Shiba Inus tend to know what they like and dislike and they are not shy about communicating this information to their owners.
Shiba Sephy is particular about his food, how and when he is touched, how he is held, stepping on puddles and wet mats, and of course …
he has his own ideas on how other dogs should or should not behave in his royal Shiba presence.
Here are some things I have noticed about Shiba Sephy when it comes to meeting dogs.
You’re not the boss of me
Shibas are rebels and do not like having a boss – human or canine. They may sometimes decide to follow certain requests from their human companions but only when there is cheese on the line.
When it comes to other dogs, they do not usually get along with dominant personalities – and this includes other Shibas!
- Shibas are not submissive and will not surrender even to a larger dog.
- Shibas like to play rough and wrestle.
- Shibas will bully other dogs if they can get away with it.
As a result, socializing your Shiba to other dogs can often be a challenge.
Size *does* matter
Shiba Sephy gets along much better with larger, playful dogs, who also like to play rough. I never let him play with smaller adult dogs because he will very quickly overwhelm them.
Puppies seem more tolerant, are more submissive, and usually like to wrestle, so Sephy has fun playing with smaller puppies.
To the right, my little Siberian puppy is showing Sephy who is boss!
If you are thinking of getting a second dog, make sure to get one who will be a good playmate with your first dog.
The “Human” factor
While socializing your Shiba, you must also deal with other dog owners, and many people are uncomfortable with the rough and tumble style of Shibas. During play, a Shiba can appear quite fierce, showing lots of teeth and making Shiba war-cries.
It is best to keep your Shiba away from fearful people and their dogs as they will likely project bad energy that may trigger extreme behavior in their dog and possibly even in yours. Do not socialize your Shiba with unbalanced dogs and unbalanced owners, as they may teach/cause your Shiba to engage in bad interaction habits including fear aggression and mouthing on people.
Just as it is important to screen your children’s friends, it is important to screen your Shiba’s friends.
Shiba Sephy is very sensitive to my emotions and to the emotions of the people around him. He quickly picks up on fear, frustration, anger, or excitement, and gets even more crazy.
While meeting other dogs, stay calm and do not put undue tension on the leash.
Shibas do not generally like having dogs come unannounced into their space.
Many other guard breeds, such as German Shepherds, feel the same way.
If your Shiba has this preference, you should protect him from strange dogs. Tell other dog owners not to come too near because your Shiba is wary of new dogs. Suzanne Clothier describes this issue very well in her article "He just wants to say hi".
My Shiba is reactive to other dogs so I am very careful during dog-to-dog greetings. He is always supervised when he is with other dogs, and he is not allowed to bully or hump. He also does not enjoy new dogs sniffing his butt without permission, so I will body block dogs from going into his buttockal region.
For reactive dogs, it is best to introduce them slowly to other dogs and have one-on-one play dates. One-on-one play sessions are easier to supervise and there is less excitement and uncontrolled behavior.
On-leash vs. off-leash
A Shiba may display different behaviors when he is meeting dogs on-leash or off-leash.
The leash can sometimes create fear (Shiba can’t run away) and barrier frustration (Shiba can’t get to the other dog). As a result, a Shiba may show more aggression when he is on-leash compared to when he is off-leash. Nevertheless, it is useful to teach a Shiba polite greetings whether he is on or off-leash.
If your Shiba is only aggressive on-leash, then you can use off-leash time as a reward for good on-leash behavior. If you are unsure of your Shiba, first start desensitizing him to dogs from a distance and slowly work your way towards a greeting.
It is also possible to use a muzzle, but that may cause the same fear and barrier issues as the leash. Shiba Sephy does not like the muzzle and shuts down when he has a muzzle on. Another possibility is to let the dogs meet from across a fence, but this can also cause barrier frustration.
Desensitization from a distance has worked best on Shiba Sephy.
Spaying and neutering
Spaying or neutering can also help with the dog-to-dog socialization process.
Un-neutered males may posture more when in the company of other dogs. This can lead to dominance displays, which may escalate into dog aggression. Female dogs that are in heat should always be separated from all male dogs, as she may trigger competition among the males and cause a dog fight.
Some owners may be reluctant to spay or neuter their dogs because they are afraid that the process may change their dogs’ personality. According to the Humane Society of the United States,
A dog’s personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by sex hormones.
This article by the Dog Owner’s Guide also has useful information on spay and neuter surgery.
Socialize your Shiba slowly
Start socializing your Shiba by walking him on-leash in your own neighborhood. See how Shiba reacts to calm dogs, fenced reactive dogs that he can’t see, and then fenced reactive dogs that he can see.
Desensitize him to each of these situations slowly so that he does not practice any aggressive behaviors.
Remember to maintain calm energy when meeting other dogs. If you are tense, your Shiba will pick up on that energy, and get tense and reactive as well.
Once Shiba is calm around the neighborhood, you may want to take him to a nearby SPCA and desensitize him there. At the SPCA there are usually fewer dogs around than in a dog park, and SPCA dogs are usually handled by trainers or trained volunteers. There is less danger of things getting out of control at the SPCA.
Taking a dog obedience class is also a good way to socialize your Shiba and have him focus on you even when there are other dogs around. A class is also a good way to meet friends that you can later invite for play dates.
Options for dog-to-dog socialization
1. Dog Playgroups
Dog playgroups are usually organized by training facilities or dog daycare facilities. The advantage of a playgroup compared to an enclosed dog park is that these sessions are supervised, and owners are usually very conscientious about cleaning up after their dog, and making sure that their dog is behaving properly.
Dogs in these playgroups tend to be more balanced because they are more socialized compared to the average neighborhood dog.
The disadvantage is playgroups usually only occur weekly or monthly, and at a specific time; whereas a dog park is open at all times.
2. Dog Daycare
While Shibas may be aloof and independent, they generally like being with their humans. At a daycare center a Shiba gets to enjoy dog and human company all day long. This will help to socialize Shiba and increase his confidence when facing new people and dogs.
Make sure to thoroughly check out the daycare facilities and their staff before enrolling your Shiba. Ensure that the dog playgroups are not too large and are well supervised, otherwise fights may occur or your Shiba may get harassed by the other dogs.
Here is more on what to look out for in a daycare center.
3. Enclosed dog parks
Shibas really need to have off-leash time to do their Shiba running and get rid of excess energy. If you do not have a backyard, an enclosed dog park may be a good place for your Shiba to run free.
On-leash walks alone (3 hours daily), were insufficient to drain my active Shiba. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find a good dog park with responsible dog owners. Unless you find a good dog park, your Shiba may get into fights, get injured, or pick up bad behaviors from the other dogs at the park.
4. Group Dog Walking
Group dog walks may be a good way to socialize your Shiba if he is uncomfortable being in a large group of dogs. Dog walks usually have a maximum of about 6 dogs per walk and is a less stressful social environment for a Shiba.
Walks are a lot more structured, well supervised, and conducted in an interesting environment (e.g. an outdoor park). This means that Shiba has other things to focus on, and need not obsess on dog-play the entire time. Finally it is good training for Shiba to feel comfortable about walking with a pack of other dogs.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a good dog walker who can handle a Shiba without resorting to forceful aversive techniques. Here is an article from the San Francisco SPCA on choosing a good dog walker. If you cannot find a good walker, it is best to stick to the dog playgroups and daycare.
Socializing a Shiba Inu to other dogs
If your Shiba is showing aggressive behaviors, do not push him too quickly in the socialization process.
Socialization is now a popular buzzword in dog training, but do not force your Shiba into becoming a social butterfly if he is not comfortable being one.
It is important to teach your Shiba good manners when greeting people and other dogs, but do not force him to interact or play if he prefers not to.