Akitas and German Shepherds are both large, distinctive-looking dogs that are naturally protective and loyal to their families. Read on to discover more about their similarities and differences.
Akita vs. German Shepherd history
Akitas date back to the 1600s and are named after the Akita a province in northern Japan. The breed was originally used to guard Japanese royalty and to hunt large fowl and game, including bears!
Akitas first made their way Stateside when the famous political activist and author Helen Keller visited Japan and, after expressing interest in the Akita breed, was gifted a puppy to take back to the US. Akitas came to the UK via Canada in 1937 but weren’t internationally known until the early 1980s. The UK and US bred Akita is larger and more robust than the Japanese Akita Inu, which is sometimes mistaken for the Shiba Inu.
German Shepherds are a generally more well-known type of dog than Akitas. In the UK, they’re almost immediately recognised as police dogs, chosen for their trainability, size and tracking abilities. They are a fairly young breed though, originating in Germany in 1899. Captain Max von Stephanitz, retired from the German cavalry, started breeding German Shepherd dogs to herd sheep. As Germany became more industrialised, von Stephanitz saw the need for herding dogs was diminishing so he convinced the German government to use the breed for police work and military service.
During WWI, the breed served as a Red Cross dog. After the war, an American soldier took a puppy back to Los Angeles where the dog later became Rin Tin Tin, starring in over 26 Hollywood films which made the breed famous.
Akita vs. German Shepherd appearance
Akita vs German Shepherd size
Akitas are taller and much heavier dogs than German Shepherds.
Male Akitas are approximately 66-71 cm tall and weigh 38-58 kg whilst female Akitas are 60-66 cm tall and weigh 31-49 kg.
German Shepherd males are 61-67 cm tall and females are 55-61 cm tall, while both male and female German Shepherds weigh approximately 34-44 kg.
Akitas are members of the Utility breed group and German Shepherds are members of the Pastoral group of dogs.
Akita Inus are smaller in height and weight than Akitas. Overall, Akitas are confident, dignified looking dogs. They are broad, heavily-boned dogs with a fox-like head and small, almond shaped eyes.
They have black, white, chocolate or a combination of colour and white or brindle.
Markings on their face can look like they are wearing a black mask, but in Japan the breed has white markings. They have small, thick, triangular ears and a broad muzzle. They have a long body, wide chest and a large, fluffy tail that is curled. Akitas have a double coat; their undercoat is very dense and their topcoat is short.
German Shepherds are noble looking dogs with a long, dark muzzle, intelligent eyes and large ears that are pointed and stand up on their head. A German Shepherd’s colouring and coat can vary greatly. They have a medium-length double coat, but some dogs can have a longer double coat. Their coat comes in a variety of colours like black and tan, sable, grey or black and white.
Both Akitas and German Shepherds shed a lot. Although German Shepherds are nicknamed ‘German Shedders’, Akitas actually shed more frequently as their coat is more dense.
In any case, you’ll require a vacuum on hand regularly if you have either breed. Akitas will shed heavily two or three times a year while a German Shepherd sheds heavily twice a year. Both breeds are fairly clean and have little odour but will require regular brushing. Interestingly, Akitas are known to have feline-like grooming habits and lick their body like a cat.
Akita vs. German Shepherd personality
Akitas are intelligent, courageous dogs that will be extremely loyal guardians to their family. They’re affectionate, friendly dogs when they are properly trained and socialised. Akitas are naturally protective and don’t frighten easily, plus their intimidatingly large size makes them good watch dogs. They are also known to show aggression towards other dogs, particularly those of the same sex.
German Shepherds are also intelligent, strong and active breeds and make extremely loyal pets. German Shepherds are easy to train and love a job so are often used to help people with disabilities, work as police dogs or for rescuing avalanche victims.
German Shepherds are loving dogs to their family but they don’t naturally warm quickly to strangers. This aloofness to new people makes them excellent watch dogs. Akitas may make good watch dogs too, but they are more difficult to train.
German Shepherds need a lot of physical exercise and mental stimulation. If they are left alone for long periods of time, are bored or frustrated, they will act out, chew things and bark.
Akitas are active dogs and need daily exercise but don’t need as much physical and mental stimulation as German Shepherds. They can also misbehave and act out if bored and are happiest living inside the family home.
Akitas are mouthy and will like to carry household items in their mouths. They are also known to drool. German Shepherds are also mouthy and like to chew and will easily ruin your favourite pair of shoes with their strong jaws. They need appropriate chew toys or a large bone that will protect their teeth and to ensure they aren’t chewing on the wrong things.
Akitas are noisy dogs; they like to grumble and moan but they aren’t big barkers. They can also be feline-like when they stalk their prey. They won’t make a lot of noise and will keep their body low to ground before springing into action. Akitas are dominate in size and personality and need a strong, confident owner. They aren’t the best breed for first-time pet owners and are more suited for a one-dog household.
German Shepherds will make good pets for first-time owners but will require patience and training.
Akita vs. German Shepherd and families
Akitas can be loyal playmates but are suited for families with older children. Dog and child interactions should always be supervised and this is very true with Akitas. They make great pets but wouldn’t be the best breed for young families. As they can be aggressive to other dogs and animals, Akitas are most suited for a one-dog family.
German Shepherds make good family dogs but will benefit from plenty of exposure to young children, particularly as puppies. They can be both gentle and protective with some calling the breed a cross between a babysitter and a police officer. They are large dogs though, so they have the potential to overpower or knock over small children. German Shepherds can live with other animals but best to integrate them into a multi-pet household at a puppy stage.
Akita vs. German Shepherd health
German Shepherd’s life expectancy is 10-14 years and Akitas can live 10-12 years.
German Shepherds can suffer from hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, gastric dilatation-volvulus or bloat and allergies. Akitas are also prone to hip dysplasia and gastric dilatation-volvulus or bloat, hyperthyroidism and sebaceous adenitis.