Shiba Inu Training Secrets

The Shiba Inu is a very beautiful dog. However, behind that foxy face, is a dominant, stubborn, intelligent, and extremely mischievous personality. This can make them a challenge to care for.

Indeed Shiba Inus are not for the faint-hearted, and they are not recommended for first-time dog owners.

Despite this warning, my heart was already set on a Shiba Inu puppy. I had a lot of free time then, so I thought I would be able to handle one little dog. After all, how difficult can a small puppy be?

Little did I know, a Shiba Inu can be a major pain in the ass!

Even dog veterans have problems with their first Shiba. In fact, many experienced trainers were unable to handle my Shiba Sephy.

Here are the Shiba Inu training secrets that helped me turn my devil dog into a model citizen. Well, maybe not a model citizen, but a fun citizen that I truly enjoy living with.

Shiba Inu Secret 1

There are No Miracle Cures.

When I first got Shiba Sephy, he was a big challenge.

Some of his favorite daily activities include biting my hands, running crazily around the house, biting on curtains, vicious leash biting, jumping on me and others, humping my leg, and much more.

I was desperate to get him under control, and did a lot of research online and off-line. I read a lot of online articles and bulletin boards. I called local dog trainers, watched all the dog training shows on television, and read a lot of dog training books.

During this time, I found something that looked like a miracle … a 10 minute Shiba online training program. According to this advertisement, there were some special “Shiba words” that will magically turn a Shiba into a Lassie. Yeah right!

Luckily, I did not succumb to my desperation, and did not buy this product.

The fact is, there are NO “miracle cures” for training a Shiba Inu.

The secret of Shiba training, is simply to exercise extreme patience, and find humor in our Shiba’s antics. Use reward obedience training, and always be firm but fair.

A Shiba will probably never be a Lassie, or perfect dog. However, if you are looking for a dog with a big personality, who will always make you laugh with his sneaky and roguish ways, then the Shiba Inu is for you.

Shiba Inu Secret 2

Use Passive Resistance.

The best way to deal with Shiba Inu misbehavior is through passive resistance.

Shibas get bored easily and do not like being ignored. They really enjoy their freedom, and also like being close to their human pack. We can control a Shiba best by controlling these most desired resources: our attention, and his freedom.

If we actively try to stop our Shiba either through physical punishment (e.g. alpha rolls. leash jerk) or active restraint, he will fight back. This encourages him to practice rough play, and biting on people.

If we back away, or become fearful of our Shiba, he will learn that he “wins” by showing dog aggression.

If we over-correct our Shiba by exerting too much physical force, or by correcting him too frequently, we will lose his trust, and it is difficult to regain a Shiba Inu’s trust.

What works best with a Shiba is NOT to engage in a physical competition, but rather to engage in a mental one.

There are certain resources that Sephy really enjoys including walks, treats, toys, and his freedom.

When I want to take him on his walk, I go to the door with his lead, and call him to me. Initially, he would dally and not really want to come, because he wants to go walking on his own schedule. I count to three. If he does not come, I leave and go about my own business.

After a short time, Sephy will amble over, and pester me to take him on his walk. This is done through begging, and whining. I ignore all this bad dog behavior. When I have a break in my schedule again, I repeat the above exercise.

A Shiba will quickly learn that to get the resources that he wants most (e.g. go on walks), he has to do it according to our rules, and our schedule. It is important to practice the Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) program with a Shiba.

Set a Shiba Inu up for success, so that we can reward him frequently, and keep him interested in doing what we want.

Another Shiba favorite is to steal something he is not supposed to, and then run away with it, thereby engaging a fun chase game.

A Shiba Inu is very agile, and it will be difficult for us to catch him. I always try to keep an eye out for my sneaky Shiba, and stop him before he steals an object. I also put a drag lead on him, so that I can easily catch him by stepping on the lead.

Note: Use a regular flat collar with the drag lead, and not an aversive collar. Aversive collars such as prong collars or choke chains, should only be used during supervised training sessions. Cut the loop on the drag-lead, so that it does not catch on anything in the house.

Shiba Inu Secret 3

Rules, Rules, Rules.

Shiba Inus are naturally dominant. If we do not provide them with rules, that we consistently enforce, they will take over the house.

It is best to enforce those rules as early as possible. This ensures that Shiba does not develop any bad habits later on, that will be more difficult to break.

Some of Shiba Sephy’s rules:

1. No Biting

The most important rule that I place on Sephy, is no biting on people. Shiba Inus are a very mouthy breed. Their instinct is to use their mouth in a wide variety of situations, including when they are excited, frustrated, and fearful.

They also have large teeth, and can accidentally hurt children and seniors. If Sephy starts biting on me or on others, I no-mark the behavior (Ack, ack). If he continues, I put him on a time-out.

It is also important to teach a Shiba bite inhibition. In this way, when he loses control of himself and does bite, he will not cause much harm.

2. No Food Aggression or Resource Guarding

Prevent our Shiba Inu from guarding resources. Shibas have a don’t back down, don’t surrender attitude. Therefore, the best way to teach them not to guard resources, is to use reward training techniques.

Show them that people and other dogs coming near them, while they are eating or playing with their toys, is a good thing. Prevent stealing, and practice exchanging objects. This teaches them that giving up something, does not mean it is gone forever.

If we use physical force to grab a toy away from our Shiba, he will likely become more possessive over his objects. He will also lose trust in us, and may use aggression to protect himself, and his belongings.

3. No Rough Play

I do not play rough with Sephy. He gets to wrestle with my other dogs, but no wrestling is allowed with humans.

I also do not play any dominance games with him, for example, no Tug-of-War. The few times that I did play Tug with Shiba Sephy, he followed very strict rules during the game. However, when I took him out for walks, he would start playing tug with the leash (leash biting).

Shiba Inu Secret 4

Socialize Our Shiba Inu.

Shiba Inus can get aggressive to unfamiliar things including objects, dogs, people, and environments.

They are also naturally stubborn, and may become aggressive when forced to do things that they do not like.

Socialize our young Shiba to many sights, sounds, and smells, and he will be ready to handle new things as a confident, and well-balanced adult. Make sure that new experiences are always positive, and at worst, neutral.

Some things to consider while socializing our Shiba Inu:

1. Shiba Inus have an extreme play style, that many dogs may not like.

When he was young, I used to take Sephy to enclosed dog parks. During this time, his favorite play partners were larger dogs, and young Pit Bulls. Shibas like doing wrestling and rough play, which can easily overwhelm other small dogs.

Choose our Shiba’s play-mates carefully, so that a fun time can be had by all.

2. Shiba Inus dislike handling.

Socialize a Shiba to touching and grooming, as early as possible. Pair the touch and groom sessions with very good treats, so that he will associate handling with positive experiences.

Do not use physical force to do any grooming. This will make it into an unpleasant experience, and our Shiba will fight us every step of the way.

Instead, groom gently, and make it short, fun, and rewarding.

3. Shiba Inus do not generally like people petting them from above.

Petting from above can be seen as a dominance move by dogs, and Shibas may see this as a threat.

We can slowly desensitize our Shiba to this move, by pairing head petting with good food rewards. At the same time, instruct people to approach from under our dog’s head, and scratch his chest.

Shiba Inu Secret 5

Control Our Own Energy.

An important thing to remember while interacting with our Shiba, is to control our own energy.

Shiba Inus are especially sensitive to the energy of their owners, and the people around them.

When I first got puppy Sephy, he was extremely mouthy. In particular, he would resort to biting when I stopped him from doing something unacceptable.

This made me become afraid of him.

The more afraid I became, the worse Sephy behaved. As soon as I got fearful, he would start to hump my leg, grab my clothes, jump on me, or bite my hands, arms, and legs.

Anger and frustration will also elicit extreme Shiba behaviors.

In the early days, I had a dog walker take Sephy out for group walks at the park. When the walker tried to stop Sephy from doing something disruptive, he would object, and try out one of his Shiba moves, including alligator rolls, leash biting, hand biting, and of course the Shiba scream.

The dog walker naturally got embarrassed when Sephy screamed like he was about to die. There were other people around, and some of them thought that she was mistreating the poor dog. Sephy easily sensed her embarrassment and frustration. From then on, the Shiba scream was his favorite weapon to use against her.

With a Shiba Inu, it is important to stay calm at all times.

If we lose our cool, Shiba will sense it and continue to use this weakness against us.

The best way to handle a misbehaving Shiba, is to stay calm, and remove him to a quiet, lower stimulus area, as soon as possible. If he continues with his bad behavior, he gets his freedoms revoked with a time-out. Remember that fear, anger, frustration, and other extreme emotions will only make the problem worse.

Once I was able to control my fear and remain calm, things improved significantly with my Shiba.

Sephy will never be a model-citizen, but nowadays, he is actually very fun to be with. He is goofy, he is funny, and he usually stays out of serious trouble.

Shibas can be a big challenge to live with, but they are well worth the effort. They have a great personality, and they are always up to something that will make us laugh.

I love my Shiba Inu.

He is one of my best buddies, and whenever I see him, I just have to smile.

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  1. Victoria Sun says

    Hi, I was thinking about adopting a Shiba Inu. I want to a dopt a Shiba Puppy and raise him. My concern is how long can a shiba be left alone before it is too much? I will probably leave the puppy alone for about 8 hours with about a 3 hour 2-3 hours in between. I’ve had cats and dogs before so Shiba will not be my first dog to train. I’ve done a couple of research and it says that Shibas are really independent which I guess it is nice? Are there any tips to train shiba stay in their cribs, or safely roam around the house? Thank you very much.

    • shibashake says

      My Shiba puppy needed a lot of supervision and training. He also had mild separation anxiety when he was young, and I had to very slowly train him to tolerate alone time. As a puppy, he was also very energetic and mouthy. He would be biting the curtains, books, etc. During puppyhood, I had to supervise him well, and when I couldn’t fully supervise, I kept him with me in the kitchen, or in his crate (after I crate-trained him).

      Sephy is independent in that he does not want or need much human affection. However, he still likes having his people around. He really needs a fixed routine, and even today, he will get stressed if we come home late or if there are big changes to his schedule.

      With time constraints, I would consider adopting an adult dog, that is already trained and who is already comfortable with being alone for a longer period of time.

  2. says

    I adopted a rescue shiba at age 4. He had bad behaviour, bit me in bed and didn’t want to be touched. I’d flick his ear, put him on time out for 15 min. I used positive reinforcement and gave him chicken as a treat outside or when handling. It’s been 8 mo. Troy is like a lap dog, very close. Staying calm, positive reinforcement, treats, regular use of short commands helped.
    He’s no longer a pain. I love him like a child. No need to discipline him. He’s too sensitive but tough. He’s my no. 1 and knows it.

  3. Jessie says

    So I have two questions, because you seem to know lots about Shibas. I have a male Shiba, Loki, who is just over a year old. We live in an apartment currently, and there are lots of other dogs that live around us. A few months ago, I took Loki outside to go potty on our normal schedule and another dog got loose from their house and attacked Loki. This was a German Shepherd/Malinois mix, and so he was like 4 times the size of my pup. The other dog didn’t do any real damage to Loki, we took him to the vet and everything, but now he is terrified to go outside. Even months later. Whenever we say lets go outside he runs and hides under anything he can. That dog has been put down so we haven’t had any more encounters with him, but I just don’t know how to fix this with my dog? It’s like he has PTSD and it makes me very sad.

    The other thing was just that he has been shivering a lot and I didn’t know if it’s because he is cold or sick? Normally Shiba’s just don’t get that cold I didn’t think. We have been having really good weather so he has shed most of his winter coat, and then today it snowed buckets so I just assume it’s because he doesn’t have his winter coat in?

    Sorry for the novel, thanks!

    • says

      Reward him with treats outside. Avoid dogs you don’t know. My shiba hated walking. Now, he walks all the time. Distraction helps. Have him walk or play with a few trusted dog friends. Ptsd takes time to go away.

      Also, shiba shake could be his way of handling stress or he’s anxious. Continued exposure in same area may be too difficult for him. Disract him by taking him to different area.

    • shibashake says

      I help my dog with fear and anxiety issues by doing desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises. I start small, with a very weak version of the scary stimulus, pair it with positive rewards and experiences, and then slowly build up from there. For example, my Husky puppy was afraid of going out when the garbage truck came. Therefore, I did noise desensitization exercises with her.

      At first, we did the exercises inside the house. Once she is good with that, I very slowly get her comfortable with tolerating the noise outside. First, we would do our usual desensitization exercises (on-leash) but with the front door open. Initially we may stand far away from the front door. As she gains confidence, I start doing exercises closer and closer to the front door. Then we may just take a couple of steps outside, and I very slowly build up her confidence and tolerance.

      ASPCA article on desensitization and counter-conditioning.

      The more positive and successful experiences my dog has, the more confidence she gains, and the better her behavior becomes. Similarly, reactive or scary experiences will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen her anxiety symptoms. Therefore, management is also very important. I want to make sure to keep my dog in a calm, positive, and relaxing environment, and not expose her to more than she can handle.

      For desensitization to be effective, it needs to be done in a very structured and specific way, so it was helpful for me to get guidance from a good professional trainer, especially in the beginning.

      More on how I desensitized my dog to other dogs.

      As for the shivering, I really can’t say. It doesn’t snow here, so the only time I see my dogs shivering is when they are in pain or feeling extreme stress or excitement. When does the shivering occur? Is it at a particular time only? Is it only when you take him outside? Is Loki eating and drinking normally? Is his energy and activity level normal? Has there been anything different? When in doubt about health issues, I usually call my vet and see what they say.

  4. Sonia says

    I have a four year old shiba who is a very good and obedient dog. She loved and still loves to run away but we invested in a fence and now she can no longer get out. She had two dog friends on the other side of the chin link fence which she sort of plays with everyday. Yesterday a friend brought over her 1 year old Keeshond. He was very sweet and playful but my shiba turned into a monster! She has never dared to bare her teeth at me and for the first time yesterday she did and I thought she would bite me when I was shooing her away from my friends dog’s food. Usually I am the ‘pack’ leader and my husband is very passive with her so she loves him like crazy. Yesterday she surprised both o us with this very bad behavior. I’m sure it was the irritation of a young energetic and curious dog on her turf that made her so angry. I certainly wont have any dogs over again. Hope she never does this with kids!

  5. Brodie & Loki says


    I just recently obtained myself my very fist Shiba puppy who is now 8 weeks old named Loki. I came across this blog and find it very helpful in understanding the nature of the Shiba. I especially like the use their mind games against them and use timeouts to teach them whats right or wrong. The only problem is that when he starts to bite hard and get out of hand I put him in his kennel for a time out. But he will start to scream like there is no tomorrow and will do this for over a half hour easily and won’t even begin to settle down. I’m worried that these timeout are becoming destructive and making him act out more often.

    Any insight as to other options?
    Thank you

    • shibashake says

      When does he usually start biting, is it during play or something else? What do you do when he starts to bite? Where is his timeout kennel? What do you do when he starts doing Shiba screaming?

      I manage my puppy’s biting behavior by doing three things-
      1. Bite inhibition training.
      2. Structure, routine, and teaching my puppy self-control.
      3. I try to set Sephy up for success, and I give him many chances to do the right thing. I only escalate my response when he escalates his behavior. I only use time-outs for serious misbehavior.

      More on what I do for puppy biting.

      I do not use Sephy’s crate/kennel for timeouts. A crate is a very useful management and safety tool, so I want him to associate his crate with being calm and with positive experiences. He often sleeps in his crate at night, while travelling in a car, etc.

      More on what I do for timeouts.

      Sephy will also use his Shiba-scream to great effect if I let him. I talk more about the Shiba-scream in the article above. As soon as Sephy figures out that Shiba-screaming can get him out of certain things, he will keep on doing it because it works.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and situation are different. If something truly is not working for Sephy and is only causing him more stress and/or a deterioration in his behavior, then I look into using something else. For example, some people suggest using a blanket to calm a dog down. However, this had totally the opposite effect on Sephy and only stressed him out more. I can tell when he is stressed by looking at his body language and his physical responses. Therefore, no restraining blankets for Sephy.

      The key with Sephy is to learn how to accurately read his signals, so that I know when he is simply trying out a move to get out of something, when he is truly stressed or in trouble, when he is truly in need of something, and when he is inadvertently being rewarded for bad behaviors. Being able to read the situation properly is a very big part of training Sephy, and in the beginning, I got help on that from several professional trainers/behaviorists.

      More on how I train my puppy.
      More on how dogs learn.

  6. Rob says

    I have a brand new Shiba Inu puppy that is going on 14 weeks now. It has been quite a struggle but he is pretty low maintenance I guess as far as puppy goes. Good lineage I guess! I think I may have already made some mistakes with him as he is my first dog and I think that I was getting a little too physical with my resistance because I for the life of me could not get him to stop biting me. I am just wondering if I have lost his trust as he seems to act kinder to other people and then treats me like crap, the person who cares for him. Is there anything I can do to repair the damage? I plan to hire a personal dog trainer to come to my home and observe.

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I had similar issues with Sephy. Some things that helped with my Shiba-
      1. Controlling my own energy
      I used to get very frustrated, disappointed, or angry with him. However, Sephy is very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. He would pick up on my energy, get stressed himself, and act even more crazy. On the other hand, he behaved much better with people who had very calm energy. After I controlled my energy and stayed very calm, his behavior improved noticeably.

      2. Have a plan and be decisive
      Consistency and being decisive are also important with Sephy. Therefore, I always have a detailed plan worked out on how to respond to his problematic behaviors. I usually also have a plan B and plan C. When he starts with something undesirable, I try to be calm, decisive, and effective. I need to be able to stop him from continuing the behavior, and also prevent him from getting rewarded for it.

      Often, Sephy would get inadvertent rewards. For example, if he stole the t.v. remote controller, I would shout and chase him to get the controller back. As a result he got rewarded with a fun game of chase, with lots of excited shouting. This made him repeat the behavior more and more because it was rewarding. My response was actually reinforcing his bad behavior.

      Instead of chasing and shouting, I put a light drag lead on him. When I see him make moves on the controller, I just step on the lead. In this way, he can’t run away, there is no game of chase, and I can quickly put him in a time-out area. From this he learns that –
      Steal t.v. controller = No rewards and temporarily lose freedom.

      3. Focus on my Shiba
      Sephy also behaved much better with others even though I was his primary caregiver. This annoyed me to no end. However, the more annoyed and upset I got, the worse my energy became, and that again led to Sephy picking up on my bad energy. Therefore, I had to detach myself somewhat and just focus on making things better for Sephy. If he had fun with other people, that is good by me. If he has fun with me, that is good too. However, I will still stop him from doing things that he is not supposed to do, I will stick with my plan and be consistent, and I will stay very calm.

      More on how I deal with puppy biting.
      More on how I teach my puppy self-control.

      Some of my early experiences with Sephy-

      Good idea with the trainer. Let us know how it goes.

  7. Kathleen says

    I have a 9-year-old male Shiba that I adopted from a shelter when he was four – like you mention, positive reinforcement and attention / treats are the best – this dog makes me laugh every day, so glad I have him! This week I”m adopting a Shiba puppy who came over for a home visit and I was pleasantly surprised how well and curious my boy was about it!

    • shibashake says

      I was pleasantly surprised how well and curious my boy was about it!

      That is awesome! Sephy used to love puppies when he was young, but now he is more reserved/aloof. It took about 10 days for him to warm up to the last addition. Once he accepts them into his Shiba circle of trust though, he is great with them.

      Congrats on your new puppy. I am so glad that she has found such a great home. Sounds like it is going to be a great Shiba Christmas. :D

  8. Dog lover says

    Are shiba inus a good first time dog when they’re young, cause we might rescue one from a rescue we found online

    • shibashake says

      In general, Shibas are *not* recommended for first time dog owners. I got a Shiba puppy as my first dog, and went through a very difficult time with him, before I learned enough to properly handle him.

      However, each dog is also different, with their own temperament, background, training, etc. How old is the Shiba at the rescue? What does the rescue people say his personality is like? Has he already had a bunch of training? Does he currently have any behavioral issues? Do they think he would fit in with your situation?

      More on why Shiba Inus are difficult to train.
      More on my experiences with Shiba Sephy.
      I write a lot about my adventures with Sephy here.

    • Joyce says

      We got a Shiba Inu (Max) at the humane society last Feb(’14). I had previously had been doing a lot of research on the Shibas. This is our 2nd dog, a poodle/shitzu mix.
      Max was 3 yrs old. He was an owner serender…stated he didn’t get along with their other shiba. We found out that they had a Children day care center. We believe that he was mistreated by the children…so now, of course he doesn’t like small children. We are very cautious when children are present when we are in the public.. Their other shiba was fat where Max was very skinny, his fur was dull. Now, he has a wonderful coat, at the ideal weight. He is an absolute joy! My husband was 1st leary of this breed, but now he stated that this is the best breed! The big dog look, but compact!
      We love Max to the “Max”!

  9. ruth ann peterson says

    Loved your article and tips. We have two Shiba Inus, now 14 and 10 years old. LOVE ‘em! They really are our four legged children. We didn’t find them incredibly difficult, tho you can tell they are a “wilder” breed, but maybe that is because we’ve had other pups and I’ve always had cats as well. I’d say, if you are an animal lover willing to take the time, Shiba Inus are GREAT! : ) Best wishes to you and Sephy!

    • shibashake says

      Thank you Ruth and big hugs to your two, although they would probably prefer chicken to hugs. ;)

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