Some of our Akitas currently looking for new homes.

Akita Behaviour & Temperament - Page 14

Strange Children


Another inclination that is not uncommon in Akitas is a distrust and even dislike of non-family children. The most distressing thing about these dogs is that frequently the are devoted family pets who adore their own children and will tolerate anything from them. They may be tolerant or even friendly to adult strangers, but visiting children are at risk.

Until the dog does something overt, identifying these dogs may be difficult for inexperienced owners since the beginning signs of hostility are often very subtle. Even more unfortunate, because the dog is so good with his own children, the owners tend to justify the first obvious signs of trouble by blaming the child or extraneous circumstances.

Therefore, when I sell puppies I tell buyers in written material and reinforce it verbally that no children, especially toddlers, should ever be left unsupervised with any dog. To do so is to bet with a child's life as the stake. Even the most stable dogs can put two and two together and get five.

What happens, I ask them, when your son's best friend picks up a toy and bashes your son in the head with it. Don't you think your dog will see this is an attack on his child? What do you think he's going to do?

A dog that does not like strange children might not need even this much provocation. My first encounter with this is an excellent example. Since it happened,I've heard the same song, different verse more times than I can count which is what leads me to believe this is an inherited component of temperament.

This family had two dog-loving boys and an indoor-outdoor Akita they had had from puppyhood. The mother was firm but non- assertive and had had dogs all her life. They did not go to a training class. The dog was wonderful with her children. When he was almost a year old, she called me and told me he was growling at one of her younger son's friends. I asked her if he bothered any other children, and she said, "No, only this boy. He is partially deaf and speaks differently from the other children." Of course, it wasn't the dog!

I told her the dog's behavior posed a significant risk to this child. I asked her to return the dog to me, offering her a replacement from an upcoming litter. She refused because they all loved the dog. He was crate-trained, and at my urging, she agreed to keep the dog crated whenever visiting children were over at the house. I made several follow-up calls about the dog, still asking them to return him, getting a refusal and an assurance that the dog was crated.

Well, children just aren't always able to remember what is vitally important to adults. One day, her son took his friend out in the back yard without telling the mother and without putting up the dog. The visitor bent over to pick up a toy on the patio. Unfortunately, it was next to the dog's food bowl. He attacked. Hearing the screams, the mother rushed out and yelled at the dog, who immediately let go.

Because the dog attacked the back of the child's skull rather than his face and let go when commanded, the physical damage required only stitches in the emergency room. The scars are hidden by the child's hair. He is now terrified of all dogs. The mother, who is not afraid of Akitas herself, becomes almost phobic when children are around them. She told me she is sure the child would be dead if she had not been right in the next room.

They still refused to have the dog euthanized. Instead, they placed it with an out-of-town friend. I talked to this man several times and finally agreed that the dog had a chance with him. Despite my misgivings, the placement has worked out well. At ten years of age, the dog is now nearing the end of his life.



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