Many people may want to add an Akita to their household when they already own a dog…perhaps they even already own an Akita! Adding a second dog to your family is a big decision, and it’s no easy feat either, especially if the new dog is a puppy.
This is something we recently experienced with the addition of our second Akita, Panda, a female long coat puppy from Morrow Akitas. At the time our male Akita, Haga, was 3 years old, and we took lots of preparation to make sure the transition for everyone involved was a smooth as possible. In this article we’re going to teach you all about how to add a second dog or second Akita to your household.
Know Your First Dog Well Before Adding another Dog
This seems like a no brainer, but it needs to be said. You should have a good understanding of how your current Akita feels about other dogs. With Akitas it’s not uncommon for them to be intolerant of other animals, and they are almost always same sex aggressive. In fact, because same sex aggression or SSA for short, is so common in Akitas, most ethical breeders and rescues will not send you home with a male Akita if you already have a male dig at home, or a female Akita if you have a female dog at home, even if the dog you have is a different breed.
In general, you should know how your dog does with other dogs, particularly at home and in your neighborhood, as Akitas can also be very territorial and protective of their household. In the case of Haga, our 3 year old male Akita, we would send him to daycare weekly where he would play with up to 30 other dogs at a time under the supervision of very experienced dog trainers.
Our daycare had strict rules for Akitas, and a handful of other breeds known to be dominant or aggressive. In general the daycare did not allow any dogs to climb on one another with both paws. If a dog were to put a single paw on top of another dog, that was allowed, but not two paws. However for Akitas, they did not tolerate even a single paw to be placed on another dog.
Because of this, Haga the Akita learned how to play gently with other dogs from a very early age, because he had been going to daycare since he was only 12 weeks old.
With that said, our male Akita was completely intolerant of other dogs at the house. This gave us some concern when we were considering adding a second Akita. However after talking with our trainer and the breeder, both agreed that the situation would be different with a puppy.
Make Sure Your First Akita is Well Trained Before Adding Another Akita
There’s an old saying “If you hang out with dogs, you’ll learn how to bark.” Basically what that means is people taken on the habits of the people they surround themselves with…and the same goes for dogs! If your first Akita has a lot of bad habits, than your second Akita will likely pick up on those bad behaviors as well.
While no dog is going to be perfect, you want to make sure your first Akita or dog has a solid foundation of basic obedience training before you bring another Akita in to the mix. This is especially important when you consider that your training time for your first dog will be decreased once you show up with the second dog…and even more true if that second dog is a puppy!
Introduce the Two Dogs on Neutral Ground
We had to travel to Ohio to pick up our second Akita, Panda. During the trip, we had a friend stay at our house to take care of our first Akita, Haga. On the day we were due to return, we had our dog sitter bring Haga the Akita to daycare, where we met them with Panda. The trainer let both dogs mix in with the larger group. So to Haga, this little puppy was just part of the daycare pack.
They checked each other out in the group, and then went about playing with the other dogs. After some group time, it was finally time for a one on one introduction. We brought both dogs out in the parking lot, and introduced them in a neutral place. There was no pressure and we let them just hang out around each other.
Everything was going smoothly, and from there it was time to bring them home!
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Keep Interactions to Small Doses at First
Although Haga the Akita seemed tolerant of Panda the Akita, he wasn’t exactly thrilled to have her there. We kept them completely separate from one another except for play time and sleep time, and we kept play time exclusively to outdoors where there was more space for Haga to break off from the interaction if he wanted to.
Puppies are high energy, and they haven’t developed the awareness of how to read other dogs’ body language, so they often overstep boundaries. That’s why it’s so important for the interaction time to be very structured in the beginning, and in small doses.
However when it comes to “pack” activities like travel, eating, and sleeping, make sure they do it together. We all sleep as a family in our primary bedroom. We let Haga free roam the room, while we crated Panda, so she could be safe, and always not annoy him! But she was still nearby so Haga was getting the sense that this new Akita puppy was part of the pack.
Overtime we extended the interaction times, and also moved play time to inside. We always kept a long leash on Panda at all times (which is good practice with puppies anyway), in order to quickly grab her and pull her away from Panda if she was starting to overstep Haga’s boundaries.
Be Ready for Hurt Feelings
One thing we absolutely did not expect when adding a second Akita to our home was how sad and upset our first Akita would be. Many Akitas are single animal household dogs. Akitas form extremely strong bonds with their owners, and usually only true connect with 1-2 people at most in their lives. They are independent dogs that don’t need constant attention or affection, but they are also very emotionally intelligent dogs.
When we brought Panda the Akita home, Haga the Akita’s feelings were clearly hurt. Our big boy was used to being the only child and getting all of the attention.
For the first week that Panda was in our home, Haga moped around, barely ate, rarely wanted to play. Here was a happy-go-lucky Akita who loved belly rubs, fetch, food, and snuggles with his mommy. Now he just sat on the window staring out and not reacting to any time we called his name.
When we took both Akitas for walks, Haga would barely sniff around. We practically had to drag him. This big male Akita was typically attentive to cars passing by, protective of his mom when other dogs would be near, and excited to see some of his favorite neighbors. Instead he would just mope along on our walks, barely lifting his head up to take a peak at the school bus or garbage truck.
It was a struggle to manage to the energy level and potty needs of a 9 week old puppy, and still give our favorite boy the love and attention he clearly needed. This was something that we mentally had not prepared for.
We had already been through the chaos that is raising a puppy when we had brought Haga home a few years earlier, but adding that insanity on top of managing the feelings and needs of another adult dog was a lot more work than we had anticipated. We were also starting to question if we had made the right decision to add another dog to our household.
We had initially wanted to get a second Akita not just because we love the Akita breed, but we wanted Haga the Akita to have a companion. We saw how much he loved playing with other dogs at doggie daycare, and we thought we could bring that atmosphere home by adding a second Akita. While both of us work mostly from home, we are still sometimes gone from the house for long periods of time when Haga is by himself, and we wanted him to have a friend, now we were wondering if we would have to call the breeder and tell her that we were bringing the puppy back!
But we were exhausted from our 15 hour drive to Ohio and back, the sleepless nights of dealing with a puppy, and the stress of seeing our boy’s feelings hurt, and we knew that due to all of those factors, we needed to just relax and give it time…
I’m happy to say that things did get better day by day, week by week, and now Haga is back to his normal, cheery self, and while he likes to sometimes pretend he’s too cool for his little baby sister, he does like having her around.
Let your First Akita be First
If you give a puppy an inch, they will take a mile, this is particularly true of the Akita breed, and from what we’ve heard, female Akitas especially. With that said, it’s important to set the standard of letting your first dog go first. That means eat first, get in the car first, go out into the yard first, etc…teaching your second Akita how to be patient and that big brother (or sister) gets special treatment because they were first.
This will help to tame the chaos of your puppy, but also help keep a healthy relationship between the two dogs. When a dog is used to being the “only child” and getting preferential treatment, it can really disrupt their routine to have another dog present, so it’s best to maintain those habits and practices as best you can. Remember, dogs thrive on routine and Akitas are no different!
Avoid Resource Guarding
If you aren’t familiar with resource guarding, we have a whole article and video about it, however it’s a common behavior in Akitas, where they will become overly protective of a “resource”. That could be food, water, treats, toys or even YOU! In fact, Haga the Akita became even more snuggly and cuddly with us after we added Panda the Akita to our home. This is because he now feels the need to “guard” the resource that is our attention.
Mostly Akitas will resource food and toys. We’ve always been big proponents of hand feeding dogs, especially in the early training stages with puppies. Hand feeding will take more time than simply pouring food into a bowl, particularly if you are hand feeding both dogs, but it will go a long way to keeping them from resource guarding their food. When hand feeding two dogs, we like to switch back and forth between the two, with the senior dog getting the first and last handfuls.
As far as toys go, our trainer told us to never let the two dogs play with the same time at the same time. I’m both happy and reluctant to say that we have not kept up with this rule in our household, simply because it’s been shown at this point in time that they can play together with the same toy without issue. They love to play tug of war with one another with a rope!
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However, in general, you don’t want to leave toys laying about. Make sure play time is structured, and that both dogs have a toy to play with, or they are simply playing with each other without toys, until you can be sure that they can be around the same toy without issue. It’s also a good idea to still incorporate some individual play time.
To do individual play time, put one dog in a crate in a separate room while you play in another room with the other dog, or perhaps even outside in your yard, if it’s safe for you to do so. Even though you want both Akitas (or whatever dogs you have) to get used to interacting with one another as much as possible, you still need to give them some of their own time.
Ultimately it’s a lot like marriage. You may love your spouse, but it’s still good to have some alone time, or to go out with your girlfriends or guy friends!
Have a Back Up Plan
Anyone who’s been through dog ownership, knows that it requires a lot of patience! Adding a second dog only increases the amount of patience needed. If you’re reading this article, you’re already off to a great start by taking the initiative to educate yourself, but remember, that every dog has their own personality and behavioral traits, even if they largely adhere to the breed standard.
We’ve seen people add a second Akita to their household and the two become best buds immediately, while others have had two dogs who merely tolerate each other but don’t care for one another, and occasionally, Akita owners will end up in a situation where they need to crate and rotate, and under no circumstances can the two dogs be together.
It’s important to consider your options before you add a second Akita to your home. What will you do if the dogs don’t get along? Does the breeder or shelter have a policy where you can return the dog? Are you willing to crate and rotate and live that lifestyle? Will you be okay with rehoming a dog if necessary?
Obviously as pet owners, we own these dogs for our own personal enjoyment and lifestyle, but it’s so important to consider not just the safety of your dogs, but also their happiness and wellbeing. If you don’t have the means to give both dogs the time, attention, love and care they deserve, now might not be the right time to add a second dog.
And lastly, a note about same sex aggression: It’s very common in Facebook Groups or other online forums for people to ask about having same sex dogs with one or more of them being an Akita. You will always see people replying to those posts saying that they have made it work. Ignore them. They are the exception to the rule, and while exceptions do exist, the fact that they are the exception has literally zero influence on whether or not your Akitas will be the exception.
In fact there was an Akita in one of these groups who had SIX Akitas, and they would constantly post photos of them altogether, and while they never outright told anyone to get same sex Akitas, they also clearly gave the impression that not only is it possible, it’s not even a big deal.
Ultimately that person stopped participating in these Facebook groups, and at the same time, the photos of their dogs that used to depict 6 Akitas, only had 5…and then eventually 4. While no one knows for sure, I’ve heard from people who know this person that their dogs had a big spat. It’s possible that one dog was killed and another put down because of it, and subsequently this person didn’t want to hang around online to be told “we told you so.”
We all love to think of our pets as special, unique…different! But dogs are still animals! Think of when Orcas at SeaWorld have attacked trainers that they’ve known for years, or famously when Vegas performer Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy was attacked on stage by a tiger he’d worked with in the past. They are animals, they have hardwired instincts that sometimes kick in for reasons that aren’t clear to us. While it’s great that some people can seemingly “break the rules” with their Akitas, it’s not something I would risk trying myself, and sometimes it’s a matter of “when” and not “if”.
Good luck on your Akita journey and leave a comment if you have any questions!