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MY THOUGHTS ON THE AKITA DOG
By Naoto Kajiwara
Aiken Journal 183: 135-138, (January) 1975
as translated by Tatsuo Kimura
GUIDELINES TO THE ENJOYMENT OF THE AKITA DOG:
A DISCUSSION OF THE AKITA DOG STANDARD
Raising Akita dogs or attending Akita dog shows without an adequate knowledge of the true qualities of the Akita makes it difficult for one to appreciate the good and bad qualities, as well as leaving some doubts in one’s mind. Therefore, one should become well acquainted with the Akita dog Standard in order to appreciate the true Akita dog.
This is true of any species which calls for a prescribed standard for proper identification. Each of the Akita dog clubs such as the Akitainu Hozonkai (Akiho). Nippon-ken Hozonkai (Nippo) and Akita-ken Kyokai (Akikyo) has an Akita Standard. It is reported that Nippo was the first club to write the Japanese dog Standard which includes the Akita dog. The Standard of the three dog clubs were very identical in the beginning. However, each Standard has been gradually revised so that some distinguishing characteristics with minor differences have become noticeable. In general, the Nippo Standard is brief, the Akikyo Standard is rather lengthy, while the Akiho Standard is somewhere between the two forgoing Standards. All of the Standards are written in abstract terms. which probably makes it very difficult for the beginner to fully comprehend some of the passages. Nevertheless, a dog standard points out the good and bad characteristics as a guide for the breeders and judges in the show ring.
Although there may be some minor differences in the Standards of the three dog clubs, the basic differences are not great, and are essentially identical. Therefore, it may not be necessary discuss each Standard separately. I shall discuss the Akiho Standard which I believe is moderate in length, and with which I have been acquainted for over twenty years.
THE AKITA DOG STANDARD OF THE AKITA-INU HOZONKAI (AKIHO)
ESSENTIAL QUALITIES AND ITS MANIFESTATIONS (CHARACTER)
An Akita dog is calm, stately and possesses the character of a strong will and courage. He is loyal and obedient with no gaudiness. There is dignity, keenness, substance and agility.
There is a balance of structure with well-developed muscles, tendons and ligaments. The skin has no looseness. The sexual characteristics of the male are clearly distinguishable from the female. The ratio of height to length in the male is 100:110. while the female has slightly longer length in relation to the height. The male is 66.7 cm (2 shaku plus 2 sun, approximately 26.2 inches)* tall. while the female is 60.6 cm (2 shaku. approximately 23.8 inches)* tall with plus or minus 3.02 cm (1 sun, approximately 1.2 inches)* allowable for both male and female. The ratio of the height to the depth of the chest is approximately 2:1.
The:skull is large. The top of the head is almost flat. The forehead is wide with no wrinkles, with a definite crease and proper amount of stop. The cheeks are full and well-developed.
The neck is thick and powerful, with no loose skin, and at the proper angle when in the standing position.
The ears are rather small, thick, triangular shaped with the proper amount of forward angulation. They are erect with adequate distance between them.
The eyes are somewhat triangular-shaped and deeply set. The outer canthi are slightly raised, the irises are of dark brown color. There is a proper amount of apace between the eyes.
MUZZLE AND NOSE
The bridge of the nose is straight, the muzzle is full. The base of the mouth is wide, and the nose is not snipy. The nostrils are tight and the lips are tightly drawn.
The teeth are powerful with proper bite.
CHEST AND ABDOMEN
The chest is deep. The rib cage is full. The front chest is well developed. The abdomen is moderately tucked up.
BACK AND HIPS
The backline is straight and the hips are powerful.
The forelegs have proper angulation with the shoulders and are well developed. The elbow joints are strong. The forelegs are straight, muscular and powerful. The pasterns are slightly angulated, The paws are round, large, thick, and have firm grips.
The hind legs are well developed, powerful and sturdy. The hocks have the proper angulation and are springy. The paws are thick and have firm grips.
The tail is thick and tightly curled. The tip of the tail nearly touches the hock. The types of curl are the left curl, curl directly over the back and the double curl.
The outer coat is coarse while the undercoat is fluffy. The coat at the withers and rump are slightly longer, while the tail has the longest coat.
White, black, red. goma (sesame), brindle (tiger stripes), and pinto.
1. Acquired injuries and poor nutritional status.
2. Coat color unbecoming to an Akita dog.
3. Very light irises(eyes) not matching the coat color.
4. Missing or irregular tooth or teeth. Edge-to-edge bite.
5. Spot(s) on the tongue.
6. Undesirable disposition such as shyness, frivolity or ferociousness.
7. Other poor characteristics of an Akita dog.
1. Droopy ears since birth.
2. Uncurled tail since birth.
3. Excessively short, or long coat since birth.
4. Undershot and overshot jaws with improper bite.
5. Color of nose not matching the color of coat (reddish nose is acceptable with white coat).
6. Undescended testicle or testicles.
7. Other defects lacking the characteristics of an Akita dog
Some of the foregoing terminologies are not commonly used and may be very difficult for some readers to understand their meanings. However, the text should become more gradually comprehensible as one gains experience after many years of dog breeding and comes to a better understanding of the Akita dog. I shall now attempt to do a simplified explanation of the Standard in its regular sequence.
ESSENTIAL QUALITIES AND ITS MANIFESTATIONS (CHARACTER)
The term "essential qualities" is difficult to describe. The sentence stating that "An Akita dog is calm, stately and possesses the character of a strong will and courage," seems to denote stateliness. The characters of calmness and fearlessness are the essentials for this stateliness. "He is loyal, obedient with no gaudiness" emphasizes the absence of gaudiness. The qualities of being obedient, faithful and not being gaudy are deemed as necessary characteristics in giving rise to the appearance of simplicity in in the Akita dog. Within this lack of gaudiness is the "dignity, keenness, substance and agility." This last sentence points to the deportment of the Akita dog. Keenness refers to the sensitive senses of vision, hearing and smell. The proper functions of these senses aid the Akita dog to be agile as well as being bold in his movements.
Furthermore, the term "essential qualities" refers to the original temperament and character which have been passed down from generation to generation.
Thus, in referring to the Akita dog, it may be proper to assume that the "essential qualities" were passed down from generation to generation from the hunting dog era. During the guard dog era, the Akita dog appeared stately to the stranger, and loyal with no gaudiness to the owner. During the fighting dog era, the Akita dog acquired the large build and nimbleness of movement which was important in meeting the opponents. The temperament and physical constitution passed down from ancient times through the natural habitat and other environmental conditions became the Akita dog's unique "essential qualities."
Appearance refers to the facial shape and general form. "There is a balance of structure with well-developed muscles, tendons and ligaments. The skin has no looseness. The sexual characteristics of the male are clearly distinguishable from the female." The various anatomical parts of the dog must be in balance to each other. The skeletal system is strong and solid. The muscles, tendons and blood vessels are well developed through disciplinary training, while the skin is tight with no looseness.
The male appears masculine, while the female appears feminine, resulting in a beautifully balanced Akita dog. There is the beauty of vigorous health from proper training.
However, in reality, the appearance seems to be largely dependent on the coat quality such as the color tone, the coat substance and the standing of the coat. A dog will not look magnificent no matter how great the construction, if the coat quality was very poor. In order to have a good appearance, there must be good body construction, proper arrangement of the coat and a vigorous disposition. There must also be proper angulation of the neck, sturdy body, a properly curled tail with symmetrical powerful fore and hind limbs.
"The ratio of height to length in the male is 100:110, while the female has a slightly longer length in relation to the height." It is important to have a proper ratio between the body length and the height, in order to have a proper balance. However, actual measurements of male dogs with good form and male-like appearance show that the majority have a ratio of 100:105.
The slightly longer length in relation to the height stipulated for the female is based on the physiological factor of reproduction and manifestation of the sexual characteristics. Akiho stipulates that the height of the male is 2 shaku plus 2 sun plus or minus 1 sun (approximately 25 to 27.4 inches). Nippo stipulates 2 shaku plus 1 sun.to 2 shaku plus 3 sun. (approximately 25.2 to 27.6 inches'), while Akikyo stipulates 2 shaku plus 1 sun (approximately 25.2 inches) or more. Each club stipulates that the female is about 2 shaku (.24 inches). They all stipulate that the ratio of the height of the depth of the chest is 2:1.
"The skull is large. The top of the head is almost flat." The head of the Akita dog is much larger proportionally than those of other dogs. The top of the head between the ears is somewhat flat and must not be pointed up or rounded. However, there are several types of head seen on the Akita dog. There are those with round triangular-like appearance, those with a prominence in the occipital region and various other shapes at the top of the head due probably due to the different locations of the ear bases.
"The forehead is wide with no wrinkles, with a definite crease and proper amount of stop. The cheeks are full and well-developed." The forehead is wide with a definite crease running from the forehead to the stop. There is a proper amount of stop between the forehead and nose. The cheeks are full. There must be no wrinkles on the forehead or near the outside corners of the eyes. However, one often sees many forms of forehead.
There is the round forehead or the forehead with a marked rise in the center. There is also the flat forehead like that of a cow. Ideally the head bone should be wide with a very slight bulge. The crease and stop are also very important parts of the Akita dog's face. The stop must not be too shallow or too deep.
The very shallow stop is called "non-stop", and does not harmonize with the majestic features, while a stop that is too deep causes the facial features to become narrow with precipitous features.
In theory the wilder the animal, the shallower is the stop, while the domesticated animals begin to take on a deeper stop. However, in the Akita dog, a proper amount of stop is desirable. The fullness of the cheeky are developed from the bite. The addition of this to the wide forehead results in the unique appearance of the Akita dog.
Next, I would like to comment on the wrinkles of the face. If one were to exclude the young dogs whose foreheads have not yet fully developed, one rarely sees any wrinkles on the foreheads of the Akita dogs of today. The Akita dogs between the 20th and 30th years of Showa (1945 to 1955), on the other hand, developed wrinkles on the face with looseness of the skin as they matured, while these were not too evident in the puppies of that period.
According to some of the dog literature during the Taisho Period (1912 to 1925). when the so-called "improved dogs" or the "New Akita Dogs" were prevalent, the weird wrinkles on the face were widely accepted as being desirable, and some people went as far as stating that wrinkles on the face added to the stateliness of the Akita dog. Setting aside the fact that this was the period when the Akita dog was crossbred to produce fighting dogs, the Akita dog should not have any wrinkles on the facial region.
In general, wrinkles indicate looseness of the skin, and is not permissible as a part of dignity and character of the Akita dog.
"The neck is thick and powerful, with no loose skin, and at the proper angle when in the standing position." The neck must be thick, full and powerful. It must not appear thin or have any looseness of the skin. The proper angle of the neck is approximately 45 degrees when the dog is in the normal standing position.
The Akita dog's neck must be able to maintain the exceptionally large head. In order to capture any game or to swing the opponents when holding on to them during a battle, the neck must be thick and powerful. Also, as a show dog, the neck must be in balance with the massive head. Otherwise the appearance of fullness and powerfulness of the neck will be lacking. The proper angulation of the heck adds to the balance of the body as a whole.
If the angulation is too high, there is an unnatural appearance with the loss of keenness in relation to the body. If the angulation is too low, there is a lack of appeal and vigor.
"The ears are rather small, thick, triangular shaped with the proper amount of forward angulation. They are erect with adequate distance between them." The terms "proper amount" and "adequate" used in the foregoing paragraph are very vague and difficult to explain, but the emphasis is probably on the balance between the head regions and the face. There is a reason for having relatively small ears in the mature dog. Since the ears of the puppy are usually proportionately large, a puppy with small ears may be of some concern because many of these ears do not attain the adequate height when they reach maturity. The thickness or thinness of the ears do not seem to be of any great significance from an functional standpoint, but as a show dog, the thick ears are more pleasing to the eyes as well as being in balance with other parts of the body, providing that it does not impart, a feeling of dullness. Thin ears seem to impart,a nervous temperament and lacking the feeling of composure and dignity. There are many varieties of triangular shaped ears such as the "bamboo ears*' which are thin and close together at the base, Then there are "baggy ears" in which the outer edges fold toward the center. There are also ears where the inner edges are vertical. Even the properly shaped ears are somewhat longer with unequal sides at times.
"They are erect with adequate distance between them." This refers to the setting of the ears which means that the ears are standing erect as if they were thrust into the head. Thus the ear lines must be straight. When referring to the proper forward angulation of the ear, there should be a slight forward angulation in relation to a line extended upward from the posterior neck line. Ears standing too high when seen from the side view lacks the desirable sharpness, while ears that stand too low imports a feeling of heaviness.
The distance between the ears should be seen from the frontal view. The ears have tips that are pointed and a wide base. The proper distance between the ears may be determined by drawing a vertical line from the inner point of attachment of the ears. This line should pass through, the center of the dog's eyes. This should result in a proper width of the ears. Ears that are too wide are called "ornamental ears", while those ears with their inner point of attachment in line with the pointed ear tips are called "approaching ears." Ears of proper width have a vertical line from the ear tip pass through the middle of the base of the ear.
Thus, the ears of an Akita dog not only adds to the beauty of its outward appearance, but its shape expresses the quality and strength of the dog's mentality.
It is said that the eyes are the windows of the heart, or that the eyes may speak as much as the mouth. They reveal not only the state of mind of the dog, but its proper shape and location may also add to the quality of the individual dog.
"The eyes are somewhat triangular shaped and deeply set." The somewhat triangular shape is probably due to the gathering of the inner canthi with the apices of the upper eyelids and the longer base of the scalene triangle being out on the side. However, in reality, there are arch-shaped upper and lower eyelids, resulting in circular eyes. The term "deep" infers that the eyes should not protrude because shallow eyes along with bulky ears detract from the dignity of a stately face and do not contribute to the balance.
"The outer canthi are slightly raised, the irises are of dark brown color." This means the outer canthi, in relation to the lower eyelids, are slightly higher than the inner canthi, resulting in a slanted shape. The raised outer margins of the eyes are referred to as slanting eyes. However, if the eyes are too slanted, the eyes assume a stern look, while the lack of slanting results in lack of power in the eyes. as well as departing from the true character of the dog. The dark brown irises may be similar to the reddish orange mixed with black.
"There is a proper amount of space between the eyes." This refers to the location of the eyes on the face, which varies from individual to individual, but again, it is referring to the balance of the dog. Proper distance between the eyes enhances dignity, while those eyes which are too close give an impression of sternness or nervousness. Eyes which are too far apart give a loose expression. The eyes of the Akita dogs of today have markedly improved. In the past the type of eyes described in the Standard were very rare.
MUZZLE AND NOSE
"The bridge of the nose is straight, the muzzle is full. The base of the mouth is wide, and the nose is not snipy." This means that the line extending forward from the stop toward the nose must be straight from the side view. However, one also often sees the bridge of the nose that is either convex or concave. A line extending from the top of the head to the forehead should be parallel with the line extending from the stop to the nose. It is difficult to have a proper face if these lines either intersect or broaden out. The muzzle must taper gradually from the cheeks to the tip of the mouth. The base must be broad and the tip must not be snipy. The area between the cheeks and the muzzle must be broad and tight.
It must not taper acutely with the tip of the face pointed excessively. In other words, the cheeks must be broad, the muzzle must also be full in order to have a suitable shape of the face.
"The nostrils are tight and the lips are tightly drawn." The term "tight" is difficult to explain, but one may be referring to the tenseness of the nose when the dog is sniffing. The nose must also be black, shiny, moist and active. However, a red nose is allowable on the white Akita dog. The lips must be tightly drawn, that is, the upper or the lower lips must not be hanging down or loose. The lips must be drawn in a straight line. The color of the lips must also match the black color of the nose.
At the present time, there are three general classifications of muzzles. They are round, square, and triangular types. In the triangular type, even a slight looseness of the lips is easily noticeable. The square type, which is also known as the boxy type, is also frequently associated with droopiness of the lips. The round type is the most ideal and there is no looseness of the lips usually, owing to the shape, and one can often see the ideal straight line.
The face of the Akita dogs of today have markedly improved. Until the 30th year of Showa (1955), desirable Japanese dog like facial features which impart the impressions of tastefulness and majesty were indeed rare.
Tatsuo Kimura, Translator