Let’s Talk Breed Education!
AKITA F I R S T I M P R E S S I O N S T H E
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 BY SYLVIA THOMAS
(A version of this article appeared in the September 2019 issue of SHOWSIGHT.)
I f it were necessary to describe the Akita in one word, “dig- nity” would suffice. All of the elements described in the AKC standard are designed to contribute to the impres- sion of a large, powerful, alert dog with much substance and heavy bone. At first glimpse, one is struck by the Akita’s proud stance, no nonsense demeanor, and somewhat aloof nature, but those of us who share our lives with this breed will speak about their gentleness, playful attitude, unwavering loy- alty, sometimes silly antics, independent thinking, and love that knows no bounds. Those who know me will tell you that I’m a “head person.” I’ll admit there is truth in this, but whether or not one thinks of the head as the hallmark of the breed, the importance of a cor- rect head as a core element of breed type cannot be denied and is reinforced by the standard. The broad and triangular-shaped head is complemented by the harmonizing, triangular shape of the dark eyes and ears that are strongly erect with slightly round- ed tips, carried slightly forward over the eyes in-line with the back of the neck. Taken together, the result is an alert and cou- rageous expression, which is present in both males and females. The Akita is a composition of balance, proportion, and mod- eration. The large head is balanced by a large, full tail, set high. It cannot trail behind the dog, nor be held up in the air as a waving plume. The tail can be carried over the back or rest against the flank in a three-quarter, full, or double curl, which always dips to or below the level of the back. The root of the tail is strong, and while the standard refers to the tail bone reaching to the hock when let down, the length of the tail can be assessed visu- ally without dropping or pulling the tail down to measure it. In the case where the tail is very tightly curled, it can be uncom- fortable for the dog if one tries to uncurl and drop the tail to measure it. An Akita can occasionally drop its tail for a number of reasons—hot day, in season, new to the show ring, or simple boredom or age. When in doubt about a possible disqualifica- tion for an uncurled tail, I would advise that you give the dog an opportunity to move around the ring. It is sufficient to see the tail touch the back or dip below the level of the back one time. If it does, the tail should be judged acceptable. Although you may still decide not to use the dog, a disqualification is not warranted. Akitas are at the bottom range of the large-sized breed cat- egory; the standard describes the ideal size of males between 26" and 28" at the withers and females between 24" and 26". Under 25" for a male and 23" for a female (including puppies) is a disqualification. An Akita’s size, obvious strength, and car- riage leave a lasting impression, but at the same time, there is no harshness in his appearance. The short, thick, lustrous double coat that stands off the body softens the rugged outline of muscle and bone, and creates an indelible picture of balance and beauty. As for color, we each may have personal preferences, but 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. Although 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 have been distinguished by their unquestionable breed type, balance, proportion, outstanding movement, correct structure, and brilliant color.
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The Akita’s roots can be traced to the mountainous terrain of Japan where a thick coat, strength, and agile movement were necessary for sur- vival. In his driving, purposeful movement, the Akita combines great power with precision and smoothness. Every step is a purposeful expres- sion of the dog’s will and determination. His gait is balanced, efficient, and covers the ground with brisk strides characterized by balanced reach and drive. As a breeder and judge, I look for movement that “covers the ground” smoothly and efficiently while maintaining a level topline. Quite simply, racing around the ring at a high rate of speed does not compensate for proper reach and drive. Keep in mind, it’s okay to ask a handler to slow down. The breed’s character is reserved and silent with people, and domi- nant over other canines. If an Akita barks, there’s usually a reason. The Akita is alert and watchful and can be intolerant toward other dogs, par- ticularly of the same sex. The breed is known for its loyalty and devotion to family. Friendly, confident strangers are treated with respect, but tres- passers will find a formidable guardian. It is not unusual for an Akita to position themselves between their owner and others and to move in a way that preserves that position. Akitas are often labeled as stubborn and untrainable; nothing is fur- ther from the truth. I like to think of them as independent thinkers who are extremely smart. I witnessed this independent nature while watching one of my Akitas on a long down in Obedience. It was a warm, sunny day, and when “JD’s” handler put him on a long down, left the ring, and wait- ed behind a blind, my dog got up, walked over to the shady area next to the judges, and lay down. As if on cue, he went back to his original posi- tion before his handler returned to the ring. Imagine his surprise when he was told that “JD” failed the exercise and why! He did eventually pass and earn his CDX, but his behavior spoke volumes about the nature of Akitas. That said, Akitas are great and willing participants in AKC Conforma- tion and the growing list of AKC Companion and Performance events. All it takes is patience, time, and understanding that an Akita is an intel- ligent dog that is easily bored but loves spending time with its people and, generally speaking, wants to please and make them happy. Finally, I’m honored and proud to be Chair of the Akita Club of America’s Judges Education Committee. I work with an amazing group of ladies who are the experts in the breed. Two of our members were among the first to have Akitas in the United States. It is our unique mis- sion to provide current and potential judges with the knowledge they need to evaluate Akitas in the Conformation ring. This is no simple task, knowing they must accurately apply the AKC Standard and fairly
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assess how each exhibit compares to the written standard in two and a half minutes. It goes without saying that knowledge of the standard is critical, but using the standard to inform one’s judging separates a great judge from an average one. It’s a learning experience and one that does not always happen overnight. I try to present a judge with a sound methodology for their approach and examination of an Akita. My advice to anyone judging Akitas is to manage their ring, leaving adequate space between each dog, and when all of the dogs first enter the ring, to initially and confidently greet the handlers and their dogs by “walking the line.” This provides a quick glimpse at both fronts and heads, plus a quick impression of eyes, ears, temperament, and expres- sion. Then, take a look at the profiles of the dogs. This is an excellent opportunity to observe balance, fronts and rears, proportion, head, ear carriage, neck, topline, tail, length of body, depth of chest, and size. Does the depth of the body at the elbow equal half the height of the dog at the withers? Of course, this is all followed by a thorough hands-on examination of each dog, paying careful attention to the fine points that make an Akita distinct, and an opportunity to watch each dog move. Then, it’s time to make a decision! To better assist judges and breeders, the JEC has spent the last five years working on an Illustrated Standard (IS). We are confident that the IS will be a valuable resource and tool for judges, breeders, owners, and others who are interested in the breed. The project with nearly 50 origi- nal drawings is nearing completion and we eagerly await the opportu- nity to share it. At the same time, the JEC is developing an AKC Canine College course on the breed, as well as an updated presentation that can be used for in-person seminars and virtual events like webinars.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sylvia Thomas was introduced to Akitas by her tennis partner in 1980, and six months later she presented her husband, Frank, with an eight-week-old puppy as a surprise. (She doesn’t recommend this technique!) Akita ownership presents some challenges and, as a result, they are not the breed for everyone, but personally, they fill Sylvia with much joy, unconditional love, and devotion. She can’t imagine her life without one. Sylvia and Frank were fortunate, as that eight-week-old “surprise,” named “Sweetie,” became the foundation of their line, Chiheisen Akitas. Sweetie’s descendants include two National Specialty and Best in Show winners, and three generations of National winners along with Registry of Merit producers, Specialty and Group winners, and numerous champions, along with loving family companions. Sylvia has also owned, bred, and campaigned Samoyeds. She has held various offices in the Akita Club of America and currently serves as Chair of the JEC. Sylvia belongs to two all-breed clubs, serving as the AKC Delegate and Secretary for one, Editor of the Delegates’ publication “Perspectives,” AKC Trial Board Member, and an AKC Judge. Professionally, Sylvia is a retired educational administrator, retiring as Associate Vice Chancellor of Educational Services Emeritus for a three-college district where she has been inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame for Community Contributions.
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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 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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