Some of our Akitas currently looking for new homes.

Akita Behaviour & Temperament - Page 11



Akita lore tells us that the dogs acted as babysitters while the mothers worked in the fields, Do you believe this? I didn't until I got the dog I'11 call Babe. At eight weeks, she left her breeder who did have small children and spent the next two years in a childless environment. I picked her up at a show. At a rest area, she was squatting taking care of her business as I looked out at the park, when a toddler seized her from behind Hugging her, he put his head up against her spine. I was so alarmed, I was frozen to my spot and could only watch as she gently turned her head and gave him a big lick.' Lucky me and lucky child!

Later on another trip, I walked by a statue of a man and child sitting on a park bench. The sun was behind them, so they appeared in silhouette to me and were so lifelike, I thought they were real. So did Babe. She trotted right up to the child and stood there wagging her tail. Then she did a double-take and sniffed the child statue, sniffed the adult, then tried another wag. When this didn't make them move, she gave up and walked off.

After these experiences, I started watching Akitas around small children, especially at shows. My observations convinced me that in its finest expression, Akita temperament should include a natural affinity for children. Retrievers like balls and sticks, pointers will freeze when shown a bird wing, and Akitas should be attracted to children.

I've seen many Akitas change their whole demeanor in the presence of a child. They wear an ingratiating, very non-threatening expression and may well try to accompany the child if it wanders away. This attraction is very different from the protectiveness of guarding and herding dogs. It is a genuine liking for our small folk even if they are strangers and can occur with dogs that are none too fond of the large ones. It also seems independent of the dog's exposure to children, although in adult dogs unfamiliar with them it may not appear instantly.

Liking children is very important in our breed because when Akitas do bite, the victim is quite likely to be a child. Also, because of the size of the dog, if a child is bitten, the damage is likely to be severe. Akitas, especially males, are very aware of status and, in addition, are rather independent in nature. Dogs with a special regard for children are less likely to see them as threats and more likely to tolerate from them what they will not tolerate from an adult.

Again, I am reminded of the centerfold on Ashibaya Kuma. Leslie Bair says, "[M]y daughter, Heidi, was four...when she walked across the living room past the slumbering Kuma. His tranquility disturbed, Kuma growled at the source of the irritation. An equally independent and unafraid female toddler walked up ... reached over grabbing this powerful head in her tiny hands and before I could move, lifting the head and slamming it down on the floor,'shut up' I was frozen ..Kuma, though not in the least harmed, was stunned, and made a visibly conscious decision. Mutual respect was established and each went their own way."

In the same vein, when my younger daughter was about ten, I asked her to put our three-year old male in his run while I talked with some people interested in Akitas. The wife had just asked me how the breed was with children when I noticed Meredith and Bart were having a "meeting of the minds!" Not wanting to go back to his run, Bart had planted his 120 pounds into a sit and was steadfastly resisting the tugs of his 60-pound mistress.

Meredith picked up a metal food pan which happened to be close at hand and whacked him on the side of his head with it. "Come on, Bart," she demanded. He looked at her with an appraising glance, then, literally shrugged his shoulders and followed her off to my complete surprise. While he is a rather easy-going dog, I honestly don't know if he would have tolerated this treatment from my husband, for instance, who has little if anything to do with the dogs.

Like retrieving, I believe this is an inherited component of temperament. I feel so strongly about this that I will not breed any Akita that does not like children. I also try to ensure it is a component of any breeding partners I select. If you don't have children, you may not feel so strongly about this. However, you should at least try to never double up on dogs that do not like them. You may have none, but puppies that you sell may well be around children all of their lives even if your dogs are not.



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