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The Akita Information Center
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Akita Biting



Force

There are many rumors about how much pressure is in the Akita bite. We have seen claims of a range of 400 to 4000 pounds of pressure.   That is not true at all.  Factually, all large sized breeds will range between 300 to 350 lbs. of pressure.  This is quite remarkable considering that an adult human gives out only 120, although dangerous animals such as lions and sharks both are in the 600 range.

With this being said, the Akita actually exerts a bit less force than the Shepherd or the Rottweiler due to slightly different jaw structure.

Akita bitingAggressive Biting

Being a guard dog, most (but not all) will first growl. This is a warning signal that essentially means “I am going to attack if you do not back off”.  It tells us that the dog is irritated and on high alert. Focused on the task at hand, the Akita will rarely back off on his own.  This will happen with this breed if the dog feels that what he is protecting is in harm’s way. This includes 3 elements:

•    Himself
•    His human family
•  What he considers to be his territory

Before we go on to training, let’s first, look a self-protection.  It is a known fact that this breed is highly dominant and will not tolerate an unfamiliar dog, particularly one of the same gender.   When an encounter takes place, all focus goes to defending and upholding himself as the pack leader (of essentially all canines) and this is when aggressive behavior will be triggered.  This will often result in a quick and powerful bite or an attempt to do so, if the owner is able to keep control of the leash and hold the dog back).

Now, let’s talk about family.  This breed is highly motivated, by instinct, to protect their human family members.  This means that any person or dog or other animal that is interpreted to be a possible threat will usually first receive a clear warning via a growl and this will be accompanied by protective body stance.  If the threat does not retreat, a bite is generally the next step.  At that point, while having some control and understanding the situation in their own way, an Akita often will not stop at one, but there is often a succession of biting.

Boundaries

Aggressive behavior is often seen in correlation to what the Akita dog identifies to be his or her territory.  They do not create an invisible line on their own. It is established by their daily routines….where they live…and where they are customarily taken.  If an owner does not want their dog to believe that the entire street is their property, steps must be taken to establish the confines of private land.  While the dog will, of course, need to be taken for walks, one may either wish to:

•    Drive to a different area and then go for the walk

•    Incorporate boundary walking to compensate for the strolls through the neighborhood which may be instilling  false beliefs of territory.

Each day, at least 1 time and preferably twice, an owner will want to walk their Akita along the property line that the owner wished to establish as what will be interpreted as the dog’s territory.  This can be as close as 10 feet around the home or as far as 500 feet. 

Training Your Akita to Have Biting Inhibition


This is the element of controlling the nature to bite. After all, a growl is just fine…And given their make-up to defend and guard, it is just about impossible to remove the predisposition of offering a cautioning snarl.

With proper training, an Akita can be taught to only bite when absolutely necessary (literally imminent bodily harm to himself or those his guards).

This involves showing him that the human is the leader and he is to accept the authority of his owner.  This is actually a character building exercise, as once it is instilled in the Akita, he or she will have more self-confidence and feel more at ease in unfamiliar settings or in circumstances which otherwise would have brought about agitation.

The ability to have control over biting is partially genetic and if either dam or sire were biters, a puppy and then adult Akita may
 
   
be more prone to be ones as well. If both parents showed aggression, the chances are higher. For this reason, potential owners should make inquiries not just about the registration and coloring of the dam and sire, but behavior as well.

What is Normal

The Akita dog is a guard dog, yes, but is also a companion.  He loves the company of his humans and enjoys the benefits of sense of family.  No owner should assume that their Akita biting others is normal. It is not.   When trained properly from puppyhood or when rules are strictly taught to an previously untrained older dog, this can be completely avoided or eliminated.

Training

When newborns and with their littermates and mother, the puppy learns about biting. When done to a brother or sister too roughly, a very loud yelp will be the reply, enough to startle the pup into stopping.  If the dam is bit while the pup is nursing, she will push him away or even growl.  She may also interfere if play between siblings appears to be dangerous, as she has the instinct to protect all of them.

Therefore, rules are established early and if an owner continues this from day 1 of obtaining their Akita, it can remove any future problems. 

Any time that your puppy bites you, even if he is just mouthing you and it does not hurt, react as if it does.   Your response should be a loud “YELP” from the owner, followed by completely ignoring the puppy.  Never hit, never push, never shove.   Your verbal reaction and then disregarding the pup for 3-5 minutes is all that is needed.   This needs to be done each and every time the puppy bites or mouths.

This training technique should also be done if the Akita is biting at your clothes or shoes.

Don’ts

There are things that may seem natural to do when playing with your dog,  but these actions can actually encourage biting.  Therefore:

Do not roughhouse or wrestle with your Akita, one-on-one.  Better is to use a toy or cloth that he or she can pull on.  Try to use the same toys or clothes so that any time he or she bites at you, you can react in the way mentioned above, but then also offer the toy or object as their alternative.

Do not play “Chase”, this can easily turn into “Chase the prey” and it is counterproductive to teaching your Akita to not bite.

Don’t isolate your Akita when visitors come over. This will set up a terrible routine. The dog will “learn” that whenever a person comes to the home, he or she is taken away and left alone. This is not good for their emotional health and can lead to resentment and then, stubbornness to leave.  Socialization is what is needed -  By your tone of voice and your calm actions, you can show him or her that you are just fine and happy to have the person(s) in the home.  This will carry over – if you are showing you feel safe and happy, your Akita will learn to understand that all is well.

Alternate Tips

If yelping is not a strong enough deterrent, an owner may then need to firmly hold onto the muzzle and say “No!” in a firm voice…then release.   One must be careful to not ever hit, slap, shake or physically do anything that could be interpreted as a fight for dominance…that is a terrible situation and will lead to major problems.  Have confidence as the leader and give the verbal commands with composure.

The Biggest Biting Element


Biting happens when the dog is protecting. If the Akita knows that their humans are the leaders, he or she will not feel so responsible to protect them in such an aggressive way.  He will still protect the property and remain on alert for any threats…But he will not be under pressure to be the fearless leader of the house, whose sole job is to guard everyone.   When the humans show that they are in charge, the Akita can relax.  Guests can come to the home and the Akita will look to the humans for confirmation that they are welcomes and that ends the issue. Visitors can be at ease.

Ways to Establish This

All members of the home should take turns feeding the puppy or dog.  With breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to feed their Akita.   An Akita should be trained to sit before any food is given. 

When exiting the house, all humans exit first and the Akita leaves last.  Leash him before heading out and keep control over the order that this is done.

When entering the home, the same rules apply: humans first, Akita 2nd.

Teach common commands such as: Sit, Stay, Come, Lay, Down and Off.  Use them.  If your Akita has taken over the sofa and you want to sit down and watch TV, use that command to move him onto the floor next to you and take control of your furniture. This can be incorporated to many situations.  Remember, YOU are in charge….And you have a great backup, should you need it.

Biting Strangers, Visitors or Friends


Many Akitas completely ignore strangers and could not care less who is around, particularly if the person is not being unnaturally loud moving in an erratic manor.  The dog may seem to be totally relaxed and is, but will be on alert for any changes in the situation.  If this is the case, we encourage owners to be pleased and to never encourage aggressive behavior simply because they have heard that he breed is “supposed “ to be a biter.

A complex breed, this dog actually is known for its reserved, calm demeanor and not just for its methods of guarding.

If an owner has a dog who is on the defense to such a high level that makes others feel uncomfortable and/or afraid, it is important to teach your Akita to know when a person is not a threat and no action, including biting, needs to happen.  

So much of an Akita’s demeanor depends on how the dog is raised.  For example, left alone outside for the majority of his life, the dog will see everything as a threat and day-to-day survival will be at the forefront.

Akita bite forceWhen brought home and accepted as part of the family, to be able to be free to move from room to room to shadow the person whom he wants to be close to at that moment…..To receive hugs and praise…To be brought outside to enjoy the company of his humans at the BBQ…or to lie comfortably on a big dog pillow while his humans watch a movie….Those are the things that create a well-balanced, happy, content and even tempered dog.

How you act when you encounter someone plays a huge role in how your Akita reacts.  Take action at the first signs of hostility. These include:

•    He is looking the person right in the eyes
•    He has placed himself between you and the other person
•    He is giving anxious looks back and forth between you and the other person
•    He is making nervous whining noises
•    He is pacing
•    He is blowing air out through his nose in a forceful way

All of the above are signs that he is anxious about the situation and trying to determine if he needs to jump into sentry mode.   An owner must step in before the dog decides this on his own, Akita biting issues often occur with little notice.

Immediately, an owner should:

•    Command the Akita to Sit, if he breaks the say, correct him and put him back.

•    If he remains sitting and behaves more at ease, ignore him and continue talking in a calm, happy tone to your visitor.

•    Never say, “its okay” and/or pat him.   It will be interpreted that you are saying it is “okay” for him to be on guard.  Do not reward his anxiety with your attention, pats, soothing words or treats!

•    Only when you see that your dog has completely relaxed, should you then reward and praise.  Give a tasty treat and in a calm yet happy voice, tell them that they are being good.

Once a certain person has been to your home at least 8 times AND you have followed the above steps and your Akita has gotten to the point of behaving relaxed,  THEN you should allow the guest to offer a treat.  You can plan this ahead of time and so that they already have it in their pocket.  After this,  soon they will be good friends and everyone can relax.

Why Professional Training May Not Be a Good Idea


If an Akita is brought to an instructor, especially when the Akita is over age 2 and particularly for males, it can be counterproductive. Many coaches do not have enough experience with this breed to understand the complex workings of the dog’s way of thinking. Boredom is often mistaken for stubbornness.   Many instructors feel a need to make an example of an Akita due to the negative stereotypes placed upon the breed and are prone to engage the dog in a power struggle which often ends badly.

Akitas can be very uncomfortable in new situations and the instinct to be in protection mode along with the wariness of strangers is often too much.  Finally, it is very important that the owner be seen as the one true leader, the one who will give orders...Therefore, it is best to keep training in your home and on your property. 

Guidelines to Remember

Your Akita must learn to become accustomed to YOUR life.  Owners cannot/should not change their lifestyle in fear of the dog biting or acting out of line.  If the dog has a problem with children or with your friends,  he must learn to accept them. You can show him how .  It is crucial to be able to pick up on the sometimes subtle signs of hostility (as mentioned above) so that you can step in immediately and stop the situation from escalating.

Those who are not socialized will not learn tolerance.  The Akita’s anxiety level is equivalent to the number of strange things in his environment. 






Highly Recommended Resources for Akita Training Needs (All on Amazon - both hardcopy and Kindle) and written by Faye Dunningham:


                                                                                    
                           Training                                        Socialization                            Chewing and Nipping
            Housebreaking & Important          How to introduce all elements         How to prevent these behaviors
           Command Training. Great for               of the world and change         from forming & how to reverse
            this breed. Works on both              any negative views already             any that have already developed.
                training AND leadership                formed. Excellent resource.                         Very helpful.
                       establishment.
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