Akitas were first bred as gurad dogs in Japan. The Akita is named after the place it originates from, a mountainous region in Northern Japan called Akita. Akita ancestors helped to hunt bears, deer and wild boars besides being loyal guard dogs. They were restricted to being owned by nobility, which perhaps starts to explain why the breed has become honored as a national treasure in its native country.
Are Akitas good service dogs? The short answer to this question is yes, they are. Their ancestry makes them loyal and resilient dogs, which means with proper training, they can make great service dogs. Plus, the Akita’s large and intimidating presence makes them brave and not easy to scare. This is why they make great companions and family protectors.
If you have been considering getting an Akita as a service dog, this article will highlight everything you need to know before making that decision. It shall show the specific services that Akitas excel at, along with other reasons why an Akita would make a good service dog.
Akita as Service dogs
Most programs that provide service dogs would usually go for typical breeds, such as golden retrievers, Labradors, poodles, and German Shepherds. This is because most people do not identify other breeds as service dogs, including the Akita.
As service dogs, Akitas are actually pretty good. They require less maintenance than other popular choices. Plus, they are dominant and focused dogs, so if you assign your Akita a task they’ll diligently perform it with few distractions. Akitas also eat less and do not need as much daily exercise as the other breeds mentioned above.
There is a common misconception about the Akita being a hard dog to train. However, if their training is done right, they can be just as good as other breeds, if not better. It is advisable to start their training when they are about 7-8 weeks old. And because Akitas are closer to a wolves than dogs in terms of temperaments and dominance, some of the common dog training methods might not work on them.
Service Needs Akitas Can Meet
Akitas are family-oriented, making them great service dogs. They can focus both on performing their tasks and on paying attention to their owners, which is exactly what you need in a service dog.
They fit in most services well, including helping the visual and hearing impaired, helping with mobility impairment, assisting people with mental illness, and as therapy dogs.
What Kind of Service Do Akitas Perform?
When you are looking for a service dog, you want them to be useful to someone in a meaningful way. It could be yourself or a family member. Akitas can be resourceful as a service dog for people with visual and hearing impairment, diabetes, mobility impairment, and mental illness.
Akitas are great for these jobs for a number of reasons. For instance, a person with visual or hearing impairment would require a protective and courageous companion. Akitas perfectly fit these requirements.
Additionally, because service dog training tends to be individualistic, having an easily trainable dominant dog breed is an advantage. Their focused attitudes also mean that they will be faithful and resourceful companions.
Here is a closer look at some of the functions of a service dog. It will help you get a clear picture of why an Akita can be the right fit for this role.
What is Required of Service Dogs?
There are a lot of specific tasks a service dog is required to do. These tasks are numerous because of the various categories of disabled people. They can be divided into four broad categories; visually impaired, hearing impaired, mobility impaired and mental conditions.
For the mentally impaired the Akita can be trained to:
- Stop them from harming themselves through repetitive behaviors such as injury with items.
- To notify the handler of a potential anxiety attack.
- To bring medication when symptoms start to show.
- During a crisis, they retrieve emergency phones
- Performing trained therapy to calm their companion.
- They always, turn on the lights and search rooms before their handler enters.
For the visually, mobility and hearing impaired the Akita service dog offers guidance and hearing by performing the following tasks:
- Notifying visually impaired persons when elevation has changed.
- Helping the visually impaired to navigate around obstacles.
- To help identify and locate objects when requested to.
- Help retrieve dropped items for the visually impaired.
- Help alert alarms and doorbells for the hearing impaired.
- Opening and closing doors for the visually impaired.
- Offering balancing support for their handler.
- Helping carry items.
- Helping a partner move from a wheelchair.
If you have the skills and patience you can train your Akita yourself or take them through a training program.
Training Akitas as Service Dogs
You can choose to train your dog on your own or take them through a training program. How you do it depends on what you wish to achieve through the training. Only attempt to train your dog yourself if you feel confident enough in your skills.
The best time to train an Akita is when they are 7-8 weeks old. As puppies, they are more responsive.
The Akita’s demeanor and temperaments are different from most dogs since they are more closely related to wolves than regular dogs. That said, you can still follow the following steps to train your Akita dog:
- Train them young.
- Train the mind, a trainer will achieve much more if they focus on the mind first, then combine that with physical behavior training.
- Train the do navigate the outdoors especially frequented streets.
- Give your puppy clear rules, set boundaries through clear marked signs and behaviors.
- Remember to reinforce confidence by rewarding the dog for positive feedback through treats and toys. Additionally, they can be given verbal praise when they show improvement in task delivery.
- Ideally, the best training should last about 10-15 minutes. The training should be done with new and fun-filled things. Also, you should start house training when the puppy gets home.
- Also, ensure that you help the dog socialize gradually. Remember the Akita is quite reserved around strangers.
Akitas’ High Energy
The Akita large size makes it a difficult breed to manage. Due to its size, it comes packed with a lot of strength and endurance. This is why they need focused training to harness and channel all this energy productively.
In the past, the Akita used to help hunt for large animals such as black bears. The hunters would use the dog to flush out these animals to make it easier for hunters to kill them. This made the Akita breed very courageous and brave.
Additionally, because of their high energy and high intelligence, Akitas can often get very easily bored with too much training. This is why the approach to their training needs to be different from that of other dog breeds.
Types of Services Dogs
From the four categories of service dogs above, there are 8 specific types of service dogs;
- Guide dogs: they assist people who are visually impaired to navigate both outdoors and indoors.
- Hearing dogs: assist the hearing impaired by alerting them about important sounds such as doorbells, timers, and alarms.
- Diabetic alert dogs: warn the owner about their sugar levels, either when they are too low or high.
- Mobility assistance dogs: assist people with mobility issues by opening doors, retrieve dropped items or even help them pay.
- Seizure response dogs: they are trained to assist an epileptic person in the event of a seizure.
- Autism service dogs: these dogs work with children with autism as part of the support system. They help to build confidence in autistic kids.
- Psychiatric service dogs: this is a collection of dogs that assist various people who have psychiatric issues including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. They alert their owners when there’s a sign of anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and even flashbacks.
- Allergy detention dogs: help in picking scents that might cause allergic reactions to the owner. They warn them so they can avoid it.
Common Service Dogs
As stated earlier, the most common service dogs include golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, poodles, and German shepherds.
Golden retrievers are popular because of their gentleness. They make great service dogs. Plus, they are good at retrieving stuff and even carrying them around. They have an infectious attraction to people making them the right fit too.
Labrador retrievers, or labs, are easy to train and have an impeccable work ethic. They are a strong and quite sociable dog breed.
Poodles are popular because they are one of the most intelligent dog breeds. And they are good as allergic service dogs because they do not shed much. Plus, their smart wits mean they are easy to train. The only downside is that they are not as large as most dogs in this list. This means they are not a good fit for larger and taller people.
German shepherds were the first service dogs. The first service dog was a German Shepherd called Bubbly. This breed has a well-developed, large body that is perfect for a service dog, especiall for people with mobility issues.
Owner Training Vs Training Program
There are two methods of acquiring a service dog. One of them is by getting a puppy from a breeder while the other way is by adopting one. Once you have the puppy, you can choose to train it yourself or work with a local dog training program.
Typically, these training programs will train a dog from a puppy to a full-grown service dog. They match the owner with a dog that fits perfectlyand satisfies your needs and rhymes with your energy levels.
Depending on your needs, you can either opt to train your dog yourself or work with a training program. Both these methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, a training program is costlier than owner training. On the other hand, owner training is more time-consuming than a training program.
Ideally, the owner of the dog needs to weigh each of the advantages and disadvantages to pick the best option.
Akitas as Emotional/Therapy Dogs
There is a difference between a service and a therapy dog.
Service dogs have been the focus of this article and do what has already been discussed. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are used in specific scenarios, for example in school reading programs or nursing homes.
The Akita is a member of the American kennel club (AKC) working club. The traits they have are what make them able to help with therapy in nursing homes and work with school children programs.