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The Performance Akita

Performance Akitas


The Performance Akita

The Akita Breed Standard states, “Large, powerful, alert, with much substance and heavy bone.” As a judge, handler, or exhibitor at a dog show, you have many times watched the Akitas in the ring; the powerful male or beautiful bitch making their way around the ring or creating a breathtaking stance for their handler. Now I would like for you to meet another side of this breed: the Performance Akita. Yes, I said “Performance.” This breed can be seen in Rally, Obedience, and even Agility rings. Akitas are also competing in Barn Hunt, Scentwork, and Fast CAT. Many are earning the three levels of Canine Good Citizen, Temperament Test titles, and Farm Dog. The special ones are also Therapy Dogs!

Training an Akita for performance is not an easy feat. This breed bores easily. Teach them something, they pick it up fast. Repeat it more than a few times and the Akita is ready to move on—do it, move on. When you see us take the leash off at a trial, that Akita is ready and their owner/handler is confident that their Akita is of great temperament and ready for the task.

Not all of our Akitas can compete at higher levels in Rally or Obedience, however, due to the requirement for off-leash heeling. While our Akita may be able to complete the task, the dog’s owner may not feel confident without the leash. It happens. We simply move on to another performance activity that our Akita can successfully compete in. We adapt and continue to have fun with our well-trained Akita. Many of us have trained multiple dogs from puppyhood and have had success in many areas of performance.

Performance Akitas

The Akita National Specialty was held this year in Mesa, Arizona. Rally and Obedience trials were offered two of the days. There was also the first-ever Scentwork Trial held at an Akita National. Numerous Akitas qualified!

For the balance of this article, you will hear from the owners of some of those special Akitas. One such Akita is “Gabby,” a nearly 12-year-old who is the most-titled Akita in the history of our breed. She has quite a following and brings a smile to not only her owner, Barbara Sikkink, but also to all who meet her. She is one of the “special” ones.

My “special” one, “Heston,” has sadly left us. He never met a stranger and he loved all people. He was also a Therapy Dog. He loved it. Once, he was even a Show-N-Tell for my grandson’s kindergarten class! Heston had a lot of “try.” We might not have qualified each time we entered the ring, but we had fun.

Heston’s favorite performance activity was Agility. He disliked sitting—he really did. Imagine a Rally/Obedience dog that did not want to sit. That was Heston. He did grace me with a sit on most occasions, but other times he just looked up at me and smiled. Anyway, Agility did not have any sits. Watching this boy fly over jumps with a smile on his face was amazing. Other times in the ring, I watched him make his own course and just followed along. Heston is the most-titled male in the history of our breed. Heston was a Performance Akita.

Let’s meet some other Performance Akitas, according to their owners.

Performance AkitasFOREST & DOROTHY CARROLL-MOORS “Forest” is best described as a part-time working dog. In other words… when he feels like it. We made our first attempt at the Mission Circuit shows where the judge was unfortunately deeply concerned about the Akita in his ring that was about to be taken off-lead. This was despite sitting outside the ring for an hour and a half, and Forest was graciously greeting anyone who approached. It was a warm afternoon and it was naptime. He decided he liked the center of the ring so well that he would just stay there. Not a qualifying round.

The next try, at the Akita Pre-National, Forest again sat and stayed beautifully for his recall. When called, he slowly sauntered over as if he was very busy, and sat too far away to qualify. The third try at the National was a charm. While he was busy looking for girls, he still heeled adequately, actually came (no one said he had to be speedy), sat right in front of me, and put his paw up as if to say, “Am I done now? And a treat would be good.”

The challenge is to both the exhibitor and our special dogs. They are as smart as they have to be and as dumb as they can get away with. I look forward to our new adventure together in Obedience and Rally.

Performance Akitas

BUDDY & ANITA PALMER “Buddy” is our fourth male Akita and our third champion. Buddy is working both sides of the dog show world; he is a champion in Conformation and is now starting to compete in performance events. He is very enthusiastic and we look forward to learning and working together as a team. At the Akita National, Buddy qualified in Beginner Novice Obedience as well as Rally. He also earned his Urban Canine Good Citizen (CGCU) title.

Performance Akitas

DEVYLLE & HEATHYR AGUILAR “DeVylle” happily competed in Beginner Novice Obedience and Rally Novice. She earned her Rally Novice Title at the Akita National, and on the same day she went on to be awarded a 5-pt. major as Winners Bitch and Best of Winners at the Pre-National. We couldn’t be prouder of this young girl and look forward to a bright future.


ROXY & TRACY WEST “Roxy,” as a Veteran, earned her Rally Advanced Title at the 2023 Akita National. Roxy has always loved to show and go to Meet the Breed events, like at the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival. She is also a certified Therapy Dog. It never occurred to me that she would love to do other things like Rally. Obedience isn’t as fun to her (although she earned her first leg of Beginner Novice Obedience at the National), because she loves the verbal interactions Rally encourages. Because she seems to really enjoy going to class and working towards different titles, we will keep at it. Our next big goal is earning a CD.

CORRA & KATE MANGUBAT “Corra’s” journey to obtaining her Scentwork HD Novice title is a typical Akita training story. She asked why she had to do this thing, then did it when she felt like it. We were mentored by ACPS Vice President Tom Knoebel, watched a few YouTube videos, and tried to make it as exciting as possible. Convincing Corra that finding my smelly sock would result in a treat was not the hardest part—that was keeping her from destroying the scent boxes! It took about three tries for her to learn this activity. She completed her Scentwork Handler Discrimination Trial 1 at Monroe, Washington (2nd place), Trial 2 (1st place), and Trial 3 (1st place) at the Akita National. Key takeaway: make it exciting and trust your Akit

YETI & ILKA WAGNER The 2023 Akita National was the venue where I decided to take the jump into Rally with one of my Akitas. “Yeti” received a score of 93 and 1st place in our first attempt at Rally Novice. I could not have been more proud of him! Two years ago, at the Akita National, he earned his CGCA, CGCU, and TKN, and I realized how much fun it was to work as a team with him in something other than Conformation.

I have been contemplating doing performance work for years, but just didn’t quite have the right Akita to do this with… or maybe, I just didn’t have the gumption to try. I chose Yeti to start working in performance because he is so biddable. If he knows what you would like him to do, he will do it, and he will do it with enthusiasm! He is just happy to be doing something with his mom.

Treats are great, but praise is just as good. He is so willing to try new things and I love seeing his big smile when we get it right. He seems to know when we are spot on with a trick or a new Rally sign. In true Akita spirit, after we have done something three or four times, we have to move on to another challenge; but I like this about the breed. They are easily bored with things, so we have to keep on our toes to keep them engaged and enthusiastic. Yeti makes this easy for me. Something new… let’s do it, mom! I have the performance bug now and plan on getting some of my other kiddos out as well.


Performance Akitas

GABBY & BARBARA SIKKINK “Gabby” earned her Rally Championship 2 (RACH2) at the Akita National along with her Rally Master 7 (RM7) and Rally Advanced Excellent 5 (RAE5). She was High Triple and High Combined at the Pre-National and National. She also Q’d in three of her Scentwork classes at Master level. She is just one Q from earning her overall Scentwork Master title. She will be 12 years old this month. Gabby is the most-titled Akita in the history of the breed: ACH NNCH ALCH NHD EN UCD ROM RACH2 Minda & Midnite The Gods Have Spoken CDX BN GN RM7 RAE5 FDC OAP NJP CA BCAT SWNE SCAE SIAE SCM SIM SEM SHDE TT THDX RATM CZ8B DN CGCA CGCU TKE ATT VHMA VSWE FITS SPOT-ON SD-1 VAX9 HOF-Rally HOF-Barn Hunt

Performance Akitas

DUBLIN & KOKO & SUZI ALEKSANDER “Dublin,” at seven months old, blew me away by taking a High in Trial at the Novice level in Scentwork. Meaning, he passed all offered elements. It was only his second trial, so clearly, Akitas have a lot of natural ability in Scentwork. It’s a great sport for Akitas, as it lets them work independently and at their own pace. Dublin also passed two Trick levels to earn his Trick Dog Advanced title and his CGCU as well as earning his third Rally Novice leg for a Rally Novice title.
“Koko,” who is 11 years young and still as patient and deliberate as always, passed nearly all of her runs at the highest Scentwork levels and even earned her penultimate leg of the 10 required for her Handler Discrimination Master Elite. One of my favorite experiences with Koko was competing in the AKC West Regional Championships, where Koko earned a second place overall in the Master HD division against some very experienced teams. She also earned her Rally Master 2 title and the new Rally Choice title in Mesa, with her 20th Master Q and 10th Choice Q. Koko regularly competes in Shed, Carting, Obedience, FCAT, and rat sports. Thank you all for sharing your stories with us about your Performance Akitas. I hope that judges, handlers, exhibitors, and the general public will look at our Akitas as more than a gorgeous show dog. They are so much more!