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Some of our Akitas currently looking for new homes.

Akita Behaviour & Temperament - Page 31

TOLERANT OF OTHER DOGS

 

Low on the list, but still there is tolerance of other dogs. To some extent, all northern dog are scrappy. Akitas have the dubious distinction of being one of the only ones actually used for dog-fighting.

Undoubtedly, Japanese breeders selected for the more aggressive dogs throughout the years the breed was used for fighting, but I'm sure their choice to use the Akita in the first place had much to do with their innate desire to scrap with other dogs. This tendency made them a good choice for the sport of dog- fighting. Breeding programs over the year increased this tendency and kept it in the breed.

Historical data tell us that the native dogs of the Dewa area were also crossed with European dogs to increase their size and, therefore, their fighting ability. These were probably Great Danes (also known as Deutsche Dogges) which were brought to the area by German mining engineers.

Was this version of the Akita a ferocious pit dog? They certainly were pitted against similar dogs. However, Tatsuo Kimura tells me that one of the reasons the Akita breeders shifted directions early in this century was because of a fight between an Akita fighting champion and a Tosa Fighting Dog, a breed resulting from crosses of the Japanese native Tosa Inu with various European imports. Looking at them today, I would guess the imports must have included at least the English Mastiff and probably some other Molossan-type dogs. Anyway, the Akita barely escaped with its life. Its fanciers realized that continuing to pit them with dogs like the Tosa might be the death-knell of the breed. With the rising tide of nationalism in Japan, they began to value the Akita Inu as a native Japanese breed, for itself rather than for what it could do in a dog fight. Instead of crosses aimed at fighting ability, they began to look for hunting-type dogs to restore the breed to its original type.

If you can enhance a trait by selective breeding, of course, you can also minimize it. Certainly, Akitas today seem less dog-aggressive generally than they were twenty years ago. This alteration is due in part to selection for less aggressive dogs and in part to better training techniques such as early socialization of puppies, continued exposure of adult dogs to strange dogs, and obedience training of young dogs.

I know several people who keep same-sex Akitas together and others that have several mixed-sex ones that run together with no trouble. Sometimes, a pack works because a dominant dog keeps everyone in line, but maybe these Akitas are just that much less dog-aggressive. I've never been daring enough to put my older bitches together, although I suspect a few of them would get along. One, though, can run with any male but cannot be put loose with a female without fighting. She's been dog-aggressive since puppyhood, and I'm sure had she been put in a pack situation, she'd have inflicted a lot of damage on other bitches.

Putting dogs in a situation where they can fence-fight builds up a lot of unresolved aggression. It starts as a game and then escalates to serious dislike. To minimize this, I have board fencing between my runs. It is covered on both sides with chain- link to keep it from being eaten. The dogs really don't see each other, and rarely ever bark at dogs on the other sides. Given a chance, though, they will fence-fight through the gates or the outside chain-link.

According to the standard, an Akita may be aggressive towards other dogs; however, it doesn't say that they have to be so. In today's litigious society, the consequences of an attack that damages someone else's dog can be severe indeed. Also, many people do not understand that a dog that is aggressive towards another dog is not necessarily aggressive to people. Looking at a snarling, bristling Akita doesn't inspire a lot of confidence about the breed.

If you want to compete with an Akita, regardless of the venue, you must have a dog that can be trusted around other dogs. A dog that can't be trusted to leave other animals alone on neutral ground is a real liability. In obedience and agility, the dog works off-leash, so he has to be reliable. At a dog show, he must negotiate crowded aisles and stand close together in crowded rings.

The demands of such activities have shaped our selection for less dog-aggression in our Akitas, and I think this is perfectly acceptable and somewhat desireable. Nonetheless, you should remember that the most benign Akita can conceive a sudden and violent dislike for another Akita. In that case, you'll have to avoid that dog like the plague because if your's has a chance, he'll get in a fight. That may be only dog that ever inspires such antipathy, but both dogs will remember each other and renew hostilities any time they can. It's part of what makes an Akita an Akita!

 



 

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