We asked the following questions to our friends in the Akita community. Below is everyone’s responses, which are taken from the September 2019 issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.
Rebecca Kestle, DVM grew up in Georgia with a love for all animals, especially dogs and horses. She graduated from the University of Georgia Veterinary School in 1985. As an Akita breeder, she had a keen interest in canine reproduction and owns Cliftwood Animal Hospital which freezes canine semen with Zoetis since 1992. Rebecca is an AKC judge and has judged Akitas around the world. Her first regular assignment was the 2010 Akita national best of breed. Rebecca and her husband, Stuart Kinghorn, live on a farm in Canton, Georgia. Rebecca is on the Judges Education Committee and a lifetime member of The Atlanta Kennel Club.
I live in Canton, Georgia on a small hobby farm and own Cliftwood Animal Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Besides loving all animals, I am totally horse crazy. Besides having five Akitas, two cats, 20 chickens, three ducks and a bunny, we have four horses that we love. My hobby is low level eventing which is riding dressage, cross country and stadium jumping. When not working at Cliftwood doing primarily reproductive canine medicine, I am riding horses. As a member of the Judges Education Committee I also spend time working on our illustrated standard with a wonderful committee.
How is the breed with strangers? Akitas are good watch dogs and very gamey. Mine will bark for attention and love just about anyone. Having owned them for almost 40 years, I think the temperament has gotten better but they are a tough dog. Mine enjoy strangers but let them know they are there. I raised two children with Akitas and the one thing they may do is intervene in rough housing and can sometimes discern if someone is not a good apple.
What is the most important thing to know about living with an Akita? Akitas are not meant to run free as they will run after and try to catch animals they are not acclimated to. They are pretty tough dogs that need a leader. I think dogs can be more assertive especially when they are going through puberty and both sexes feed off owner’s energy just like all animals. So if an owner gets nervous about something an Akita is going to pick up on it and may not be agreeable to that situation if not trained properly. I don’t think Akitas are one person dogs but typically love everyone.
The breed has always had problems with hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism and eye diseases including microphthalmia, VKH and retinal dysplasia which is not a horrible disease. Akitas can also show sebaceous adenitis and other auto immune diseases of the skin. I think our breed also has a good amount of cruciate ruptures. Before breeding we recommend that the parents be OFA certified Hips and elbows, eye exam and thyroid testing. I like to do preliminary hip x-rays and a Michigan State University thyroid check before even considering breeding or spending a lot on showing.
How do I place my puppies? We are probably not breeding anymore but used to place puppies by word of mouth and referral.
The Akitas most endearing quality is that they are very loyal.
At what age do I choose a show prospect? I choose at eight weeks.
My favorite dog show memory? Being very late to a dog show after having gone to the wrong local show site to only having time to jump out of the car and run in the ring to win breed and later a group placement. Another was meeting my husband, Stuart Kinghorn, at the 2000 National Akita specialty. He was visiting from Scotland. I also love all the Akita and dog show friends I have.
I’d also like to share that they are not for everyone. People who love the breed just can’t do without one. I hope to always have one.
Priscilla B. McCune
I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I worked with my husband until his death eight years ago. He was a small animal practitioner and I have a degree in Animal Science and genetics and was hired by a company that had me calling on veterinarians. So it kind of fell in my lap to help in in his business as a semi tech/vet assistant/girl Friday. I was too young to retire and still needed an income and one of his best friends offered me a position with his veterinary organization. I have been working as a practice manager for the Noah’s hospitals for the past 7 1/2 years and am still working. I truly enjoy my work.
How is the breed with strangers who come to call? Over the past 46 years that I have had Akitas most of them are fairly predictable. My house dogs would protect me with their lives. When a stranger comes to the door the Akita will stand between myself and the door. Then he watches to see my reaction. If I welcome this person he kind of backs up and allows entry, however if he senses any hesitation on my part, he stays put. The breed is amazing.
What is the most important thing to know about living with an Akita? Their loyalty is incomprehensible. It truly upsets me when I hear of our Akita rescue groups around this country having picked up an “owner surrendered” or an abandoned Akita, or a puppy miller where the Akita has contact with a human maybe once a day for food and water, when all he wants is to be loved and to love back and to protect and serve. The ones that have experienced a loving relationship with a family, then to suddenly be neglected, will no doubt suffer.
Is the breed experiencing any particular medical problems? I believe there are health risk that still lurk around most breeders. Good breeders do all they can with hips, elbows, patellas, eyes, cardiac, thyroid etc and sometimes these things still appear. I think the breed in general is much, much healthier than it was even 15 years ago due to some of the genetic markers that can identify issues.
How do I place my puppies? I am not a huge breeder and I don’t seem to have big litters. But many of my pups are repeat puppy buyers, and word of mouth. I breed for myself first.
What is the breed’s most endearing quality? The loyalty and unconditional love.
At what age do I choose a show prospect? Day one then eight weeks of age.
My favorite dog show memory? A 19 month old puppy bitch that I bred, bred her mother and father won winner’s bitch at our Akita National under a breeder judge that I respect, at last year’s National 2018.
Wendy Sorrell has bred Akitas under the “Subarashii” kennel name for 40 years. She has selectively and carefully bred very few litters but always striving for breed type, overall balance, quality and soundness. Wendy is a breeder/owner/handler, retired AKC judge and now enjoys showing in multiple venues with her Akitas. Wendy is always available to talk with those who want to learn about the Akita. She is also the Director of Northwest Akita Rescue, a 501c3 rescue organized in Washington state.
I live with my husband, Mark, and our four Akitas in Tenino, Washington. I work full time and enjoy my off time at home or enjoying time with our two sons and grandchildren that live in Oregon.
How is the breed with strangers who come to call?
At first is the “Akita pose” and a bark. When I tell them “Okay” they are socially annoying—meaning you will get mauled with love and snuggles. I do have one male that takes his guardian job seriously. He will stand at guard and does not care to visit with company.
What is the most important thing to know about living with an Akita? Early socialization is the key to raising a pup up to be a happy, trusting dog. The Akita is a perimeter guardian and so a good fenced area is a must. Once you live with an Akita you will never again experience the depth of loyalty and love you will share with your dog.
Is the breed experiencing any particular medical problems? Cancer! ACL injuries have become almost commonplace these days. I feel that the preservation breeders of today have done a great job cleaning up health issues from the past. Unfortunately, the disreputable breeders are a huge problem in our breed, as I am sure they are in others as well.
How do I place my puppies? Very carefully. Strong referrals and references are required. Most of our puppy buyers we have known for years and they are Akita-experienced.
What is the breed’s most endearing quality? Undying loyalty, unconditional love and intelligence.
At what age do I choose a show prospect? It is a process that starts at birth. Generally, by six weeks of age I know who I am keeping to grow out. At eight to nine weeks the litter is evaluated by myself and others that I trust from outside my breed.
My favorite dog show memory? There are so many but, last year at this time I started to show my young male, Rusher. He is a powerhouse and a handful for me! He had picked up a couple singles earlier in the year and I was showing him locally only. We entered in an Akita supported entry and I was thrilled that Rusher won Best of Breed from the Bred By class. A major. He then went on that same day to win the NOHS Working Group as well. It was a very proud moment for me. He is a very sound, solid animal with great breed type. In very limited showing he easily finished from the BBX class. My first after 40+ years of raising and showing Akitas.
As with many purebred dogs, it is sad to see fewer new folks coming into the breed willing to put the work and commitment into learning the history of the Akita here in America. Learning about structure, genetics, pedigrees, etc. You cannot learn by looking at photos and watching YouTube videos. With each litter I tell myself this is the last because who will make the commitment to carry on where I leave off? But, I am already planning the next steps in my program that I must see through over the next four to five years. It is what we do as purposeful preservation breeders. Thank you for asking me to share about my beloved breed, the Akita.
I am with Crown Royal Akitas and we are on ten acres in North Idaho. The Akitas have been my passion for 38 years and I do not have a job other than my dogs.
The Akita should be accepting with strangers, but also on guard. The most important thing to know about living with them is they need firm training and are wonderful family companions if trained correctly.
Is the breed experiencing any particular medical problems? There are health issues with this breed. Make sure the breeder you buy from is a member of the parent club.
How do I place my puppies? My show puppies are evaluated at eight weeks.
My greatest dog show memory was when Ch. Crown Royal Get Off my Cloud received his 30th All breed Best in Show, owner breeder handled by me!