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

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
2 Votes
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.
Recommend training method?

The People Aren't So Bad Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
1 Vote
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.
Recommend training method?

The Socialize to Success Method

ribbon-method-3
Least Recommended
1 Vote
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?
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Written by Coral Drake

Published: 04/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Luna
American Akita
5 Years
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Question
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Luna
American Akita
5 Years

Luna is a 5 year old girl from a Russian shelter. She has had a rough patch in her life after her owner died and she was passed to some relatives who couldn’t keep her and took her to a shelter, where she had to roam around in an open outdoor space with 700 other dogs for almost 2 years. She was then rescued by specialist Akita rescuers who took her to Moscow to another shelter, where at this point she refused to stay in the same space with other dogs and they had to make a separate room for her. She moved to Europe and stayed in her last shelter for only 2 weeks before we adopted her. She is a good girl at home and we could immediately tell she had been house trained, no complaints. However, she is showing aggression towards other dogs when out, as she starts to excessively pull, jump and makes weird coughing like noises when she sees another dog, especially any small dog. It seems like she wants to break free and eat the small dogs. Similarly, she has started to show similar behaviour towards small children, especially when they run, however she is not as aggressive. She also attacks any dog who we have let near her. However, we are training with a male American Shepherd and she shows attack mode with him less. Nonetheless, advice is needed how to train her or help her. Thank you!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Siie, It sounds like she probably needs to be desensitized to other dogs because she associates them with a lot of stress. She needs to learn that she can be around other dogs and both dogs be calm instead of confrontational. If you can find a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area, I recommend attending one of those with her. If not, or in addition to a G.R.O.W.L. class due to the aggression toward kids, I would also hire a professional trainer who works with a team of trainers, specializes in behavior issues like aggression, and comes well recommended by previous clients for training aggressive dogs. You will want a training group with access to a lot of other well behaved dogs. With access to other dogs, I would work on her obedience commands with you to make sure she has a good foundation of trust and respect with you, then gradually desensitize her to the other dogs, one at a time, keeping them far enough away for her to notice but not fixate so much she can't respond to you, then repeat things like passing by the other dog over and over and over again, rewarding any calm body language, until they become boring and she starts to focus more on working with you then fixating on them. This would then be repeated with lots of different dogs once she can consistently pass the other dog calmly, distance would be decreased as she improved, a lot of obedience practice would be done during the training to get her focus back on you when she fixates, and to keep her calmer to begin with. Once she can handle passing other dogs, then you would do things like have to dogs travel in the same direction spaced far apart, then perform obedience commands in the same area, like Stay, and work on them learning to ignore each other. The goal here is for her to think other dogs are boring, practice self-control around them, and start to expect interactions to always be calm instead of highly arousing. She is a dog I would never take somewhere like a dog park due to her history, even after she can handle calm interactions and ignore them better. An environment like a dog park would likely bring back old issues again after seeing improvement. It's also important to be aware that when highly aroused a dog with aggression can redirect that toward whoever is closest when frustrated, so safety measures like a basket muzzle are sometimes needed too to keep you and others working with her safe. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Shadow
Japanese akita
6 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
Shadow
Japanese akita
6 Years

Shadow is my daughters boyfriends dog and have both come to live with us but we have a female parsons jack russell and we desperately want them to get on as we have come to love him like our own but at the moment we keep them separate in fear that shadow might hurt her any advice would be great thank you

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Joleen, If shadow has a history of aggression toward other dogs, I would highly recommend hiring a private trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to help you in person with this issue. Management is the first step, which it sounds like you have done through a muzzle and separation. Teaching a high level of obedience to help Shadow respond to people around the other dog is also part of the training, and finally, desensitizing Shadow to the other dog, to help them be less reactive in general. This type of training would require observing the dogs together, getting a thorough history on Shadow, and combining a few different things if pup has a history of aggression toward other dogs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kai
Akita Inu
4 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Kai
Akita Inu
4 Months

Kai is very intelligent and nice puppy. We’ve been doing a lot of positive reinforcement and obedience training since she came to our home (she was 12 weeks).
The only persistent problem we have with her is that sometimes (1 in 10 cases) she would attack dogs while meeting them - she would do that without warning, even wiggling her tail second before. The attack is aggressive, not invitation to play.
She’s attending puppy classes and is being socialized every day, but from time to time, this still happens.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Andrea, I highly recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, is very familiar with working with high drive dogs, and has access to a number of well behaved dogs, like the trainers' dogs at the training group. Because this is happening so early despite socialization, there may be a genetic component involved and something more in depth than standard socialization is probably needed. You need someone who understands things like arousal, thresholds, stress responses, genetic tendencies, and has a lot of hands on experience with aggression to work with you in person. I also would not wait to start working with someone, the sooner you begin, the better the prognosis is. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kuma
American Akita
7 Years
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Question
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Kuma
American Akita
7 Years

I have a male akita 7 years we bought a pup (french bulldog) they got and get alone just fine, we bought a female akita pup she’s 5 months old and kuma really hates her tried to attack her and will not be in the same room as her just won’t come near her at all

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shanice, For this issue I highly recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues to help you in person. You may also need to desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle to keep both dogs safe. Look for a trainer who comes well recommended by their previous clients. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
shadow
Akita
5 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
shadow
Akita
5 Years

i am adopting a 5 yr old male akita coming from a small family with small childern , and small yard. i live on 200 ackers with tons of freedom and plenty of adventures on property wildlife all over, i do have an older female germansheapperd that i have had for 14 yrs, what is best way to introduce the dogs and how to keep the new dog from running away and how to develop a strong bond with dog coming from a different owner, where do i start

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kevin, Check out the article linked below and following the Passing Approach method until the dogs can do well with that, then switch to the walking together method, starting far apart again, until the dogs can finally walk together. You will need two people for this, one with each dog. I recommend starting this process now if you live close enough, because this will probably take a lot of walks, getting gradually closer overtime to get to the point where they are ready to walk together and greet. If you can't start it ahead of time, then keep the dog's separate in the home at first, while regularly letting them interact via the walks and structured interactions at first. Passing Approach and Walking Together methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Once in the home together, I would work on the dogs being crate trained and learning a solid 1-2 hour place command. Keep things structured at first, with the dogs played with and fed separately, to avoid competition early on. Basically home would be very obedience class-like when they were together, to prevent potential fights and keep things calm and more relaxed. To build trust and respect for you, I would practice calm obedience with the new dog, teaching commands and working on consistent training. I would use methods that involve food rewards when first teaching initial commands, using things like a long leash to calmly enforce commands like come, and teaching commands that help with management and giving directional commands. Commands like Place, Off, Out (which means leave the area), Down, Leave It, and Off, so that you can tell them where they should and should not be in relation to you and each other. Working and Consistency methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Keep a drag leash on pup when you are present (and crate when not present) if they won't listen to your directional commands once learned well. Calmly lead pup where you tell them to go as needed by picking up the end of the leash. If you see any signs of aggression toward you, pause and get professional help to deal with aggression toward you also. Training will likely need to be mortified to take extra precautions to keep you safe if there is any aggression. For the staying close to home, keep pup on a leash while outside right now until they have learned some off leash obedience and bonded with you and your other dog. Some dogs naturally stay pretty close to home, others need off-leash e-collar boundary training to accomplish that. Working on come and following can help pup want to stay closer too. Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall More Come - pay attention to the PreMack Principle and long leash training sections especially once pup has learned what Come initially means. These need to be practiced around all types of distractions like dogs and kids at the park to ensure pup is reliable before attempting true off leash. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Another activity you can practice is walking around places like your yard or a field with pup on the long training leash and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Whenever he takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at him for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling him; this encourages him to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on his own, so he will want to be with you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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