Akitas are big dogs, they are independent thinkers and they also have an extremely strong prey drive, meaning they will take notice of every little squirrel, bird or leaf that moves! With all of these factors combined, it can be challenging to walk an Akita on a leash, which is why many Akita breeders recommend having a fenced in yard or kennel for your Akita. That doesn’t mean that walking an Akita on a leash is impossible though!
In this article we’re going to cover some tips and tricks on how to train your Akita to be a great dog on leash, with nothing more than a collar and a lead.
Dog Walking Equipment: What You’ll Need
While many people use prong collars, pinch collars, slip leads, and e-collars, in this article all you really need is a good standard collar and leash. Right now we’re using the Fi Smart Dog Collar, and we recommend a lead that has a loop at the end and down by where it connects to the collar, like this one here.
Prong collars and E-Collars can be effective tools, but they require quite a bit of training in how to use them for them to be used safely and effectively with your Akita. It also may not be practical to always use those additional tools, so having some solid skills with just a regular leash is important.
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What About Retractable Leashes?
Retractable leashes are very popular for the convenience factor, and we tend to use them in the winter to help our American Akita get up and over large snow banks without us having to go with him, but in general we don’t recommend them for walking your Akita because they can instill bad habits in your dog. Because your Akita doesn’t have a consistent feel to where the end of the leash is, they will not learn where the end of the lead is and how far they can go. If you give Akitas an inch, they’ll take a mile.
Akita Recall Training: It All Starts Inside
Getting your Akita to be well behaved on leash actually starts inside, not out on a walk. One of the most important skills for you to teach your Akita is recall, in other words, the act of coming back to you when you call them. We use the word “Here” but you can use any command you want as long as you are consistent, and your Akita knows what you want from them.
You’ll want to start with some kibble in your pocket or in a training pouch. We recommend using the same food that you feed your dog and not special treats. You want your Akita to be motivated by their regular food in the event you don’t have extra high value treats available. If you start using high value treats for basic training, the regular kibble will lose its effectiveness during training sessions.
While your Akita is at the end of the leash, call to them with the “HERE!” command in a fun and excited way, at the same time put pressure on the leash to pull them toward you, while stepping backwards. Dogs respond to movement more than anything else, so getting your body moving will be more powerful than the leash tug or the vocal command, but doing all three at the same time will help your Akita associate them together, making the recall that much stronger.
After your Akita has come to you, toss another piece of kibble away to get them to the end of the leash again, and repeat the process for 10-15 minutes. Do this 1-2 times a day, at least 3 times per week.
Once you feel as though your Akita is doing well with this step, use a longer training leash. Getting your Akita to come back to you from further away will be an important skill. If your Akita is doing well with recall on the longer leash, it is now time to bring them outside, and repeat steps 1 and 2 in an environment with more distractions.
Stop Leash Pulling Immediately
It’s important to have a zero tolerance policy for unwanted behavior in your Akita. That means as soon as your Akita starts to pull, you need to recall them back to you, and put them in a sit, down, or you need to change the direction of your walk. This zero tolerance policy tells them that if they want to go for a walk, it has to be on YOUR terms. Another important thing to remember is to disengage your Akita from whatever distraction they may be pulling towards. This means putting them in a sit or down and then standing in front of them and breaking their line of sight.
It can be frustrating to constantly be stopping the walk, we know you’re busy and probably have things to do, but you really cannot skip this step, or you will build bad habits with your Akita. If your American Akita, Haga, is amped up, we may have to stop and put him in a sit every 5 steps, but eventually he understands that if he wants to keep walking and sniffing around, pulling is not acceptable.
Loose Leash Walking and Heeling
There are two basic ways we walk our Akita, the first is loose leash walking: This is exactly what it sounds like, our Akita is free to roam around while on leash, he can stop and sniff at his own pace, and we only control the general direction of the walk. This is extremely important for all dogs, not just Akitas, because it helps to stimulate your Akita’s brain, and also gives them a lot of joy and freedom to be able to roam around!
The other type of leash walking is “heeling” where your dog is literally at your heels or right next to you. For this we use the command “With me”. This is where it becomes important to have a second handle on the leash near where the leash clips on to the collar. During the “with me” command” your Akita should walk right by your side with no pressure on the leash. If they are pulling, you have to repeat the steps outlined above.
Heeling on leash is extremely important for when you need or want to keep your Akita close to you, whether that’s because you’re passing by another dog, you’re in a high traffic area, or you simply don’t want your Akita to walk through a puddle of mud and get all dirty!
Training for the “with me” or heel command is very similar to training recall. Start inside, with kibble. Bring your Akita to your side and start walking. Feed them a constant stream of the kibble as you walk, which will keep your attention on you! Once they’re comfortable with it inside, move to doing it outside, and eventually do it without the food.
Akita Leash Training: Patience and Persistence
The two most important thing for teaching your Akita anything is patience and persistence. What you are trying to teach your Akita is a skill, and skills get better with practice! It’s also important to not get frustrated, because your Akita will sense that frustration, and it can make training more difficult. When humans get frustrated they also tend to take shortcuts, which will only cause you more problems down the road.
If you want additional education on how to get your Japanese Akita Inu or American Akita better on walks, check out this video on our YouTube Channel!