Introducing Scent Games to Help a Shiba Inu Settle Down and Burn Energy

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 9, 2021

For this Omaha dog training session we taught 4 year old Shiba Inu Honey (Pictured here in the middle with her sister Chihero) how to play Cookie in the Corner as one of the tips we shared to stop her from going after 15 year old Toy Poodle Ebony.

Knowing that the dogs were sometimes anxious when greeting new people, I had the guardians bring the dogs outside to meet me. Anytime you have a dog that is uncomfortable, anxious, shy or fearful of people, meeting outside where there are a lot of distractions is always advisable.

Once the greetings were made and positive associations established, we headed inside and I asked the guardians about the dog’s back story. It turns out that the dogfights had started right around the same time the pandemic arrived. This time was also marked by Honey’s guardian losing her job which is a stressful situation for anyone.

A lot of people like to think of dogs as mirrors of the guardians, reflecting whatever the human has going on in the personal life impacting the dog’s behavior. If the human is stressed or their life is faced with uncertainty, that can certainly, and often does, impact their dog’s behavior.

Throughout the session, I noticed that Honey‘s ears were almost constantly flat against her head and that she was a bit jittery and stiff at times. These are all indicators of a dog who does not feel comfortable. I’m sure that some of it was attributed to my presence. But Im sure that Honey was uneasy for other reasons as well.

When we were inside, the guardians kept Honey on the leash while we talked. The guardians were concerned about having her around Ebony as they have gotten into fights in the past. I think that the dog fights had caused the humans to be on alert in anticipation another fight may occur. This tension can be a factor and I believe is part of the reason Honey seemed on edge.

While the leash can be a helpful safeguard, tension on a leash can amplify dog behavior issues. One of the dog behavior tips I suggested was to purchase an X pen. These exercise pens for dogs are great things to use when you have two dogs that don’t get along together.

The X pen will allow the dogs to be in the room together in a way that ensures that Honey cannot get to Ebony. I think that not only will this help prevent Ebony from getting injured, it will also help honey his guardian feel more relaxed and confident when the dogs are together. If she is constantly anxious worried that honey may attack Ebony, that can absolutely be a contributing factor to the dog’s anxiety.

When you are trying to stop dogs from fighting each other, it’s important that all the humans who are involved are relaxed and free from stress. Fingers crossed, the X pen can start relieving some of that anxiety from the human, which will have a positive influence on Honey; helping her feel more relaxed and secure.

One of the tips I have learned when trying to prevent dogs from attacking each other is to make sure that they spend time together in a positive and productive way. Many people simply separate the dogs completely and that was the case here. The problem with that is for dogs, being excluded from the group is one of the worst punishments there is.

Additionally, separating the dogs all the time prevents them from creating any positive associations with one another. If you want to stop dogs from fighting each other, it’s critical that the dogs do things together that are positive.

Incorporating an X pen combined with bully sticks, lick mats or even just hanging out with that barrier separating Honey and Ebony can be very beneficial tol they can use to get the dogs to stop fighting.

If the guardians can pick up a couple of lick mats and get some high value chew items, then start having the dogs practice being in the same room, but behind the X pen fencing, the dogs can start practicing being together and building up those positive associations.

It will be important for the guardians to pick and choose their opportunities to get the dogs together. I would like to see them getting the dogs together when they are in a calm and relaxed frame of mind like after walks or other forms of exercise.

I think one of the contributing factors to these dogs attacking each other, or honey attacking Ebony to be more precise, is a lack of exercise and stimulation. The dogs do not have a fenced-in yard to run around in and their home is cozy.

I explained that dogs burn more energy on walks by sniffing then they do from walking. I would like to see Honey and Ebony going for at least one walk every day. This gives them an opportunity to do an activity together in a environment full of distractions and with as much room as needed.

These walks are a wonderful way to get the dogs more stimulation, burn energy and help Honey and Ebony practice being together in a positive way.

I recommended a few other ways to exercise and stimulate the dogs. As Omaha’s resident dog behavior expert, I always tell my clients that their dogs should get an equal amount of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Some activities crossover, such as going for a sniff walk. For other activities like fetch or tug-of-war or are specific to physical exercise.

But mental stimulation is equally important for dogs. Not only does this help burn energy, it helps then stay stimulated. One of the best forms of mental stimulation for dogs are games that include their nose. A dog’s nose controls around 60% of their brain which is why I decided to show the guardians how they can introduce scent games.

One of the easiest scent games for a dog to learn is searching for treats. I like to use the cookie in the corner to introduce scent games and establish a command cue for this activity.

You can learn how to play the cookie in the corner game and teach your dog how to search for things by watching the free positive dog training video below.

One of the best things about this easy dog training exercise is anyone can do it, even if you arent a professional Shiba Inu dog trainer.

Because Honey was a little bit anxious, I wasn’t actually holding onto her harness as I threw the treats. She did pretty well without me doing that, but the guardians may want to hold onto her harness as they throw the treats to prevent her from sneaking off and getting a head start.

Once Honey understands the concept of this game, they can start playing all sorts of versions of scent games. I recommended the guardians do a quick Google search to find a number of free scent game options.

I would also like to see the guardians teaching the dogs some new tricks and commands. Dogs have confidence just like humans do and there is a correlation between how many things a dog knows and how it feels about itself. Additionally, when we are teaching a dog a new trick or skill, we are naturally displaying our leadership which can help dogs feel more comfortable and confident when we are around.

Shiba Inu’s are notorious for being independent and demonstrated this trait throughout the session. That’s why I think using a marker word and petting them when they do things the humnas like (sit, lay down, come, etc) without being told will be very helpful. I also showed the guardians how to use some hand gestures to lure them into sits and downs.

I’d love to see the guardian spend the next 2 to 3 months teaching the dogs a new trick or command cue each week. To make things easier, here is a short list of dog training tricks and cues that they can work on to get started.

Pose for pictures
Sit pretty
The hurricane trick
The leave it cue
Hand targeting
The Middle Cue
Teaching a dog to focus
Introducing a positive interrupter
Stay for distractions

There are hundreds if not thousands of dog tricks the guardians can move to once they’ve mastered the shortlist I posted above. Not only will this boost the dogs confidence and increase their respect for their humans, it will also give the humans a number of ways that they can redirect the dogs attention. Just make sure the training techniques you use are force and punishment free. Sadly there are still a ton of focrce based trainers out there.

Since Shiba Inu‘s are such independent dogs, I recommended the guardians practice my petting with a purpose philosophy and use the “paycheck” watchword to emend each other nto not pet without. purpose, reward desired actions when they are offered through capturing (marking, then petting the dog when it does desired commands without the humans asking for them) and utilize some Premacks; asking the dog to do something for the human before they do something the dog wants (sit before being allowed on the couch, sit for meals, etc.

If the humans incorporate the marker word of “bien” as we discussed in the above video, the dogs will learn faster what it is the humans want them to do.

I told the family Id like to send one of our trainers over to work with the dogs on something called the relaxation protocol that will help the dogs practice being calm. This should help all of the dogs, but especially Honey with her anxiety.

We covered so many different topics in this in-home Omaha dog training session that I was concerned the humans may not remember them all. To make sure that’s not the case, we recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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