Some Dog Behavior Tips Help a Dog Reactive Akita Pay Attention to his Human on Walks

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 27, 2021

For this Omaha dog training session we met up with 2 year-old Akita Senshi, sharing tips to stop him from pulling on the leash on walks.

Knowing that says she sometimes was on alert around new people met him outside after I left a trail of treats from the front door to where I was sitting.

His guardian corrected him a few times for vocalizing that he was unsure about me. I asked her to stop doing that and explained that when a dog is communicating this way, the best thing to do is create a positive association or increase distance. While it seems natural to discourage growling, it is an important form of communication that requires our attention. If you repeatedly tell a dog to stop growling often it will not give this warning and instead go straight to a bite.

After going for a short walk, we headed back inside without any incident. As we were discussing the dog’s background and behavior issues I noticed that he hung out under the table and at times he would turn away from his guardian when she went to interact with him. She continued her interactions, which involved petting him,  but I was concerned at his turning or backing away on occasion.

Most of us think that we can reach over and pet a dog at any period of time or for any reason we feel like. But just like us, sometimes dogs prefer to be left alone to enjoy their nap or their bone or just want some personal space. This doesnt mean they dont lik eor love us, just that they arent feeling the contact at that moment.

I discussed the concept of consent with the guardian and promise to include a link to a video on dog and puppy consent that we share with our puppy class parents on the subject. If Senshi continues to move away, she can try this body handling exercise that uses pairing and positive reinforcement.

To create some interaction intention from the dog, I showed the guardian a hand targeting exercise. It took a little practice, but once Senshi got it, he seemed to really enjoy the game. You dont have to be a professional Akita dog trainer to teach a dog to do the hand targeting exercise, juts some time, patience and treats the dog loves.

I wanted to go over the exercise both so the dog could have a way of initiating contact, but also because it created a situation where we were practicing listening to the dog a bit more. Once he knows how to do this game, if he refuses to participate, that’s one way of him saying that he doesn’t want to do something or that they need to do the body handling exercise again.

While Akita‘s can be aloof at times, their determination can be a positive if channeled in the right way. It may mean that we need to do a little extra in terms of motivation or practice at various techniques and exercises, but as an emotional support animal, it’s important that Senshi is attentive to and listening to his guardian willingly.

I recommended that the guardian started to practice my petting with a purpose philosophy as well as incorporate Premacks. Premack’s principal means that a less desirable behavior earns you a more desirable behavior. If the dog wants to go outside, the guardian asks the dog to sit before opening the door. This “you do something for me before I do something for you” structure will go a long ways towards helping Senshi feel more interested in listening to and following his guardian’s requests.

I also explained the concept of using a marker word and how to use it for training. I also demonstrated how to incorporate it for behaviors that the dog offers on its own. Using a marker word with good timing (within 2 seconds) followed by a reinforcement when the dog does the things you want is the foundation of modern dog training. It will probably take the guardian a few days to get into a habit of doing so, but once she does, the communication between dog and human will improve dramatically.

Although his guardian took him out for a daily walk and occasionally enlisted the help of a dog walker, I went over some creative ways to exercise and stimulate Senshi. Dogs need an average of an hour of mental and physical stimulation every day and I believe it a little bit more is needed for Senshi.

I also went over a little trick that will help Senshi practice coming to his guardian when he is outside in the yard and otherwise preferring to remain outside. The guardian had started to go inside and ignore him for longer periods of time when he did this, but I prefer to use a positive reinforcement motivator.

I told her to get some bacon and heat it up the next time that he is outside. After giving him an opportunity to go around the yard and sniff, she should take a warm piece of bacon, walk into the middle of the yard and wait there motionless for the dog to come to her on his own. While she’s waiting she should not be calling or looking or showing him that she has a treat. The idea is to wait for the dog to come on it’s own accord and then reward it for doing so.

As soon as Senshi comes over, she should mark his arrival with her word of “Bien,” then give him the bacon and go back inside. After waiting a few minutes, she can return to the yard and this time stop one step shorter than the distance she traveled on the previous trip. Again waiting for the dog to come to her on its own volition, marking this behavior then giving him the bacon.

In my experience, very few dogs need to practice this more than 10 times before they start coming to the guardian automatically. This is an example of how you can use a simple exercise featuring positive reinforcement to condition a dog to want to come to the person as opposed to ignoring a dog who prefers to be outside anyways.

Speaking of outside, I wanted to go over some loose leash walking tips. Senshi had reacted to a few dogs out on walks while he was walking with his guardian, pulling her down multiple times.

If you want a dog to behave on a walk, it’s important that the dog is under control and able to pay attention to his human. Often dogs get so excited or intense, its almost impossible to pay attention to their hander. The best way to address this leash pulling problem is to make the handler more promiment and important to the dog. Fortunately I know a secret to getting a dog to listen to and pay attention on walks.

But before taking a dog on a walk, there are a few things you can do to have a great walk. One loose leash dog walking tip that many people don’t ever think of is to exercise the dog before you take it out on a walk. Taking a large breed dog on a walk when it’s full of energy can be problematic, whereas exercising the dog a little bit before you take it for the walk can really set it up for success.

Since we had already gone over a few creative forms of exercise in the house, Senshi was ready. I showed the guardian how to motivate him to want to come to her through a leash attaching game. Having the guardian practice this game a few times a day in different rooms will help the dog learn that when she picks up the leash, the best thing to do is come over to her and sit down.

After leashing the dog up, we headed outside and started to use our marker word every time Senshi checked in with his guardian. Watch the positive loose leash dog training video below for some tips on how to get a dog to stop pulling on the leash.

It was great to see how quickly Senshi picked up on this exercise. The more that he checks in with his guardian, the more rewards he gets. And the more present she is, the more response and control she will have with the dog.

I also make sure to point out that dogs burn more energy and enjoy the walk more when they are sniffing. Like many people, the guardian had prioritized movement over sniffing, causing Senshi to get into a habit of keeping his nose off the ground looking for other dogs to bark at. But its much beter to let a dog sniff on walks when possible. Allowing a dog to sniff on walks drains energy, increases confidence and distract the dog from looking for other dogs to bark at. A true trifecta of benefits if you let the dog sniff

Since Senshi’s guardian had not been allowing as much sniffing as I would like, I suggested that she get some shredded cheese and sprinkle some on a different part of the yard before she headed out for the walk. She can walk him to the cheese and allow him to “discover it” on his own. Since the cheese will be in different locations on each future walk, this will promote sniffing and exploring with his nose to find it. That is a nice way to jumpstart a dog back into sniffing on walks.

I explained to the guardian that while this treating for looks technique will help the dog pay more attention to her, it’s not going to stop him from reacting to other dogs. I suggested that we set up a follow up session or two to do some BAT training with another dog that we can coordinate as needed. We will need to crete situations where Senshi is near another dog that is close enough to pay attention to but far enough away to not be considered a threat.

But its going ot be important that the guardian make changes inside the home first. This is an easier enviornment and this is where the foundation needs to be established. Once the dog is accustomed to these changes and following the Premacks and other tips inside the home, he will be more practiced and interested in listening outside.

When we returned to Senshi’s home, I pulled out my camera and filmed a roadmap to success summary video to help the guardian remember all the dog behavior tips we shared in this Omaha at in-home dog training appointment.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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