In the pet world, people seem to brag about two things when it comes to their dog’s intelligence: How smart their dog is, or how loveably dumb their dog is. While there are certainly some endearing qualities for a goofball of a dog, I think we’d all prefer to have a smart one. Smart dogs are easier to communicate with and thus typically easier to train. Smart dogs are also less likely to get themselves into trouble, like running out into traffic if they get loose.
So that begs the question, are Akitas smart? Akitas are considered to be a highly intelligent breed, but just like humans this will vary from one Akita to the next. One of the biggest indicators of how intelligent your dog is, is how easy it is to train them. I can tell you from personal experience, that our Akita, Haga, was learning how to come and sit at only 7 weeks of age, and he was house trained shortly thereafter.
How to Tell if Your Akita is Intelligent?
There are different types of intelligence for dogs just like there are for humans. Your Akita might have good problem solving skills, emotional intelligence, etc…
I find that our American Akita, Haga, isn’t easily tricked. For example, some dogs when you pretend to have a treat in your hand, will come running at the first promise of food, however your Akita will likely be skeptical of you if they didn’t see you grab the treat from the bag. If you’re curious if your Akita is smart or not, try suddenly pretending to see if you have a treat in your hand see if they react!
If you’re wondering if your Akita has emotional intelligence, try to take note of their behavior when you’re sad or upset. I remember a recent situation where I was having a rough couple of days, and during that time my Akita, Haga never left my side, and was extra cuddly.
American Akitas are also typically very good at identifying potential threats. While some people believe that Akitas don’t like strangers in general, it has been my experience that Akitas don’t like people that are untrustworthy. A great example of this is how our American Akita, Haga, reacts to the neighbors in the neighborhood while we’re out for a walk. There is a wonderful family down the street from us and Haga is always excited to see their kids and play with them, but on the other side of the town lives someone who isn’t exactly the most savory character, and our Akita always barks and shows his teeth when this person walks by. It’s because of this reason I always trust my dog’s instincts when around strangers.
It’s important to also keep in mind the proud history of Akitas, as they were originally bred as working dogs for hunting bear in the snowy mountains of Japan. According to the incredible book Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain by Martha Sherrill (click here to get it on Amazon). The technique used by the hunters was to have their Akita encircle the bear and box it in so the hunter could then kill the bear. It’s clear Akitas must be quite smart to participate in such an event, given that their life and their owners life was on the line during bear hunts.
The Intelligence Test
If you’re looking for a more concrete answer about the intelligence of your American Akita, you can try this intelligence test that I found online.
Test One: Put blanket or towel on your Akita’s head and time how long it takes them to “get out”.
- 3 points if they figure it out in less than 15 seconds
- 2 points if they figure it out in 15-30 seconds
- 1 point if they figure it out in over 30 seconds
Test Two: Hold a treat in an open palm, and then put both your hands behind your back. From there switch the hand the treat is in. Bring your hands in front of you again and present your Akita two closed fists. See how quickly they can figure out which hand it is in.
- 3 points if they guess the correct hand the first time
- 2 points if they guess the wrong hand at first
- 1 point if they have no idea what they heck you’re doing
Test Three: Put 3 empty cups upside down in a row. While your Akita is looking, put a treat under one of the cups and distract them for a few seconds before letting them look for the treat.
- 3 points if they go straight to the correct cup
- 2 points if they inspect one empty bowl before discovering the correct cup
- 1 point if they look at both the empty cups prior to discovering the correct cup
Test Four: Grab your Akita’s leash and hold it up to them. This will test to see if they associate their leash/lead with going for walks. It’s best to do this test during a time they don’t usually go out for walks.
- 3 points if they immediately understand what’s happening
- 2 points if you require to walk in the direction of the door for them to understand what’s happening
- 1 point if they do not seem to understand what is happening
Test Five: Under a furniture piece that is low enough where only your dog’s paws will fit, put a treat within their reach. This will examine your Akita’s reasoning and problem resolving capacities.
- 3 points if it takes less than 1 minute to get to the snack just with their paw
- 2 points if they try to put their head under first or makes use of both their nose and paws
- 1 point if they give up entirely
- 12 or more points: Congratulations! Your Akita is a genius.
- 10-12 points: Your Akita is quite clever
- 8-10 points: Your Akita is of average dog intelligence
- 5-8 points: Your Akita isn’t the smartest, but they’re still the cutest
- Under 5 points: Well, at least they’re fluffy!
Akita Intelligence vs Other Breeds
When you think of intelligent dog breeds, two probably come to mind: The Border Collie and the Poodle. It’s true that these dog’s have impressive intelligence, and it’s estimated that you can teach these breeds up to 250 different words/commands, including both verbal and hand signals.
In 1995, Stanley Coren set out to figure out just which dogs were the smartest, and through his research he compiled a list of the most intelligent dogs. Out of the 130 dog breeds considered, Coren did in fact rank the Border Collie as number one. So where did the Akita end up? The Akita was ranked at a respectable 54th place in terms of intelligence just ahead of the Skye Terrier and tied with the Boston Terrier.
However in Coren’s top 5 you’ll see two breeds that seem out of place: Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Anyone that has first hand experience with these classic American family dogs, will know that they’re not always the brightest, and the reasons for these rankings are fairly clear: Coren ranked dog breed intelligence primarily on obedience.
While obedience is a crucial factor in a dog’s intelligence, ranking them strictly by obedience favors breeds that have an over eagerness to please their owners, something that Akitas are not known for. In fact Akitas are known to be stubborn and independent. When taking this into consideration, I think it’s likely the American Akita would rank much higher on the list if other attributes were accounted for.
If you’re interested in reading Coren’s book, literally titled The Intelligence Dog, click here to get it on Amazon.
Does Akita Intelligence Matter?
In the end the most important thing for you and your American Akita or Japanese Akita is your communication and relationship with one another. Good training is the foundation of any good relationship with your Akita, and good training is based on consistency and patience. it doesn’t matter how smart your dog is, if you’re not consistent with their training, you will have a difficult time building trust and communication with them.
When it comes to consistency in training, we’re not just discussing how frequently you train your dog, but making sure that you always use the same commands for the same situations. Akita owners sometimes switch between commands like “come” and “here”. While those two words may mean the same thing to you, they won’t mean the same thing to your Akita unless you’ve trained them to understand those words.
If you want to learn how to find the best breeder for your Akita, check out our article on Akita breeders HERE!
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