Akita Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.
Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard of the Akita General Appearance : Large, powerful, alert, with much substance and heavy bone. The broad head, forming a blunt triangle, with deep muzzle, small eyes and erect ears carried forward in line with back of neck, is characteristic of the breed. The large, curled tail, balancing the broad head, is also characteristic of the breed. Head : Massive but in balance with body; free of wrinkle when at ease. Skull flat between ears and broad; jaws square and powerful with minimal dewlap. Head forms a blunt triangle when viewed from above. Fault – Narrow or snipy head. Muzzle – Broad and full. Distance from nose to stop is to distance from stop to occiput as 2 is to 3. Stop – Well defined, but not too abrupt. A shallow furrow extends well up forehead. Nose – Broad and black. Black noses on white Akitas preferred, but a lighter colored nose with or without shading of black or gray tone is acceptable. Disqualification – partial or total lack of pigmentation on the nose surface. Any nose color other than black, except on white Akitas. Ears – The ears of the Akita are characteristic of the breed. They are strongly erect and small in relation to rest of head. If ear is folded forward for measuring length, tip will touch upper eye rim. Ears are triangular, slightly rounded at tip, wide at base, set wide on head but not too low, and carried slightly forward over eyes in line with back of neck. Disqualification – Drop or broken ears. Eyes – Dark brown, small, deep-set and triangular in shape. Eye rims black and tight. Lips and Tongue – Lips black and pendulous; tongue pink. Teeth – Strong with scissors bite preferred, but level bite acceptable. Disqualification – noticeably undershot or overshot. Neck and Body : Neck – Thick and muscular; comparatively short, widening gradually toward shoulders. A pronounced crest blends in with base of skull. Body – Longer than high, as 10 is to 9 in males; 11 to 9 in bitches. Chest wide and deep; depth of chest is one-half height of dog at shoulder. Ribs well sprung, brisket well developed. Level back with firmly-muscled loin and moderate tuck-up. Skin pliant but not loose. Serious Faults – Light bone, rangy body. Tail – Large and full, set high and carried over back or against flank in a three-quarter, full, or double curl, always dipping to or below level of back. On a three-quarter curl, tip drops well down flank. Root large and strong. Tail bone reaches hock when let down. Hair coarse, straight and full, with no appearance of a plume. Disqualification – Sickle or uncurled tail. Forequarters and Hindquarters: Forequarters – Shoulders strong and powerful with moderate layback. Forelegs heavy-boned and straight as viewed from front. Angle of pastern 15 degrees forward from vertical. Faults – Elbows in or out, loose shoulders. Hindquarters – Width, muscular development and bone comparable to forequarters. Upper thighs well developed. Stifle moderately bent and hocks well let down, turning neither in nor out. Dewclaws – On front legs generally not removed; dewclaws on hind legs generally removed. Feet – Cat feet, well knuckled up with thick pads. Feet straight ahead. Coat : Double-coated. Undercoat thick, soft, dense and shorter than outer coat. Outer coat straight, harsh and standing somewhat off body. Hair on head, legs and ears short. Length of hair at withers and rump approximately two inches, which is slightly longer than on rest of body, except tail, where coat is longest and most profuse. Fault – Any indication of ruff or feathering. Color and Marking Patterns: Any coloring including white; brindle; or pinto. Exceptions: Merle marking pattern. Liver color. Colors are rich, brilliant and clear and markings are well balanced, with or without mask or blaze. White Akitas have no mask. Pinto has a white background with large, evenly placed patches covering head and more than one-third of body.
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Undercoat may be a different color from outer coat. Disqualification – Merle marking pattern. Liver color. Gait : Brisk and powerful with strides of moderate length. Back remains strong, firm and level. Rear legs move in line with front legs. Size : Males 26 to 28 inches at the withers; bitches 24 to 26 inches. Disqualification – dogs under 25 inches; bitches under 23 inches. Temperament : Alert and responsive, dignified and courageous. Akitas may be intolerant of other dogs, particularly of the same sex. Disqualifications : Partial or total lack of pigmentation on nose. Any nose color other than black, except on white Akitas. Drop or broken ears. Noticeably undershot or overshot. Sickle or uncurled tail. Dogs under 25 inches; bitches under 23 inches. Merle marking pattern. Liver Color.
Approved May 10, 2022 Effective August 8, 2022
JUDGING THE AKITA
By Nancy Amburgery
FIRST IMPRESSIONS A
His HEAD is massive but in balance with the body. It looks like a blunt tri- angle. It will be free of wrinkle when he is at ease. Th e skull is fl at between the ears. I will fault a snipey or narrow head. Th e EARS are carried slightly forward. Th ey are triangular, strong, thick and well furred, with slightly rounded tips. Our fi rst DQ is here (#1); Drop or broken ears are to be disquali fi ed. Th e EYES are tri- angular in shape, small tight, black rims and dark brown in color. Th e MUZZLE is broad and strong. Th e distance from his nose to his stop as to the distance from stop to occiput is 2 to 3. His NOSE is broad and black although we do allow a lighter nose with or without shading of black or gray on a white Akita. A dog with a partial or total lack of pigmentation is another of our Disquali fi cations. (DQ #2) At our JEC seminars, we like to say the head is a symphony of triangles. Bite: I generally ask the handler to show me the bite. An Akita should have a scis- sors bite although a level bite is acceptable. We do have a disquali fi cation for either over shot or undershot. (DQ #3) Since we don’t have a disquali fi cation for missing teeth and complete dentition is not men- tioned in the standard I don’t ask for more than a bite check. I move on to the body. Th e shoulders are strong and powerful, with a moderate layback. Th e front legs are heavy boned and straight. Th e depth of the chest is 1/2 the height of the dog. I run my hand across his top line. It is level. Leaving my hand on the dog, i step on around to his rear, lift- ing his tail if it impedes my checking his
fter walking the ring and deciding my pat- tern for the day, I bring in the fi rst class. I like to bring them in and have a look
at them all before moving. While most exhibitors are aware, keep in mind a little space between dogs is the norm. Looking down the line, its my opportunity to get an idea of proportion, size and balance. I review some key words from the standard; alert, digni fi ed, large and powerful. Th en, I send them around together. As they go, I compare the side gaits of the group. Here I’m looking for powerful, brisk and a moderate stride. As they come around to the designated stopping point I am ready to go over my fi rst dog. INDIVIDUAL EXAMS Th e dog has been set up and I stand back so I can look at his general propor- tions. Th e tail is curled over the back and will balance the head. Th e top line is level. Akitas are longer than tall. In dogs, as 10 is to 9. In bitches, as 11 is to 9. I walk in front of the dog, stopping short of being straight in front. Here I’m within their vision and they know I’m approaching. As I approach I usually give a good morning with a smile to the han- dler but I’m actually addressing the dog. A con fi dent glance of the head taking note of head shape, ears, eyes, nose and length of muzzle, not staring into his eyes, starts my examination. Th en we go into the actual hands on.
“HIS HEAD IS MASSIVE BUT IN BALANCE WITH THE BODY. It looks like a blunt triangle.”
“AN AKITA SHOULD HAVE A SCISSORS BITE although a level bite is acceptable.”
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“AN AKITA’S MOVEMENT IS SIMILAR WITH MANY WORKING DOGS.
The rear legs move in line with the front.”
top line and gently putting it back where I found it. Th en I run my hands down his hips/thighs verifying muscle tone and slip one hand in to check testicles if it is required. His upper thighs are well devel- oped, he will have a moderately bent sti fl e and well let down hocks. I step away, mov- ing to the right behind the handler and around to the front. Th is puts me at the top of the down and back without walk- ing up beside the dog from behind. Th is is what I do with all breeds. An Akita’s movement is similar with many working dogs. Th e rear legs move in line with the front. Although an Aki- ta doesn’t actually converge, he will have a tendency as he moves along to come in toward the middle line. From the side, he should have a moderate stride. Brisk and powerful but moderate. And here, I will discuss feet. Th e Akita’s foot is a cat foot. Toes are knuckled up and short, pads are thick. You know, like a cat. Flat feet with
splayed toes and incorrect ears are my per- sonal pet peeves. Not the only ones, but certainly worth mentioning here. As I’m observing this dog, I remember other parts of the standard. His tail will be curled over and touching his back. It could be a tight curl; it could be a ¾ curl with the end dropping over his fl ank, but it must be touching his back. A tail that hangs straight down behind or is a sickle tail is a disquali fi cation (DQ#4... and you thought I’d forgotten!) We all know, on really hot days we feel a little droopy or when we’re young, we are perhaps timid and in Akita’s case, their tail may just hang down. Nor- mally, a go round the ring will pop the tail back up on the back where it belongs. Th at is a qualifying tail. Th e Akita is a double coated breed. Th e under coat is soft and dense with a longer harsher guard hair. And, although everything is great about an Akita, one of the best is they come in all colors. We tell
judges and potential puppy buyers that color should not be a consideration BUT its still great they can be so many hued. Our standard allows any color including white (white Akitas have no mask), pin- to (a pinto has a white background with large, evenly placed patches covering the head and more than ⅓ of the body) and brindle. Th e colors are brilliant and clear and markings are well balanced with or without a mask. And, the undercoat can be a di ff erent color than the top coat and quite frequently is! Dogs are 26"-28" tall. Under 25" is a disquali fi cation. Bitches are 24"-26" tall. Under 23" is a disquali fi cation. ( Th at’s DQ #5 and our last one.) Th is INCLUDES puppies. If there is a question on height I measure and I’m asking you to do so. Our standard is very speci fi c about size with under the minimum being a disquali fi ca- tion. Th e Akita is considered a large breed, let’s keep it in the range speci fi ed.
“THE AKITA’S FOOT IS A CAT FOOT. Toes are knuckled up and short, pads are thick.”
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“The Akita’s personality is what attracts many people to my breed. THEY CAN BE FUN LOVING AND A JOKESTER WITH THEIR PEOPLE ONE MINUTE, ALERT AND PROTECTIVE IN THE NEXT.”
Th e Akita’s personality is what attracts many people to my breed. Th ey can be fun loving and a jokester with their people one minute, alert and pro- tective in the next. Th ey walk down the street or through a show site like they own everything they can see inspiring awe. But take note, they can be intoler- ant of other dogs especially of the same sex. Please don’t pack several Akitas in a corner while you’re sorting out another group, neither the handlers or the dogs will appreciate it.
OK, I’m done with the class, it’s time to place them. I hope as you’ve read this article you’ve been able to derive the key points, the essence, of an Akita. Th ey are large with heavy bone and substance, balance, correct heads, ears, tail and gives the overall impression of power and stature with a reserved temperament. A very wise man once told me, “When you go to dog shows, if you stay all day and watch other breeds; stay and watch the groups, you should be able to pick out a good dog. You may not know all the dis-
quali fi cations or nuances but you should be able to pick out a good dog.” Th at’s what I’m challenging you all to do. To learn more about the Akita or for that matter, any breed, go to shows. Watch all day. And then go one step farther. Talk to the exhibitors. Talk to other judges. Go to seminars. Finally, remember the standard is what breeders are striving for. As judges we all need to choose our winners with that standard always forefront in our minds. And enjoy what you do, I do.
“TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AKITA OR FOR THAT MATTER, ANY BREED, GO TO SHOWS.”
BIO Nancy Amburgay acquired her first Akita in 1988, and quickly become interested in AKC sports, exhibiting both in conformation and obedience. She has bred and han- dled many Champions including Top Twenty competitors, specialty winners, National Specialty BOS and AOM’s. She is approved to judge most of the working group and Junior Showmanship and is currently the ACA National’s Show Chair and member of the ACA Judges’ Education Committee. After living most of her life in Ohio, Nancy recently moved to Texas with her husband.
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AKITA FIRST IMPRESSIONS THE
BY NANCY AMBURGEY
T his is my routine when judging the Akita. If there are multiple entries in a class, I bring them in and line them up, looking for balance and proportions as they come in and set up. While most exhibitors are aware of this, keep in mind that a little space between dogs is the norm. I send them around together, looking at each dog’s side gait (moderate and powerful) and level topline. When they come around to the designated stopping point, I am ready to go over my first dog. INDIVIDUAL EXAMS The dog has been set up and I stand back so that I can look at general propor- tions. The tail is curled over the back and should balance the head. The topline is level. Akitas are longer than tall. (In dogs, as 10 is to 9; in bitches, as 11 is to 9). Sometimes an Akita will come in the ring with its tail down. It’s usually a young puppy, a bitch coming into her first season or any dog on a 100-degree day in August. Never fear, most will come up when they are moved. We’ll talk more about this later. I have adopted a 3/4 approach when walking up to dogs for the initial exam. Here I’m within their vision and they know I’m approaching. As I approach, I usu- ally give a good morning with a smile to the handler but I’m actually addressing the dog. A quick glance of the head and I’m able to take note of head shape, ears, eyes, and length of muzzle. I don’t bend over the dog; I approach with confidence, neither too fast nor hesitantly. His head is massive but in balance with the body. When viewed from above, it looks like a blunt triangle. It will be free of wrinkle when he is at ease. Don’t be fooled by markings. The skull is flat between the ears. The ears are carried slightly forward, strong, thick, and well-furred, with slightly rounded tips. From a side view, they are in-line with the neck. From the front, they look triangular. Our first DQ is here (DQ #1); drop or broken ears are to be disqualified. The eyes are also triangular in shape; small, tight, black rims, and dark brown in color. The muzzle is broad and strong. The distance from his nose to his stop as to the distance from stop to occiput is 2 to 3. His nose is broad and black, although a lighter nose with or without shading of black or gray on a WHITE Akita is acceptable. Our standard states that “partial or total lack of pigmentation on the nose surface” is a disquali- fication (DQ #2). We have started seeing dogs that are liver. They are also called chocolate. A liver or chocolate dog WILL NOT have a black nose. Their nose as well as their lips and eye rims will be liver-colored. While our standard doesn’t specifically address liver pigment at this time, the dog does not meet our standard and must be heavily penalized to preclude it from being placed. Although this was all taken in quickly as I approach the dog, clearly, the head is important to the overall balance and appearance.
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his back. A tail that hangs straight down behind or is a sickle tail is a disqualification (DQ#4). If the tail is hanging down, I ignore it while I’m examining the dog. When he moves, it should come up, usually on the down and back, BUT even if it comes up on the go-round and touches his back, even for a second, it’s okay. That doesn’t mean I’ll use him, but it does mean he meets the standard. The Akita is a double-coated breed. The under- coat is soft and dense with longer, harsher guard hair. Although I think everything is great about an Akita, one of the best is that they come in all colors. We tell judges and potential puppy buyers that color should not be a consideration, BUT it’s still great that they can be in so many hues. Our standard allows any col- or, including white (white Akitas have no mask), pin- to (a pinto has a white background with large, evenly placed patches covering the head and more than one- third of the body) and brindle. However, although any color is allowed, it must have proper pigmenta- tion; remembering that whites and only whites MAY have a lighter-shaded nose. The colors are brilliant and clear, and markings are well-balanced with or without a mask. The undercoat can be a different color than the topcoat, and quite frequently it is! Dogs are 26"-28" tall. Under 25" is a disqualifi- cation. Bitches are 24"-26" tall. Under 23" is a dis- qualification. (That’s DQ #5 and our last one.) This INCLUDES puppies. Imagine a cute fuzzy puppy finishing from the 6-9 Class. It happens all the time. ALTHOUGH AN AKITA DOESN’T ACTUALLY CONVERGE, HE WILL HAVE A TENDENCY AS HE MOVES ALONG TO COME IN TOWARD THE MIDDLE LINE.” “AN AKITA’S MOVEMENT IS SIMILAR TO MANY OTHER WORKING DOGS. THE REAR LEGS MOVE IN-LINE WITH THE FRONT.
At this point, I have stepped to the side of the dog and asked the handler to show the bite. An Akita should have a scissors bite, although a level bite is acceptable. We do have a disqualification for either overshot or undershot (DQ #3). Although I have only seen one or two overshot bites, I am seeing undershot more and more frequently. Since we don’t have a disqualification for missing teeth, and complete dentition is not mentioned in the standard, I don’t ask for more than a bite check. I move on to the body. The shoulders are strong and powerful, with moderate layback. The front legs are heavy-boned and straight. The depth of the chest is one-half the height of the dog. I run my hand across his topline. It is level. Leav- ing my hand on the dog, I step around to his rear, lifting his tail if it impedes my checking his topline and gently putting it back where I found it. Please, please don’t pull the tail down to check length. In some cases, this might be uncom- fortable for the dog. Yes, I know the standard says tail bone must reach point of hock, but it’s merely a guideline. If you’ve ever seen an Akita with a tail too short, you’ll know it. The balance of the dog will be “off.” I slip one hand in to check his testicles, take note of well-let-down hocks, and I’m “out.” I step away, moving to the right behind the handler and around to the front. This puts me at the top of the down and back without walking up beside the dog from behind. This is what I do with all breeds, even Toys. An Akita’s movement is similar to many other Working Dogs. The rear legs move in-line with the front. Although an Akita doesn’t actually converge, he will have a tendency as he moves along to come in toward the middle line. From the side, he should have a moderate stride. Brisk and powerful, but moderate. And here, I will discuss feet. The Akita’s foot is a cat foot. Toes are knuckled up and short, pads are thick. You know, like a cat. Flat feet with splayed toes and incor- rect ears are my personal pet peeves. As I’m observing this dog, I touch on other parts of the standard. His tail will be curled over and touching his back. It could be a tight curl; it could be a three-quarter curl with the end dropping over his flank, but it must be touching
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Then we never see him again because he never made height! If there is a question on height, I measure, and I’m asking you to do so. Our standard is very specific about size, with under the minimum being a disqualification. The Akita is considered a large breed, let’s keep it in the range specified; that range being 26"–28" for dogs and 24"-26" for bitches. While under 23" or 25" is a DQ, we want 24"-26" and 26"-28"!! The Akita’s personality is what attracts many people to my breed. They can be fun-loving and a jokester with their people one minute, alert and protective in the next. They are smart as a whip, but because they are so independent, they don’t like repeti- tive training. They walk down the street or through a show site like they own everything. It is awe-inspiring. But take note, they can be intolerant of other dogs, especially of the same sex. Please don’t pack several Akitas in a corner while you’re sorting out another group—neither the handlers nor the dogs will appreciate it. For large classes, I excuse a group so that I can see movement, and everyone stays safe. I don’t do this because I’ve had a problem, I do it because it’s the safest thing to do and it helps me to judge large classes in ANY breed. Okay, I’m done with the class. It’s time to place them. I hope that as you’ve read this you’ve been able to derive the key points, the essence of an Akita. They are large with heavy bone and sub- stance, balanced, with triangular heads and triangular, forward-set ears, curled tail, and they give the overall impression of power and stature with a reserved temperament. A very wise man once told me, “When you go to dog shows, if you stay all day and watch other breeds, the Groups, and Best in Show, while you may not know all the disqualifications or nuanc- es, you should be able to pick out a good dog.” That’s what I’m challenging you all to do. To learn more about the Akita or, for that matter, any breed, go to shows. Watch all day and then go one step further. Talk to the exhibitors. Talk to other judges. Go to seminars. Finally, remember that the standard is what breeders are striv- ing for. As judges, we all need to choose our winners, with that standard always forefront in our minds. Whether you are an exhib- itor or a judge, I hope that you were able to picture my day and get a new “nugget” from it about the Akita. Enjoy your next show… I know I will.
BIO In 1988, after looking at many breeds, Nancy Amburgey decided on the Akita. Her first Akita was a companion, but she quickly became interested in Conformation and Obedience. Nancy enjoyed dog sports and the dogs so much that she had to have more, so she set up multiple kennel runs, bought an Astro van, and bred a few litters. She has bred and handled many Champions, Top Twenty competitors, and National Specialty BOS and AOMs. Nancy was on the initial committee for Breeder’s Education. She has served on the board of her local Akita Club, the Akita Club of America, and several all-breed kennel clubs. Nancy was Show Chair for two different breed’s National Specialties for multiple years, and she has been on the committee for the two standard revisions. She currently serves on the Judges Education Committee alongside some wonderful and knowledgeable ladies in her breed. Nancy has been honored to judge the Akita Club of America’s National Specialty twice and several other countries’ American Akita National Specialties, including France, Finland, and Russia. She is approved to judge the Working Group, most of the Toy Group, Juniors, and Best in Show. After moving around the country during the last 10 years, chasing her husband, they are back in Ohio and eagerly awaiting his retirement.
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THE AKITA…. The Heart of the Breed
By Julie Mays
A kita…. a National Mon- ument of Japan, its orig- inal country of origin. Th e first Akita in the United States was gifted to Helen Keller in 1937 when, on a visit to Japan, she had arranged to visit the Akita region. Ms. Keller had learned of the story of Hachiko the leg- endary and faithful Akita, who waited for his master at the station for years after his master died while away. She wanted to visit the train station where his Bronze likeness and plaque bearing his story stood on the spot where he had loyally waited for his Master each day. Upon expressing a desire to meet an Akita, a Police Department instructor fulfilled her wish. As she loved large dogs and was so impressed with the Akita’s faithfulness, the decision was made by the Police Instructor and his family to formally present her with their own puppy, Kamikaze-Go, he was just 75 days old and she nicknamed him “Kami”. Unfor- tunately, after returning to the States, and to Helen Keller’s utter devastation, she lost Kami to distemper at just 7 ½ months of age. It was decided by the government to send another Akita to her as an o ffi cial gift of the Japanese Government in 1939—it was not until Kenzan-Go arrived that Ms. Keller learned that he had been generously provided to her by the same young Police Instructor and that her “Go-Go” was the litter brother of her precious Kami! Go-Go protected her and brought her much joy each day of his life. It has been said that young American servicemen also found the breed’s loyalty and dignity alluring and brought some Akita to American shores when they returned from WW II.
Th e Akita region that the breed origi- nates from is a mountainous and arctic (winter) region of Japan and the breed was originally used in pairs to track and hunt the 800-pound Yezo bear, holding it until the human hunter arrived to kill the bear. Perhaps the legendary faithfulness of the Akita is derived from their original purpose on the side of a mountain with a lone hunter and a hunting mate of the opposite sex. Th e Akita is not a pack ani- mal in the “traditional” hunting dog defi- nition, for they can be intolerant of other animals, especially those of the same sex. Th ey possess a heightened prey drive but can be raised and taught to tolerate other animals in their domain today, if much consideration and respect is given to the nature of the breed. While Akitas are no longer used to hunt bear—aside from the Conformation show ring—they continue to prove their faithfulness, natural intelligence, dignity and all-purpose working ability in many areas. Akitas today participate in a variety of Performance events, serve as Th erapy Dogs, Crisis Response Dogs and even as Service Dogs in the right situation! In 2008 the American Kennel Club Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) in the Th erapy Dog category (there are five
catagories and one dog is awarded in each category from the thousands submitted each year) was awarded to Zadok, loved/ owned/trained by Julie Burk of Oregon. Zadok had a remarkable instinct for knowing just the right way to approach each person, based on his/her needs and could even detect when someone was near death and would then provide extra comfort. Zadok and Julie were also certi- fied as a National Animal Assisted Crisis Response Team, helping people in disas- ters….whether that meant comforting victims or rescue/recovery workers. Zadok comforted students and faculty at the Vir- ginia Tech shootings in 2007 and, again a few short months later at Northern Illinois University in 2008, earning him and Julie a spot in both those college families. Sadly, Julie lost Zadok at just under 10 years of age but he will now live on as a relevant and important part of Akita history as an example of what an Akita can be in the hands of a knowledgeable owner who can help him/her reach their full potential and develop their capacity for seemingly human understanding. Akitas can and are able to be trained in obedience, agility and even rally but it requires special skills as a train- er/handler to understand the Akita
“THE AKITA IS NOT A PACK ANIMAL IN THE ‘TRADITIONAL’ HUNTING DOG DEFINITION, for they can be intolerant of other animals...”
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“...LARGE, POWERFUL, STUBBORN, INTUITIVE, AND LOYAL WITH COMEDIC SENSE— it could also be said that the Akita has an indomitable spirit and ‘heart’.”
intelligence and, despite their obvious sense of dignity, their uncanny sense of humor! Th e Akita is one of a handful of breeds which possesses the innate ability to “think for themselves”. Th is is not to say they won’t respect your authority but they must see a reason to do what you’re asking them to do, especially if it’s repetitive. For this reason, when training in performance events, it becomes imperative to be firm but patient and keep it interesting, chal- lenging and fun for the Akita. More than one Akita owner has found themselves on the receiving end of an Akita’s boredom induced comedic antics at just the wrong moment! Th e owner of a Veteran Akita at the Akita Club of America National Spe- cialty thought she’d like to try her dog in a Rally run-through, even though he had not ever participated, she thought he might like to try it. On a sit/stay, she gave the command and he sat, very, very slow- ly. He then proceeded to bark at her each time she looked at him! She had success- fully taught him the “speak” command in the past and though she had not given the command in the quiet room—he clearly had decided that he did not see a reason to sit with all these people watching him and wanted to liven things up a bit! When corrected for “speaking”, he proceeded to not only bark but o ff ered her a “high five” to the delighted laughter and applause of those watching! While the Akita is loyal to a fault, this leads to a natural a ffi nity to guard its home and those in its home. Upon first meeting, the Akita may appear aloof until it quietly assesses your intentions and perceives you to be no threat and then it may approach you as a way of introduction. What you will experience is a large, powerful canine moving fluidly, almost catlike and gen- tly to its visitor o ff ering a gentle nudge of their hand or simply sitting by your side accepting a few gentle pats on the head.
It was for this reason that Andi Meloon donated an Akita for Bill Bobrow to train as a service/seeing eye dog for Dr. Je ff rey Fowler in 1994, a heart surgeon who lost his eyesight! Dottie the service dog was welcome at the o ffi ce and the hospital as Dr. Fowler continued his work with Dot- tie as his eyes and other surgeons as his hands. She exemplified the intelligence of the breed and the knowledge that she had work to do and attended to Dr. Fowler and his patients with gentle, calming reassur- ance. For her service, Dottie was awarded the Delta Society Service Dog of the Year Award in 1994. Perhaps, aside from all of the usual superlatives used to describe the Akita— large, powerful, stubborn, intuitive, and loyal with comedic sense—it could also be said that the Akita has an indomitable spir- it and “heart”. In closing, there is another example of the breed’s essence in the 2001 ACE award winner from the “Companion Dog” category. One dark morning in the city of New York, Chilie, an 8-year-old female Akita smelled smoke in her apart- ment. She began to bark and then run to the adult’s closed door, scratching at it in an attempt to wake them to no avail. Chile then went to the children’s room where her two kids lie asleep and pulled the covers o ff of them and began pawing at them to wake them…it worked! Th ey began screaming which woke the adults and the family fled the apartment with Chilie hot on their heels urging them to keep running! Th e apartment was a total loss, the family and their hero dog displaced. Th ey were able to keep her with them for a while but due to an illness, the family was forced to give her up. Akita Rescue of Western New York stepped in after digging into their own pockets, transporting her across three state lines with assistance from many in the Aki- ta community, to be fostered in Pennsylva- nia awaiting a long shot at adoption since
her age was a deterrent. Far away in Cali- fornia, Hogan Sung was surfing the web to build a memorial page for his beloved deceased bulldog, coincidentally, named Chilie when he read her story and just had to have her! He flew 3000 miles to see her and bring her back home to California with him! Unfortunately, perhaps because of the stress of the relocation at her age and losing her family, Chilie su ff ered gastric torsion in California and underwent sur- gery….once again, the indomitable Akita spirit manifested itself and despite all pre- dictions and warnings that she may not survive the surgery, Chilie beat the odds and, not only survived the surgery, she lived out her natural life accepting another rescue Akita that Mr. Sung adopted, lov- ing and being loved, seemingly unaware of her “hero” status Th e Akita… strong, quiet, dignified, majestic and sometime class clown…the opportunity to get to know one is most certainly worth the time…so much more than a working dog, more like a “heart” dog. While the breed is not for everyone, it is a breed that when respected and raised in a knowledgeable environment might just teach us humans a thing or two about how to have “heart”! All in a day’s work for the extraordinary Akita! BIO Julie Mayes has been involved in Akitas for over 22 years, handling and breeding under the prefix “Kokoro”. Julie is a mem- ber of the Akita Club of America, a past member of the Board of Directors for the ACA, the “AKC Gazette” Akita Working Columnist, Judges Education Mentor for the Akita and an AKC Breeder of Merit. She has co-presented Akita Handling sem- inars at the ACA National Specialty and is a past and current ACA National Spe- cialty Assistant Show Chair. She resides in Michigan with her family and 5 Akitas.
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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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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 sound methodology 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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