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rec.pets.dogs: Akitas Breed-FAQ


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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/akitas
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Last-modified: 04 Dec 2000

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==========


                                  Akita Inus
                                       
Authors

   Thanks to the Siberian Husky FAQ (we "lifted" a lot of information
   from that FAQ); to Rob and Tammy Larsen of Cottonwood Akitas, who gave
   us a lot of information in their Akita Information Packet and the book
   references at the end of this FAQ; and of course to the following
   people who directly contributed their time and efforts toward this
   FAQ.
   
   Kevin and Doraine McIntyre, Mar. 21, 1995 (rev 1.4) Stormy the Akita
   [kmcintyr@hpdmd48.boi.hp.com
   or
   doraine@hpdmd48.boi.hp.co]
   
   Lisa and Ayla the Akita
   rx83994@mcvax4.d48.lilly.com
   
   Linda Wroth
   Moko, Sam, Kodiak (7/1/81-8/19/92)
   and Kita (ARSA orphan looking for a home)
   lwroth@netcom.com
   
   Barbara Bouyet (see the Book reference)
   73312,1770@compuserve.com
   
   Copyright 1994, 1995 by the authors.
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Table of Contents

     * History
     * Description
     * Characteristics and Temperament
     * Care and Feeding
     * Housing
     * Training
     * Exercise
     * Puppies
     * Recommendations
     * Health/Special Medical Problems
     * Frequently Asked Questions
     * References
     _________________________________________________________________
   
History

   The Akita is the largest of the six Japanese spitz-type dogs. For
   several hundred years, these dogs were used in male-female pairs to
   hold game such as bear, boar, deer at bay until the hunter arrived.
   They have also been used to retrieve waterfowl. They have been rumored
   to have been kept by the aristocracy or wealthy people but
   interestingly, when the Allied forces occupied Japan after WW2,
   American G.I.'s saw the Akita, though there were very few left. The
   GIs were very attracted to the massive sized dog and the Akita became
   one of many "Japanese Souvenirs" brought to the US along with Japanese
   swords, helmets, etc. The Japanese saw a business opportunity and
   began mass producing Akita dogs to sell to the Americans from pet
   stores in Tokyo. Some breeders began advertising the Akita as "a dog
   of the Shoguns, a Dog of Royalty." The tall tales of royal dogs, etc.,
   stuck with the Akita in the United States and was even incorporated
   into the early literature distributed by the AC There was no truth to
   the advertisements but the Americans fell for it (may have made them
   feel as if they were taking a little piece of the Emperor with them).
   
   At the end of the 19th century, the Japanese crossed this large dog
   with non-native dogs (such as the Tosa Fighting Dog, German Shepherd
   Dog, St. Bernard, Mastiff) to increase their size and strength for pit
   fighting.
   
   In 1919, concerned by the Japanese breeds' potential extinction, the
   Japanese included the large spitz-type dog (by then called the Akita
   after the prefecture on the northern part of Honshu Island where it
   had become well known as a fighting dog) in a list of natural
   monuments to be preserved. At that time, most of the Akitas resembled
   the crossbred fighting dog. It was not until 1931 that enough dogs
   that resembled the current idea of a purebred Akita were found, and
   the Akita became the first of the Japanese native dogs to be declared
   a natural monument. The Akita gradually lost its popularity as a
   fighting dog because other breeds proved more efficient fighters (and
   dog fighting had been outlawed).
   
   During World War II, the breed was nearly lost because many Akitas,
   especially those in the cities, were killed for food or for their
   pelts. The breed was re-established in Japan from the best of the
   remaining dogs. Although the first Akita to come to the United States
   was the puppy given to Helen Keller on her visit to Japan in 1937,
   breeding stock did not arrive until Akitas were brought here in some
   numbers after WWII by servicemen stationed in Japan. They were
   probably not used as guard dogs by the military; both US and Japan
   military used German Shepherd Dogs then (and Malinois today) [source,
   Bouyet].
   
   Best suited as a companion now, some Akitas also work as sled, police,
   therapy, guard and hunting dogs. Several have herding titles, and
   several are trained companions of hearing- and sight-impaired people.
   In general they are discerning guardians of their families. Because of
   their dog fighting and hunting background, most Akitas are dog
   aggressive and can be small animal aggressive.
   
   In 1992 Akitas ranked 33rd in popularity among the 135 breeds
   recognized then by the AKC. The Akita stud book in the United States
   closed in 1972; no Akitas imported from Japan after that were able to
   be registered with the AKC. That led to two main types of Akitas being
   developed: American Akitas tend to be larger and stockier, often with
   a black mask; while Japanese Akitas are more refined and stylized,
   with the only allowed colors being brindle, white, and red with white
   markings. Akitas in other countries are of both types. In 1992 the AKC
   recognized the Japan Kennel Club, so Akitas from Japan
   (JKC-registered) can again be registered with the AKC. Some people
   would like to have two separate breeds, the Japanese Akita and the
   American Akita; others prefer to have one breed, the Akita.
   
   The breed seems to have stabilized after a dramatic increase in
   registrations in the 1980s. Akitas are sold in pet shops; many of
   these have been bred in "puppy mills," with little attention paid to
   type, health, and temperament. See later sections on how to locate a
   responsible breeder or how to get a rescued Akita.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Description

   The Standard is the physical "blueprint" of the breed. It describes
   the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed
   otherwise known as type. Some characteristics, such as size, coat
   quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function
   for the dog. Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye
   color; but taken together they set this breed apart from all others.
   The Standard describes an ideal representive of the breed. No
   individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the
   breeder to strive towards.
   
   Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards
   at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not
   typically included in the Breed faqs. The reader is referred to the
   publications at the end of this document or to the National Breed Club
   for a copy of the Standard.
   
   Note that the Japanese standard, which differs significantly from AKC,
   among other things, does not allow black masks.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Characteristics and Temperament

  Coat and Grooming
  
   Twice a year, Akitas "blow" their undercoats, that is, they shed their
   undercoats completely. It is a very intense shedding period that can
   last up to three weeks from start to finish. The good news is that
   this only happens twice a year. The remainder of the time, Akitas are
   relatively shed-free. Some people feel that this periodic problem is
   easier to cope with than the constant shedding and renewal of many
   smooth-coated breeds. The bad news is that the shedding period can be
   rather messy. The hair comes out in large and small clumps. Lots of
   vacuuming and brushing are in order. Akitas that are neutered, live
   indoors, or live in a temperate climate (without much seasonal change)
   tend to shed smaller amounts year-round and don't go through such
   dramatic loss of coat.
   
   The Akita needs very little grooming except when blowing coat. No
   trimming or shaving of coat hair is required or recommended, just
   occasional regular brushing to remove de ad hair and keep the coat
   fresh and shiny. Nails should be kept short (so you can't hear them
   "click" as they walk) and hair on the bottom of the feet should be
   trimmed to preserve the characteristic tight "cat foot" of the breed.
   
   Note: There are long coated Akitas (a fault) that require more
   grooming; wooden rakes with several rows of metal teeth work well on
   their coats.
   
  Temperament
  
   The Akita is a noble breed - dignified, intelligent, loyal, devoted,
   courageous , and aloof to strangers. Akitas can adapt to many
   different situations and can be marvelous watchdogs (typically not
   barking unless there's a good reason) and companions. They require a
   great deal of socialization as puppies, and obedience training is very
   important as Akitas are dominant dogs and tend to be aggressive
   towards other dogs, especially of the same sex.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Care and Feeding

   Akitas, as a rule, do not do well on a food high in soybeans, which is
   the primary source of protein in most commercial, supermarket dog
   foods. They do well on meat and bone meal-based foods and those with
   fish meal. Twice daily feeding throughout their adult lives is
   recommended to lessen the chance of bloat (see below for more
   information on bloat). Some people add a daily natural kelp tablet for
   the additional iodine.
   
   One other thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food.
   Some research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can
   increase the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible
   to it. The theory is that the higher percentage of protein found in
   puppy formulas can accelerate growth before the developing skeleton
   can support the weight. Some breeders start feeding adult food very
   soon. Most people gradually switch to adult dog food at 8-10 months.
   Again, this is something to discuss with your breeder and
   veterinarian.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Housing

   Since some Akitas are jumpers, a high fence (5' or higher) is
   necessary if they are kept outside. Akitas prefer to be with their
   families and do well as house dogs. If they are kept outdoors, they
   should have a dog run or a securely fenced yard. Leaving them tied
   outside without a protective fence may make them more aggressive.
   Because of their high pain threshold, invisible fences or electric
   fences aren't a reliable method of containment. With their double
   coat, Akitas handle cold weather well but should always have shelter.
   With shade and fresh water, they can also tolerate hot weather. Akitas
   should be kept on leash when off their property because of their
   independence and animal aggressiveness.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Training

   Since Akitas can be dog aggressive, they must be "tempered" with
   obedience training. They need to know who's boss and will test the
   boundaries in an attempt to become the alpha. Early correction is
   important to maintain control of an Akita.
   
   Akitas do not respond well to harsh methods of training. Motivational
   methods, with patience, kindness, consistency and firmness work
   better. Early socialization in puppy kindergarten is highly
   recommended. In general Akitas are clean dogs, which makes
   housebreaking easier than in many breeds. Crates are highly
   recommended.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Exercise

   It is debatable how much exercise an Akita needs but a large fenced-in
   yard is ideal for this breed. Akitas usually take well to
   weight-pulling and sledding, though as a breed they are not highly
   represented in such activities. Puppies should not pull any
   significant weight or do roadwork until their bones and joints have
   matured at about 18 months.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Puppies

   Look for a reputable breeder when selecting your Akita puppy. Ask if
   the parents' hips were checked for hip dysplasia and their eyes for PR
   (See below (FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS) for some suggestions on
   locating a reputable breeder.)
   
   Because of their background as a fighting dog, there are some breeders
   deliberately producing Akitas with poor temperament. Be careful to
   avoid these breeders when picking out your puppy. While many Akitas
   are dog aggressive, especially when adult, they should not be vicious
   nor aggressive with people, and puppies should not exhibit these
   behaviors. If the breeder brags about what great protection dogs the
   puppies will make, your alarm should go off. Also, examine the adult
   Akitas the breeder has. Do they have the temperament you want your pup
   to have when grown? A little care will let you avoid these breeders.
   Look for someone who took considerable care in socializing the puppies
   and who has adults that would be a joy to have.
   
   When you pick up your puppy, your breeder can tell you the puppy's
   schedule and brand of food and can recommend a future diet. Then you
   can gradually change the diet to suit your preferences. Remember that
   sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt the puppy's digestive
   system and cause gastric distress. The Akita can eat quite a bit,
   especially as a young and rapidly growing puppy.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Recommendations

   The Akita is a large, impressive and strong working dog. Its heritage
   must be taken into consideration by a prospective dog owner. This
   breed cannot be fed and forgotten - it must be given a chance to be a
   member of the family. It needs love, training, and exercise. More dog
   than a first-time dog owner may want to try, the Akita is for
   assertive, dog-oriented people.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Health/Special Medical Problems

   Overall quite hardy with the following problem areas:
   
  Canine Hip Dysplasia
  
   The incidence of hip and elbow dysplasia in Akitas (as in many large
   breed) can be a problem. However, any Akitas used for breeding should,
   among other things, be OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) x-rayed
   at 2 years of age, and only dogs that are certified normal (or better)
   should be bred. OFA certification cannot be granted prior to 24 months
   of age and many people get preliminary x-rays after 8 months of age.
   Other alternatives to OFA are having x-rays read by a certified board
   radiologist or having x-rays taken by a new system called PennHip.
   Conscientious efforts of breeders have kept the incidence of this
   condition moderate in the Akita.
   
  Hypothyroidism
  
   Akitas are subject to hypothyroidism and allergic skin diseases, both
   of which can often be treated. Incidence of hypothyroidism seems to be
   increasing, and sometimes skin diseases are a result of thyroid
   dysfunction. A number of Akitas have been put down because of skin
   problems thought to be unmanageable. Current research indicates
   maternal antibodies as a major cause of hypothyroiditis. An untested
   mother, if affected by the disease and not demonstrating visible
   symptoms, will have circulating antibodies to the disease. When the
   fetus begins developing its own thyroid tissue, the antibodies attack
   brain tissue. In humans, it causes mental retardation but in dogs, it
   is believed to cause behavior problems. Once the fetus begins nursing,
   additional antibodies are passed to the newborn in the colostrum,
   eventually damaging the thyroid gland of the receipent. Studies
   indicate a euthyroid (normal on medication) mother is no longer
   circulating antibodies, thereby producing normal offspring. If each
   female is tested BEFORE breeding, in 5-10 generations, lymphocytic
   hypothyroiditis could greatly diminish. A complete thyroid panel,
   including T3, T4. free T3, free T4 and an antibody test are important.
   A subclinical bitch may not be showing visible symptoms therefore,
   only a blood test could determine an affected bitch.
   
  Eye Problems
  
   Possible congenital eye defects. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and
   central progressive retinal atrophy (CPRA) have appeared in a number
   of breeds, including Akitas. These problems are an inherited disease
   and can cause sudden or gradual blindness. Careful screening of
   potential breeding pairs has helped reduce the incidence of these
   problem in the breed. Congenital ocular defects include micropthalmia
   (small eyes), congenital cataracts (present at birth), posterior
   lenticonous (lens abnormally shaped), retinal dysplasia (retina
   developed abnormally). Entropion (eyelids rolling inward) and
   ectropion (eyelids rolling outward) can also be problems. Two other
   eye conditions that Akitas can get that have inherited tendencies are
   glaucoma and uveitis (associated with the autoimmune syndrom, VKH).
   Annual CERF exams are recommended for Akitas.
   
  Other Problems
  
   Other disorders include autoimmune hypothyroiditis, immune-mediated
   blood disorders, sebaceous adenitis, pemphigus foliaceus, lupus,
   atopic dermatitis, and vitiligo.
   
   Some less common disorders are idopathic epilepsy, myasthenia gravis,
   diabetes, Cushings' and Addison's disease, chondrodysplasia, and
   congenital enamel hypoplasia (sometimes called "Akita teeth").
   
   Akitas have several red cell anomalies in their blood - microcytosis
   and high red cell K+ content (which can lead to a false diagnosis of
   hyperkalemia). In any blood work on Akitas, red cells should be
   separated immediately from plasma for accurate results.
   
   As with other large, deep-chested breeds, Akitas are prone to bloat.
   Bloat is a serious condition where the stomach rotates, closing off
   both ends, and starts to produce gas; this condition can kill quickly.
   Some preventive measures include feeding your dog in smaller multiple
   portions (two smaller meals a day being better than one large meal a
   day), refraining from exercising your dog immediately after his meal,
   and either soaking kibble in water before feeding or ensuring your dog
   doesn't drink a lot of water immediately after eating. You should
   discuss this condition with your vet: s/he can list the obvious
   symptoms and show you some emergency measures you can take to save his
   life if you find yourself rushing to the emergency room in a race
   against time.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
Frequently Asked Questions

   Akitas are supposed to be "dog aggressive". Will I have trouble with
   other dogs in general? How about with other Akitas?
   
     Akitas, even those that get along quite well with other dogs, often
     become dog aggressive at adolescence or adulthood, basically
     because they are a dominant breed and don't back down from
     challenges. Because of this dominance, two strange Akitas may be
     more inclined to be aggressive than one Akita with a less dominant
     breed. Akitas of the same sex are more likely to fight than those
     of the opposite sex. This is why it is recommended that Akitas not
     be allowed off leash off their own property.
     
   What is this business with "unusual blood cells"?
   
     Akitas, along with one type of poodle, often have smaller red blood
     cells than other dogs. It is not known why. This can sometimes lead
     to misinterpretations of blood test results.
     
   Why are the Japanese and American standards so different?
   
     Most American Akitas came from breeding stock brought back by
     servicemen after World War II. These dogs often came from pet shops
     and, for the most part, did not represent the highest quality
     Akitas. Also at this time many Akitas in Japan showed the results
     of breeding with non-native breeds, e.g. some of the early American
     Akitas had large, upright ears and German-shepherd-like coloring.
     The Akitas brought back represented several different types. The
     American standard was revised several times in the 1960s, and the
     final version was approved by the AKC in 1972. After World War II,
     the Japanese tried to restore a purer type of Akita, trying to
     eliminate traits that might come from earlier crossbreeding. Some
     of the traits they eliminated were loose skin, loose tail curl,
     facial wrinkles, and large ears. They also permitted only the more
     traditional colors of Japanese dogs - red, white, and brindle.
     
   Are Akitas friendly or reserved with other people?
   
     Typically Akitas are reserved with people other than their
     families, but many are quite friendly. As with any dog, you should
     ask permission before petting an Akita.
     
   I've heard the breed called Akita Inu, too. Are they related to Shiba
   Inus?
   
     "Inu" means "dog" in Japanese; the Akita is the largest of the
     native spitz-type Japanese dogs and the Shiba is the smallest.
     
   What about the dog I saw on the television, TARO?
   
     This is a long story but basically Taro, an Akita, was literally
     jailed in a New Jersey jail, for being a vicious dog and allegedly
     biting a child. The exact circumstances of the incident are still
     debated (it appears to be a real family feud type story) but
     apparently the dog was tormented by the child (after being told to
     leave the dog alone) and the dog may have pawed and NOT bitten the
     child at all. After years of legal battles and thousands of dollars
     in legal/jail costs, Taro was pardoned by the current Governor of
     the state but was exiled from New Jersey and now lives elsewhere.
     
   Where can I find Akita breeders in my area?
   
     The Akita Club of America maintains a breeder list; the breeders
     whose names appear on the list HAVE paid for this service. Contact
     Jan Voss, 1016 Vermont Rd., Woodstock, IL. 60098-8842. (815)
     338-9293
     
     OR
     
     for a FREE package on "How to Find A Reputable Breeder" send a
     stamped, self-addressed #10 envelope to:
     
     Barbara Bouyet
     237 Venus Street,
     Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
     
     OR
     
     Contact your local Akita Club
     
     OR
     
     Check the Akita World magazine (see below).
     
     OR
     
     Check with an Akita Rescue Organization
     
     _________________________________________________________________
   
References

  Books
  
   Akitas 
   Edita van der Lyn
   T.F.H. Publications, Inc. (often available at pet stores)
   1 T.F.H. Plaza
   Third and Union Aves.
   Neptune City, NJ 07753
   
   Akita Treasure of Japan
   Barbara Bouyet
   Call: International Marketing Enterprises
   1-800-848-4374
   Pennsylvania residents call: (610) 971-0329
   
   The Book of the Akita
   Joan McDonald Brearley
   T.F.H Publications
   211 West Sylvania Ave.
   Neptune City, NJ 07753
   
   The Complete Akita
   Joan M. Linderman and Virgina Funk
   Howell Book House, Inc.
   230 Park Ave.
   New York, NY 10169
   
  Periodicals
  
   Akita World (published 6 times a year, ~$48/year)
   4401 Zephyr St.
   Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-3299
   (303) 934-5656
   
   HEADline News (published monthly, ~$20/year)
   8461 Denallen Dr.
   Cincinnati, OH 45255
   (513) 474-3378.
   
  BREED CLUBS
  
   Akita Club of America
   President, Nancy Henry, AkitaEmu@aol.com.
   
   Other contacts: Nancy Amburgey, lopat@aol.com
   Susan Duncan, via akitainu@aol.com
   
   The Akita Club of America can help you locate member clubs in your
   area.
   
  BREEDERS
  
   In the United States, contact the Akita Club of America or regional
   clubs for breeder recommendations in your area.
   
  RESCUE ORGANIZATIONS
  
   Akita Rescue Society of America (ARSA)
   Southern California (Parent Chapter)
   Barbara Bouyet
   237 Venus Street
   Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
   805/492-2127 (FAX and phone)
   
   Puller Lanigan
   ARSA Mid-Atlantic
   covers Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
   (301) 946-3779
   
   Dorie Sparkman
   ARSA-Florida
   covers length of Florida
   (904) 399-8942
   
   Rebecca Kestle
   ARSA-Georgia
   Covers Georgia
   (404) 255-8522 or 578-0874
   
   ARSA-Mid-Atlantic North
   Nancy Baun
   covers New York, New Jersey, Connecticut
   (201) 427-5985
   
   Lee Kendrick (is an independent but now works with ARSA-MAC)
   (516) 736-5123
   
   ARSA-Central States
   Myrna Pearce
   Covers Missouri, Kansas
   (417) 272-3476
   
   ARSA-MidWest
   Dana Bartoe
   Covers Ohio and parts of Michigan
   (614) 879 5810
   
   ARSA-Upper MidWest
   Jackie Douglas
   Covers Minnesota
   (612) 783-1068
   
   ARSA-Arizona
   Judy King & Pam Claridge
   covers Arizona
   (602) 821-9560
   
   Delaware Valley Akita Rescue
   Kathy DeWees and Margie Rutbell
   Covers New Jersey, Pennsylvania and parts of New England
   (609) 859-3125
   
   Pam Wasson (Works with ARSA-Mid-West)
   Urbana, Illinois
   Covers Illinois
   (217) 344-2354
   
  OTHERS DOING AKITA RESCUE
  
   Kelle Clinton
   Lakebay, Washington
   (206) 884-2615
   
   Akita Rescue of Kansas City
   Maryann Shumway
   covers, Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri
   (816)761-0278
   
   Akita Alumni
   Mitzko Suzuki
   Toronto, Canada
   (416) 745-4495
   
   Liz Harrell and Louise Winder
   (206) 264-4255
   
  INTERNET Akita related groups
  
   Web pages include:
     * Akita Action Association: http://akitaaction.homestead.com/
     * http://www.cehs.siu.edu/erik/akitalist
       
   There is currently an Akita (moderated) listserver group available on
   the Internet. To subscribe send e-mail to:
   
   listserv@cehs.siu.edu
   
   with the body containing:
   
   subscribe AKITA-L firstname lastname
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
   
    Akita Inu FAQ
    Kevin McIntyre, kmcintyr@hpdmd48.boi.hp.com
    
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