Shiba Inu Training Basics

Let The Training Begin

training a smart shiba inu

Shiba Inus are intelligent dogs.

However their unique personality and distinct Shiba Inu temperament makes them somewhat difficult to obedience train.

A Shiba Inu is a basal breed of dog which make their DNA less hardwired for human socialization.

In general, Shiba Inus are independent dogs and do not need or crave much attention from their owners.

That means, Shibas like to interact with their owners on “their terms”. Thus, obedience training a Shiba Inu will not be as easy as training a Labrador.

Shiba Inu training takes patience, calm energy and lots of positive reinforcements.

Training a Shiba with other aggressive methods such as aversive punishment training is rarely successful and not recommended.

But in order to be a successful Shiba Inu owner, you still need to assert yourself as the “leader” of your dog in order for your Shiba Inu to respect, trust and ultimately obey you

Theories About Dominant / Hierarchical Training Methods

two shiba inus playing roughly

The words “pack leader” and  “dominance” are not words dog trainers and behaviorists like to hear.

Many trainers and behaviorists argue that the dominant / subordinate behavior does not exist in dogs because instead dogs act more like wolves in wolf packs who work together “cooperatively” and with less of a hierarchical structure.

Thus these trainers will assert that humans and dogs too, engage in this cooperative behavior.

This theory has been recently debunked by scientists studying the pack behaviors of dogs and wolves.

The scientists observed wolves cooperate as a pack and were generally tolerant of one another - regardless of “rank”.

On the other hand, scientists observed that dogs do not naturally cooperate and instead rely on strict, linear dominance hierarchies that demand obedience from subordinates. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/08/wolves-cooperate-dogs-submit-study-suggests

What these studies show is that dogs do respect pack dynamics and hierarchy.

Therefore, in order for you to be a successful Shiba Inu owner, you must assume the leadership position.

By doing so, you’ll have a Shiba Inu that trusts you, respects you, and most importantly - obeys you.

You’ll also have a Shiba Inu that exhibits less aggression and fearfulness as they’ll naturally feel confident that you’ll be able to provide them comfort and safety.

shiba inu training

But just remember that you can  be the “alpha” leader of your Shiba Inu without resorting to aversive punishment.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior does not recommend dominance training due mainly to the fact that this type of training normally involves aversive punishment techniques such as hitting, choking, and other negative physical reprimands.

The AVSAB official stand on the dominance hierarchy theory is as follows:

“The AVSAB emphasizes that animal training, behavior prevention strategies, and behavior modification programs should follow the scientifically based guidelines of positive reinforcement, operant conditioning, classical conditioning, desensitization, and counter conditioning. 

The AVSAB recommends that veterinarians not refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate dominance hierarchy theory and the subsequent confrontational training that follows from it.”

~ 2008 AVSAB American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior

Our Stance on Dominance / Hierarchical Training Methods

We agree with the ASVAB and follow most of their guidelines except on the position of the need for hierarchical structure.

Due to our own training experiences with Shiba Inus and the fact that scientific studies prove the existence of hierarchical structure in dog relationships - we do advocate the need for the Shiba Inu owner to assume the alpha or top position.

But unlike traditional dominance training - we do not advocate for any aversive punishment to be used on your Shiba Inu.

Doing so would be first of all, dangerous.

shiba dog grinning

Secondly, these aggressive and aversive methods usually make the dog more anxious in the long run. 

Understandably, these aggressive methods may work well in the short term - simply because your dog is fearful and simply “submitting” to you.

However, the long term results may not hold up as relying on fear / submission to uphold your leadership is unhealthy.

Moreover, your dog may only learn to submit to you but still be disobedient with others if you are not around.

You can think of your role as you being the strong, but kind and compassionate leader of your family. You know what behaviors are best for your family, and you know how to correct these behaviors when necessary without violence.

Being alpha does not simply mean being the boss. It means more of taking on the responsibility of teaching your dog the best behaviors to ensure their safety as well as the safety of others.

As a responsible Shiba Inu leader, you will expect your Shiba to come when called, sit and stay when told to, and back down when commanded.

Don’t get the impression that the alpha is the one who beats the subordinates up when they don’t get what they want. That’s more of a “bully’.

Assertive and proactive handling can be just as effective and even more effective than aggressive punishment methods.

Shiba Inus are highly sensitive dogs and if handled too aggressively, you will lose their trust of you. The bond between you and your Shiba could also suffer.

Dog training is nuanced and not a black and white concept. It may take some trial and error to find the best method that works for you and your Shiba Inu's unique family dynamics.

adorable and funny shiba inu mother and puppy

The Importance of Addressing Your Shiba Inu’s Emotional State

Another often overlooked factor in dog training is understanding your dog's emotional state of mind.

Dr. Sophia Yin, a well-known and respected veterinarian and dog behaviorists who sadly passed away in 2014 covers this topic with great depth.

She asserts the critical importance of addressing a dog’s emotional state when training. Those who use punishment methods of training may very well suppress and not address the dog’s underlying emotional state that is causing the misbehavior in the first place.

So by taking what we learned from the various studies involving the hierarchical nature of dogs and wolves and also the experience from experts like Dr. Yin, we can better understand what’s the best approach to dog training for our own specific needs.

From Sophia Yin, DVMThe old method of training was to assume dogs were trying to be dominant if they didn’t behave. As a result we would use force until they gave in rather than addressing the underlying emotional state or cause (such as fear or rewarding of inappropriate behaviors). We would also focus on punishing the bad behavior when we were also accidentally rewarding the bad behaviors too, and we would forget to reinforce appropriate behaviors at a really high rate so that these behaviors could become a habit.

Updated methods based on the psychology of learning and behavior take into consideration the motivations and emotional state the are driving behavior and factor in the everyday reinforcers —both accidental and incidental, that drive the behavior.”

Shiba Inu judging you face

The Anatomy of The Inexperienced / Uninformed Dog Owner

If you are a dog owner that coddles the dog with baby voices and never reprimands the dog - you are much more likely have a disobedient dog with fear and aggression issues. 

Why?

Because if you baby the dog and “submit” to the dog, your dog will not see you as their leader and protector.

So if you aren’t the leader - who is?

Ultimately, the dog will think that top position belongs to him and with that position comes responsibility and unnecessary stress.

Dogs who don’t have confident pack leaders likely have aggression issues as they feel it is their own responsibility to protect and defend their pack.

Unfortunately, behind many (but not all) aggressive dogs, a weak and subordinate owner is at fault.

So while you may think that babying your dog like you would baby a child is good for their emotional well-being - you need to realize that a dog is not wired the same way as we are.

Importance of Shiba Inu Socialization

shiba inu and friends picture

Between 6 - 8 weeks old, you can begin the important process of socializing your dog. This early stage in puppy development is absolutely critical.

When you put effort into socializing your puppy and exposing it to various stimuli at this young age - the outcome is well worth the extra effort. 

On the other hand, if you fail to properly socialize your Shiba Inu puppy during their critical development time - you will likely have a Shiba Inu that is very difficult to train in the future.

Not only will you have Shiba Inu that is difficult to train, but you will also likely have a Shiba Inu that is anxious and unsociable with humans and other dogs.

The anxiety can lead to further problems down the road such as aggression and fearfulness.

shiba inu puppy yelling at another shiba inu puppy

Socializing your Shiba Inu is the most important aspect of Shiba Inu training.

Socializing your Shiba Inu gives your Shiba Inu life skills that will prevent many fearful and dangerous situations in the future.

But remember, socializing is not the same as simply exposing your dog to various people and situations.

For example, if you simply expose your dog to it’s first interaction with strangers  without any direction - your dog will likely still be afraid of strangers, and in some cases, even more so.

Instead, socializing your dog means exposing your dog to various situations and teaching your dog the proper way to react and adapt to those situations.

Shiba Inu Training Tips

Think Like “Your” Shiba Inu

In order to properly train your Shiba Inu, it is important to understand what motivates your Shiba Inu the most.

For the most part, I can get to the point and tell you that most Shiba Inus are motivated by food. Toys and praise just won’t do the trick.

For Shibas, the treat reward system works best.

In fact, based on animal studies, (Fukuzawa and Hayashi, 2013; Okamoto et al 2009) Companion Animal Psychology reports that the treat reward system is the #1 method to train a dog. https://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2017/04/the-ultimate-dog-training-tip.html

If you are training a Shiba Inu puppy, make sure your puppy is in a good state of mind and keep the sessions short and positive.

Start Training Your Shiba Inu As Early as Possible

shiba inu puppy chew toy

One of the first things you should teach a Shiba puppy is bite inhibition.

Puppies love biting and Shiba Inu puppies really love biting.

Teaching a Shiba puppy inhibition is especially important to establish yourself as the leader and the enforcer. You will reprimand when the pup is bad, but also praise when the pup does something positive like obey a command.

Some might find that puppy biting is cute and natural.

However, letting your Shiba Inu bite you at any time is not recommended. If you let your Shiba bite you, your Shiba will have no problems biting others.

shiba inu puppy development

Be In The "Right" Mood​​

Before training, let your Shiba Inu puppy play a bit to expend some energy and encourage a positive state of mind.

You too, should be in a good state of mind.

Don’t train your Shiba Inu if you are in a rushed or stressed state.

Dogs, as well as little puppies are very perceptive.

Training your Shiba Inu in a bad mood will negatively affect your future training sessions as your Shiba Inu will potentially associate your bad mood with future training sessions.

Shiba Inu Training - Easy Does It

Start with really simple commands like sit and down.

Reward with tiny pieces of tasty treats and lots of high pitched (they can hear it better) praise.

As your puppy begins to learn the obedience commands, you can alternate between giving a treat and simply giving a vocal phrase.

It is not ideal to give your Shiba Inu a treat every single time he or she performs a command.

If you do so, they will expect a treat EVERY time and they can and will choose not to perform a command if they notice that you do not have a treat with you.

cream shiba inu dog

Shiba Inu Good Citizen Training - The Importance of Obedience Training Your Shiba Inu

It's important and many times, critical, to have a balanced Shiba Inu that can get along and play well with others. 

Unsocialized Shiba Inus can be a bite hazard and or escape risk.

So before attempting to teach your Shiba Inu fancy “trick” commands - stick with obedience training and don’t stop until your Shiba Inu has mastered it - you’ll save yourself, your Shiba Inu, and others from potentially dangerous situations.

The basic goals of obedience training is to teach your dog to listen to your commands consistently with no resistance.

Three Key Shiba Inu Commands

First and foremost, you need to teach your Shiba Inu basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, and heel.

These three commands are vital for the long term safety of your Shiba Inu as well as others around your dog.

Shiba Inus have a natural inclination for hunting and they are known to be runaways when off-leash.

By teaching obedience commands like stay, and come until they are 100% compliant, you can avoid a lot of heartache later on down the road.

So before getting into fancier commands like fetching you a drink from the fridge, make sure that your Shiba Inu knows the commands stay and come are the two commands that they must listen to EVERY SINGLE TIME - without compromise.

Proofing Your Shiba Inu

This is called “proofing” your dog which means that the dog understands the command no matter where or what the circumstance is.

For example a proofed dog will sit on command at home or in a loud and bustling street corner.

cute black and tan shiba inu puppy

Training Adult Shiba Inus

If you just brought an adult Shiba Inu into your household, don’t immediately begin training. You need to take enough time to gain your Shiba Inu’s full trust and respect.

Due to the Shiba Inus aloof personality, this process could take some time.

During this time you need to assert yourself as a firm, but fair leader.  

Every Shiba Inu has their own unique quirks  and taking the time to learn these quirks will help you properly structure a custom training regimen for your Shiba Inu.

Before diving deep into serious training, take some time to bond with your Shiba Inu by discovering his or her likes and dislikes.

Go for walks, play a bit, and of course treat your new friend to enjoyable dog treats.

It’s also a great time to begin the process of grooming your Shiba.

Hopefully, you have a Shiba that accepts handling. If not, at least you’ll learn what you’ll be up against in future training and conditioning sessions.

smiling and happy shiba inu

Aggression, Resource Guarding

Aggression and resource guarding are behavioral issues that involve more complex training methods.

Before attempting to train a Shiba with aggression issues, be sure that you do not put yourself, your family, or your Shiba in dangerous situations while training.

If you have an especially aggressive and reactive Shiba Inu, it’ll be best to consult with animal behaviorist / trainer instead of attempting to solve the problem yourself.

Basal dog breeds like Shiba Inus are more “primitive” in nature than more domesticated breeds such as Labs and Poodles.

Accordingly, basal breeds exhibit wild behaviors such as aggression and resource guarding more often than their more domesticated counterparts.

The best method to train your aggressive behavior out of your Shiba Inu depends on various factors such as intensity of aggression and how your Shiba Inu responds to your training methods. 

Some Shiba Inus may need a bit more assertive training while others, such as puppies, may respond better to reward training.

If your Shiba Inu has a history of biting, you should learn how to properly use a muzzle to ensure your safety as well as others.

In some cases, you may need someone else to help with your aggressive Shiba Inu simply because your Shiba Inu does not respond to your training techniques.

The main thing is to make sure that your Shiba Inu understands which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.

training a shiba inu

Shiba Inu’s can be very stubborn so patience and consistency will go a long way.

For example, if your Shiba Inu growls or snaps at you and you do not do anything - you are actively enforcing that negative action. Instead, you should’ve immediately said “No!” in a firm and authoritative command.

Then, redirect your Shibas attention by commanding your Shiba to sit and then lie down. If your Shiba Inu obeys, praise and reward your Shiba so that the situation ends on a positive note.

Ideally, by starting the process of socializing and obedience training your Shiba early - you’ll never find yourself in a predicament with a untrusty and dangerous Shiba Inu.

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