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I have a 6 month Akita/shepherd mix I adopted from the pound at 6 weeks and have tried everything. She is scared of people and big dogs and while she wants to play with little dogs she plays too rough and hurts them. I have put her through two puppy training classes which have helped but she is getting aggressive now toward animals. She actually attacked my 16 yr old border collie for walking past her while she was eating a cow ear. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do? Thanks in advance.
 

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Akitas in particular and GSDs sometimes as well are not known for being overly enthusiastic around other dogs. Without being able to know if your puppy was taken from mum and littermates too early (something that can contribute to aggression) and without knowing the behavior of the dog's parents, brother and sisters, I would separate this dog entirely from other dog and call in a professional for private lessons. The fear of people is especially concerning at her age. This is beyond the help of a puppy class. A CPDT should be able to at least assess your dog and help you work out what safety precautions to take around other dogs-- you may choose to simply not let her interact with other dogs, and that is totally fine (difficult, but fine!).

What she did to your border collie was probably what we call dog-to-dog resource guarding and it is very common and just about impossible to solve. I can tell you right now that the most practical solution to that issue is simply to keep your dogs separated from one-another whenever one or both of them is enjoying something of "high value": a chew, treats or food.
 

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Were these puppy training classes just geared towards obedience training? Did you mention the issues she's having to the trainer(s)? If Yes, what did they suggest? What kind of training have you done with her? Have you ever done any kind of training to address these issues, and if yes, what kinds/methods/what have you tried?

Akitas are pretty intense dogs, and German Shepherds are no walk in the park, either, although they do tend to be a little more user-friendly for less-than-stellar trainers/the level of knowledge most owners have of dog behavior/training because they're a fairly biddable, handler oriented breed and so tend to be easier to train. I say Akitas are intense for a lot of reasons. American Akitas (there is a Japanese version which I've heard tend to be a lot less stand-offish and protective) tend to be aloof, powerful, territorial, often suspicious dogs that generally have a high prey drive and often display animal aggression and even when well trained and well bred can have issues with dog aggression and resource guarding. In poorly bred lines, these issues with aggression, inappropriate protectiveness, and resource guarding tend to be even more of an issue- enough of an issue so as to be apparent in puppies, for example. Unfortunately there can be issues with reactivity and resource guarding in poorly bred German Shepherds, too. So, pretty much, she's a mix of breeds that unfortunately shoddy temperament is a common problem when they're being irresponsibly bred.

6 months is on the young side to be showing outright aggression. Shyness and timidity, for sure, but a truly fear-aggressive puppy at this age is still somewhat uncommon- aggression before a year is usually considered aberrant behavior in any dog, but before 8 or 9 months is even more uncommon. I don't say this to spook you, just to highlight that it is important to handle this kind of problem carefully when it first shows up in a dog this young because usually the younger a problem like this crops up before full maturity 1-2yrs the more likely it is to get worse.

This forum is a wonderful place to find solace and support from dog-y people, find solidarity in people going through the same thing, and very useful for advice on books and articles to read and methods to look into, but a whole lot of dog training relies on experience, and there is likely to be trial and error on the part of a trainer no matter how well read they are. In a case like this, trial and error may mean a dangerous escalation of aggression.

I would highly recommend you seek you in-person help from a CPDT-KA dog trainer (ie, one who is certified with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers), if not a behaviorist (look for someone cetifited as a CBCC-KA through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists or International Association of Animal Behaviorists). If you can't find someone who is certified, at least look for someone who has first hand experience in positive-reinforcement/ science-based behavioral modification training.

I would also suggest educating yourself, as it will make it easier to participate in the adventure of a reactive dog versus just blindly following the advice of a trainer. I would highly recommend learning a little bit about learning theory, operant conditioning/the four quadrants, as well as looking into the uses of force/corrections in dog training and their consequences and advantages. After you know a little bit, come to your own conclusion as to how much force/corrections you actually want to use in training.

I will say, I prefer force-free training methods, but would tell a client (or someone on a forum) exactly how much pressure they should use in training. This is a force free forum, and you will get most people here suggesting force-free methods. There are those who would suggest correction based methods relying on training collars for the same problems that we all suggest force-free methods. I think it is important for every person who is dealing with reactivity issues to spend some time looking into corrections and correction collars as a training tool and deciding whether they are OK with using them or not. Corrections will not always ruin a dog, but neither are they the most effect method to actually teach or rehabilitate a dog because (IMO) they do nothing to change whatever emotions the dog is having towards the trigger that is resulting in the undesirable behavior(s). Some dogs respond especially poorly to corrections- they may shut down, they may escalate in their response, they may redirect aggression. Some types/breeds are more likely to respond to the pressure of a correction with pressure of their own, resulting in escalation or redirection of aggression- IMO American Akitas are very near the top of that list, and German Shepherds aren't too far down it, either. Corrections might fix a problem quicker, but they also might result in unintended fall-out and make the situation worse. Unfortunately some trainers don't believe this or don't choose to share this with clients, and IMO this is an important piece of information. Again, I'm not saying most dogs will exhibit fallout behaviors when trained with corrections, just that IMO Akitas are a breed that is likely to do so, and poorly bred/shoddy tempered GSDs can be another group likely to do so.

Someone observing the dog in person could say whether this is truly the case, but given her mix and the fact that these are the most common problems with reactivity and aggression I would guess these issues are coming from a root of anxiety, fear, a preference for personal space, prey drive, and a general suspicion towards strange humans and dogs. I don't think its likely to be a I-want-to-control-everything type of reactivity, because that seems to be a problem more in herding breeds. GSDs are technically herding dogs, but the herding drive that leads to this kind of problem is all but absent in most of them by now.

With all kinds of reactivity, you want to focus on two things. The first is teaching more appropriate, alternative behaviors and then practicing them and the second is working on changing the underlying emotions that are leading to this problem. Some people choose to medicate their dogs in the case where the issues comes from fear/anxiety, and there's no shame in choosing to do so if you're still working on behavioral modification through training as well.

If the reactivity is coming from the emotional state I'm assuming given her mix and what is most common, then what you're working to do is to teach calm behavior and practice it around her triggers, as well as to teach her that there's nothing to worry about when dogs come near her and her food/treats/toys (ie, she gets food if she doesn't react), and good things happen when she willingly gives things up to people (ie, she gets showered in treats if she gives the person her bone when they ask, and then she gets the bone back- with resource guarding you want to work to convince the dog it gets to get everything you take back because if you consistently take things away from them they learn they're right to guard their stuff because you're going to take it away). You also want to teach her that strangers aren't actually scary, and neither are big dogs.

She might not be a dog that ever enjoys the company of strange dogs. Some Akitas can be like that- they just don't play nice with others. You likely can work with her and get her to a point where she at least ignores others, though. With the small dogs- are you sure the roughness isn't prey driven? If she's just a bumbling pup then I'm not really sure what can be done. Perhaps you might find a trainer with access to a trustworthy, sturdy small dog that can teach her to socialize better, but I don't know that's super likely.

In order to teach more appropriate alternative behaviors look into Behavioral Adjustment Training:
BAT 2.0 Overview | Grisha Stewart

In order to change her emotional reaction to her triggers, look into Counter-Conditioning:
Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning: Overcoming Your Dog?s Issues

Really good books about general training theory are When Pigs Fly by Jane Killion (about training non-biddable dogs, which is great for an Akita owner) and Don't Shoot The Dog by Karen Pyror. I would also highly recommend Click to Calm and Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash Reactive Dog.

I'd highly recommend the websites run by Patricia Mcconnell, Karen Pryor, Grisha Stewert, as well as any articles or books written by Sophia Yin or Ian Dunbar.

Also, I know @squidwanda has experience with Akitas and their intricacies, maybe they'll have some other suggestions and/or insights.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I live in a small town and we don't have anyone who specializes in dog behavior sadly. I put her through Petco's puppy training 1 & 2 classes and have talked with 3 of their dog trainers. We've gone to puppy play times and once she relaxes she does pretty good and enjoys herself. I take her to town at least once a week if not more to try and get her used to people which the dog trainers suggested but she just hides behind me when people want to pet her. She isn't aggressive at all except at home and when it comes our other inside animals. If they come near one of us she pounces them or attacks depending on how she feels. We adopted her sister at the same time and they are complete opposites so not quite sure what to do. I'll definitely look into those articles and books so thank you. If there are anymore ideas I can really use them.
 

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If you have a littermate of hers at home you might want to look into littermate syndrome. Its not something that is guaranteed to be a problem, but it is something that may happen, and when it does occur is very concerning and can be very difficult/hard to live with/sometimes downright dangerous. Essentially "littermate syndrome" refers to the tendency for same-aged puppies raised together to develop problem behaviors, which may include separation anxiety when separated, aggression towards one another, and sometimes both at the same time. Littermates not given adequate separation may develop more as one dog than two and be unhealthily codependent and reliant on one another.
https://paws4udogs.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/littermate-syndrome/

In terms of the aggression problems towards other indoor pets (outside of the obvious resource guarding issues)- is she definitely being aggressive, or might it just be prey-driven behavior or inappropriately rough play typical of a large breed puppy that doesn't understand how powerful it is?

Have the trainers at Petco been of any help with her problem behaviors or offered any advice?
 

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Her and her sister get along great. Her sister gets along with all animals we have come across as well as people. We don't have any issues at all with her other than she won't housebreak. She learned all the basic commands but that one seems to give her issues. When they're together in town, Diva (problem pup) is a lot more outgoing. She's more likely to go up to people or let them touch her. She spent 12 weeks with the same dog trainer and still won't go near her.

Her aggression only seems to come out at home luckily. Most I believe is toy or treat based. If anyone or any animal comes near me at home she won't have it. She will jump on them literally or shove them out of the way. She has yanked tufts of hair out of all of the animals just because they got too close to me or were laying in my lap first and she didn't like it.

The trainers here don't really know what to do. They have a book they get info out of and have learned from experience but none of them have come across an issue like this they say.
 

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Good that they seem to be doing well! Giving them some level of separation on walks would be a great idea, and careful that the more fearful pup doesn't "rub off" on her sister- we got my parent's/family lab mix at the same time as a very fear-aggressive dog reactive Boston, and as a result she's grown very protective when we walk her with our other dog (the original Boston has since passed, now I have a Boston of my own but we live with my parents for a few more months).

In terms of her at-home issues- it sounds a lot like resource guarding, with you being the resource. Resource guarding most typically is directed at other people and/or dogs and is centered around an item of space, but sometimes dogs do resource guard people. I know my dad growing up had a Standard Poodle that would resource guard the youngest child in the house/his nursery when he was a toddler- he'd lay under my uncle's crib and growl whenever a man entered the room, and even bit my great-grandfather once, I think.

This is a good over-view on Resource Guarding in multi-pet households:
How to Prevent Resource Guarding in a Multiple-dog Household | Karen Pryor Clicker Training

Info on dealing with resource guarding, generally:
Resource Guarding
Resource Guarding: Treatment and Prevention
Resource Guarding – How to Teach Your Dog to Share | Grisha Stewart

Also, a good book on resource guarding is Mine! by Jean Donaldson; Fight! is another good book by the same author. On Youtube, I've seen a lot of really good resource guarding training videos by Sophia Yin.

Resource guarding at this age also isn't a super great sign, either, as the early age on onset still would make me worry it will get worse with age if left unaddressed, but it's not quite so worrying on fear-based aggression in a dog this age. It's also a really good sign that she is very shy, but not aggressive, and that she is outgoing in the presence of her sister. I would suggest working with her more without her sister, to avoid separation anxiety issues later, but IMO it is a good sign for the likelihood she can be helped and eventually become more confident. Try the behavioral modification things I mentioned (BAT and Counter-Conditioning) to work on the fear/anxiety in public, and look into resource guarding and how to go against that.

Hope I've offered some help!
 

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Thank you very much. I will definitely be looking into these resources. I had figured the toys and treats were resource guarding but had never thought of her thinking of me as a resource. Yesterday morning she started barking nonstop at my husband and all he was doing was sitting in a chair beside me. Once I left the room she followed and was fine so it makes sense.
 

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I haven't been online in awhile but noticed this morning that I had been tagged in something and once I read this post, I wanted to give you my two cents even if I am quite a bit late:

I can see a lot of similarities between what you have described in your initial post and some of the things I have experienced in raising my AkitaxPitbull (Bear) and my purebred Akita (Loki). First off, let me say: I commend you for rescuing an akita mix from the shelter and doing your best to start her off correctly. My purebred was a rescue at 10 weeks old from an unscrupulous breeder who abandoned the entire litter when his female had more puppies than he wanted to deal with (11). Now that I have gotten to know the breed well, I cannot imagine ever wanting to own a different kind of dog and I feel a kinship with anyone else who has taken in an Akita and done their best to raise it right.

That being said, as I am sure you are discovering, Akitas are an extremely difficult breed and can be disastrous in the wrong hands. What you have described here makes me extremely nervous for the prognosis of your puppy, considering she is only 6 months old (now 8 months, I believe). It is a widely accepted fact that Akitas are not friendly with other dogs, on average, and can develop extreme same sex aggression beginning around 9 months. If you are already noticing that she may dislike other dogs, you need to call in professional help ASAP. My male puppy played with and met new dogs almost every single day until he turned about 10 months, at which point he stopped enjoying interacting with new dogs. He is now 15 months, and despite textbook socialization, he dislikes other male dogs. I have to introduce him extremely carefully to my friend's pets and dogs that I board. I have no doubt that he would injure another dog if I was not vigilant and put in a lot of effort to teach him limits as a puppy. At 2 years old, my AkitaxPit, while friendlier than my purebred, also does not enjoy playing with other males. If your pup is already exhibiting aggression towards other dogs, I can guarantee you that it will only get worse and you need to take major steps right now to intervene before she seriously hurts someone.

On a similar note, both Bear and Loki have some issues with dog to dog resource guarding. Again, due to the fact that they are both highly trained and have firm limits I have never run into a serious problem with this, but I have to take steps to manage them while treats and food is out. You need to learn to read your dog's body language very carefully so you can intervene before something bad happens. Ceasing to chew, staring, tight lips, raised hair, body position that looks "poised" are all indicators that your dog is uncomfortable and feels that she needs to guard "her" things. The way you react to this is extremely important: resource guarding comes from anxiety about losing food or toys that are important to them, and you can very easily make the situation worse. Bear and Loki are extremely generous and comfortable with their things around me, other humans, and dogs they know well, but strange dogs make them nervous and they will snap to protect their things.

It sounds like your dog may be even more extreme on the spectrum of resource guarding. You need to install a reliable "leave it", "drop it" and "come" in your puppy. Always reward with something better than what she has left or dropped. I often go to Bear and Loki and will ask them to leave their bones in exchange for a nice big piece of chicken or cheese. This ensures that they know that I will never take something from them without offering a fair exchange. If I am playing with them outside, or have a visiting dog, if I notice any of the warning signs I will call my dogs to me and ask them to do behaviors that they enjoy (fun tricks) in exchange for high value treats. This easily defuses the situation. You also need to make sure she is not in situations where she feels that her things are threatened. You should keep your dogs separate when you give out cow ears or meaty bones, and you should feed them in separate areas of the house. Like I have said, Akitas are difficult and different from the typical pet and some of their behaviors require management. You cannot completely iron out their nature, which makes them protective and forceful. There are some things, like resource guarding, that you will have to accept and work around, to an extent. For now, I would also suggest using your puppy's meals as a part of training for awhile, to ensure that she does not develop guarding behaviors around people. Hand feed her every now and then and exchange treats for kibble during easy training sessions.

However, being afraid of people is a precursor to some seriously dangerous issues and not at all normal. Akitas, while aloof and independent, are brave and can easily tell who is a threat or not. While neither of my boys are the kind of dogs that will jump on strangers and lick them in the face, they pick up on my body language very quickly and determine whether they need to be on guard or can greet the new person with a quick sniff and tail wag. They readily accept new friends into their pack and are the most loving dogs with their friends. However, Akitas are literally breed to be protective, but that can very easily go awry if: 1) the dog comes to view you as a resource, or 2) if the dog is actually afraid of strangers. You need to determine which of these issues is coming in to play, or a combination of both. These are both extremely dangerous issues. I have some suggestions but to be completely honest, you need to get serious help from a behaviorist immediately.

In the mean time, please train your dog to wear a muzzle. Both my boys wear a muzzle when off leash or out in public. While it would take a serious situation to push one of them to bite a human or another dog, it is responsible ownership to recognize that no dog is incapable of "snapping" and an Akita can easily go in to defense drive mode. You will be protecting your dog as much as protecting the people around you.

Finally, please do not resort to any kind of dominance or positive punishment training with your Akita. I upsets me how often I see Akitas described as "alpha dogs" who "need firm training from a pack leader". This is wrong on so many levels, but it is extremely dangerous to utilize these theories with this breed in particular. The Akita is powerful, stubborn, and extremely independent. If you hurt her, she will hurt you. If you try to "dominate" her, she will "dominate" you. You need to use scientific behavioral methods that have a basis in ethology and psychology, and I promise you will have a happy and loving dog. I have used exclusively force free methods with both Bear and Loki, and their successes are not rivaled by many Akitas out there.

Please let me know how your puppy is doing and send me a PM if I can help you further or you would like information about further resources or how to locate a good trainer.
 
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