Let’s Talk Breed Education!
BY SYLVIA THOMAS I f it were necessary to describe the Akita in one word, dignity would suffice for it is this concept that the breed embodies. Whether in proud stance or in no-nonsense movement, the breed’s dignified presence is its most distinct quality. Each element described in the breed Standard is designed to contribute to this impression. We like to say, “An Akita owns the ground he stands on.” Those who know me will tell you that I’m a “head person.” I’ll admit there is some truth in that, for it would be hard to deny the importance of the head since it is a core element of breed type. There is an emphasis in the Akita breed Standard on the head. The broad and triangular shaped head is complemented by the harmo- nizing triangular shape of the dark eyes and ears that are strongly erect, slightly rounded at the tips, small in relation to the head, carried slightly forward over the eyes, and in line with the back of the neck. The result is an alert and courageous expression which is present in both males and females. As a balancing agent to the large head, there is a large, full tail, set high and carried over the back. It cannot trail behind nor be up in the air, but must rest against the flank in a three-quarter, full or double curl, always dipping to or below the level of the back. Although the Akita is in the bottom range of the large-sized breed category. With the ideal size of males between 26" and 28" at the withers and females between 24" and 26", an Akita’s size and obvious strength leave a lasting impression on all who see him. At the same time, there is no harshness in his appearance for the short, thick, and lustrous double coat softens the rugged outline of muscle and bone. While we may all have our personal preference as to colors and markings, all coat colors are permitted, including white, brindle, and pinto. Colors are rich, clear, and brilliant. The Standard speaks about well-balanced markings, with or without masks or blazes. Though I’ve always had a personal fondness for a well-marked pinto, some of my favorite Akitas of all time have not been pintos, but all have been distinguished by their unquestionable breed type, balance and proportion, outstanding movement, especially on the side, and brilliant color.
“WHETHER IN PROUD STANCE OR IN NO- NONSENSE MOVEMENT, THE BREED’S DIGNIFIED PRESENCE IS ITS MOST DISTINCT QUALITY.”
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44 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2021
BY SYLVIA THOMAS continued
Akita ownership presents some challeng- es and, as a result, they are not the breed for everyone. Personally, they fill me with laughter, unconditional love, and devotion. I can’t imagine and don’t want to think about my life without an Akita! ABOUT THE AUTHOR My tennis partner intro-
As Chair of the Judges’ Education Com- mittee, providing potential and current judges with the knowledge they need to judge Akitas is very important to me and the members of the Committee. With the support of the Akita Club of America, we are in the process of developing an Illus- trated Standard as a resource for judges, in particular, but it will also be a tool that can be used by breeders, owners, and others who are interested in the breed. For a new judge, it goes without saying that a knowledge of the Standard is critical, but understanding how to use the Standard to inform judging separates a great judge from an average one. I try to present a judge with a soundmethodology for their approach and examination of an Akita. My advice to anyone who is new to judging Akitas is to manage their ring, leaving adequate space between each dog and to initially and confidently greet the dogs by “waking the line.” This provides a first glimpse at both fronts and heads with a quick impression of eyes, ears, and expression. Then, take a look at the profiles of the dogs. This is an excel- lent opportunity to observe balance, front and rear, head and tail, topline, length of body, depth of chest, reaching to the elbow which should equal half the height of the dog at the withers. Of course, this is all fol- lowed by a thorough hands on examination of each dog, paying careful attention to the fine points that make an Akita distinct and unique, e.g. the shape of the eyes, carriage of the ears, the crest of neck blending into the shoulders, and so much more. Finally, a careful look at front, rear, and side gait. Then, it’s decision time! I got my first Akita in 1980 and have been owned and loved by them ever since. Although there are exceptions, you will probably not typically meet an Akita run- ning loose on the beach or in a dog park.
Having originated in mountainous ter- rain, the Akita is agile and moves with pur- pose. In his driving movement, the Akita combines great power with precision and smoothness. Every step is a purposeful expression of the dog’s own will. His gait is balanced and efficient. He covers the ground in brisk strides of moderate length characterized by good reach and drive. For me, moving at a high speed and racing around the ring, are not the same as “cover- ing ground.” Quite simply, it does not com- pensate for proper reach and drive. The breed’s character is reserved, silent, and dominant over other canines. Although the Akita is unruffled by minor irritations, he is alert and intolerant toward other dogs, particularly those of the same sex. Akitas are known for their loyalty and devotion to family. With their owners, the Akita is a delightful companion. Friendly strangers are treated with respect, but trespassers find the door, yard, and personal property pro- tected by a formidable figure. They are independent thinkers. I wit- nessed some of that independence while watching one of my Akitas on a long down in Obedience. It was a warm, sunny day, and when “JD’s” handler left the ring and waited behind a blind, my dog got up, walked over to the shaded area where the judges were seated and lay down. As if on cue, he went back to his original position before his handler returned. Imagine my handler’s surprise when he was told “JD” had failed the exercise and why! He did eventually pass and earned his C.D., but his behavior spoke volumes about the nature of Akitas! That said, Akitas do accept train- ing and can be very willing participants in Conformation, as well as Obedience, Com- panion, and Performance events. You just have to patient and it helps to be smarter than they are!
duced me to Akitas in 1979. Six months later, I “surprised” my husband, Frank,
with an 8-week old puppy who became the foundation of our line, Chiheisen (Hori- zon) Akitas. I’ve produced numerous champions including two National Spe- cialty and Best in Show winners, along with Registry of Merit producers, group winners, and numerous champions and loving com- panions. I’ve owned three generations of National Specialty winners. I’ve also bred and campaigned Samoyeds. I have held var- ious offices with the Akita Club of America and serve as the Chair of the Judges Educa- tion and Illustrated Standard Committees. I am a licensed AKC Judge, belong to two Parent Clubs, and two All Breed Kennel Clubs, serving as the AKC Delegate for one. As a Delegate, I am Chair and Editor of Perspectives. Professionally, I’ve been in education my whole life, first as a tenured college faculty member and then as a senior administrator, holding various titles includ- ing Vice Chancellor of Human Resources and Diversity and retiring as Associate Vice Chancellor of Educational Services Emeri- tus for Riverside Community College Dis- trict where I was recently inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame.
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1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs? 2. This powerful companion is known for his loyalty to family. How is the breed with strangers who come to call? 3. What is the most important thing to know about living with an Akita? 4. Is the breed experiencing any particular medical problems? 5. How do you place your puppies? 6. What is the breed’s most endearing quality? 7. At what age do you choose a show prospect? 8. What is your favorite dog show memory? 9. Is there anything else you’ d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. REBECCA KESTLE
with Akitas and the one thing they may do is intervene in rough housing and can sometimes discern if someone is not a good apple. What is the most important thing to know about living with an Akita? Akitas are not meant to run free as they will run after and try to catch animals they are not acclimated to. They are pretty tough dogs that need a leader. I think dogs can be more assertive especially when they are going through puberty and both sexes feed off owner’s energy just like all animals. So if an owner gets nervous about something an Akita is going to pick up on it and may not be agreeable to that situation if not trained properly. I don’t think Akitas are one person dogs but typically love everyone. The breed has always had problems with hip dysplasia, hypothy- roidism and eye diseases including microphthalmia, VKH and reti- nal dysplasia which is not a horrible disease. Akitas can also show sebaceous adenitis and other auto immune diseases of the skin. I think our breed also has a good amount of cruciate ruptures. Before breeding we recommend that the parents be OFA certified Hips and elbows, eye exam and thyroid testing. I like to do preliminary hip x-rays and a Michigan State University thyroid check before even considering breeding or spending a lot on showing. How do I place my puppies? We are probably not breeding any- more but used to place puppies by word of mouth and referral. The Akitas most endearing quality is that they are very loyal. At what age do I choose a show prospect? I choose at eight weeks. My favorite dog show memory? Being very late to a dog show after having gone to the wrong local show site to only having time to jump out of the car and run in the ring to win breed and later a group placement. Another was meeting my husband, Stuart King- horn, at the 2000 National Akita specialty. He was visiting from Scotland. I also love all the Akita and dog show friends I have. I’d also like to share that they are not for everyone. People who love the breed just can’t do without one. I hope to always have one. PRISCILLA B. MCCUNE I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I worked with my husband until his death eight years ago. He was a small animal practitioner and I have a degree in Animal Science and genetics and was hired by a company that had me calling on veterinarians. So it kind of fell in my lap to help in in his business as a semi tech/vet assistant/girl Friday. I was too young to retire and still needed an income and one of his best friends offered me a position with his veterinary organi- zation. I have been working as a practice manager for the Noah’s hospitals for the past 7 1/2 years and am still working. I truly enjoy my work. How is the breed with strangers who come to call? Over the past 46 years that I have had Akitas most of them are fairly predictable.
Rebecca Kestle, DVM grew up in Georgia with a love for all ani- mals, especially dogs and horses. She graduated from the Univer- sity of Georgia Veterinary School in 1985. As an Akita breeder, she had a keen interest in canine repro- duction and owns Cliftwood Ani- mal Hospital which freezes canine semen with Zoetis since 1992. Rebecca is an AKC judge and has judged Akitas around the world. Her first regular assignment was
the 2010 Akita national best of breed. Rebecca and her husband, Stuart Kinghorn, live on a farm in Canton, Georgia. Rebecca is on the Judges Education Committee and a lifetime member of The Atlanta Kennel Club. I live in Canton, Georgia on a small hobby farm and own Clift- wood Animal Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Besides loving all ani- mals, I am totally horse crazy. Besides having five Akitas, two cats, 20 chickens, three ducks and a bunny, we have four horses that we love. My hobby is low level eventing which is riding dressage, cross country and stadium jumping. When not working at Cliftwood doing primarily reproductive canine medicine, I am riding horses. As a member of the Judges Education Committee I also spend time working on our illustrated standard with a wonderful committee. How is the breed with strangers? Akitas are good watch dogs and very gamey. Mine will bark for attention and love just about anyone. Having owned them for almost 40 years, I think the tem- perament has gotten better but they are a tough dog. Mine enjoy strangers but let them know they are there. I raised two children
“Akitas are not meant to run free as they will run after and try to catch animals they are not acclimated to. THEY ARE PRETTY TOUGH DOGS THAT NEED A LEADER.”
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Akita Q& A
“Once you live with an Akita you will never again experience the depth of loyalty and love you will share with your dog.”
My house dogs would protect me with their lives. When a stranger comes to the door the Akita will stand between myself and the door. Then he watches to see my reaction. If I welcome this person he kind of backs up and allows entry, however if he senses any hesita- tion on my part, he stays put. The breed is amazing. What is the most important thing to know about living with an Akita? Their loyalty is incomprehensible. It truly upsets me when I hear of our Akita rescue groups around this country having picked up an “owner surrendered” or an abandoned Akita, or a puppy mill- er where the Akita has contact with a human maybe once a day for food and water, when all he wants is to be loved and to love back and to protect and serve. The ones that have experienced a loving relationship with a family, then to suddenly be neglected, will no doubt suffer. Is the breed experiencing any particular medical problems? I believe there are health risk that still lurk around most breeders. Good breeders do all they can with hips, elbows, patellas, eyes, car- diac, thyroid etc and sometimes these things still appear. I think the breed in general is much, much healthier than it was even 15 years ago due to some of the genetic markers that can identify issues. How do I place my puppies? I am not a huge breeder and I don’t seem to have big litters. But many of my pups are repeat puppy buy- ers, and word of mouth. I breed for myself first. What is the breed’s most endearing quality? The loyalty and unconditional love. At what age do I choose a show prospect? Day one then eight weeks of age. My favorite dog show memory? A 19 month old puppy bitch that I bred, bred her mother and father won winner’s bitch at our Akita National under a breeder judge that I respect, at last year’s National 2018. WENDY SORRELL Wendy Sorrell has bred Akitas under the “Subarashii” kennel name for 40 years. She has selectively and carefully bred very few litters but always striving for breed type, overall balance, quality and soundness. Wendy is a breeder/owner/handler, retired AKC judge and now enjoys showing in multiple venues with her Aki- tas. Wendy is always available to talk with those who want to learn about the Akita. She is also the Director of Northwest Akita Res- cue, a 501c3 rescue organized in Washington state. I live with my husband, Mark, and our four Akitas in Teni- no, Washington. I work full time and enjoy my off time at home or enjoying time with our two sons and grandchildren that live in Oregon. How is the breed with strangers who come to call? At first is the “Akita pose” and a bark. When I tell them “Okay” they are socially annoying—meaning you will get mauled with love and snuggles. I do have one male that takes his guardian job serious- ly. He will stand at guard and does not care to visit with company. What is the most important thing to know about living with an Akita? Early socialization is the key to raising a pup up to be a happy, trusting dog. The Akita is a perimeter guardian and so a good fenced area is a must. Once you live with an Akita you will
never again experience the depth of loyalty and love you will share with your dog. Is the breed experiencing any particular medical problems? Can- cer! ACL injuries have become almost commonplace these days. I feel that the preservation breeders of today have done a great job cleaning up health issues from the past. Unfortunately, the disrepu- table breeders are a huge problem in our breed, as I am sure they are in others as well. How do I place my puppies? Very carefully. Strong referrals and references are required. Most of our puppy buyers we have known for years and they are Akita-experienced. What is the breed’s most endearing quality? Undying loyalty, unconditional love and intelligence. At what age do I choose a show prospect? It is a process that starts at birth. Generally, by six weeks of age I know who I am keeping to grow out. At eight to nine weeks the litter is evaluated by myself and others that I trust from outside my breed. My favorite dog show memory? There are so many but, last year at this time I started to show my young male, Rusher. He is a pow- erhouse and a handful for me! He had picked up a couple singles earlier in the year and I was showing him locally only. We entered in an Akita supported entry and I was thrilled that Rusher won Best of Breed from the Bred By class. A major. He then went on that same day to win the NOHS Working Group as well. It was a very proud moment for me. He is a very sound, solid animal with great breed type. In very limited showing he easily finished from the BBX class. My first after 40+ years of raising and showing Akitas. As with many purebred dogs, it is sad to see fewer new folks coming into the breed willing to put the work and commitment into learning the history of the Akita here in America. Learning about structure, genetics, pedigrees, etc. You cannot learn by look- ing at photos and watching YouTube videos. With each litter I tell myself this is the last because who will make the commitment to carry on where I leave off? But, I am already planning the next steps in my program that I must see through over the next four to five years. It is what we do as purposeful preservation breeders. Thank you for asking me to share about my beloved breed, the Akita. INGRID STROM I am with Crown Royal Akitas and we are on ten acres in North Idaho. The Akitas have been my passion for 38 years and I do not have a job other than my dogs. The Akita should be accepting with strangers, but also on guard. The most important thing to know about living with them is they need firm training and are wonderful family companions if trained correctly. Is the breed experiencing any particular medical problems? There are health issues with this breed. Make sure the breeder you buy from is a member of the parent club. How do I place my puppies? My show puppies are evaluated at eight weeks. My greatest dog show memory was when Ch. Crown Royal Get Off my Cloud received his 30th All breed Best in Show, owner breeder handled by me!
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AKITAS: A JAPANESE TREASURE
overall. The area I feel is the most improved and a huge accomplishment for breeders has been temperaments. The difference is like night and day and one I am most proud of. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? I seems not only new judges, but a number of older, more experienced judges, today are misinterpreting the standard or have changed their viewpoint towards the standard. One must remember this breed was used to hunt bear and was, and still is, considered a large, pow- erful breed with much substance, heavy bone and not gender specific. Point being, many times when a larger, nice Akita enters the ring which consists of a number of smaller dogs, some judges fail to recognize correctness and make the statement he/she is just too much dog. This is very frustrating as a breeder and an exhibitor. This point cannot be stressed enough! 6. In your opinion, what is the difference between a good Akita and a great Akita? A great Akita has that added presence that just draws you to them. They handle themselves with precision like a skilled surgeon and move effortlessly with pride and confidence. They’re impressive, have a desire to be in the ring and know they’re special. The late judge, Sam Piz- zino, said, “A true, great dog special is the one that enters the ring moving like a stallion with confidence, head up, nostrils flared as if to say, all you bitches belong to me.” 7. And, for a bit of humor: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? A number of years ago at a show in Terre Haute, Indiana, I was talking with my good friend, the late Bill “THEY ARE A BREED LIKE NO OTHER; GIVING UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND AFFECTION TO THEIR OWNERS.”
My wife, Chris Ann, and I live in the country near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Dogs have always been a large part of my life but since retiring, my life is the dogs. Besides my wife being a professional handler for the last 30 years, we also own a boarding and grooming facility. I became interested in the breed back in the mid 80s when I was attending a dinner par- ty and the host had this beautiful puppy running around. The more I interacted with the puppy, the more I was drawn to it. Unable to forget the puppy I found myself wanting to learn more about the breed. The love affair began and I have never looked back. I have been active in Akitas both breeding on a limited basis and showing over the past 33 years under the name, Shinto Akitas. During this time, I have been blessed to both own and breed a number of top winners including multiple generations of BISS winners. 1. Describe the breed in three words? Majestic, intelligent and loyal. They are a breed like no other; giving unconditional love and affection to their owners and, if need be, would lay down their life protect- ing the family they love. 2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? There are numerous worth mentioning, but a few together that make this breed a total package. Several are in the first line of the standard: “Large, powerful, much substance and heavy bone.” In addition, a nice, broad head and a full, curled tail should balance the body. Without this overall package, you lose what the Akita should be. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? Several things come to mind but one of the most impor- tant is size. This is a large, powerful breed. Today we are seeing more Akitas smaller in size with less bone, sub- stance and incorrect narrow heads. Many Akitas being shown these days have more of a Siberian look with less bone and substance. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are bet- ter now than they were when you first started? Although there are some really nice dogs currently being shown, overall on average the dogs were better back then. It was just a more majestic, larger, powerful animal. I also believe, currently, bitches are better than the males
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Cunningham. He was between assignments when Bill Martin walked up with a miniature goat on a lead. Bill immediately asked him to bring the goat into the ring and began going through the motions of judging it, including going over the goat on the table. It was hysterical, except one of the Poodle exhibitors waiting was not amused and complained to the rep. However, when the rep saw the goat, she could not help but laugh. Truth is, the goat was better behaved than many of the dogs. SOPHIA KALUZNIACKI I was born in Poland during WWII. I live in Green Valley, Arizona, just south of Tucson. I am a veterinarian and I own and operate the Green Valley Animal Hospital. I went to my first dog show in 1957 with a German Shepherd puppy that I bought with babysitting money. I purchased my first Akita in 1968 and have bred over 100 AKC and/or FCI and interna- tional Champion Akitas, including top national specialty, spe- cialty and ROM Akitas in several countries. I have been judg- ing for more than 25 years and have judged in many countries including nationals in at least six. I have judged at Akita Club of America National for six times now and have been a mem- ber of Akita Club of America Judges Education Committee since its inception. Outside of dogs, I have bred and shown horses, even before I showed dogs. I also work on and race Corvettes and love art. 1. Describe the breed in three words. I need five words! Large, substantial, heavy boned, balanced and dignified. If you insist on three words, it would be large, substantial and dignified. 2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? Good head, ears and expression. Strong and level back, both standing and moving. Proper size, proportions and sound, balanced movement. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? I don’t think much is becoming exaggerated, except per- haps in some few instances, heads with muzzles some- what short or ears a bit on the small side. Also in a few dogs, exaggerated rear angulation. But I’m being picky here and do not see a huge problem at this time. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? Overall, the Akitas today are sounder with better rears, angulation and top lines. However, we are seeing many
more dogs that are lacking in size and are low stationed without the proper length of leg. Akita males are sup- posed to be between 26" and 28" at the withers, with under 25" being disqualifying. Females should be 24" to 26" tall. Most males, and definitely the females, being shown today are on the low end of the standard. One seldom sees a 28" male or a 26" female in the ring today. In the early 80s, I had a top-winning bitch that was 27" tall; I doubt you would see that today. Remember, this is a breed that has a height disqualification: under 25" for males and under 23" for females. I measure regularly and more judges should. I will also add that, happily, tempera- ments have improved substantially. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? New judges often do not understand what proper size and length of leg are and often mistake fat for substance. 6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. I believe I have covered most of the important points. I would be happy to take questions! I would also encour- age all judges to come to one of our Nationals and attend our judges’ education class. It is excellent and you will see more quality dogs than you will see at the majority of our all breed shows today. 7. And, for a bit of humor: what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? Many amusing incidents (most not fit for publishing), but one eye opener for me was early on in my judging career. It was a large entry and there was an observer judge watching from outside the ring. Afterwards, we had a dis- cussion. The judge asked, “So what did you think of that big, black and white dog in your open class?” I replied, “I placed him third.” Then the judge asked, “What did you not like about him?” I said, “Well, he did look like some- thing I might have bred.” The judge then asked me why I didn’t put the dog up. “Because he had some of the faults I least like in my breeding,” I told him, but I don’t think he ever got the point. He did not end up being a very good judge of Akitas. (I can safely say that today, since he passed away several years ago.) I wish him well judging dogs in heaven, as all of them are perfect once they have crossed the rainbow bridge.
“LARGE, SUBSTANTIAL AND DIGNIFIED.”
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FACTS ABOUT THE AKITA
by THE PUBLIC ED COMMITTEE
WHY IS THE AKITA A GOOD BREED FOR THE WINTER? 1) Before Akitas had an official breed name they were referred to simply as “snow country dogs”. The breed originated from the snowy, rural, mountainous region of Japan: Akita and Odate. 2) Akitas were originally used to hunt bear and guard property. They have a thick double coat, which protects them from the elements. An Akita’s undercoat is thick, soft and shorter than the outer coat. This attribute in combination with their straight, harsh and standing somewhat “off the body” outer coat allows Akitas to be waterproof. 3) Long coats are a fault in the Akita breed because ice sticks to their fur. It clumps up and may cause hypothermia leading to possible death. The Akita’s coat is the per- fect length, texture and density in cold climates to not only insulate the dog, but to also keep the snow and ice off. That is why their coat should be rough and stand-off; not silky, too short or excessively long. 4) Akitas have webbed toes to help
will usually receive a small statue of an Akita signifying health, happi- ness and a long life. 4) The famous deaf, blind author and political activist (who considered the breed to be “gentle, compan- ionable and trusty”), Helen Keller, is credited with bringing the first Akita into the United States in 1937. WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOUR BREED THAT MAKES IT SPECIAL PHYSICALLY? 1) Akita’s coat can be any color includ- ing white, brindle or pinto. It may even be of long-coat type. 2) An Akita’s trademark is the plush tail that typically curls over his back. 3) Each dog has their own unique tail set; therefore, when you see a group of Akitas’ tails, very few look the same. WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOUR BREED OF DOG A GOOD CHOICE FOR A FIRST TIME DOG OWNER? WHY? WHY NOT? 1) No—Akitas are large and powerful (often weighing over 100 pounds and may be a substantial dog to handle daily). 2) Akitas can also be strong-willed, so a dedication to formal obedience is necessary for a harmonious household. 3) Akitas are intelligent and proud; therefore, motivating them during training sessions can be a challenge. WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOUR BREED OF DOG A GOOD FAMILY DOG? WHY? WHY NOT? 1) Akitas are affectionate with their family and form strong bonds. 2) The Akita will instinctively guard their owner’s home, which is one of the reasons they require extensive positive exposure to a variety of
Historically, they keep their front dew claws because these “ice picks” help them climb out of icy water. 5) 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, etc. in a securely fenced yard until relegated to come inside the house. It is safe to say they prefer colder weather, love eating snow and rolling as a snow scrub. WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOUR BREED THAT MAKES IT UNIQUE HISTORICALLY? 1) The Akita is designated as a national monument in his native country of Japan. 2) 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 his owner. 3) There is a spiritual significance attached to the Akita; when a child is born in Japan, the proud family
walk on snow by distributing their weight more effectively.
“THERE IS A SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE ATTACHED TO THE AKITA; WHEN A CHILD IS BORN IN JAPAN, THE PROUD FAMILY WILL USUALLY
RECEIVE A SMALL STATUE OF AN AKITA SIGNIFYING HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND A LONG LIFE.”
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stimuli (people, places and things) on and off their place of residence. 3) Akitas tend to act aloof towards strangers and will need to learn that all people they do not know are not necessarily threats to them. 4) Akitas are a breed that requires respect from all who encounter them (family, friends and strangers); a challenging concept for many people to process and implement in their actions towards them. 5) Most households may not have the time to complete the level of obedi- ence training and socialization that Akitas require in order to become well-adjusted companions and mem- bers of society. WHAT HEALTH ISSUES ARE THERE WITH YOUR BREED? 1) Bloat—Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV): a condition associated with stomach bloat. Akita dogs are particularly susceptible to this condition, when the stomach twists (also known as volvulus or torsion) due to a variety of reasons. This condition is severe and requires immediate, emergency veterinary treatment. Akita owners should be alert to the symptoms of GDV and know the location of the nearest 24-hour veterinary medical facility. This condition without treatment (and sometimes with) is fatal. 2) Thyroid problems and Autoimmune disorders 3) Eye problems: Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): an adult-onset condition which gradual degenera- tion of the retina leading to blind- ness and cataracts. 4) Canine hip dysplasia: a malforma- tion of the hip joints that causes
work. Some Akitas excel as therapy dogs.
3) The breed will groom itself like a cat, is clean and housebreaking is usually not a problem. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON CRATE TRAINING? 1) Crate training can be very valu- able. For example, if an owner needs to leave their Akita at the vet or groomer, the dogs are usually housed in crates, runs or pens. Therefore, a dog successfully exposed to a variety of confinement situations will be more relaxed and successful in the aforementioned stressful environments. 2) Additionally, if an owner chooses to compete in conformation and/ or performance events, there are inevitably times when it may be a necessity to crate an Akita. 3) Confinement training is best done when a dog is young and may be dif- ficult with an older dog. Therefore, crate training is typically a plus for this breed all around. IS THERE A MYTH ABOUT YOUR BREED THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO CLEAR UP? 1) Akitas are listed by some insurance companies and represented in the media as dangerous dogs. They are also a target of breed specific legislation (BSL). 2) A well-socialized and trained Akita is not unsafe, but individuals should always give an Akita space and respect, not forcing themselves on the dog. WHAT ARE THE GROOMING REQUIREMENTS? 1) The breed has a thick double coat that should not be shaved. 2) Usually two times per year the Akita blows out his coat by shedding heavily. Akitas require regular brushing and nail trimming year-round. HOW MUCH EXERCISE WILL MY DOG NEED? 1) An Akita’s exercise level is medium; therefore, they will be happy with a good daily walk or jog. 2) Akitas are not known to be an overly
six-foot fenced area is needed when confined outdoors. 3) Akitas need to be an integral part of their family’s household, not one that is mainly kept as an outside dog. 4) The Akita’s genetically strong hunting instinct requires that they should never be allowed to roam loose or off leash in an unfenced area. IF APPLICABLE, WHEN SHOULD EARS BE CROPPED? DO I HAVE TO CROP? 1) Not applicable 2) Akitas have naturally erect ears and therefore, should never be cropped. I KNOW ALL BREEDS WERE CREATED TO DO A SPECIFIC JOB. IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE THAT YOUR BREED IS GOOD AT THAT MAY SURPRISE PEOPLE? 1) Akitas are generally quiet and not prone to nuisance barking. 2) Despite their quiet nature, they are natural guardians. They do not need and should not have special watch dog training. 3) Akitas are Working dogs (several hundred have been registered as therapy dogs) and can be seen visiting nursing homes/hospitals and doing reading programs with children at schools/libraries. “AKITAS NEED TO BE AN INTEGRAL PART OF THEIR FAMILY’S HOUSEHOLD, NOT ONE THAT IS MAINLY KEPT AS AN OUTSIDE DOG.”
arthritis—reputable breeders test potential parents for this before breeding.
HOW TRAINABLE IS YOUR BREED? HOUSEBREAKING? OBEDIENCE? 1) Akitas respond best to respectful commands and positive training techniques that rely on motivation rather than force. 2) Today, the Akita is popularly seen in the breed (conformation) ring, but many also participate in perfor- mance events such as obedience, rally, agility, tracking and nose
hyperactive breed, but they can both climb and dig, so a secure
258 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J UNE 2017
INFORMATION ON THE AKITA
by THE PUBLIC ED COMMITTE
HISTORY T he Akita is native to Japan. Its exact origin is not clear, but this ancient breed dates as far back as 500 BC. The Akita in Japan holds a very esteemed, almost mystical reputation. In the early years, the Akita was restricted to royalty. The Akita was used as a palace guard and wore ceremonial leashes and collars that identified the rank or nobility of its owner. The people who attended to the dogs also wore ceremonial outfits and spoke in a separate dialect to the dogs. As the horrible sport of dog fight- ing gained popularity, the Akita’s size, strength and spirit made it an obvious favorite in the pits. For years Akitas were bred to cultivate size and aggres- sion. The Japanese government realized that the future of the breed was at stake, declared the breed a national treasure and outlawed the sport of dog fighting. But it was these centuries of breed- ing that created the dog aggressive tendencies you will still find today in varying degrees. In the twentieth century the Japa- nese government still guarded the Akita jealously. The dogs were rarely allowed out of the country and when they were, it was usually as a gift to a foreign dig- nitary. The first Akita in the United States was a gift from the Japanese For- eign Minister to the well-known Helen Keller. And as World War II ended, the returning soldiers began to bring the dogs back to the states with them. The Akita gained popularity quickly in the states and was recognized by the Ameri- can Kennel Club in 1956 in the miscel- laneous class. The Akita was allowed to compete for championship points in 1973. PHYSICAL APPEARANCE The Akita always makes a lasting first impression. Akitas are large, pow- erful dogs with substantial bone and musculature. The broad chest and neck serve as a solid base for the Akita’s
“THE LOYALTY AND DEVOTION DISPLAYED
BY AN AKITA IS PHENOMENAL.”
large head—the Akita’s most distin- guishing feature. The broad skull and the short muzzle form a blunt triangle when viewed from above. The massive head in combination with the small triangular-shaped eyes and small, erect ears give the Akita an intimidating, yet dignified, expression. The Akita is a very balanced look- ing dog, being only slightly longer than it is tall. The tail is curled and carried over the back, which serves to balance with the dog’s head. Typically, the male Akita is substantially larger than the female. The males range in weight from about 100-130 pounds and females from 70-100 pounds. The coat of the Akita has the appear- ance of the typical Northern breeds. The double coat is short to moderate in length, but very dense. The coat consists of two layers; the undercoat is very soft and is the primary insulator, while the outer coat, or the guard hairs, is slightly longer and coarser. The Akita is very well suited to the coldest of cli- mates and while they might not enjoy hot weather, their coat does lighten considerably in the warmer months to compensate for the heat. TEMPERAMENT The personality of the Akita is very complex. While temperaments vary, most would agree that the Akita is very intelligent, extremely loyal and can exhibit aggressive tendencies.
The aggressive tendencies are almost exclusively towards other dogs of the same sex. Typically, Akitas are not aggressive towards people, but do have a very well-developed guarding and protective instinct. Akitas also have a high and well-developed prey drive. An Akita is not likely to shower affec- tion on someone that is not a member of his family or a close friend that he sees frequently. The loyalty and devotion displayed by an Akita is phenomenal. The typi- cal pet Akita will follow you from room to room, yet has the uncanny ability not to be under foot. Your Akita lives his life as if his only purpose is to pro- tect and spend time with you. This trait is evident in a favorite tale told by Akita owners all over the world. This tale is the story of Hachiko. In Tokyo, Hachiko would accompany his master to the train station every morning and return to retrieve him every afternoon. Hachiko’s master was a professor at Tokyo University and one day he died at work. It is said that every day for the rest of the dog’s life, Hachiko returned to the train station twice daily looking for his master. The story was quite famous in Tokyo and the general public cared for the dog until his death. Hachiko is preserved in a museum in Tokyo and a statue stands at the train station in trib- ute to his undying devotion. To this day the statue is a popular romantic place for lovers to meet.
S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J UNE 2017 • 259
own, but this is also a demanding breed and should not be casually added to the household on a whim. WILL YOU ENJOY OWNING AN AKITA? If you are looking for a bright, sensi- tive and responsive dog that you will be able to spend time, will be able to train and will be protective, loyal and devot- ed to you and your family for the rest of his life, then perhaps you will enjoy owning an Akita. The Akita can be a guard dog. He feels that one of his jobs is to protect his family. You don’t need to train him to do this; it comes naturally to him. He will be watchful of people on your property, expressing suspicion with a low rumble; Akitas are not barkers. They quickly learn to differentiate between strangers and friends. Akitas are not tolerant of other dogs especially those of the same sex. Under no circum- stances should an Akita be allowed to roam through the neighborhood! The Akita, although a large dog, does not require huge amounts of exer- cise. Like any dog, an Akita will thrive on a moderate amount of exercise and enjoys playing energetically. You will be happier and so will your dog if you choose a breed that fits into your pres- ent lifestyle. Don’t expect to change your way of life once you’ve acquired a dog. Akitas do not shed on a continual basis; however, they do “blow their coats” about twice a year. As the new coat is beginning to grow into place, large tufts of hair will loosen. The coat can be easily removed by using an undercoat rake or wire slicker brush. The dog seems to enjoy this extra atten- tion and if done on a regular basis as the coat is shedding, the new coat will come in more quickly. The Akita is a Working dog. The Working dog group includes some of the most intelligent breeds of dogs. You’ll be amazed at how quickly he learns and at the number of things you can teach him. But his intelligence carries an obligation with it. An Akita won’t be happy if left alone in a pen or house all day. A Working dog enjoys life most when he is given a responsi- bility and a job to do, whether the job is obedience, baby-sitting, backpacking or hunting. The Akita demands your
“AKITAS ARE TYPICALLY VERY GENTLE WITH CHILDREN AND IT IS SAID THAT JAPANESE MOTHERS OFTEN LEFT THEIR CHILDREN WITH ONLY THE AKITAS TO WATCH OVER AND PROTECT THEM.”
THE AKITA AS A HOUSE PET Even though Akitas are large, hardy dogs that can withstand the elements, they have been bred for centuries to be house companions. The two most out- standing characteristics of the Akita as a house pet are that they are very clean dogs and are very easy to housebreak. Akitas have been described as almost cat-like they are so clean and odorless. This may also be one of the reasons why they housebreak so easily. Most Akitas respond so well to housebreaking that they are trained in a matter of weeks. As far as the family children are con- cerned, there are a few worries. Akitas are devoted, patient friends and protec- tors of children. Akitas are typically very gentle with children and it is said that Japanese mothers often left their children with only the Akitas to watch over and protect them. Of course with a new baby entering into a home with an Akita, proper introductions and pre- cautions should be taken until the Akita understands the situation. Of course, young children should never be left unsupervised with large dogs of any breed, as the potential for an accident is not worth the risk. IS THE AKITA THE DOG FOR EVERYONE? Right about now, you are probably thinking, “What’s the catch?” Well, the Akita is not the right dog for everyone. The person who assumes responsibility for an Akita must be able to take control of the dog at an early age. This means
that the person has to be the dominant party in this relationship. Dominance is more a state of mind, but you must also be prepared to physically domi- nate the dog, if necessary. Akitas, as with most dogs, live their lives in a pack environment, whether the pack be ani- mals or people. If you are not willing to be the leader of the pack, the Akita most certainly will. So the Akita owner must have the energy and will to keep a firm, consistent discipline as the dog matures. A little work and persistence in training in the early months with an Akita will reap you huge benefits as a well-behaved member of the fam- ily down the road. ( John Newland, President, ACUMW) IS THE AKITA THE RIGHT DOG FOR YOU? Before you buy an Akita puppy, think: What do I want my dog to be like? How will this dog fit into my life- style? What is my living situation? Con- sider what your needs are and what the dog’s needs will be. Do they conflict? Think of the dogs you’ve enjoyed own- ing in the past. Were they easygoing or intense? Self-willed, or independent; outgoing or reserved; placid or ener- getic? Then ask yourself if you have the time needed to devote to socializing, training and loving your dog. The Akita is an extremely intelligent, large, energetic and strongly territorial dog whose life is oriented toward his owners. If he is the right dog for you, he is one of the most rewarding breeds to
260 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J UNE 2017
or stay one more time, he will simply walk away! Obedience training requires patience! • Some Akitas are talkers! They may grunt, groan and mumble to entertain themselves and you. This conversational verbalizing is not growling and should not be interpreted as a growl, which sounds quite different. Akita talking is an endearing trait and should not frighten you. After living with your dog, you will easily distinguish between talking and growling. • Most Akitas enjoy carrying things around in their mouth, including your wrist! They may take you by the wrist to lead you to the cookie cupboard or to their lead. It is not an aggressive act, it is an endearing trait. Try allowing your Akita to bring in the newspaper or the mail. They love to do these types of jobs. • Akitas are very family-oriented and are not happy when kept apart from the family. If you do not plan on having your dog live with you inside both your home and yard, you should not seri- ously consider an Akita for a pet. • Akitas are not hyperactive and fit into a sedentary household, but for optimum health for both you “AKITAS SHOULD BE OBEDIENCE TRAINED BY THEIR OWNER AND NOT SENT AWAY TO SCHOOL LIKE OTHER BREEDS!”
attention and thrives on it when trained and worked regularly. Don’t buy an Akita because of the pictures you’ve seen, stories you’ve read or because they are the “in thing”. Meet the dogs, watch them at shows and visit them at home. There is a big difference between a cute eight-week-old ball of fur and a full-grown adult. If, after all of that, you still want an Akita, then wel- come to a most pleasurable experience. (ACA, Inc.-compiled by S. Thomas 1992) (Updated by Nadine Gilomen 1993) FACTS ABOUT AKITAS • The Akita is a Japanese breed and in his native country, the Akita has been declared a national treasure. An Akita in a home is believed to be a symbol of good health, prosperity and good fortune. Helen Keller brought the first Akita to the United States in 1937. • Akitas do not bark unless there is a good reason. When an Akita is barking, pay attention. Akitas are natural guardians of the home and do not require any training to turn them into guard dogs. When there is a reason to protect family and property, your Akita will act to do so. • Akitas are inherently aggressive toward other animals and for this reason, they should not be allowed to run free or roam at will. You can exercise your Akita off leash when you are in an area where contact with other ani- mals and people is unlikely • Male Akitas show aggression toward other male dogs and female Akitas usually will not tol- erate another female. Akitas can live peacefully with a dog of the opposite sex, though some Akitas prefer being an only dog!
• Akitas are very food possessive. If you have other pets, you will want to be certain the Akita is given its own food bowl or treat well away from any other animals and that no other animal is allowed near the Akita until the food is gone. • Akitas not raised with children are not always tolerant of small children and the Akita should never be left alone with a child until you are certain you have a dog who adores all children. Often, Akitas raised with chil- dren will tolerate their own children but may not accept the neighborhood kids. As a general rule, it is wise not to leave an Akita or any large dog alone with children under 12 years of age. • Akitas do not like to be teased and can respond by biting. Some children are allowed to treat animals unkindly, a behavior that often leads to cruelty to animals. These children should be kept away from an Akita, whose large size and hunting instincts can endanger the child’s life. • Akitas like to take charge—an inherited trait from their wolf ancestry—and may at some time, challenge you for the dominant position. This behavior cannot be tolerated and a firm, consistent correction should be your imme- diate response. Akitas with good temperament accept discipline well—not beating, but intelligent discipline. A good scruff shaking is an effective form of discipline for an Akita. Frequently, a firm verbal command will get your point across. • Akitas should be obedience trained by their owner and not sent away to school like other breeds! A good obedience class, perhaps beginning with puppy kindergarten, will guarantee you a firm bond with your dog and a well-behaved dog. Remember though, Akitas are extremely intelligent and tend to get bored easily. They learn quickly, so short training periods are sug- gested. This keeps the dog from becoming bored. Akitas are also very stubborn and when the dog thinks it’s a waste of time to sit
• Akitas may consider small
animals as prey and hunt them. This includes cats, rodents, birds, small wildlife and small dogs. Akitas can be raised to accept animals in residence. Some adult Akitas can even be trained to fit into a home where other animals are already established. It is, how- ever, imperative that the Akita be closely watched around the other animals until you have estab- lished a peaceful co-existence.
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