Can I teach my Akita to get along with other dogs?

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I’ve tried contacting professional trainers, for some reason none of them will reply! There aren’t many trainers where I live. I found two so far, one an obedience trainer and another one for obedience and good manners classes. I emailed both of them and neither of them emailed me back. So this leaves me with teaching him myself!

I can keep him under control when he’s on leash, but if a stray dog comes up to us, I have trouble keeping him calm enough that he won’t command dominion over it by pinning it to the ground. I CAN do it, but it’s very hard!

He probably would have turned out okay if it wasn’t for our neighbors letting their little yapper dog (I hated that stupid thing!) out to crap in our yard right in front of the fence, which always had our very territorial Akita on the other side of it. That was when he was about a year old. As soon as he got the chance he attacked that yapper and we had to pay the bills to get it sewn up. If they hadn’t been letting their dog crap in our yard none of this would have happened and I wouldn’t be in this mess with his aggression!

Ever since that happened he’s been aggressive and I haven’t been able to take him many places. He knows how to run an agility course and how to pull me on skis, but we can’t compete in agility trials or skijoring races as long as he’s aggressive. Can I teach him to control himself? When there’s no other dogs around I can get him perfectly under my control but as soon as he sees one I’m straining to maintain control! He really tries to control himself for me, I can tell because if he sees another dog while we’re hanging out in the front yard or something he just sits down, but sometimes he just can’t help it.

What should I do? Can I heal his scars? Or do you think they’ll be too deep? And be nice! No nasty answers telling how much you hate to come across an aggressive dog!
I know mostly everything there is to know about Akitas. Their history, temperament, appearance, common health problems, almost everything. So you don’t need to educate me on that at all!

He sees me as his master, but also as his friend. He is respectful of me and does his best to do what he is told, but sometimes, like when another dog is around, he is forgetful of how he is supposed to act. He gets stuck deciding between trying to listen to me and getting lots of praise and a treat or pulling endlessly on the end of the leash at the sight of another dog. He forgets he is supposed to be in a heel and walks ahead of me, then feels the slip collar tightening and remembers he’s supposed to stay right next to me and then cowers as if to say, "Oops! Sorry, I forgot." He tries to control himself, but I just need him to try a little harder!

I exercise him on his basic obedience every day, and we go for walks fairly often. If the other dog is on leash he does okay, but if a stray dog comes
up to us I have trouble keeping him calm.

The issue with the yapper was almost 4 years ago, he hasn’t done anything close to that bad since then. The neighbors got rid of the dog after it happened. There hasn’t been one attack that even caused the other dog to bleed besides that one.

He’s not neutered, and if you want to get him neutered you’ll have to shoot me first! We’ve had a few people that want a dog like him (They are aware of his aggression), including an Akita breeder. And I have interests in showing him. Depending on where he is, his aggression can be slight or intense. If he’s around his own home, he sees another dog and acts like he just met his mortal enemy (But he is tied to a tree and can’t touch the dog). But when we’re at a place he’s never been before, it can be a different story. When we’re by a river, he hardly seems to care about other animals and just wants to explore and make sure I stay safe. So if he is on leash in a show ring under my control, he would be
perfectly fine, as long as we’ve been practicing obedience commands for the ten minutes leading up to the time being around other dogs.

He has been improving over the past 6 months, and I’ve gone this far without professional help. One of the trainers I contacted sounded more like a behaviorist, it said "Good Manners and Obedience Classes". I think good manners goes along with behaving! He knows a heck of a lot of tricks and commands that we can show off to little kids and their parents, and I just so happened to have taught him everything he knows. He’s been learning more and more almost every day for the past few months, and that’s why everyone wants a puppy produced by him along with the fact that he has a beautifully colored coat.

He has a pretty strong hunting instinct, and that’s part of what’s causing his aggression. Before the issue he had with the neighbor’s yapper dog he got along fairly well with other dogs. So it’s a bit obvious why he hates little dogs!
Some of the problem is typical Akita, but he had never acted like that before the yapper dog problem. After that it turned his prey drive from birds and squirrels to dogs, birds squirrels. He started hating cats when he was a puppy too. Before the yapper dog problem, he was perfectly fit for running around the ice-skating pond off leash with us while we skated.

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    10 Responses to “Can I teach my Akita to get along with other dogs?”

    1. Luke says:

      Hi mate, if it comes from his prey drive then its going to be one hell of battle to get rid of the problem, its his instict, that somthink that many people have been trying to breed out of them, its in there blood which then makes it alot harder i do agree with you on the little dog case, it can be totaly unffair when over a feild and the next thing you kno you have the local dog walker group with upto 6 dogs running to your akita, the akita will only think to protect you and him from this strange pack coming towards you, in that sense he is just doing his “job” he is not to kno if these 6 dogs running towards you at high speed are friend or foe, his only “safe” action is to protect you, in his mind. if its dominance then that can be “sorted” just keep up the good work let him kno that by all means you are the boss, and you dont need to be protected from other dogs, work closly but safely near other dogs, maybe a friend with a dog could come with u on a leash walk , eve if they walk the other sid eof the street then 6ft apart over the field, eventually he will learn that dogs dont mean agression, and reward praise him for not showing agression work with that over time, it may just help, a very beautiful breed, but a very strong indpendant breed, somtimes you may have to just realise he is not a dog thats gonna get on with others, as horrible as it is, my GSD was attacked by a jack russel when he was a littl epup, that was enought to mak ehim nervous of other dogs, now i was able to get him to be ok with larger dogs but his he see’s a jack russel its a no hold bars, his ready to attack before be attacked, his way of the best way to defend, i wish u all the best, also sending a akita to a dog trainer is useless, there a 1man 1family dog they dont do very well atal with outside training, so look for more advice, and save your money int he process.

    2. drb says:

      First, I am not surprised that you’re not getting much response from the trainers you have contacted. Many, probably the majority of people calling themselves trainers have experience limited to very easy to train breeds, such as the herding and retrieving dogs, and are completely lost when it comes to breeds that exhibit a lot of independence, and tend to be strong-willed, dominant dogs. These are many of the working dogs, such as Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Rottweilers, and Akitas. All of these breeds will pay much more attention to what is going on around them, and you are generally not the focus of their attention. Akitas, for example, were bred to be independent hunters and also guard dogs, so they need to be aware of the environment. This is one reason why they as a rule don’t do well in agility, formal obedience work, and so forth. It’s not because they are unintelligent – to the contrary, they are extremely intelligent and good problem solvers, but they are not inclined to have every move dictated by their handler. Nor is everything they do going to be predicated on pleasing you.

      If any "trainer" you do talk to does not have experience working with large, independent, strong-willed breeds, do not waste your money on them. These are not shelties or golden retrievers. Avoid use of harshly aversive techniques, because that will only tend to foster aggressive behavior in your dog. The Cesar Milans and others who recommend that you must be the "alpha" and force your dog into submission are simply full of it, and have no idea what they’re talking about. The dog must come to respect your authority, which it seems he does, but you have to exercise that in a firm, but gentle way.I suggest using a Nothing In Life is Free routine to help establish that relationship. A bond of mutual trust is essential with this breed, use of aversive techniques will only weaken that.

      Keep in mind the characteristics of the breed – they are often intolerant of other dogs. As they tend to be territorial, other dogs in their territory may be seen as intruders. Also, being protective, your dog may be reacting to your anxiety around other dogs, and assume they are threats that need to be taken care of. As a breed, they tend to be quite dominant, and as you have seen, will want to show that dominance to dogs they meet. As individuals, there are a lot of individual differences. You have to determine where your dog fits into this general pattern, and work with that. I walk my two daily, but I also go to great lengths to avoid encounters with other dogs. I strongly recommend the use of a Gentle Leader head collar, backed up with a standard chain slip collar for walking. Use a sturdy 6′ leather lead, as nylon leads can leave nasty burns if he pulls it through your hand quickly. Under no circumstances should you use a Flexi or other retractable lead. They give you zero control over your dog.

      The age of your dog may be a factor. A one to two year old Akita is roughly equivalent to a someone in their late teens. By the time he’s three or four, he may begin to mellow a bit. If he’s not neutered, that could help moderate his reaction to other dogs, although I seriously doubt it would eliminate it altogether.

      Read everything you can about the breed. This is not a breed for the casual, uninformed owner. Barbara Bouyet’s book, which was recommended earlier, is the single best source you can find. You should also visit her website, given below. There are a lot of lists and groups on, for example, Yahoo that are for Akita owners. Some of these are better than others, but I suggest you investigate them, as there will be those there who have dealt with these same issues.

      You dog sounds like he’s a typical Akita. I don’t think he’s "scarred," but it does sound like you need to work with him. My suggestions are:
      1. Some daily, basic obedience work. Simple stuff, such as sit and down, maybe a little bit of walking on lead. You want to get him to follow your lead as much as possible, you’re not working on a CD title, so just the basics are good. Find some kind of treat that is highly motivating for him, and reserve it for your training sessions.
      2. Nothing In Life Is Free – see the website given below.
      3. Try to plan walks to minimize chance encounters with other dogs. Do not under any circumstances let him run loose, and avoid off-lead dog parks like you would the plague.
      4. Self education
      5. Appreciate him for what he is, and work with that.

      I’ve owned dogs for more than 30 years, Akitas for the last 5+ of that. I have never had a dog that has pushed me like these have. I have honestly learned more about dogs in the past five years than in all the time previously. Nor have I ever had a dog that was so endlessly fascinating and rewarding to be around. They’re not a breed for everyone, no breed is. But they are truly amazing creatures, and I wish you the best with yours.

    3. dancingakita lady says:

      Hello,

      I have owned Akitas for over 30 years and have been doing rescue 26 years. I have a few questions for you. Is your dog neutered? How old is he? How was he able to grab the little dog? Where did you get him? Where do you live? The advice I will be able to offer will depend on your answers.

      Many trainers are not good with Akitas. There may be a rescue group or breeder close to you who could recommend someone experienced with the breed.

      Some Akitas are known not to be friendly with other dogs, particularly those of the same sex, and some with high prey drives consider all small animals, cats, squirrels, small dogs, as prey animals. In the Akitas who have the higher prey drive and more animosity to other dogs, you can blunt their behavior, but never totally eradicate it, especially if he has inherited those traits from a parent. Did you meet his parents? If so, what were their personalities?

      I do understand your frustration with the little dog. It never ceases to amaze me how many small dog owners think it is okay to let their dogs run off leash and think it is cute when they run up to challenge a larger dog. I have a neighbor with small dogs and when my Akitas are out and the small dogs are out, I call them in immediately because allowing them to fence fight only makes the situation worse. The times I have had issues with small dogs running at large,actually any dog running at large, I always call animal control and report it…that way if we have an incident down the road, there is documentation that the other dog may be the problem, not the Akita.

      If you want to call me to discuss your dog, my number is 703-730-0844 and my name is Jodi Marcus

    4. Catherine M says:

      I have owned Akitas for more than 30 years and am an Akita rescue volunteer. I will post this discussion link to a larger group of Akita rescuers for you, with the hope that their expertise and advice can be helpful.

      FYI, the best book on the breed is AKITA, TREASURE OF JAPAN (Volume II) – by Barbara Bouyet…if you don’t have this book, BUY a copy. It’s a huge, coffee-table sized volume with great photos and superb information – a great resource. Here is a link to more information on the book:
      http://akitabook.com/Read%20Excerpts%20From%20Book.htm

      I’m impressed with how you have worked with him and your description of how he controls himself for you by sitting down. It sounds to me like you have a very smart dog – hang in there, I don’t think he is "scarred" – he’s just an Akita. Work with him, you won’t be sorry.

      Cathy

    5. Love Love says:

      I would send a video to Cesar Milan, ha ha. But seriously, Akitas need to be socialized like crazy when they are puppies. They were bred to be aloof and protective, which can lead to some serious aggression issues.
      Now, I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your dog but if it’s a good one, training him shouldn’t be as difficult as it would be if he wasn’t trained at all. You’re still going to have a tough time but it could be worse.
      I would suggest using a lot of positive reinforcement, because anything negative can quickly sabotage the relationship. Show him that you’re the leader, that you’re in charge, and that he needs to do what you ask of him. It shouldn’t matter if there is another dog around or not. You could try doing basic commands around another dog, or even a stuffed animal, that won’t react to his antics.

      I think that you need to really focus on teaching him to come back to you when you call him.

      But I would try doing the whole puppy training stages with him again, just to establish a routine and show that you’re in charge of EVERYTHING he does including but not limited to when/where he eats, when/where he sleeps, when he plays, when/where he goes to relieve himself, and when you will show him affection. Teach him to walk again. Train him in short sessions, train him in different situations, try to socialize him as best you can. None of this will happen right away and I’m sure that you’re aware of that. Just be patient and remain in control at all time.

      It also doesn’t hurt to buy things that will help you. Books on Akitas, books on aggressive dogs, books on training dogs, a prong or e-collar, and even a muzzle. Anything that you think will help will probably help as long as you don’t associate the tool with a bad experience. Keep trying to contact trainers! I’m sure that he can overcome his aggression with your help. He’s also a working dog so put him to work! He’ll probably love it!

    6. Geli Gelica says:

      Akitas need to be socialized from day one to forever. You’ve lost at least a very valuable year from what I can tell.

      Honestly, they are not the best breeds for agility because they aren’t as focused on their owners as most other dogs. They tend to have a mind of their own. Some Akitas CAN do well in agility & sport but it;s not all that common. At the same time Akita’s should be aloof unless directly confronted so your dog may need more time to learn to control it’s impulse if it’s still young.

      You should get in contact with the breeder who you bought it from. If they showed their dogs they should be able to tell you how to get an Akita used to dogs & people to the point of at least tolerating them.

      The best I can offer you is to read up as much as you can. And look into DVD’s as well. Keep looking for a dog trainer meanwhile, & if you can, skip telling them you have an Akita. Some people don;t like dealing with the breed unfortunately.

    7. michele says:

      Of course, it’s possible to train him to be less aggressive. Although, you will need some hands-on help from a professional. Your case seems severe (attacked and mauled another dog, and is territorial), and the help we may offer here is just not going to be enough. But I’ll offer a bit of advice anyway. You seem to be placing the blame on the presence of the annoying dog. You love your dog and resent the way he behaves around other dogs. You don’t want to believe that he is a bad dog. But, he is. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can work on improving his behaviour! First, you need to regain control on walks. That’s key, he has to give up the responsibility of defending you. Work on keeping his attention on you, not other dogs. Perhaps you should get a Gentle Leader or anti-pull harness to make this easier on you. Those won’t harm your dog, and will prevent him from getting away from you. Train him so that he looks only to you for direction and encouragement. You say he knows agility courses and ski pulling, so that implies you’ve already worked with him on some basic obedience. Keep up with that. Look on the attached websites and watch their shows if you’re in the US. They are very wise and deal with situations like yours all the time and could have better advice. Don’t give up hope. If you give him the right training, there’s a big chance he could turn his behaviour around, but it’ll take your time and dedication to get there.

    8. eileen says:

      I would call an animal behaviorist if i were you.

      Or call the trainers, there isn’t much you alone can do.

    9. Taylor says:

      This dog is just vicious! haha. Idk what to tell you.

    10. tiffany says:

      i hate that breed! sorry!!!!
      but dog to dog aggrestion is the hardest thing to change! first off if i was you, the next time that little yappy thing was loose, i could contain it and call animal control! and every time! but your best bet would be to contact akita breeders or rescues, and see what they have to say! they are a hard breed. and are bred for tough things! i am sure that trainers won’t contact you back. but again look into breeders and rescues and see if they can head you in the right way! best of luck to you!

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