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Some of our Akitas currently looking for new homes.

Akita Behaviour & Temperament - Page 12

TOLERANT OF STRANGERS

 

If an Akita bites, its next most likely target after a child is a visitor to the house. He may even be someone who has come to your home frequently. To lessen this possibility, a valuable part of the dog's temperament is the ability to accept the presence of a non-threatening stranger whether he is neutral or friendly.

Ian Dunbar makes a particularly cogent observation about Oriental breeds, especially Japanese ones. He says the most stable dogs can be unreliable around strangers because the culture in which they were bred far longer than they have been here does not select for that trait.

When asked why, he pointed out that privacy there is at a premium and most homes are small by our standards. So, in Oriental countries little if any entertaining is done at a person's home. Instead, social activities occur at communal baths, restaurants, hotels, clubs, parks, etc. Only intimate friends and family are invited home.

As a result, dogs that do not like strangers may never be weeded out of the gene pool. Further, in guard-type breeds, distrust may be encouraged, since any stranger at the house would be a subject for alarm. Just as the herding instinct may or may not be present in city dogs, Oriental dogs such as the Akita may have a profound distrust and dislike of strangers that is never identified because it is never tested.

Changing Temperament

With Akitas, this tendency to be wary of strangers is something that needs to be selected away from in breeding and trained away from throughout the dog's life. Unfortunately, if you don't realize it exists, it's hard to do either. And, yes, doing so will change the character of the breed from its original state. I think it's ironic that those who quibble the most about attempts to make the breed's temperament more socially acceptable see nothing wrong with the drastic changes in structure and type accomplished over the last two decades.

Acceptable Behavior

Please don't think I'm advocating a temperament incompatible with the character of the breed. We are not raising Poodles or Golden Retrievers, and if we wanted that type of dog,we certainly wouldn't be in Akitas! However, when a visitor comes to your house, gets in your car, come up to you when you're in your yard, or is talking to you at a dog show, your Akita at least should be neutral. He should show no sign of anxiety or hostility toward this person. He should be tolerant of the stranger's presence.

Many Akitas totally ignore strangers, and that is a perfectly acceptable response. If the person is particularly "doggy-acceptable," you may find your dog making a few overtures, especially if you're at a show and the stranger has ever had liver in his pocket. This breed, though, likes to make the first move, and you may find the friendliest dogs seem uncomfortable with someone who forces attention on them. That is not a cause for hostility, however, and your dog should accept this attention even if it is not with enthusiasm.

This reserved demeanor is part of the breed's innate dignity. I'm still waiting for a few of my bitches to develop this! At ten, Mikki remains a terrible clown who will do absolutely anything for a cookie. You may find you have a few of these, too, and their temperament is just as much an Akita's as her cousin's. He gazes off into the distance when strangers pet him as if no one is there. If they disappeared into a poof of smoke, he wouldn't notice or care about their absence. He really only cares about his family and a few of our friends, but he tolerates strangers.

 



 

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