Pack Leader To An Aggressive Dog

It is especially difficult to become pack leader to an aggressive dog because we will naturally fear our dog’s aggression.

My Shiba Inu used to have the worst bouts of aggressive leash biting. He would jump up on me, grab my jacket sleeve, and shake his head very rigorously, in what I call the kill-move (the shaking, head tossing motion that animals make to kill prey).

The more fearful I got of my dog, the more aggressive he became. He started humping my leg, and attacked the leash whenever I held it. Thankfully, he never broke skin, because of bite inhibition training. Nevertheless, I dreaded walking my dog, or even just being with him.

Here are some techniques that helped me conquer my fear, and become pack leader to my aggressive dog.

Pack Leader Tip 1

Practice calm and assertive energy.

Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer always emphasizes the importance of projecting calm and assertive energy, especially when interacting with an aggressive dog. If we interact with a dog using nervous, submissive, fearful, or otherwise weak (non-assertive) energy, the dog may react to that, and start showing aggression.

Anger, impatience, frustration, and all other non-calm energies will also excite a dog, and cause him to behave badly.

Some techniques that helped me remain calm and assertive include:

  • Taking deep breaths and focusing on breathing to remain calm.
  • Actively thinking of something else, whenever I start to get stressed about what my dog might do.
  • Using the “tsch” from Cesar Millan. No, it is not a magical sound for calming dogs, but it helps to remind me to stay calm and assertive.
  • Walking with an assertive posture (shoulders back, head up).

In addition, make sure that we are not putting undue tension on the leash.

The thing that helped me most was to imagine the worst that my dog could do. In the leash biting case, it was a bite to my hand or arm. I decided that for my Shiba Inu, I could deal with some bites. If he did that, I would hold firm, get him home as quickly as possible, and thus end the fun walk. If he continued to bite at me or the leash once we are home, I can put him directly in a time-out area. In this way, he learns that –

Biting on leash = End of walk or temporary loss of freedom,
No biting on leash = Fun walk and exploration continues.

Once I had a plan for dealing with the worst, I became less fearful.

Once my energy improved, my dog’s bad behavior also improved significantly.

Pack Leader Tip 2

Have a drag-lead on our dog and keep him on a schedule.

When our dog does something undesirable, it is always our reflex to chase after him. However, we will quickly realize that our dog can run much faster than we can!

To get better control of my dog and avoid chasing games, I usually put a drag-lead on him. Initially, I use a longer leash so that I can control him without being close to his mouth.

Only use a flat collar with the drag lead and NOT an aversive collar. Some example aversive collars include the prong collar and choke chain.

Also remember that while dealing with an aggressive dog, safety is of the utmost importance. If necessary, I muzzle my dog with a basket muzzle. A dog can still chew with a basket muzzle, and it is less restraining. To make the muzzling process less stressful, we may want to desensitize our dog to the muzzle, by pairing it with food and fun.

Pack Leader Tip 3

Have clear and consistent rules for our dog at all times.

In the beginning, we want to be more strict with our dog. Institute more rules so that we have many opportunities to show our dog, that we are the pack leader.

If my dog does not follow the rules, then he does not get his most desired resources, for example, access of the backyard, walks, yummy dog treats, fun dog toys, play time, and access to pack members.

One of the best ways to become pack leader to an aggressive dog is to control his resources by following the Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) program.

This just means that our dog does not get anything, until he does something for us first.

I do not give my dog all of his food on a silver platter. Instead, I use it for dog training, grooming, and other activities. I don’t leave food or high priority resources (e.g. food toys) out for him to use whenever he wants. Being pack leader means that I control the key resources, and I decide when, where, and for how long he gets access to those resources. Of course, I also make sure that my dog has many opportunities to work for all the things that he wants.

Some useful rules to establish and maintain pack leadership include:

  • No getting on furniture.
  • Sit calmly before going through doorways, and only go through on command.
  • No jumping on people.
  • No leash biting.
  • No food aggression. Must release resource (food, toys, or other items) on command.
  • Absolutely no growling, barring of teeth, mouthing, or biting of people.

Once we gain some confidence and our dog is behaving better, we may relax some of these rules.

Pack Leader Tip 4

More walks of shorter duration.

Most aggressive behaviors occur on neighborhood walks because that is when our dog is exposed to the most interesting stimuli (e.g. other dogs, cats, squirrels, people). On walks, we also have less control over the environment, and may not easily and quickly get our dog under control.

When I had troubles with my Shiba Inu, I shortened our walks but increased their frequency.

First, I would walk him in a heel position inside the house. Doing the heel exercise helps to put me in a pack leader mindset, and enforces my leadership status. In addition, if my dog starts any aggressive behaviors, I can more effectively stop him.

Once we are ready to go, we practice manners at the door. This helps to further secure my leadership role. My dog has to sit calmly while I open and close the door. If he remains calm, we can leave and start the walk.

Initially, I walked my dog close to the house, so that I can quickly end the walk, get him home, and put him on a time-out if he shows any aggression. As we started to have more and more successful short walks, I was able to gain more confidence, and control my fear. When things started improving, I slowly increased the distance and duration of the walk.

Pack Leader Tip 5

Address aggressive behaviors as soon as possible.

A good pack leader is a vigilant pack leader. Watch our dog closely, especially when he is young (< 1 year old). Stop any aggressive behaviors as soon as we see them.

If we do not address aggression issues early, our dog will likely escalate his behavior, and start practicing aggression in a broader range of contexts. Once this occurs, it will be harder to break him of the habit.

I do not let my dog leash bite, show teeth, growl, or mouth at me. Any of these offenses will get him a warning (ack ack). If he continues, he gets a time-out. I carefully manage the everyday details of our time together, so that I set both of us up for success.

Proper management can significantly increase the number of successes, reduce the number of aggressive episodes, and help us  become a good pack leader.

For aggression issues between two family dogs, please refer to Introducing a Second Dog into the Home.

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Comments

  1. Jenifer says

    Hi my boyfriend and I just recently got a Siberian Husky puppy, Bruno. Today is day 4 with him. Since day one, we have noticed he seems a bit aggressive during the early morning. During the day, afternoon, and evening he is very cuddly and playful. But in the early morning prior to going poop he is very aggressive, wants to jump on us, on the couch or bed, and if we try to touch him he shows teeth, growls, barks, and even bites. After he poops, he is a completely different pup. Because it has been consistent, I am unsure if its the food (Blue Wilderness for pups) or something else :(

    thoughts?

    • shibashake says

      How old is Bruno? What is his daily routine like? When he needs to poop later on in the day, does he also show this behavior? What is his body language like when he growls and bites, is it relaxed or stiff?

      My dogs are more excited and energetic in the early morning, and also right before and after poop time. Husky Lara will sometimes do zoomies + jumping in the backyard right after she poops.

      When my puppy is excited, she would jump and play-bite on me, especially when I try to interact with her, because she thinks I want to play. She has a relaxed body posture at this time, and may also do play-bows.

      I teach my puppy to control the force of her bites, especially with people (bite inhibition), because people have more sensitive skins than dogs do. I also train my puppy not jump on people. Dogs interact differently than people do, so I teach my puppy how to interact properly and safely with people.
      More on how I trained my Husky puppy.
      More on how I keep my puppy calm and discourage biting.
      More on how dogs learn.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and situation is different. Therefore, when in doubt, I get help from a good professional trainer.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

  2. Janice says

    Hello there, I adopted a male husky pup about a month ago and he’s about 10 months old now. I’d say he’s pretty much at his adult size. I have no idea what he was like beforehand but he is quite aggressive. Here’s a little run down:
    – Extremely aggressive with other dogs and will bite them or growl if he can’t get to them
    – Aggressively bite hands
    – Resource protective (food and toys)
    Thoughts, insights and advice?
    Thank you!

  3. SteveS says

    I wish I would have discovered your site when my Shiba (Duke) was younger! Duke is now 10 months old and about 4 months ago he started acting bi-polar. It’s hard to describe, but here goes:

    He gets very growly and sometimes snaps viciously in random situations. We initially thought he was simply resource guarding his food and bones. But it occurs when he is not near any food or even toys just as often. He often acts this way in the morning. Typically he is sitting on his chair in the kitchen, which is by the window so he can look outside. He’ll just be sitting there and if I go over there (calmly) and start to pet him he’ll start growling. If I don’t back away he will growl more and eventually snap at me. I have put him in timeout in the past, but it hasn’t seemed to have any impact, and it’s kind of scary to try to get him there (I will try using the drag lead). It’s a like he’s just very grumpy when he’s sleepy. He is great with other dogs (99% of the times, there have been a couple dogs he didn’t get along with).

    95% of the time he is a fantastic dog, very smart, friendly and playful. I really need to get him out of this habit. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated!

    • shibashake says

      What I have observed with Sephy is that he is very particular about his own person and his personal space. In addition, he is confident and sure about what he likes and what he dislikes. If he doesn’t want something done to him, he will say it loud and clear. My Huskies usually just submit when they see that there is no getting out, but not Sephy. If he thinks there is no other way out, he will fight. For things that are important to him, he will not give up and will not surrender.

      I have found that the best way to deal with Sephy is not to challenge him, but to make him think that it is his own idea to begin with. For example, if I want to give him affection, I may called him to me. He knows that when I do this, he will get rewarded with food if he comes. If he is hungry enough, he will come and let me pet him. By making him work for his food and everything else that he wants, I can get him to do a lot for me around the house. Its his own decision, so he behaves. Often, he will just come over on his own.

      With Sephy, it is much better to set him up for success. I manage his environment and do not expose him to more than he can handle. The more positive and calm interactions he has with me, the more well behaved he becomes. If I want to increase his tolerance to certain things, e.g. handling, I slowly desensitize him to it in a positive and structured way. More on how I desensitized Sephy to handling.

      There is an Aesop fable that I like called the North Wind and the Sun. The moral of the fable is that persuasion is better than force. I think that that really applies to Sephy and to Shibas in general. When challenged, he will really dig in and fight like crazy. However, if it is about working for the things that he wants, he attends to those tasks with the same tenacity. Therefore, I try to structure things so that his Shiba energy is directed to working with me, rather than against me.

      More on how I motivate my Shiba by controlling his resources.

  4. Alison says

    I have a 10 year old shiba inu and am at the point of considering rehoming due to his aggression at times!

    Basically whenever I or my husband attempt to attach his lead to go for a walk he’ll snarl and attempt to bite. He has connected on occasion drawing blood and its now at the stage that I dread the lead battles.

    We’ve tried a soft leather collar and a harness but it doesn’t seem to matter what he’s wearing, he simply does not want to go out. Once he IS out, its as quick as he can do his business and straight back to the house. He’ll try and slip his collar if you attempt to take him any further. He’s fine with other dogs so its not that.

    He does have lots of allergies (show me a shiba that doesn’t) and is now on a raw diet to see if that makes any difference but he has several lick granuloma on his paws that the vet keeps checking. He gets an antihistamine tablet every second day to try and help but the vet is reluctant to start steroid injections etc given his age.

    I have a 3 year old daughter and she’s always very good with him (no fur pulling etc). Tonight I went to attach his lead and after growling at me, he lunged with teeth bared and would have bitten had I not managed to close the door quickly and secure him in the utility room!

    He gets a walk morning and evening for between 20-30 mins but as I’ve said, once he’s done his business he refuses to go any further and will issue the shiba scream if you try to cajole him along (not pull I might add).

    He’s part of the family but I will not tolerate biting and either he stops or he goes.

    Ps I’ve also tried giving treats when putting on the lead but he just ignores them / ditto a toy etc as he’s too busy growling to notice.

    The main battle seems to be in the afternoon when I get in for work as I can’t leave his lead on for safety reasons. He has the run of the downstairs living room / kitchen and utility room when we aren’t in so isn’t cooped up in a cage or kennel during the day.

    Any suggestions to teach this old dog that walls are fun and the lead is a good thing? As a younger dog he had no issues but its just in the last year (like a grumpy old man not wanting to go out).

    • shibashake says

      So previously he was good with putting on the leash? Did his behavior change suddenly or did it happen more gradually? Did anything unusual happen at the time when his behavior changed? Were there other changes in behavior, changes in energy level, eating, etc? Is he feeling pain or discomfort from the allergy issues, and could that be causing the change in behavior?

      Does he snarl when people approach without a lead? Does he snarl when people approach with a toy or some other object? Is his aggressive behavior only with respect to the lead? So he is fine with putting on a collar or harness? Does he show aggression in other contexts? What was he like before last year?

      Does he simply not want to go out at all? What about going in the car? Does he go out into the backyard? Is he aggressive about the lead in the backyard?

      Sephy is also pretty picky about going out. Now that he is older, he goes out for a 1 hour walk in the mornings, and then he doesn’t want to go out anymore after that.

    • Alison says

      For the most part he’s a happy go lucky wee guy. Wags his tail at people that say hello on walks, will stand patiently if there are kids or puppies (so much so he’s been at daughters nursery and I’ve had other owners comment on how good he’s been with their puppy – letting it make the first moves rather than jumping straight in to play). We were very careful introducing him to our daughter when she was a baby and he’s very good with her (will let her brush him etc).

      He hates baths (most Shibas do I think!) and will scream like its molten lead on his back rather than water but its all noise – no aggression. ditto with car journeys but he’s been like that since a puppy. I don’t think it’s fear rather that its like a kid not liking school!

      He doesn’t like the vet and will growl if he’s to get an injection but normally doesn’t try to bite (just wriggle to get away).

      He’s had allergies since he was about 6 yrs old and had a thyroid test but came back negative. Last year he had an ear infection and had an operation but that’s been all clear for many months.

      He doesn’t like getting his harness or lead on. He’ll wear his collar ok and it doesn’t appear to cause any discomfort. The only issue is attaching the lead and going outside. He doesn’t get pulled and the collar is a simple leather one with holes and a buckle rather than a choke chain design so there’s little to no tension on the neck unless he’s pulling me. There is no skin sores etc where the collar is though under his legs are red on occasion (with the allergies) so when that happens we have him on the collar rather than harness. I find its easier to attach the lead to the harness so that’s why we tried that as I can often quickly snap on the lead before he starts growling.

      He’s not food or toy possessive and doesn’t growl with either.

      No, it’s just attaching the lead and going out (especially in the rain). He HATES the rain and will slam on the brakes at the door rather than go out. Again, that’s only got worse in the last couple of years. Honestly think he’s just a grumpy old man that doesn’t like getting wet or going out. But he has to go for a wee walk (as our daughter plays in the back garden so can’t let him do his business there – plus he’s never been comfortable doing it in his “territory” – another shiba trait I’ve been told (not soiling his own area). He will happily go out and sit on the grass / step though getting a suntan in the summer (but will come into the house if too warm).

      When he does growl / snap usually 15 minutes later he’ll “apologise” and come over wanting a pat and sit beside me – almost like he knows he’s done wrong and wants the approval of the alpha female again. For the most part he plays the omega role to my husband. He occasionally tries to exert his authority e.g. Sit at my husbands chair and growl if he goes to sit down but my husband tells him “no” and he’ll wander off “grumbling” under his breath (not growling but a shiba noise like “ok, you’re space…”).

      I know I’ve used human emotion terms to describe the behaviour and that its not but just easier to describe that way!

      I can put up with most of his grumbles but the fact he lunged at me with teeth bared and would have bitten had I not closed the door concerned me. My husband takes him out on a Saturday morning and sometimes my daughter wants to go for a walk too and will lift his lead over. I’m worried that if she tries to “help” and put his lead on that he’ll try to bite her. I want him to enjoy his walks out with the pack.

      oh, his paw pads are fine so I don’t think it’s due to sore feet. He’s not as agile as he was as a puppy but can still run around so don’t think it’s arthritis and sore joints. He’ll stretch in the morning once his lead is on but doesn’t appear to be in discomfort when he is out on the walk.

      Only other thing, its worse in the winter months when its cold and wet. When its sunny he’s better and doesn’t growl as much (or at all some days).

      As I said, weird dog!!

    • shibashake says

      That is really interesting. Sephy also hates going out in the rain. Ditto on soiling his own area. He also doesn’t like walking on wet grass.

      In terms of aggression, I went through some of that with Sephy during his early years. Two things that come to mind during my experiences with Sephy –

      1. Persuasion is better than force
      Sephy is extremely stubborn. If I try to push him to do something, he will dig in and really not want to do it. I am a bit like that too, so I understand where he is coming from. :D There was this one incident where he did not want to put on his harness, and we sat waiting by the door for 4 hours, before he would allow me to put it on and go for his walk!

      Sephy responds much better when there is no challenge and nothing to fight against. For example, when I want to brush his teeth, I call him to me, and ask him to lie down on his side. I reward him very well for this, and start brushing. If he lets me brush, I continue to reward him well. I use a special treat for teeth brushing and nail grinding, which he only gets for these special activities. At the end of brushing, he gets his dinner kibble ball.

      If he decides he does not want to brush, I leave, ignore him, and go do something else, and he does not get attention, his special treat rewards, or his kibble ball. I try again later, and he is usually in a different frame of mind by then, and more motivated to do brushing. In this way, there is nothing to be stubborn about, and he is not pushed into a position where he feels he needs to fight back.

      I do a similar thing for walks. When it is walk-time, I call my dogs to me. I reward them well when they come, and they have to sit calmly while I put on collar and leash. I desensitize them to collar and leash beforehand if necessary. I reward them for being calm while I put on collar and leash, and then we go for our walk.

      If Sephy doesn’t want to go out, he doesn’t come, and he doesn’t get the rewards or the walk. I try again later on when I am free. In this way, he doesn’t have anything really to be stubborn about because it is his choice.

      I also follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs.

      2. My energy
      Sephy is really sensitive to the energy of the people around him. He was a little spitfire during his youth, and I often got frustrated with him, and sometimes a bit fearful when he started jumping on me and biting my jacket sleeve. Unfortunately, he would quickly pick up on my energy, get stressed out himself, and act even more crazy.

      He was not an angel with others in the family, but his behavior was worst with me because of my energy. I remember this one incident very well where one family member passed his leash to me so that I could take him out, and straight away, he started jumping on me and biting my clothes. Once I changed my own energy, things also improved with Sephy.

      However, as you know, dog behavior is very context dependent, so each situation is different. Given that there is a very young girl in the house, it may be best and safest to consult with a good professional trainer.
      http://www.apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  5. Thomas says

    we have small chiuaua dog who goes and sleepsn the den every night, we close the door as soon as he is in, he was out in a shelter for a months and returned home two days back, as soon as we ask him to goin he does but very agressive if try to close the door. Any advise on how to deal with this issue?

    • shibashake says

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, so in cases of aggression it is best to consult with a professional trainer.

      A dog may develop confinement anxiety after going through the trauma of being caged in a shelter situation.

  6. Con says

    My 1 year old Black Lab has been racing around the yard and jumping up to bite my arms and hands. I have usually remained calm and just kept doing what I was doing and ignored him but it is getting worse. His hairs stand up and he races around and barks at me, I tell him No. Tonight he bit my arm and kept coming back for more. He comes up from behind me doing this especially when Im not paying attention to him. He does not do this to my partner nor my babies but I am concerned he may start being aggressive to my children. He does listen to me when he is inside however, this bite has happened whilst my partner has been away for the weekend. I cant even take the rubbish out without being attacked. I don’t know what to do. I am scared of my own dog. have owned many animals including dogs before but have never experienced this.

  7. Diz says

    Hello,

    I brought home an orphaned puppy from a rescue when she was 6 weeks of age. She was hand raised & came with no understanding of dog body language & no idea what bite inhibition is. She’s Aussie Shepherd / Aussie Cattle Dog mix. I’ve had Australian Shepherd mixes for years & know the intelligence combined with the manic energy means working both mind & body so at the end of the day I have a tired & happy dog. She is also affectionate, sweet, adores kids, never meets a stranger & wants to meet everybody she sees.

    She’s four months old now & has learned so many important things, I blame myself for what she won’t learn. She came to me a biter convinced from Day 1 that she’s supposed to be in charge. I won’t get into every problem we’re working thru but there is one leaves me at a loss. Indoors she has absolutely no food, toy, or water bowl aggression & I check regularly. Outside, she becomes very aggressive, seriously aggressive, over mud, wet moldy grass & other animals poop.

    We’ve had tons of rain so when grass is mowed the little clumps the mower leaves behind dry on top in the heat. But turn them over & the grass is wet and slimy. She constantly grabs mouthfuls of mud. And she never misses an opportunity to grab other animals poop. Off leash she then avoids me until she’s finished. On leash, she will clamp her jaws closed. Sometimes she will drop & leave on command but usually she hunkers down, curls her lip, snarls & growls, then lunges at me.

    If anybody can shed a light on why she has this behavior problem and/or knows how to put a stop to any of it, I would be greatly interested.

    Thanks

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, my Shiba Inu showed similar behavior when he was young. He would treat pine-cones, sticks, and other outside objects like they were gold. I think they were really high priority to him because-
      1. He never gets to have them.
      2. I always try to take them away from him by force.

      All my dogs also liked playing with wet grass when they were puppies. I think wet grass has a strong scent, and they like picking it up and tossing it around, in play.

      Ultimately, my Shiba started to protect pine cones and sticks from me, because he knew that whenever he gets them, I would take those objects away. Some things that helped with my Shiba-
      1. I did object exchange and other resource guarding exercises with him. I start with low priority objects, and then slowly move on to higher priority stuff, including outside objects such as pine cones and sticks. I picked a few good ones, brought them home, so we could practice a bunch (in a controlled environment) while we are at home.

      I practiced inside the house, in the backyard, and when he was ready, in other outside locations. I make sure to have him on-leash during these exercises, and I use other safety equipment if necessary.

      2. I taught him the Leave-It command. We would first practice it inside the house, then we would move on to the backyard, and in the end, we practice it during walks as well. When I give that command, I make sure I have good control, and can prevent him from getting to the target object, if necessary.

      With poop, I am especially strict with my dogs. If they try to *eat* the stuff, I no-mark the behavior, and march them straight home. This teaches them-

      Eat poop during walks = Walk ends,
      Leave-It = Walk continues and get rewarded with other chews or a fun game.

      If Shiba tries to eat stuff that he is not supposed to in the backyard, then he loses his backyard privileges temporarily. My Huskies were both interested in eating cat poop, but they stopped that behavior after I marched them home a few times. They all love their walks, so ending the walk is a very good motivator to get them to stop eating poop.

      3. With resource guarding, I have observed that prevention is much better than cure. It is usually best when I can prevent my Shiba from getting his mouth on a particular object. Therefore, I watch him closely and keep him on a short leash in places where there is a lot of temptation.

      If I miss something, then I give him the Drop command (pre-trained). If he drops it, I reward him really well with a favorite game or chew. If he does not want to drop, then I no-mark and start marching him home. I only remove things by force if they are dangerous objects.

      This is because the more frequently I do a forced mouth removal, the more likely he is to start guarding behavior again. Therefore, I want to minimize these occurrences, and maximize successful encounters where I get to reward him for “leaving it” or voluntarily “dropping it”.

      Here is a bit more on my resource guarding experiences with my Shiba.

  8. Cory says

    Hey, I like this site a lot and it has given me some good ideas. I have a 1 year old German Shephard. She was fairly aggressive as a puppy and it has gotten worse. We took her to a trainer and she was doing great but recently has started to regress. She starts biting and nipping especially when I lay down. It is all attention seeking, and I have been told not to put her in time out because the simple act of getting up is rewarding her behavior since she wants attention. I have tried the “tsch” idea as well, and it was working but it has starting being less effective. Thoughts??

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, my dogs are also more likely to come over and lick me when I lie down on the floor. They see it as an invitation to play or interact. :D

      We took her to a trainer and she was doing great but recently has started to regress.

      What type of exercises or methods did the trainer suggest?

      I have been told not to put her in time out because the simple act of getting up is rewarding her behavior since she wants attention.

      I am not sure I understand. Is the suggested solution for us to simply lie there, do nothing, and say nothing? Such a strategy does not seem effective to me, but perhaps I am missing something. I would need more details before I can comment further.

      This is what I do with my dogs to teach them not to bite on me –
      1. I start with a no-mark to let my dog know that it is an undesirable behavior. Then I tell my dog what to do instead, e.g. give a simple command or redirect him onto a toy.
      2. If he redirects, then I make sure to reward him well by playing a fun game with him, with the toy.
      3. If he continues biting on me, then I withdraw my attention by standing up, folding up my arms, and turning away from him. In this way he learns that –

      Following commands and biting on a toy = Get to play a fun game,
      Biting on me = No games, and lose a fun playmate.

      4. If he stops biting on me, then I mark the behavior and reward him by giving him attention again.
      5. If he escalates his behavior by jumping on me or biting on my clothes, then I say “Timeout”, and calmly put him in a very low-stimulus timeout area. In this way he learns that –

      Being calm and not biting = Get attention from people,
      Jumping and biting on people = Temporarily lose access to people as well as freedom in the house.

      What works well for my dogs is to not only tell them what not to do, but also teach them what *to do* instead.

  9. Ajerry says

    hello! I have a lhasa apso/ shihtzu mix. He’s about 1 and a half years old and i noticed that he seemed to be getting more aggressive. But it’s mostly only towards bigger dogs. Any dog that’s smaller than him (boy or girl) or the same size he’s fine with. But there are 2 big dogs that he seems to be fine with. A husky and a lad. They’re both fairly old. Jerry, our dog, would growl and try and jump at the bigger dog pulling me. I watch a lot of Cesar Millan so i know you’re supposed to remain calm in situations like that but i’m not exactly sure of what to do when we see another dog. Do we make him sit down until he is calm? It’s really hard to snap him out of it. He’ll kind of just sit and stare until the dog gets closer and he’ll start to bark and pull at the lead. I usually grab him from his harness and make him face away from the dog but that doesn’t work. I’ve also tried that “TSCH” noise with the touch but it doesn’t seem to work either. I don’t wave treats in front of his face when he does this because i feel like that means i’m praising him for his actions.

    We do bring treats on our walks so whenever he does something good we give him a little chicken biscuit. But when we sees another dog it’s like nothing else matters! I would love to know how i can resolve this problem I know that our family has to be the pack leader of Jerry. We’re just not sure how to get started. And he is neutered already.

    Please help! Thank you (:

  10. says

    You have a lot of good tips and information here, but there are some “bad” notes too.

    For example: You specifically discuss not allowing the dog access to things like “play time” when he is not behaving. While this seems reasonable on the surface, consider that it also denies him access to a way to drain excess energy – and that can make issues worse.

    You also mentioned in Tip 1 that your plan would include bringing the dog home and putting him in a time out area if he bit you. Again, seems reasonable, but serves absolutely no purposes.

    In order to correct a dog’s bad/unwanted behavior, the ideal time is at the very onset of that behavior. The next best time is during the bad behavior and the least effective time is immediately at the end of the bad behavior. Once the bad behavior has stopped, you can no longer punish because the association between behavior and punishment is lost forever.

    One tip that I didn’t happen to notice from you is the concept of “ending on a high note.” Regardless of what happens during play time, a walk, etc. you should attempt to create good behavior at the end and terminate the exercise that way. There should always be a good memory for the dog so that they want to engage again. If activities end on a bad note, it will create bad memories, and the dog will stop wanting to participate.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Mark,

      Thanks for pointing out the problem areas in the article.

      1. Play time –
      As you say, timing is very important in training and we should only reward a dog for good behaviors, whether it is with treats, affection, or play time. Certainly, we should also give our dog many opportunities to earn the things that he wants or needs. That is what Nothing in Life is Free is all about.

      2. Timeout area –
      Absolutely, we need to time consequences as close to the target behavior as possible for true results. You are right that this was not made clear in Tip 1

      3. End on a good note –
      Yes, I agree that we want to try to end things on a positive note. I talk about this in some of my other articles, where it seemed to fit better. Couldn’t find a good place for it here.

      Thanks for your very useful input and for helping me improve on the article! If you have more suggestions, please let me know. Good luck with your training business.

  11. Jay says

    Hi, I currently have a spayed canadian eskimo dog named Meeka. I got her at 14 weeks and she has been a handful since then. I feel as if we have not formed a bond and I am also not seen as pack leader. Living with 4 people it is hard to keep the rules all the same since everyone seems to believe their way is the right way, and nothing will change that. I do all the little things that i’ve heard help establish you as leader, walk in first ect.. I would like to be able to establish a healthy loving relationship with her but I don’t seem to know how. She often puts her mouth around my arm or legs and she will not listen when I give her commands. I have brought her to dog school and have participated in over 16 classes. I don’t know what else I can do to improve our bond. We are now getting another male canadian eskimo and I’m afraid that her behaviours will rub off on him. She is allowed access to her yard at all times during the day, since she prefers to be outside. She also has a unlimited supply of toys at all times. He will be also in the same situation. I feed her twice a day, and the second feeding is by hand. I plan to teach them to mush so i feel that our relationship needs to work together before i can do so. Your work with your dogs is magnificent and I would really appreciate some helpful tips and answers to my problem. Thank you.

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I also had troubles bonding with my Shiba Inu in the beginning. With Sephy, it is difficult to gain his trust, but once he gives it, he is very loyal and true.

      Here are some things that I do to build a strong bond with my dogs.

      With Sephy, I waited for about a year before getting a second dog. I wanted to properly bond with him, and train him first. There are many challenges that come with a second dog, and it will be difficult to deal with everything at once. As you say, dogs will also learn from each other, so I wanted my second dog to learn the right lessons from Sephy.

      In terms of training, dogs learn from us through a process called conditioning. They repeat behaviors that get them good results and stop behaviors that get them undesirable results. Timing and consistency are both very important. We want to time our rewards right next to the target behavior, consistently reward good behaviors, and make sure *not* to reward undesirable behaviors. I set up a consistent set of rules and a fixed routine with all of my dogs.

      If a dog receives mixed messages from the people around him, he will not know what we expect of him, and what he can expect from us. If he can play-bite on people sometimes, then he will just keep trying because the next time may result in a fun wrestling game. When the rules keep changing, it is simply not possible to learn the rules.

      Here is a bit more on dog dominance and how dogs learn.

  12. Catherine says

    Im just wondering if the old adage stands with shiba’s “cant teach a old dog new tricks” Mines almost 7 years old and still has aggression issues. it just seems that he has no interest in learning because hes set in his ways

  13. dani says

    awww they are so cute that i melt everytime i see them, i thought they were my ideal dog, but after reading they can be agressive with me, make me stop wanting this dog. I have a very good space for him and im devoted to my pets, so i would love him very much but im searching for an faithful intelligent medium size dog that can alert me in case someone tries to break into my house in the night. In your wise experience with shibas do you think this dog can make that? I dont want a dog that may be agressive with me or could harm my cats. And im about to buy a shiba or a border collie, but the price is way higher so i have to be sure this is the perfect dog for me

    • shibashake says

      Hello Dani,
      All dogs need to be trained so that they know how to properly interact with people, other dogs, cats, etc. Some dogs will be harder to train than others. Shiba Inus are a stubborn and independent breed, so they are more difficult to train than many other breeds.
      http://shibashake.com/dog/why-are-shiba-inus-one-of-the-most-difficult-breeds-to-train

      Border Collies are bred to work with people, but they are *very* high energy dogs. They need *a lot* of structured exercise or they need a job to do that will keep them very well occupied.

      After I got Sephy, I had to spend a lot of time and effort training him, supervising him, and giving him proper daily exercise. Keeping a dog is also very expensive. There are vet bills, vaccination shots that they need, training bills, training classes, food, equipment, and more.

      As for cats, this was my previous response in case you missed it.
      http://shibashake.com/dog/shiba-inu-personality-good-bad-traits/comment-page-6#comment-80999

      Good luck! Post us some pictures of your puppy if you decide to get one. :D

    • dani says

      Thanks! you are very nice, i read the article and i think is going to be a bit difficult due to my cat characteristics, he is very territorial and he is old enough to get used to the dog.
      The collie isnt my kind of dog since i dont have a ranch and i have to go to work everyday so i dont have all my time for him. and also for a shiba i can train him only after work :(, so maybe is not enough since i cant watch him all day but Ill keep looking for a good option and if i end buying a shiba ill sure post photos of the puppy.
      Thank you!

  14. stacie says

    I am hoping you can help me. My 10 month old Golden Retriever/Husky is extremely aggressive with me when I am with him in our backyard. He jumps, bites and barks at me nonstop. He does this inside as well but not as often. He only does this to me. He occasionally will go after my 7 year old son but never to my husband. He stops dead in his tracks if my husband even looks at him. Why does he act this way towards me? If I am sitting on the couch watching TV he goes after my feet biting and barking at me. But the strange thing is that he follows me everywhere. He is definitely more attached to me than anyone else. Please help me figure out how to correct this. It is so frustrating . I feel like a prisoner in my own home.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Stacie,

      I went through a similar experience with my Shiba Inu, Sephy. I remember this one incident where he was sitting nicely when my partner was holding his lead. However, as soon as it was passed to me, Sephy started leash biting and jumping on me. It was not a good feeling.

      In my case, there were two key reasons for Sephy’s behavior –
      1. My energy.

      I was more than a little afraid of Sephy because of his crazy behavior towards me. I did not trust him, and I feared what he may do every time I had to walk him or interact with him. Sephy is very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. He picked up on my stress and fear, got stressed himself, and acted even more crazy. This made me get even more afraid, and things just went downhill from there.

      After I took steps to change my own energy, Sephy calmed down a lot as well, and his behavior improved.

      2. My response.

      Dogs repeat behaviors that get them “good results” (according to them), and stop behaviors that get them bad results.

      Sephy often jumped on me or started to bite because he wanted to initiate play. I would get afraid, push him back with my arms, and start shouting at him. This is a lot of motion, and a lot of noise, which gets Sephy even more excited about playing. From his point of view –

      Jump on me = Fun wrestling game commences,
      Don’t jump = Get ignored.

      A lot of motion can also trigger a dog’s prey drive.

      Another important aspect of changing Sephy’s behavior, is to change how I respond to him. For example, when he jumps –
      1. I stay calm, and no-mark the behavior.
      2. Then, I redirect him into doing something else (e.g. alternate command, or alternate activity).
      3. If he redirects, then I reward him by giving him attention and playing with him.
      4. If he does not listen, then I withdraw my attention. I stand up, turn away from him, and totally ignore him (no talking, no touching, and no eye-contact).
      5. If he calms down, then I reward him by giving him attention again.
      6. If he escalates his behavior by jumping on me more and biting on my clothing, I calmly say “Timeout” and remove him to a timeout area using his drag-lead. (Note – I only use a drag lead with a flat collar and only under supervision).

      In this way, Sephy learns that –

      Jumping and biting = Get ignored or don’t get to be with people,
      Following commands = Get attention, play-time, and more rewards.

      Here is a bit more on what I do to control puppy biting.
      Here is a bit more on how I trained my Husky puppy.

  15. cocker owner says

    Hi,
    Our dog is 18 months old , he listens to my husband and obeys every command given . when its just me and the dog he is fine and listens to me , however when my daughter comes in who is 9 he constantly jumps up her pulling at her clothes and socks. When I tell him no he just barks and growls at me leaning into my daughter if I go to grab his collar he looks to bite me. We have taken our dog to training which was great but really could do with some advice. Please help to explain why he does this for me and only when my husband is at work thank you

    • shibashake says

      Initially, a dog will not understand the word “No”. We teach a dog what “Yes” and “No” means by tying it to consequences. Here is more on the yes-mark and no-mark.

      Here is a bit more on why dogs jump and how I deal with it.

      Finally, collar grabs do not generally work well. I did that with my Shiba Inu, and it made him very sensitive to his collar, and also to people touching him. Grabbing a dog’s collar while he is excited, may also cause him to redirect his excited energy onto us. This is also called “redirected aggression”. When my dog is still learning house rules, I use a drag lead (only with a flat collar and only under supervision) to better control him.

      As I described in the article, our dogs are also very good at sensing our energy. Dogs will respond better to a calm person. If I am angry, frustrated, fearful or otherwise not calm, my dog will pick up on that energy, become more agitated himself, and act even more crazy. In order to calm a dog down, we must be calm ourselves.

      Finally, training is a lifetime process. I started training my dogs as puppies, and we still continue to do old commands, new commands, bite inhibition exercises, grooming exercises, play-time exercises, and more. People learn and change all through their lives, and so do dogs.

  16. A M says

    Hello,
    I’ve just adopted a Rottweiler puppy, she was 8 weeks when I got her and is now 9 weeks. I spent several years searching for a dog with the goal of going through training and eventually having the dog become a Certified Therapy Dog. The first few days after I brought her home she was great, eager to please, even learning quickly to fetch the ball and bring it back. However, she is starting to adapt worrisome behaviors that I do not know how to correct. I know leash training can take awhile, at this time she only does small steps when walking away from the house, she will lay down and refuse to move , walking home she will run the entire way as I think she smells or senses we are returning to the safety of the home. My biggest concern right now is she’s starting to bite my socks and legs, sometimes aggressively. When I attempted to take her for a walk today she grabbed ahold of my jeans and would not let go. I attempted to hold her down on the ground until she submitted, but did not hold her there that long. She is also jumping up on the gate and knocking it down, despite me telling her no and redirecting her attention to her toys. I’ve tried putting her in a seperate crate from the one she sometimes sleeps in as punishment when she bites my socks or knocks the gate down, but im worried that is the wrong thing to do as I don’t want her to think being put in a crate is a bad thing. She has no respect or fear of me right now and I don’t know what to do. I tried the “Fake” bite Millan teaches, it initially had some effect, as I think it startled her, but now has no effect at all, it seems the more i pull her back the more aggressive she becomes. It’s important this dog is on her best behavior and respects me as I hope to bring her to vulnerable places such as Hospitals. Please help me. Thanks.

    • shibashake says

      Re: Leash Training

      While leash training my puppy, I start inside the house or outside in the backyard. In these areas, a young puppy feels a lot safer, and there are also fewer distractions. In this way, I can get my puppy accustomed to the collar and leash first, and then focus fully on leash training without having to deal with the outside environment, other dogs, moving cars, cats, etc. Puppies also go through several different “fear periods”, during which I try to keep Lara’s environment calm and positive.

      Also, I only started walking puppy Lara outside, after she was fully vaccinated. A puppy has a weaker immune system, and can become sick if exposed to infected poop from other dogs or other animals.

      Here is a bit more on dog anxiety.

      Re: Puppy biting

      With puppy biting, timeouts work well for my dogs. Here is a bit more on what I did to train my dogs not to bite on people.

      I attempted to hold her down on the ground until she submitted, but did not hold her there that long.

      This technique is also known as the alpha-roll. It was something that I tried on my Shiba Inu, Sephy, based on the recommendation of our vet tech. at the time, as well as Sephy’s breeder. It did not work well on Sephy at all. He became extremely sensitive to handling, he became very distrustful of people, and he would fight back every step of the way.

      I later found out that the technique is very risky, can make a dog fearful of people, and can also encourage aggression. Here is more on alpha rolls.

      I now stay away from aversive based training methods, especially pain based and dominance based methods.

      Re: Crates

      I think you are right in terms of not wanting to use crates for punishment.

      My dogs sleep in their crates at night, they sometimes eat in their crate, and we may also transport them in crates. Therefore, I only want them to associate their crate with safety and positive experiences. For timeouts, I use a boring but safe room, such as my laundry room.

      Re: Pack Leadership

      When I first started training Sephy, I started with aversive training techniques. In particular, several people recommended that I follow Cesar Millan (including Sephy’s breeder) so that was what we did.

      What Millan says about calm energy, I think, is very true. Having a routine, structure, and consistent rules for my dogs were also very good. Exercise is also important. However, the aversive methods, including the finger jabs, alpha rolls, leash jerks, flooding, and more, only made things worse with Sephy.

      I found that pack leadership is best achieved with the control of resources and by using the Nothing in Life in Free program.

      Here is more on my early days together with Sephy.
      Here is more on dog dominance and bad dog behaviors.
      Here is more on how I trained my Husky puppy and how dogs learn.

  17. Nicole (Romeo) says

    Hi! Your site has helped me so much in training my 4 month old shiba (Romeo) . Of course he is a little crazy and has an attitude sometimes, as all shibas seem to do. He even shook for a treat today! I was so excited! But there is a down side to him lately. Just recently today, when I go to work I have to put him in his cage so he doesnt chew up my rental house. Well he ran from me, underneath my bed and started barking like crazy. I figured he thought I was playing until he started snapping at me. Well I got him out from underneath my bed and closed all the hallway doors so when he ran back there again, he was stuck. I caught him and he immediately flipped onto his back and started biting me. The day before he got loose outside and when i caught him he bit me then too. It was not playful at all. How do I stop this behavior before it worsens? I dont show fear towards him. Once i caught him, i usually take him by the collar and make him walk to his cage, however he has been biting me and if we are outside and my hands are cold it hurts! This time i picked him up and swatted his butt. We have been using the time out method, but he has caught on that he will eventually be let out.. Ho do i beat him at his own game? Thanks for trying to help!

    • shibashake says

      Heh, Romeo sounds a lot like Sephy when he was young.

      Sephy would also run under the bed, and under chairs. Then he would proceed to bite on the wooden underside of the bed or chair. If I went after him, he would just go farther in, or he would start biting on hands.

      I find that the best way to get Sephy to do something, is to work with his innate likes and dislikes. For example, Sephy is very curious, and he is a good guard dog. If he hears some unusual noise, he will definitely come to check it out. Therefore, to get him out from under the bed, I just go somewhere else, and make some unusual noises. He will come over to check out knocks on the door, the doorbell, etc. I make things interesting and always try to do something new. Curiosity will get the better of him, and he will come to investigate. I reward him when he comes over and then I go close the bedroom door. :D

      When Sephy was young, I also put a drag lead on him. I only use a flat collar (*not an aversive collar*) and I only do it when I am around to supervise. The drag lead is useful because if Sephy tries to run away, I can just step on the lead and stop him. It also gives me better control, my hands are far away from Sephy’s mouth, and I can take him to timeout without much of a fuss.

      Some other things that help with Sephy-
      1. I do timeouts in the laundry room. This is because I want him to only associate his crate with positive things. He sleeps in there at night, and goes in there while in the car, so I want the crate to be a relaxing and happy place for him.

      2. I follow the NILIF program and make Sephy work for all of his food. This helps to motivate him to follow house rules, do obedience commands, figure out interactive toys, etc.

      3. I don’t physically engage Sephy with my hands or arms, to punish him. If I do so, he will respond in kind, and that gets him into the habit of using his mouth to keep people away. I just stay calm, pick up the drag lead, and use it to take him to timeout if necessary.

      4. I try to always set him up for success, so that he practices positive behaviors rather than negative ones.

      5. I try to always stay very calm. If I am frustrated, stressed, or angry, Sephy will pick up on that, and become more stressed-out himself. (It is not just fear he picks up on).

      Dogs are very good at observing us and their environment. They will quickly figure out that when we put them in the crate, it means that it is boring alone time. Once Sephy figured this out, he would not go into his crate, not even for great food rewards. This is because for him, even sausages or cheese are not worth it, if he has to be alone in his crate.

      Therefore, I only use his crate very rarely and I did a lot of crate desensitization exercises with him. In the beginning I would only start with very short crate times. Then once he is comfortable and relaxed, I slowly increase the duration.

      When I need to leave the house, I find that having a larger enclosure, e.g. kitchen, works better for Sephy. That way, he can still roam around a bit, but he does not have access to the whole house. Also I make sure his enclosure is totally safe and does not contain anything that may be dangerous. He has water, safe chew toys, frozen Kongs, etc. to keep him busy. He spends a lot of time in the kitchen with me anyway, so it is in his routine to hang out in there and work on his toys. I make sure he is well exercised, and I make sure to set up a very fixed routine so that he knows that I will be back after a couple of hours.

      Getting help from a professional trainer can also be very helpful. With dog training, timing and context are very important, so having a trainer come over to observe Sephy in his home environment helped a lot.

      Good luck and hugs to Romeo!

  18. Runr says

    Hi,
    Our dog is 8 mo, German Shepard Mix. She appears highly intelligent and @8 wks, was already house trained. She has loving ways, but also unwanted aggression. Particularly is outside on her lead, when we go to bring her in after (30 mins), she jumps up high, gets in a low crouch, encircles whoever it is to bring her in, and has bared her teeth. (My husb. says he has seen her foam), however, I have not.

    When we are in the house, she is a totally different dog (nice, attentv & licking us on the way in to say, i’m sorry about what just happ); when brought in the house from her lead area (it appears she knows the diference in territory-what she believe is hers and ours.

    We believe we provide attention; clean after her 2-3 times day to ensure her environment comfortable; regular vet visits; meals, snacks, neighb. walks, outside play. Please help as biting will not be tolerated.

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, can you elaborate a bit more on her “lead area”?

      Is it in the back or front?

      What does she do while in her lead area? When does she go into her lead area?

      How long is the lead? Does she bite at the lead? Does she prefer staying in the house?

      Is there a lot of surrounding activity that gets her excited?

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