Dog Agression in Shiba Inus


Many times I am asked questions such as, “Are Shibas good with other dogs?” ; “Aren’t Shibas aggressive?” or even, “Why do many articles say Shibas are not dog-type dogs?”  The answers really stem back to the breed’s initially bred purpose and also the amount of socialization the individual Shiba gets under the age of 16 weeks.  However, I would not personally call the Shiba Inu a “dog aggressive” breed.

The Shiba Inu is compared frequently to being “cat-like” in its personality, most specifically in its independent aloof nature with strangers and in their cleanliness.  However while most people understand the Shiba’s potential to being shy and wary of strangers if not properly socialized, they tend to forget that this trait exists when it comes to being around other dogs as well.  And just like it is rare to see a Shiba that excitedly jumps up on any stranger that it meets, it is very unlikely to find a Shiba that is totally comfortable with every dog it meets, especially the excited “in your face” type dogs.

Many articles state that the Shiba breed is dog aggressive is because Shibas will get snappier with other in-your-face dogs more so than other breeds. This is not true aggression; rather this is the Shiba saying, “hey, you need to get out of my face, I dont like it, and if you don’t back off, I’ll have to teach you a lesson!”

True aggression is both unprovoked and the dog causes intentional harm to the other dog. This isn’t a snap or scuffle that just results in saliva and stops with a yell. This is a dog that puts another dog in its mouth, shakes it, doesn’t let go until it is pried off and the other dog is left with severe wounds that require veterinary care. But let’s face it, most breeders, people in the show world, vets, even magazine editors, are not dog trainers and they aren’t behaviorists. They think and sadly label any snap or snarl as “aggression.”

Another problem is that to label a dog as “dominant”, “aggressive”, or even just “stubborn” sets the owner up for feeling they need to be in control of the dog in a manner that is in fact aggressive. This usually results in bringing in training methods that involve fear, force, punishment, and alpha complexes which have been scientifically proven not to work, and can result in worse behaviors out of your dog in the forms of fear and aggression.  And worst of all it ruins your bond with your dog.

Think about this: you’re going to “dominate” a Shiba? Are you out of your mind!?!??! LOL!!!! Yeah, that’s a great idea! Let’s take an INDEPENDENT breed that was bred PURPOSEFULLY to think for itself without the guidance of man and “train” it by ways of choke chains, alpha rolls, scruff shakes, and other domineering training. Yeah, that’s sure to make the dog WANT to listen to us.

Shibas are incredibly smart and are actually some of the easiest dogs to train, if you know how to properly motivate your Shiba.  Make the training fun and they will want to work for you and with you. And that independent streak will work in your favor because it is easier for a Shiba to shut out the rest of the world (dogs, other people, smells–unless it’s off leash of course but I don’t take that risk ever) and pay attention to you if you have made the training process fun. They would truly rather listen to their owner than be bothered with the other dog or the strange person or child, but only if the training is fun and the Shiba sees the benefit out of it.

Solutions to the Problem

So your Shiba growls or snaps at other dogs, so now what?

You will want to find an actual accredited trainer or behaviorist (ask for a degree as anyone can just call themselves a behaviorist, but a true behaviorist has their PhD) that uses ONLY positive reinforcement , force-free methods with their training that can help you rectify and manage the situation.  If they use any punishment it should come in the form of removing or redirecting the dog away from what they are reacting towards but NEVER anything like a physical correction.  So, no choke chains, no pinch collars, no shock collars, no leash corrections, no scruff shakes, no alpha rolls/dominance downs, etc.

The forms of punishment that are not harmful to use are either noises to startle the dog (can with pennies, air horn, clap hands, stomp feet) or a “removal technique” such as turning immediately the other direction on a walk and walking at a brisk pace or used as a time out behind a door inside a home.

However, it is MUCH more important to be rewarding the dog for the behaviors you DO WANT, rather than focus on punishing or even redirecting the behaviors you don’t want.  Rewarded behaviors will then be more readily offered by the dog the next time the situation occurs.

Also, you may need to accept the fact that your Shiba may not have gotten proper socialization in its first few weeks as a young puppy, as the prime social period for any puppy is between 5 weeks and 16 weeks of age.  Some behaviorists and the American Veterinary Medical Association will even state that it is only up to 12 weeks.  Or you may have to accept the fact that your Shiba doens’t appreciate being mauled by excited dogs at the dog parks or getting goosed by off leash dogs out in public and you will need to take proper measures to ensure the safety and comfort of your dog.