Akita Obedience & Training Guide
The Akita is a breed of dog that comes from Japan, and may be classified as the American Akita or the Akita Inu, although they are very similar, and training methods would be the same. These are large, muscular dogs that do not like to be in large groups with other dogs, and often try to be dominant, as such they require special training, socialization, and consistent handling. These dogs were originally bred for hunting large game, including bear, as such some people still refer to them as Akita Bear Dogs.
Akita's should not be weaned until 8 weeks of age, and provided they are fully vaccinated can begin puppy socialization and training at 12 weeks of age. Until they are fully vaccinated Akita puppies should not leave their home or yard. This is to keep the pup safe from highly contagious diseases such as Parvo.
An Akita's first lessons, which may occur prior to taking a pup for socialization, are to get it to accept wearing a collar. This is generally done when the pup is young. The collar should be checked regularly to be sure it has not become too tight as the puppy grows. The puppy may fuss at first but usually will ignore the collar after a day or so, and it should be left on.
To train an Akita puppy to walk on a leash soft treats are needed, cut small so the puppy does not get fat. Use the puppy's name and offer a treat while gently tugging the leash (but not so hard you actually pull the puppy forward). As soon as it steps towards you, release the pull so the pup comes to understand that when it does the right thing pressure is released. When the puppy approaches you reward it with a soft treat. As failure should not be an option, start with puppy only a few feet away, and the training session is kept short, ending on a positive, so that it does not become stressed.
Moving on to Bigger Training
After learning to walk on a leash the Akita puppy can be trained to sit, down, and so forth. Socialization is also a critical step, not only for Akitas, but dogs of all breeds. Owners may select to take their pup, or adult dog, to proper obedience classes, or continue at home. It is worth noting that formal classes allow for more socialization than most owners can give on their own and help the dog learn to be obedient amid distractions, as well they offer a guide to correct owner errors. Due to their nature of not wanting to be around other dogs it strongly recommended that an Akita attend at least Puppy Socialization Classes, or Basic Obedience Classes, to help them accept other dogs. Clicker training, or other positive training methods, should be used.
Sit and Down
To get am Akita dog to sit, it should be standing up, facing its owner. The owner should be prepared with a bag of small soft treats in their pocket. Right handed people should hold the dog's leash in their left hand and use their right hand for giving rewards. The dog is shown the treat in its owners hands. The dog is instructed to sit, while the owner moves their hand over the dogs head, from nose to forehead, low enough that the dog can smell the treat. Since the dog cannot reach the treat without jumping up (which should be corrected immediately, and never tolerated) it is forced to put its rump in a sit position, at which time the dog is rewarded and praised. The handler should never pull on the dogs neck, nor push on the dogs rump – an outdated training method.
To get the dog into a down position the treat is held in a down turned hand, again after the dog is made aware that the owner has treats. The hand is lowered to the floor in front of the dog while the dog is given the “down” command. As soon as the dogs front and rear hit the floor the dog is rewarded with the treat and praise.
The command “down” should be used only to mean lay down, not to get off furniture, or to stop jumping on somebody. Also note that saying “Sit Down” is giving two different messages to the dog.
photo source - an Akita Inu
Socialization is when a dog learns to interact with other dogs, and people. This is best done at a proper obedience classes where the dogs (and owners) can be supervised by several knowledgeable dog people. The dog must be allowed to interact with other dogs, at an early age, and learn from them what is acceptable and what is not.
As mentioned Akitas are one dog breed that do not normally enjoy being in packs with other dogs, they prefer being alone or with only one dog. As such it is very important that Akita owners socialize while the dog is young, and that the owner is knowledgeable enough not to create a situation for their dog where it can fail. Many dog owners get nervous and this nervousness transfers to their dog who may lash out at another dog as a result. By holding a dog back in a safe situation the dog may actually think there is a threat or danger and may respond in a way that is not acceptable.
To socialize a dog to new situations the owner must have total control over it, and expose it to many different situations in a way that the dog does not think these are scary. Introducing Akitas to cats while they are young, is also a good idea or they may treat the cats like prey.
There are other training steps that should be taken, such as recall, in which a dog is told to “come”. This is done by continuing on with getting the dog to respond to coming to its name. Owners of Akitas should not off leash their dog unless it has perfect recall (the ability to come when called) and has been well socialized to other dogs and people.
Akitas are noted for being relatively easy to house train - they do not like making a mess in their beds!
House training can start at 10 weeks, but results may not be seen for a couple more weeks. House training is best done by crate training, confining a puppy to a crate at night and when it cannot be watched (never more than 8 hours at a time, and never more than 16 hours a day). The idea of crate training is that a puppy will not want to mess in its bed/den. The puppy will not want to be left in the crate at first but if allowed out when it cries, it will learn to cry for attention every time.
Crate training is a whole other issue unto itself so will not be covered fully here, however it is important to note that it requires time, commitment, and consistency, and that the crate should never be used as punishment. An owner must be prepared to go outside with their puppy every time and reward it for going to the bathroom outside. The biggest mistake people make is rewarding their pup when it comes indoors, which only teaches the pup that it gets rewarded for coming in, not for doing its business outside.
Akitas should not be allowed to play dominance games, such as tug of war. These dogs are strong and if they win enough of these games they may come to think of themselves as an Alpha (pack leader) which puts them on at risk of becoming a potentially dangerous dog, especially as Akitas were bred to be dominant (for hunting reasons).