Akita Inus are an ancient breed of dog with a rich history that’s full of bravery. Today, despite their controversial reputation, they are loved by many. So, let’s take a look at how to breed Akita Inus.
Breeding Akita Inus is a complex topic. This article aims to tell prospective breeders and owners everything that they need to know about the breed.
Background of Akita Inu Breeding
Before getting started with producing litters of quality Akita Inu puppies, you must understand the breed’s origins, its key characteristics, and what health problems one can expect when dealing with Akita Inu dogs.
Akita Inus are a member of the Spitz family, and one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. They’re also one of Japan’s six true native breeds, with ancestors dating back to 8,000 BC Japan. Akitas originated in the snowy, mountainous regions of Akita and Odate, Japan. They were bred to hunt animals like elks, boar, and Ussuri brown bears, so they are naturally brave, fearless dogs.
In the 1600s, they were unfortunately trained to compete in dogfighting, a popular sport at the time in Japan. This may be where the aggressive streak in modern-day Akitas comes from. They also began serving as companions of samurai soldiers around this time, until the 1800s. During world war II, the breed went into decline as the government ordered all non-military dogs to be culled. In order to save the Akita from extinction, breeders started to secretly crossbreed them with German Shepherds; the only breed of dog exempt from the cull.
The US military troops seemingly fell in love with the crossbreed. After the war, they bought them back home to America, and they became fairly popular. This is why the mix is now known as the American Akita. Though Akita Inus and American Akitas share an obvious lineage, the two differ in size, appearance, and temperament. American Akitas are bigger, typically darker in color, and generally friendlier in nature.
The Modern Akita Inu
Akitas were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1972. According to the AKC, they rank 47th out of 196 in popularity in the US in 2020.
However, they don’t differentiate between American and Japanese Akitas. So, it’s unknown exactly how many pet Akita Inus there are in the US. That said, in Japan, they remain one of the most popular breeds of dogs.
The Appearance of Akita Inus
The Japanese Akita Inu is a large-sized dog. The average male has a height of 25 – 27 inches and weighs between 65 – 75 lbs. The average female stands at around 22 – 25 inches tall and weighs between 55 – 65 lbs.
Their appearance is very Spitz-like and reflects the cold weather that they were born to withstand and work in. They have large, bear-like heads with erect triangular ears and small, dark, deeply set, triangular eyes. Akitas also have well-knuckled, cat-like feet which are perfect for climbing, and tails that curl over the tops of their backs.
The Akita’s thick, double-coats consist of an insulating undercoat and a weatherproof protective outer coat. Their fur is short and can be red, fawn, sesame, brindle, or white in color. But they all have Urajiro markings on the sides of the muzzle, cheeks, jaw, neck, chest, body, legs, and tail. Some Akitas, however, have longer, softer coats as a result of an autosomal recessive gene that comes from their samurai ancestors.
The Personality of Akita Inus
Akitas are incredibly loyal dogs that have a strong sense of pack and love their families very much. There is a famous story of an Inu from Japan called Hachiko. In the late 1920s, he would greet his owner when he got off of his work commute train every day. Until one day, he died at work and never returned. Hachiko went back to the train station and waited for his return every day for nine years until his passing in 1935.
As a result of their fierce loyalty and fearlessness, Akitas are very protective of their owners and territorial towards their homes. This means that whilst they are affectionate with their families, they can be reserved and suspicious towards strangers, and they are generally aggressive towards dogs of the same sex. So much so, that the breed is registered as a dangerous dog in some places. This includes Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee, and Washington.
That said, the breed does seem to have an affinity with children. And if they are well–socialized from an early age, they can be friendly towards non-threatening strangers & dogs of the opposite sex. But because of their independent and dominant personalities, Akitas should start training from an early age. Training should be firm and consistent. But once you form a strong bond, they do tend to be obedient because of their strong pack instinct. However, they need a strong, confident trainer, and are probably not the breed for a first-time owner.
Like all dogs, Akitas need to eat high-quality, nutrient-rich kibble. And whilst all dogs need and love meat, Akitas tend to prefer fish and also thrive on rice and sea-plants, which is what their Japanese ancestors likely ate.
An adult Akita also need around two hours of exercise a day. Ideally, divided into two or three walks or runs. They also enjoy swimming and are quite playful with their families, so it’s a good idea to have a large garden for Akitas to play in. They’re very intelligent dogs, so it’s important that they receive enough mental stimulation through play to prevent boredom and destructive behavior.
Whilst they’re fairly heavy seasonal shedders, Akita coats are relatively low maintenance, as they tend to groom themselves like cats. Daily brushing during the changing of the seasons will help with the shedding, but other than that, they only need a weekly brushing and a bath once every few months.
Health Concerns When Breeding Akita Inus
The average Akita Inus lifespan is around 10 years. They are generally healthy dogs, but all breeds are naturally more susceptible to certain conditions. These are the problems Akitas encounter most often. It is important t be aware of these issues when breeding Akita Inus so you can choose healthy parents that are not affected by these issues.
Unfortunately, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Akitas. Cancer and bloat are responsible for 42% of deaths within the breed. The most common types of cancer experienced by Akitas are lymphosarcoma and osteosarcoma.
Lymphosarcoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes and lymphoid tissues. This can affect the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and bone marrow.
Depending on where the cancer is, the signs & symptoms of lymphosarcoma include:
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Trouble breathing
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Stomach upsets
- Irritated, flaky skin
- Anemia, infections, bleeding
Diagnosis of lymphosarcoma comes via biopsies, and blood & urine testing. Dogs should receive chemotherapy, and 80% of those who receive treatment go into remission, but this does not mean that they are cured. It means that their quality of life is restored, but only 10-15% of dogs with lymphosarcoma survive. Most dogs with the diagnosis have between 6 months and a year to live.
Osteosarcoma is a fest spreading and aggressive type of bone cancer that is unfortunately terminal more often than not. It’s quite common for it to have spread around the body before diagnosis & before symptoms become noticeable. It most commonly affects the limbs, but it can develop in the skull, spine, and ribs.
The signs & symptoms of osteosarcoma include:
- Painful, hot, hard swelling or lump(s)
- Fractures or breakages for no apparent reason
- High temperature
Dogs suspected to be suffering from osteosarcoma must see a vet immediately for examinations, tests, and scans. Treatment consists of chemotherapy and amputation (when a limb is cancerous), but this rarely guarantees survival. Most dogs with the diagnosis have around a year to live.
Bloat in dogs is when the stomach fills with gas; it’s common in deep-chested breeds like Akitas. It’s extremely dangerous because it can twist the gut in a way that cuts off its blood supply. This stops the gas and food from being able to leave and is a life-threatening emergency. It can also make the spleen twist and lose circulation, and block vital veins in the back that carry blood to the heart.
The signs & symptoms of bloat include:
- A hard, swollen belly
- Abdomen pain
- General distress
Dogs suspected of having bloat must be taken to the emergency vet hospital as soon as possible for life-saving treatment. This includes having their stomach pumped, IV fluid treatment, antibiotics, pain killers, and surgery.
Pseudohyperkalemia occurs when there are excessive levels of potassium in the blood. It commonly affects Asian breeds like Akitas, because they naturally have higher levels of potassium in their blood than other dogs.
The signs & symptoms of pseudohyperkalemia include:
- Heart arrhythmias
- Flaccid paralysis
Dogs with pseudohyperkalemia should be given saline treatment by a vet to reduce their potassium levels as soon as possible, and receive frequent follow-up appointments to check on their levels.
16% of Akita Inus succumb to hip or elbow dysplasia, likely due to their size and heavy build. Dysplasia is a congenital condition that makes the hip or elbow joints grow abnormally, causing them to become loose, wobbly, and eventually leads to arthritis.
The signs & symptoms of hip and elbow dysplasia include:
- Licking the affected joints
- Loss of muscle mass
- Increased muscle mass in compensating areas
- Pain and stiffness
- Difficulty getting up, jumping, climbing, and squatting
- Bunny hopping
Dogs showing these symptoms should have a veterinary examination as soon as possible. Treatment for dysplasia depends on the severity of the symptoms. Mild dysplasia may just require lifestyle adjustments, non-surgical therapies, and pain medication, whilst more severe dysplasia may need surgery.
Immune System Problems
Akitas are unfortunately prone to autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to stop working properly, meaning that areas of the body become vulnerable.
Be sure to check up on the signs & symptoms of these diseases and seek help if necessary. Thankfully, most of these diseases are manageable with veterinary prescribed treatments unless severe. It’s also worth noting that a lot of Akitas have an immune sensitivity to certain vaccines, drugs, insecticides, anesthetics, and tranquilizers.
Be sure to check up on the signs & symptoms of these disorders and seek veterinary treatment if necessary. Thankfully, all of these diseases are manageable with life-long medications, and with treatment, they shouldn’t affect the length or quality of a dog’s life.
How To Breed Akita Inus
Always choose healthy dogs for breeding that are free of genetic diseases, of a good temperament, and registered with the appropriate kennel clubs.
Akita Inu Pregnancy
If you’re new to breeding, familiarise yourself with the signs of heat, pregnancy & labor, and be sure to gradually increase the mother’s food intake until she is consuming between 35% and 50% more than normal over her 2-month pregnancy.
Pregnancy issues specific to Akita Inus include mothers’ hiding the pregnancy, so be sure to attend regular veterinary check-ups to keep track of what’s going on. Akitas can also get quite irritable during pregnancy, so make sure that they are as comfortable as possible.
Thankfully, Akitas aren’t more likely than any other dogs to suffer from dystocia (difficult birth), but it is good to familiarise yourself with the signs just in case. Keep your vet’s phone number on hand in case of an emergency and make sure you have all of the necessary supplies for whelping.
Akita Inu Litter Size
Akitas may have anywhere from 3-12 puppies, but the average litter size of Akitas is 7-8 puppies. They should live on their mother’s milk for the first four weeks of their lives, and then the transition to milk replacer and high-quality kibble should be made, decreasing to only dry food once the puppies are 7-8 weeks old.
Akita Inu puppies sell for between $600-$1,980 in the US. Exactly how much they cost depends on whether their appearance matches the ‘breed standards’ according to the AKC. For example, long-haired Akita Inus are more affordable as they don’t fit the breed standard.
To generate interest, advertise your pups online and in trusted pet stores, making sure you communicate your priority of care and quality over quantity in the advertisements. Always ask prospective buyers important questions, and meet with them if you can to ensure that the pups go to good homes.
You also want to make sure that prospective buyers are well researched about the breed and are prepared for their size, temperament, and cost. The average cost of owning an adult Akita including food, toys, etc, is around $1500 per year.
Akita Inu Breed – FAQ
Our concise answers to the most common questions about Akita Inus.
Akitas are a fiercely loyal breed of dog, and as a result, are very protective of their owners and territorial towards their homes. Whilst they are gentle and loving with their families, especially children, they can be suspicious of strangers, and aggressive towards dogs of the same sex.
That said, if they are well socialized from an early age, they should be friendly towards non-threatening strangers and dogs of the opposite sex.
Because of their aggressive reputation towards other dogs, Akitas are banned and/or restricted in a few places, such as Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee, and Washington.
American Akitas are slightly bigger than Japanese Akitas, they also come in a wider variety of darker colors, because of their German Shepherd DNA. They are also generally of a sweeter temperament.
Despite their aggressive reputation, Akita Inus are incredibly loyal dogs, that are very loving and affectionate towards their families. They’re also very gentle with children.
Akita Inus are not naturally vocal dogs. In fact, they’re quite quiet dogs. They’ll only really start barking to alert their families of a stranger or threat.
Akitas need around two hours of exercise a day, ideally divided into two or three walks or runs. That said, they also enjoy swimming and playing in the garden.
According to Pet Coach, the average cost of owning an Akita is around $1500 per year. This is broken down into $350 on veterinary care, $300 on grooming and boarding, $600 on food and treats, and $250 on toys, collars, and more.
Because of their independent and dominant personalities, Akitas should be trained from a very early age, and training should be firm and consistent.
But once a strong bond is formed, they do tend to be quite obedient because of their strong pack instinct. That said, they need a strong, confident trainer, and are probably not the breed for a first-time owner.
Akita Inus are unfortunately prone to bloat, as well as lymphosarcoma and osteosarcoma cancer. In fact, these health problems are the cause of death in 42% of Akitas.
They are also susceptible to pseudohyperkalemia, hip and/or elbow dysplasia, hormone problems, and autoimmune system diseases. If you’re looking to adopt an Akita, familiarise yourself with the signs of their common health problems, and make sure you attend annual vet check-ups.
Akita Inus are a complex and often misunderstood breed of dog. But they are also fiercely loyal, brave, and loving towards their families. With the right owners, patience, and hard work, you could have your very own Hachiko!