Getting a puppy? Some things to think about!
If you are one of the readers who is looking into getting an Akita Inu pup—and you are sure you are doing the right thing—then happy times are waiting. Nonetheless, there will also be a big responsibility and a busy time ahead of you. And this won't end with just a couple of months of puppy training. Instead, we prefer to see it as an ongoing process, which we are hoping you will take seriously. Maybe you're even reading this because you want to be prepared and are already doing your homework. Hoping for an affirmative to this wild guess, we will try and give some worthy advice. Mind you, all roads lead to Rome—or in this case a bunch of them to Odate—so take whatever you think is useful.
Fixing a broken leg or stitching up a wound, vets can luckily work wonders for a pet in need. While many of these problems can be solved easily, others have deeper causes and need more work. Have you ever realized though that many vets primarily just tend to treat for symptoms? It's an approach that often leads to short term relief and might seem effective, but in the long run is a questionable part of Western medicine. The reason for that is simple: health is much more than not being sick. So to get things really working, a more holistic view is in our opinion what you are actually looking for. By this we don't mean quackery—as in people that lose any form of critical thinking and end up using weird pseudo medicine—nope, we're referring to the power of nature that can be surprisingly effective. Furthermore, next to the physical condition of a dog, psychological and other aspects should also be taken into account (including love, play, attention, exercise and forming a real bond). And in that way, we truly believe in giving the body the right amount of stress. While getting totally rid of that won't do your Nihon Ken any good either—as it won't build resilience—healthwise there are definitely certain things you may want to avoid. Before giving you some examples, let us state that we are not against regular medicine, we just think that parts of it need some revision.
For instance, protecting your dog against disease is one thing, but over vaccinating him/her is another. So find out which viruses pose a real threat in your area and get him/her treated for that and afterwards—insert drum ruffle—just leave it at that. Chances are some vets will follow by pushing you for yearly revaccinating your dog, but going for a titer is a way safer and better option. The latter measures for antibodies and if your dog has enough of those, then he/she is still protected. Titering is something not all vets offer to their clients, so if yours doesn't, then you might want to reconsider if he/she is the right vet for you. In our case, it's a bit of a compromise: we use a local vet who doesn't (for the easy procedures) and use some specialists further away (for titering and other the important stuff).
Did we mention many pharmaceutical companies nowadays claim their vaccines give three year protection? That would make yearly revaccination even more of a harmful waste, though even three years may be little. For those wondering why, imagine this: some of the vaccines we humans were given as a kid offer us lifelong protection. In many cases, it's the same for dogs as well, even though the pharmaceutical companies won't put it on paper. Whatever the reason—we are sure you can come up with some—if you want to be certain if your dog is protected, then a titer is the best way to go.
Another thing worth noting is the treatment against flees and thicks. In some places ticks can form a real threat (carrying Babebiosis), but here in the Netherlands Lyme is pretty much the biggest issue. As you will probably know, to protect our dogs, vets and their assistants will often suggest the use of a spot-on product, tablets or some special collar and say these products are safe, but what exactly is "safe"? With a bit of googling you will find out that the researches for getting these products allowed on the EU market often state they have been ok'ed because the risks do not outweigh the advantages. If you haven't already, have you ever wondered what in this case is considered "a risk"? We can sadly tell you that—please be aware of this—products for animal use are under less strict regulation than those meant for humans use and that their definition of what a risk means is a little less... Well, you get the idea. Even though a dog's health might not seem to be negatively influenced when for example applying a spot-on product—though there are dogs that have immediately shown adverse reactions—the long term effects are still very much there. Here's for a simple solution though: during and at the end of each stroll simply check your dogs for ticks and use a natural repellent based on essential oils. Altogether, it isn't 100% fail-safe, but it mostly does the t(r)ick and, more importantly, in the long run it is way healthier than using chemicals on your dog.
Lastly, preventive deworming is something regular vets also tend to advise for. Like selling dry food, it's a steady form of income for them & often coming in a tablet form makes them easy to use for us dog owners. However, in our opinion real treatment is even easier: a dog is either suffering of worms or it isn't. So instead of preventively deworming your dog every three months—a.k.a. probably needlessly stressing your dog's body—why not just have their feces tested once in a while? It's the best way to determine if action is really necessary and even if your vet happens to be a little outdated, the feces research will still bring in money for them as well, so he/she will unlikely object. On a side note, a minute contamination isn't necessarily a problem and might actually be beneficial to a healthy dog because it exercises their system. This kind of symbiosis is not advised though for young puppies, elderly or sick dogs or when having a family with little kids. In that case, you might want to go for a more thorough strategy.
One of the great joys of owning a dog is taking them out for a long walk or having them run next to you when cycling. These are just two examples of doggy fun, but here's a little thing to keep in mind: The Japanese Akita Inu is a large breed, so even though it is not as prone to hip dysplasia as say the German Shepherd, it still is at risk.
Some experts note HD is approximately for 30% a genetic issue and for 70% an external issue, others say there always has to be a genetic disposition. Whatever the cause, during the first year owners would do wise not to strain their puppy too much. A basic guideline is to increase walks by 5 minutes each month, so a five month old dog is allowed to go for a 25 minute walk (note: so turn around for home when you're out for 12 minutes).
To slightly nuance that, I know some people say you shouldn't be totally rigid about this and need to trust a pup for knowing how much movement it can take. In a way, we would agree to that—nature isn't stupid—if a puppy is tired, then it will often lower its pace or even go to sleep. However, some manmade environments continuously (over)expose them to all kinds of input, blocking their natural sense of knowing when the body has had enough. This is why we always try to make new owners aware of the amount of exercise their puppy gets. They are still growing and their structure is still weak, so you probably should avoid jumping (f.e. in and out of cars), climbing stairs, too much rough play and having them run next to you while cycling is a no go the first year as well. On the other hand... exercise does also strengthen the body, which is quite necessary as well.
Fooood! It’s not only yummie, it’s pretty d*mn important when raising a puppy. Let us correct ourselves: it’s essential. And by this we don’t just mean “food”, but GOOD food.
Nowadays, more and more people are becoming aware of kibble (dry food) being mostly just a convenient solution for us humans. And that they're actually a pretty-poor-to-average way of feeding our dogs. Invented after WW II, kibble often isn't more than of way of earning money for the companies producing them. But that's not all... Most of these producers are owned by the Mars or Nestlé group and use waste ingredrients that can't be used for human consumption. Of course, smart marketing tries to let consumers think otherwise, enter pretty packaging & bogus claims to persuade us into thinking it's high quality nutrition. Their tempting illusion doesn't hold out long though, brands like Royal Canin and Purina ProPlan add so much junk to their products (to the extent of even using feathers), it doesn’t take much to understand why so many dogs have such large amounts of loose stool: their bodies simply can’t process all the worthless fillers. "But if that's the case, then why does my vet sell it?" Well, these companies make it profitable for vets to sell, and vets are rarely & sparsely educated in pet nutrition, so they believe whatever their rep tells them. Luckily, there are still some good exceptions—if you really do need to feed kibbles—brands like Acana, Taste of the Wild and Orijen offer worthy alternatives. Take a look at DogFoodAdvisor to find out why, they've got lots of useful information.
If you're up for providing your dog with some really good nutrition though, then our advice is plain and simple: go Barf. Barf is short for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food and consists out of feeding your dog a specific ratio of raw meat, bones, offal and—depending on which school you're with—possibly also some veggies. While we can hear some of you say “Our neighbor’s dog is fed kibble by brand XYZ and he looks really healthy. Why feed raw?”, you might want to take the following into account: we people can do “ok” on average food for a pretty long time as well, but that doesn’t make it the best option. As mentioned earlier, health is more than not being sick and barfing actually isn't all that complicated. Next to the traditional method of barfing—which is a little more labor intensive to prepare—we mostly feed our dogs a great quality organic barf mince by Darf, mixed with several toppings to further boost up its nutritional goodness (coconut oil, raw egg, greenlip mussle, veggie-fruit-herb mix, stuff like that). Feel free to drop us an e-mail, if you’re interested in feeding your dogs a proper meal. It can make a big difference.