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 will not 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 are 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 few of them to Odate—so take whatever you think is useful.
Selecting your breeder
From a small breeder with only four to six dogs, to a large professional kennel with 25 to 50 dogs, breeders come in all sorts and forms. Now of course it would be easiest to simply categorize them into good & bad, but surely the world is more than black & white. And while we hope you have already removed the backyard breeders and puppy mills from your short list, now the hard part starts. Most breeders who are into "responsible breeding" pretty much try to do a good job and therefore also tend to have a good story. But on the other hand, there also breeders who are into breeding to primarily make money and have learned to cover up these intentions with the same good stories proper breeders have. So how will you, as a novice from outside the breed, know where to go? Truth be told, even for people from within the breed that may be a difficult question. Which is exactly why we advise to not simply visit a breeder's website, send them an e-mail and buy the puppy, but to really do your research. Contact multiple breeders, have a proper phone call, ask them about health testing. After that, select two or three and pay them an actual visit. That will hopefully confirm we are your preferred choice, but if that is not the case not, then that is fine as well. We are not into selling puppies as a business, we are doing this because of love for a breed, which we want to exist in the future as well.
Fooood! It’s not only yummie, it’s pretty d*mn important when raising a puppy. Let us correct ourselves: it is essential. And by this we do not 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 are actually a pretty-poor-to-average way of feeding our dogs. Invented after WW II, kibble often is not more than of way of earning money for the companies producing them. But that is not all. Most of these producers are owned by the Mars or Nestlé group and use waste ingredrients that are not fit for human consumption. Of course, smart marketing tries to let consumers think otherwise, enter pretty packaging & bogus claims to persuade us into thinking it is high quality nutrition. That tempting illusion does not hold out long though, as brands like Royal Canin and Purina ProPlan add so many worthless materials to their products—including feathers—it does not take much to understand why so many dogs have such large amounts of loose stool: their bodies simply cannot process all these fillers. "But if that's the case, then why does my vet sell it?" Well, these companies make sure it is profitable for vets to sell them, and the latter are rarely & sparsely educated in pet nutrition, so they often tend to believe whatever their sales representative tells them. Luckily, if you really do need to feed kibbles, there are still some good exceptions. Brands like Acana, Taste of the Wild and Orijen offer rather worthy alternatives. Take a look at DogFoodAdvisor to find out why, it is a website that has got lots of useful information on the subject.
If you are really up for providing your dog with some proper nutrition though, then our advice is plain and simple: Barf. Short for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, it consists out of feeding your dog a specific ratio of raw meat, bones, offal and—depending on which school you are 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 does not make it the best option. As mentioned earlier, health is more than not being sick and barfing actually is not 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).
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 is 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 5*5=25 minute walk (note: so turn around for home when you're out for 12 minutes).
To slightly nuance that, we 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 is far from stupid, so if a puppy is tired, it will often lower its pace or even go to sleep. However, some environments continuously (over)expose puppies to all kinds of input, blocking their natural sense of knowing when the body has had enough. That is is why we always tell new owners to really be aware of the amount of exercise their puppy gets. When puppies are growing up, their structure is still weak—containing lots of cartilage—so especially the first year you should avoid any jumping (f.e. in and out of cars), climbing stairs, too much rough play and having them run next to you while cycling. On the other hand, exercise also strengthens the body—which is necessary as well—so moderate movement is necessary as well. In other words, balance and caution are key to properly raising a pup.
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 tend to treat for symptoms? Veterinarians are taught about drugs, surgery, and disease, but not about health. It is an approach that often leads to quick results, but in the long run is a questionable part of Western medicine, as health is much more than not being sick. Instead, a more integrative approach in our opinion would certainly be valuable. Please bare in mind though, by this we do not mean quackery. There are already enough people who lose any form of critical thinking and end up using weird pseudo medicine. Also, we are not against regular medicine, we just think that some parts of it might need some updates.
Vaccination and titering
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 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, so if yours does not, then you might want to reconsider if he/she is the right vet for your dog. In our case, it is a bit of a compromise: we use a local vet who does not titer for the easy procedures and use specialists located further away for titering and other 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 is the same for dogs as well—who's lives are by the way a lot shorter—even though the pharmaceutical companies are not willing to put it on paper. Whatever the reason for that—we are sure you can come up with some—if you want to be certain if your dog is protected, then to us 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 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 is for a simple solution though: during and at the end of each stroll simply thoroughly check your dogs for ticks and use a natural repellent based on essential oils. Altogether, it is not 100% fail-safe, but it mostly does the trick and, more importantly, in the long run it is way healthier than using chemicals on your dog.
Lastly, preventive deworming is another thing regular vets tend to advise for. Like selling dry food, it is a steady form of income for them and, as they often come in a tablet form, they are easy to use for dog owners. However, in our opinion treatment is even easier: a dog is either a worm problem or it is not. 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 is the best way to determine if action is really needed and if your vet happens to be a little outdated, feces research will still bring in money, so he/she will unlikely object. On a side note, while a minute contamination is not necessarily a problem and might actually be somewhat beneficial to a healthy dog as it may exercise their system, this kind of symbiosis is not advised for young puppies, elderly or sick dogs or when having a family with little kids. In that case, you will want to go for a more thorough strategy.