Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: 12 Key Differences

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: 12 Key Differences

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Are you considering Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd for your next furry friend? Find out what you can expect with both dog breeds in this article!

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Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: History

A dog’s history can reveal a lot about what you can expect from them as a family companion. It is an essential part of your doggy research.

Learning about Japanese Akita and German Shepherd’s past will not only help you understand more about their characters. It will also teach you about the cause of their differences.

Japanese Akita History

japanese akita vs german shepherd

The Akita dog originated in the snowy and rural lands of Odate, Akita Prefecture, a mountainous region of Japan.

Akitas were used for hunting and guarding purposes. They were powerful enough to hunt animals such as wild boar, elk, and Ussuri brown bears.

In their Japanese homeland, the Akita is a symbol of good health, happiness, and longevity. 

The Akita breed began to split into two types in the post-World War II era: Japanese Akita (commonly called Akita Inu) and the American Akita.

Helen Keller, an American woman, is credited with bringing the Akita to America after being given two Akitas by the Japanese government in 1938.

After World War II, many soldiers saw how solid and great-looking Akitas were, so they brought them to the United States. It helped to boost the breed’s popularity in the states.

So, over time, differences started to appear. In America, people bred Akitas to be big and bear-like. But, in Japan, breeders tried to maintain the original breed stats.

The Akita is described as the most faithful dog breed, as proven by Hachiko, a famous Akita who waited for his owner’s return for nine years until his death.

In 2009, Hollywood released a movie called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, and made the Akita Inu breed famous and beloved by people from around the world. Statues of Hachiko are erected in both Japan and the US and attract many fans and visitors.

German Shepherd History

japanese akita vs german shepherd

The German Shepherd is a medium to large-sized German working dog. The breed was developed by Max von Stephanitz using various traditional German herding dogs from 1899.

They were originally bred as herding dogs to herd sheep. Since then, they have been used in many other types of work, including disability assistance, search-and-rescue, police work, and warfare.

The breed gained international recognition after the end of World War I. Returning soldiers spoke highly of the breed and animal actors Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart popularized the breed further.

These outstanding qualities and characteristics make the German Shepherd a wonderful domestic companion, protector, and friend.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Popularity

Both are popular dog breeds, but the German Shepherd is more popular than the Akita.

According to the American Kennel Club, the German Shepherd is the second most popular dog in America, ranking second out of 193 dog breeds, while the Akita is ranked the 48th.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Size

akita vs german shepherd

German Shepherd Size

German Shepherds are medium to large-sized dogs. Males stand 24 to 26 inches; females stand 22 to 24 inches. Weight ranges from 75 to 95 pounds. German Shepherds are longer than they are tall.

Akita Size

Akitas are large-sized dogs. They are taller and heavier than German Shepherd dogs. Males stand 26 to 28 inches and weigh 85 to 130 pounds. Females stand 24 to 26 inches and weigh 70 to 110 pounds.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Appearance

Japanese Akita Appearance

akita as guard dog

As a spitz breed, the appearance of the Akita reflects cold weather adaptations essential to their original function. Japanese Akita has an attractive appearance and dignified expression.

They have a fox-like appearance with small eyes, erect ears, and muscular bodies. The legs are straight and strong. The tail is large and usually curled over the body.

Japanese Akitas have urajiro markings – a whitish coat on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, on the underside of the jaw, neck, chest, body, and tail, and on the inside of the legs.

German Shepherd Appearance

german shepherd

German Shepherds are large, muscular dogs that are longer than their height. They are strong, agile, and well-muscled.

They have a black nose, a domed forehead, and a long square-cut muzzle with strong jaws. The eyes are brown and medium-sized. The ears are large and erect, open at the front and parallel, but frequently pulled back during movement.

Their back and hind legs are slightly angled. They have long, bushy tails and reach the hock. A German Shepherd has a long neck, which is raised when excited and lowered when moving at a fast pace as well as stalking.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Coat Types

Both Akita and German Shepherd have a double coat-it protects them from the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer.

Their coat has two layers with distinct functions. The dense undercoat supplies excellent insulation, protecting them from the cold and the heat. Furthermore, the outer coat is made of long rough hair that repels moisture and protects them from the elements.

The gene for long hair is recessive, and therefore the long-haired variety is rarer.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Colors

akita vs german shepherd

Japanese Akitas come in 4 colors identified by the Japan Kennel Club: red fawn, brindlewhite, and sesame.

The most common colors for German Shepherd dogs are:

  • black
  • gray
  • sable
  • black and tan
  • blue
  • red and black
  • black and silver
  • liver (brown)

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Lifespan

The average life expectancy for the German shepherd and Akita dog is between 10 and 13 years. Their lifespan also depends on many other factors like diet, exercise, temperament, etc.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Temperament

japanese akita vs german shepherd

Both Akita and German Shepherd dogs are intelligent, fearless, and unwaveringly loyal to their family. They have a solid background in guarding, so they are naturally wary of strangers, and you definitely have to earn their trust.

The German Shepherd’s personality is aloof but not usually aggressive, while the Akita tends to be more aggressive, especially among same-sex dogs.

Another difference is that German Shepherds are born talkers, whereas Akitas are silent dogs. Akitas only bark when necessary. As a result, they serve as effective early warning signals.

They are loving, adorable, and will show their silly side to their family. But when threatened, they can be strong and protective, making them excellent guard dogs.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Exercise

German Shepherds are amongst the most high-energy dogs out there. Most German Shepherds will usually need at least 90 minutes of exercise per day. It can include high-energy activities like walking, running, and playing in a safe area.

With Akitas, thirty minutes to an hour a day with brisk walks, jogging, swimming, or romping in the yard is sufficient for them.

Of course, their exercise also depends on many factors such as their age, fitness level, general health, food intake, and more.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Training

akita vs german shepherd

German Shepherds are obedient, making them easier to train compared to Akitas. Obedience training wouldn’t be any problem for them as well. They will listen and obey your commands.

Akitas are stubborn and bored easily. They need firm training with respect, consistent reinforcement from their owner, and fun games that make them motivated.

You should start to train them as early as possible with proper methods. Early social interactions with kids, babies, and other animals are also essential if you want your dog to be well-behaved around guests.

Whatever your dog’s breed is, training is a must if you want to eliminate bad behavior and create the obedient, well-behaved dog of your dreams. You can choose suitable online classes from these 20 reputable SpiritDog Training courses to learn how to “successfully” train your canine using science-based positive methods, or grab the free guide below.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Shedding & Grooming

German Shepherd and Akita shed year-round. But they shed heavily in the fall and spring.

In the fall, you will see a change in your dog’s coat and a higher incidence of shedding in preparation for the coming winter months. In the spring, your dog’s coat will become lighter in preparation for the warm weather in summer.

Your dog should be brushed 3-4 times a week, eliminating loose, dead hairs and keeping the fur soft and shiny.

Bathe your dog once every six weeks to three months. Trim their nails once a month and clean their ears weekly. But keep in mind that do not bathe them too often because it can dry out their skin, deplete natural oils, and lead to scratches and irritation.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Health

Common health issues with Akita dogs include hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and autoimmune hypothyroidism.

Some of the most common health problems associated with German Shepherd breed:

  • Hip Dysplasia.
  • Elbow Dysplasia.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)
  • Epilepsy.
  • Hemophilia.
  • Diabetes.
  • Cataracts.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease.


The main difference between Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd is their appearance. Also, German Shepherd is slightly easier to train and less aggressive than Akita. 

Whether you like Japanese Akita or German Shepherd, as long as they seem to fit into your lifestyle and you can give them what they need, they are both adorable and cuddly pups.

And before you leave, check out our best new puppy resource for new dog parents below ⇓

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