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Breed Comparison: Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd

Last updated on February 22nd, 2024 at 10:21 pm

Both the Japanese Akita and the German Shepherd are renowned for their intelligence, unwavering loyalty, and striking appearances. These highly popular breeds often find themselves at the top of many “best dog” lists, but choosing between them can be a tough decision.

This blog post goes deep into the world of these large dogs. It compares and contrasts their personalities, training needs, exercise requirements, overall suitability for different lifestyles, etc. By the end, you’ll have all the info you need to decide which furry buddy could be the perfect match for your home.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: History and origin

Japanese Akita:

  • Hailing from the snowy mountains of Akita Prefecture in Japan, these loyal companions were originally bred to hunt large prey like bears, wild boars, and even elk.
  • Interestingly, they also served as guardians for the samurai class during the feudal era, earning them a reputation for bravery and loyalty.
  • The story of Hachiko, the legendary Akita who waited for his deceased owner at Shibuya Station for years, further cemented the breed’s image as a symbol of unwavering devotion.

German Shepherd:

  • Developed in 1899 by Captain Max von Stephanitz in Germany, the German Shepherd was meticulously bred to be the ultimate herding dog.
  • Their intelligence, trainability, and athleticism quickly earned them recognition beyond herding, and they were soon employed for various tasks like police work, military service, and search and rescue.
  • During World War I and II, German Shepherds played crucial roles as messenger dogs, guard dogs, and even mine detectors, showcasing their versatility and courage.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Size and appearance

japanese akita vs german shepherd


Japanese Akita: Akitas are generally larger than German Shepherds. Males stand at 26-28 inches tall and weigh 100-130 pounds, while females are 24-26 inches tall and weigh 70-100 pounds.

German Shepherd: German Shepherds are slightly smaller, with males reaching 24-26 inches tall and weighing 75-90 pounds, and females standing at 22-24 inches tall and weighing 50-75 pounds.

Coat type:

Japanese Akita: Akitas have a double coat consisting of a thick, plush undercoat and a harsh, straight outer coat. This coat sheds heavily twice a year and requires regular brushing.

German Shepherd: German Shepherds also have a double coat, but their outer coat is denser and slightly shorter than the Akita’s. They shed moderately throughout the year and require regular brushing, especially during shedding seasons.


Japanese Akita: Akitas come in various colors, including red, white, and brindle. They often have distinctive facial markings, such as a “mask” around the eyes and muzzle.

German Shepherd: German Shepherds primarily come in black and tan, although bi-color (black and red) and solid black variations are also recognized. Their markings are typically well-defined, with clear distinctions between colors.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Temperament and personality

Japanese Akita:

  • Independent: Akitas are known for their strong sense of independence. They can be stubborn and require experienced owners who can provide firm, consistent training.
  • Loyal and affectionate: Once bonded with their family, Akitas are fiercely loyal and loving companions. However, they tend to form strong attachments with one or a few individuals and may be reserved with strangers.
  • Protective: Akitas possess a natural guarding instinct and are highly alert. They can be wary of unfamiliar people and situations, making them excellent watchdogs.
  • Quiet and dignified: Akitas are generally not known for excessive barking but will alert their owners to potential threats. They tend to be more reserved and dignified compared to German Shepherds.

German Shepherd:

  • Eager to please: German Shepherds are highly trainable and eager to please their owners. They excel in various activities like obedience training, agility, and service work.
  • Energetic and playful: German Shepherds possess high energy levels and require regular exercise and mental stimulation. They enjoy playtime, interactive games, and learning new tricks.
  • Confident and outgoing: German Shepherds are typically more social and outgoing than Akitas. They can be friendly with strangers when properly socialized.
  • Protective and alert: Like Akitas, German Shepherds are naturally protective and vigilant. They make excellent watchdogs and guard dogs.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Energy level and exercise needs

japanese akita vs german shepherd

Japanese Akita:

  • Moderate energy: Akitas generally have moderate energy levels compared to German Shepherds. They enjoy daily walks, playtime, and mental stimulation but are not as demanding in terms of exercise.
  • Independent play: Akitas can entertain themselves for periods and enjoy independent playtime. However, they still require interaction and engagement with their owners.

German Shepherd:

  • High energy: German Shepherds possess high energy levels and require consistent physical and mental stimulation to thrive. They excel in activities that challenge their minds and bodies.
  • Active lifestyle: German Shepherds are well-suited for active owners who enjoy daily walks, running, hiking, and engaging in various dog sports.
  • Regular exercise is crucial: Insufficient exercise can lead to boredom, destructive behaviors, and anxiety in German Shepherds.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Trainability and intelligence

Japanese Akita:

  • Intelligent but independent: Akitas are highly intelligent but can be independent thinkers. They may require patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement training methods.
  • Strong-willed: Akitas can be stubborn and require firm yet gentle handling. Early socialization and training are crucial to establish boundaries and prevent unwanted behaviors.
  • Motivation matters: Akitas respond best to training sessions that are engaging and offer rewards they value, such as treats, praise, or playtime.

German Shepherd:

  • Eager to please: German Shepherds are renowned for their trainability and eagerness to learn. They excel in various training disciplines, including obedience, agility, and service work.
  • Highly trainable: German Shepherds are quick learners and enjoy the mental stimulation that training provides. They respond well to positive reinforcement methods and consistent commands.
  • Energetic learners: German Shepherds’ high energy levels can be channeled into productive training sessions. They thrive on learning new tasks and challenges.

Many readers have loved learning how to train their dogs based on scientific methods from a free workshop conducted by Dr. Alexa Diaz (one of the top service dog trainers in the U.S.) and Eric Presnall (host of the hit Animal Planet TV show “Who Let the Dogs Out”) at the K9 Training Institute. In the free online dog training workshop, you’ll discover:

    1. How to train your dog using body language rather than verbal cues
    2. The 3 key techniques that service dog trainers use to train dogs and how you can use them too
    3. The most important step that “normal” dog owners have been missing (this is very important to get your dog’s attention, and it works 100% of the time)
    4. How to stop bad behaviors like excessive barking, pulling on the leash, jumping, etc.
    5. Why a lot of dog owners are unable to establish the amazing bond that service dog trainers have with their dogs


Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, this pre-recorded workshop will help you train them successfully. You may not want to miss the chance to learn these groundbreaking techniques. Here’s the free workshop.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Grooming needs

japanese akita vs german shepherd

Japanese Akita:

  • Heavy shedding: Akitas are known for their heavy shedding, particularly during their twice-yearly shedding seasons (spring and fall).
  • Brushing frequency: Brushing at least two to three times a week is essential to manage shedding and prevent matting. During shedding seasons, daily brushing may be necessary.
  • Bathing: Akitas typically only require baths every 6-8 weeks or as needed. Frequent bathing can strip their coat of natural oils and lead to dryness or irritation.

German Shepherd:

  • Moderate shedding: German Shepherds shed moderately throughout the year and heavily during their seasonal sheds.
  • Brushing frequency: Brushing 2-3 times a week is recommended to manage shedding and maintain a healthy coat. Daily brushing during shedding seasons might be beneficial.
  • Bathing: Similar to Akitas, German Shepherds generally only need baths every 6-8 weeks or as needed. Over-bathing can dry out their skin and coat.

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Lifespan and health


Japanese Akita: The average lifespan of an Akita is 10-13 years.

German Shepherd: The average lifespan of a German Shepherd is slightly shorter, at 9-13 years.

Common health concerns:

Japanese Akita:

  • Bloat: A life-threatening condition that can cause stomach torsion. 
  • Hip dysplasia: A malformation of the hip joint that can cause pain and lameness.
  • Hypothyroidism: A hormonal imbalance that can lead to weight gain, lethargy, and skin problems. 
  • Sebaceous adenitis: A skin condition that causes hair loss and crusting. 

German Shepherd:

  • Hip dysplasia: Similar to Akitas, German Shepherds are also prone to hip dysplasia.
  • Degenerative myelopathy: A progressive neurological disease affecting the spinal cord. There is no cure, but supportive care can help manage symptoms.
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI): A digestive disorder that affects the pancreas’ ability to produce enzymes.
  • Arthritis: Common in older dogs, arthritis can cause pain and stiffness in the joints. 

Japanese Akita vs German Shepherd: Suitability for different lifestyles

japanese akita vs german shepherd

Choosing the right dog breed depends heavily on your lifestyle and living situation. Here’s a breakdown of how Akitas and German Shepherds might fare in different scenarios:

Apartment living:

  • Japanese Akita: Their moderate energy levels make Akitas potentially suitable for apartment living. However, their independent nature and heavy shedding during seasons might pose challenges in close quarters. Providing ample exercise and mental stimulation is crucial.
  • German Shepherd: While technically able to live in apartments, their high energy levels and need for regular exercise can be difficult to fulfill in limited spaces. They might be better suited for homes with yards or access to ample outdoor space.

Active families:

  • Japanese Akita: Akitas can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and walks, but their independent streak might require experienced owners who can handle their stubbornness. They may not be ideal for intense exercise routines.
  • German Shepherd: German Shepherds thrive in active families and excel in various dog sports and activities due to their high energy levels, eagerness to please, and trainability. They are excellent companions for jogs, hikes, and adventures.

First-time dog owners:

  • Japanese Akita: Akitas, with their independent nature and potential for stubbornness, might be challenging for first-time dog owners. They require experienced owners who can provide firm, consistent training and understand their unique needs.
  • German Shepherd: While still requiring proper training and socialization, German Shepherds’ eagerness to please and trainability make them potentially better suited for first-time owners willing to commit to their exercise and mental stimulation needs.

Living with other pets:

  • Japanese Akita: Akitas can be territorial and may not always get along with other dogs, especially those of the same sex. Early socialization and training are crucial if introducing them to other pets.
  • German Shepherd: While proper socialization is still essential, German Shepherds generally have a higher tolerance for other pets when properly introduced and trained.


japanese akita vs german shepherd

This guide has compared their size, appearance, temperament, energy levels, trainability, grooming needs, lifespan, health concerns, and suitability for different living situations. Remember:

  • Japanese Akitas: Loyal, independent, and dignified companions, requiring experienced owners who can provide consistent training and manage their moderate energy levels.
  • German Shepherds: Eager to please, energetic, and highly trainable, thriving in active families and excelling in various activities.

Both Akitas and German Shepherds are intelligent, loyal, and stunning breeds with unique personalities and needs. Ultimately, the best choice depends on your lifestyle and preferences, as well as your ability to provide a loving and suitable environment that caters to their specific requirements.

Becoming a dog parent is one of the most memorable moments of life. But before bringing your new best friend home, it’s vital to have all the right things to make sure the adoption is really smooth and makes them feel right. You may feel overwhelmed by tons of puppy products on sale and not sure what items your puppy actually needs. That’s why we’ve compiled this minimalist puppy checklist to help you get started.

About us: Pet Chao is a community for Asian dog breed enthusiasts. Our goal is to keep you and your four-legged friend healthy and happy by providing valuable resources and fostering a like-minded community.

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