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 LINDA WOLF, OKAMI AKITAS Akita
T he Akita Breed Standard states, “Large, powerful, alert, with much substance and heavy bone.” As a judge, handler, or exhibitor at a dog show, you have many times watched the Akitas in the ring; the power- ful male or beautiful bitch making their way around the ring or creating a breathtaking stance for their handler. Now I would like for you to meet another side of this breed: the Performance Akita. Yes, I said “Performance.” This breed can be seen in Rally, Obedience, and even Agility rings. Akitas are also competing in Barn Hunt, Scentwork, and Fast CAT. Many are earning the three levels of Canine Good Citi- zen, Temperament Test titles, and Farm Dog. The special ones are also Therapy Dogs! Training an Akita for performance is not an easy feat. This breed bores easily. Teach them something, they pick it up fast. Repeat it more than a few times and the Akita is ready to move on—do it, move on. When you see us take the leash off at a trial, that Akita is ready and their owner/handler is confident that their Akita is of great temperament and ready for the task. Not all of our Akitas can compete at higher levels in Rally or Obedience, however, due to the requirement for off-leash heeling. While our Akita may be able to complete the task, the dog’s owner may not feel confident without the leash. It happens. We simply move on to another performance activity that our Akita can suc- cessfully compete in. We adapt and continue to have fun with our well-trained Akita. Many of us have trained multiple dogs from puppyhood and have had success in many areas of performance. The Akita National Specialty was held this year in Mesa, Arizo- na. Rally and Obedience trials were offered two of the days. There was also the first-ever Scentwork Trial held at an Akita National. Numerous Akitas qualified! For the balance of this article, you will hear from the owners of some of those special Akitas. One such Akita is “Gabby,” a nearly 12-year-old who is the most-titled Akita in the history of our breed. She has quite a following and brings a smile to not only her owner, Barbara Sikkink, but also to all who meet her. She is one of the “special” ones.
My “special” one, “Heston,” has sadly left us. He never met a stranger and he loved all people. He was also a Therapy Dog. He loved it. Once, he was even a Show-N-Tell for my grandson’s kin- dergarten class! Heston had a lot of “try.” We might not have quali- fied each time we entered the ring, but we had fun. Heston’s favorite performance activity was Agility. He disliked sitting—he really did. Imagine a Rally/Obedience dog that did not want to sit. That was Heston. He did grace me with a sit on most occasions, but other times he just looked up at me and smiled. Anyway, Agility did not have any sits. Watching this boy fly over jumps with a smile on his face was amazing. Other times in the ring, I watched him make his own course and just followed along. Heston is the most-titled male in the history of our breed. Heston was a Performance Akita.
THE PERFORMANCE AKITA
ROXY & TRACY WEST
Let’s meet some other Performance Akitas, according to their owners. FOREST & DOROTHY CARROLL-MOORS “Forest” is best described as a
“Roxy,” as a Veteran, earned her Rally Advanced Title at the 2023 Akita National. Roxy has always loved to show and go to Meet the Breed events, like at the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival. She is also a certified Therapy Dog. It never occurred to me that she would love to do other things like Rally. Obedi- ence isn’t as fun to her (although she earned her first leg of Beginner Novice Obedience at the National), because she loves the verbal interac-
part-time working dog. In other words... when he feels like it. We made our first attempt at the Mission Circuit shows where the judge was unfortunately deeply concerned about the Akita in his ring that was about to be taken off-lead. This was despite sit- ting outside the ring for an hour
tions Rally encourages. Because she seems to really enjoy going to class and working towards different titles, we will keep at it. Our next big goal is earning a CD. CORRA & KATE MANGUBAT
and a half, and Forest was graciously greeting anyone who approached. It was a warm afternoon and it was naptime. He decided he liked the center of the ring so well that he would just stay there. Not a qualifying round. The next try, at the Akita Pre-National, Forest again sat and stayed beautifully for his recall. When called, he slowly sauntered over as if he was very busy, and sat too far away to qualify. The third try at the National was a charm. While he was busy looking for girls, he still heeled adequately, actu- ally came (no one said he had to be speedy), sat right in front of me, and put his paw up as if to say, “Am I done now? And a treat would be good.” The challenge is to both the exhibitor and our special dogs. They are as smart as they have to be and as dumb as they can get away with. I look forward to our new adventure
“Corra’s” journey to obtaining her Scent- work HD Novice title is a typical Akita train- ing story. She asked why she had to do this thing, then did it when she felt like it. We were mentored by ACPS Vice President Tom Knoe- bel, watched a few YouTube videos, and tried to make it as exciting as possible. Convincing Corra that finding my smelly sock would result in a treat was not the hardest part— that was keeping her from destroying the scent boxes! It
took about three tries for her to learn this activity. She completed her Scentwork Handler Discrimination Trial 1 at Monroe, Washington (2nd place), Trial 2 (1st place), and Trial 3 (1st place) at the Akita National. Key takeaway: make it exciting and trust your Akita. YETI & ILKA WAGNER
together in Obedience and Rally. BUDDY & ANITA PALMER
The 2023 Akita National was the venue where I decided to take the jump into Rally with one of my Akitas. “Yeti” received a score of 93 and 1st place in our first attempt at Rally Nov- ice. I could not have been more proud of him! Two years ago, at the Akita National, he earned his CGCA, CGCU, and TKN, and I realized how much fun it was to work as a team with him in something other than Conformation. I have been contemplating doing performance work
“Buddy” is our fourth male Akita and our third champion. Buddy is working both sides of the dog show world; he is a champion in Conformation and is now start- ing to compete in performance events. He is very enthusiastic and we look forward to learning and
working together as a team. At the Akita National, Buddy qualified in Beginner Novice Obedience as well as Rally. He also earned his Urban Canine Good Citizen (CGCU) title. DEVYLLE & HEATHYR AGUILAR “DeVylle” happily competed in
for years, but just didn’t quite have the right Akita to do this with... or maybe, I just didn’t have the gumption to try. I chose Yeti to start work- ing in performance because he is so biddable. If he knows what you would like him to do, he will do it, and he will do it with enthusiasm! He is just happy to be doing something with his mom. Treats are great, but praise is just as good. He is so willing to try new things and I love seeing his big smile when we get it right. He seems to know when we are spot on with a trick or a new Rally sign. In true Akita spirit, after we have done some- thing three or four times, we have to move on to another challenge; but I like this about the breed. They are easily bored with things, so we have to keep on our toes to keep them engaged and enthusiastic. Yeti makes this easy for me. Something new… let’s do it, mom! I have the performance bug now and plan on getting some of my other kiddos out as well.
Beginner Novice Obedience and Rally Novice. She earned her Rally Novice Title at the Akita National, and on the same day she went on to be awarded a 5-pt. major as Win- ners Bitch and Best of Winners at the Pre-National. We couldn’t be prouder of this young girl and look forward to a bright future.
THE PERFORMANCE AKITA
I HOPE THAT JUDGES, HANDLERS, EXHIBITORS, AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC WILL LOOK AT OUR AKITAS AS MORE THAN A GORGEOUS SHOW DOG.
GABBY & BARBARA SIKKINK
“Koko,” who is 11 years young and still as patient and deliber- ate as always, passed nearly all of her runs at the highest Scent- work levels and even earned her penultimate leg of the 10 required for her Handler Discrimination Master Elite. One of my favorite experiences with Koko was competing in the AKC West Regional Championships, where Koko earned a second place overall in the Master HD division against some very experienced teams. She also earned her Rally Master 2 title and the new Rally Choice title in Mesa, with her 20th Master Q and 10th Choice Q. Koko regularly competes in Shed, Carting, Obedience, FCAT, and rat sports. Thank you all for sharing your stories with us about your Per- formance Akitas. I hope that judges, handlers, exhibitors, and the general public will look at our Akitas as more than a gorgeous show dog. They are so much more!
“Gabby” earned her Rally Championship 2 (RACH2) at the Akita National along with her Rally Master 7 (RM7) and Rally Advanced Excellent 5 (RAE5). She was High Triple and High Combined at the Pre-National and National. She also Q’d in three of her Scent-
work classes at Master level. She is just one Q from earning her overall Scentwork Master title. She will be 12 years old this month. Gabby is the most-titled Akita in the history of the breed: ACH NNCH ALCH NHD EN UCD ROM RACH2 Minda & Midnite The Gods Have Spoken CDX BN GN RM7 RAE5 FDC OAP NJP CA BCAT SWNE SCAE SIAE SCM SIM SEM SHDE TT THDX RATM CZ8B DN CGCA CGCU TKE ATT VHMA VSWE FITS SPOT-ON SD-1 VAX9 HOF-Rally HOF-Barn Hunt. DUBLIN & KOKO & SUZI ALEKSANDER “Dublin,” at seven months
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Almost 29 years ago,
Linda Wolf brought home her first Akita. Performance is her first love—not easy with an Akita but so very rewarding. Over the years, Okami Akitas has had numerous champions and, so far, three ROM Akitas. Titles on both ends of their names has always been a goal. Pictured with her boy, “Heston.”
old, blew me away by taking a High in Trial at the Novice level in Scentwork. Meaning, he passed all offered elements. It was only his second trial, so clearly, Akitas have a lot of natural ability in Scentwork. It’s a great sport for Akitas, as
it lets them work independently and at their own pace. Dublin also passed two Trick levels to earn his Trick Dog Advanced title and his CGCU as well as earning his third Rally Novice leg for a Rally Novice title.
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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