Teaching a Shiba Inu to Respect His Owners By Building Up Their Leadership

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 1, 2013

ChesterMeet Chester the Shiba Inu. His owners asked me to help stop his going number 2 in their unfinished basement when he was left alone.

When I arrived Chester’s body language was playful but also slightly territorial. He appeared to be getting ready to jump up to “claim me” so I used my own body language and movements to communicate I wanted him to keep a respectful distance.

Because Chester only has accidents when left alone I wanted to observe him with his family. He was more engaging that most Shiba Inu’s I have worked with, but showed some minor avoidance to the father of the home. It was clear he trusted everyone, but his responsiveness was selective.

To help illustrate the leader follower dynamic, I showed the family an exercise that will also help Chester learn to restrain himself. It took only three repetitions before Chester understood what I was asking from him. As I coached the members of the family through the exercise, Chester responded faster each repetition showing he has the stereotypical high intelligence common in Shiba Inu’s.

To help improve his responsiveness, we brushed up on some basic commands to help sharpen Chester’s recall. By practicing these exercises inside for a few days before repeating them out in the back yard, Chester will learn its rewarding to respond to calls for him by his family.

When we went outside to practice the recall exercises, Chester walked to the corner of the yard to do his business. I had told his owner to stay close (20 feet or so) from him so that they could introduce the elimination command as soon as Chester started to eliminate. By repeating the word over and over in a calm voice while the dog eliminates, we can link the word with the act. Within a week or so, the dog becomes responsive to the word when we repeat it inside at the expected times.

When we went back inside I recommend his family change to a regular feeding schedule. Because his family was free-feeding Chester, the expected time of delivery was always in flux. Because a dog’s digestive track is usually pretty consistent, a regular feeding schedule makes it easy to know when a dog needs to go.

I also suggested a more structured eating ritual; making the dog wait until after his owner’s had eaten before getting permission to eat the food in his bowl and removing any uneaten food when the dog walks away from the bowl. By adding structure to feeding time, we can further reinforce the leader follower dynamic.

By the end of the session Chester was lying peacefully on the floor. His owner commented on how easy it was to get his attention or to get him to come when we came in from the backyard. That’s one of the things I love about working with dogs, they live in the now. Once we communicate to them what we want, in a way they understand, they jump right in.

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