The Shiba Inu is a very beautiful dog. However, behind that foxy face, is a dominant, stubborn, intelligent, and extremely mischievous personality. This can make them a challenge to care for.
Indeed Shiba Inus are not for the faint-hearted, and they are not recommended for first-time dog owners.
Despite this warning, my heart was already set on a Shiba Inu puppy. I had a lot of free time then, so I thought I would be able to handle one little dog. After all, how difficult can a small puppy be?
Little did I know, a Shiba Inu can be a major pain in the ass!
Even dog veterans have problems with their first Shiba. In fact, many experienced trainers were unable to handle my Shiba Sephy.
Here are the Shiba Inu training secrets that helped me turn my devil dog into a model citizen. Well, maybe not a model citizen, but a fun citizen that I truly enjoy living with.
1. There are No Miracle Cures
When I first got Shiba Sephy, he was a big challenge.
Some of his favorite daily activities include biting my hands, running crazily around the house, biting on curtains, vicious leash biting, jumping on me and others, humping my leg, and much more.
I was desperate to get him under control, and did a lot of research online and off-line. I read a lot of online articles and bulletin boards. I called local dog trainers, watched all the dog training shows on television, and read a lot of dog training books.
During this time, I found something that looked like a miracle … a 10 minute Shiba online training program. According to this advertisement, there were some special “Shiba words” that will magically turn a Shiba into a Lassie. Yeah right!
Luckily, I did not succumb to my desperation, and did not buy this product.
The fact is, there are NO “miracle cures” for training a Shiba Inu.
The secret of Shiba training, is simply to exercise extreme patience, and find humor in our Shiba’s antics. Use reward obedience training, and always be firm but fair.
A Shiba will probably never be a Lassie, or perfect dog. However, if you are looking for a dog with a big personality, who will always make you laugh with his sneaky and roguish ways, then the Shiba Inu is for you.
2. Use Passive Resistance
The best way to deal with Shiba Inu misbehavior is through passive resistance.
Shibas get bored easily and do not like being ignored. They really enjoy their freedom, and also like being close to their human pack. We can control a Shiba best by controlling these most desired resources: our attention, and his freedom.
If we actively try to stop our Shiba either through physical punishment (e.g. alpha rolls, leash jerk) or active restraint, he will fight back. This encourages him to practice rough play, and biting on people.
If we back away, or become fearful of our Shiba, he will learn that he “wins” by showing dog aggression.
If we over-correct our Shiba by exerting too much physical force, or by correcting him too frequently, we will lose his trust, and it is difficult to regain a Shiba Inu’s trust.
What works best with a Shiba is NOT to engage in a physical competition, but rather to engage in a mental one.
There are certain resources that Sephy really enjoys including walks, treats, toys, and his freedom.
When I want to take him on his walk, I go to the door with his lead, and call him to me. Initially, he would dally and not really want to come, because he wants to go walking on his own schedule. I count to three. If he does not come, I leave and go about my own business.
After a short time, Sephy will amble over, and pester me to take him on his walk. This is done through begging, and whining. I ignore all this bad dog behavior. When I have a break in my schedule again, I repeat the above exercise.
A Shiba will quickly learn that to get the resources that he wants most (e.g. go on walks), he has to do it according to our rules, and our schedule. It is important to practice the Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) program with a Shiba.
Set a Shiba Inu up for success, so that we can reward him frequently, and keep him interested in doing what we want.
Another Shiba favorite is to steal something he is not supposed to, and then run away with it, thereby engaging a fun chase game.
A Shiba Inu is very agile, and it will be difficult for us to catch him. I always try to keep an eye out for my sneaky Shiba, and stop him before he steals an object. I also put a drag lead on him, so that I can easily catch him by stepping on the lead.
Note: Use a regular flat collar with the drag lead, and not an aversive collar. Aversive collars such as prong collars or choke chains, should only be used during supervised training sessions. Cut the loop on the drag-lead, so that it does not catch on anything in the house.
3. Rules, Rules, Rules
Shiba Inus are naturally dominant. If we do not provide them with rules, that we consistently enforce, they will take over the house.
It is best to enforce those rules as early as possible. This ensures that Shiba does not develop any bad habits later on, that will be more difficult to break.
Some of Shiba Sephy’s rules:
1. No Biting
The most important rule that I place on Sephy, is no biting on people. Shiba Inus are a very mouthy breed. Their instinct is to use their mouth in a wide variety of situations, including when they are excited, frustrated, and fearful.
They also have large teeth, and can accidentally hurt children and seniors. If Sephy starts biting on me or on others, I no-mark the behavior (Ack, ack). If he continues, I put him on a time-out.
It is also important to teach a Shiba bite inhibition. In this way, when he loses control of himself and does bite, he will not cause much harm.
2. No Food Aggression or Resource Guarding
Prevent our Shiba Inu from guarding resources. Shibas have a don’t back down, don’t surrender attitude. Therefore, the best way to teach them not to guard resources, is to use reward training techniques.
Show them that people and other dogs coming near them, while they are eating or playing with their toys, is a good thing. Prevent stealing, and practice exchanging objects. This teaches them that giving up something, does not mean it is gone forever.
If we use physical force to grab a toy away from our Shiba, he will likely become more possessive over his objects. He will also lose trust in us, and may use aggression to protect himself, and his belongings.
3. No Rough Play
I do not play rough with Sephy. He gets to wrestle with my other dogs, but no wrestling is allowed with humans.
I also do not play any dominance games with him, for example, no Tug-of-War. The few times that I did play Tug with Shiba Sephy, he followed very strict rules during the game. However, when I took him out for walks, he would start playing tug with the leash (leash biting).
4. Socialize Our Shiba Inu
Shiba Inus can get aggressive to unfamiliar things including objects, dogs, people, and environments.
They are also naturally stubborn, and may become aggressive when forced to do things that they do not like.
Socialize our young Shiba to many sights, sounds, and smells, and he will be ready to handle new things as a confident, and well-balanced adult. Make sure that new experiences are always positive, and at worst, neutral.
Some things to consider while socializing our Shiba Inu:
1. Shiba Inus have an extreme play style, that many dogs may not like.
When he was young, I used to take Sephy to enclosed dog parks. During this time, his favorite play partners were larger dogs, and young Pit Bulls. Shibas like doing wrestling and rough play, which can easily overwhelm other small dogs.
Choose our Shiba’s play-mates carefully, so that a fun time can be had by all.
2. Shiba Inus dislike handling.
Socialize a Shiba to touching and grooming, as early as possible. Pair the touch and groom sessions with very good treats, so that he will associate handling with positive experiences.
Do not use physical force to do any grooming. This will make it into an unpleasant experience, and our Shiba will fight us every step of the way.
Instead, groom gently, and make it short, fun, and rewarding.
3. Shiba Inus do not generally like people petting them from above.
Petting from above can be seen as a dominance move by dogs, and Shibas may see this as a threat.
We can slowly desensitize our Shiba to this move, by pairing head petting with good food rewards. At the same time, instruct people to approach from under our dog’s head, and scratch his chest.
5. Control Our Own Energy
An important thing to remember while interacting with our Shiba, is to control our own energy.
Shiba Inus are especially sensitive to the energy of their owners, and the people around them.
When I first got puppy Sephy, he was extremely mouthy. In particular, he would resort to biting when I stopped him from doing something unacceptable.
This made me become afraid of him.
The more afraid I became, the worse Sephy behaved. As soon as I got fearful, he would start to hump my leg, grab my clothes, jump on me, or bite my hands, arms, and legs.
Anger and frustration will also elicit extreme Shiba behaviors.
In the early days, I had a dog walker take Sephy out for group walks at the park. When the walker tried to stop Sephy from doing something disruptive, he would object, and try out one of his Shiba moves, including alligator rolls, leash biting, hand biting, and of course the Shiba scream.
The dog walker naturally got embarrassed when Sephy screamed like he was about to die. There were other people around, and some of them thought that she was mistreating the poor dog. Sephy easily sensed her embarrassment and frustration. From then on, the Shiba scream was his favorite weapon to use against her.
With a Shiba Inu, it is important to stay calm at all times.
If we lose our cool, Shiba will sense it and continue to use this weakness against us.
The best way to handle a misbehaving Shiba, is to stay calm, and remove him to a quiet, lower stimulus area, as soon as possible. If he continues with his bad behavior, he gets his freedoms revoked with a time-out. Remember that fear, anger, frustration, and other extreme emotions will only make the problem worse.
Once I was able to control my fear and remain calm, things improved significantly with my Shiba.
Sephy will never be a model-citizen, but nowadays, he is actually very fun to be with. He is goofy, he is funny, and he usually stays out of serious trouble.
Shibas can be a big challenge to live with, but they are well worth the effort. They have a great personality, and they are always up to something that will make us laugh.
I love my Shiba Inu.
He is one of my best buddies, and whenever I see him, I just have to smile.
lol – love the squeaky toy alarm system. I know what you mean though. When my Shiba is quiet is when I know he is really up to no good 😀
You could consider enrolling Akiko in puppy class. Try and find one that lets the puppies play and socialize during class breaks.
Both my dogs went to puppy class and they really enjoyed it. Shiba Sephy really loved playing with the other puppies. We went to SIRIUS puppy class, and then later we went to some classes at our local SPCA.
I have had really good experiences with the SPCAs in my area. They have pretty good trainers there, their fees are very reasonable, and they have some really fun classes. Agility could be something fun that you could do with her later on.
Make sure that the puppy class checks everyone on shots and such. For safety, puppy class usually requires at least second round of shots – if memory serves.
Another possibility is to look for puppy play sessions in the dog training centers or daycare centers nearby. The daycare center in my area organizes free weekend puppy play sessions – and that was pretty fun as well. The great thing is that the sessions were well supervised and all the dog owners were very good about making sure their dogs played nice.
Again make sure they check that all puppies are up to date on shots, and that they clean the facilities well. You don’t want her to pick anything up from adult dogs.
Would also be a great time to start with leash training – just in your backyard though.
Lol:-) She is far from innocent… I have to keep my eyes on her at all times. I give her a squeaky toy that she loves because she can easily make it squeak. If I don’t hear it squeaking than I know she is up to no good lol. What should I be doing with her at 9 weeks? I don’t know any other dogs or children to socialize her… She can already do the normal sit, stay, come, down routine:-)
Wow you have a super Shiba! Mine is more like a hellspawn 😛
Did you get her from a local breeder?
Sure will:-) The vet did her nail cutting for us this time, so it went very well. He also gave her a booster shot and she didn’t even flinch. She was too distracted with her treat lol.
So I have an 8 month old intact shiba male and on Friday I brought home a 2.5 year old intact shiba female. The female is so aggressive towards my male, her lip comes up when he is just walking by. I don’t know what to do. I want them to get along and possibly breed them since they are both gorgeous dogs. They each are fed in different place and sleep in different places in their own crates. She won’t play with toys or anything, she just sits and acts depressed. I don’t know if it’s because she misses her old owner or what, but I’m getting worried about her. Whole reason I got her was so my male had a companion….What do I do???
I do not breed dogs, and therefore have little experience with unfixed dogs.
One thing that really helped me a lot when I was having troubles with my Shiba is visiting the Shiba breeders that lived nearby. They were very helpful and let me know what to expect from my Shiba and what were normal Shiba behaviors.
They may be a great resource for you as well. I used the breeder directory at the National Shiba Club
The nihonken message board can also be a great resource –
A professional trainer with Shiba experience can also help you troubleshoot some of these issues.
Thanks Scott! She is beautiful. Hope you will post more photos of her as she is growing up 🙂
How did the nail cutting session go?
You are welcome to post the link on your blog:-) Yea, she was very calm through the cleaning process. I think that she is going to get her nails cut tomorrow so we will see how that goes. Thank you for the compliments on her.
Thanks Raras 🙂
Scott – Your Shiba is absolutely beautiful! Can I link to your photos on my blog? Love that bliss shot where she is on her back.
I am impressed that she looks so calm while you were giving her a bath! Was she calm from the start?
whoaa!! thanks for your tips! your tips will be my guide when I owned one someday.