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Tags: working, Large-sized, Protective guardian, Challenging for first-time owners, Requires firm, dedicated training

An appropriate gift to the family of a newborn child in Japan is a statue of the Akita dog -- to wish the child a long life filled with happiness and good health. That's how revered we are in our native land where we were first known as Akita Matagi, "the dog that hunts bears." Wild boar and deer -- as well as black bears -- are what the Japanese hunters had in mind when they developed my breed on the Honsiu Island province of Akita in the 1600s. I'm the largest of the Japanese native breeds (in Japan the breeds are practically national monuments), weighing up to 110 pounds and standing up to 27 1/2 inches at the shoulder. Helen Keller first brought an Akita to the United States in 1937. But it wasn't until 1971 that the AKC recognized us as a registered breed.

Rave review

  • Agile and active
  • Aloof and dignified
  • Always alert
  • Born to run, happy to walk
  • Courageous canine
  • Confident and self-assured

Report card

  • Hardy hunter
  • Intelligent and ready to learn
  • Novice owners might be challenged with this breed
  • Outdoors enthusiast
  • Perfect protector, willing watchdog
  • Wary of strangers
  • Training must be firm but gentle, patient and consistent

What to expect

Think long and hard - and do your research - before bringing an Akita into your family. Experience owners say the question should be: "Am I the right person right for an Akita?" and not the other way around. If your answer is "Yes" then prepare to be the alpha personality to this canine leader of the pack -- during my firm-but-respectful training and throughout our lives together. Daily exercise is a must, but remember I'm a hunter: lacking bears in the neighborhood, I will chase just about anything. I prefer a home without other dogs (my dominant personality) but might not mind a cat or two.

Watch for

Possible hip dysplasia, autoimmune or neurological disorders. Relatively small eyes can develop eyelash growth disorder called ectropion.

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