How to Train an Akita to Not be Aggressive

Medium
1-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

The Akita is a magnificent, powerful, ancient breed that originated in Japan. Akitas tend to think for themselves, and are wary of strangers although they are extremely affectionate with family. Akita is one of Japan's oldest dogs. 

They were developed to hunt big prey like wild boar and bears. Helen Keller was inspired by the Akita's loyalty and bravery, and brought the first few Akita back to the US. Military people serving in World War Two also were impressed by the Akita and brought the dogs home with them. 

Akitas require a skilled and devoted owner. Their power and tendency towards dominance with other dogs, as well as their strong guarding instincts and independent nature, can make them difficult for a novice dog owner to handle. That said, your Akita is an extremely intelligent and adaptable dog capable of learning new ways of doing things, even late into life. 

Defining Tasks

Before you can begin training your Akita not to be aggressive, you must get a reasonable measure of how and why your powerful friend is expressing aggression. If you are starting with a puppy that has never shown aggression and are training preventatively, your job will be easy as long as you are consistent with socialization.

If your Akita is showing guarding behavior around you on walks or when visitors come to your house, but is behaved with visitors and strangers once introduced, you need only give your Akita instruction in how and when guarding is appropriate.

Akitas tend towards aggression with same-sex dogs and dominance in with dogs in general. There may be a limit to how much restraint you can expect from your Akita, so be realistic in your training goals. 

Getting Started

The Akita is a powerful dog who sometimes behaves in ways we don't expect, as a result of her having her own thoughts, as well as strong impulses and instincts. Keep the safety of your best friend, as well as any people and dogs involved, forefront in your mind. Muzzle train your Akita with peanut butter or another delicious smearable treat so that she can be muzzled for safety if necessary during training. 

Learn what motivates your Akita. Find a food that has a smell that will distract her from whatever she is focused on, or see if she loves tug enough to play instead of behaving aggressively. If your Akita has very strong guarding instincts, you may have more success teaching her when to be aggressive than overcoming aggression altogether. 

The Gradual Immersion Method

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Step
1
Food motivated
If your Akita loves food and can be distracted easily by the smell of a treat, you can use food to teach your Akita how to behave in situations where she may otherwise be aggressive.
Step
2
Start with lowest stimulus
Produce as low a stimulus as possible, like a dog or person walking by outside
Step
3
Distract
Distract your Akita by waving a treat in front of her. As soon as she follows it, give her the treat.
Step
4
Practice and add command
Keep practicing, adding a command or sound to have your Akita watch you in anticipation of a treat whenever you make the sound.
Step
5
Gradually increase stimulus
Gradually increase the stimulus, stepping back to the last stimulus level if you fail to get your akita's attention.
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The People Aren't So Bad Method

Effective
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Step
1
Fearful guardian
If your Akita is constantly guarding you from your guests at your house and from strangers on walks, you can teach her that there is nothing to fear from these situations.
Step
2
Muzzle for safety
Muzzle train your Akita in stress-free situation so that she will learn to enjoy wearing the muzzle. Rub peanut buttter or some other desirable paste on the muzzle so that she can have fun licking it off.
Step
3
Unfamiliar place
Train your Akita in a location that she has not established as her own.
Step
4
Calm, still guests
Have your guests stay relatively still but still act natural.
Step
5
Mingle
Let you Akita mingle among the guests, staying with her on a loose leash as she wanders. Have you guests drop food for her so she learns to enjoy being around them.
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The Socialize to Success Method

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Step
1
Ready to act out
If you Akita seems to always be on a hair trigger, ready to act out in aggression, you can enable her to feel comfortable with people so she will lose these aggressive impulses.
Step
2
Muzzle for safety
Get your Akita comfortable wearing a muzzle by rubbing peanut butter or other delicious substance on the muzzle and having your dog wear it in relaxed settings.
Step
3
Babysit
Have friends and volunteers babysit your Akita in various situations. Being removed from a familiar setting and you will inspire your Akita to approach problems differently.
Step
4
Gentle encouragement
Have your friends give your Akita food and affection as it is safe until you Akita learns that being with strangers is good.
Step
5
Work towards removing muzzle
Once your akita is very comfortable and friendly with everyone she meets, you can work towards removing her muzzle.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Apollo
Akita
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Apollo
Akita
9 Months

I need help training my Akita not to growl at other people.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
701 Dog owners recommended

Hello Allison, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in aggression to work with you in person for this. Look for someone who comes well recommended by their previous clients for behavior issue resolution, and who works with a team of trainers, who can practice desensitizing pup to a variety of different people via the different trainers on staff. Ask lots of questions about the training and experience to ensure the right fit, since not all trainers will have the experience you need and understanding of your breed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jeeber
Akita Inu
5 Years
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Question
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Jeeber
Akita Inu
5 Years

Goes into guard mode immediately when other dogs or small animals come around me. Starts breathing hard and drops his head and becomes focused on the other animal appearing to be ready for attack? I place my arm around his neck and talk gently to him while petting him. He listens to reason and calms down. Is there anything else I may do to help break him of that behavior? I have had him neurted and walk him about two to three miles a day. We have a second dog that is Akita miz and is his girlfriend. He was acclamated to her as a four month old puppy and they play alot and wrestle. He is not that aggressive but more protective of me and the home we live in. Any thoughts or ideas are always welcome for my best friend.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
124 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell his fear. First we reduce his fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make his concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Question
Fi
American Akita
8 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Fi
American Akita
8 Months

When Fi (a female american Akita 28 kg) was 5 months old I moved to my parents and she met another female 7 years old dog. They didn’t get along as fast, but after a couple of weeks they even played. Last week (2 months later) Fi attacked the other dog (she’s half her height, 20 kg, medium size) and I have kept them separated since, as I’m afraid she’ll attack her again. I put them together at mealtime but I have Fi on a leash all the time. Why would Fi attack after so many weeks of being apparently fine? The other dog is completely submissive and is trained as well.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
701 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nina, Pup is approaching sexual and mental maturity so there may have been some type of competing or resource guarding going on. There can also be a genetic component to aggression, although socialization and training can make that a lot more manageable. Without seeing the fight and their interactions right before the fight I can't say for sure. Usually there is a subtle sign that a fight is about to break out, like one dog staring the other dog, stiffening when another approaches an object or location, or something one dog does that the other finds unacceptable - which can even be displaying a lot of fear around the second dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Loki
Akita
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Loki
Akita
10 Months

He pulls alot during walks and barks loudly at everyone.

We had people over this weekend and he bit one of the young girls arm. this was a first time but it is a worry for me.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
124 Dog owners recommended

Hello! It sounds like he has some fear based anxiety going on. Coupled with the excitement of walks, you have your hands a little full! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell his fear. First we reduce his fear around people on walks, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs or people to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes it's just a simple case of lacking proper socialization as a puppy. Which most dogs in a typical household lack proper socialization. Dogs need to be introduced to hundreds of different settings as a puppy (by the age of 20 weeks) to be "properly" socialized. Most of us are not able to do that. So we will be playing a bit of catch up! Keep in mind before starting, that punishing him while he's in this state of emotion isn't ideal. Doing so will make his concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate strangers with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what a stranger means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As someone comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the stranger causes meat to fall from the sky. When the stranger is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram his opinions of strangers. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time someone comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees a stranger, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening person and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at his (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell the dog, "sit" or "watch me" or whatever command you want to use for this setting. After he starts automatically sitting or watching you when he sees a stranger approaching, you know you have success! Remember to go slowly! It could take up to a month or longer of consistent practice before you see an improvement with his behavior.

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Ryuu
Akita
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ryuu
Akita
3 Years

Hello! We’re currently fostering a 3 year old male Akita from our local humane society who we’d LOVE to keep. We were advised he has attacked a cat in the past, and that he *may* have issues with other dogs, but was fine with the female (sister they believe she was) he was brought in with. We have had him for 2 weeks now and he’s doing well adjusting, even starting to learn some basic stuff (almost got sit down consistently!) He has also been wonderful with our family including our 4 year old son, our (human) neighbors, and all of our extended (human) family members - no aggression at all and very affectionate. Our issue comes with other dogs. We tried introducing him to my mothers male lab mix (at her house - so it was an unfamiliar place to him, and outside of the house where my mothers dog lives). He was not having it. There was no warning growling, he just immediately tried to bite him several times. We were able to separate them and tried showering praise on my mom’s dog in order to show him that this dog as indeed part of our pack and needs to be accepted.
My main question is as Ryuu is an Akita, will he ever learn to accept another dog as part of our “pack” that does not live with us in our house full time? Previous to him we had a lab/chow mix who wasn’t a huge fan of stranger dogs either, but accepted our family members dogs so much so that we could all mingle and let the dogs do the same at social gatherings without fear of them attacking one another. We also typically left our dogs together when we went on vacation and had a house/dog sitter watch all of the dogs together until we returned. Are we expecting too much of him being that he is an Akita and a foster whose history no one is 100% sure of? Or is this something that is possible giving him some more time and the right training? Thank you so much for any insight & advice! 😊

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
701 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lauren, The hard answer is that I can't tell you for sure either way. With a high level of training most dogs can get to the point where they are manageable while supervised around other dogs, but not necessarily while left unattended or while playing roughly. Some dogs don't do well due to a lack of socialization and not because of something inherit, so with the right desensitization can do well, for those dogs I generally recommend looking for a G.R.O.W.L. class which is a class for dog reactive or aggressive dogs who are intensively socialized together in a structured environment while wearing basket muzzles for everyone's safety. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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