Training a Pair of Shiba Inu’s to Listen to and Respect Their Family

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 30, 2016


Lady is a two-year-old Shiba Inu who lives in Los Angeles with anther Shiba Inu, eight-year-old Champ. Their guardians set up a dog obedience training session with me to put a stop to Lady’s habit of jumping up, not always listening and getting over excited. They also wanted me to address Champ’s fear of fireworks and other random things.

The dogs showed good curiosity when I arrived for the session. Sheba Inu’s are notorious for being aloof and indifferent, but Lady and champ both seemed interested in meeting me and enjoyed getting some attention.

I sat down with the guardians to discuss what they wanted to do accomplish in the session as well as get more information about the dogs. I learned that the dogs did not really have any rules and that the guardians had been unintentionally nurturing Champ’s unbalanced state by petting him whenever he was nervous or anxious.

I suggested a couple of rules that will help the dogs start to see themselves as being in the follower position while simultaneously removing some of the responsibility that they think is on their shoulders. This should help Champ relax a little bit and also help Lady learn to listen to and respect her guardians commands and corrections.

I also suggested that the guardians incorporate a little bit of structure to giving the dogs attention or affection. I like to call this petting with a purpose.

Once Lady and Champ’s guardians get into a habit of asking the dog to sit, come or lay down before they pet them, they will engage in a mini dog behavior training session every time they pet their dogs without even thinking about it.

As we are wrapping up the discussion on petting with a purpose, Lady went over to Champ and started to bark at him. I pulled out my camera to film their interaction as I explained what was going on to the guardians.

Because Lady is essentially just an older puppy, she is likely to continue to try to push the boundaries and limits. It’s fortunate that the guardians have Champ to help out. Older dogs can help younger pooches learn what is and is not acceptable by acting as a role model.

As a dog trainer I like to recommended that guardians stop being even-handed when petting their dogs or rewarding them. Like many guardians do, Lady and Champ’s guardians had been putting forth an effort to be equal (when they treated or petted one dog they made sure to dot he same for the other). But if one dog listens to you and the other one doesn’t, petting them both the same way doesn’t communicate that it is important that they listen to you.

Another recommendation was that the guardians start defining their personal space. We often don’t bat an eye when a dog jumps up on us or gets super close, but to dogs, distance can equal respect.

To make sure that the guardians and dog are on the same page, I went over some non-verbal communication cues that the guardians can use to disagree with the dogs when they break any of the new rules or do anything that they do not approve of.

We headed downstairs to the front door so that I could show the guardians how to use these new escalating consequences to communicate that the dogs are to stay away from the door while the human answers it.

After demonstrating the technique for the guardians, they switched positions and we repeated the exercise a second time. This time I had the other guardian answer the door as I coached her through the process.

It looks easy in the video, but you have to move quickly in response to the dog’s movements. If you move too late or to slow, it can cause the dog to think it doesn’t have to listen.

The guardian will need to remember to be very assertive in her movements and to not stop short anytime that she marches at the dog to communicate that it needs to back up. If it challenges more than once, stepping past the boundary may be needed.

We decided to swap guardian positions and run through the exercise one last time. To make it as real as possible, I handed by phone to one of them and headed out to play the part of the guest myself.

Because I was outside, I wasn’t able to see what was going on in the above video. I would like to see the guardian keep his hand at his side rather than behind his back and also pause after he takes each set of steps.

The idea is to move in a deliberate fashion (left foot then right foot) stopping while the feet are even next to one another. If the dog approaches, he needs to also use a sharp hiss sound first and then move towards the dog second (Although the two can be combined too).

By adding a half second pause in between each pair of steps, we can better communicate to the dog that we are disagreeing (moving forward) or agreeing (moving back) with their actions.

We headed back upstairs and sat down in the living room so I could go over the technique they will need to use to help Champ get over his fear of the fireworks.

I recommended that the guardians initiate this process of desensitizing Champ from the fireworks at least six weeks before the next Fourth of July. You want to have plenty of time where the only time that the dog hears the sound of fireworks is when it’s under your control.

This will allow them to practice the exercises a few times a day. Champ will need to nap or sleep between practice sessions to have them really impact him the most. If they take their time and go at Champ’s pace, they can rid him of this fear for the rest of his life.

Next we did a little bit of leash training so that the guardians could have better control of the dogs when on walks. The dogs responded to the new Martingale collars right away and the guardians mentioned they were behaving much better than usual.

At the end of the session we headed upstairs into one of the bathrooms where two newly adopted cats were hanging out. Champ was able to hang around them without incident, but Lady started to engage her prey drive when around them and the guardians wanted to see if we could improve that relationship.

Now the rules and structure that we had introduced earlier in the session should help Lady learn to develop more self-control. But I also wanted to show the guardians how they can help her practice being in the same room with the cats.

It will take time and patience, but judging from how Lady responded, I believe she will eventually be able to be around the cats without chasing them. They key will be a lot of practice being in the same room and seeing them while not chasing them. The glass shower is a great tool that can help immensely. Once the dog is able to be completely relaxed in the shower, they they can move into other rooms with the cat on a leash to keep everyone safe.

By the end of the session both dogs were pooped. I was quite pleased with how well they seemed to be responding to the new communication cues and even some of the rules. At the end of the session as we discuss things, Lady only attempted to get on the couch once and was easy to move off it with the new communication cues. Impressive considering we only started enforcing that rule a half an hour earlier.

It’s going to take the guardians a week or two to get into a habit of modifying how they interact with their dogs. But once they do, the dogs will more clearly understand what the humans do and do not want from them.

As the humans continue to modify their behavior and appear as though they are leaders in the dog’s eyes, Lady and Champ will continue to move into more of a follower’s mindset. Once that transformation finishes taking place, listening to the humans will no longer be something that is optional.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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