Akitas are a courageous and fun dog breed with bundles of energy and a fierce loyalty to their owners. In many ways, this can make them the perfect pet, but prospective Akita owners should be prepared for one important aspect about their maintenance – the heavy shedding! Most dog breeds shed their coat – even short-haired dogs – but Akitas are known to shed quite heavily and for long periods.
So how often do Akitas shed and how can you manage it? The rate at which Akitas shed their coat can depend on many things from the climate they live in to their diet and their grooming routine. Managing their shedding, therefore, will largely depend on how prepared you are to care for their coat, which can shed twice yearly and last anytime between 2 weeks and up to 2 months at the most!
Akitas make wonderful pets, so if you’re considering adding one to your family but need to know a little more about their shedding process, then this guide aims to answer many of your questions and concerns. From tips on how to keep your home free of excess hair to dietary and grooming advice for your Akita, we hope this tells you all you need to know about caring for these heavy-shedding dogs.
You’ll notice fur around the home all year round with most pet dogs, but Akitas are in a different league when it comes to their shedding volume! Because they are suited to colder climates, they have a super thick, double-layered coat so tip number one for those wanting an Akita: invest in a good quality vacuum! To understand the Akitas shedding process properly, let’s look into the why, when and how of their coat shedding cycle.
Why Akitas Shed
Akitas shed for the same reason most dogs do, because their hair goes through a cycle of growth, rest and loss – out with the old hairs and in with the new. But because Akitas are double-coated dogs (more on what this means later), they have a thick and soft secondary ‘undercoat’ beneath their longer and more coarse outer coat, and they need to ‘blowout’ these undercoats twice a year (normally around summer and winter time) to make way for their new, healthy coat.
Different factors can affect why Akitas will shed more or less often, and this is typically down to health problems or a poor diet, which will inevitably affect the quality of their coat and their ability to shed properly.
When Akitas Shed
Throughout their adult life, Akitas will shed or ‘blowout’ their undercoat twice a year at the beginning of summer and winter. The first shedding will usually occur when they shed their puppy coat, which can be between 6 or 12 months of age. Around this time of baby coat shedding, there may be an overlap with their seasonal shedding, but this soon settles down as they adopt their normal bi-annual shedding cycle.
Though they only shed twice a year, it may seem like your Akita has been shedding all year round, but this is mainly down to the amount they shed. Their ‘blowout’ cycle of shedding their undercoat typically lasts between 2 to 4 weeks, but can last as long as 2 whole months (the latter is the worst-case scenario and is usually down to a lack of brushing and/or poor diet).
Elements That Can Affect Your Akita’s Shedding
- Climate – where you live can actually affect your Akita’s shedding habits. If you live in a mild and consistent climate all year round, their seasonal shedding can be a tad lighter. If you live somewhere where the temperature change from winter to summer seasons is more dramatic (such as the New England region of the US, for example) then your Akita will tend to shed a much heavier and long lasting coat ‘blowout’.
- Diet – if you don’t feed your Akita a balanced wholesome diet, this can begin to impact their shedding levels. They can shed more if they are not getting enough protein, vitamins and minerals, so it can be well worth buying good quality dog food. Cheaper label dog food can contain unnecessary ‘filler’ ingredients which contain no nutritional benefit such as corn and soy, which may gradually result in heavier shedding.
- Health issues – the overall health of your Akita can affect its coat. If they are keeping to a good diet but you are noticing more hairs around the home in between their normal seasonal shedding, it’s a good idea to get them checked out at the vet. Conditions such as dermatitis, ringworm and fungal infections can cause hair loss, so it’s important to let a vet check them regularly for fleas, mites or parasites that could be causing them irritation and extra shedding.
Single Coat vs. Double Coat
Dogs are in one of two categories when it comes to their fur type – they are either ‘single-coated’ or ‘double-coated’ dogs. As the name suggests, single-coated dogs are normally much lower maintenance when it comes to keeping your home hair-free and are usually hypoallergenic dogs, meaning they make great pets for people with allergies.
Double-coated dogs, like Akitas, will appear much fluffier than single-coated dogs, owing to their double-layered coat (undercoat and outer coat). Their undercoat consists of short, thick woolly hairs whilst their outer coat – also known as their ‘guard’ hairs are longer and can feel rougher in texture. The simple difference between the two coat types is that one requires thorough grooming to prevent tangles and shedding complications.
Akita Cross Breeds and Shedding
The shedding rates can differ depending on the cross-breed of Akita you have. Akitas that are bred with minimal-shedding dog breeds such as Poodles, for instance, will produce much lighter levels of seasonal shedding compared with other breeds. Here’s a small table of Akita mix breeds to give you an idea of some of the variations in shedding patterns:
|Alaskan mix Akita||Year-round and seasonally|
|Bullkita (Bulldog mix)||Year-round (seasonal shed if Akita genes dominate)|
|Akita Collie (Border Collie mix)||Year-round and seasonally|
|Dalmakita (Dalmatian mix)||Year-round only|
|Golden Akita (Retriever mix)||Heavy seasonal shedding|
|Shepkita (German Shepherd mix)||Year-round and seasonally|
|Akitabern (Bernese Mountain mix)||Heavy year-round and seasonal shedding|
|Akipoo (Poodle mix)||Low levels of shedding overall|
Tips for Keeping Your Home Hair-Free
- Groom daily – brushing your Akitas coat every day will vastly reduce the number of fur clumps you’ll find on your floors, cushions – everywhere!
- Brush them outside – give them a daily groom outdoors or in your garage if you can, this will limit how much hair they bring into the home.
- Cover your furniture – using washable slip covers on your sofa cushions can be a godsend for keeping extra hair at bay when they’re shedding, so invest in a few pairs so you’re prepared for the season!
- Protect floors and carpets with rugs – place a few washable, non-slip rugs and mats in areas where you know your Akita sits the most – putting one near each doorway is a good start. Let these mats catch most of the fur produced by your Akita so your furniture doesn’t have to.
Tips to Control Shedding
Spritz their fur – giving your Akita’s coat a quick spritz of water before you begin grooming can help control the flyaway hairs from their undercoat. And once you’re done combing through, most of the fur will collect on the comb. In between baths, you can also spritz their coat with a leave-in conditioner to keep an Akitas coat cleaner and fresher for longer.
Blow dry their coat – using a dog friendly vacuum attachment that is specifically for pets, you can use a blow dryer on your Akita after a bath to reduce the amount of hairs they shed if they had towel dried.
Tips for Shedding Season
Invest in good grooming tools – the cheap dog brush from your local store won’t cut it if you want to reduce the littering of hairs in your home come shedding season. It’s well worth your money to invest in good quality grooming combs, rakes and brushes to keep their shedding levels under control (more on the ones you’ll need later in the guide). Consider a reliable lint roller tool for the sake of your clothes and upholstery too.
Get special vacuum attachments – it sounds crazy, but sometimes a gentle vacuum of your Akitas fur is just what the doctor ordered around shedding season. Don’t worry – there are attachments you can buy that are specifically designed for dog grooming and use a gentle dual suction and brushing action to lift dead hairs from their coat. Just be sure to introduce these little grooming attachments gradually or it might scare your Akita off.
Keep them covered – because you can’t groom them 24/7, a good way of keeping their shedding in check in between their grooming sessions is to dress your Akita in their fav doggy tee. They’ll look cute plus you’ll be minimizing the furs on your couch!
It may be hard to tell what excessive or ‘abnormal’ shedding looks like in Akitas, but if you notice that they are shedding in quantities beyond their normal seasonal shedding, start by observing any changes in the skin beneath their coat. If it appears discolored, dry or flaky, this can point to the root of abnormal shedding. Cheap dog food can be another culprit says Veterinarian Dr. Roy Cruzen of Phoenix, AZ: “People who go to pet stores and buy a cheap 40-pound bag of dog food can see their shedding increase, because these may not contain enough protein or nutrients for them”.
Abnormal shedding patterns can also occur due to underlying health issues with your Akita such as hypothyroidism, which Akitas are particularly prone to. Signs of it include a dry skin and coat, weight gain, aggression or fearfulness and getting this checked early in their life can prevent hair loss and future skin complications.
Taking Care of Your Akita’s Coat
The funny thing about Akitas is that they are a lot like cats in their tendency to self-clean! But as much as they might try, they still need your intervention in keeping their coat as clean and healthy as possible. Firstly, you must never shave their coat thinking it will make them easier to manage, because all this will do is deprive your Akita of the insulation they need in winter and the cooling system they rely on in summer.
Also, it’s important not to over bathe Akitas – washing soap residue out of their thick coats can be a hassle and they take a long time to dry, so unless they have been rolling in mud and seriously need one, their coat will not benefit from over-washing. In fact, their thick fur coat actually works to repel most dirt to help them stay clean for longer.
As well as ensuring your Akita is getting all the right minerals and vitamins from their diet to ensure a healthy and shiny coat, using the right grooming techniques and tools on them is the best way to help maintain their coat.
How to Brush Effectively
Akitas will benefit from a thorough brush at least once a week and during their seasonal winter and summer shedding periods, brushing 2-3 times a week (if not more) is highly recommended.
Akitas require different brush types for their regular everyday grooming and combs to help with shedding season. A wide Pin brush should be used on their coat all year round – this looks similar to a human hair brush and is great for keeping the outer coat healthy and free of dead hair. Whilst they are shedding, a Grooming rake (a comb with small teeth – don’t be alarmed!) will be perfect for removing dead hairs from their undercoat.
For an effective brushing routine, simply mist the pin brush or grooming rake with a spritz of water and begin brushing sections of your Akitas coat gently but deeply, starting at the shoulders and brushing downward in the direction of hair growth, finishing at their legs.
Grooming for a Healthy Akita
The following grooming tips will help you stay on top of your Akitas shedding and improve their overall coat:
- Use a Slicker brush on your Akita’s butt (the hair is coarser and longer here!)
- Brush at least 2-3 times a week to prevent tangles and matting
- Tease out knots and tangles with a misted wide tooth comb to prevent irritation
- Finally, finish off grooming using a Bristle brush to add shine to their coat
Must-Haves for Akita Shedding
- Pin brush
- Grooming rake
- Slicker brush
- Bristle brush
- A quality vacuum
- Flea/tick control
- Lint rollers
- Doorway mats and carpet rugs
- Vacuum grooming attachments
Other Dogs that Shed
Now that you know what to expect from Akitas, perhaps you’ll be willing to give other heavy shedding dogs a try. Here’s a quick rundown of some other dog breeds that shed the most…
- Saint Bernards – both the short and long-haired varieties of Saint Bernard shed quite a bit!
- Golden Retrievers – this lovable breed leaves fur everywhere when shedding their double coat
- German Shepherd – these guys are lovingly nicknamed ‘German shedders’ by some owners, thanks to their heavy undercoat shedding.
Other heavy shedding breeds include Chow-Chows, Great Pyrenees and Alaskan and Siberian Huskies.
Dogs that Don’t Shed Much
If you’re looking to adopt a lower maintenance dog for homes with allergies, the American Kennel Club can recommend the following cuties for their low-shedding qualities…
- Yorkshire Terriers – these cute little dogs have hair of a similar fine texture to humans, making them a great choice for allergic owners.
- Maltese – these guys are known for their long and luxuriously silky white coats, but no matter how long you let their fur grow, their minimal shedding won’t get in the way of things.
- Miniature Schnauzer – the pocket Schnauzers are known for their long and silky wisps of facial fur, but you’ll hardly notice them shedding these long hairs around the house.
Other hypoallergenic, low-shedding dogs include Bichon Frise’s, Poodles, Shiz Tzu’s, Afghan Hounds, Portuguese Water dogs, Irish Water Spaniels and Basenjis.