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 you want to retrain your dog so that he associates …
People coming near = More resources
In this way, your 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 your 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 your dog anything to guard. Only give him very low priority items. Cut food up into small pieces and give those to him one at a time so he has nothing to guard.
Make sure that you always remain safe during the training process. Use leashes, baby-gates, or muzzles 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 stop resource guarding issues, it is also good practice to follow the NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free) program. This just means that your dog has to do something for you, before he gets anything in return including food, toys, going into the backyard, or coming into the house.
In this way, your dog learns that you are the source of all his resources, and he has to work for you 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.