All of this doesn't leave much room for the Akita in the world of service dogs. As a fan of the breed, I understand it. Any breed enthusiast must own up to their breeds history and Akitas have had a long and difficult history with definite ups and downs. In my favorite Akita book Akita, Treasure of Japan you can read about how these dogs went from hunting, to being so revered that it was illegal to own one if you were not royalty, to being forced to fight in massive pits with up to 200 dogs at a time in the mix, to being palace guards and eventually becoming recognized as a natural treasure. The result of that history created dogs that were fiercely loyal but naturally protective. The jobs they were asked to perform relied mostly on instinct instead of training and so the dogs were bred to be independently intelligent. Perhaps not the easiest to train but they are enterprising. It will take a few more repetitions to teach my Kylie a new task (the most recent one being to shut a door on command) but she can puzzle pretty much anything out on her own if she has the inspiration and the time (it took her almost no time for her to teach herself to open those doors I took the time to teach her to shut).
So I understand that Akitas are likely never going to be the tops for service dog. They are not efficient to train and their tendency towards animal aggression puts many people off. Though my Kylie tolerates almost all animals that took 6 weeks of hard work to turn her mild-moderate dog aggression around. It is much easier to simply pick a Golden who rarely have aggression issues to start with.
However, while at National K-9 School for Dog Trainers I got to train Kylie in certain service tasks and I was amazed at what a little patience revealed. She seemed to pick up right away that these were delicate tasks I was asking her to perform. To flip a light switch, to pick up a set of keys, to heel next to a wheel chair she became a very soft and gentle animal. When asked to perform "Switch!" (her command to turn on or off a light) she will gently stand up and place her front paws on the wall and start to softly paw the switch. Her aim isn't perfect but she is careful not to smack or scratch the switch.
When I ask her to "Take it!" (her command to pick something up) she lays down with the item, lets say a pen, between her paws and she will touch the pen with her nose. She will then pull her lips back and ever so lightly pick the pen up in her front teeth and sloooowly lift herself to hand it to me.
When I lowered myself into a wheelchair she came over and sat right next to me. At first she was put off by the fact that the chair moved but after a few strides she put her ears back and really focused on walking right next to the chair. I could almost see her thinking "this is something new. This does not fit my image of how mom usually moves." and so she instinctively tries to help. That is what I love about Akitas. Their loyalty make them willing to help their person with any task, it just might take them a second to puzzle it out.
While visiting my sister in Denver I saw a pretty pinto Akita who was wearing a service vest and it warmed my heart knowing that at least one person got to know what it was to be helped by an Akita. I know that they are not really the best for the job but if there is love, respect, and patience in the relationship an Akita is certainly qualified to help their people overcome limitations.