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Akita Shepherd

Quincy Miller

June 9, 2021
Height: 20-24 inches
Weight: 55-90 pounds
Lifespan: 10-14 years
Colors: Gray, brindle, white, black, red, silver, fawn, brown, sable
Suitable for: Active families, those looking for a friendly but dedicated guard dog
Temperament: Independent, loyal, protective, intelligent, energetic, high-maintenance

If you want a guard dog that will treat their duties with the weight and gravitas that they deserve, you’ll be hard-pressed to do better than the Akita Shepherd. A mix of German Shepherd and Akita Inu, these dogs are solemn and serious when on watch, but they know how to let their hair down and have fun as well.

However, both parent breeds are quite active and athletic, so this is not a dog that will be compatible with a couch potato. If you can’t provide them with a full-time job, then expect to spend much of your free time trying to tucker them out.

Akita Shepherds are a fairly rare mix, so you may not know much about them. Don’t worry, that’s about to change with this guide.

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Akita Shepherd Puppies — Before You Buy

Energy:
Trainability:
Health:
Lifespan:
Sociability:

Given the rarity of this mix, it’s not often that you’ll come across one by accident. That means that most Akita Shepherd owners became so quite purposefully, and they sought out the breed because they met their specific needs.

Typically, those needs are for an intelligent and independent guard dog that can be trusted to make reliable decisions in the heat of the moment. The Akita Shepherd can certainly do that, which is why they’re becoming increasingly popular for security applications.

They’re easy to train and eager to take orders, which is another reason that they’re so popular as guard dogs.

Don’t mistake that eagerness to please for an easy ownership experience, though. These dogs are extremely active and athletic, and they’ll need to bleed off their excess energy somehow, so expect to spend plenty of time working with them when you’re home.

None of this is written to scare you away from adopting an Akita Shepherd, of course. They make wonderful pets and dedicated companions, but don’t expect them to be okay with endless Netflix marathons.

What’s the Price of Akita Shepherd Puppies?

There are few dedicated Akita Shepherd breeders out there, so tracking one down can be difficult. If you do, you can expect to pay between $300 and $700 for a new puppy, although that price could go up if the dogs are specifically bred for security purposes.

You’re most likely better off searching pounds and animal shelters or scouring the classified ads. If you go this route, the price could come down quite a bit.

However, this puts you at increased risk of interacting with backyard breeders. These are people who breed dogs for profit, with little care for the animals’ health. Not only is this practice immoral, but dogs purchased from backyard breeders (also called “puppy mills”) tend to be less healthy and more prone to behavioral issues.

When you go to look at the puppy, inspect their living conditions as well. Do the animals have plenty of room, and is their living area clean? Do they seem friendly and outgoing, or are they suspicious and withdrawn?

If you do find an owner who’s looking to sell puppies — and you feel like they’re on the up-and-up — you might want to consider offering to pay to have their dog spayed or neutered as well. This will drive up your costs, to be sure, but you’ll make the world a much better place in the process.

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3 Little-Known Facts About Akita Shepherd

1. They’re Sometimes Called “Shepkitas”

Any designer dog worth their salt needs a cutesy hybrid name. You have the Pomsky, the Saint Berdoodle, the Goberian, and the Gerberian Spepsky, and now joining their ranks is the Shepkita.

While the name might seem like nothing more than a trifle, these monikers can prove incredibly useful when it comes to getting recognized by governing bodies like the AKC.

After all, they’re as susceptible to peer pressure as anyone else, so if there’s a groundswell of support to recognize the adorable Shepkita, it may speed the process up a bit.

2. Their Size Can Vary Wildly From Dog to Dog

There are no breed standards for the Akita Shepherd, nor are there many reliable, dedicated breeders out there. As a result, many of the kinks haven’t been ironed out of the breed.

One of the ways in which this manifests itself is the dog’s size. Some of them are medium-sized pups, weighing 50 or 60 pounds, while others can tip the scales at well over 100 pounds.

It’s difficult to tell from looking at a puppy how big they’ll be as an adult, so bringing home an Akita Shepherd pup is kind of like buying a mystery present.

3. Akita Shepherds Can Often Be Eerily Quiet

This isn’t a dog that makes their presence known with loud, boisterous barks. Rather, they tend to hang back and assess the situation before reacting, and they only unleash their formidable woofs when they’re absolutely certain the situation calls for it.

While this no doubt comes in handy while on patrol, it can be disquieting when you’re just lounging around the house. You can be minding your own business, off in your own little world, when suddenly you realize that there’s this large animal staring intently at you.

You can expect to jump out of your skin at least a couple of times a month with an Akita Shepherd around. The flip side to this, of course, is that the effect it would have on a would-be burglar is much more profound.

The parents of the Akita Shepherd
The parents of the Akita Shepherd. Left: Akita Inu (Source: maxxxiss, Pixabay), Right: German Shepherd (Source: JosepMonter, Pixabay)

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Akita Shepherd

Both Akita Inus and German Shepherds are extremely intelligent breeds, and that intelligence is a big reason that someone had the idea to mix the two dogs in the first place.

These dogs are quick learners, which when combined with their natural eagerness to please, makes them easy to train. In just a few minutes, they can often pick up on commands that would take other dogs several days to learn.

It’s worth noting that while it may sound paradoxical, Akita Shepherds have a stubborn streak and can be quite independent and headstrong as well. That’s not to say that they won’t follow your commands, but rather that you have to earn their respect first.

It’s not unusual for these dogs to test limits and boundaries, but if they’re met with a firm-but-loving hand, they’ll be dedicated pups for life.

Beyond that, they tend to be stoic and reserved most of the time, but when playtime rolls around, they can be quite wild and goofy.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Their mix of stoicism and goofiness comes in handy in houses with small children. They’ll protect your kids with their lives, but they can also be loving and doting playmates to them.

However, their natural protectiveness and guarding instinct can be dangerous if the dogs aren’t properly socialized. You should work with them from the time that you bring them home as puppies to ensure that they know how to behave around people.

Regardless of how well you train your dog, you should never leave them alone with small children. These are powerful animals, and all it takes is one mishap to create a horrible, lifelong situation.

Also, keep in mind that your child doesn’t have to be bitten by an aggressive dog to be injured by your pooch. Akita Shepherds are large animals, and they can be quite boisterous at times. It’s not hard to imagine them running right over a small child quite accidentally.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

This will mostly depend on socialization. Akita Shepherds can make great playmates for other dogs, as they’ll appreciate having a pal who can keep up with them as they deal with their boundless amounts of energy.

However, if not properly socialized, they may try to assert dominance over other dogs, or they may view them as threats. Akita Shepherds are not inherently aggressive or violent, but they can be quite terrifying if not taught proper manners.

They’re less trustworthy around cats and other small pets. It’s not unheard of for these dogs to tolerate and even enjoy the company of cats, but it takes the right dog and a ton of socialization to get there.

Their silent nature is especially worrisome in this regard. While not explicitly bred as hunting dogs, they’re incredible at stalking and running down prey. If your pooch decides to make a run at your cat, the kitty may never see or hear them coming until it’s too late.

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Things to Know When Owning an Akita Shepherd

Given how little information exists about these dogs, you’ll be forgiven for feeling a little lost on how to raise one. Fortunately, their needs aren’t all that different from any other dog’s, although there are a few things that you should know.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Akita Shepherds are extremely athletic dogs, and they need a diet that can support their natural vigorousness. That means a kibble high in protein, as this will help build muscle and give them long-lasting energy.

Be careful about where that protein comes from, though. Many cheaper kibbles use animal by-products rather than lean cuts of meat, and those by-products might be made from diseased or discarded animals, which is the kind of food that you don’t want your pooch chowing down on.

Many owners prefer feeding their dog a raw diet, as that allows them to completely control what goes into their food. If you go this route, be sure to use a variety of meats (including organ meats and bone meal), as well as nutritious veggies. Also, check with your vet beforehand to make sure your food has all the nutrition that your pup needs.

Obesity is horrible for these dogs, so be strict about portion control. Don’t go overboard on the treats either, and make sure they’re within their target weight range.

Akita Shepherds also prone to joint problems later in life, so you might want to consider bolstering their diet with glucosamine and omega-3 supplements.

Exercise 🐕

Exercise isn’t an optional activity with Akita Shepherds. They’re going to get their energy out one way or another — it’s up to you whether that’s through playing fetch in the backyard or chowing down on your couch.

It will take at least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day to tucker them out. While you can keep them in an apartment, having a large backyard for them to run around in will definitely be helpful.

These exercise requirements can be lowered if they have a job to do. Some people train them to herd animals, or others let them patrol to their heart’s content. If they spend all day on the job, they’ll need less dedicated exercise later.

In addition to exhausting them physically, you’ll also need to leave them mentally drained as well. Training sessions can help accomplish this (and your dog will love them), or you could buy them puzzle toys or enlist them in agility training.

Be careful about pushing them too hard, though, especially when it comes to running and jumping. Their backs are prone to injury, so you want to limit the high-impact activity as much as possible.

Training 🎾

Training your Akita Shepherd is a must. Without proper training and socialization, their natural protectiveness can get out of hand, leading to problems with aggression toward people or other animals.

Fortunately, training these pups is fairly painless, as they’re smart as whips and eager to learn. They don’t get bored with training either, so you can keep drilling them over and over, with the knowledge that they’re having the time of their lives.

These dogs are smart enough that you can give them elaborate jobs if you like. They can make capable herding dogs, and being a watchdog is right up their alley. They love a challenge, so don’t be afraid to push them.

Their eagerness to follow instructions makes them natural competitors, and they do well at agility trials and other sporting events.

Just because they’re easy to train, though, doesn’t mean you can skimp on the time that you dedicate to putting them through their paces. If you don’t have the time — or the know-how — to train your Akita Shepherd, don’t hesitate to hire a professional. Outsourcing the work is vastly preferable to leaving it undone.

Grooming ✂️

If you’re allergic to dogs, this is one breed that will never be considered hypoallergenic.

These dogs shed a ton every day, and they’re prone to blowing their coats once or twice a year. If you don’t like being covered in dog hair, this probably isn’t the breed for you.

You can mitigate all that shedding by brushing them, of course, but grooming these dogs is almost a full-time job. You’ll need to spend a few minutes doing it a few times a week to truly make a difference.

They don’t need to be bathed often (just when they’re visibly dirty), and they require little other grooming besides daily teeth brushing and weekly ear cleaning.

You’ll also want to trim their nails if they get too long, but these dogs are so busy running around that they usually file their claws down on their own.

Health and Conditions 🏥

As with most crossbreeds, Akita Shepherds tend to be healthier than either of their purebred parents. Still, they have a fair amount of health problems to deal with.

One of the biggest issues comes from the German Shepherd side of the family tree. German Shepherds have backs that slope downward toward the tail, and this can lead to all sorts of structural issues in their spine as they age.

If your dog takes after the German Shepherd in this way, you can expect to deal with arthritis, hip dysplasia, and similar conditions later in their life. If their back is straight like an Akita Inu’s, though, you may just dodge that particular bullet.

It’s also important to note that due to the breed’s relative newness and rarity, it’s hard to accurately predict what, if any, health conditions that they’re likely to experience. Take this list as a guide rather than a guarantee; your dog may experience some of these issues or none at all, and they could suffer other illnesses not mentioned here.

Minor Conditions
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Pemphigus
  • Perianal fistulas
  • Sebaceous adenitis
  • Arthritis
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Panosteitis
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Bloat
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis
  • Hemophilia
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

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Male vs Female

There can be a noticeable size difference between males and females of this breed, but there can also be a considerable size difference between two dogs of the same gender.

The lack of an established breed standard means that variance in appearance and temperament will be high. Just because one Akita Shepherd looks and behaves a certain way is no guarantee that another dog will do the same.

Many of the standard gendered differences that you’ll find in most dog breeds still apply, however. Females tend to be smaller yet mature faster, and males are often clingier and more eager to please.

Ultimately, though, your dog will be an individual, and you’ll have the pleasure of spending a lifetime learning about their own particular foibles.

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Final Thoughts

While not a well-known breed, even among designer breeds, the Akita Shepherd is an excellent dog. Capable guard dogs and loyal companions, they can make great family pets or dedicated working dogs.

It’s critical to ensure that they’re properly socialized, though, and you’ll need to be prepared for their exercise needs before you bring one home.

Finding an Akita Shepherd to adopt won’t be easy, but there’s little doubt that it will be worth it.


Featured image credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Quincy Miller

Quincy has been around mutts his entire life and has been writing about them for the past nine years. His experience with dogs started with commanding working dogs on the farm in west Texas where he grew up, and now consists of sharing a house with three spoiled pups who couldn’t hold down a job to save their lives. His years of doggy experience have left him well-acquainted with a variety of training styles and exotic medical diagnoses.

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