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As my male Akita approaches his 7 month birthday (and 75 lbs), I find myself considering a muzzle for him when we go out in public. I don't want the muzzle for him- he doesn't need it- but I want it to protect us from other people (if that makes sense).

Loki is not aggressive or reactive for the most part. He has never bitten or snapped at another person or dog, but he does have a protective streak that causes him to sometimes bulk up and growl until the offending person moves away. So far, this has only happened at night, with large/tall men who are close to me, or when we see a stranger approaching in an otherwise empty area (hiking, dog park during the morning, etc). When we are in public, crowded places, he displays his displeasure at interacting with strangers by staring, moving away, and taking a seat next to me. I find this very appropriate and I try to discourage whoever is talking to me, petting my other dog, scanning my items, etc, from giving any attention to Loki. If they respect me, all is well. Unfortunately, I have found that at least half will inadvertently reach out to touch him, attempt to have him approach them by holding their hands out and offering treats, and ignoring me all together by assuring me that "dogs love them". Usually Loki will move further away at this point and I will firmly assert that they need to stop, but I am worried that some day I will get completely ignored, and they will get bitten.

I am concerned that the general public is too ignorant of dog body language, don't acknowledge the warning signs, too egotistical to accept that some dogs won't like them, and possessed by an uncontrollable urge to pet my "cute" fluffy bear cub. For this reason, I wonder if I should put a muzzle on Loki to protect him, because if he bites someone, it will do serious damage due to his size, and he will get put down due to his breed.

What do you think?
 

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I let my dog wear a muzzle, when we're going to a place with a lot of people, because some people sneak pet, which is very difficult to prevent.
Sancho generally likes people, but he's not so keen on being surprise touched by strangers and being touched at certain parts of the body (hips, he's got HD).
it's less that I'm worried for him to bite, more than the muzzle magically keeps people away... don't ask me why,since it is more likely to get bitten by dog that doesn wear a muzzle, but people will keep their hands away and so it is less stressful for the dog and myself.
I also use it in public transport, because it's mandatory, and for vet visits, because, he's not so keen on being touched strangers, when he's in pain.

It is never wrong to condition your dog on a muzzle, even afterwards it is still your decision if you want to use it or not, but it can give you an extra security.
if you decide to train, chose either a sturdy plastic basket one or a metal basket one... don't use the ones made of fabric, since they can lead to overheating and aren't safe to wear for a longer period of time...they make it impossible for the dog to pant, drink and take treats (which is great for training).

I'd also definitively consider the breed. Akita are great dogs, but, when they get older, they often get more selective when it comes to contact with people or dogs and if people keep ignoring his demands for space it could be that he'll start to snap, when they provoke him too much.
Of course you'll try to prevent that, but in situations when there could be "sneak touchers" around I think a muzzle would be a good way to prevent your dog having to endure contact he feels uncomfortable with.
 

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I think for a big, protective dog like an akita a really nice basket muzzle could be a great addition to daily walks. If he really doesn't want to be touched by strangers then a muzzle will definitely get him to space he wants. In your situation I think I would feel much more comfortable with him in a muzzle.

I agree with the above, I've found a natural inclination among people to give muzzled dogs their space. I think its something to do with the ignorant masses idea of the muzzle as a kind of last resort so dogs dont kill other dogs/people in public instead of just as a training aide.
 

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With what you've described, I think a basket muzzle might be a good idea now. Make sure to introduce it slowly and positively, with treats on/in the muzzle several times before you even strap it on.

Like you said, people are stupid and don't understand dog body language. A muzzle would not only prevent Loki from biting but prevent the vast majority of people even wanting to pet a dog that's wearing a muzzle! However, I would also suggest you do some training with him so that he doesn't respond negatively to passersby. I would also suggest you ask a trainer or other dog person to observe this, as he might not just being protective (which is possible since he's an Akita), but he might be resource guarding you. Are you a woman? I find it's extremely common for male dogs of powerful breeds to resource guard female owners. Either way, I think that should be investigated too because it's a separate issue.

All in all a muzzle sounds like a smart idea right now.
 
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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
With what you've described, I think a basket muzzle might be a good idea now. Make sure to introduce it slowly and positively, with treats on/in the muzzle several times before you even strap it on.

Like you said, people are stupid and don't understand dog body language. A muzzle would not only prevent Loki from biting but prevent the vast majority of people even wanting to pet a dog that's wearing a muzzle! However, I would also suggest you do some training with him so that he doesn't respond negatively to passersby. I would also suggest you ask a trainer or other dog person to observe this, as he might not just being protective (which is possible since he's an Akita), but he might be resource guarding you. Are you a woman? I find it's extremely common for male dogs of powerful breeds to resource guard female owners. Either way, I think that should be investigated too because it's a separate issue.

All in all a muzzle sounds like a smart idea right now.
Indeed I am a woman! And a small woman at that- under 125 lbs, only 5' tall. He is most certainly guarding me, he is true to his breed in terms of protectiveness but I did so much socialization work with him that he is generally ok- with the exception of some men, loud children, and strollers :confused:

I have had a trainer come to give me some suggestions on controlling Loki's protective and sometimes fearful instincts. He also attended a "beyond advanced" obedience classes along with me and my older Akita mix, where he did well in a group setting. He loves other dogs, it is people that bother him. We are working on a lot of counter conditioning which helps everyday by increasing the threshold of what he is ok with, but I don't think he is ever going to be a dog that will be comfortable with unsolicited attention towards him or me.

Do you suggest that he is resource guarding me, or did you mean guarding in the protection sense? I think your word choice is interesting. Could you explain more what you mean? I have been told by every trainer I have worked with, and have seen it backed up in my studies, that a male dog will often rise up to fulfill a guarding role when their primary caretaker is a woman. I believe the dog senses the lack of physical strength and moves into the "enforcement" niche- I have never thought of it as possessiveness on the part of the animal, however.
 

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I was suggesting that he might be resource guarding you. Really I was saying you should ask your trainer whether they think this is resource guarding or, inherent protecting you against danger.

Now, I'm open to others correcting me on this or adding, because the general difference between "protection" guarding and resource guarding can get blurry. Generally people think proper "guarding" is just dogs guarding their owners and displaying certain behaviors in what's viewed as acceptable situations--an assault, break in, etc. However I do think that something a dog interprets as a threat can also go into that category as well. To me, a large man in a hoodie jogging towards the dog's owner, or someone in a heated argument with another, perhaps raising a hand, or playfully roughhousing or tickling, would create what I think is a natural protection reaction in many dogs, and a more intense one with a breed like an Akita or Rottie.

But resource guarding, now, that's less out of concern for the owner's perceived safety and more that they are the dog's possession. A dog who just protects his owner against perceived threats may growl or snarl when someone runs toward them, or does something else "scary". But this dog might be calm and content if a known friend walks up to them, speaks to their owner, shakes their hand, sits beside them, etc. A resource guarding dog, well they might guard their human against any and all other animals and people, growling or snapping or even attacking if others approach or touch them. Basically, switch the human out for a food dish or rubber slipper and it's the same thing.

This is what I meant. So really, I think that if Loki is guarding you against threats that's not only normal (especially for an Akita), but usually a desired trait in fanciers of dogs like this. It's just that since you say he's somewhat fearful he might need to learn the difference between real and perceived threats better. But resource guarding is a more complicated issue.
 

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Ok, interesting! I have not thought of dogs resource guarding their humans. That sounds like an issue that would arise more from improper training than instinct. I will keep that in mind when I assess other situations in which a person has a leash aggressive or dog aggressive pet. Considering I am in college studying animal behavior, I should have thought that a dog could perceive their human as a possession.

No, based on your description I think Loki is certainly guarding in the traditional "true" sense of the word. He has a group of people that he considers "safe" and displays no aggression towards them at all, he also has no problem with dogs coming to interact with either him, me, or my other dog. He visibly relaxes the longer he is around a new person, and also seems to calm down when I begin to happily interact with whoever approaches us as well. When encountering a situation that he deems "dangerous" (such as somebody new entering the house, somebody walking towards us in a remote area), he will bark/growl and "herd" the person away from us- which means walking in a perimeter while displaying deterrent techniques. He also has no history of resource guarding in any capacity, and actually often gives up his things. In our family unit (me, Loki, Bear, a couple of friends and my sister who he sees often) he is actually the bottom of the totem poll, he certainly gets treated like the youngest brother!
 

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I think if can muzzle train your dog correctly (Nando Brown does a great video on his Incredimal page) then like you say, I would do it to protect Loki. Even if you decide not to use it on a regular basis, having a dog that will happily accept a muzzle in any situation is a real bonus, for example I think my dog Jax would be they type to grumble if in pain and at the vets for instance so the fact that he can already accept a muzzle would make that situation a whole lot easier for everyone involved if it were to happen!

I also wanted to say fair play to you for being such a responsible owner, I'm currently having a problem with an Akita myself, the owner is elderly and can't handle his dog and it has a bite history, it's so bad I've recently been to the police to see what could be done and whether we could get him muzzled, I hate to do it but talking to the man hasn't helped and other people and dogs are in danger. I'm not saying the two situations are the same at all please don't think that, I just wish the owner I'm dealing with was as responsible as you are, I just think it's great that you're looking to manage the situation proactively!

Good luck!
 
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