition, trim his nails as needed, brush his teeth, and keep the ears clean to prevent infections.

Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Akita needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Akita who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Health Issues Common to Akita

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines

The Akita has some health problems that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t careful whom you buy from. They include hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy and autoimmune hypothyroidism. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have hip scores of Excellent, Good or Fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or a PennHIP score and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy.

The Akita Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For an Akita to achieve CHIC certification, he must have an OFA or PennHIP evaluation for hips, an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, and an OFA thyroid evaluation. Additional certifications that are recommended but not required are OFA patella (knee) and elbow evaluations. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

To protect yourself from the expensive vet bills associated with these conditions, you'll want to purchase pet insurance for your Akita before they show symptoms or are diagnosed.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Cruciate Ligament Injury High $1,000-$3,000
Entropion High $300-$1,500
Pemphigus High $500-$3,000
Sebaceous Adenitis High $200-$600
Uveodermatologic Syndrome High $1,000-$3,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Akita Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. To find a list of breeders, visit the website of the Akita Club of America.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Akitas aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, an Akita can live 10 or more years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Akita to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Akitas

Pet insurance for Akitas costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Akitas are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Akitas are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Akita is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.