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.
Hello, Thanks for this great blog.
My wife and I just got a new creme female Shiba Inu puppy -Mara. She is about 3 1/2 months old and we have her going to puppy training class every Saturday. She has been doing very well around people and even the dogs in our training class. I have a few questions for you.
1. Mara has a favorite stuffed animal(ducky) that she carries around in her mouth and she does little whimpers for awhile. she does this about twice a day and it is kind of sad like she misses something . Any ideas on what this could be ?
2. I think this seems to be very common from all the reading on this blog. We have our hands full with the bitting all the time. We have been giving her time outs in her crate, but not much improvement also we have been giving her tons of toys. if you have any other ideas i would love to hear.
Thanks for the great blog .
Congratulations on your new Shiba puppy!
In terms of other methods –
Some people suggest using a spray bottle. That didn’t work too well for me because my Shiba would just attack the spray bottle. There are various ways that people suggest to hide the bottle but it never really worked out for me. My Shiba just got even more wild after being sprayed.
Other people suggest doing leash corrections or even muzzle slaps but all that ever did was make my Shiba lose trust in me.
What worked best for me is to do timeouts in a different (not the crate) but really boring place. I use the laundry room. The advantage there is that I close the door and Shiba has nothing to do, nothing to see, and it is totally boring. He really does not like time-outs.
In general you want to maintain the crate as a good and safe place. Some place that they want to go in. This will allow you to crate them when you are out or during the night. Also the crate still allows them to see interesting things, and they are still in the middle of all the action.
When I let my Shiba out of timeout I usually ignore him for a while. He will just want to go off and sulk anyway. What does Mara do right after she comes out of timeout? How long do you generally do timeouts for?
Another key thing that helped me a lot with the biting is to stay totally calm. It can be difficult to do, but the more nervous or angry I got, the worse my Shiba would behave. Just stay calm, non-mark (Ack-ack), and if she continues, calmly say timeout and remove her to timeout with her drag lead.
The NILIF program also helped me a lot. Rather than giving her all the toys at once, only give her one or two and cycle through them so that she doesn’t get bored. Make sure she does commands for you before she gets anything in return.
I also make my Shiba work for all of his food.
Here are some things that helped when my Shiba was a puppy.
Hmmmm, not sure about this. How long have you had Mara? Is the ducky from your breeder? Is there are particular time of day or event that triggers this behavior? My first thought is that she could be missing her litter-mates.
Mara is very quiet and calm, almost pouting after she comes out of a timeout. Soon afterward she is back to biting again. The timeouts vary, but they are generally not more than a few minutes.
As for the ducky, Mara usually whimpers with the ducky in her mouth after coming out of her crate. We’ve had her for almost 2 months. The ducky was something my wife and I bought for her before we picked her up from the breeder. It was one of her first toys. She carries is around like a security blanket, but also plays with and bites it.
That sounds a lot like Sephy. He sulks when he comes out then after a bit he tries biting the curtains or whatever again to see if he can get away with it 🙂
I just ignore him when he comes out. Then when he goes for the curtains or books or whatever I non-mark him and body block him away from the area. Then I get him to do something else – e.g. obedience commands, chewing on toy, etc. If he refuses and goes back to curtain chewing, I say time-out and put him in time-out.
Shibas are stubborn – so usually a fair amount of consistent repetition is needed before they will give up the ghost. Even now Sephy will test the waters now and then – mostly with trying to chew the rug. He only does it when I am home to get a reaction – such a scamp.
Hmmm, my Siberian had a blanket from her breeder that she really loved but she lost interest in it after a couple of weeks.
I think as Mara gets used to her new home she will become less interested in the toy. What you are doing now sounds great in terms of socializing her to new people.
Puppy training class is great coz she gets to meet and play with new puppies too. As she meets more new people and does more new activities with you, I think she will become less dependent on the toy.
Just make sure she doesn’t start guarding the toy. You can play the object exchange game with her or food exchange game to discourage guarding.
Hope this helps. Let us know how things go.
Hello, We have just gotten our first Shiba named Spartacus who is 14 weeks old. However, I have been working with trying to get him to walk on a leash and wants no part of it. I love going on walks and they are suppose to love going on walks also. Do you have any ideas or tips to try and get him to WALK?????
Congratulations on your first Shiba!
In terms of leash walking, what helped with my Shiba is to fasten the leash onto the collar, and just let him drag it around. This will help him get comfortable with the feel and weight of leash.
Make sure to supervise so that the leash does not get caught on anything. And only do this with a flat collar.
You can also play the Find-it game with him while he has the leash on.
Fasten the leash and bring out some of his favorite treats. Throw one a small distance away and say find-it. Once he gets it, praise him a lot and throw another one and so on. This way you get him moving around and playing something fun with the lead on inside the house.
Once he learns to Find-It you can throw in some recalls. Walk a few steps away from him and call him (e.g. Spartacus Home!). Praise him a lot for coming to you, treat him, and then do a Find-It, then just keep repeating.
Then you can move on to holding the leash and playing the game, then holding the leash and playing the game outside. He will quickly get used to the leash and see it as something really positive.
We have had or shiba for three years and he is a great dog, very friendly and very social. A couple of issues have arisen. One he has become very skiddish. Any load noise such as fireworks, lond bangs or load screaming gets him upset and he will lock himself in rooms and cower. Our female shiba doesn’t seemed fased at all by the noise, we cant seem to calm his nerves. Any Suggestions? He aslo seems very depressed alot of times. He gets regualr exersize and plenty of toys, and a friend but he constantly needs attention and affection, and becomes very “mopey” when not petted or attended to. He is healthy ann has all is vaccinations, what can be causing this depression?
For the loud noises you can start to desensitize him to them. Create a taping of the noises that scare him. Then play it at a very low volume. Make sure you start at a very low volume.
Praise and treat him for being calm in the presence of the noise. Do some obedience commands with him and continue to praise and treat.
Once he is comfortable with the low volume noise, slowly increase the volume and repeat the exercise. Do it slowly and over many short but rewarding sessions.
This will help him associate the noise with positive, non-stressful experiences, and eventually, he will become more confident in terms of handling the noise.
If he gets spooked, then you have increased the volume too quickly, so start again with a softer volume. You may also want to put him on a lead during these training sessions so you have more control. Make sure not to push him too far too quickly though. The key to desensitization sessions is to make them short and fun so that Shiba learns to associate the scary event with something positive, low stress, and calm.
Not sure about the depression. Hard to say without observing things in real-life. Sometimes my Shiba gets depressed from the weather – if it is too rainy. He also gets depressed when he has digestive issues or when there are big changes to his routine.
I think that describes the Shiba very well! After 3 years, my Shiba definitely understands all the house rules, but the attitude is still there – lol.
Gotta love that Shiba attitude – they are a very entertaining dog breed 🙂
Just brought home a 12 week old red male shiba, He is already showing signs that he understands my home’s culture but he definitly has some attitude. I didn’t realize that they are this strong, luckily he doesn’t mind the leash but holding on to it really lets you know that they have some power. My wife and daughter are really enjoying him and I believe we have already started trading trust with each other. He is a blessing to my home already.
lol – she is totally adorable! That is a lot of snow for this early in the year.
My dogs have never seen snow. I think they would both love it. Ice – probably not so much 🙂
Thanks for sharing your video.
Here you go. I uploaded it on YouTube:-)
Hi Scott, I would love to see the video! Can you please post us a link to it?
Yeah video embedding doesn’t currently work in the comments section. I should look into getting a plugin for that 🙂
Well, I guess it didn’t work…
Thanks again for the suggestions. I will look into upcoming classes. Here is a video of shiba-Akiko out in the snow this morning.