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The Akita Information Center
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Akita Eyes

Shape and Color

Purebreds will have brown eyes, with a deep dark brown being desired.  They are small, deep-set and with a very distinct triangle shape.

Akita EyesThese physical traits are present at birth.  If a puppy does not have triangle shaped eyes, and instead they are rounded, this will not improve with time.  Also, the color does not darken as the puppy ages; if anything, it lightens.

For some lighter colored Akitas, it is not uncommon for the eyes to have what is sometimes dubbed as "eye liner".  It will be a dark shading that outlines the eye; it often extends beyond and appears to lift the outer corner.  When this feature is present, it emphasized the triangle, Oriental expression.  This is not a required feature of light colored Akitas; only seen by many to be a "plus" for those dogs that have this.

Problems and Issues

Primary Glaucoma - This is an inherited disease and therefore an Akita with Glaucoma should not be used for breeding.  This is a serious condition in which pressure builds up on the eye due to accumulation of fluid.   A dog may squint do to pain and sometimes tears may run down.

Prescribed drops can help in minor cases, but in most instances removal of an affected eye(s) will be necessary once it progresses to a certain point.  Even without surgery, this often leads to complete blindness.

Ectropion and Entropion-
Both of these terms describe conditions in which the lid does not function properly. These are heredity medical conditions.  Entropion is the term used when lids roll inward. This can affect one or both eyes and it can affect either the top or the bottom lids.  As they roll inward, it causes lashes to scratch again the cornea, causing discomfort and possible infection.

Ectropioin is the term used when the lids roll outward.  This causes problems since it then exposes the eye(s) to possible injury, irritations and infection.  It causes discomfort as well.  For both of these issues, surgery can correct the problem and prognosis is good when performed by an experienced veterinarian.

PRA – Also Known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy -  This also is a genetic health issue that can be passed down from sire or dam to puppy.  The back of the eyeball is lined with sensory cells, and this disease attacks those cells, leading to blindness. Unfortunately, there is no current cure or treatment for this.  If it is to occur, it is most often seen at the age of 5 years and it is a progressive disease that will vary in speed.

Microphthalmia – This is also more commonly referred to as Small Eye Syndrome.  As with the above issues, this also is genetic. However, in rare cases it can develop by a sudden genetic mutation.  If an Akita is diagnosed with this, there is roughly a sixty percent chance that he or she would pass this down to one or more puppies; for this reason breeding should not be done.  This will be apparent at a very early age; often as young as 3 weeks old.

It can affect just one eye or both. The eye(s) will be very small and appear to have cloudy appearance.  Affected puppies will have an aversion to bright light.  If an Akita has this, he or she would be very prone to cataracts as well.   This does affect the dog’s vision; however it can range from very little impairment to complete blindness. At this time there is no cure.

Communication

As humans, we feel that the most expressive part of the human body is the face…and one of the most expressive parts of the face is our eyes.

With dogs, there are several important structural aspects of the eyes…learning about this can provide actual interpretable communication. What does this mean? Well, basically, if you pay attention to your Akita’s eyes,   you can better understand how your Akita is feeling…and this is an incredible form of communication. 

   
Knowing if your dog is nervous, happy, excited, tired, bored, happy, etc. can make life much easier for both of you.  It can make it much easier to figure out why your Akita is acting a certain way…and this can put you at peace… or allow you to take steps to help them…or to take control of a certain situation.

The Pupil

When it comes to actual vision, the purpose of the iris (the brown area) is to contract or expand (which changes the size of the pupil)….and this controls the amount of light that enters.

When the light is dim, the pupil expands to gather in whatever light energy it can…therefore it appears larger.

When a human or dog is in very bright light, the pupil becomes smaller to prevent too much glare from blocking out the details of what they are looking at.

Now, with this being said, the pupil also communicates. Different emotional feelings will change the size and shape of the pupil.  This happens to humans also; however most people do not think about this…they are not consciously aware of pupil changes in others.  If you purposefully pay attention to pupil changes in your Akita’s eyes, you can learn so much.

It is true that pupil size is harder to read in Akitas and this is because some have very dark brown irises…if this is the case, the pupil may seem to blend into the dark surroundings of the eye.  However, even with very dark brown eyes, it is worth looking carefully since it can speak quite loudly about how a dog is feeling.
  • Pupils grow larger - This lets you know that your Akita is having an intense, strong emotion.
  • Pupils grow smaller – This lets you know that your dog is either: bored, drowsy, or relaxed.
Taking it to The Next Level

You will be able to narrow down their exact feeling by looking for other signs in the eyes as well….So, first, do try to get into a habit of noticing the normal size of your Akita’s pupils…

And then practice looking at them when a situation occurs that you feel may change the size of them….After you have this part down and you feel that you are doing well at being able to quickly know whether the pupil is larger or smaller than normal, you will be ready to read they eyes in more advanced ways that go hand in hand with pupil size… It is recommend to practice each day until you feel that you have a very good understanding of your Akita’s pupil size and being able to identify it becomes automatic to you.

Gaze

Next, it will be time to pay attention to the white portion...this area is known as the sclera.

Many people are surprised to learn that this part also serves to communicate.

Many owners will find this to be an easier step since the white contrasts with the brown iris color, allowing you to more easily identify which direction the eyes of your Akita are gazing.

Note: Nearly all animals interpret staring as a threat to them. Dogs use staring as a controlling gesture…

Direct Stare -
A wide, intense stare is often a threat, an expression of dominance or even an announcement that an attack is about to begin.  Note: Those who have trouble with an aggressive dog or a dog that behaves as if they are in charge should pay attention to see if their dog stares at them…this often means that the Akita is asserting themselves as being the Alpha and is saying, with their eyes, that they feel themselves to be the dominant one – a sure sign that training must be done to teach the Akita that it is the human who is the true “pack leader” of the house!

Frequently, a dominant dog will approach a less dominant animal and directly stare at it.  The animal that is lower in dominance will be the one to break off eye contact, turn away or even lie down in a submissive gesture.

If the direct stare is not responded to, an escalation of the level of confrontation may follow. 

A Surprising Fact

There is an interesting way in which dogs use the direct stare to control human behavior.  It is most frequently seen at the dinner table, or when people are sitting around eating something…The dog comes over and sits, staring at a person and then looks directly at the food that the person is eating.  This is an obvious attempt to be given some food…and it is most likely to work when the dog is a young puppy…This is because even the most direct gazes which a dog uses to try and intimidate a person is often seen by the person as being “hopeful” or “pleading” and the person then gives in and hands a piece of food to the dog.

Now, from the Akita’s point of view, they directly asserted their dominance…and when they were given food after doing so, it taught to the dog that the human turned submissive at that moment.  This tells the dog that they may have a higher status in the pack then the human does.  Done often enough, this idea will be reinforced. This is not good… It will ultimately cause the dog to be much more difficult to control.   Since the human must be the leader in order for a dog to obey him or her, an owner should never allow this to happen…

And if you have already been doing this and did not know what it communicated to your Akita… it is not too late to stop.

Can You Stare at Your Own Dog? -  It is recommended to never stare at a strange dog.  However, staring at your own dog can be used quite successfully to control his behavior.  If you need to establish that you are the leader of the house with an Akita that just does not seem to understand that, staring at your Akita directly can often make him or her stop a particular behavior… Many dogs will respond with submissive and pacifying gestures to win back your favor.  Most often, this will be that they lie down on their backs, stomach exposed.   Gently rub the tummy to show that you are the leader and that you happily want him or her back in your “pack” (family).

Blinking


In the language of dogs, blinks break the dominance stare and shows submission.  While it does represent a giving up of dominance, it is not as submissive of a gesture as a full scale aversion of the eyes.

The eye blink means “We are almost equals, but I will accept your leadership”.



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