Kitto’s parents were chosen for temperament, health, and conformation to breed standards, but the Alaskan Klee Kai genetic pool is smaller than that of the cheetah. Genetic dice can roll unexpectedly, but we can share what Kitto is like in real life. Some of his traits are common, but they might be expressed more strongly or gently than normal. We might be fantastic at helping Kitto overcome an issue, or terrible at it. AKKs you own or meet may be different, especially if they are a hybrid of AKK and a different breed, or not AKKs at all (see AKK scams).
We emphasize socialization and temperament training over everything else, and we started the day Kitto came home at 8 and a half weeks old. We are those parents who read to their kids before they are one year old and make sure they start Kindergarten already knowing their sounds, letters, and colors. We are resolved to raise Kitto well.
At 11 wks Kitto is still learning to always have a “soft mouth” (no using teeth on humans, even lightly). We accidentally taught Kitto that he gets put down when he is mouthy, and are working on teaching him a different behavior. We call it “licklick,” and about half the time now he will lick gently when he wants down.
5 months: Kitto is highly interested in using his mouth as part of play. He knows what we can tolerate and stops when we show him “two hands stop,” though he grumbles to let us know that he doesn’t like to stop roughhousing. Note that he plays this way with close family, but not with strangers. Strangers get kisses instead.
Kitto learns fast. We can teach him a new trick in ten minutes, and he’ll remember it the next day. The downside to this is that he doesn’t always want to perform, and he can’t be forced. Under positive training methods, you don’t force your dog to do anything… you help him want to do what you ask, instead.
Potty training in the DIY Potty Box is a great example. He likes to use it for #2, and for #1 if he is close to it when he feels the urge. He doesn’t mind being near it as long as we don’t block him in. Since the box is in the bathroom and he’d rather play in the main room, it makes recalls into the bedroom or bathroom harder. Again, he will let himself be lured, but it’s up to us to figure out what currency will work when we want it to.
5 months: Kitto likes to make trades, something good from us for something bad from him. He knows he isn’t supposed to eat/carry bark so he will grab some when coming inside if he can, just so he can be asked to drop it for a good trade.
Shyness / Skittishness
AKK are known for being shy or skittish around people and animals (including dogs) they don’t know. This trait is managed with early and continuing socialization throughout the animal’s life.
Kitto (9 wks) investigates a simple “brain game,” a muffin tin with kibble in some of the cups, with an empty paper muffin cup covering the food. He approaches the strange setup carefully, testing it before committing. His food drive keeps his interest as he figures out how to get the food he can’t see or touch. Once he is comfortable, this game is no longer an obstacle. Our dog will bravely face down scary muffin tins for the rest of his life.
People are similar. Each new person (shape, height, age, gender, race, clothes, grooming) he meets is treated the same way. We are careful to make sure that all of his early interactions are positive. This will help him to accept people of all types easily, which is critical if he is to become a therapy dog some day.
5 months: We routinely get comments from people who think Kitto is 2 or 3 years old because he behaves “like an older dog.” He is calm around other dogs and seeks petting from people he doesn’t know when he is out with us. He does best with small dogs and large dogs that tolerate puppies well (they’re big and slow and tolerant on purpose).
You Are My People, And I Need You Even When I Don’t Admit It
AKK bond very strongly with the people they live with. They make you work for it, a little like cats do. They have so much energy and high interest in the world around them that it’s sometimes hard to get them to sit still so you can cuddle up with them. When that happens, the family goes passes the dog around quietly from lap to lap because the moments are specially cool, like petting a unicorn. (Kitto was 11 wks old as of this comment, and these moments come more often now as he learns to really like cuddling.)
One day when running full out, Kitto skidded and his puppy feet went out from under him. He slid into a wall and came immediately back to my feet with his ears down, exactly like a little kid who’d just suprised himself with a minor bonk. I smiled and petted him and he immediately happy. It was an “Awwwww!” moment, but he is much more careful now when we throw a toy on laminate (see Shyness / Skittishness above).