Dog Bite Inhibition

What is bite inhibition?

Bite inhibition basically means training your dog to have a soft mouth.

When they are puppies, dogs automatically learn this lesson from their mother and their litter-mates. When a puppy bites down too hard on a litter-mate, he will get a yelp and play stopsΒ while the hurt party licks his wounds.

Through this process, puppies learn to control the force of their bites because they know that biting too hard will cause play to stop.

It is important to continue this lesson throughout a dog’s life. The mouthier a dog is, the more important to teach him bite inhibition.

My Shiba Inu is an extremely mouthy dog, and I am extremely thankful that I taught him bite inhibition from a young age.

Later on, he really started acting out and doing leash biting, humping my leg, and biting on my hands and arms. Throughout all this, he never broke skin.

Bite inhibition, made it possible for us to re-train him and re-train ourselves with very little wear and tear on both dog and humans.

Bite inhibition is important even for normally even-tempered, social dogs.

Dogs use their mouth to interact, not just to attack.

When excited, dogs may mouth on people, not to hurt them, but to interact with them. This may cause accidental bites if the dog does not have good bite inhibition training.

Dogs may also bite as a reflex when they are startled, for example, when you accidentally step on their tail or wake them up from a deep sleep. A dog with bite inhibition may scratch your arm, but an untrained dog will cause deep puncture wounds.

The best time to teach dogs bite inhibition is when they are young. Puppies may have sharp teeth, but they have not developed the jaw strength of an adult dog yet, so they cannot inflict the same type of damage that an adult dog can.

I have found that hand-feeding is a fun and good way for teaching bite inhibition to my dogs.

Hand-feed your dog at least some of his kibble every day. If he bites too hard when getting his food, do a sharp ouch or yelp and ignore him for a few seconds then start hand-feeding him again. When your dog takes food from you gently, praise him and keep feeding him.

First, make it easy for your dog to get at the food without biting you, then slowly make it more difficult by covering the food partially with your fingers. You can also combine hand-feeding with training and handling sessions.

Hand-feeding also helps to prevent food aggression and resource guarding issues, so it is good to continue this practice throughout your dog’s life.

I first learned about bite inhibition from Ian Dunbar’s book After You Get Your Puppy. He has more in his book on bite inhibition and puppy socialization.

Although it is easier and safer to teach dogs bite inhibition when they are young, it is never too late to teach them to have a soft mouth.

Bite inhibition will significantly enhance your relationship with your dog because a dog with a soft mouth is easier to trust, easier to handle, and a joy to spend time with.

Note – If your dog is already food aggressive or resource aggressive, it is best to consult a professional trainer. Do not perform bite inhibition exercises on such dogs as they may bite anybody or anything that comes near their food.

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  1. Sam Porte says


    I really liked the blog and information on here, we just got a year or so old collie shepherd from the local humane society.
    He is mostly great, there are a lot of little behaviours that we have been seeing and coming out at random times.
    A new one is how bad his biting has gotten on walks…mostly at the end, when he knows we are coming home, but sometimes at the beginning or randomly too, he gets very aggressive, and like you mentioned, bites the leash, but mostly me or my partner, on sleeves, arms, hands, anything, jumps to get at us.
    We are starting a training program on the 9th, but in the mean time, have been looking for solutions, or things to do, because, I have the same mix of dog as a family dog, he was a rescue, and of course all their paths are different, and all their pasts, but he was never this aggressive, and a breed like that needs to be walked and taken outdoors, but it makes me dread it because I’m always thinking….when is he gonna snap?
    I missed work today because the bit from last night rendered my arm bruised, pulled, and useless, I don’t want to take medication for infection every time there’s a walk…any tips?
    -At a loss,


    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I had some very difficult times with my Shiba Inu with regards to leash biting. With Shiba Sephy, several things helped-
      1. Desensitization training with excitement triggers, e.g. other dogs.
      2. Controlling my own energy. Sephy is very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. If I become nervous, anxious, angry, or stressed, he will quickly pick up on that energy, get even more stressed himself and his behavior will worsen. I always try to stay calm and just focus on my plan of action.
      3. Short leash and brisk walk home. I can do this because Sephy has good bite inhibition, and does not cause any real damage when he bites on me.

      More on my leash-biting experiences with Sephy.

      Management equipment can also be helpful, for example using a basket muzzle in the short-term. I always desensitize my dog to the muzzle first before using.

      However, as you know, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and situation are different. Since your arm is already getting hurt from the experience, it may be best to get guidance from a good professional trainer who understands desensitization training and counter-conditioning techniques. There are few controls in the dog training field, so it can be a challenge to find a good trainer. The articles below have some good information on what to look for in a trainer.

  2. Priscila says

    I love your blog, Im reading everything to absorb and implement with my puppy.
    I have a 16 weeks miniature schnauzer, but after reading a lot of your posts, her behavior looks very similar to your shiba.
    Unfortunatelly I just found your blog 2 days ago, so I committed the same mistakes: listen advices from people suggesting to do the alpha-roll, hold her muzzle, do a loud noise…
    Now, I feel like my puppy lost the trust on me and she is becoming agressive.
    Now, I feel like my puppy lost the trust on me and she is becoming agressive.
    I started using some reward training with positive reinforcement after I found some youtube videos from this kind of training, and I think its the best option for her since the aversive training just changed her behavior.
    Now she is showing some rebel behavior, when she is restrained, example: she reaches for inside the fridge when Im getting something, she ignores when I call her and I use my hands to get her she doesnt bite but go near my hand (like just to me). Every time she is contradicted she does the same, and Im really concerned because this behavior can be escalated when she became an adult dog and then the bite will hurt.
    I stay at home all day with her, and I try to do some training. She now has a problem with the doorbell and the door, she became really over excited, and I’m trying to desensitized her but I don’t see any progress. So when she tries to reach the door, I try to block her way until she is calm, but I think this is doing the same wrong result as the other things.
    She is very sweet, she loves to play, but she bites a lot (play bite) and sometimes when she really bites when my husband and I are on the couch and she wants to play (yesterday she cut my skin), even after a long time playing fetch and them with the flirt pole.
    My husband says Im overreacting, because she is just a puppy, but I think this is a behavior that must be redirected as soon as possible because I don’t want a agressive adult dog.
    I love her, she is my little companion, but sometimes her pushy bevahior it’s difficult.
    I don’t know where to begin.

    Any advice will be great!
    Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, Sephy was also very sensitive to neck grabs and collar grabs. This was because when I grabbed his neck it was almost always to physically stop him from doing something or to otherwise punish him. As a result, he associated grabs with negative consequences and always did his best to stay away from me.

      With Sephy, it was a lot more effective to control him using a flat collar and leash. I always supervise him well when he is roaming freely in the house and I have a drag lead on him for control. I only use a drag lead when he is under my supervision and only with a safe flat collar or harness (no aversive collars).

      At the same time I also had to do a lot of desensitization exercises to help him re-associate my hand and my touches with being calm and positive rewards. Desensitization always has to start off small, with a very weak version of the problem stimulus. It is also very important during the entire rehabilitation process, that we do not expose our dog to the problem stimulus in a negative way.

      For example, when I want to desensitize my dog to a certain sound, I start with a very soft version of the sound and only *very slowly* build up from there. During the entire rehabilitation process, I make sure never to expose my dog to a loud version of the sound (before he is ready for it), because that would cause him to regress and greatly set back retraining.

      The key with desensitization is to always set my dog up for success so that he learns to tolerate more and more of the problem stimulus in a calm way. The more successes we have, the better he is able to handle things in the future. Similarly, bad experiences will undermine his confidence and training.
      More on how I do sound desensitization exercises with my dog.

      With Sephy it was very important to set up a fixed routine and a very consistent structure at home. Here are a few more things that helped with Sephy.

      While retraining Sephy, I learned that consistency, repetition, timing, energy, and technique are all very important. In addition, dog behavior is very dependent on temperament and context. Therefore, we did private lessons with several trainers who could observe Sephy within the context of his regular environment. In this way, they can also help me with timing, energy, and technique.

  3. Alok Samwal says

    I have a rottweiler puppy of 6 weeks. He usually don’t bit when he is calm. But just gona mad after 10 PM when went for sleep and start biting the objects all around even my clothes and hands if i try to stop him.. Please guide.

  4. Kristy says


    I have a 9 week old husky x Belgian shepherd, Ozzy, who at the moment is a non stop biter! He is particularly fond of biting my legs and ankles!! He also loves to bite my nearly 3 year old son who has taken to squealing and dropping to the ground if the puppy runs at him which of course excites the puppy! When I pull the puppy off my son he will growl and be quite aggressive so I will put him outside for some “quiet time” . I am trying to get my son to not drop on the ground or run or squeal but it is difficult! Ozzy is proving to be a quick learner but I just can not get him to stop biting! We are going to puppy school once he has had all his needles but that’s not for another 3 weeks! Hoping you can give me some advice!


  5. chris says

    I have had my shiba inu for almost 3 years now and has been the only dog in the house. I have had dogs over and she protects her bones which I now take away. I have recently got a Husky and my shiba gets along with her. the bones have been hidden but my shiba inu just randomly bit the husky on her neck. What should I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

  6. Marie says

    Hi Shibashake,

    We have a new Shiba, Dexter, and he is almost 15 weeks old. I understand that he is now experiencing his “terrible twos,” but the biting is relentless. My husband and I have tried pretty much every technique mentioned here and recommended by our vet. We have placed Dex in a submissive position when he bites…we hand feed to teach soft mouth….we have sprayed items with bitter apple and tried vinegar as an option. In the beginning, I would yelp when he bit me, and he did stop. However, like most options, he quickly adapted and no longer reacts to this anymore.

    He is not phased by our attempts to have him stop biting. We currently give him a time-out in his pen, and try to ignore him. However, even after several minutes, one of us will attempt to get him out to try again and he will turn his head and lunge to bite. It’s a problem that I simply cannot see an end to. My husband thinks we need to ride out this phase, but it’s exhausting and makes me unable to enjoy my own home. I am hoping with neutering he will be calmer, but that’s not guaranteed. He is very friendly with new people, but he has not spent a lot of time with other dogs. Do you think this could be part of the problem?

    I am appreciative of any insight you can provide. I love this dog and he is adorable, but some days I feel helpless!

    Thank you,

    • shibashake says

      In terms of biting, timeouts work best for Sephy. However, there are two things that I found were important with him-
      1. I *do not* start with a timeout. I first tell him what to do, and give him many chances to redirect. In this way, he not only learns what behavior is undesirable, but also what behaviors *are* desirable, and will bring good rewards. Here are the steps that I took with Sephy.

      2. I use a very low stimulus area for timeouts. I do not use his pen because that is in the family area, and I want his pen to be a positive space. Here is more on timeouts.

      In addition to this, I also set-up a consistent set of house rules, a fixed routine, and I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program. This teaches Sephy what behaviors are good, and lets him work for the things that he wants most. It also teaches him what to expect from me, and what I expect from him in return. All this helps him to be more calm and to curb his biting behavior.

      Here are more puppy biting tips.

      More exercise also helps Sephy to be more calm. However, I make sure to always have rules in all our activities, even in the games that we play. I also make sure to manage his excitement level.

      We have placed Dex in a submissive position when he bites…

      I also did this with Sephy based on advice from our previous vet tech and Sephy’s breeder. Unfortunately, this did not work well on Sephy and made his behavior worse. He became very sensitive to handling, and lost trust in me. This technique is also called the ‘alpha roll’ – here is more on it.

      I really regret doing this. After a lot of counter-conditioning exercises, Sephy is better about being handled today.

      Hope this helps and big hugs to Dexter. I had a difficult time with Sephy as well, but things got better with consistency and persistence. Sephy is a very stubborn fella, so I had to be even more stubborn and use his existing Shiba traits to motivate him. πŸ˜€

      Here are a few more things that I learned from Sephy. We also visited with several professional trainers to troubleshoot his various issues and help socialize him to other dogs.

  7. James says

    Hello! I’ve commented before, and have been lurking your website and the Shiba Inu Forum for months. I have also read Dr Ian Dunbars before and after getting your puppy multiple times. I was blessed with a red male Shiba Inu named Apollo! I have a few question about your bite inhibition process though! Minus a few issues he’s great! No aggression, fearfulness, he’s limp and happy while handling, loves strangers, can be pet on any part of his body, etc. I can even reach into his mouth to remove something he finds interesting, move and replace toys/food, and the like. You wrote in a different article that you never play dominance games (i.e. tug of war), or allow him to do any sort of biting on hands. What I gathered from Dr. Dunbar’s book is a bit different though. Allowing puppies to playfully bite and letting them know what is too much will help teach bite inhibition. I like to play a bit rough with Apollo and allow to him bite my hands, but yelp and ignore if he nips too hard. When he sits patiently we resume play. Do you think this is an effective method or will it teach him that it’s okay to bite hands overall? Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      Hello James,

      I think that dog training is very context dependent. What has worked well for me is to learn the underlying principles of training, and then modify individual techniques to suit each of my dogs.

      Sephy is very stubborn, easily excitable, and also very mouthy. He has good bite inhibition, and nowadays, he will also control his instinct to bite. He has made a lot of progress and I am very proud of him. However, his temperament makes roughhousing unsuitable. Earlier on, playing rough and playing tug games caused him to start leash biting during walks, and to play rough with other people. These are not behaviors that I want to encourage. He can wrestle and play rough with my other dogs, but I do not allow him to play rough with people. In this way, the rule is clear, and he still has an outlet for his wrestling fondness.

      I do bite inhibition training with Sephy through hand feeding exercises, and continue with that even today.

      Husky Lara, on the other hand, is not as mouthy and has a much softer temperament. She stops doing whatever when I no-mark, and she has a very soft mouth. Therefore, I will sometimes wrestle with her, and it does not lead to related bad behaviors. I also do bite inhibition exercises with her mostly through hand-feeding.

      This process has worked well for me. Others may have different opinions, and a different process.

  8. Poppie Oosthuizen & Bianca - English Bullterrier Girl Aged 11 months old - South Africa says

    Dear shibashake

    I have a big problem with my bullterrier biting my hands & arms as soon as I sit on any chair any place. What is happening as soon as she notices me in a sitting position and start biting me – it hurts because of her strong teeth – and she never really learnt sufficient bite inhibition. So then I get up from the chair and leave the room and ignore her for a while. However this is not the solution, because as soon as I go in a sitting position again, she starts biting all over again. Maybe by now she is making a game out of it, I don’t know. Someone suggested that I must give her a big juicy bone for example in the lounge, then I must go sit on the chair while she is chewing the bone. The after a while I must get up; take her bone away till the next time I want to sit on the chair again. This however did not work. While she was chewing she did not worry about me sitting on the chair. But the next time I offered her the bone, she ignored me. I’ve tried this a couple of times without success. Presently I give her the bone while I can at least relax for a while on the chair with her chewing on the bone on the ground. However, when she is done with the chewing she immediately search for my hands or arms to bite me. I would so much want her to stop this behavior – as presently it resulted in restraining her to the kitchen and backyard when I want to relax for a while in the lounge or work on the computer in the bedroom. She is such a lovable dog, I would so much love to give her the full run of the house when I am with her but *sitting* and not standing all the time when she is with me. Please can you perhaps give me ideas to try and get her over this behavior?

    Poppie & Bianca

    • shibashake says

      Some things that help with my dogs in terms of biting –
      1. I continue with bite inhibition training even today. This helps them to maintain their soft mouth.
      2. I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program. This allows me to maintain pack leadership by controlling their resources.
      3. If my dog bites on me, I no-mark. Then, I give him an alternate command, e.g. Sit or redirect him onto a toy. If he sits or redirects, then I reward him well for doing the right thing. This teaches him that biting is undesirable, and also what he should do instead, e.g. Sit and bite on his toy.

      If he does not listen and continues to bite, then I withdraw my attention by standing, folding my arms, and turning away. If he escalates his behavior, then I calmly say “Timeout” and remove him to a timeout area.

      Here is a bit more of my experiences with puppy biting.

      Here is more on how dogs learn.

  9. richflamini says

    From what i was told my Bandit is a Mini Husky/Boston terrier mix. He is super loving and fun to play with at the park. There are some things that i do not like and have read most of what you post on here and apply it. He is coming up on 9 months and still bites even when told not to. He can sit, stay, lay. But it is very hard to get his concentratioin outside to do these. The nibbling of the hands has got to stop. He will stop for a good 4 seconds then start to again. please do you have any advice? i love this guy

  10. Robin says

    My female lab is 2 now. Extremely hyper when anyone comes and when she just wants to play. Also very cuddly. I can talk her down when she is hyped, but it takes a while. She gets her exercisek, and I don’t want to put her on meds. I can handle her, but visitors can’t………..

  11. Vanessa says

    Thank you. Every time I read one of your articles I learn so much. Thank you! I was confusing my dog’s bite inhibition with aggression. I had doubt in my mind about her “aggression” but this helps me understand so much more. When we brought her home our other dog was already a year old so when they played it wouldn’t hurt him. However, 1 year later she is a big powerful dog and never learned that her bites cause much harm than before. Even when I give her her daily vitamins she opens her whole mouth almost taking my entire hand with the vitamin. I know is not out of aggression she just doesn’t understand. Reading your articles have given me so much knowledge thank you.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Vanessa,

      I am glad that the article was helpful. Bite inhibition is something that I do with all of my dogs and I do that with them even today to make sure that they maintain their soft mouth. It really helped me a lot when Shiba Sephy and I were going through our difficult period.

      While doing bite inhibition exercises, make sure to stay safe.

      If a dog is already biting hard, one of my earlier trainers suggested using a spoon for feeding. According to her, it is uncomfortable for dogs to bite down hard on the spoon, so it helps as an intermediate step, and keeps our fingers safe. I never really tried this though, since bite inhibition was something that I started at puppyhood with all of my dogs, so I am not sure how well it works.

      How are things going with your girl?

  12. susanna says

    Just wanted to say that I LOVE this site. I’m thinking of getting a Shiba Unu but I really want to make sure I’m prepared. I met one a little while back that was a fabulous balance of gently and mischevious and I completely fell in love!

    • shibashake says

      fabulous balance of gentle and mischievous

      Hahaha, what a great description!

      One doesn’t hear too much about the gentle side of Shiba but it is definitely there. Sephy is very gentle when playing with Shania, and is always willing to share toys with her, right from the beginning. I should write something about the gentle side of Shiba.

      Definitely share some pictures with us when you get your pup! πŸ˜€

  13. jess says

    Hi! GReat page thank you for all your info!
    Q for you..
    We adopted a year old am staff from shelter. hes great, no food aggression or toy/bone etc..but he gets these bursts of energy and will start to bounce off the walls/couch etc (literary!) and bite really. he gets very excited and will start panting for an hour while being extremely all seems playful but is unacceptable and its extremely difficult making him stop as he simply gets ‘crazy’. he gets plenty of walks etc..but still seems to get super anxious and does this regardless. he can be really calm on the floor or next to us and chew his toys/bones but w/in minutes he drops whatever toy hes playing with and charges at us while we are sitting on the couch ane he does so with teeth biting jumping on your head face back and grab whatever he can with the teeth. ‘ouch’ ‘stop’ and any noise simply excites him MORE. hes very brave and nothing scares or startles him to make him stop etc. w/o putting him into a corner, his cage or separate room for 15minutes ethers no way of stopping him from this frenzy..why is he doing this? he bites really hard and im all bruised up, he also can grab arm and hes not mouthy he bites and holds..and how can i correct this? hes already 55lbs and looks like he will probably gain 10 more and we cant have him become this out of control..its like hes literary in a zone when he gets like this and if you dont defend yourself he will keep attacking and!! its completely unprovoked and he will just see you sitting on the couch/chair and he will run up biting! im at loss of what to do here with him
    thanks for any input!

    • shibashake says

      Hello Jess,

      Time of day could be a reason. Dogs are crepuscular, so they are most active at dawn and dusk. My dogs usually have the most active play sessions during those times. However, my Sibe puppy, Lara (who is now over 1 year old), is pretty energetic throughout the day and tires everybody out. πŸ˜€

      Lara is also very good at sensing the emotions of people around her and she is very attuned to motion. Sometimes, when I get excited, frustrated, and fearful, she picks up on that, and gets really hyper because that is the way that she deals with stress. I find that remaining calm is very important while dealing with Lara’s hyper bouts.

      With Lara, I left a drag-lead on her during her early training period. When she starts any craziness, I no-mark the behavior calmly (Ack-ack) to let her know that it is undesirable. Then I redirect her onto a toy. If she redirects, then I praise her and play with her. This rewards her for doing the right thing.

      If she continues, then I withdraw my attention by standing up, folding up my arms, and turning away from her. If she escalates her behavior by jumping and biting on clothing, then I calmly say “Timeout” and remove her to her timeout area.

      Here are some of my additional hyper dog experiences.

      Congratulations on your new family addition and 4 paws up for helping out a dog in need. πŸ˜€

  14. Jacqui says

    Hi there!

    Thank you for your fantastic page, it has been very helpful to me! i have just purchased a sibe off a local breeder and she will be coming home with me in 2weeks. i was hoping you could give me some advice on all aspects of basic training. is there any particular books you recommend? i am particularly wanting to ensure that she does not take ‘a liking’ to my cat and chase it or worse. I am also concerned about recall training as i have heard it is not one of their strong points? any help would be greatly appreciated! thanks, Jacqui

  15. Lisa says

    I have 2 huskies. The female is 12 years old and is sweet and gentle. We have had her since she was 4 (our friends owned her before that.) She is never aggressive unless chasing squirrels. She doesn’t even bother our cats. about a year and a half ago, we got a male husky that had been in 2 homes before age one. The original owner bought the dog for their adult son and then he was left chained to a tree outside for 12-14 hours a day. They were told they had to get rid of him and they gave him to a neighbor. The neighbor didn’t like that he chewed things and could jump their fence. This is how we got him. We have an acre of land with a fence and an electric fence. He is a male dog. He is very aggressive and possessive of toys, food, and me. He guards the food at times and did not like if we took the food. Same with his toys. I have been hand feeding him. He tends to take it softer if I flat hand the food but if I am holding out a bone he sometimes takes it aggressively.
    My main concern is that he is aggressive towards our other dog. I can give them both a biscuit and our female will eat it but the male will sit down with it in front of him. Even when the 2 dogs are separated he will do this. Then if he thinks the other dog wants it, a fight insues. He actually tore her lower eyelid this past time. When our female want to come near me, he will get up and block her way. How can I get him to realize he cannot behave this way? I don’t want to have to make him go to yet another home. We have had him for 1 1/2 years. He is a sweet dog and they don’t conflict all day just certain times. We used to leave fod out for them in 2 bowls but I have stopped that. I just don’t know when to feed them as they don’t eat on a regular schedule like other dogs.

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I got a new Siberian Husky puppy last year (puppy Lara). In the beginning, my Shiba Inu (Sephy) would also guard his food and toys from puppy. Dogs usually compete and fight over resources which may include food and toys, but it may also be attention from us, sleeping space, digging space, etc.

      Some things that helped Sephy and Lara get along-
      1. I supervise them very closely and make sure that there is no stealing. When I cannot supervise, I make sure that no stealing can occur.
      2. When there are conflicts, I step in and resolve them. In this way, my dogs learn to let me handle things and not try to handle it themselves.
      3. I do not allow them to use aggression with each other. If they show aggressive behavior I non-mark them (No or Ack-ack) to let them know that it is unacceptable. If they continue, they go to time-out.
      4. I set them up for success. For example bully sticks is really high priority with my dogs, so when they are working on those, I separate them. In this way they can enjoy their bully stick without worrying about being disturbed.
      5. All dogs have to follow the same rules and I try to be very consistent about rewards and consequences.

      I also did a lot of group obedience training sessions with Sephy and Lara. This teaches them that when they work together they both get really good treats, attention, and even fun games. I try to manage things so that they get rewarded most when they cooperate. I also reward them for being calm around each other.

      Here are more of my experiences with introducing a new dog into the family-

  16. says

    Hi, I have a puppy named Zara that will turn 2 months old this Nov. 10. She’s cute and I like to hold her always but she’s really very energetic and just like yours, she bites anything including my hands and feet.
    I can relate much to BOLDASLOVE’s comment. But, I will try your advice regarding hand-feeding and hopefully this will lessen or soften her biting habit.
    Thank you so much for this article.

  17. Deana Lawrence says

    Well, I have a 4 year old neutered male Shiba (Raider) and right when I was about to give up on him ever being a normal dog, his behavior stabilized. He is over the biting up our things (including the whole underneath of an antique velvet chair) and having accidents inside. He has never shown aggression, leash biting or possessive behaviors for toys or food. What I’m trying to figure out is why he just bit my 4 year old nephew in the face. My nephew has several large breed dogs so he has no fear and was simply petting him on the head. I know Raider doesn’t have that much experience with children but he’s enjoying being petted by him and without a single growl or bark he just bit. Obviously I can’t have an animal that just bites people in the face without at least giving them a warning growl. I sure love that little shiba so any advice on what to do would be really appreciated!

    • shibashake says

      Hello Deana,
      One of the things that really helped with Sephy was getting some help from a professional trainer. There were several cases where we had a difficult time reading his body language, but the trainer was able to see it, teach us what to look out for, and what to do when it happens.

      Also, Shiba Sephy is a lot more tolerant with people and dogs that he is familiar with. For example, he has no problems letting his play pals and the other family dogs sniff his butt, invade his space, and play rough with him. However, he does not like new dogs invading his space and he definitely does not allow butt sniffing. He also prefers being scratched in the chest rather than being petted from above, which can sometimes appear threatening. Usually, when he is uncomfortable, he has a very stiff posture, his mouth is closed, and sometimes he may vocalize.

      Dog body language is often difficult to read and some of it happens very quickly. A professional trainer can really help with that. Another possibility is to record Raider and then play it back in slow motion.

      Another thing that helped with Sephy are handling exercises. We slowly desensitized him to being touched in various places, so now he is more tolerant of people touching his tail, paws, head, etc.

      This article on dog greetings may also be of interest –

  18. KIKU says

    Great site Thank you.
    I have a gorgeous brilliant intelligent fantastic one year old Shiba called KIKU. Absolutely love him as he lays upsidedown next to me and he’s so Shiba. I love the quirky opportunistic diligent persistent character and thrill to see how his mind works. My vet has been and is saying it’s time to neuter him – my son hate the idea (well he’s male too)and I’m on the fence not wanting to loose any of his character and have left it to now as I wanted him to develop good bones etc. He’s really well socialized at a good dog park – avoid Sundays – manic owners lol.
    I also may want to get him a friend a female Shiba so….
    Looking for advice on best answer and cone story and then biting not good.
    Thanks for your answer

    • shibashake says

      Hello Kiku, Nice to meet ya!

      In terms of neutering, it is clearly a very personal decision. Shiba Sephy is neutered and I did not notice any changes in his Shiba-ness before and after neutering.

      Since Shibas are already stubborn and dominant, I decided that neutering was a really good thing for Sephy. It can only help to make things better. πŸ˜€

      Dealing with Sephy after neutering was not fun since he absolutely hates the cone, but it was a very short term thing. We let Sephy wear the cone for 2 weeks, which is the maximum amount and did not remove the cone until the stitches were removed.

      Some Shiba owners report a much shorter cone time and some did not require a cone – so it is greatly dependent on temperament.

      In general, I decided that 2 weeks of general unpleasantness was better than having to deal with any undesirable behavioral changes it *may* contribute to in the future, especially as Sephy matures.

      The Humage Society has a page on common concerns of neutering or spaying –

  19. shibashake says

    Hi Sarah,
    Happy Holidays.

    Wrt. the food aggression, it is just as important to not reward him for showing any kind of aggression. If he bites, then non-mark and stop feeding. If he continues, then stop feeding altogether and try later.

    It sounds like Shiba has learned that showing aggression means he gets the food all to himself, so you want to show him that aggression = no food whereas calm = food. In general, it is best to not put him in a situation where he is likely to practice aggression. The more he practices it, the more it will become a habit.

    Another thing that may help is to put a lead on him and stand a certain distance from the food bowl. Then walk a step towards the food bowl, do some obedience commands with him, and reward him for doing the commands. If he is calm and able to handle that, then move a bit closer and so on. If he starts acting out in any way, then you have moved forward too quickly, so move back and repeat.

    The key to the exercise is to always set him up for success – i.e. only move to a distance that you are sure he can handle so that he does not keep practicing aggression around the food bowl. You want to reduce the number of aggression episodes and increase the number of calm successes. I would only try one thing at a time, so that there is less chance of confusion, and greater consistency.

    Is he only aggressive with the food bowl? Is he aggressive with food toys?

    With aggression, it is usually very helpful to get a professional trainer to come over and observe Shiba. A lot of training is very situational and based on timing things exactly right. A good professional trainer will be able to read Shiba’s body language and come up with a good step-by-step program to help Shiba achieve success.

    Good luck. Shania sends her licks, love, and positive energy. πŸ™‚

  20. Sarah says

    Hello once again! My puppy is now 6 months old and has shown major progress in almost ALL his behaviors. He never did the leash-biting thing, he loves his walks so much that stopping for ANYTHING just doesnt interest him, haha. His bite inhibition is wonderful, he almost NEVER puts his teeth on me and if he accidentally does, he licks where he bit. I have fully accepted that he loves to steal things he is not supposed to, so I just laugh, give him a stern “no” and swap the item out with one of his favorite toys. Now, when I said almost all his behaviors and almost never bites .. I still have made ZERO progress with his food aggression. I hand fed him every day and night for 2 weeks straight, stroking his chest, cheeks, or chin while he ate from my hand .. my puppy doesnt care, he will bite any hand that feeds him. There have been days where one meal would take 3 hours to eat bc he just wants to tear apart whichever hand doesnt have food in it. I’ve tried taking him on a walk before each meal, forget it. I have tried approaching him without touching him and instead put pieces of his favorite treat into his bowl, usually repeated that about 4-5 times throughout the duration of his meal. Well that was okay. But once he knows food is present, he just gets angry at anything that tries to touch him in any manner. He is not aggressive when someone is near, its when he’s being touched or sees he’s about to be touched. And outside of mealtime, I have never taken something away from him without redirecting or replacing whatever he wasnt supposed to have with something he is allowed to have. I do not think I have ever approached him in any negative manner .. so for the life of me, I can not explain why he absolutely HATES being touched in the presence of his food. His food has never been taken away from him, never had another dog to compete with, nothing I can think of that would make him WANT to guard his food so heavily. But he has broken skin now more than 10x during his mealtime while he try to figure out what works and what doesnt. But I just dont know what DOES work!

    Anything else I could try? Or is being touched just something that my dog will never accept during mealtime??

  21. shibashake says

    Hahaha – that is so typical Shiba. They will always do the opposite of what you expect them to do.

    Whenever I catch myself thinking – “Sephy is a very good boy nowadays” – the next day he will do something really naughty πŸ™‚

    You mentioned the escalation of energy – is this by chance the moment they completely lose it and start sprinting around the apartment at full speed, performing extremely close fly-bys with little regard for the safety of you, objects or themselves ?

    What you describe is the famous Shiba 500! My Shiba just did that this morning. Lots of Shibas do it and there are some fun videos on YouTube.

    Love your description – lol

    The Shiba 500 is usually entertaining and seems to be great fun for Shibas. I just get out of the way or stand close to walls πŸ™‚

    Above, I was referring to escalation of bad energy. When I got nervous or stressed, my Shiba would get that way too but with a 100 times greater gusto. This happened a lot when we saw other dogs on walks, and he would redirect his craziness into leash biting which was not fun at all.

  22. Tim says

    Thanks for all the great advice !

    I took him out earlier for a quick pee and he met a couple of the local kids, of course he was the perfect angel and laid down in their laps for a belly rub without even a slight nip at them….. I quote “oh he’s so calm and sweet, he’s the perfect puppy, mooooommmmm can we get a puppy like Ridley ?” – little bugger. Guaranteed when he starts getting vocal, the local rescue will be coming round with tips from the neighbors that I’m beating him ! Anyway, after seeing that behaviour, I knew he was capable of it all the time and probably just needed a new direction. It took about 3 timeouts and after a long talk in the spare bathroom ( the most boring room in the apartment ) he was lying on his back getting tickles, mouth closed, eyes shut and not a fang in sight. Looks to be learning that biting his adoptive father, isn’t the way to go, so, we’re making some progress today ( saying that he’s in time-out right now for a humping offense ).

    You mentioned the escalation of energy – is this by chance the moment they completely lose it and start sprinting around the apartment at full speed, performing extremely close fly-bys with little regard for the safety of you, objects or themselves ?

  23. shibashake says

    Hello Tim,
    Congratulations on your new furball. Sounds like he is being very true to his Shiba roots πŸ™‚

    Re biting –
    Generally the “ouch” technique works best if you follow it up with something else – either redirection onto a toy, issuing an alternate command, or stop interaction. There are three ways to stop interaction –

    • Stand up, fold arms, and ignore. If Shiba escalates behavior to jumping and more biting I would non-mark and do a time-out.
    • Walk away and leave him in his pen if he is in a pen.
    • Time-out.

    Having a drag lead (only with a flat collar) help a lot with controlling my Shiba at home.

    Re walking –

    Another thing that helped me with my Shiba is to turn around and walk in the opposite direction when he pulled. Sometimes I would be walking back and forth in the same area and not make much progress – but eventually Shiba will get over his stubbornness and learn that the quickest way to get somewhere is not to pull.

    The turning around helped because we were still moving and Shiba still had an outlet for all his excited energy.

    As for leash-biting I am very strict about that with my Shiba because initially he escalated his leash-biting behavior to scary levels. He would grab onto my jacket and do kill moves and such.

    I tried lots and lots of techniques to stop this – and finally what worked for me is to hold the leash close to his collar (gives me good control) and walk him briskly home. By giving him no lead – the leash won’t get tangled up, and the brisk walk gives him an outlet to channel his energy and gives him no chance to start the leash biting again.

    Here are all the other things I tried to stop the leash biting.

    Re humping –

    Humping is an automatic time-out offense for my Shiba. The drag-lead is very helpful here because then I can very easily stop him and take him to time-out right away.

    This way he learns that if he wants to hump people he doesn’t get to be with people.

    I also do not let him hump other dogs.

    What helped me the most with humping is in controlling my energy. Initially I got stressed and nervous with my Shiba whenever he would start acting crazy and this would only make him escalate his behavior even more and go into humping. Once I was able to control my energy and stay more calm things improved significantly.

    You also want to follow the NILIF program (Nothing in Life is Free). Only give your Shiba something (even something like letting him into the backyard) after he does something for you first.

  24. Tim says

    Hi Shibashake,

    I have a 14 week old Shiba called Ridley – seemed a good mischievous name !

    I’ve had him for almost a week and generally he is improving with his house training and behaviour, but his biting continues to be a problem since he has chosen to ignore the “ouch” technique, so i’m looking to start the time-out plan. He has no problems with guarding food, although he does take a move towards his toys as an excuse to get a little rough an embark on some tug of war which i have avoided since day 3. He loves to get his belly scratched and tickled so he certainly seems to trust me, However, I have walked him as much as possible since I brought him home and nothing I try stops his jumping, wriggling or pulling. On the rare occasion he walks with a loose leash and doesn’t get distracted by every area of grass or passing leaf, i treat him, but the typical routine for him is to run to the distraction, pull really hard ( I will stop, not jerk, but also not give him anymore leash either ) and he will tend to lie flat and continue his joy of ripping up grass and weeds and tossing them in the air until i lift him and extract the foliage from his mouth. Its all very cute, but I can’t make it 30ft without a stop. I’ve tried the stop/start method, but he really goes nuts on the leash, biting it, even flipping almost 360 the other night… what do you suggest ?

    Also, he goes for the hump now and then – whats the best thing to deal with that ? Walk into them so that they fall back, or time-out them ?



  25. shibashake says

    Hi Jeff,

    Sorry to hear about the episodes with Jack. Reminds me of the crazy leash biting episodes I had with my Shiba. I think my neighbors thought he was about to kill me. They would often come out and watch and shake their heads πŸ™‚

    Still even today, my Shiba reverts to instinct when he is hurt. I usually can’t get near him for a while, until he calms down, and then maybe he will let me look at what is hurting him. Shibas are a primitive lot.

    Congratulations on your new child! I think you are doing the right thing and it is good that you were there to help Jack along the way when he needed it.

  26. shibashake says

    Its been almost a week into my new training techniques … and I have had wonderful progress!

    I am so happy to hear that Sarah! Your Shiba is really lucky to have you πŸ™‚ Shibas need a lot more work than many other dog breeds especially in the beginning but they do get easier and easier as time goes by.

    They will still always try to get away with things though – just to see if they can πŸ˜€ Gotta love that Shiba spirit!

  27. Jeff says

    Further update:

    All was going extremely well. Then Jack got another stuffed toy on the way out of the garage. This toy triggered his aggressive posessive behavior again. I walked 1.5 miles with him, and he kept the toy in his mouth.

    We reached the park, while on leash, he began to shake toy, looked at me and lunged to bite. I had him on leash pulled him away. We walked and left toy behind.

    After a 3 hour walk we returned home. Feed him. I sat out on the porch while he slept under my chair. At one point he bagan playing with his food bowl, returned near me and fell a sleep. He woke up looked at me, and jumped up on me to bite.

    At first he was using was just grabbing. I said no, he stopped. He started again,I used the ‘ack-ack’ and he stopped. But all along he was using his body to push me. He actually went back to sleep under my chair, and I did not give up ground.

    He woke a second time, and again jumped to bite me. This was all very strange.

    I then realized the soft toy had triggered this, and now he saw his bowl as his new toy and had to protect it. He was grabbing my arm and not biting, but he was relentless. I said no, he stopped and then started again. I again used the ‘ack-ack’ he stopped and pushed his body against me. I knew that he was defending his bowl, so i reached to grab it, that is when it changed.

    he want from grabbibng to actual biting. Now he is a 30 lb dog, has a bite that can scratch and do a little harm. So I cam out with a few marks and scratches.

    I came in side, and he actually lunged snarling at the glass door.

    I gave him an hour to cool down, and I had to clam my mind.

    Went back out with leash, took him for a 1 hour rollerblading excursion.

    He was ok last nigt and all day today.

    I have decided that it is best if he moves on. My wife and I are adopting a child in a few months, and I cannot have a dog with this issue around. As attached as we have become this is the one issue that decided it.

    Tomorrow other members of the rescue group are coming to assist. Fortunately through all of this a women has contacted the group that is interested in Jack.

    I have done a lot with Jack and I am happy to have made some big progress, but now the job is going to be handed over to someone else.

    I would like to thank you very much for your advice and running this website.

  28. Sarah says

    Shiba Shake,

    Its been almost a week into my new training techniques (Thanks to you and Sephy!) and I have had wonderful progress! After I asked about the petting vs being near food, I have learned my little Shiba shows his worst aggression when someone attempts to pet him. So I decided to work on the approaching part first and made sure that no one touched him while he ate. I would drop a few yummy treats in his dish while he was eating and give his chin a quick rub .. and now there is ZERO aggression towards me when I approach or try to take his dish away. He is aggressive when someone else tries to do it, so I’m going to work on that some more. But I sense great progress in the future. :]

    And the NILIF program is working great too. The first couple days or so were difficult, especially when I let him out and it was time to come inside, I would ask him to sit and he wouldnt so I just closed the door and walked away. He eventually caught on that “no listen” meant “no inside” for him, haha. His overall behavior is a lot more calm too. He’s not actually calm, but a lot more from what he used to be!, haha.

  29. shibashake says

    He has lost all interest in being possessive.

    That is awesome to hear Jeff!!

    It is great that you took such positive steps, and put in the time and effort, as soon as you noticed the problem. That is the best way to retrain a negative behavior.

    I think Jack is meant to stay with you and your family as well πŸ™‚ Lucky Shiba!

    Post us a picture of that rascal when you have the time πŸ™‚

  30. Jeff says

    Another week in and Jack (the Shiba) is doing very well. He is getting along with everyone, dogs, people, kids. We gave him a kong toy and that he keeps on out on the porch. He has lost all interest in being possessive.

    Our beagle is now accepting him more and more, although with a few skirmishes.

    Being that we are fostering him, we did have a visit with a family last Saturday. The visit went very well, but apparently Jack is meant to stay with us.

    He is slowly becoming a part of the family.

  31. shibashake says

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m just wondering .. is food aggression generally displayed when a dog is approached while eating or from being touched while eating??

    Both can occur.

    Dogs usually see petting from above as a threat or dominance move and may get fearful and/or aggressive. According to what I read, when dogs interact with other dogs, they often show dominance by placing their paw across another dog’s shoulders. This is similar to when we pet dogs from above, so dogs may not react well to this gesture.

    Aggression can happen with or without food, although it is even more likely to occur when food is involved because then, the dog has something valuable to protect.

    When meeting new dogs I always approach them from below the head and scratch their chest rather than patting them on the head.

    Food aggression in response to petting is usually the first step – and then that may develop into an aggressive response to just proximity.

    The good news is that dogs, even Shibas, can be trained/conditioned to like petting and stroking. Here is an article on dog hug training. πŸ™‚

    For now, I would stop petting him from above while he is eating. Instead, do desensitization exercises with light touches that are paired with hand-feeding.

    Good luck! Keep us updated on your progress.

  32. Sarah says

    Hi ShibaShake! Thank you so much! I really enjoyed the second article you posted, there were a lot of great tips in there that I havent tried yet. The funny thing with my Shiba is, he does not guard his toys. Only his food .. or any food including my own, that may be present. I am definitely going to try to follow that NILIF program with him, hopefully keeping him in a steady routine with all of this will help.

    After reading the article, I tried the very first tip and added some treats to my Shibas bowl while he was eating. He would take a few steps back at first when he saw my hand, but he never growled and barely curled his lips, lol. I’m just wondering .. is food aggression generally displayed when a dog is approached while eating or from being touched while eating?? I have noticed my Shiba will not show as much aggression when he’s being approached at his eye level, but when he’s being approached from above his head, like when being pet, he gets really aggressive. I read specifically not to reach down and pet or stroke him while he’s eating, my fiance does this a lot so it peaked my curiosity.

    It took me forever to find good, Shiba-related articles so I am so glad I have come across you and Sephy! :]

  33. shibashake says

    Hi Sarah,
    You are absolutely right that Shibas are more of a challenge than many other dog breeds. They are naturally more dominant, extremely stubborn, and will use their dog smarts to challenge you in any way that they can.

    There are times where I may ask him to β€œsit” and instead of sitting right away, he will come up to me, sniff, and if there’s nothing he likes, he walks away.

    lol – that sounds really familiar. Shibas are generally that way. If you want them to do something, you have to make it worth their while. This does not mean you have to always give them food – you just have to show them that it is in their best interest to listen to you.

    I highly recommend following the NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free) program. This simply means Shiba has to do something for you before he gets anything in return. He sits before getting to go out in the backyard, he does a series of obedience commands before getting a food toy, etc.

    As for object guarding – my Shiba used to do a bit of that when he was a puppy. When he was young, he was always picking up crap when we go out on walks – tissues, dirty objects, whatever. I did not want him to eat the stuff and get sick, so I always took it out of his mouth. Soon he began to associate me coming near him as a signal that he was about to lose his prized possessions so he started guarding.

    In general, you want to stop him before the gets the stuff by body blocking him or by using a lead. My Shiba still wears a short drag lead which was extremely useful (and still is useful) for keeping him out of trouble.

    At the same time, you want to help your Shiba associate people coming near him while he is eating with good things and positive experiences. Here are some techniques that may help –

    The object exchange game, and interactive food toys were very good for my Shiba. Let Shiba work for all of his food from interactive food toys rather than giving everything to him in a bowl.

    In general you want to set Shiba up for success and don’t expose him to situations where he resorts to aggression. If he uses aggression and people back away, he will learn that aggression works and keep repeating that behavior.

    Instead you want to show him that people coming up to him means he gets even more food, and nothing gets taken away from him. But do it slowly – for example just give him a little bit of food in the bowl. Then walk away to a good distance. From a distance, toss a bit of food into the bowl. Then walk a bit closer, and if he is calm and behaves, then toss more food into the bowl. If he starts showing aggression, then you have moved forward too quickly. So just walk away and Shiba gets nothing.

    Wait for a bit and then try again. In this way, he learns that people coming near him means more food in his bowl but showing aggression means people will leave and the food stops appearing.

    If he is doing well with hand-feeding I would also continue doing that, and also do bite inhibition training. Bite inhibition is extremely useful for a Shiba because they are a naturally mouthy breed.

    My Shiba was doing some crazy leash biting when he was younger, and bite inhibition really saved us both πŸ™‚

    Getting a professional trainer can also be very helpful. Find one who has previous experience with Shibas. Initially I went to some trainers that had no clue how to train and interact with Shibas and the results were not the best. Reward training worked best on my Shiba.

    Thanks for dropping by Sarah. Let me know how it goes.

  34. Sarah says

    And also, the friend wasnt feeding him and our puppy was just diligently sitting in front of him while he ate, I’m sure in hopes of getting something. My concern in that his aggression seems to be getting out of control and I feel partial to blame never having a dog like this before, but he’s still young and I feel its not to late to fix this. I knew what I was getting into with Shibas, but all of them are very different. He has never hurt anyone, but that is not a risk I am willing to take.

  35. Sarah says

    Hi there! I have found all of your articles incredibly useful and I am so glad that I have come across this. I was reading through previous user posts to see if anyone has had any issues similar to mine and it seems I am on my own. I may need to seek a professional, but I suppose it doesnt hurt to ask! I have a 4 month old Shiba that I purchased from a great cage-free kennel close to my home. I got him at exactly 8 weeks old and he started his puppy obedience training at about 10 weeks. I have never had a dog quite like the Shiba, I’m used to your typical calm, collective Labrador! This is quite the change, so any tips I can get are greatly welcomed.

    He did alright in the classes, but he is very, very food driven and getting him to cooperate or listen to me is difficult unless he knows I have a treat. There are times where I may ask him to “sit” and instead of sitting right away, he will come up to me, sniff, and if there’s nothing he likes, he walks away. How can I curb this and get him to cooperate without the constant need for a treat, but still get him to want to listen??

    And now my biggest concern .. My puppy is EXTREMELY food aggressive. We keep him on a strict diet getting fed once in the late morning and once a few hours before bedtime. Never people food or table scraps of any sort and always eating after I do. I have tried feeding him by hand and he is wonderfully gentle. But the moment his food turns up in a bowl, anyone within 6 inches from him gets a good growl from him and occasionally he’ll snap. He has never hurt anyone though. I read about trying to associate my hand with “good food” while he’s eating, I have not yet tried that and just may.

    However, he knows he will never get table scraps or food while I eat, but just recently he has been getting aggressive with HUMAN food. Last week, I dropped a piece of chocolate onto the ground and he managed to run off with it, when I caught up to him and tried to take it and throw it away, he growled at me the moment my hand got near it. I figured it was because he had already gotten a hold of it and already deemed it “HIS” before I was able to pick it up. We use “no no” when he does something wrong, so he got one of those and some time alone in his kennel. Just yesterday, my fiances friend came over to hang out and brought lunch with him and while he was sitting down eating it, my fiance tried to pick up our dog so he wasnt bothering the friend while he ate, and he snapped quite a few times at my fiance. Still hadnt had people food by that point and wasnt able to run off with anything, so I was not understanding why he was being aggressive over this and snapping when WE got anywhere near the food he wanted.

    So I’m just curious if you’ve ever heard of Shibas doing this before or if there is any way we can begin to fix that issue?? I understand food aggression, I just have never known a dog to act that way over something he never gets.

  36. shibashake says

    Hi Jeff, So glad to hear that things are going so well.

    Rollerblading with Shiba sounds like a lot of fun for everyone. I would love to do it too but our area is pretty hilly and my rollerblading skills are pretty lame πŸ™‚ Need a lot more practice.

    Make sure he doesn’t misbehave with your wife either. Shibas will take advantage of whomever they can take advantage of πŸ™‚

  37. shibashake says

    Hi Kelly, Hope things are better. I would be very interested to hear how Kumi behaves after her spay – so please drop by and let us know. πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  38. Jeff says


    Thank you for responding to my posting a few days ago. Since that time I have had good time to spend with the new Shiba. I have removed the toy from the picture.

    I have fed him by hand directly out of his bowl, and there is absolutely no indication of food aggression, which is good.

    He has stolen his empty bowl off the counter and I have been able to retrieve it as well as a few other items that he has stolen, all without incident.

    I have given him cookies and small rawhides that he can eat relatively quickly and also no issue.

    As this all started I immediately began taking him out on my rollerblades for an hour or so. This has helped burn off any anxious behavior. The other night on the way through the garage he found where I put the toy we had given him, grabbed it and brought it on our skate session. At one point he dropped it, and growled slightly at me. One pull of the leash and he picked it up and we were off skating again. He finally dropped it when he saw one of my neighbors and 2 dogs. He was easily distracted and forgot all about the toy.

    This morning he picked up a piece of plastic on our walk and i was able to get him to open and drop with a little growl but that was it.

    I will keep you posted on progress.

  39. Kelly says

    Thanks. This is helpful. Kumi jumps on the huskies so fast sometimes, that I don’t have the opportunity to observe the triggers. However, I have been leaning toward the dominance issue, as our oldest husky, Skya, has always been the dominant female (by the way, they are ALL females). Skya was rescued and was never fixed, Sikari was fixed almost as soon as we got her.

    But I have watched Kumi from day one, and know that she has already tried to take over that leader of the pack role. Skya, getting older, has pretty much allowed her to take over. Sikari has never been dominant, nor does it appear that she ever wanted to be. Which is why I was so shocked at last night’s incident.

    Kumi will be fixed in the next few weeks. Skya is in heat again now (funny how THAT happened) and cannot be fixed because she is sickly and they do not believe she can survive a surgery. I’m hoping that Kumi calms down once she has had her surgery, but I do wonder how she will be toward Skya each time Skya goes into heat. I plan to try the time out method on Kumi with any bad behavior this evening and will keep you posted.

    Until then, thank you for all of your words of advise.

  40. shibashake says

    Hello Kelly,

    I do not breed dogs, and therefore have little experience with unfixed dogs. Based on what you describe, the issue could be related to that. It could also be that Kumi is growing up and trying to assert her dominance with the pack.

    Keeping a long lead on her when you are around to supervise (with a flat collar) can help with separating them from a safe distance. When you are not around to supervise, put her in her crate. It is unclear what the trigger event is, so you want to observe her very closely to identify what sets her of. At the same time, you want to stop her as soon as she shows any aggression – raised lip, still stance, etc. Don’t wait until she gets into it.

    One thing that really helped me a lot when I was having troubles with my Shiba is visiting the Shiba breeders that lived nearby. They were very helpful and let me know what to expect from my Shiba and what were normal Shiba behaviors.

    They may be a great resource for you as well. I used the breeder directory at the National Shiba Club

    The nihonken message board can also be a great resource –

    A professional trainer can also help with observing Kumi and seeing what actually triggers the aggression. Is it a resource issue, reproductive (hormonal) issue, fear issue, dominance issue, or something else. Then you can use desensitization to train Kumi to re-associate the trigger event with positive alternate behaviors.

    If it is a reproductive issue – spaying could help.

  41. Kelly says

    I have 9 and 5-year-old siberian husky’s (Skya and Sikari, respectfully) and a now 10-month old shiba (Kumi).

    All of the dogs have gotten along so well, until recently, when my shiba has begun attacking both of the husky’s. We can not figure out what is provoking Kumi to attack (out of nowhere) and last night, in trying to get Kumi off of Sikari, Kumi bit my husband’s hand quite badly.

    My husband is now very afraid of what Kumi will do and wants to get rid of her because he doesn’t want to feel like he has to keep the dogs apart – which would be quite difficult since we all live in the same house; nor does he trust her alone with Skya and Sikari.

    None of this was an issue until Kumi went into heat for the first time. It seems that this has all been happening since that point. Have we missed the window to train her not to attack? By the way, she has so far gotten along quite well with all of the neighbor dogs and children. I made sure she was socialized well.

  42. shibashake says

    Hi Jeff,

    It may be best to consult a professional trainer about this. A trainer will be able to see exactly what triggers your Shiba and will be able to accurately judge the strength of his reaction.

    Often times, dogs develop resource aggression because they have had negative experiences with people taking away their toys. When dogs show aggression and people back away, they learn that aggression gets them what they want and therefore they keep repeating that behavior and may even escalate.

    I would stay away from using alpha rolls or other physical techniques on a dog when he is in such a state. There was this episode on the Dog Whisperer with a dog called Bella, who had food aggression issues. Cesar kept his distance from the dog because a dog with extreme food aggression can do quite a lot of damage. That is why it is best to get a professional trainer to help with reading the dog, seeing what all his triggers are (e.g. all toys, new toys, squeaky toys, sticks, a piece of paper, food), and setting up a program to reduce his resource guarding behavior.

    For now, you don’t want to give him anything that would trigger this behavior. Dogs get especially protective over things like rawhide and such, so don’t give him high priority items, or any items that will encourage his guarding behavior. Consider using the Nothing in Life is Free program – which shows your Shiba that you and your wife are the source of all his resources. However, only do it if it is safe – i.e., there are no food aggression issues.

    Here is an article on resource guarding.

    In terms of bite inhibition, one thing you can try is to feed him food slowly by using a long metal spoon. It is uncomfortable for dogs to bite down too hard on metal, so this will teach them to regulate the force of their bites while taking food. Again – only do this if it is safe and if you are sure he won’t go for your hand. You can also do this across a baby door with bars for added safety.

    However, with cases of aggression, a professional trainer is usually the best thing because timing, and being able to read the dog, are especially important to achieve success and also stay safe.

  43. shibashake says

    lol Alex – that is a lovely story!

    Lupin is such a good boy, and that story really captures what a good thing bite inhibition is.

  44. Jeff says

    I have just rescued a Shiba that is a little over 1 year. he is so far perfect in almost all ways. However, and a big however, he is toy aggressive.

    With a toy in his possession he is outwardly aggressive. He attacked my wife, and then when i came down he attacked me. He grabbed my hand, and I managed to put him down in a submissive position. It took a few minutes of him screaming but he finally relaxed.

    This is our first experience with a Shiba. I have dealt with dog aggression before, but this is unique, because it is so far only with toys.

    I need help in two areas.

    1. What would be the best method for bite inhibition with a 1 year old dog?
    2. What is the best way to break the toy aggression?



  45. Alex says

    I don’t think I purposefully taught Lupin bite inhibition, I just find it annoying when a dog snatches things from you (like when treating them) in a quick manner. I just refused to give the food to him until did it in a calm way. As for when he was a puppy, we would pet/play with him and if he used his mouth would stop and give him a correction.

    Now people are amazed at how gently he takes food from them (he uses no pressure when taking the food, and very slowly removes it from your hand)

    While I don’t permit begging, this is a cute story. One time while coming back from the beach my sister was in our uncle’s truck with his two sons and Lupin in between them. It was a long car ride, and Lupin had to sit between our cousins with little room; the youngest would stir and yell at Lupin for no real reason, which would wake Lupin up and make him turn around and re position himself. Anyway, we were stopped in traffic on the interstate where a wreck had occured, and our uncle was eating a bag or cheetos. Lupin had his head lightly resting on my uncles shoulder, staring at the cheetos, like he does when he wants something but knows not to just take it. After a minute or so of this, my uncle asked if Lupin could have one, she told him he could, and so he presented Lupin with one. Lupin opened his mouth and very slowly put his mouth around the cheeto, retreated to the backseat and crunched away. Our uncle couldn’t believe how gently he’d taken the cheeto, and after that Lupin did no more begging.

  46. shibashake says

    “We hand fed her for the first week when we got her”
    Yay – good job. If you can, you really want to continue this hand-feeding process throughout her life. Doesn’t have to be all her food – just some of it every day.

    Re biting on hands, feet, etc –
    The best thing to do is to non-mark her (ack-ack), fold up your arms, and ignore her. Do not walk away, because then she will think it is a game and want to chase you and nip. If she keeps biting, remove her to time-out for a brief period. Let her out after about 30 seconds. Ignore her for a bit when you first let her out. If she is calm, praise her and treat her, you can also ask her for a command (Sit) before treating. Then leave her alone in a calm state for a while. If she starts biting again repeat the exercise above but this time put her on a slightly longer time-out.

    This teaches her that biting gets her into a boring room, while not biting gets her treats and praise.

    It is absolutely crucial not to move around too much – hands, feet, or anything while she is biting. Just fold your arms, stand, and ignore. With my Shiba, any response is a good response. You want to stay calm throughout the whole thing – no shouting, growling, or anything else. If she persists just remove her to time-out.

    Time-outs worked great on my Shiba so hopefully this will help. Let me know how it goes.

    Hugs to Suki πŸ™‚

  47. says

    We have a 13 week old shiba named suki – we have had her since she was 7 weeks, and we havn’t been able to top her from biting our hands yet. We yelp and turn away, she still bites. We grrr in a low voice like her mother, she still bites. She absolutely loves the water bottle, and will put her mouth around it while we spray so she can lick the water off it. And we try and give her toys to play with, but again, she likes the movement of our hands more.
    We hand fed her for the first week when we got her. She is nice and calm when we feed her, however when there isn’t food, that is where we have an issue.
    To top this off, she gets really mouthy around our feet and ankles too. Of course this is even harder to ignore, and she can really hurt around that area. The more we pull her off and turn / walk away, the more she wants to play. We even try to grasp the back of her neck like her mother would to pull her off when it gets severe. This still doesn’t deter her.
    I know that most of the time she is simply excited and wants to play, however I don’t know how to deter her. Have you seen this before?
    Thanks, Leis

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