I had a rough start with my Shiba Inu, Sephy.
Shiba Inus can be a challenge to care for, especially as a first dog. I wanted to do my very best for my Shiba Inu puppy but I still made many mistakes.
This is the story of Shiba Inu Sephy and me.
Shiba Inu and Alpha Rolls
Because I was new to dogs, and Shiba Inus, I asked my breeder many questions. She recommended that I check out Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer for dog obedience training tips.
NOTE: Do not perform alpha rolls on any puppy. Even traditional trainers agree that aversive techniques are not appropriate for young dogs and puppies.
However, you can start training your puppy early with reward dog training.
After 4 days, I took Sephy to the vet and she recommended that I return him because he was mouthy and not well behaved. The vet technician recommended that I check out Cesar Millan, and taught me how to implement alpha rolls.
I had already fallen in love with Sephy and was not about to give up on him so I bought some DVDs of The Dog Whisperer and started to do alpha rolls.
The results were bad. Shiba Inus are a feisty, stubborn, strong-willed breed, and my little Shiba fought every time I did an alpha roll on him. While he would be slightly subdued after an alpha roll, he would quickly go back to chewing everything, running around crazily, knocking things down, jumping on every piece of furniture, mouthing on me and other people, and much more.
Life became very difficult for both Shiba Inu Sephy and me.
Training My Shiba Inu
I signed Sephy up for a SIRIUS puppy class to help with his dog socialization skills and I also got a private trainer who is well-versed in aversive dog training.
After watching The Dog Whisperer, I was under the impression that I could only be pack leader if I showed my Shiba Inu who was boss through more forceful aversive methods.
All aversive methods deliver an unpleasant stimulus to the dog.
Some techniques such as the leash jerk and the electronic collar deliver pain. Saying that such techniques do not deliver pain, and is only used to get a dog’s attention is rubbish.
For such techniques to work effectively, it must deliver the proper level of pain so as to motivate a dog to follow our commands which will ultimately stop the pain. On the other hand, aversive methods may get more consistent and prompt responses, in the short-term, because pain is a strong motivator.
Sephy responded extremely well to my private trainer, Gary. Gary is extremely good with dogs and fearless. My Shiba would act out from time to time and mouth over Gary’s arms but he was able to easily stop this with some leash jerks (using a flat collar).
One time Sephy even placed his jaws on the trainer’s neck while being held, but Gary kept on holding him and had no problems calming Sephy down.
Gary taught me how to train my Shiba Inu using leash jerks or leash corrections. He cautioned me against over correcting and to always try and set Sephy up for success. He also instructed me not to give eye contact during corrections, and whenever possible, to try and redirect the source of corrections away from myself.
Sephy enjoyed his weekly one hour training lessons very much, and always gave Gary many licks. This experience showed me that aversive methods can sometimes work well if implemented by an expert with the right energy.
Walking with My Shiba Inu
If you decide to use leash jerks or other aversive techniques, it is important to apply them with the proper timing, force, and redirection.
If you apply a leash jerk with too little force, it will have no effect, and may even backfire and intensify your dog’s behavioral issues.
When properly applied, leash corrections will cause pain to the dog. If you do not want to apply pain to your dog, then do not use leash corrections or other pain based aversive methods.
Sephy responded well to my leash jerks initially.
However, when he was extremely excited, for example when meeting other dogs, my jerks would have no effect. Our trainer ultimately recommended that I try out the prong collar and showed me how to fit it and put it on properly.
DO NOT try to slip a prong collar over your dog’s head like you do a choke chain. Refer to Prong Collar Info for proper instructions on how to use a prong collar.
People commonly refer to the prong collar as providing power steering for leash jerks. I.e. the prong amplifies the force of your leash jerks, thereby delivering more pain and a greater aversive stimulus to the dog.
The prong collar was extremely effective initially. I was always worried about hurting my Shiba Inu, so my leash jerks tended to be too soft. With the prong collar, they were just right.
My Shiba Inu and His Dog Walker
At this time, I also enlisted the services of a dog walker/trainer, Betty (not her real name).
Betty also prescribes to the Cesar Millan, physical dominance type training. This suited me well at the time, because Betty did leash jerks and I thought consistency in techniques would be a good thing.
However, the situation started to go down hill from here.
Sephy became extremely sensitive towards handling. He would also constantly challenge Betty, by leash biting, hand biting, and doing alligator rolls (rolling on the ground to resist moving). Sephy also discovered that Betty really dislikes his high-pitched Shiba scream, and would constantly do this to great effect.
Betty did her best in trying to control the situation but her flavor of dog obedience training was clearly not working well. Finally, she wanted to escalate her leash jerks by using a choke chain.
Given the possible dangers of choke chains I decided that they are not an option.
I Did Not Choose Wisely
At this point, the leash jerks were also becoming less and less effective for me.
My Shiba was becoming habituated to them.
I was not implementing the leash jerks quickly enough so sometimes they were more like tugs and thus had no effect. I was also over-correcting and my leash jerks did not have enough force even with the prong collar.
To continue with aversive techniques, I would have to escalate the force of my leash jerks or switch to the electronic or shock collar. I was unwilling to go down this extreme path, so I decided to explore all other dog training possibilities.
The Right Kind of Shiba Training
Reward Dog Training
I stopped dog walking with Betty and started looking for a new dog trainer.
This time I checked out all types of trainers, rather than just the Cesar Millan, aversive type trainers.
While doing this, I received a fair amount of insults, scolding, and rabid preaching from trainers of the other camp, the reward dog training camp.
I always think it is rather ironic that many of the books and people who support the use of reward training (positive reinforcement training) would resort to aversive methods (insults, rabid preaching) when trying to convince other people of the effectiveness of their positive reinforcement methods.
Luckily, there were several reward dog trainers who practiced what they preached and based on their advice, I got the book Bones Would Rain From the Sky by Suzzane Clothier. After reading a few chapters,
I decided to stop using aversive methods and try using only reward obedience training.
I would like to say that reward dog training worked like a charm and from then on everybody lived happily ever after.
Reality, of course, is a bit messier. First of all Sephy gets bored easily; with everything, even his food.
For the reward methods to work I had to identify a variety of dog treats that he liked and cycle through them so that he remains motivated throughout the day. I also got a greater variety of toys and used external opportunities, such as meeting other dogs and meeting people, as rewards.
Walking on a loose leash (without the use of leash jerks) was a bit challenging at first, but stopping and sometimes doing a 180 when the leash gets taut works very well.
I am a lot happier with reward obedience training.
Frankly, I do not have the temperament for implementing an aversive correction with enough force for my Shiba Inu. I was also losing my dog’s trust because I was over correcting and not protecting him from other people (e.g. dog walker) who were also over correcting him.
Sephy is responding much better to the reward methods and is more relaxed and happy.
Being an adolescent, he still misbehaves occasionally, but a lot less so than when I was using aversive methods, such as leash jerks and alpha rolls.
Shiba Inus are very strong willed and stubborn. A Shiba will almost always respond to an aversive stimulus by fighting back. The greater the stimulus, the more threat he feels, and the more he fights back.
This is not to say that aversive methods will never work on a Shiba Inu. As I discussed before, under the hands of an expert trainer (Gary), Sephy actually responded well to leash jerks. However, I have not seen him respond so with anyone else, even other experienced trainers.
What I learned from Shiba Inu Sephy:
- Get information from multiple sources and do not take what one person, even a popular trainer, says as truth. Do your own research and try out the techniques yourself.
- The “best technique” is different for every dog-owner pair. So called “experts” will try to brow beat you into using their favorite techniques by using moral arguments and/or by telling lies. The effectiveness of the different techniques will depend on your training skill (timing, delivery of stimulus), on your temperament, on your dog’s temperament, and on the current level of trust and respect between you and your dog. Be honest and let your own moral compass steer you.
- Start out with reward obedience training. With reward training there is very little risk of losing your dog’s trust. Unlike aversive training, I will not injure my dog physically or mentally if I make training mistakes. I follow the Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) program and try to be a fair but strong pack leader through the control of resources.
- Things can go really wrong with aversive methods. Our dog may misbehave more, get destructive or aggressive, lose respect and trust in us, get stressed and break down completely, run away, or get injured. Always get direction from a good professional trainer before trying out pain or dominance based aversive methods.
My boyfriend and I just welcomed a 3-month-old rehomed Shiba Inu a while ago and he is turning 6 months old this month. I cannot believe how similar our story is compared to yours. It has definitely been a rough 3 months and we have been on what feels like an emotions rollercoaster. We have already fought and argued with each other so many times which used to never happen during all these years we were together. I had my first emotional breakdown the other day when our Shiba Zora was being so hard to deal with. Our successful attempts to correct his mischief were always short-lived and quickly followed by repated or other bad behaviors. At one point we started questioning our decision to have him at the first place, and our training competency (or incompetency). Despite feeling so hopeless and helpless at times, we still love him and want to believe that there is hope. Coming across your blog is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Reading your stories made me feel calmed, comforted and empowered. I am most certainly going to revisit your blog frequently. It is such a relief to learn that we are not an odd case, and that there are others who went through the same, who persisted and succeeded. We are going to keep reminding ourselves to practice extreme patience and control of our temperament.
We have read all your articles before we got our puppy and now I am going through again because it’s really helpful and some of your story are exactly the same scenario that we are encountering with our Shiba.
So far our puppy has been with us for 20 days and thanks for your story/suggestion I think he is on the right path to a cute, well-behaved dog!
Thanks again for sharing the priceless experience!
Congratulations on your new puppy and thank you for your wonderful comment! Big hugs to your Little One. 😀
Your story is amazing, our Shiba also responds to the obedience reward training extremely well. I think Shibas will bond to your more, if you show them love during training, but also you show them authority.
Thank you Cecily. Yeah, all of my dogs respond better to reward training. But as you say, they all also need consistency and structure.
I think that many people (including me in the beginning) think that structure can only be achieved through more physical or dominance techniques, which is obviously false. It doesn’t help that there is so much inconsistent information about dog training on the web.
Thank you so much for sharing your story! I absolutely love your site and all your posts. I come back to it frequently (and make my boyfriend read it as well). I’m a new dog owner and currently have a 12 week old husky. I’ve been using aversive/alpha roll methods feeling horrible and regret it every time. I know he is teething and is only a puppy, but he bites everything and anything that walks into my home – to the point of breaking skin. I know he understands the word “no,” because sometimes he will respond and stop; while other times he will persistently continue. He gets very bored very easily, so I have felt that the aversion methods was my only option left – even was considering a shock collar prior to your post. I love him dearly and have been feeling hopeless the past few weeks. Any other words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. It’s comforting to know that other people have gone through something similar!
Yeah, I had a difficult time with Sephy in the beginning. The good news is that after I controlled my energy, learned more about dog behavior and how to properly redirect Sephy, things got a lot better. 😀 Some things that helped with Sephy-
1. Consistency and structure – I set up a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules. I make sure to consistently enforce those rules so that he knows what his boundaries are, what to expect from me, and what I expect from him in return.
2. I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs. This teaches then to work for the things that they want most and motivates them to follow commands and house rules.
3. This is what I do when my Husky puppy bites on me.
More on how I discourage puppy biting.
4. I do bite inhibition training with all of my dogs. This teaches them to control the force of their bites.
5. I always try to set my dog up for success. Whenever I introduce him to something new, I start small and slowly build up his tolerance. I try not to expose him to situations that he is not ready for. I use leashes, gates, and other management equipment as necessary. For example, I used a drag-lead on Sephy when he was young so that I can more easily control him, calm him down, and redirect him. I only use a drag-lead while I am supervising him, and only with a flat collar or harness (no aversive collars).
6. I always try to remain calm and decisive. If I am stressed out, frustrated, fearful, anxious, or angry, Sephy will pick up on my energy, get stressed out himself, and his behavior will get even worse.
7. I also read up a lot on dog behavior and we visited with several professional trainers to troubleshoot particular behaviors. Reading up on dog behavior allowed me to better read Sephy, as well as improve on my technique and timing. It also helped me in terms of picking trainers.
More on how dogs learn.
Where I get my dog training information.
Dog behavior is very context dependent, so it was helpful to have a trainer observe Sephy and read his body language, within the context of his normal routine and environment.
A few more things I learned from my difficult time with Sephy. 😀
Good luck and big hugs to your Husky puppy!
I have a husky mix who just went through a class with a teacher who uses the Caesar Milan method. He pretty much shut down and got really aggressive in class. It really upset me and I felt hopeless. After reading this I don’t feel as alone! Thank you for your story! I am going to do some more research and try some more things.
Heh, yeah, Sephy and I went through a lot of tough times. We both came out of it better and stronger tho, and I learned so much from our experience. Today, I mostly use resource management techniques with my dogs. It has worked well for us.
Here are two more Sephy stories that you may enjoy-
Big hugs to your Husky boy!
hi i was wondering do you have any knowledge to help me. my dog is a mix Shiba Inu, he is totally my dog he’ll let me do anything with him, but when my husband has gotten near his stuff he has bitten him 2x. we adopted him when he was just a year. and have had him about 2 months. also when my husband raises his voice my dog sometimes pees. any help would be wonderful
and THANKS for this site it is very helpful =)
What is his daily routine like? What type of training is he currently on?
That sounds like it could be submissive urination.
The aggression behavior sounds like it could be resource guarding.
More on why dogs get aggressive over food and toys.
More on how I prevent resource guarding.
However, dog behavior is very context dependent. Therefore, in cases of aggression, it is usually best to get help from a good professional trainer.
Hi. Do you know of any permanent rescue farms for Shiba Inu dogs? My brother’s dog has bitten 3 people and the vet is recommending the dog be put down rather than re-homed. In the dog’s defense, he has only bitten adults who did not heed the instructions given by my brother for being around the dog and/or they entered the home without using the bell or knocking. I’d like to mention that I have taken care of the dog when my brother has gone away for vacation and I always knock or use the bell first. I let him bark but I talk to him through the door. As he calms down, I open the door a crack and let him see me. Once he sees me and recognizes me, he’s as good as gold. And I would take him but since I already have 7 cats, it is not physically or financially possible. So, I’m hoping that you know of a sort of “retirement” home anywhere in the country that might be able to take him? My brother just told me today that they will be putting him down tomorrow?!!
List of Shiba Inu rescues-
Thanks for sharing this. I have been struggling losing my temper with my 16 week old male husky because his personality sounds similar to Sephy’s. (Though he loves to eat any and everything and if I’m consistent, responds well to training). I remember trying the alpha roll once when he was little and it definitely made things worse. He responds to physical-ness by fighting back. We found that using a spray bottle with water to the face is the only thing that works. Which is difficult when one of the bottles is a few yards away, and I am dragging this little pirana on the back of my clothes while trying to get to it. : /
I bookmarked your site and return to it very, very often, especially when I am feeling unsuccessful with my fear agressive dog. It has helped me use your successful techniques and to keep positive that my dog can be helped. Thank you for taking the time to give such complete information and to share it with others. I’m sure you are helping more people and dogs than you’ll ever imagine. Thank you!
Thank you very much for your kind words. I was having a bad day yesterday, and your comment made me feel a lot better.
Big hugs and kisses to your furry friend and Happy Holidays!