Shiba Inu Named 'Professor Akira' Learns Math Through Flashcards, Is Possibly a Doggie Genius
Is it man's best friend or man's smartest friend? Meet Akira, the clever canine that embodies both. This Shiba Inu, also known as Professor Akira, has become a viral sensation for his math and recognition skills that even a human toddler would have trouble grasping.
As seen in the video, dedicated owner Monica Elkhalifa works with Akira to identify numbers, images, and colors by teaching him to paw the correct flashcard. Elkhalifa begins with a prompt to let Akira get ready for his lesson. "Have a look," she says. She then presents him with two different flashcards to identify. Each time he successfully paws the correct card.
In one of the most compelling examples of this special Shiba Inu's intelligence, Elkhalifa holds up two cards—one card containing the sum to a simple calculation. She asks Akira to add the numbers four and one together. The pooch then correctly (and very energetically!) taps the number five flash card with his paw. Passing with flying colors, Elkhalifa praises Akira with comments like "well done!" and "good boy!" along with a tasty little chicken treat.
As if that were anything less than amazing, Akira can also count in two languages: both Japanese and English. In an interview with Daily Paws, Elkhalifa says that she began teaching Akira how to count Japanese numerals because of her love for the country, plus Akira was born there.
"When we reached the number four in Japanese, I was over the moon!" she says. "I thought that was going to be the limit. And then he went up to six!" She shares that while the first few numbers were difficult for Akira to identify, once he got the hang of it, the pup accelerated quickly.
After he'd mastered Japanese (wow), the dynamic duo was onto the next task. "I thought, what should we do next?" It was her father that suggested teaching him English. To minimize confusion, when working in the two different languages, Elkhalifa holds up two cards, one with a Japanese flag and the other displaying a British flag. This helps Akira identify the language for training sessions.
Pretty impressive, huh?
Can Any Dog Do Math?
If you're wondering if it's possible to teach your dog how to count or "speak" different languages, it is possible for your pup to be that doggone smart, too. Elkhalifa calls the brain training technique she uses "The Professor Akira Method," and practices flashcards with Akira five days a week. While it's certainly possible to try her tips with your hound, she reminds dog owners to be realistic with their expectations, and most importantly, to treat your homework sessions like the bonding opportunities they are.
She tells Daily Paws that Akira "started training with the flashcards once he had mastered all of his essential puppy training and the commands that keep him safe and make him a well-behaved member of the family." This type of training takes time and consistency, meaning pet parents must be patient and value the time spent with their four-legged friend as they learn together.
Haylee Bergeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, RBT, Daily Paw's editor of pet health and behavior, notes that positive reinforcement techniques are a great way to not only teach your pup new skills, but to improve your relationship with your dog while you're at it. "Teaching your dog flashcards and paw targeting can be done most effectively using capturing, where we reinforce things our animals offer on their own, and shaping where we reinforce approximations (baby steps) of a behavior until it grows into our goal behavior." Bergeland adds that anyone can do this type of training at home, as long as they're using great reinforcers (like your pet's favorite treats!) and an effective marker (like a clicker training tool). "This enables your dog to make choices that earn them reinforcers and makes the learning process super enjoyable!"
The best part about Akira's genius abilities has more to do with his relationship with his human. Elkhalifa says that she sees the pair's sessions as quality time. "It has deepened our bond, putting us on the same page. I love that time when Akira is using his mind!"
What's Next for Akira the Genius Math Dog?
Nowadays training sessions for Akira include more pictorial references. An example: Akira can now communicate "yes" or "no" by pawing the flashcard showing a check mark (which indicates yes) or the letter X (which translates to no).
Elkhalia says she's started asking Akira yes and no questions like whether he wants to do training or go for a walk. "We ask him 'Do you love Mommy?' He always says yes. 'Do you love [Elkhalia's other dog] Miko?' The answer is always no!"
Sibling rivalry aside, Akira and his rescue sister still play together and enjoy each other's company. The pupper—who Elkhalia lovingly refers to "Cheeky Miko"—was homeless and possibly abused when they found her in 2017. Because Miko is still recovering from her past, Elkhalia doesn't push her with the same mental training that Akira has mastered. So for now, Miko gets the treats without having to do the work (and obviously Akira has noticed!).
"They are the best of friends and they play together all the time. But when it comes to food and affection, the sibling rivalry is so real!" Elkhalia adds that they do call Miko "the real genius in the family" since she's figured out how to get the goods without putting in the work. Props to you, Miko!
Miko can often be seen in social media posts with her talented brother. Not wanting to live in his shadow (and building a fan base of her own), Miko has been known to secretly hijack Akira's Instagram page, plus pocket his well-earned treats during training sessions (attagirl)!
Now that Akira will turn six in September, his next goal is to master subtraction. Always staying in tune with his training mood, Elkhalifa says she follows Akira's lead. She says that if she runs late for their training session, Akira will start prodding and nudging her—begging her to get started. And on the rare days that Akira is not in the mood to work, Elkhalifa takes notice and ends their session for that day.
There is absolutely no doubt that Akira is paws down a clever canine. The pup certainly seems to be living his best life, given the adorable bow ties he dons for his lessons and the amount of quality bonding time he gets with Elkhalifa.