The Alphabet Soup of Japanese Akitas

One of the most confusing aspects of information related to dogs, but more specifically to the Japanese Akita in the United States, can adequately be described as alphabet soup. There’s JACA, AKIHO, UKC, FCI, JKC, AKC, two different CKCs, OFA, CERF, and so on. Since hubby is the president of AKIHO North America and wifey is the vice-president of JACA (and we’ve shown in several kennel club show rings), we figure we’re in a pretty good position to explain what all these initials and acronyms mean as they pertain to our breed.

AKC – American Kennel Club. The AKC was founded in 1884 and is probably the most well known purebred registry in the US. It is unfortunate that many people mistakenly believe that an AKC pedigree or papers lends legitimacy to their dog and that unscrupulous, or perhaps ignorant, backyard breeders and puppy mills will use the AKC to overvalue their litters. However, many reputable American Akita breeders show their dogs and register their litters under the auspices of the AKC. Unfortunately, unlike the majority of national kennel clubs in the world, the AKC, like the Canadian Kennel Club, does not recognize the Japanese Akita but rather lumps the breed together with the American Akita. In time, we expect that will change, but for now, you won’t be able to fairly show a Japanese Akita in the AKC ring since your dog will be judged against the American Akita standard.

AKIHO – Akita Inu Hozonkai (translated into English, means Akita Dog Preservation Society). Established in 1927, AKIHO is the oldest Akita breed club in the world and acts as a registering body. The organization only deals with what most nations refer to as the Japanese Akita and does not consider the American Akita as part of their mission. AKIHO is a stand-alone organization and has no affiliation whatsoever with JKC, AKC or FCI; therefore, they are able to pursue their preservation and improvement efforts without influence or interference from other breed or national kennel clubs. An AKIHO pedigree is considered the gold standard in Japanese Akita enthusiast circles. Although headquartered in Odate, Akita Prefecture, Japan, there are several overseas AKIHO branches, the oldest of which is AKIHO North America (AKIHO N.A., formerly known as AKIHO LA), established in Los Angeles in 1970.

Members of AKIHO N.A. adhere to a strict Terms of Membership Agreement. Some people may view AKIHO as merely a club for breeders, but that isn’t the case at all. AKIHO N.A. hosts one official show, an educational seminar and two picnics in the Los Angeles area and also takes part in Japanese cultural festivals and pet exhibitions as well as informal meet-ups throughout the US where members can enjoy socializing and spending time with their dogs along with our sister club JACA.

ARBA – American Rare Breed Association. ARBA was formed in 1991 to register uncommon dog breeds in the United States. They also hold conformation shows and obedience trials. In addition, they offer seminars for judges, public awareness and educational services. ARBA allows for Japanese Akitas to be shown as a separate breed from the American Akita.

CERF – Canine Eye Registry Foundation. CERF was established by breeders who were concerned by heritable ocular diseases. Veterinary ophthalmologists test potential sires and dams to determine whether or not they are carrying any diseases of the eye. In both breeds of Akitas, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and entropion are common enough to warrant ocular testing to prevent passing on these disorders to future generations. CERF has joined up with another health-related organization called the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA); you can find more information about testing and tested sires and dams on the OFA website.

CKC – Canadian Kennel Club. The CKC was founded in 1888 and is the primary registry, although not the only registry, for purebred dogs in Canada. The CKC confers titles for conformation, obedience and field work. Like its American counterpart, the AKC, the Canadian KC does not recognize the Japanese Akita as a separate breed.

CKC – Continental Kennel Club. Founded in 1991, the Continental KC is a registry which is used primarily by puppy mills and backyard breeders to lend their breedings a sense of legitimacy to buyers who believe that pedigree papers from any source is important. Beware of any dogs with pedigrees from this club and do not confuse it with the other Canadian Kennel Club.

FCI – Fédération Cynologique Internationale. The FCI was founded in 1911 by dog societies in five Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The current FCI encompasses dog enthusiast organizations and kennel clubs in five regions: Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. As of this writing, 344 breeds are recognized by the FCI and each breed’s standard is written by the representative club of the country of origin. Each member nation holds conformation shows, agility, coursing, racing and obedience competitions as well as hunting, herding and working trials. The FCI was extremely instrumental in the international recognition of the Japanese Akita breed.

IABCA – International All Breed Canine Association. IABCA began in the 1990s as an independent organization with the goal of holding international European-style conformation shows. IABCA shows are known for their relaxed atmosphere and more significantly for the individual attention judges pay to dogs in the ring; the judges even give a written critique of each dog. Since IABCA bases their conformation standards on the country of origin’s standards, the Japanese Akita has yet another place to compete in the IABCA ring. Apart from adult dog conformation, IABCA also holds other competitions and gives awards in areas such as rally, junior handling, and even national puppy titles.

JACA – Japanese Akita Club of America. JACA was founded in 1997 and its mission is “to preserve the purity of the Japanese Akita and to educate the public about the breed […] by engaging in activities which aid, promote, and foster the preservation and betterment of purebred Akitas.” JACA is a non-profit 501 3(c) organization and designated as the breed parent club in the United Kennel Club (UKC). JACA is also a member of the World Union of Akita Clubs (WUAC) and work very closely with AKIHO N.A. JACA maintains a calendar of events including but not limited to hosting the UKC Japanese Akita Specialty and UKC Nihon Ken (all Japanese breed) Invitational. In addition to the Japanese cultural festivals and pet exhibitions in Southern California with AKIHO N.A., members of JACA in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest are particularly active and hold a variety of outings as well as participating in regional pet and cultural events outside of SoCal. Members are also becoming more active in the Atlanta and Nashville areas, and Chicago and New York. JACA members are expected to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.

JKC – Japan Kennel Club. The JKC was established in 1949 and is the primary registry for all purebred dogs in Japan. They became a member of the FCI in 1979 and helped found the World Union of Akita Clubs (WUAC). The organization holds conformation shows as well as obedience trials. They also certify dog trainers and groomers. In 1997, when head of the JKC at the time Mr. Toyosaku Kariyabu announced that the American and Japanese Akitas would be considered two separate breeds in Japan, he asked that all national kennel clubs follow the country of origin’s wishes, thus sealing his influence on the breed as well as that of the JKC. To date, only two national KCs have not yet honored the country of origin’s wishes to split the breed (Canadian KC and American KC). A JKC-registered Japanese Akita may be imported to the US and registered in the UKC as long as there is an accompanying pedigree.

OFA – Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. The OFA was founded in 1966 as a way to combat canine hip dysplasia but soon expanded its scope to “improve the health and well being of companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic disease” (History, OFA website). The OFA maintains a database of health tested dogs accessible by submitting the name or registration of a specific dog on their website. Because certain breeds, both American and Japanese Akitas among them, are commonly considered at risk for the genetic component of hip dysplasia, reputable breeders have their potential sires and dams x-rayed as young adults before attempting a breeding. Ratings are POOR, FAIR, GOOD and EXCELLENT (Junketsu Kennels and our colleagues will not breed a dog with a poor ranking of hips, and some of us won’t even use a sire or dam ranked as fair). If you’re ever thinking of buying a Japanese Akita puppy, make sure to ask to see the sire and dam’s OFA rating.

UKC – United Kennel Club. The UKC was established in 1898 and “is the largest all-breed performance-dog registry in the world, registering dogs from all 50 states and 25 foreign countries” (About UKC) . Their motto is “Real Dogs for Real People” and they place an emphasis on the “Total Dog;” that is, the purpose of the dog is as important as conforming to the standard. Because the UKC recognized the Japanese Akita as a separate breed in 2013, the majority of Japanese Akita owners in the US now show our dogs in the UKC conformation ring (that includes Junketsu Japanese Akitas!). We appreciate the UKC for judging our breed according to our standard and not by the American Akita standard as much as American Akita enthusiasts appreciate being judged by their own standard and not ours.

WUAC – World Union of Akita Clubs. Established in 2000 when most national kennel clubs agreed it was time to acknowledge both breeds of Akitas, WUAC is a federation of Akita clubs in national clubs who are members of the Federation Cynologique International (FCI). Their main office is in Tokyo, Japan. The goals of WUAC are as follows (taken from their Articles of Union):

(1) Promoting of social and cynological activities with Akitas.
(2) Promoting of exact understanding of breed standard for Akitas.
(3) Improving of mental and physical health of Akitas.
(4) Educating of judges of Akitas.
(5) The WUAC shall take note of the independence of the members.
(6) The WUAC shall not be related to the political, economical and ideological issues among members.
(7) Cooperating with the FCI in order to develop Akitas.
(8) Other projects that are recognized necessary by the WUAC.

Only one breed club per nation is accepted by WUAC. For the United States, JACA is the designated breed club. It is interesting to note that WUAC refers to the Japanese Akita as simply the Akita and the American Akita is called the American Akita. More on the various names of the breed in another blog post. WUAC meets every two years with members representing clubs from a variety of nations.

Although this list of acronyms is fairly comprehensive in relationship to the breed, you may end up coming across something we’ve missed. If that’s the case, please feel free to let us know!