The Dominant Dog – Dealing with Dominance in Dogs

What is a dominant dog?

Some people attribute all problem behaviors to “dominance“, while others do not want to use the “dominant dog” label at all. The truth, as always, is somewhere in-between.

It is useful to recognize dominant behaviors in our dog, so that we can better manage him, keep him safe, and set him up for success. Refusing to use the word dominance, or denying its existence in dogs, is unhelpful.

Any pack animal including humans and dogs, have to deal with dominance issues, because it is part of pack dynamics.

Similarly, trying to explain everything away by using the dominant dog label or excuse, is also unhelpful. To really fix a problem behavior, we want to fully understand it, and correctly identify its source. For example, a dog may show aggression because of dominance. However, dog aggression can also be the result of fear, stress, play, curiosity, boredom, or something else.

Dog Dominance

Dominance is a fluid concept.

Dogs are not dominant all of the time.

For example, many dogs will show greater dominance when they are on home turf, or when their owners are around. Under different circumstances, these same dogs may become less assertive, or may even become submissive.

Observe our dog carefully, and identify when he is more likely to show dominance, and why.

Dominance is a relative concept.

My Shiba Inu, for example, is more dominant than most dogs I have owned. He challenges me more frequently, and is constantly testing his boundaries. He has a dominant body posture, and he will not back down when challenged by other dogs.

My Siberian Husky, is a more submissive dog. She usually stops whatever she is doing, when I tell her to. She very quickly backs down, and uses submissive body language, when confronted by other dogs.

However, this does not mean that my Husky will always back down, or never show any dominance behavior. She simply prefers to avoid conflict, and has learned that she usually gets more, by seeking a peaceful resolution. I make sure to encourage this behavior, by rewarding calmness and conflict avoidance very well.

What is a Dominant Dog?

  1. A dominant dog will likely respond with aggression when he is frustrated, or when he feels threatened. He may also redirect that aggression onto us, if we try to physically engage him.
  2. A dominant dog is more forceful when it comes to fulfilling his own needs and goals. He is not afraid to challenge those around him, and to continually test his boundaries. My Shiba Inu is always testing to see if particular rules, such as the no getting on furniture rule, still hold true.
  3. A dominant dog is more likely to fight, and less likely to submit or run away. My Shiba Inu likes playing with other dogs, but he generally does not get along with dogs who try to dominate him. If challenged, he will not back down, and this can result in a dog fight.

Dealing with a Dominant Dog

1. A dominant dog needs a calm and assertive pack leader.

Being angry and shouting at our dog, will only worsen his behavior. Fear and uncertainty will increase his level of stress, and cause him to behave in a more erratic fashion.

The best way to deal with a dominant dog is to remain calm, and firmly remove him from the environment or object, that is causing him to act out.

2. Contrary to common belief, physical force or physical corrections is NOT a good way to deal with dominant dogs.

If not perfectly executed (with perfect timing, force, and technique), a physical correction may further frustrate our dog, and cause him to get more aggressive.

Instead, stay calm, keep physical interactions to a minimum, and quickly leave the stressful situation. In addition, using physical force against a dog, may end up teaching him the wrong lesson; in particular, use violence against violence.

True alpha dogs lead by controlling the pack’s resources. We can control our dog’s resources by following the NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free) program, and using reward obedience training.

3. A dominant dog should be carefully managed and supervised.

We want to step in and stop any aggressive behaviors, before our dog escalates and loses control. Prevention is key when dealing with a dominant dog. It stops him from practicing aggressive behaviors, and it enforces the important lesson that we are calm, and in charge.

4. A dominant dog should have more rules.

To become a good pack leader, it is important to develop a set of house rules and some structure, for our dog to follow. Always be consistent with enforcing all of those rules.

My Shiba Inu’s most important house rules include –

5. A dominant dog should have frequent obedience training sessions.

Schedule at least two or more short (10 – 15 minutes) obedience training sessions with our dog, every day. It is a good idea to keep up with obedience exercises, throughout a dog’s life. This keeps him mentally sharp, and makes it clear that we are in charge.

6. Use proper equipment to control a dominant dog.

When dealing with aggression, safety should always be a primary concern.

Use whatever equipment is necessary, to keep all the people around our dominant dog safe. A drag lead may also be useful because it gives us good control of our dog, without having to lay hands on him or his collar, and without resorting to chasing games.

If our dog has a bite history, it may be necessary to use a muzzle. I like the basket muzzle because it does not overly constrain a dog’s mouth, and is more comfortable. A basket muzzle will still allow a dog to eat and pant.

Be careful not to aggravate our dog’s aggressive behavior by overly constraining him, and causing barrier frustration. When in doubt, consult a professional trainer.

7. Always set our dominant dog up for success.

Try to minimize the number of dominant displays. Identify objects (e.g. other dogs, cats) and environmental conditions (e.g. loud noise) that trigger dominant behaviors, and avoid those triggers.

Then, gradually desensitize our dog to those events, in a controlled fashion.

Many dog behavioral issues, including resource guarding, biting people, dog-to-dog aggression, sensitivity to handling, growling at humans, and general disobedience, are often attributed to “the dominant dog“.

However, each of these problems are unique, and complex. They are usually the result of many factors, one of which may be dominance. In fact, many behavioral issues are the result of stress and fear, and have nothing whatsoever to do with dominance.

When dealing with dog behavioral issues, it is best to keep an open mind.

Observe our dog and his environment carefully. Identify the triggers for his aggressive behavior, and try to understand why he is responding in this way. If his aggression is extreme (e.g. he is breaking skin, and/or causing puncture wounds), hire a professional trainer to help us carefully trouble-shoot the problems.

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  1. Anonymous says

    Hi! I work at a pet kennel, have had numerous aggressive and timid dogs warm up to me. However, there is a beagle there who hates specificly me. The dog doesn’t like new people, but doesn’t show the same aggression to them. It only barks. Unless I have food in my hand, the dog lunges at the fence with bulging eyes and a stuff body. Even walking past the cage is a problem because it’s so intent on biting me. How can I get the dog to warm up to me? I have tryes giving it treats, getting down low to show that I mean no harm, but in the same sense, I feel like I should show my dominance as a leader. Please help!

    • shibashake says

      I do people desensitization exercises with my dog to help him to be more calm around people, and to build positive associations with people.

      I establish leadership with my dogs by using resource control methods and following the Nothing in Life is Free program. I manage my dog’s environment and use management equipment as necessary to keep things safe. Dominance and other physical based methods did not work well with my dog. It made him lose trust in people and his reactive behavior worsened in the longer term. I no longer use such methods with my dogs, nor would I recommend their use to others.

      More on dominance and bad dog behavior.

      When a trainer deems a dog dominant, pet parents are usually told they must assume the “alpha” role to fix behavior problems. Unfortunately, training plans that are intended to assert a pet parent’s superiority are usually harsh and adversarial in nature. Techniques like alpha rolls, scruff shakes and other violent maneuvers frighten many dogs and can trigger defensive aggression. These techniques aren’t just unpleasant for dogs and dangerous for pet parents to administer. They’re also irrelevant to most behavior problems, and they can erode the bond between dog and pet parent.

  2. TMM says

    Hi, I really enjoyed this article and hope you can offer some advice for me.
    My dog is a 2.5 year old border collie-lab mix. She’s about 50lbs. She was socialized as a puppy, but around the time she was a year to 18 months she started having troubles at the dog park. She had been bullied by an adult female boxer, and after that started showing aggression when new dogs invaded her space. Anytime she showed aggression we would immediately leave the park. When she was 18 months old she got in a fight with a female boxer mix, and unfortunately broke skin on the other dog’s ear before I got to her to break it up (the other dog’s owner didn’t assist in breaking it up at all). For anyone concerned, I paid the other dog’s vet bill and did everything I could to help. After that incident we didn’t go to the park anymore and limited play dates to one-on-ones with dogs she already knew.
    We attended a special training class for reactive dogs and learned some valuable techniques for handling her in different situations. We take regular walks and have frequent playdates with certain puppy friends, but don’t go to the park anymore.
    I’m keeping my friend’s black lab right now, which we do very often. My dog and the black lab are best friends and get along very well all the time. Today I had another friend who needed to bring her dogs over while her house was worked on. She has a male rat terrier who played with my dog as puppies and they get along. She also has a female golden retriever who my dog doesn’t know very well. When they came over, I had my dog in the backyard and the black lab in another room. We put the rat terrier outside with my dog while we introduced the black lab and the golden retriever inside. Then we put all the dogs outside. They did just fine. They all sniffed each other and walked around the yard peeing and pooping and, other than the black lab occasionally trying to hump one of the new dogs, all was fine.
    After about a half hour of peaceful interaction, my friend and I went outside. The dogs crowded around us, and almost immediately my dog became aggressive toward the golden retriever, growling and snarling. I grabbed her and held her apart while my friend put the other dogs inside, and then since they had an appointment I helped her take her dogs out to her car.
    My dog is often boarded at a kennel with frequent playtimes, and she has never had a problem. The common denominator seems to be me. Could my presence be triggering her aggression somehow? Is she being protective of me?
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • shibashake says

      Were you giving attention to the Golden? Was the Golden blocking your dog from getting to you? Was it an exciting greeting when you and your friend went outside? Did the dogs get really excited?

      Many things can trigger a reactive reaction from my dogs, especially when there are new dogs or guests around. For example-
      1. During play, my dogs may get over-excited, and this may sometimes cause them to lose control and become reactive. I have clear play rules, I supervise during play, and I manage their excitement level.
      2. After they have been alone for awhile, for example in the backyard, they may also get excited when I go out to them. This can sometimes also cause them to lose control. I try to make greetings low key, and I get them to do obedience commands right away if I notice the start of over-excitement.
      3. Dogs get affection, food, and other good stuff from us. Therefore, we are a very valuable resource to our dogs. As a result, a dog may try to “guard” their people resource, especially from a new dog. A dog may also guard other resources, e.g. their personal space.
      4. A dog may show aggressive behavior when feeling threatened or vulnerable.
      5. ASPCA article on the many different types of aggression.

      Also, each of my dogs has different tolerances to other dogs based on temperament and past experiences. My Shiba Inu is the most picky, so I am always very careful when introducing him to new dogs, especially on home-turf. Dogs may become more protective of their home area, and may show more guarding behavior. I always supervise my Shiba closely when there are new dogs around, and it usually takes him a while (could be multiple sessions over multiple days) to get comfortable with a new dog. He does not trust easily, so with Sephy, it takes some extra time and supervision.

      I also did a lot of dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba to raise his tolerance threshold.
      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, and there can be many reasons for reactive behavior between two dogs. Therefore, when in doubt, I always consult with a good professional trainer who can observe the dogs’ behavior within the context of their regular environment and routine.

  3. Yesenia says

    Hello there, my dog, 8 years old, always acts his mates. He will be trying to mount them and ends up growling at them. He was never like this with my other dog but since she died hes been acting this way. Hes also become aggressive towards other male dogs. In walks he’ll be perfectly fine, ignoring every dog though.

  4. Doreen says

    Hi – I have a 1 y/o lab mix named Black and a 1 y/o lab/pit mix named Blu – both (fixed) males and both adopted at 12 weeks old one week apart – Black was adopted first. They have always gotten along wonderfully and recently have gotten into a few hardcore fights. I am not sure what is causing this or what to do about it – are they possibly fighting over position “in the pack” – I do not know which of them is the dominant or leader between the 2. Blu usually takes toys from Black but the both take each others beds, Blu usually goes on the walk first because he is calmer and sits patiently for his leash etc where as Black is hyper excited, if I had to guess I would say Blu may be the leader but I am really not 100% sure – can I be causing this drama by treating them equally? Thanks for any input.

    • shibashake says

      What were the dogs doing right before the fights? Were there important resources around (e.g. food, toys, bed)? What were the people doing? What was the surrounding context of the fights? What type of training are the dogs used to? What is their daily routine like? When did the behavior change occur? Were there any changes or unusual events during that time?

      Dog behavior is very context dependent and there are many different types of dog aggression. This article from the ASPCA has more.

      Given that the fights are hardcore, I would get help from a good professional trainer who can observe the dogs, understand their history and temperaments, read their body language, and evaluate their behavior within the context of their regular routine and environment. Stopping a hardcore dog fight can also be very dangerous for the people involved. While in the throes of a fight, the dog(s) may redirect on anyone who tries to restrain or stop them.

      With my dogs, I find that management is key. I set up structure and a consistent set of dog-to-dog interaction rules (e.g. no stealing, no humping, no bullying). When I get a new dog, I make sure to supervise closely (especially in the beginning) to teach my new dog the rules, and ensure that everyone is interacting well. In this way, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. Rules and supervision help to create certainty and certainty helps to reduce stress and conflicts.

      Even now, I still supervise very well during play-time and meal-times, because that is when conflicts may arise over resources. I *do not* leave my dogs together without supervision until I am very very sure that they will be calm and relaxed together.

      I try to set my dogs up for success by redirecting my dog’s behavior before it escalates into anything serious. I manage their excitement levels by throwing in play breaks, and I try to create positive and calm experiences together.
      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      However, for hardcore fights and aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.

  5. Stephanie says

    WE have 2 dogs, a lab-pit mixed (almost 2yo) and a cavalier mixed (older, age unknown)… Each time, we take both dogs for walks, the cavalier starts barking and the lab starts growling and being aggressive. I believe that the lab/pit is a dominant dog and the cavalier is the instigator.. We are not taking them to walks together any longer, but the pit is still aggressive…. He hasn’t had a lot of socialization and he is almost 2 years old, we adopted him from a shelter. How can we stop this aggression towards other dogs? Help is very much needed… Stephanie.

  6. jeff seibeck says

    I have a 2 1/2 year old American Bulldog/ lab. He is very aggressive towards other dogs when we go out to the dog parks or in public. I have a 4 year old boxer that he will sometimes attack if he gets mad. I have a baby on the way and I’m not sure what to do. I’m also a veteran and I’m going to be getting a service dog for my PTSD. I don’t want to have to get rid of him but I don’t know what or how to stop his aggressiveness. Can u help.

    • shibashake says

      Congratulations on your upcoming baby! 😀

      I helped my dog to be more comfortable around other dogs by doing dog-to-dog desensitization exercises. I did desensitization training at my local SPCA, with a trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs.

      One of the key things with helping my dog, is to manage his environment, so that he is not exposed to reactive events with other dogs. The more successful, calm, and rewarding experiences he has with other dogs, the more he associates other dogs with positive outcomes. Similarly, reactive events will undermine his trust, significantly set back our training, and worsen his behavior.

      Given that you have a baby coming, it is probably best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and situation are different. A multiple dog household, with an upcoming baby, would further increase the complexity of the surrounding context.

  7. Ellie Woodthorn says

    I have this dog, Rupert who is a cross with a shih-tzu and a jack russel, he is just over a year old.

    He is a lovely dog but the problem is he bites. As a puppy he gave us a few nips here and there but we assumed it was him adjusting and that he was puppy, so never properly corrected him (with regret.)

    I believe he is dominant, he has grown up with a cat and as a puppy she had attacked him, mainly due to the fact she had given birth a few weeks later (we wasn’t aware she was pregnant and kept them in a separate room) not sure if all this is relevant but im giving his life story.

    When it comes to food, he shoots to his bowl, scoffs her food down and then eats hers.

    He is a loving dog when he isn’t being a brat, enjoys being groomed and pampered. He is happy to see us and is sad when nobody’s home. (I know this because my family leave me laying in bed and I hear him sometimes howl for them, he then realizes I’m home and will not ;ave my side.)

    We know that what causes him to bite is taking away something such as a toy or a bone. However on occasion he gets hold of my underwear and I am to frightened to get it from him because he can puncture flesh. He also takes the youngest toys and teddy, humps them and growls if we go near them, but this is for every toy.

    He has nicked food from my hand only once, and being a female and that time of month was in no mood so I took it back. He bit me, I hit him unable to control my rage of being constantly frightened by the dog, he bit me back. That I understand for.

    My father is the dominant male who will tell him to go out that back. However he has bit all of us, and recently attacked my sister for moving the blanket over my other sister. He was on the bed and didn’t like it. However we can’t physically pick him up because he bites and it hurts.

    I’ve tried dominating him with my stare, I win. I keep calm and try to reduce a stressful tone and it is very hard when a dog angers you, especially when he attacks family members. I show him that its wrong and he tucks his tail behind his legs and is all apologetic.

    The thing is 99% of the time he’s lovely and even allows the cat to attack him. I don’t know the word he is territorial? He barks at nothing, sometimes he alerts us he needs to go toilet however the majority of the time I’m pretty sure it’s to P**** us off. We try toys, treats etc.

    Is there anything to stop our boy from bullying our cat and biting his owners.

  8. adam says

    i have a pit / bulldog mix. she is the sweetest dog and loves playing with other dogs. But twice now she has attacked my little old chihuahua who is also female. This last time she almost killed her. my dog does not seem to do it out of stress or anger, it is like she is showing off for me. She doesn’t even mess with my chihuahua unless I am standing there with them. She seems to not have a mean bone in her body but she attacks so happily when it comes to the other dog. She herself was attacked by a dog when she was younger and I feel like it may have something to do with her behavior. She minds well and recognizes me as the pack leader but for some reason she needs to get excited and attack to impress me. I do training with her and try to keep her from getting over excited. For example one time I was running back and forth across the yard with her and when I jogged back up to the porch and she immediately hopped on my little chihuahua. this last time was so awful and makes me very sad. I walked into the door and the dogs got excited to see me. my pitmix and all her excitement turned and pounced old my little chihuahua again. This time she gave her the death shake and flung her all around and wouldn’t let go. My 11 year old chihuahua was in shock and now her arm is possibly broken. She is going to the vet first thing in the morning. what do I do about this hyper energy aggression and get her to understand that this type of showing off is very bad?

    • shibashake says

      My dogs usually get very excited when I come home. I make sure to keep greetings low key and to keep their excitement in-check. I do this by getting them to focus on me and I get them to do commands. I need to redirect them onto me *before* they lose control of themselves. If they get over-excited, they may sometimes redirect their excited energy onto each other, and that is what I want to avoid.

      I also do desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises to raise their reactivity threshold. This is something that is better done under the direction of a good professional trainer.

      I separate my dogs until I am very very sure that they won’t hurt each other. I use leashes and other management equipment, to keep everyone safe. Management is very important because it allows me to set my dogs up for success and not put them in situations where they will lose control. For example, if a guest is coming, I keep my Shiba Inu on-leash because he is the most reactive. In this way, I can easily stop him from running around and amping up my other dogs.

      During play, I make sure to throw in many play-breaks. For example, running with my Shiba always gets him very excited, so I have breaks in-between, where we do commands and he gets a chance to calm down. Once he is calm, I can resume play and then break and so on. When play ends, I make sure he is totally calm before bringing him back inside with my other dogs. In this way, he doesn’t come in over-excited and get reactive on my other dogs.

      I also set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. When I got a new puppy, there was a big difference in age and size, therefore I keep puppy close to me, or separated from my other dogs. During play, I use leashes to make sure that I am always in control and my puppy does not get accidentally hurt by my much larger adult dogs.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and situation are different. Given the big size and age difference of your dogs, I would get help from a good professional trainer who can observe the dogs within the context of their regular routine and environment, and provide guidance on management and retraining techniques to keep everyone safe.

  9. Christine says

    I am in need of some advice. We have a 3 year old mutt who is very friendly and
    loves other dogs, children, and people. We take her everywhere and 98% of the time
    she is very friendly to everyone. Our neighbor has a lab puppy who has been playing with
    her since she is very little but now that she is much larger and a bit of a “bull in a china shop” Stella (my dog) growls and snaps at her for about the first 10 minutes every time they play. The dog is very submissive to Stella so eventually Stella calms down but obviously the behavior is upsetting and sounds very nasty. Yesterday we were at a dog walk that Stella loves and a dog (another lab) that she knows and likes ran up to her and got in her face and Stella attacked him. Twice – we think she even bit him but it happened so quickly. We separate them and she was fine with all the other dogs during the walk and then had no issues with the lab the rest of the day and we spent hours with them afterwards but just made sure he didn’t jump on her again.
    I would like to be able to eradicate this behavior and I know that Stella is probably feeling intimated as they are much bigger than her (doesn’t happen with smaller dogs) and stressed. How do I make sure this stops happening? I don’t want to have to worry about taking Stella out with us
    Thank you

  10. Mike says

    How do I stop my husky puppy from dominating another dog in our household? She will not leave our corgi mix alone. How do I go about correcting this behavior. The husky is 3 months old and we have a 12 year old husky mix and a corgi poodle mix that’s 4. She is signed up of obedience training and starts a week from Friday.

    • shibashake says

      Some things that I did when introducing my new Husky puppy-
      1. I set up a consistent set of rules including dog-to-dog interaction rules. I slowly teach my puppy what these rules are. In this way, each dog knows exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty and certainty helps to reduce stress and and conflicts.

      2. I set up a fixed routine for my puppy, which includes the ever important nap time, training time, play time with me, and interaction time with my other dogs. I set things up so that they fit well with the current schedule of my existing dogs. In this way, my other dogs have a bunch of time where they know that the puppy is napping or doing stuff with me.

      3. During interaction time, I put a light-lead on my puppy so that I can keep her close to me and have better control. If she plays too rough or if she tries to bother a dog that does not want to be bothered, I no-mark, and redirect her attention back onto me by doing something interesting, e.g. starting a fun game, rewards, etc. If she ignores me and continues, then I use the leash to get her away and engage her in doing something else.

      4. I start doing simple obedience commands with my puppy as early as possible, e.g. Look, Sit. This is useful because it allows me to redirect her focus back onto me, and gives her a chance to calm down. During play/interaction I throw in many obedience breaks, which helps to manage her level of excitement, so that play does not get out of control and escalate into something else.

      5. I try to set my dogs up for success by scheduling interaction time when everybody is most receptive. I make sure there are safe areas where if a dog goes in there, it means they want a break. I supervise interaction time very closely so that I can do play-breaks, redirect unwanted behavior, make sure safe areas are safe, and stop things before they escalate.

      More on what I do when introducing a new dog.

  11. NellyDean says


    We have an eight month old Jack Russel. He is such a loving family pet however his behaviour has been getting steadily worse. We have contacted a dog trainer and we are lead training him at the moment, so walking him correctly when out on a walk and making him wear the lead in the house to control his behaviour. He is fine with other dogs, he just wishes to play, he has never ran off and is relatively well behaved in the park. In the house however he is aggressive and loud and will not do as he is told unless he is on the lead. He is more aggressive towards my partner and he bites his feet and runs off in order to get a reaction. He then has to be put in his cage so that he settles down, however, shortly on being let out again the behaviour continues. We have stopped him getting on the settee and began to change the way in which we feed him, so guarding it and making him wait for it. I have also tried teaching him patience on the lead so waiting thirty seconds at door ways and walking out before him not vice versa. Is there something I can do to limit the aggressive behaviour, it is most prominent when we are sitting on the settee watching the television, so a peaceful evening without stress is impossible at the moment! It really is heart breaking to see him like this as the imbalance is obviously making him an unhappy dog and I just want what’s best for him. Please help us. Nelly.

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I had similar issues with my Shiba Inu when he was young. He behaved badly in the house and started doing leash biting when we went out on walks. It was not a good time.
      More on my difficult beginning with Sephy.

      Some things that I learned from Sephy-
      1. He is very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. If I am fearful, frustrated, worried, angry, or otherwise stressed, he will pick up on that, get stressed himself, and act event more crazy. After I controlled my own energy, things improved significantly with Sephy.

      2. He likes to get a reaction from people and start a chasing game. If I chase him, it is more fun than ever, he gets rewarded for his bad behavior, and he keeps repeating it. During the early days, I put a drag-lead on Sephy (only with a flat collar or harness, and only under supervision. Absolutely no aversive collars). The drag lead allowed me to easily stop all chasing games, and quickly take him to timeout. I do *not* use his crate for timeouts.

      3. I set up a fixed schedule and a consistent set of rules for all of my dogs. I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program so my dogs work for all of their food, and for other resources that they want. This is a great way to get them to follow house rules and to establish leadership.

      4. I make sure to exercise Sephy well and give him many positive and structured outlets for his energy. The more energy he spends on positive activities, the less energy he has for his Shiba hi-jinks. 😀

      5. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so when in doubt, I consult with a professional trainer. However, the dog training field is not well regulated so it can be a challenge to find a good trainer.

      The best trainers for Sephy were those who understood the science behind dog training (e.g. operant conditioning principles), are properly certified, and have good experience with reactive dogs. Be careful of trainers who try to explain everything with so called “dominance theory” and who primarily use dominance and aversive techniques. We unfortunately got one of those trainers early on, and it made things a lot worse for everyone, especially Sephy.
      More on how I went about finding a trainer.
      More on where I get dog training and dog behavior information.

  12. Matt says

    Perhaps I missed it somewhere on the site, an important piece of body language, which once I learned to read has made a marked difference in the communication between my Shibas and I. (Had Simba for 14 years, and just rescued two 14 year olds, Rextopher and Lulu).

    Pay attention to the “licking of the lips” (when there is no food involved), it’s a sign of, “Buddy, I’m not cool with this”. If my action, even petting prompts lip licking, it’s the dog telling me to “quit it”. I stop what I’m doing, and over time, they seem thankful that i finally “got it”, and they move me up on their respect ladder.

    I get conflicting information on the “rub my belly” rollover…some assert if does not mean rub my belly…but rather, “I am uncomfortable with the current proceedings and I’m distracting my nervous energy.” Thoughts?

    • shibashake says

      Dog behavior is very context dependent. Therefore, to interpret what my dog is trying to tell me, I take into account his temperament, history, surrounding context, his entire body language, what the nearby people are doing, what my dog was doing before, etc.

      When my dog “wags” his tail, it does not always mean that he is in a friendly mood and wants to meet.
      As you pointed out, when a dog licks his lips it *can* be a sign of stress, or it can also be something else.

      When my dog rolls over, sometimes it is because he is more comfortable sleeping that way, sometimes it is because he wants a tummy rub, sometimes it is his way of begging for food, sometimes it can be a sign of submission, etc. It depends on the context and the dog.

      I do not know of any secret Shiba handshake. :) I learn to listen to my dogs by observing them closely, carefully managing their environment, and evaluating things based on the current context as well as their temperament and history.

  13. Chetena says


    I have two german shepherds, one 19 months old and one 6 months old.
    The older one has always been stubborn since childhood but never showed signs of aggression before. But recently he is becoming bit aggressive not a days. Though he has never bitten any one but sometimes growls towards 2 members of our family.

    Recently he scratched his skin himself, so we have to make him wear Elizabeth Collar for the first time. We made him wear it for few hour and then removed it to make him fell relax and took him for a walk for his business. When we came back he went inside the bed where he generally hides himself and sleeps at night. When we tried to call him out he became very aggressive. He growled at my husband badly and was in a complete attacking mode. We were so frightened, but then I came in and tried to bring him out. He didn’t growled at me thought came out for some time when I shared some treats , but then again went inside.

    However he came out again after sometime, by a trick which my husband does generally.

    He even growls at two other family members sometimes, but all this has started recently in a month. I am very much tensed about his behaviour. We all love him very much, and I don’t want him to be aggressive.

    He has never bitten anyone yet, but is not friendly with strange dogs now. Was fine with them before but not now..

    I wanted to know are we really dealing with a very aggressive dog here?
    And what can I do to make him less aggressive?

    Sorry for so long comment.

    Thank you in advance.

    – Chetena

    • shibashake says

      Recently he scratched his skin himself, so we have to make him wear Elizabeth Collar for the first time.

      Has he been to the vet recently? Is he losing fur? Does he seem uncomfortable? Is he eating and drinking normally? Are there other changes in behavior?

      Sudden changes in behavior *can* be caused by physical issues. The first thing that I do when I notice sudden unusual behavior in my dog, is to rule out physical issues first. I take my dog to the vet if necessary.

    • Chetena says

      Hey thanks for the reply.
      Yes we took him to the vet the next day itself.
      He asked us to let him wear the collar for few days. He still wears it but is clam now. And yes he has been loosing his fur too.

      He seems better now :) May be it was the pain which caused the issue?

    • shibashake says

      Pain, discomfort, or feeling vulnerable (e.g. because of sickness or physical impairment) can cause significant changes in a dog’s behavior. It is the same way with people.

      I am glad that he is feeling better. :)

  14. Ashley says

    Hi there!! I also have a Shiba Inu, she is about 4 years old and is dominant (as most shibas are) But she also has fear aggression. For a bit of history, we also tried ceasar’s techniques when she was a puppy at about 6 months of age because she was absolutely horrendous. She was so bad that we were told to put her down when she was 6 months so we tried every type of training possible. We all assumed that she was just down-right aggressive for no reason, because she would show no signs of fear and just attack instantly. Much like you, I found ceasar’s methods only backtracked my dog and made her not trust me. Shortly after I figured that wasn’t working I jumped to positive rewards based training and saw tremendous improvement in a short amount of time. Fast forward a few years, she still has fear aggression, but has improved a lot. I can trust her to no longer bite people at all, she just has to be introduced slowly to new people, but she warms up shortly after, running and bringing her toys to new company shortly after. What’s great is that now she will actually show fear-responses and I can get her out of the situation if need-be. She knows all basic commands and right now we are slowly working on desensitizing and socializing her with dogs. The reason why I’m typing this is because I’m really struggling at where to go next with the training. She’s able to get right up next to the dog (about 2 feet away). However, I don’t let her anywhere closer, because I don’t know if she’ll attack or not. She gets over-stimulated very easy and can NOT stand butt-sniffing. So as a safety measure I have considered getting a basket-type muzzle. But I was wondering if this would make her regress? She has been doing so well the past few years and especially improving with actually being able to be NEXT to a dog. However, I wasn’t sure if a muzzle would be a good idea or not. I know if I DID use a muzzle I would have to do a lot of conditioning to get her used to it. But I don’t know if it would stress her out too much when near the other dog and cause aggression when she gets frustrated??

    Sorry for the really bad explanation, I wish I could talk to you over the phone or something, it’s really hard to type all of this out especially when it’s so late. This has just really been plaguing my mind now for a few weeks as to where to go next with the training. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I could really use your advice especially since you actually own a Shiba!

    • shibashake says

      With Sephy it really depends a lot on his body language, past experiences, as well as on the energy and temperament of the other dog.

      Sephy also does not like butt sniffing from new dogs. Here is why. With dogs that he already knows and trusts, he is ok with most things except challenges and bullying behavior.

      However, I don’t let her anywhere closer, because I don’t know if she’ll attack or not.

      What is your dog’s body language like when she is close to the other dog? Are both dogs on-leash? What is the energy and temperament of the other dog? Is the other dog engaged with his handler or is he focused on your dog? What is the history of your Shiba in terms of other dogs? Have there been any fights? If so, how serious? What was the context? What type of dogs were involved?

      I observe Sephy very closely when other dogs are around and try to read his body language. Based on our experiences together, I know that he does not get along with dominant dogs. He does well with relaxed playful dogs, who like wrestling and rougher type of play. Small dogs or dogs his own size don’t do well with him because they easily get overwhelmed by his intense play-style and become fearful. Sephy does best with larger, playful dogs. From observing Sephy, I know what dogs to protect him from and how I can set him up for success.

      In terms of a basket muzzle, I have used those on Sephy a few times for vet visits. The thing is, when Sephy has the muzzle on and we go into the vet’s examination room, he just shuts down. His behavior is very different when he has the muzzle on and when he does not. The vet kept saying that he is so well behaved, but if I remove his muzzle, he will go into reactive mode very quickly. This makes it less useful for counter-conditioning and creating positive experiences.

      It is important to note though that dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and each situation will be different. Sephy may respond to the muzzle by shutting down, and other dogs may respond differently. I think if I were in a similar situation to what you describe, I would consult with some good professional trainers and get their thoughts and recommendations. This has always helped me make better decisions for Sephy.

      Hope this helps. Big hugs to your Shiba girl.

    • Ashley says

      Thought I should give you an update on my shiba girl! So when she’s with other dogs (before) any of the aggression behavior starts, she’ll get very still for a split second and then lunge. But her body language is different depending on the dog. If it’s a bigger dog, her hind legs might start shaking out of fear, if it’s a smaller dog, she’ll start pulling on the leash to get to them. However, every situation she’s on a leash. Which made me wonder if she’s leash-reactive more than anything. So I decided to take her to our local dog park. The one closest to us has two sides a big dog side and a little dog side. They’re divided between each other by a chain-link fence so they can say hello to each other but nothing can happen. So I went on the small dog side while there were no dogs there and let her lose, keeping an eye out for anyone else in case they came on the same side. And she actually did great. She didn’t bare her teeth at ANY dog. And she was able to greet nose-to-nose only which is her preference. So all in all it was good. The only trouble we encountered was towards the end when someone came in with two very excited Aussies who were veeeerry talkative while running around so I leashed my girl up and started towards the exit. I picked her up as we got closer to the dogs, and she let out a huge “shiba scream” trying to get lose from me. So the next day I went to try again and went at a more busy time. And I wanted to test something out. So. I did end up testing to see how a muzzle would work on her. I praised her when it was on, have her some treats. Of course at first she was not happy about it, but once we went on a walk with it on, she wasn’t even fazed by it. It was like it didn’t even exist. Her body language was positive, tail curled over her back with her ears perked-up, but relaxed. So YESTERDAY we ended up going to the dog park again and did the same routine. This time with the muzzle on, and someone from the big-dog side ended up encouraging me to come over. So I decided hey. Why not. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just come back over. And oh my gosh. She was a bit hesitant at first, but that tail of hers never went down. She actually ended up playing with some of the big dogs (there were about 8 dogs total on that side) and I was so proud of her! The only dog she disapproved of was a female husky who got a little to close to comfort for her and so I got between them and just blocked her off from sniffing my dog’s bottom. But all-in-all she did wonderful. Of course, she was more interested with the people there and acted so sweet towards them all which made them ask why on earth would such a sweet dog have a muzzle on. Until they saw how she was with the husky lol. But all-in-all it was a great day and I’m really wondering if she’s just more leash-reactive than anything. I was incredibly impressed that the muzzle didn’t change her mood. After about 30 minutes of running around with the dogs, she came up onto the bench and laid next to me, letting all the other dogs come up to her. I was in utter shock! I truly think it really helped because I was the most calm with her that I had ever been when she was near dogs because I knew if something happened the other dogs were safe, which meant she was safe as well. And thankfully all the dogs there are very laid back and all well behaved so I don’t have to worry about any of the dogs attacking her while she’s defenseless but I still keep my eyes on her at all times. But she really seemed to enjoy it and slept sooooo well last night!

    • shibashake says

      That is great to hear Ashley! I am so glad that she is doing so well.

      Thanks for the update and big hugs to your Shiba girl. 😀

  15. TREVA says

    need help
    I have a shepherd/chow dog not quite a year old. My mom just moved in with her small dog who barks excessively at anything that moves or loud noises. My dog, Charlie has made friends with our cat. took a while but worked it out. Charlie has allowed my moms dog to even eat out of his food bowl without getting aggressive about it at all. Although, my moms dog would not allow Charlie to share the food and attacked charlie. Now Charlie wants to stand over the little dog and corner him and not let him move. He doesn’t try to hurt him, but I feel like he’s trying to dominate the little one now. The little dog from day one refused to let Charlie smell him and my mom just never allowed that to happen from day one and now its getting to the point any time the little dog ventures out of the room charlie wants to charge him and corner him. No growling or barking, just stand over him. So, I’m at a point where I don’t know what to do to get them used to each other. I need some ideas or help on how to fix the situation.

    • TREVA says

      my mom also has a perceived perception of a chow mix and thinks that he is just always in aggressive mode.

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up a consistent set of rules. I do not allow any kind of bullying and there is absolutely no stealing. Stealing can encourage resource guarding behavior and aggression. Consistency is important, so all my dogs follow house rules. I get everyone in the house to pitch in, use the same training techniques, and institute the same rules.

      In this way, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from the people around them, and what I expect from them in return. They know that I will resolve conflicts in a fair and consistent manner. Consistency creates certainty, and certainty reduces stress and reactive behavior.

      More on what I do to help my dogs get along.
      More on how dogs learn.

      Note however, that dog behavior is very context dependent. Each dog and each situation is different. Therefore when in doubt, or in cases of aggression, I consult with a good professional trainer.

  16. Cheri says

    Hi there. I have 2 dogs, a year old husky and a 6 month old german shepherd. My husky was attacked by a dog when she was 3 months old, it was really bad and she was lucky she pulled though. Before she was attacked we were about to take her to puppy preschool so anyway after her attacked she recovered and she was about 16 weeks and we took her to puppy pre school so she has been socialize around other dogs since she was little. She is the dominant dog to my shepherd. And to my cousins dogs I look after everyday. She’s still friendly and plays but if something happens she makes sure it’s her way. Or she always steals there toys. Anyway recent we went to the beach we walked past these dogs and my 2 dogs sniffed like always and one of there dogs growled it looked like it was scared and my husky decided to jump on her back and looked like she was trying to hump this dog, I called her and she came. Then also my mate got a new dog and we let our dogs meet, I only let my husky out at this stage and she started getting get snappy at this other dog and I told her to stop it and be nice and she was fine and happy to play. I’ve never seen her act like this and it seems to only be by dogs she’s never meet? Why could this me and how can I stop it?

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, my dogs are also more wary of new dogs. I think that is natural, because they do not know what the new dog will be like, and whether he will be a threat. It is the same with people, we are more wary of strangers because we do not know them, how they will act, or what their intentions are.

      Also, different dogs have different social tolerances. Good article on dog social tolerance.

      Suzanne Clothier also has a great article on dog social boundaries titled He Just Wants to Say Hi.

      With my dog, I try to understand what his social boundaries are, and then I set him up for success by only letting him do greetings that will have a positive or at worst, neutral outcome. The more positive and successful greetings my dog has, the more he learns to associate other dogs with being calm and safe. The opposite is also true, so I try to minimize negative events.

      I also did a lot of dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba to help raise his dog tolerance level, and teach him alternate behaviors when he gets stressed.

  17. Becky says

    I was wonder if I could get your opinion on our adjacent marking situation.

    We have a 6yr old Yorkie-mix. She is a rescue. And we have had her for almost two years. In that time she has come a long way with her trust issues.
    Her toughest hurdle has been other dogs. She barks and lunges, but then tries to hide. It’s as though she is trying to pretend to be dominant but isn’t fooling anyone.

    We were starting to think she would never meet another dog she liked. But a puppy was brought over to our house and no barking, only playing! We ended up keeping this new puppy and for the most part it has been wonderful for both of them. The older dog has helped the puppy with her separation issues. And the puppy has helped the older dog with her acceptance of other dogs (she is learning to ignore other dogs on walks, barks less, and doesn’t give visiting dogs at our home a hard time). They play, they cuddle, but still have their limits. They act like big sister and little sister.

    There’s just one problem(maybe?)
    Whenever we take them both out for a potty break, the older dog will wait for the puppy to pee and then will do some adjacent marking.

    Is it best to put a stop to it (take them out for separate pees? When we do this, the older dog rarely finds, or bothers to find the puppy’s puddle), or let her continue to build her confidence?

    • shibashake says

      Hello Becky,
      So far, I have not seen anything which shows that adjacent marking is an issue. Are you concerned about dominance issues?

      The only thing I have seen so far is this study by Lisberg and Snowdon, which showed that

      dogs adjacent-marked only unfamiliar samples, and neither sex nor TBP significantly affected adjacent marking.

      where TBP = tail base position

      If you know of other articles about this, please post us some links. Thanks.

  18. Ailsa says

    Hi there. I wonder if you could help with my dog’s very selective aggression! She’s around 4-5 years old (neutered), and I adopted her just over 2 years ago. She is usually very calm and not at all aggressive (no aggression at all towards people or my recently rescued kitten), and if we are out walking and meet stray or unknown dogs she is generally pretty disinterested. I’ve always taken her to the park to play with other dogs, and she has both female and male friends she plays will well. I have noticed sometimes that she seems to get overwhelmed if there are more than a couple of dogs playing together, it’s like she doesn´t know where to fit in, and and she gets frustrated. This leads to her sometimes barking at them and trying to mount the dogs. But this is very manageable and does not turn aggressive. But recently there is a new dog in the neighbourhood who mine has behaved aggressively towards right from the start. The other dog is also female, around 6 months old but almost the same size as her. This dog is quite nervous nervous owner) and seems playful but submissive. My dog sniffs her, walks around her and inevitably growls and quickly gets aggressive, trying to bite her. The strange thing is that this aggression seemed to be triggered by the other dog actually submitting to her, rolling onto her back. I get that my dog is probably wanting to dominate. But what I don´t get is why she seems to attack when the other dog has already submitted. Is there something I’m not seeing? I would love to be able to stop this behaviour. Any help would be really great! Thanks a lot.

    • shibashake says

      My Shiba Inu, Sephy, is very sensitive to the energy of the dogs and people around him. If I am stressed or nervous, he will quickly pick up on my energy, get stressed himself, and become even more reactive. He will also pick up on the energy of nearby people and dogs. For this reason, we avoid people and dogs who are fearful, nervous, or over-excited. I try to set Sephy up for success so we only meet more calm or playful/relaxed dogs.

      With Sephy, I want to maximize positive, successful greetings, and minimize reactive events. I noticed that the more reactive events that Sephy had, the more reactive he is likely to become. If I am unsure about a dog or person, then we just avoid and create a neutral experience.

      I also set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules with Sephy. I try to be very consistent about stopping all undesirable behavior, so that he learns which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. I set the rules, and I enforce them in a fair and consistent way so that my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them.

      With Sephy, dog-to-dog desensitization exercises were also helpful in getting him to stay more calm with other dogs.

      When in doubt about my dog’s behavior (especially aggressive type behaviors), I consult with a good professional trainer who can observe Sephy and read his body language within the context of his environment.

  19. JoAnn says

    I have a Rottweiler mix, possibly with shepherd. Dominant, intelligent, but needy. We rescued him when he was about 3, and have had him for 2 years. He had been found as a stray, kept at animal control and then rescued by a local rescue group. He was there for about 6 months when we found him. Severe separation anxiety at first, took about a month of working with him before we could both leave the house at the same time. (We are both retired). Never shown any type of aggression, but very defensive with touching, especially with feet. Gotten past that, hates the vet, but we work with that.
    Now he has started what I think is guarding. He will grab napkins, or food that drops…we have been successfully trading with him. Doesn’t work to try to dominate and try to just take it back! He has always been very friendly with other dogs…greeted them nicely off or on lease. Until now. If a dog he does not know approaches him when we are walking, on leash, especially if the other dog is running with its owner, Lucas jumps, barks, lunges, growls,…you name it. My husband tried to physically stop him today and Lucas almost bit…stopped as soon as he realized what he was doing.(my interpretation) I had him on a walk outside of our neighborhood, and this did. Jot happen. We are seriously considering a shock collar, which is what brought me to your website. A trainer we have used in the past suggested letting the leash out and not restraining him, but that is difficult if I do. It know the owner and dog. We have successfully met some of the dogs after asking the owners permission, and Lucas is fine! Sweet, friendly with both owner and dog. But if they are coming at him and he doesn’t recognize them, the lunging and aggressive behavior starts.
    Any ideas on how to train him without the collar?
    Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      Dogs have social rules and different social tolerances, just as we do. For example, my Shiba Inu does not like strange dogs sniffing his butt or invading his space. However, with dogs that he trusts, he is totally ok with those behaviors.

      A very good article on this by Suzanne Clothier – He Just Wants to Say Hi
      More on dog social tolerance.

      I help Shiba Sephy by –
      1. Creating neutral experiences.
      2. Doing dog-to-dog desensitization exercises.
      3. Protecting him from negative encounters.

      Sephy is also very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. If I am stressed or anxious, he will pick up on that, get stressed himself, and become even more reactive. Therefore, I make sure to control my own energy, and stay as calm as possible.

      More on what I do for Sephy’s dog-to-dog reactivity.
      More on the friendly dog.

      The key with Sephy is to maximize successful outings and minimize negative encounters. I want to teach him how to be calm and relaxed around other dogs, and that other dogs being nearby is nothing to worry about. I do this in a structured and controlled environment through desensitization exercises. At other times, I avoid and create neutral experiences. Punishing him only made him associate other dogs with even more negative experiences, and made him even more reactive.

      During Sephy’s difficult period, we did a lot of desensitization exercises at our local SPCA under the direction of one of their trainers. Dog behavior is very context dependent, and the desensitization process is not exactly intuitive, therefore it was helpful for us to have private lessons with a trainer who was experienced with such behavior and techniques. I also wanted to make sure that everybody stayed safe.

    • Anonymous says

      Thank you. I read the first two articles, but the one thing that stood out was your comment on context dependent. This is new behavior, past 2 months, and only happens on our neighborhood walk. I had him in a park setting with a friend and her golden. No problem with other dogs approaching us…ears perked up, sniffing, but no lunging, growling and barking. Just a normal interaction…they passed and we kept on walking. This also only happens when it is a dog we have not met…usually a runner and dog, whom we cannot stop and ask to meet. Off leash, he has played well with new dogs. But he did get more aggressive with my friend’s dog a week ago when we were at her house and they were playing, before we took them to the park. Her dog went down as he usually does after they race around, but this time Lucas went for his neck instead of just barking. No blood, no damage, but clearly more aggressive than before with a dog he has known for 2 years. Stymied….this was a dog who clearly wanted only people when we first adopted him. Just ignored other dogs, leaning on whoever we met. Now, he heads straight for the dog, sniffing and sometimes mounting. I’ve adopted before, so I know behaviors change, but this is a first for me.
      Appreciate your time.

  20. Amber says

    My family and I have a 2year old female pug/shitzu mix (looks more pug than shitzu). We just recently moved to another state and have been trying to get things straightened up with all of that. Since our move she has become very aggressive with other dogs around her as well as people. She chases people, nipping at their heels, & barks. We have another dog whose a mix, he’s only 8 months old and she has become very over protective with him. If any other dogs start to play with him, she suddenly becomes ‘Cujo’ and attacks the other dog. I believe she has separation anxiety right now because of being in an unfamiliar place. We’ve been using the NILIF concept to work with her, am I being impatient with her? Could she be feeding off of the stress all of us are going through from the move?

    • shibashake says

      When my dog has anxiety issues, the first thing that I do is try to figure out the source of his anxiety. Once I do that, I can-
      1. Manage his environment so as to reduce his anxiety.
      2. Help him cope with his anxiety through desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises.

      Does your dog only show signs of stress when there are no family members around? What was her behavior with other dogs before the move? What was her behavior with people before the move?

      My Shiba Inu, Sephy, also got somewhat stressed when we moved houses. This was because there were large changes to his environment and normal routine, which creates a lot of uncertainty, which leads to stress. Sephy is also very sensitive to the energy of the people around him, so if I am stressed, he will quickly pick up on that and become stressed himself.

      This is different from separation anxiety, because Sephy will be stressed even when we are around. In his case, the stress was the result of changes in his regular surroundings and routine, rather than from being alone or away from his people.

      After the move,
      1. I quickly set up a fixed schedule and routine.
      In the beginning, I make sure to stick to the routine as much as possible. I also establish a set of consistent rules ~ similar to the rules and routine we had when in the old house. In this way, Sephy knows exactly what to expect from me, what to expect from others, what to expect from other dogs, and what I expect from him in return. This created certainty, which helps to reduce his stress.

      During this time I also try to keep things as low-key and stable as possible. Introducing more changes will only exacerbate his anxiety.

      2. I stay calm and decisive.
      I make sure to control my own energy and to stay calm whenever Sephy is around. I also have a plan of what to do when Sephy loses control of himself, so that I can quickly stop and redirect him. Being decisive helped a lot because then Sephy knows that I will always take care of things, and handle him in a consistent way.

      3. I give him outlets for his anxious energy.
      I took Sephy out on longer walks in quiet trails. Sephy enjoys exploring the environment, so this gave him a fun way to release his stressful energy. I picked quiet trails with few people and we went during off hours so that we usually have the place to ourselves, and it is a relaxing outing. It is important that the alternate activity be quiet, low-key, and relaxing.

      I also did a lot of dog and people desensitization exercises with Sephy. This helped him to learn what to do around other dogs and people, and it also helped him to be more calm.

      More on dog anxiety.
      More on people desensitization exercises.
      More on dog-to-dog desensitization exercises.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent. Aggressive behavior can be the result of many different things, so the first thing that I always do is try to accurately identify the source of my dog’s reactive behavior. During Sephy’s difficult period, we visited with several professional trainers who helped us with this and with coming up with a good and safe plan for retraining.

      More on how I change my dog’s behavior.

  21. zoe says

    Please help! my mum has a spaniel cross that even as a puppy was aggressive and timid. you can visit my mother and he will come up excited then when you go to show affection he starts growling. my mum has let him rule the house eg on the sofa with her even sleeps with her. when he gets aggressive she tells us to be careful and gets him up on the chair with her. when you go to leave and kiss her goodbye he goes for you and she tells you to be careful!. she is scared of him and hence he gets away with anything he does. on a serious note he has bitten her twice now and has bitten my granddad and my 2 year old nephew before and most recently tonight my nephew, sister & my mum in the same attack which was unprovoked. after this she had him sitting up on the sofa with her!! she is in total denial and blames everyone else which I feel is not fair as surely if you let a dog get away with biting anyone for no reason it is going to do it again & again. the attacks are getting more vicious and more frequent and she defends him. please advise what you feel is appropriate action as this has now caused a problem as she is blaming my sister when clearly being unprovoked this is not right! please please help…

    • shibashake says

      I would get help from a good professional trainer. It is usually easier to accept dog advice from an outside professional, rather than from family or friends. In addition, dog behavior is very context dependent, so especially in cases of aggression, it is usually a good idea to consult with a professional who can observe the dog within his normal environment and routine.

      When I was having issues with my Shiba Inu (Sephy), we visited with several trainers. The dog training field is not well regulated, so it is not always easy to find a good trainer. However, I learned some really useful things from the ones I visited with. I also read up a lot on dog behavior so that I could more easily screen out the bad trainers, and could better read and understand Sephy.
      More on where I get my dog training and dog behavior information.

      I also made sure to always keep things safe by using management equipment such as leashes, gates, and a basket muzzle if necessary. If my dog should accidentally hurt someone and it gets reported, it would be really bad news for him. Preventing accidental attacks is important not just for the people around, but also to keep our dogs safe.

  22. Tiffany says

    We have had Jackson out Bassett hound ( Jackson)for 5 years, and our shorkie for 4 years. We just rescued a shih tzu (dusty)who is 7 and came from a home where he wasn’t alpha. However, dusty isn’t neutered. I don’t see dusty showing behaviors of alpha. But Jackson won’t stop attacking him. Any toys, treats I understand. But dusty will just be walking by Jackson and Jackson will full on attack dusty. We give them all the same attention. However, I do get scared and yell when Jackson attacks, then lick him in time out for 30 minutes. I know I’m doing this all wrong. Jackson will attack the shorkie once in a while, but will attack dusty everytime he walks near. I don’t know what to do. Help!

  23. Erin says


    I have a 8 month old border collie lab great pyreneese mix. We adopted him at 4.5 months old after being returned from his previous owners for his fear of the husband. At first he would pee whenever my husband went to pet him. We were able to work through that in a few days. We thought that was a sign of being submissive.

    Now we are running into extreme fits when we leave. Our neighbors have mentioned his barking a time or two. We left him outside he destroyed the door frame. We put him in his kennel and he goes berserk. He refuses to eat any treats when in the crate and will actually push them or his favorite toy out of the crate. He did go potty in there twice. It’s a wire crate and he’s managed to eat the handles off and also bend the frame itself trying to get out. He also destroyed the bed that was in there. (He has a crate upstairs that he sleeps in no problem, loves going in there, sleeps like a lamb).

    We aren’t sure if this signs of separation anxiety, or if it’s dominance behavior and we have allowed him to believe he is pack leader and he is upset we are leaving him without him saying it was OK.

    He gets a walk in the am and a walk in the pm and swimming when I get home if it’s hot.

    I did let him sit on my lap (Bad girl, I know, I didn’t know that was bad thing at the time, he’s not allowed to do that anymore). When he did sit on my lap it was up and high above my head.
    He also will try to run us over to get through the doorway first or go up and down stairs.
    He ignores commands he knows. 8 tries to get him to sit/down/stay etc.. He will beg or whine and try to walk around us, anything but do what we are asking. (Not always, but this has been increasing each day).
    He knows there are places he isn’t allowed but deliberately goes back there anyway. He gets yelled at but he doesn’t really seem to care. Or he does.. sorta.. but it isn’t anything to stop him from hoping back over there.

    We also will leave him in the house to go into the garage or get the mail, he doesn’t destroy anything, but starts crying and barking like a mad man. And when we come back into the house he barks at us and jumps up.

    This has all started just in the beginning of June. We are a little dumbfounded and aren’t sure what to do.

    We have started no attention without earning it first, again, 8 tries later..

    I’m scared he’s going to hurt himself by trying to get out of the crate, and I am concerned about his mental health, because I know he’s extremely stressed.

    Help?? Ideas? Anything?



  24. Elizabet Vargas says

    Hello, I have a 1 year old Siberian Husky. He just graduated beginner training. And is doing great!
    However; whenever we take him to the dog park he is a little too rough when playing with the other dogs which always doesn’t work out too well. He is a big alpha dog. But when he’s playing too rough it sometimes ends with the other dogs getting upset. Is there any way to get him to play in a manor that isn’t too rough or frustrates the other dogs? Also, I can’t always tell if he’s just playing or getting aggressive.

  25. kaz says

    Hi there,

    We have 2 boy siberian huskys.We have only recently taken one on two days ago as friends were moving. Our boy Kaizer made his stand the first night and was very dominate being in his own home they had 2 very haunting fights 1 we could break up the other Drew blood from they new boys ear so we separated them for a while. Today they played fine few niggles now and then but is Kaizer just being TOO dominate?? took them for a run and when Kaizer seen Shogun (new boy) being faster he went to attack him. He stands on him and growls, standing over him and bites him were shogun will lie down and then Kaizer will walk off once shogun bows to him. If shogun goes somewhere Kaizer usually sits he’ll go to bite and growl him stand on him etc what’s the best way to treat the situation ?? Thanks as I don’t want shogun to become stressed and nervous

    • shibashake says

      Some things that help keep things friendly with my dogs-
      1. I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules.
      2. I manage their excitement level.
      3. I supervise closely during play, food, and other times where there may be conflict, so that I can redirect or resolve before they escalate.

      More on what I do to keep the peace at home with my dogs.

      However, given that the dogs are fighting, it is probably best to get help from a good professional trainer so that both people and dogs stay safe. We visited with several trainers when going through a difficult period with our Shiba Inu.

  26. Sally says

    Hi there, need a bit of assistance. We have 2 siberian husky pups, they are sisters from the same litter. They have been good at settling into our home. We have a 6 year old daughter who loves them dearly and they love her. We have now come across a problem, they are both getting jealous. My daughter tries to give them both loving at the same time, but as soon as she is out the way they both attack each other to the point that they have drawn blood several times now. I’m worried that they are going to hurt each other badly or hurt me or my daughter as I can not break up the fight! Is this a phase they will grow out of, or is this something more serious?!!

    • shibashake says

      How old are they? How long have you had them? What kind of training are they used to? What is their routine like? How much daily exercise do they get?

      In cases of aggression, it is usually best to get help from a good professional trainer, especially when there is a young child in the household. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so it is often helpful to have a good trainer visit with the dogs, read their body language, as well as see their routine and environment.

      Some things that I do to help keep the peace at home –
      1. I set up a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules, including clear dog to dog interaction rules.
      2. I supervise them closely during play and food time so that I can manage their excitement level and prevent any conflicts from occurring. If there are any conflicts, I make sure to stop things *before* they escalate into anything serious. While under supervision, I use management equipment such as a flat collar and leashes if needed.
      3. I try to set them up for success. I do group obedience training and make sure to reward them extremely well when they are calm and working together for me. I try to maximize successful together time and minimize negative encounters.
      4. I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs.
      5. I try to give them many positive outlets to release their energy, e.g. long daily walks, structured games with me, working for their food, etc.

      More on what I do to help my dogs get along.
      More on what I do to retrain my dog’s bad behavior.

  27. Ginny Forbes says

    My sheba that’s a female dominates me when I go to give my mom a goodnight hug and kiss, why is this?(if she’s laying on my dad’s lap when I say goodnight she doesn’t but she watches me.) How can I get her to stop other than having my dad yelling at her?

    • shibashake says

      What exactly do you mean by “dominates” you? Does she show aggression? What exactly does she do? What does your mom do when that happens? What kind of training is she used to? Who mostly trains her? Who mostly feeds and exercises her? Are there rules in the house? What is her routine like? What is your regular daily interaction with her?

  28. Ben says

    I have 3.5 year old male Labrador that has not been neutered. He is a very social able dog who gets a lot of attention. He is around myself or my dad for a majority of the nights, morning, and evenings. He is in a large pen with two other smaller dogs. He does not food guard and for the most parts listens well. He probably gets away with a lot of bad habits like sleeping on the bed with me and begging. I believe he favors my dad and recognizes my dad as the alpha male. Recently my Father was out of town for 12 days so it was just me and my lab. Typically I get home later and the evening and he has been fed and is at my parents house and I take him from there and he usually settles in for the night. Lately, he has begun to growl when I first make contact with him, just petting. The first time I scolded him verbally and he continued to growl and then changed my tone and called him to me and continued to pet him and he was fine the rest of the night. The second night very similar growled, I did not scold him just backed off came back with a different tone. I did however test it out a little. I stared him directly in the eye with a scowl and he would growl and then I would change my tone and demeanor. I tried this a couple times and that was the typical outcome. And again he went home with me and everything was fine. Finally tonight (third time) He didn’t come greet me when I came in he still I called him and fed him a few treats and went about my business eating my dinner. When it was time to go I bent over to pet him and he growled again I sat on the floor and changed my tone and he was fine. It seems like he may be scared or is he challenging me. I am not sure, I have noticed similar behavior with one of the other dog most cases when they see each other he approaches the other dog with his hackles and tale straight up and that dog rolls over very submissive like and they are fine the rest of the day. He has growled and lunged at other dogs on occasion but he is always on the leash and I pull him back and scold him. I would appreciate another perspective and I have tried to provide a lot of case.

    • shibashake says

      Large changes in a dog’s environment and routine, e.g. someone important being away, can create uncertainty and stress for a dog, and this can lead to changes in behavior. Staring down our dog when he is already anxious, can create more uncertainty and stress, and may make him feel more threatened.

      I help my dog by setting up a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules. This helps him to understand what to expect from me, and what I expect from him in return. I further reinforce leadership by making my dog work for the things that he wants most.

      I set my dog up for success by –
      a) Building trust through exercise, play, walks, and more,
      b) Managing his environment and excitement level,
      c) Protecting him from stressful situations that he is not ready to handle.

  29. Etain says

    Hi I have a female husky/border collie mix that is very dominant over the other two dogs I have (male and female) who are both very submissive. She never fights with them but often guards food and snarls if there is food around.

    I think she was actually the runt of the litter! And she will never look me in the eye if I give out to her so I also think she can be a bit of a coward.

    She was never aggressive towards other dogs unless they were in my house then she would get into a fight. Whenever she encounters another dog when I bring all of them out for a run she sticks her back hair up and puts her head down low and looks aggressive however she never used to do anything, her tail would be wagging within a few minutes and she would play with the other dog. This still happens sometimes but she has also started to fight with some of them, i noticed a few months ago she started resting her head on the back of dogs necks in a dominant way, this soon escalated into fights if the other dog didn’t like it.

    She never draws blood from the other dog when she fights but it still looks serious and scary, today she lay completely on top of the other dog and pinned it to the ground and stayed like that for a few minutes. She has met the dog she fought with today before and has never had a problem with it until today, I noticed she was playing with it until I walked up, then she started growling at it and it turned into a fight.

    She fights with boy and girl dogs (sometime I think she thinks she’s a boy as she pees with her leg up against trees?). She always snarling at me when she is excited (she never bites just makes husky noises and snarls) and also she always puts her paw on me as she wants attention a lot.

    I don’t know what to do I feel like I’ve tried everything .eg giving out and smacking her and also I tried being nice and talking to her in a calm voice and petting her when her back hair sticks up but nothing seems to work. she is extremely independent and likes to run off and do what she wants and will not listen to me unless I have treats she will sometimes run back. I Feel so embaressed when she fights other dogs and feel like shes getting worse no matter how hard I try, just wondering if you have any advice, thanks :)

    • shibashake says

      Hello Etain,
      As I understand it, aggressive behavior can be the result of many things, including fear. For example, fearful dogs may fight back when they “feel” threatened and do not think they have any other options available. My Huskies are more submissive, and they usually do not like to keep eye contact for long. My Shiba is a more dominant dog, and he is very comfortable with staring back at people.

      Here is a short article from UCDavis on aggression and dominance.

      My Shiba is also very sensitive to my energy and to the energy of the people around him. If I am fearful, stressed, frustrated, or angry, he will pick up on that, get stressed himself, and act even more crazy. He started behaving much better after I started controlling my own energy.

      I help my dogs get along at home by setting up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules, and then slowly teaching them those rules. I try to be calm and very consistent while training them. In this way, they fully understand what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them. The key with my dogs is to minimize bad experiences and maximize successes. The more calm, positive experiences they have with each other, the more relaxed they become in the future. The opposite is also true.
      More on what I do to help my dogs get along.

      With my Shiba Inu, I also did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises to teach him to be more calm with other dogs.

      I pick my dogs’ friends carefully, supervise them closely during play, manage their excitement level, and try my best to set them up for success. When we were having problems with Shiba, we also visited with several good professional trainers who could observe him interacting with other dogs, and help us develop a plan for retraining. In cases of aggression, it is usually safest to get help from a professional trainer.

  30. Amanda says

    I have a female German Shepherd who, although submissive, friendly, and obedient to humans and male dogs, gets very dominant to other female dogs, no matter their age or whether they are fixed or not. She is extremely playful and gentle with male dogs, children, and other people, but is very unreliable around female dogs. Do you have any suggestions to help overcome or control this dominant behavior towards other female dogs?
    Thank you!

  31. Natalie says

    I have a 9mo old Shiba Inu and currently her training (although still stubborn at times) is going well. My issue and question arises with the interaction when I bring her to visit and play with her mother at my friends house who owns the mother.

    The first meeting that my Shiba and her mother had after seperation was fine, which was still only a week or two after having got her. However now that my Shiba is older, the next interaction the mother was very aggressive dominat toward my Shiba. My Shiba showed complete submission and did not try to defy the dominance yet the mother was agressive to the point the pup yelped and cried out (unsure if this was bc of being hurt or she didn’t like what was going on).
    After this “introductory period” though they played fine but the period lasted for close to 5 minutes.
    Now I would assume this was a one time thing but EVERYtime I bring my Shiba over there is a “introductory period” where the mother has to be so dominant she is very agressive. One of the interactions I brought the mother over to my house where I also own an older Lab mix that is Alpha in the house and the mother Shiba attacked in agressive domminance my Lab to the point after seperating the dogs my Lab was shaking.
    I have spoken with my friend the owner of the mother mentioning I think perhaps the mother Shiba and her pup that I own may need to be more familiar for this aggression to stop. But I have been told that the mother has displayed this before to the other pups in the litter (as they were all adopted by friends of the owner of the Mother) as well as other female and alpha dogs. Yet when you bring the mother to the dog park she is perfectly composed and no issues that I am aware of.
    I recently found out the mother can become so agressive that she receltly bit the husband of the owner.
    My question is: should I continue to bring my Shiba around her mother if she is going to be that agressive in dominance to her initially despite being told “no” and “stop”? I understand displaying some dominance is normal but the extent of the aggression is not anything I have found “normal” with any dog(s) I’ve owned and I’ve had dogs all my life/growing up (though this is my first time owning a Shiba). My other question is, aside pointing the owners to the suggestions on the site, because I’m not sure what they do at home in training and such with the mother, as well as I don’t want to tell them what to do or how to train their dog, what would you suggest about this situation since the problem is regarding another persons dog? I’m concerned if I step on toes it could cause a major issue so hoping to handle this in best way.
    Looking for help w another’s dog

    • shibashake says

      Hello Natalie,

      In terms of socialization, I pick my dogs’ playmates carefully and I only let them meet or play with dogs that I know they will be successful with. I want to maximize successes so that they will gain confidence around other dogs, and learn to associate other dogs with play and positive events. This is not always possible, as sometimes, there are loose dogs in my neighborhood and we have gotten charged a bunch of times, but I try my best.
      Here is a bit more on my dog socialization experiences.

      In terms of someone else’s dog, I generally do not give opinions, advice, or anything else unless asked to. Even then, I try to be very careful because in my experience, people do not like hearing anything even mildly negative about their kids or dogs. On my site I write about experiences with my own dogs, but even then, there are a bunch of people who get angry because what I write does not fully agree with their own view of the World.

      I believe that the desire for change must come from the people themselves, when they are ready. I do, however, have control of my own actions, so I choose my dogs’ friends carefully, and at other times, we just avoid.

      Just my opinion though. Big hugs to your furry gang! 😀

  32. Steph says

    I have a question– We have had a 14 month old female Aussie since she was a puppy. She sounds a lot like your Shiba- tests the limits all the time. She has been through a ton of obedience training, but she still acts up around other dogs. She has never been agressive to the point that she has physically hurt another dog, she is very playful and has a ton of energy. We rescued a male Border Collie/Newfoundland mix (hes about 20 months old) mix about 2 weeks ago and I think she is having some trouble adjusting. When we let them outside my Aussie jumps and bites at the scruff of my new dog- she doesn’t give up. I can’t get her to leave him alone, she always did this at daycare and also when we visit the dog park. I also know this is a typical Aussie behavior. I have been able to control the behavior inside, but when she goes outside, its a different story. I have tried drag lines, spray bottles, nothing is working. I have also tried using a high value treat and having her “train” while he is outside. This works, but as soon as I go in, she’s back at it again….Help!

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. I supervise during play, manage their excitement level, and make sure everyone follows the rules.

      I have a three legged dog, so I do not allow rough play with her, and I do not allow my other dogs to chase her. I always supervise when she is involved in play. I do not leave her outside unsupervised, with another dog.

      Here is more on what I do while introducing a new dog.

      My dogs are very good at observation. If they see that they can get away with certain behaviors when I am not around, then they will wait until I am not there to do it.

      For example, Husky Lara likes to dig. When left alone in the backyard, she will sometimes start to dig, especially if she smells earth critter activity. To train her not to dig, I leave her outside, but I make sure to watch from inside the house. As soon as I notice the digging behavior, I no-mark, and go out to stop her if necessary. If she keeps digging, she loses outside privileges.

      I was very consistent about this during the training period, and she learned that even when I am not there, I am still supervising her. To stop the behavior, I have to make sure to consistently catch it every time, and to be able to stop it quickly, before she gets rewarded for it (for example by catching a mouse, or starting a fun game). If every time she tries to dig, I stop the behavior and she doesn’t get anything, it becomes a very unrewarding behavior.

      At the same time, I give her other outlets for her digging energy. I take her to places where she can dig, and we also have an un-landscaped section in the backyard where she can dig.

  33. Tina says

    I have an almost 11 years old German Shepperd/Malamute mix, I live with my friend who has a 3 years old Russian Toy Terrier. They’re the best of friends.

    Our problem is that our friend is moving in with us and her dogs are untrained dominant and aggressive.

    She has one 3 years old female Chinese Shar-Pei, she can play with our dogs and go lay down relax and some hours later just get up and go for the throat on the other dogs. In general she’s calm and submissive to us, but not people she doesn’t know she’s not very trusting.

    She also has an 2 years Boerboel. He used to be playful now he’s becoming aggressive and dominant and we can’t get our dogs to get along. I’ve trained my dog rigorously through the years after he had problems getting along with other dogs after being attacked and hurt.
    So I can handle him and calm him down and usually get him to get along with other big male dominant dogs if I have to.
    But my friend never trained her dog and he’s becoming dangerous, challenging everything and staring back at any command, he’s very food fixated and I’m worried he’s going to attack even people when they take it away from him soon.

    We can’t make him even walk calmly beside my dog without him trying to pull off his leash and try to get into a fight.
    I feel that I can’t create a safe environment for them to get along when he’s getting aggressive just by the sight of my dog, and my dog responds to that but even after trying many times his owner can’t calm him down and get him out of attacking state. Do you have any tips on how I can handle the situation and what we should do? I know my post is messy but I’m just in over my head and don’t know what to do, I don’t want to come home and find either of the dogs dead on the floor from a fight.
    Please help, my dog is already old from age even though it doesn’t show very well, I don’t want to inflict a stressful dangerous environment on him.
    Please help

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. I supervise new, in-training dogs carefully, and slowly teach them what my house rules are. I *do not* allow my dogs to physically correct each other. If there are conflicts, I deal with it early, before it escalates, which is why supervision is key.

      If I am unable to supervise, I keep my dogs safely separated, until I am *absolutely sure* that there will be no problems.

      Given what you describe, it is probably best to get help from a good professional trainer.

  34. Gwen says

    Hey! I have a few questions! I have a two year old male chocolate lane who is EXTREMLY dominant. With other dogs, if they do something they know is bad and you say their name, they kinda slink away, he does not. He stands tall and square, looks you in the eye and continues. Tonight, I told him to go in his kennel for bed time, and he stood there looking at me. I walked towards him to lead him by his collar, not angry or anything, and he snapped at me. He has never bitten anyone or hardly ever growled at anyone. He continued to growl at me, teeth bared. This is very weird for him, he is a very docile dog, even though he is dominant. He is also EXTREMLY food aggressive. Not to a point of biting us, but we just steer clear while he’s eating. He gets very rigid and eats quickly, moving so you are unable to get by him towards his food. But we’ve never taken his food. Hew as the biggest in his litter. Please help. I have a little brother who plays with him a lot and I don’t want him getting hurt. What do I do?

  35. Danielle McDaris says

    Last month my family and I, along with our two dogs moved into an RV. Recently, our female (German Shorthair Pointer/Greyhound mix) has been “staring down” & attacking our male (German Shorthair Pointer/Beagle mix). We seperate them when they are being fed and try to seperate them so they can have their space. Sombra (female) is larger than Eddie (male) & is also dominant. We have had Eddie for 6 years & adopted Sombra 2 years ago. They are roughly three years apart. Most of the time they play or sleep near each other, but lately Sombra has been very mean to Eddie. We take them to a park nearby where they run and play. Please help!! We love them both very much but it’s a big problem!!

    • shibashake says

      Moving can be very stressful for both people and dogs, especially if there is now less space. When I moved, I quickly set up a routine and consistent set of rules for my dogs. This creates certainty, which helps to reduce stress. It also helps them to understand what to expect from each other, what to expect from the people in the house, and what I expect from them in return.

      More on what I do to help my dogs get along.

      I also increased the length of my Shiba Inu’s daily walks so he had a good positive outlet to release his stressful energy.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent though, so the temperament and environment of the dogs matter a lot. In cases of aggression, it can be especially helpful to consult with a good professional trainer. I visited with several when I was having difficulties with my Shiba.

  36. Cecille says

    Dear Shiba expert,

    I’ve been reading up on your Shiba blog and I’ve been trying to get your expertise on something.

    I recently adopted two Shibas, about a month ago. They were brothers from the same litter, are both 1.5 years of age, but with drastically different personalities. One of them, besides being food obsessed and having the occasional accident is the perfect pet. He doesn’t whine, doesn’t poo in his kennel, gets along well with my Lab, and will approach and be nice to every dog and human he ever meets.

    The other one, however, is an absolute TERROR. He is ferocious with my lab, and is aggressive towards any foreign thing that he sees, whether it be human, squirrel, cat, or dog. When he sees said foreign objects, he will do the infamous SHIBA SCREAM, over and over and over again and will absolutely not stop and possibly try to attack said foreign object. He also cannot be crated. The first few days with us, he did not whine, but that was before he developed an attachment to us. After that, he always does the infamous SHIBA SCREAM. Over and over again. Nothing could deter this dog. He does not tire, his brother’s company in the crate does not comfort him, and toys or bones do not soothe him. He will scream 24/7. The extent of his separation anxiety is beyond explanation.

    However, inside, he is a really sweet dog. He gives hugs and kisses incessantly and is not aggressive towards me and my family. We all love him to pieces too. However, I don’t know how much longer my family or the neighbors can take the SHIBA SCREAM. I want to take responsibility for adopting him and don’t want to separate him from his brother, but I am honestly at a loss for what to do.


    • shibashake says

      Heh, I am no Shiba expert. I actually had a very difficult time with my Shiba in the beginning, which is why I started this site to write about our experiences.

      In terms of separation anxiety, Sephy had some of it in the beginning. I helped him get over it by very slowly getting him used to alone time. I first start with very very short periods of alone time (a few seconds) and I slowly build it up from there. Here is a bit more on what I did.

      Sephy sleeps with us at night in the bedroom. Being close to us and being able to see us really helped him to settle down, especially in the beginning.

      Here is a bit more on how I got Sephy comfortable with his crate.

  37. Vishakha says

    I hand raised my dogsince she was just 5 days old (did it wrong, didnt set rules etc ) . she became very very dominant agressive , attacked me for silly reasons , I got professional help and she has never growled/attacked me since.INfact she is a GREAT DOG , but only around me . put her around my mom(whos pretty soft ) and its disastrous. Also when Im sleeping she sits by my bed and gaurds me one can enter the room . If shes sleeping in the room ( any room) she growls at anyone who enters excluding me . So shes prefect with me. How do react when she growls at others ? I say no and she stops , but Im not always in the room or in the house .

  38. Emma says


    My parents just moved to Bali down the road from where my uncle lives (we are originally from Australia). About two weeks ago, my uncle found three puppies being attacked by the side of the road and started to care for them. He later found out that they had been taken from a man who stole them to sell to the government for $7.50 each, and he had them tied by the neck to the handle of his motorbike.

    The dogs all look completely different, but the vet said they were from the same litter. There are 2 boys and 1 girl. The girl is very aggressive and dominant, while one boy is the runt and quite small, and the other boy is very quiet and just sleeps all the time. The girl has begun to fight the two boys a lot in the last few days. Just today, she attacked the quiet boy and bit his neck, we had to spray her with a hose to get her to stop. If we pat one of the boys, she will push through so we can pat her. She steals all of their food and whatever toy they have. She even sits on them. The boys are starting to learn to fight back but they aren’t as big or strong.

    I have read a few articles saying that we should treat her as the dominant dog and give her her food first etc but it sounds very unfair. My uncle is keeping two of the puppies to be guard dogs (the girl will obviously be very good at it, not so much the quiet one) and my parents will be keeping the runt who will hopefully be a bit of a guard dog. The articles have said that 99% of the time the dogs will only fight in the presence of the owners, but that isn’t the case with these puppies.

    I’m very scared that the girl will severely hurt the other two as they are much smaller than her and have less energy. None of the puppies are going to be inside dogs and sleep/eat outside. Could you please give us some advice on what to do? We haven’t even been able to teach them their names yet or any other commands so it’s very difficult.

    Thank you so much!

    • shibashake says

      Hello Emma,

      For such aggression issues, it is usually best to get help from a professional trainer. This will help ensure the safety of all the people as well as the dogs.

      I have a three legged dog, so in my house I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. I *do not* allow any bullying, stealing, or other anti-social behavior. I also set up a fixed routine and clear boundaries so that my dogs understand what I expect from them and what they can expect from me.

      Here is an article on how I trained my Husky puppy.

      Here is a bit more on how I teach my dogs to get along.

      Here is more on how dogs learn.

      Note however, that dog behavior is very dependent on temperament and surrounding context. My dogs are companion dogs. They can stay in the house or go outside as they please, but most of the time they prefer to stay inside with the family. They get daily walks and structured exercise, and they are with me most of the time. Each situation is different, which is why in cases of aggression, it is usually best to consult with a professional trainer.

      Here are some articles on dominance from the ASPCA, the APDT, and Dr. Sophia Yin.

      Here is a bit more on guard dogs.

  39. vibhu says

    Hi, I am from India. I owned two dogs 1. rottweiler F, 3yrs 2. Lab mix M, 3.5 yrs.
    last year i picked up a stray female dog and brought her home now 18 months old.
    all the three dogs had gelled quite well together, however lately i have been noticing a very dominant behaviour in the stray. She growls and bites the Rottwieler whenever the rott tries to come near me. She doesnot do the same in case of the male dog.
    i am now trying to keep her(the stray) tied during the day hoping it will ease down the aggression.
    Otherwise she is extremely active till the level of being hyper.

    PLease suggest some help

    • shibashake says

      One common reason for conflicts between dogs is because of resources. When both dogs want the same thing at the same time, and neither is willing to back down, then a conflict will arise. This may occur over food and toys, but it may also occur over affection or attention from us.

      What helps with my dogs is to set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules, especially rules over resources. When there are valued resources around, I make sure to supervise so that I can prevent conflicts or deal with them before they escalate into aggression.

      I also manage my dogs’ excitement levels by using play-breaks. Here is more on what I do with my dogs to help them get along.

      Tethering a dog for long periods of time, especially without supervision, can often lead to aggression. Here is why. Another article on tethering.

    • BanditSmokeyTebo says

      First and Foremost, I want to ask, are you showing them equal attention??? That could be one of the main reasons why she does that. Second, you must correct it immediately cause that can turn into a big fight. Seperating them when you are not home is a great idea, preferably a crate not being leashed up. Remember all dogs live as a pack so do not disrupt their pack stance as alpha and beta. But do correct the unnecessary behavior right away.

  40. Vanessa says

    I recently rescued Joey-a male (fixed) boarder collie/mix, about 1-2 years old. I also rescued another at the same time, a cattle dog/mix, who is only 6 months old, and allows Joey to be dominant at home. Joey knows he cannot be dominant over humans, and this is not at all an issue. However, only recently I’ve noticed him wanting to be dominant over other dogs, mostly males. The first incident was over a Frisbee.. another dog went to take it from Joey and it turned into a growling/wrestle fight (no bites, thank god- but it definitely was not playful). Since then he growls at other dogs and will be a bully, especially at the dog park. He gets alone fine with small dogs and others who submit, but not well with others who also want to be dominant. He put his head over another dog’s shoulders before but I very quickly removed him from the situation. I’ve been stricter with him at home and I thought he was doing better… but today I took him back to the park and there was a very dominant dog there (Doberman/mix) and the two did not get along at all… this one put his head on Joey’s shoulders which got Joey worked up. I am meeting with a trainer specialized on aggression/dominance this week but I was hoping someone could give me a few tips on dog-only dominance in the meantime. Keep in mind, it’s selective dominance- some dogs he has no problem with, others it’s an instant dominant issue.

  41. Melodie says


    I have a female cinnamon colored Chow-Chow. Up till last year, I had a black female chow as well. Eventually, I ended up having to separate them due to very vicious fighting. Unfortunately, the black chow chow has recently passed away (this past October). We have other dogs as well, a male her size (American Eskimo) whom she gets along splendidly with and a few smaller dogs whom she’s shown no ill feelings too. We recently (about three months ago) got a female Pekingese whom she has just recently started to fight with. I thought the aggression would have stopped when my black chow passed away (not due to fighting) and thought I was in the clear. I do think that it is a dominance issue, because the fighting always occurs when I’m around. It’s not often, but it’s scary and am afraid for the Peke. My chow knows “I’m BOSS” and does listen once I separate the fighting, but not until.

    Is there any help you can give me? Any tips? Thank you!


    • shibashake says

      Some things that help with my dogs-
      1. I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules that I slowly teach to each new dog. For example, there is no-stealing, no-humping, and I *do not* allow my dogs to correct each other. I supervise them very closely, especially when there is a new dog around, so that I can teach puppy what the rules are. If there are any conflicts, I will resolve them in a fair and consistent way. Supervision is very important because it allows me to redirect and stop behavior, before the situation escalates into a fight.

      2. I manage my dogs’ excitement level by using play-breaks, teaching them impulse control, and giving them many structured outlets for their energy.

      3. I create as many positive experiences as I can between my dogs and the new puppy so that they see her as an enhancement to their lifestyle, rather than as a competitor or an annoyance.

      Here is more on what I do while introducing a new dog.

      For fights and more serious cases of aggression, it is usually best to get help from a good professional trainer.

  42. Lise says

    Thanks for the great information! I have a 17 month old bull mastiff/african mastiff/ & possibly we think pitt bull. Henry has been fabulous except recently he has been going up to other males and resting his head over their neck…this has not been well received as you can imagine! I should have mentioned that Henry has not yet been fixed. Other than stopping him from going up to other males how can I stop this behavior? I want to get us back to hiking our local mountains but as it stands right now Henry is getting himself into too much trouble!
    Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      Dogs repeat behaviors that get them good results and stop behaviors that get them bad results.

      Some behaviors, such as humping, are self rewarding. For example, my Husky Lara likes to hump. Every successful hump she does, she gets rewarded by it simply because she was able to do it. Therefore, the more she does it, the more the behavior gets reinforced, and the more likely she will do it in the future.

      To stop her, I must make sure that she *never* gets rewarded for the behavior, i.e. never succeeds in humping another dog. I always stop her as soon as I notice her getting into humping position. She usually does this during play, so I stop play briefly, and get her to do some commands. In this way, she has a chance to calm down and refocus on me. If she keeps going back to humping, then I calmly say timeout and put her in a timeout area (temporarily).

      During walks, I have her on-leash. If she misbehaves badly during walks (e.g. leash bites, eats poop), then I end the walk and march her home. Later on, we may try again. In this way, she learns that-

      No humping = Play time and walk time continues,
      Humping and other bad behaviors = Play time stops or walk ends.

      Another possibility is to train a really strong recall. Here is a good list of recall training techniques from the ASPCA.

      Here is more on how dogs learn.

  43. Carlota says

    Hello:d I recently got a chow puppy(3weeks ago) and I have done a lot of research on his breed and training and so forth. But lately Mustang(puppy) has been showing some dominant behavior. He won’t let people correct him when he bites shoes, he won’t let us pet him if he is not in the mood. Butt hats pretty much it. I want to stop this behavior before it gets hectic. We do training daily and trick learning too. What should I do?
    Thank you for your time

    • shibashake says

      I had a similar experience with my Shiba Inu. I started out with aversive training techniques, including alpha rolls, leash corrections, and more. Sephy seemed to respond well to it at first, but then after a bit of time, his behavior worsened. He became very sensitive to handling and he would fight back whenever he got punished.

      I realized that he was not responding well to the aversive methods that I was using.

      What worked well with Sephy is to establish a consistent set of rules and a fixed routine. I stopped using aversive methods, and used the Nothing in Life is Free program instead to achieve pack leadership.

      For example, Sephy used to like biting on curtains. When he does that, I no-mark the behavior and then body block him away from the area. Then I get him to do something else. If he keeps going back to bite on the living room curtains, then he loses his privileges to roam freely in the living room and has to stay with me while I work in the kitchen or computer room. Sephy loves his freedom to roam, so it is a very valuable resource to him. Once he learned that-

      Biting curtains = Less freedom to roam,
      Biting chew toys = Play, attention, and more freedom to roam,

      he stopped biting on curtains. 😀

      More on how dogs learn and the pros and cons of different dog obedience training methods.

  44. Rose says

    Hi!!! We are in need of help! My fiancee has a 3 year old black lab and I have a 3 year old Pomeranian and a 1 year old golden retriever. We are going to get married in 2 weeks and we decided to introduce our dogs in our new home that my fiancee has been living for a couple of days with his dog.

    As soon as the three met the black lab immediately went to the golden to smell and started to mark territory. As we went inside the house the lab became more dominant and aggressive. My dog was extremely submissive and was really scared. Obviously that was when my tension and fear started rising and we decided to leave the black lab outside the house and the other two inside.

    We knew the lab was a very dominant dog, but we didn’t think it would turn into aggression at other dogs that weren’t trying to be dominant towards him. He had met my Pomeranian a year ago and they got along very well. He never showed signs of dominance of aggression towards the Pom it was only to my golden.

    I really don’t want to live in fear for my dogs safety and we love them all very much and would like to live all together peacefully. Please help me to understand how we can control our labs intermale aggression Thank you!!

    • shibashake says

      Given that there is aggression, it is probably best to get help from a professional trainer so that everybody stays safe.

      Some things that help my dogs get along-
      1. I set up clear and strict dog-to-dog interaction rules. In the beginning, I supervise to make sure everyone follows the rules. In this way, each dog knows what to expect from the others.
      2. My Shiba Inu is more picky when it comes to greetings, so I make sure the new dog does not disturb him when he does not want to be disturbed. He also has his own space that he can go to.
      3. I create as many positive experiences as I can, so that my existing dogs will learn that the new dog is not a threat and is actually a big positive. I do group obedience sessions, properly supervise play sessions, etc. I try to maximize positive experiences and minimize negative encounters.

      Here is more on what I do to introduce a new dog.

      I also try to stay very calm and positive. My dogs are very sensitive to my emotions. If I am fearful, they will pick up of that, become stressed themselves, and their behavior will worsen.

      However, each dog is different and each situation is different, so in cases of aggression, it is best to get help from a professional.

  45. Hillary says

    Hi, I have a border collie/mix with something I’m not sure of. He was a stray that showed up a about a year and a half ago. Well, I’ve been dating my bf since right after I got my dog and there have never really been any problems. My dog was abandoned and so now, he has abandonment issues. My boyfriend gets up and goes to work at 6 every morning and i usually sleep in until 10 before work. A couple of days ago my boyfriend was looking for his clothes in the dark, using the light of his phone, and my dog suddenly got up to attack him. Backed him up into a corner and everything. And I didn’t think anything of it except maybe my boyfriend startled my dog and my dog was just being protective of me. But I thought, my dog has snapped once or twice and I blamed that before on rough housing with him too hard. So decided to call the vet and have him neutered, which will take place tomorrow, hoping that would calm him down. But this morning, my boyfriend went to give me a hug and a kiss and my dog suddenly attacked him again. Didn’t bite him. But had him backed up into a corner again until I got to my dog. He is a little bit aggressive towards strangers, and I usually blame that on being protective of me since I ‘rescued’ him. And usually when my dog does something he’s not supposed to, I put him in his place by grabbing him and putting him down on the ground and holding him there with my knee on his neck until he calms down and submits. If he does it again, I’m worried that it might be worse and my dog will actually bite my boyfriendeven though my boyfriend backs up. Could this be a result of maybe the way the previous owners treated him? Or is he just being protective or showing dominance? I don’t want to have to put my dog down because he’s too aggressive and can’t be controlled. He’s really a sweet dog when he’s not feeling threatened.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Hillary,

      Here are a couple of articles on dominance and aggression-
      1. Aggression and Dominance in Dogs (UC Davis).
      2. Dominance and bad dog behavior.

      Re Helping my dogs get along with people:
      Two key things that help with my dogs-
      1. Creating a bond – My partner walks a dog in the morning, and also walks them during the weekends. He feeds them in the morning, and I do the feeding in the evening. He also plays with them, grooms them, and we do the training together. We agree on the house rules, and make sure we use consistent techniques to train them. In this way, our dogs create a bond with the both of us, and sees us both as part of their family.

      2. People desensitization exercises – I also do people desensitization exercises with my dogs so that they learn to view other people in a positive way, and also learn what to do when they meet people. Dogs do not know our human greeting rules, they do not know that we have thin skins, and they do not know our language. Therefore, it is up to us to teach them these things. Desensitization helps my dogs to be comfortable around people, and to use alternative behaviors for coping with stress when they feel threatened.

      The most important part with desensitization is to *always* start with a very weakened version of the stimulus, weak enough that our dog can tolerate it without losing control. With people, I can weaken the stimulus by using distance and making sure that the person is calm and totally ignoring my dog (no talking and no eye-contact). In this way, I can start to teach my dog new behaviors to use when in the proximity of people, and also to reassociate people with positive outcomes.

      Re Pinning a dog down until he submits:

      This is also called an alpha roll. It was something that I did with my Shiba Inu (Sephy) when he was younger and unfortunately, we did not have good results. Sephy became very sensitive to handling, he grew distrustful of people, he felt more threatened, and used aggression even more to protect himself. Here is a bit more on our experiences with the alpha roll.

      Later on, I discovered that this technique is very risky and can cause increased aggression in dogs.

      Professional help:

      Given what you describe, it sounds like it may be best to get some help from a professional trainer. Dog training is very context dependent, and a dog’s behavior depends a lot on his temperament, routine, environment, past experience, and more. To come up with an effective retraining plan, we want to identify the source or triggers of a dog’s aggression, and this is best done by a trainer who can meet with and observe our dog.

  46. Kimmi K says

    We have a 4 year old (1/2 Catahoula & 1/2 Plott Hound). She’s (Clyde) very dominant! And we are thinking about taking in our neighbors dog – who has been left behind twice. She (Ginger) is the sweetest craziest dog (we think part Jack Russell & who know’s what else). But she is dominant as well. Clyde will rip Ginger apart & we want them to get along. Clyde is very protective of our home & land. She really doesn’t get along with any other dogs – so far. Any other suggestions?

    • shibashake says

      Clyde will rip Ginger apart

      For more serious types of aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a professional trainer.

      In general, systematic desensitization exercises can be used to raise a dog’s instinct threshold, and teach him new and alternative ways for dealing with the stress of meeting other dogs. This is best done under the direction of a good trainer.

      I would retrain my existing dog first, and *not* introduce any big changes into his routine (e.g. a new dog) until I have the aggression under control.

  47. Lindsey says

    Hi! I was wondering if you could help me with some advice on my female siberian. She will be a year on May 17th. We don’t have any problems with aggression whatsoever, thankfully. However, I am afraid my girl is an alpha and I am worried it may be too late to break her. She will hump on me and other dogs frequently and I will tell her firmly to step, yet she still continues. She also will go in the garbage and I will catch her in the act and tell her to step, but she will stare at me and run away quickly with the garbage. She also will “punch” with her paws and demand play time and attention. She jumps up on everyone and the biggest problem is the house breaking! She was house broken completely at 10 weeks with no accident. Then she got a urinary tract infection and began going in the house. The urinary infection was treated immediately, yet she still continues to poop/urinate in the house multiple times a day even though she is let out constantly and I watch her go to the bathroom. I have her in an obedience class, but it isn’t helping the alpha behaviors. My girl is very smart and can sit, shake both paws, stay, down, and crawl; which is what the trainer in the class focuses on. I feel like I have spent endless amounts of money and time and nothing is working. I love my husky very much but it is very taxing on me until this problem is corrected.



    • shibashake says

      Re Saying ‘Stop':
      In the beginning, the word “Stop” will mean very little to our dog. For it to have meaning, we will need to associate it with a consequence that means something to our puppy. Here is a bit more on “Stop” words and how I communicate with my Husky puppy.

      Re Punching and demanding attention:
      Dogs will repeat behaviors that get them good results and stop behaviors that get them undesirable results. Dogs often jump and punch because when they do that, we usually give them our attention. We may try to push them away, shout at them, move around, and more. All this moving around will likely get our dog more excited, and think that it is a fun game.

      What has worked well with my dogs is to withdraw my attention when they jump or bite.

      Here is a bit more on how I train my dogs not to jump on people.
      Here is a bit more on how dogs learn.

      Re Potty training:
      I would go back to potty training basics. Here are some things that I did to potty train my Husky puppy.

      Re Dog dominance:
      A bit more on dominance and bad dog behavior.

  48. Colette Hall says

    I wonder if you can help me.

    I have a 3 year old german spitz called Poppy, and I think she sees herself as alpha over my two youngest children – they are 4 and 8. She will let them walk her if I am not with them (if I am, she will bark constantly and keep looking to me) – we have a park next to the house that they go to. My main concern is that she growls and sometimes snaps at them. She is nervous about some things – she will outright attack the vacuum cleaner- I generally prompt her to leave the room when using it now. But the kids cant bring toys through on the floor, she will attack the toys. If she has a treat, they cannot go anywhere near her – even if she is in her crate with it ( where her bed is) she will growl. What can I do to get across that she is not alpha? Or what can I get the kids to do? I am worried that she will at some point go too far.

  49. john boyle says

    Can you help me ? I have a 12st Newfoundland Dog who is 3 years old. He has overtime (6 months or so) decided that he wont walk with me or some other family members.He uses his weight (hits the floor and wont move) until I head for home. How can I overcome this behavior ?



    • shibashake says

      Hello John,

      A common reason why a dog may want to stay home instead of going on walk is because of anxiety. Did something happen during his walks when the change in behavior started? Previously, did he enjoy going on walks? Does he have the same walk routine? Is there a particular place where he always sits and won’t move?

      When my dog has an issue with anxiety, I first try to locate the source of his stress. I look at commonalities in the environment, time-line, and more to identify what triggers his unexpected behavior. Once I identify the triggers for his behavior, then I can desensitize him to those triggers in a controlled and structured way. This teaches him new ways to cope with his stress, helps to build confidence, and also retrains him to associate a previously “bad trigger” with positive outcomes.

      Here is a bit more on dog anxiety problems.

      There are other reasons why a dog may stop and not want to move during walks, e.g. they want to watch people or other dogs, they want to sniff at something in a particular spot, they want to go in a different direction, etc. I always try observe my dog carefully so that I know where the change in behavior comes from. Once I know the source, I can come up with an appropriate plan to target the root of the problem, and change it for the long-term.

  50. Wendy says

    I have a 15 month old Labrador/Rottweiler dog. I am very confused as to what behaviour he is displaying. I do not know if it is dominance or fear. He is a lovely boy in the house he never leaves my side but when we go out for walks he seems to be a different dog. He becomes stressed at walking around corners and has on one occasion growled at someone coming around a corner in the opposite direction. He jumps at leaves moving and gets very stressed on a windy day! He Isin’t interested in being stroked by people outside and if someone attempts to stroke him or talk to him he will growl at them. I have spoke to a dog behaviour specialist and he seems to think that he is fiercely protective over me. Please help!

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, how does he respond when people try to give him affection while in the house? How does he respond to house guests? Does he show similar behavior when he is walked by somebody else? Did this behavior just start or has he been this way from the beginning? Did anything change when the behavior first started?

      Dogs can get fearful or uncertain about new objects, new people, or new environments. New things are unknown, and may turn out to be dangerous. Socializing a dog to new objects, people, and experiences in a positive, structured, and supervised way, can help to build confidence and reduce stress.

      My youngest Husky was a bit fearful of people and new objects when she was young. She was especially wary of people on bicycles and skateboards. We were able to help her with her stress through desensitization exercises.

      Here is a bit more on dog anxiety and fears.

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