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The Majestic Akita- Should This be Your Next Dog?
Kodi the King
Pronounced "uh-KEY-ta", Akita's are the largest of the Spitz-type breed and are native to the island of Honshu in the Akita region of Japan. It is believed that Helen Keller brought the first Akita to the US, but I have read they were brought back to the states by American servicemen after WWII. However they got here, I am certainly glad to have had the pleasure of having two of these majestic animals be part of my family.
Akita's are excellent family dogs. Protective, fearless, intelligent, courageous and spontaneous are just a few of the words Akita owners use to describe their dogs. Human companionship is something these dogs crave. They can be aggressive toward other dogs, especially strange dogs, but can learn to live with other pets once properly introduced. My first Akita lived with a cocker spaniel and a kitten and loved them both. My current Akita has many canine and feline companions. He shares our house with a one year old female golden retriever, a male and female malti-poo, and a mutt we adopted from the humane society. We also have two cats that come and go as they please. They own the place, actually, they just let us live here.
As with all large breeds, there is the potential for aggression. I highly recommend obedience training at an early age. My veterinarian in Illinois had given me a small yellow paperback book- the title now escapes me- that offered some of the best advice I have ever read for obedience training. To paraphrase, you take hold of the dog, role him over on his back, and pin him down firmly until he stops squirming and ‘submits.' It is also recommended that you make a growling noise, or loud noise to imitate the growling sound an adult Akita would make. I will admit, it was difficult to hold him down firmly when he was such a cute little puppy, but I am so thankful for this advice. In my opinion, this form of obedience training must be maintained for the first year on a weekly basis at minimum; especially between 6-12 months. After the first year, it wouldn't hurt to continue this training once a month. All dogs are different, however, so the amount of time needed for this type of training will vary.
Akita's are known for their numerous ‘voices.' They use many different sounds to communicate with humans and other animals. One great characteristic about Akita's is they bark very little. They are the first to investigate any sound or activity in the house or the backyard, but they only bark when they identify what they perceive is a threat. Rest assured, when they do decide to bark, it's enough to intimidate even the most avid dog lover.
I have wanted an Akita ever since I saw my first one while I was in college. A co-worker and good friend owned a beautiful male she called Tinsai. I was so impressed with his demeanor and stunning appearance that I fell in love with the breed. Tinsai was not overly aggressive, but the first time I came to the house he remained between me and his owner the entire time I was there. After the second or third visit, he was comfortable enough with me to allow me near his owner, but he never allowed me out of his site.
My First Kodi as a Puppy
It would be nearly 8 years after my first encounter with Tinsai before I would actually acquire my first Akita. He was my boy from October 1999 until I was forced to leave him behind in Illinois when I moved to Georgia in 2002. I will never forget the look on his face when I drove off. Fortunately, I was able to leave him with a good friend on the same farm at which he had lived on for the past year. It was the best possible situation for him, but it nearly killed me.
Watching Me Leave
I could tell many stories about my first Kodi. I could tell you about the many evenings he sat by my side on the porch as we listened to the many sounds of the farm and watched for falling stars. How he chased off coyotes that got too close to the house. How he killed at least a dozen raccoons before they could get to my smaller female cocker spaniel- of whom he was quite fond. I will never forget how he tried to revive her as she lay in the snow after she was hit by a car. How he tried to prevent me from burying her. He would not let her out of his sight. For weeks after I buried her he sat near her grave every day. He was such an amazing dog.
What a Cute Puppy!
I agonized over whether or not to get another Akita. I was afraid no Akita could come close to comparing to Kodi. After telling my wife all the stories about him, she encouraged me to find another. I finally agreed with her and my search led me to a breeder in West Virginia. My new Kodi has definitely filled his predecessors' paws very well.
Yes, my current Akita is also named Kodi. He is Kodi, Jr., or Kodi II, whichever you prefer. His name is actually Kodiak, because he looks just like a bear. We call him Kodi for short and he commands attention wherever we take him.
He was three months old and nearly 30 pounds when I picked him up in November of 2003. One of the great things about Akita puppies is their ears are floppy at first. The amount of time it takes for their ears to stand up varies, but they are normally up by 6 months. Male Akita puppies will gain nearly 10 pounds a month for the first year. Males average 75-120 pounds and grow well into their first year. They are beautifully proportioned and slightly longer than they are tall.
Boy, Do They Grow Fast!
My current Kodi is also an amazing dog. He is extremely patient with all of our dogs and our small children. We live in a multi-level house and all of the bedrooms are on the top floor. Every night Kodi comes to my bed and ‘checks-in' with us and then sleeps at the top of the steps. It is as though he is daring any intruder to get past him. I would hate to see what he would do to someone who tried to hurt any of us. I do not travel often, but when I do, I am so thankful for Kodi. My wife feels very safe alone in the house when Kodi is there. If I wrestle or rough-house with my 12 year old step-son, Kodi will try to get between us and will even take my arm in his mouth and gently but forcefully pull it away from my step-son. He has never bitten or broken the skin on anyone in my house.
Little Abby and Kodi
Kodi's personality is remarkable. When you talk to him or about him he looks you in the eye. His eyes remain trained on you as if he is listening to your every word. When I work around the house Kodi tends to stay in the same room, but he doesn't crowd me. When he is ready to play he nudges me with his nose. For such a large dog he is very gentle. If I put my hand in his mouth while we are playing he does not bite. Kodi loves to "wrestle" on the floor. He loves for me to get on the floor and tackle him or just lie on my stomach and swat at his legs. This is when he uses one of the ‘voices' that I discussed earlier.
You Talking to Me?
As with any dog, there are a few downsides to Akita's- very few, in my opinion. First of all, they have a very dense coat. Kodi sheds his coat twice annually, and you can stuff 5 or 6 plastic grocery bags full with the hair. Seriously, you could make a couple of king-sized pillows with the fur they shed! Regular brushing with a stiff bristled brush is a must. Frequent bathing is not recommended because it removes the natural waterproofing of their coat. We only bathe Kodi a couple of times per year. If you are brave enough to try it yourself, it is practically an all day affair. His fur is so thick it takes a garden hose with fairly strong pressure to penetrate to the skin. Getting all the soap out of it takes forever! Then there is drying him. I actually use an electric leaf blower, which also removes the loose fur while it dries him. He tolerates the leaf blower, but it isn't his favorite part of the bathing experience.
Another trait I've heard about Akita's is that they can be aggressive with other animals that try to take food from them. Personally, I have not seen Kodi demonstrate any sign of this trait. It actually irritates me when I give our dogs treats because the 10 pound female malti-poo and the golden retriever will both take treats right out of his mouth before he can eat them. I like that he is so patient with the others, but I don't like that he gets robbed of his treat.
Always on the Lookout
Although I highly recommend this breed and think they are wonderful family dogs, they must be trained and handled properly, especially when they are young. This is not the type of dog you have join the family without researching first. I've actually read that Akita's are not recommended for the first time or inexperienced dog owner, but I don't know that I agree with that. A little research and the willingness to put in the amount of time necessary to train him is all that is needed. There are many websites with information about these wonderful dogs and I recommend getting as much information as possible.