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Akita Behaviour & Temperament - Page 10

The Dominant Dog


Life with a dominant dog is recounted briefly in the Nov/Dec, 1986, Akita World centerfold by Leslie Bair describing Ch Fukumoto's Ashibaya Kuma, CD, ROM. On his first day at their house as a six- month old puppy, Leslie "awoke to find Kuma's imposing muzzle about two inches from my face and two dark, unfathomable eyes staring at me. We stayed that way for what seemed like an eternity, then he clicked his teeth several times, turned around and trotted out of the room as if dismissing me." She goes on to say that "no one ever really owned him." His place in the family was undisputed, but he wielded his authority with great dignity.

Families can accommodate to such a dog in two ways. The family can respect the dog's decisions or be so much more dominant than he is that the dog recognizes their authority and respects them. In between lies nothing but trouble.

On the other hand, this dog is easier to accommodate than the dog that is jumped up to a dominant position when he is truly not an alpha dog, an example of the Peter Principle in action. The dog has reached its level of incompetence. In these households, the dog have moved into a power vaccuum which is created by his interpretation of his human family's behavior.

Really alpha dogs, like the CEO, don't have to keep reminding everyone of their position. It's obvious. Beta and delta dogs pushed into the alpha position often lack the appropriate tools for maintaining their position, so they are often bullies. If recognized soon enough, these dogs can be demoted back to a place in the pack where they are more comfortable with their role. Left too late, they can be so entrenched in their position, they can't give it up easily.

Other Signs

If a PAT is not available, you should try to do your own testing on the puppy to determine how dominant he is. Other clues to his temperament can help you make your assessment. The puppy that runs out first to greet visitors is the most dominant puppy, not necessarily the friendliest. Put a chew toy in the litter box and see which dogs end up with it. Dominant dogs eat first and get their pick.

Puppies in a pen will run up for attention. The more dominant puppy will step on the head or push away the less dominant one. When they are very small and sleep in a pile, the more dominant puppies are on the top.

When you were a kid did you play "look-away", where you and a friend stared intensely at each other, and the first to look away lost? With dogs, this is not a game. Eye-to-eye contact is a challenge. If your puppy or dog locks eyes with you, he is issuing one and he'd better look away first or you're in trouble.

Again, dominance is relative to the social structure in which the dog finds itself. The terror of litter x may be the milquetoast of litter Y. In fact, one of the best ways to deal with a bully puppy is to put him in with an older dog or more assertive litter where he gets a quick lesson in manners and humility.

In your own family, a dog that gets to big for his britches may need to be taken down a peg or two. This can be accomplished with careful attention to dominance body language and dominance behaviors by all the members of the family.



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