A three-year-old male Akita dog Taiga has been receiving training since January 2021 at Wannyapia Akita, a Prefectural Animal Protection Center in Yuwa, Akita City. He was sent to the center after biting people. Taiga was extremely cautious of people when the training started. Now, he has taken back his friendly personality and follows the trainer’s instructions properly.
On a warm, beautiful day in May 2021, dog trainer Suzuki Akiko and Taiga played in the garden at Wannyapia Akita.
“Taiga, you are having too much fun!” said Ms. Suzuki. Taiga looked incredibly happy to meet Ms. Suzuki again, jumping up and down and rubbing against her. Since it is shedding season for him, his fur was shedding to the ground every time he moved.
Soon after Ms. Suzuki cautioned him sternly, “Don’t do that,” Taiga became calm. Ms. Suzuki smiled at Taiga, who was breathing heavily, and said to him, “You got tired from the heat and being overexcited, didn’t you?”
In October 2020, Taiga bit family members of his former owner, which inflicted slight injuries. The owner took Taiga to the public health center for consultation. However, he asked One for Akita, an association in Akita City with a mission to protect Akita dogs with the goal of zero cullings, if there was any way to save him. Ms. Suzuki, a dog trainer of the association, was asked to provide the necessary training for Taiga from the beginning of the year 2021.
Looking back over the past four months of training, Ms. Suzuki commented, “Taiga has come to understand our voice instructions. He tries to respond to them in any situation, thinking how to behave himself.”
One example of Taiga’s self-thinking is when he is given the instructions to “wait.” He used to sit and wait in the early stages. Now, when his treat is brought close to his nose, he tries to wait in his own way by looking away from the treat or moving backward.
On the day of the interview, Ms. Suzuki showed an experiment concerning Taiga’s growth. After staying with Taiga at the entrance hall of Wannyapia for a while, she left the area. Then, Taiga stood still and stared anxiously at the door. His tail, which had been curling up, began to droop. When Ms. Suzuki returned after a few minutes, he looked bright and relieved to see her again.
Ms. Suzuki said, “This behavior showed why Akita dogs are called loyal dogs.” Taiga did not bark while he was left behind, and he did not jump on Ms. Suzuki when she came back into the room. He learned that those are “wrong actions” to do. She explained that his behavior demonstrated that a trusting relationship had been firmly established between her and Taiga.
Recently, Taiga has been training to ride in a crate, a carrying case for dogs. This practice is valuable and necessary for everyday transportation and evacuation in case of a disaster.
The crate training began in March. Ms. Suzuki has tried to have him ride in the crate by scattering treats inside it, but Taiga will not enter it, planting his hind legs and refusing to enter.
Ms. Suzuki said, “I think he currently enjoys being with people and does not want to be separated even for a short moment. I want to show Taiga that the crate is a safe place and ride in it naturally without forcing him.”
Taiga’s immediate goal is to make a debut at the Akita Dog Station, a permanent exhibition space in the Nakaichi area of Akita City. Taiga continues to steadily train for the day when he will meet many people.