Many Shiba Inu owners will tell you that “mine” is the first and most favorite Shiba word.
Shibas think that everything, including food, toys, the house, the neighborhood, and even their supposed owners, belong to them.
If not properly handled, many Shiba Inus, and indeed dogs in general can get aggressive about guarding their resources. Shibas are bred to be guard dogs so they have a strong guard instinct.
Dogs often guard objects from people because they associate people coming near them with their objects being taken away.
When my Shiba was a puppy, he used to pick up all these dirty items from the street including tissues, pieces of plastic, etc. I did not want him eating the stuff, so I would always take them away from him. Ultimately, he started guarding his toys because he thought I would take them away from him as well.
I did not know it at the time, but I was teaching him that …
People coming near him = Loss of resources
When dogs show aggression and we back away, they also learn that …
Aggression = People backing away = Get to keep resources
What helped my Shiba most in breaking this resource guarding cycle is to help him re-associate people coming near him to be something positive rather than something he should guard against. In essence I want to retrain my dog so that he associates …
People coming near = More resources
In this way, my dog will seek out people rather than try to get them to back away with aggression.
Here are some food aggression and resource guarding techniques that helped with my Shiba Inu.
The key is to set my dog up for success and not expose him to situations where he feels he has to resort to aggression. The less he practices that aggression, the less it will become a habit.
Therefore, it is also important to take away all high priority items (such as bones and rawhide) and not give my dog anything to guard. I only give him very low priority items. I cut food up into small pieces and give those to him one at a time so he has nothing to guard.
Make sure that everyone remains safe at all times. I use leashes, baby-gates, or a basket muzzle as necessary. My Shiba still wears a drag lead (with a flat collar) around the house so that I can more easily control him when I need to.
To discourage resource guarding behavior, I also follow the NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free) program. This just means that our dog has to do something for us, before he gets anything in return including food, toys, going into the backyard, or coming into the house.
In this way, our dog learns that we are the source of all his resources, and he has to work for us to get what he wants.
If your dog is already aggressive and causing bite wounds as a result of resource guarding, contact a professional trainer.
Never try to take items away from an unknown dog. Even seemingly easy-going dogs may sometimes try to protect a high-priority item.