Akitas are often known to be independent dogs, typically only growing attached to their owner, and being very wary of strangers. Akitas are also known to sometimes not get along with other dogs and animals as well, especially same sex dogs. But for every Akita that likes to be a loner, you can find an example of an Akita that lives in a household with many other animals, including other types of pets like cats. So how do you get your Akita to be nice to not just other people, but other animals as well? The secret is in socialization.
In this article we’re going to go over a few tips and tricks to help you have the perfect socialized Akita!
Disclaimer: Dogs, like people, all have different personalities, socializing any dog will make improvements to that particular dog’s behavior, however some dogs, no matter how much you socialize them, will never be “social” dogs. If you have a particularly independent Akita, you should still socialize them to the best of your ability, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to have other pets in the home with that dog.
Start as Early as Possible
When you bring an Akita puppy home for the first time, there is a lot of work to be done. Of course training should be a high priority, but puppies are like children, and when they are babies, they are highly impressionable. Starting the socialization process as early as possible will make a world of difference.
There is one major consideration you must think about before you begin socializing, however, and that is vaccination. Most vets will recommend your puppy be vaccinated for things like parvo, distemper, rabies, lyme, kennel cough and more. But your puppy can’t receive all of these vaccines at once, and until your puppy is fully vaccinated, it’s not safe to have them around other dogs that are also unvaccinated. With that in mind, you can start socializing your Akita puppy with people right away, but be very selective about the other dogs you socialize them with.
When we got our American Akita, Haga, we only socialized him with our friends’ dogs, who we knew were fully vaccinated and healthy themselves. Until your Akita puppy is fully vaccinated, you’ll want to avoid very public places like dog parks, or other high traffic dog areas like stores where people bring their dog, like Home Depot. It’s also for this reason that you shouldn’t bring your puppy to doggy-daycare or boarding yet.
Check out the video below of an 8 week old Haga meeting his friends Iggy and Isla for the first time!
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According to expert dog trainer Barbara Jean Crehan of www.reallyspecialanimals.com the window of opportunity to really socialize your puppy, closes around the 16 week mark, with the puppy’s most impressionable time being between 6-12 weeks. It’s typical that most people will receive their new puppy from a breeder at the 8 week mark, which is yet another reason why it’s so crucial to get your puppy from an honest and reputable breeder, who will have kicked off the socialization process before homing your puppy with you.
Use Multiple Environments
When you think of socializing a puppy, whether it’s an Akita or another breed, many people think of taking their dog out into the world to meet other people and animals. Getting your Akita puppy out and about is crucial to their socialization, however it’s also important to socialize your Akita puppy within your own home.
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Because Akitas are extremely territorial, it’s important to bring other people and pets onto their turf, to help them realize that it’s okay to have visitors! However there are some basic guidelines you’ll want to follow when introducing people or pets to your Akita at home. While some other Akita owners or dog trainers might not agree, I find it best to not have your Akita in their crate when the strangers arrive. This is because your Akita will likely feel helpless inside the crate, which can make them be more anxious and aggressive once they come out.
It’s always been my preference to have my Akita meet strangers, whether that be people or other pets, outside of the house in a more “neutral” territory. Once your Akita begins to feel comfortable with your guests, then you can move inside. Sometimes it may require taking your Akita for a walk with their new friends. Typically if people or dogs are walking with your Akita, your pup will start to view them as part of the pack.
In general the more places you can socialize your Akita, the more effective the socialization will be.
Manage Unplanned Encounters
There will no doubt be times when you’re not planning on having your Akita interact with other people or animals, but it will just happen, most often when you’re out for a walk. You’ll probably notice that your Akita’s behavior will be different when crossing paths with other people or animals. Again this goes back to your Akita feeling like these strangers are “outsiders,” and Akitas don’t tend to like outsiders!
There are two ways you can handle this situation. First, if you don’t think it’s a good time for your Akita to interact with strangers, you must quickly and efficiently move past the distraction. Your body language here is extremely important. First try to get yourself between your Akita and the other people/animals. From there make sure you are squarely pointed in the direction you want to go, or even slightly away from the distraction. If you are at all turned towards the passersby, your Akita will see that body position as a defensive position, which will put them on high alert.
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The next step is for you to pick up the pace of your walk, maybe even to a slight jog. This indicates to your Akita that there is no “threat” and it’s not a big deal, you can keep on walking. Managing your Akita’s behavior is all about getting them to focus. In the case of crossing paths with a stranger, you don’t want your Akita to focus on them, you want them to focus on continuing on their journey.
On the flipside, if you do want to stop and interact with your new friends. the best thing to do is to make your Akita sit or heel and to let the other dog approach them, albeit slowly. If another dog is over excited or aggressive, your Akita will respond in kind. On the flipside, if you let your Akita rush at another dog, the other dog might bite or nip in a defensive way, which will trigger your Akita. The most important thing to manage in these encounters is making sure everyone is calm. If your Akita is too excited or alert, it’s probably best to keep on walking.
Bring Your Akita to Doggy Day Care
Doggy daycare can be a great resource for anyone who is out of the house for long periods of time due to work. Your dog will certainly get plenty of interaction and socialization at a doggy day care, but choosing the right doggy day care is extremely important. Because some doggy day cares may have upwards of 20-30 dogs in their care at a time, we strongly recommend only bringing your Akita to a day care that is run and managed by professional dog trainers.
Unfortunately, some doggy day care facilities simply hire minimum wage workers, or teenagers looking for a part time job. While these individuals are no doubt well-meaning, they will lack the experience to manage many dogs at once, and this is especially true if they are managing multiple “difficult” breeds, like your Akita.
We learned this lesson the hard way, when, in a pinch, we needed to bring our American Akita, Haga, to day care, but our normal facility wasn’t available. Shortly after dropping him off, we were informed that we needed to come pick him up because he “started a fight.” Upon arriving, one of the day care attendants (who didn’t look a day over 18) told me that Haga wouldn’t leave another dog alone and was constantly sniffing another dog. That dog bit him, and that’s when “Haga attacked the other dog.”
When I brought up the point that if the other dog bit my dog first, then my dog didn’t “start the fight.” They told me that “the other dog comes here all the time, and they’ve never had a problem.”
This is a great example of why you don’t want to leave your Akita in the hands of inexperienced dog handlers. At our normal day care which is run by legitimate professionals, Haga never has issues with his other furry friends. Check out the video below to see some footage of Haga the American Akita having fun with other dogs!
Exercise Your Akita
While Akitas are known for their love of lounging around, they still need a good amount of exercise, this is especially true of Akita puppies. While every dog breed and every dog within a breed may have its own bad habits, most undesirable habits in dogs will be pronounced when the dog is frustrated or has too much pent up energy. This means one of the ways to get your Akita to be more open to making new friends, is making sure they get plenty of exercise. It’s been said a “tired dog is a happy dog” and we completely agree! If your Akita has been sitting around all day and needs to burn off some energy, that won’t be a good time to introduce them to new people or animals.
Making sure your Akita is thoroughly exercised before starting a socialization session will make the meeting go much, much smoother.
Other Types of Socialization
When we think of socialization we think of our Akitas interacting with other people and other animals, but that is only part of the socialization process. It’s also important for your Akita to learn how to be okay with being touched. This is extremely important for things like vet check-ups and grooming.
When you bring your Akita to the vet, typically your vet will need to be very hands on with your Akita. This will include inspecting their paws, eyes, ears, nose and mouth, their belly and even their boy or girl parts. If your Akita isn’t used to being touched and handled, this will make it not only difficult for your vet to do their job, but it can also be dangerous as your Akita might react aggressively. Obviously you don’t want anything to effect the quality of care your Akita gets, so this part of the socialization is extremely important.
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The best thing to do with your Akita puppy is to practice “vet check-ups” with them at home. Put your fingers in their mouth and inspect their teeth, or hold their paw and massage between their toes. Get some ear cleaning wipes, and gently massage the inside of their ears. Also be sure to take the time to brush them, and generally be as hands on with them as possible.
You don’t have to do this all at once, and in fact, it may be better to do this in small doses. Try not to overwhelm your puppy. But the sooner you start, the more well adjusted your Akita puppy will become to being touched.
Long Term Socialization is Important
While the best time to socialize your Akita may be when they are a puppy, keeping up with their socialization is just as important. Your Akita’s personality will continue to develop throughout their entire life. Our previous Akita mix, Loki, was very aggressive towards other animals when he was a puppy, but softened with age, however he never got over his defensiveness of the home. He would be completely gentle and sweet with all other animals, even cats and rabbits, but if another dog came into the home, he wouldn’t allow it.
With our current Akita, Haga, he absolutely loves people, however as a puppy he would simply greet anyone that crosses his path, now he takes his time vetting any potential stranger with a few wary sniffs before he gives them the okay.
This change in behavior likely has a lot to do with your Akita’s hormones, which will change throughout their lifespan, which is why it’s important to socialize them regularly. Many people believe neutering will “calm their dog down” however, research says this is not the case. To read our full article about neutering your Akita, click here, or you can watch our YouTube video about the subject.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
While many of us will do a lot of our training with our Akita on our own, it’s never a bad idea to get some professional guidance when it comes to socializing your Akita. A good dog trainer will offer one-on-one training sessions, where you can focus on one specific task, in this case, socializing your dog.
Great trainers will likely also have their own dogs that they can use in the training process. They will know if their dog is friendly, and if they can be used to help socialize your Akita. If your dog trainer’s dog isn’t well behaved, it’s definitely time to start looking for a different dog trainer!
In the end, remember to just take your time, don’t push your Akita too much, and seek professional guidance when necessary!