5 Things you NEED TO KNOW Before you get an Akita

It’s hard to swipe past a picture of a cute Akita puppy when you’re scrolling social media. Akitas, whether they be American or Japanese, have such a distinct look. From the prick ears to the curled tail, you know an Akita when you see one. Being adorable as puppies isn’t the only thing that makes people want to get one of these incredible dogs; Akitas are brave, loyal, quiet, and clean. On paper they may seem like your dream dog, but Akita ownership can be extremely challenging as well.

In this article, we’re going to discuss 5 things you need to know before you buy or adopt an Akita.

Akitas are not always allowed by landlords or insurers

Two American Akitas in a backyard fighting with one another while growling and showing their teeth.
American Akita vs. Long Coat Akita

Because of their reputation, and because of statistics, many apartment complexes do not allow Akitas to live in their building. Even if you your own home, your home owner’s insurance may not cover you if you own an Akita. Often times people advocate for simply lying to your insurance company about the type of breed you have. Not only is that a type of fraud, but if your Akita were ever in an altercation, your insurance company at best would not cover any damages, and at worst could sue you for attempting to defraud them.

It’s extremely important to check with your landlord and/or insurer to make sure you can even have one where you live, before you go through the process of buying or adopting an Akita. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to buy puppies from ethical breeders, and to work with Akita specific dog rescues, as they will not give you a puppy or dog until you’ve cleared it with your landlord or insurer.

We often receive e-mails from people asking what to do when they bring home an Akita only to have found out that they can’t actually have an Akita in their home. In those instances, it’s incredibly important to work with an Akita specific rescue to help you rehome your Akita. If you adopted, we don’t recommend returning the Akita to the shelter you got it from, as it was their negligence that got you into that position in the first place. If you bought a puppy and the breeder didn’t make you check to make sure you could actually have an Akita in your home, then they are a negligent breeder, and I would not return the puppy to them.

In the event of a dog bite, it’s your home owner’s insurance that covers damages. If your Akita bites someone, and they sue you and you weren’t supposed to have an Akita, you will be liable for the suit if found guilty. Dog bite lawsuits can vary wildly in damages awarded, typically depending on how many bites, long term scarring/injury, etc… but it’s not uncommon for damages to be $50,000 or more. You simply do not want to risk it.

Instead of going through the heart break of getting an Akita only to find out you have to return it or rehome it, do your due diligence beforehand.

Akitas are particular about who they like

The bond between an Akita and their owner is like no other. This incredible bond between Akita and human is one of the most appealing things about the breed. However, Akitas can be very particular about who they like and who they tolerate, this is especially true on any ground that an Akita perceives as their own “territory”.

This means two things for an Akita owner:

First, if you enjoy entertaining guests in your home, you will need a safe place to keep your Akita separate from your guests if they decide they do not like any of your house guests. If you don’t have a safe place for your Akita to relax and be comfortable away from the guests, you may need to reconsider your lifestyle and how frequently you have guests in your home.

A long coat American Akita plays fetch in a backyard
Panda the Long Coat Akita chasing her favorite toy

The second thing Akita owners must consider is when travelling, if you typically like to have someone “dog-sit” for you, you MUST make sure that your Akita likes and respects the person taking care of them. Because of an Akita’s pickiness when it comes to who they allow in the house, this may limit your options on who can dog-sit, and unless you have a friend that really loves to stay at your place whenever asked, this limited selection may make frequent travel difficult. With that in mind, Akitas are probably not the right dog for those who travel frequently for work.

Akitas are not tolerant of other animals

While there are exceptions to every rule, generally speaking, Akitas are not tolerant of other animals. This is both true of inside the house or outside the house. What that means for a potential Akita owner is that if you have a lot of other pets like cats, birds, rabbits, or even other dogs, bringing an Akita into your household might not be a good idea.

Another consideration is that this can make boarding your Akita difficult, which is yet another reason why Akitas are not a great choice for those who travel frequently. Some boarding facilities simply do not allow Akitas, while others will just keep your Akita in a crate for most of the time they’re being boarded.

While it’s expected that every dog owner will travel at some point, whether it be for vacation or some other reason, you don’t want your Akita to be penned up in a crate for days or weeks on end while you’re gone, and often times it’s impossible to know if your Akita’s temperament will follow the breed standard or be an exception, and contrary to what you have heard, it is not “all in how you raise them”.  Socializing your Akita from a young age can help and is highly recommended, but it does not guarantee your Akita will be friendly with other animals.

Check out our guide on how to properly socialize your Akita!

Akitas have serious health issues

Like all pure bred dogs, there are common health issues among Akitas. The most common health issues in Akitas are immune disorders and allergies, Bloat/GDV, and hip/joint issues.

A male American Akita keeps watch over a neighborhood
Haga aka “The Sherriff” standing guard at his house

Many Akitas are allergic to things like poultry, however they can also develop environmental allergies to things like grass. Our male Akita, Haga, has allergies that frequently cause ear infections. To help manage his allergies we have to give him a medication called Apoquel. This is given monthly, and is very expensive, and most medication dosing is based on your dog’s body weight. Because Akitas are a large breed, they often need bigger doses of medication. We currently pay $150/month for our Akita’s Apoquel. The only other medication currently available that does the same thing is a monthly injection called Cytopoint which would cost nearly $300 per month!

It’s also quite common for Akitas to have skin issues related to their immune system which can require frequent baths with special shampoos and other medication and treatments. These chronic diseases in Akitas can be costly to manage and heartbreaking and time consuming to handle. While getting an Akita puppy from an ethical breeder that does health and genetic testing of their dogs before breeding litters can help reduce the risk of encountering these problems, it doesn’t guarantee that they will be avoided.

Another even more serious health condition every Akita needs to be aware of is Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV) also known as bloat. Bloat is a condition where a dog’s stomach fills up with gas and can cut off blood flow to the dog’s organs. Bloat is a medical emergency, and kills up to 1 in 5 Akitas. Because the causes of bloat are not known, there are only a few things that can be done to prevent it, one of which is a gastropexy, which is a procedure where a veterinarian “tacks” your Akita’s stomach down so it can’t flip or twist during bloat, which greatly increases the odds of your Akita’s survival if they get bloat.

You can learn more about bloat by watching our video on it:

 

Akitas easily overheat

All Akitas originally came from northern Japan, specifically the Akita prefecture, hence their name. This area of Japan is extremely cold in the winter time, with temperatures often dipping below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and with an average snow fall of 43″ in January. Even in the summer time, temps are typically in the mid 80s at their very hottest.

As I write this article in the Northeast US, it’s already 80 degrees in June.

With all of that said, Akitas like it COLD. Of course there are people who own Akitas all over the United States and the world, but if you live in a place that has a very warm climate year round, Akitas may not be the right breed for you. Regardless of where you live, you’ll need to be prepared to keep your Akita cool in the warmer weather. Ideally your home is airconditioned or is well equipped with fans to help keep your Akita from overheating.

A female long coat Akita posing for a camera in a forest
Panda the Long Coat Akita’s beauty photo!

Before we got our first pure bred Akita, I had dreamed of taking him on hikes with me in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. What I quickly found out is that hiking season with my Akita is short lived. We have a few cool weeks in the spring and again in the fall that are suitable for a long hike, but as soon as temps start to rise into the 70s and above, it’s simply too hot for my Akita to be out hiking for a few hours.

Of course both of my Akitas would LOVE to go hiking every day in the winter, so if you enjoy winter hiking, snowshoeing, or even cross country skiing, an Akita would be a great companion.

Because of the hot summers in our area, our Akitas don’t like to spend much time outside, and instead prefer the cool wood floor inside our airconditioned home, but they still need stimulation and exercise. During this time of year, we play a lot indoors, and also use brain games to help them stay engaged and stimulated. We highly recommend dog puzzles like this one here.

Final Thoughts

Akitas aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Part of being a responsible dog owner and advocate for animal safety is knowing when a breed is a good fit for your lifestyle and when it’s not. In 2022 there was a lot of concern around the movie “Dog” starring Channing Tatum, which featured a Belgian Malinois, a notoriously difficult dog breed to own.

While we all love a good story about a special bond between dog and human, any time a dog breed is featured in pop culture, people will want to rush out and get one of those dogs, and unfortunately many people simply do not do their research on dog breeds before buying one. Most people shop for dogs based on how the dog looks.

The first line of defense is ethical breeders and knowledgeable shelters and rescues, but there are plenty of backyard breeders and puppy mills out there willing to hand over a dog to anyone that has the cash to pay for the puppy. People don’t know what they don’t know, and many people simply do not know what questions to ask when shopping for a puppy, and how to differentiate great breeders from bad ones.

If you want to help advocate for the Akita breed, consider sharing this article to help educate the public about these amazing dogs, or check out our Akita rescue list and consider making a donation to one of them.

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