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The Akita is a large dog breed that originated in northern Japan. Today, there are two different Akita strains that exist; the American Akita usually referred to simply as the Akita, and the Japanese Akita, which is sometimes referred to as the Akita Inu. While these two strains have several noticeable physical differences, they’re pretty much the same in terms of their temperaments.
Are Akitas Protective? Akitas have a strong protective instinct, thanks to the fact that they were originally bred to be guard dogs. However, this protective instinct can sometimes result in unwarranted aggression towards strangers.
Today, we’ll be discussing everything you should know about your Akita’s protective nature, and giving you some tips to help you manage it.
Are Akitas Protective of Their Owners?
Akitas are indeed quite protective of their owners and their families, as we’ve mentioned. Again, they get these tendencies because they were originally bred that way. For hundreds of years, Akitas served as companion dogs for samurai, and they were also bred to hunt a variety of game animals like elk, boars, and even bears.
Aside from merely being protective, Akitas are also known for being incredibly loyal to people they’ve bonded with. The most famous example of Akita loyalty is the story of Hachikō, an Akita Inu who lived in Japan from 1923 to 1935.
The story goes that Hachikō was bought from a farm in 1924 by Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University. From that day onward, Hachikō would follow Ueno to the train station every morning, and wait there until Ueno returned from work in the evening.
While Ueno was gone, shopkeepers and other workers at the station would give Hachikō treats and look after him. This continued only for about a year, however, until tragedy struck. On May 21st, 1925, Professor Ueno boarded the morning train for the university but never returned. As it turned out, the professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while giving a lecture and had passed away.
Hachikō obviously had no way of knowing this, and so he continued to wait at the station for his owner to return. Normally, you’d expect a dog to keep this behavior up for a few days or maybe a few weeks afterward, at the most, but Hachikō continued to wait for Ueno at the station every day for the next nine years, nine months, and fifteen days of his life.
Initially, Hachikō’s continued presence at the station wasn’t always well-received, particularly by some of the staff who worked there. It wasn’t until several more years had passed that Hachikō’s story became known.
This happened in 1932, when Hirokichi Saito, a former student of Professor Ueno, spotted Hachikō at the station and ended up following him to the home of Kozaburo Kobayashi, who had been Ueno’s gardener. It was here that he learned about Hachikō’s years-long vigil.
This inspired Saito to write several articles about Hachikō and his incredible loyalty, one of which ended up being published by the Asahi Shimbun, one of the most widely-read newspapers in Japan. From here on, Hachikō became a national icon.
Around this time, Saito also decided to research the population of purebred Akitas, since this number had been steadily declining due to crossbreeding. He found that including Hachikō, there were only 30 purebred Akitas left in all of Japan. This increased awareness of the Akita breed is most likely a large part of what saved the Japanese strain from going extinct.
At What Age Do Akitas Become Protective?
Akitas start to develop their protective tendencies shortly before they reach full adulthood, at about 1 year of age. This is why it’s important to make sure your Akita is socialized with other people and other dogs before that point.
It’s very important in general that you socialize your Akita as well because this will help you later down the line when you start getting into obedience training. A socialized Akita will know that there are certain expectations being placed on them, and this will make it easier for them to learn commands down the line.
How to Socialize an Akita
In terms of how to socialize your Akita, there are a few different methods you can use. The first method involves using treats to distract your Akita from a stimulus that they might find threatening, with the eventual goal being to stop your Akita from feeling threatened at all from these stimuli.
For example, if your Akita starts getting anxious when they notice a stranger walk by outside your house, you could arrange it with a friend to have them walk past your house at a specific time each day and ensure that your Akita sees them when they do.
When your Akita notices that someone is nearby and starts getting agitated, this is the time to distract them with a treat. You should also give your Akita a command like “here!” every time you offer them a treat. Make sure to keep practicing this until your Akita can consistently respond to the command.
Once your Akita is no longer getting anxious in this situation, you continue this training but with an increased stimulus. For example, instead of having a friend just walk by your house, you could have them come right up to your front door and wait there.
The other two methods are a lot more straightforward and are pretty similar in terms of how they are executed. The main difference between them is that one of them involves your presence, while the other doesn’t.
Before attempting either of these methods, however, you should get your Akita used to wear a muzzle, just as a safety precaution. To do this, have your Akita wear their muzzle in low-stress situations, and consider smearing a little bit of peanut butter on the inside of the muzzle to give your Akita a treat.
When your Akita has gotten used to wearing a muzzle, you can begin the socialization training proper. If your Akita gets particularly anxious when you’re not around, you should probably be present for this, but if not then you can try leaving them alone.
If you’re planning on leaving your Akita alone, get in touch with a friend you trust and arrange to have them look after your Akita for a few hours. Give your friends lots of treats to give your Akita, and make sure they give them lots of affection as well. This will hopefully help your Akita get used to being around strangers.
If you’re not comfortable leaving your Akita alone, however, you can try this alternative method. You can do this at your own home, although if possible, you should attempt this method at someone else’s house since this will help your Akita get used to being with different people in different settings.
Regardless of where you choose to do this, it helps to have a few other people besides you around. You should make sure that everyone else present maintains a calm demeanor around your Akita but otherwise acts as normal.
While keeping your Akita loosely leashed, introduce them to this group setting and have them mingle with your guests. Give everyone some treats to give your Akita, and make sure your Akita receives plenty of head pats and ear scratches. With any luck, your Akita will soon get comfortable with being around others they don’t know.
Is an Akita a Good Guard Dog?
Akitas are indeed very good guard dogs, thanks to their protective nature and their large size. Even without training, your Akita will likely be able to fulfill most of the functions of a guard dog to the letter.
Of course, you can always improve your Akita’s guarding skills through obedience training, and there are also training programs specifically for guard dogs that you might want to consider also.
For your Akita to be the best guard dog possible, however, it really is important that you properly socialize them. A good guard dog is able to differentiate between threatening and non-threatening strangers, and you don’t want your Akita to guard your home from deliverymen or friends who don’t have ill intentions.
Is an Akita a Good Watch Dog?
Akitas also make good watchdogs as well as guard dogs. If you’re unsure of what the difference is between the two, let’s take a moment to clarify this here.
Ultimately, it all has to do with how the dog is trained to react in a situation. A watchdog is trained merely to watch for intruders and to let the homeowners know if any are spotted, while a guard dog is trained to both watches for intruders and incapacitate any that approach.
Because Akitas are naturally somewhat aggressive dogs, they’re a bit more suitable for a guard dog role than a watchdog role, but they can excel in either role as long as they have the right training.