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Some of our Akitas currently looking for new homes.

Akita Behaviour & Temperament - Page 21

Training Akitas

 

Before I send them off, though, I talk to the new buyers about training classes and discuss a few problems they might encounter because they have an Akita and not a Border Collie. After all, back in the days when dogs actually did work for people, they performed different jobs which required very different skills. I wouldn't ask my accountant to wire my house nor would I go to a plumber for brain surgery.

Herding and gun dogs are the telephone operators of the dog world. We think of them as "smart" because they learn behaviors quickly and will repeat them endlessly and eagerly. If you take a retriever duck hunting, you expect him to go after the last duck just like he went after the first. What would a shepherd do if his helper suddenly decided that running back and forth around the sheep was boring?

Although these dogs are capable, indeed must be capable, of independent decisions, they are not particularly "independent" dogs. They must be what shepherds describe as "biddable;" that is, when the master gives a command, the dog should hasten to obey it unless he has a compelling reason not to. In that case, sooner or later, he will communicate it to the owner.

Looking at the way an obedience trial championship is obtained, it's hardly a surprise that most of the dogs achieving it are herders or gun dogs. Even breeds not classed in these groups such as Papillons and Poodles have that background. Poodles were originally retrievers and Papillons were bred down from spaniels.

Akitas are shown in the working group, but where do they fit in the obedience picture in terms of working traits? To determine this, you have to look at function. The forerunners of the breed were used to hunt large game in the mountainous territory of Dewa Province on the Japanese island of Honshu. Accompanied by a hunter, they located, followed, and held or tackled bear, elk, and boar--activities which make them a hound.

Evaluating them in terms of appearance, they obviously derive from "spitz" or "Northern Dog" ancestry. These dogs have certain common traits: short, erect ears; mesocephalic heads with oblique-set eyes; double coats; and tails that curl upwards in some fashion. Representatives are found throughout the Arctic and northern temperate areas and include the Pomeranian, Keeshond, American Eskimo, Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute, Greenland Eskimo Dog, Siberian Husky, Norwegian Elkhound, Norwegian Buhund, the Russian Laika, the Karelian Bear Dog, the Korean Kendo, as well as all the native Japanese dogs. The working representatives of this group have served as sled and pack dogs and hunters, and guards.

Obviously, the Akita fits nicely with this group of dogs. Like the Elkhound and Karelian, he is a hunting or hound/spitz- type dog. Characteristics which suit them for their jobs do not necessarily produce a stellar obedience performer. Hounds must be flexible in their responses. After all, the prey sets the pace and determines the course, and the hunter must be adaptable, ready to abandon one strategy in favor of another.

In common with the northern/hound types, he is physically tough with a high pain threshold which was probably increased through selective breeding when he was used as a fighting dog. From both his function as a hound and his heritage as a northern dog, he has a core of independence that makes him unable to always do what you want. This doesn't mean he won't do it, just that he might not.

 



 

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