Akitas are stunning, spitz-type dogs with ancient Japanese origins. But there’s a lot more to know about the Akita than the fact that they’re strong and attractive. Here are 10 Akita facts that will teach you plenty about this historic breed.
1. They Were Once Called “Snow Country Dogs”
Once upon a time, Akitas were simply known as “snow country dogs,” according to the Akita Club of America. The breed hailed from a snowy, rural, mountainous region of Japan, where they were used to hunt boar, elk, and the small Yezo bear. There is even a museum in the city of Odate devoted to the breed.
2. They Have Webbed Toes
Akitas have webbed toes to help walk on snow. These webbed toes distribute their weight more effectively. Historically, they keep their front dewclaws because these “ice picks” help them climb out of icy water.
3. Akitas Gain Energy Once the Weather Cools
When the weather turns cooler, the dogs seem to have a “turbo” button that switches on. If there is snow on the ground, they will stay out all day hunting rabbit, squirrel, and other small game, in a securely fenced yard until they have to come inside the house.
4. Akitas Are National Treasures in Japan
At one time, Akita ownership was restricted to the Imperial family and the ruling aristocracy. Caring and feeding of the Akita were detailed in elaborate ceremony and special leashes were used to denote the Akita’s rank and the standing of their owner.
5. Spiritual Significance Is Attached to the Breed
When a child is born in Japan, the proud family will usually receive a small statue of an Akita, signifying wishes for health, happiness, and long life.
6. Helen Keller Allegedly Brought the First Akita to the USA
Famous author and political activist Helen Keller is credited with bringing the first Akita into the United States in 1937. She was said to have been inspired by the legendary Hachiko, the loyal dog who became world famous for waiting nine years at a train station in hopes his dead owner would return. Keller found the dogs to be “gentle, companionable, and trusty.”
7. The Breed’s Trademark Is Their Tail
An Akita’s trademark is the plush tail that typically curls over their back. The set of each dog’s tail is unique. When you see a group of Akita tails, very few look the same.
8. They Are Very Clean
Akitas will groom themselves like a cat. This breed is usually very clean, and housebreaking is usually not a problem.
9. They’re Versatile Dogs
Akitas are members of the Working Group. Several hundred Akitas have been registered as therapy dogs. Some have obtained the AKC Therapy Dog title and can be seen visiting nursing homes and hospitals and doing reading programs with children at schools and libraries. While Akitas are often seen in the Conformation ring, they also participate in other dog sports, such as obedience and agility.
10. Akitas Are Independent and Intelligent
Independent and sometimes aloof with strangers, Akitas are close with their owners and form strong bonds. Highly intelligent, strong-willed, and proud, the Akita responds best to respectful commands and positive-training techniques that rely on motivation.
Not everyone has what it takes to live with one of these majestic dogs. But for those who do, it is an experience like none other, a chance to share your life with a national treasure.