The Akita is unique among some of the working group in that they are more comfortable being an only dog or as a pair, rather than being a true pack dog. This may be caused by their fighting heritage or because of their role in the rural areas. It would have been uncommon for people to keep more than one or two of these very large sized dogs, even when they were used for hunting or for herding and protecting flocks, which were a major part of the early Akita's role.
Unlike many of the pack hunting and herding dogs, the Akita can and will be very dominant and dog-aggressive, especially towards dogs of the same gender. Akita puppies raised with other dogs will do well together however trying to introduce an adult Akita that has not been socialized to other dogs, especially in the Akitas own home or yard is not recommended. When raising an Akita with another dog from a puppy it is best to get breeds of about the same size as well as of opposite genders. Early spaying and neutering of both dogs will also help prevent any of the more common aggression issues. Intact male Akitas can be very aggressive and difficult to manage when females in heat are in the vicinity, so very close monitoring of intact males for signs of aggression combined with lots of socialization in essential.
Akitas can, as with other dogs in the family, be suitable for homes with cats. While the Akita will learn to tolerate his or her own family cats, they are avid chasers of other cats. Often the Akita will see stray cats in the yard as a threat, and they will kill smaller animals that venture onto their property. This trait is occasionally so strong in some Akitas that they should not be left unsupervised even with a family cat. Raising the Akita in a household with cats from the puppy stage is really the only safe option for the cats and the dog to interact without the potential for disaster.
The breed, as a whole, is outstanding with children. They are playful but careful, loyal and patient with children and simply love to be around their family. Some Akitas may be food aggressive and toy possessive, so it is essential to include training around having the children take the food or the toy away from the Akita and then give it back when the puppy responds by sitting to wait. This needs to be done only when adults are present to manage the puppy. This type of training should never be done by a child with an adult Akita as they can easily knock a child down and learn a very dangerous behavior. Some Akitas are intolerant to teasing and this needs to be carefully monitored and children taught how to avoid teasing the dog.
The Akita is a highly intelligent dog that won't need to be taught how to be a natural watch dog. They are not prone to barking however they often "talk" to people and almost seem to carry on a conversation. This talking sound is part howl, part yodel and some growling or grunting type noises, all done when the dog is happy and content, not showing signs of aggression or anxiety. When an Akita does bark he or she needs to learn to stop, since they have a very deep, penetrating type of bark. Many Akitas also have natural guard dog tendencies and will often step between a stranger and the owner as if putting up a shield for protection.
Like many of the large breeds of dogs the Akita is not typically a dog that jumps to aggression until they see if you are welcoming the stranger or if you are showing any signs of anxiety or fear. Akitas tend to sit back and watch new people and are rarely a dog that is overly affectionate with strangers. Since they are so bonded to the family they can be very difficult to rehome once they mature, however with the right match an Akita can transition from one home to another with patient and understanding new owners.
Housetraining an Akita is unlike any other dog. Always naturally clean the Akita is often fully housetrained in just a couple of weeks after coming home for the first time. They learn by positive reinforcement and seem to remember any type of harsh treatment and avoid that individual, so simply positively rewarding the dog for going outside is typically all that is needed for full housetraining. If you spank the dog or yell at the puppy if he or she has an accident they will become distrustful and may simply stop responding to that particular individual.
Training needs to be started immediately with these dogs. They will go through a period of time where they can be rather challenging, especially common in males, at about the teenage stage. For most Akitas this will occur at between one and two years of age and owners need to understand the dog is testing the limits of your leadership ability. Early and consistent obedience training can be very effective in both training as well as socialization.
All training routines need to offer a variety of commands as the Akita will become bored and cease to respond to very repetitive types of training. They love a mental challenge and can learn words for many different toys and commands and will continue to learn all through their lives. Using these types of training techniques will help to keep your Akita mentally active.
A poorly trained Akita is really a dangerous dog due to their potential for high aggression levels as well as their large size. It is not uncommon for a male Akita to weigh up to 120 pounds, with females typically just slightly lighter. Combining their weight with their fighting dog history is something that owners need to keep in mind when training. Never teach aggression or use aggressive training methods with the Akita as they are very likely to result in highly negative behaviors. However, channeling the positive behaviors into obedience, scent and tracking, retrieving and even agility types of activities and training is a great way to develop a well behaved and highly socialized dog.