Some of our Akitas currently looking for new homes.

Akita Behaviour & Temperament - Page 15

Dealing With Problems


I don't know what I could have done differently once the dog was out of my hands. My mistake was in selling a male to this family in the first place, and I no longer sell them to people who have not had at least Northern dogs before unless they come over and just bowl me over with family assertiveness. The incident sent me to several seminars on aggression and to a number of books.

Now I would insist that the dog go to a training class, and that the less-assertive mother be the one to train him. Instead of relying on isolation to protect visitors from the dog, which is doomed to failure in the most compulsive of homes, I should have encouraged a course of desensitization and probably some sort of behavior consultation with a trainer. Intervention with a young dog that has not become so distressed that he attacks might have changed the course of events.

Dogs have a threshold of tolerance. Its height is determined first by their inherited temperament, which differs among breeds and within a breed among its individuals, and secondly by their degree of socialization to strangers in and out of the home. Not only does the dog need to get out and see people, people need to come to the dog's house and see him.

Of course, you normally don't invite people over for your dog's benefit, but if you own an Akita you should make a point of it. Your dog may be less than enthusiastic about visitors. Don't worry unless he shows signs, even subtle ones, of hostility. This may include: looking the visitor in the eye; sitting or standing (worse) between the two of you; anxious looks at the visitor accompanied by whines; and/or pacing.

I even have a few that make monkey-like noises and blow through their lips like horses. This is their equivalent to a growl and is a warning to me that they are very suspicious and distrustful of the stranger. Of course, sometimes these actions are justified, and I am not in any way suggesting that you should not heed the warnings of a guard dog doing his job.

If the visitor on the porch is pitching magazines and you've never laid eyes on him before, you'd be smart to shut the door and keep your dog around. On the other hand, if it's your next-door neighbor or a friend from work--someone you know, someone who is safe in your judgement--your dog is out of line.

A dog that is obviously hostile should be leashed and put on a down stay next to you. If he is so suspicious you cannot get him into a down, then put him in a sit stay. If he breaks the stay, correct him and put him back in it. Otherwise, ignore him and continue your conversation with your friend. Both reinforce your own dominance, although the sit less so, and will eventually show him your friend is no threat. Giving him no attention keeps you from inadvertently reinforcing one of his hostile responses. Just like children, dogs can and will do things for your attention even if the attention they receive is negative.

Never try to reassure a distrustful dog by petting him and telling him, "It's okay." First, it's not okay and secondly, you're not allaying his anxiety, you're rewarding it and, thus, encouraging it.



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