I’ve done my share of breed education, both online and at special events such as Pet Expo and Meet the Breeds, and, yes, I do tell people Shibas "can be difficult to train," "aren’t recommended for first time dog owners," are "too smart for traditional dog training methods," and that they "bore easily."” All of this is true of most primitive breeds.
Is Snick An Exception to the Rule?
All of the above can be true of the Shiba Inu… But then people look at Snickers and what is he doing? He’s by my side, working the crowd, giving high fives, getting mobbed by children, having his ears pulled, speaking for treats, and merrily kissing faces. And what’s that hanging on his ID collar? A Delta Society Pet Partner ID tag!
It’s true. Snickers is a certified good dog. He’s a doll. He seems to understand almost everything I say. We go on therapy visits together, mostly with children. He will sit, spin, speak, high five and give kisses on command to amuse kids. But, he also pulls on leash more often than not and can NOT be trusted off leash outside securely fenced areas. He’ll steal a treat bag, jump on the kitchen table, or rummage through the garbage in a heartbeat if he thinks for a second that I’m not watching.
I take him with me when I go out for coffee and he sits at my feet while I read or work on my laptop. He adores most everyone who stops to say hello and most of them say what a well behaved dog he is. On the other hand, if he doesn’t like you, he’ll turn his back to you and no amount of my telling him “say hello” will make a difference.
Nope, he’s no exception to the rule. He was a terror as a puppy and still tests my patience from time to time.
So, how DO you train a Shiba Inu?
You think of it as a partnership. And you bring cheese.
Beyond those two important pointers, here are a few others that I think help with intelligent, independent breeds like Shibas.
- Mix it up. Don’t train repetitively. Work on one thing for a little while and then do something else. Don’t pattern train though! If you go in the same order all the time, that’s just as boring as doing the same thing over and over.
- Make it worth it for your Shiba. Reward often with whatever makes your Shiba happy – praise, treats, zoomies, play time. Hint: bring cheese
- Make it fun for both of you! If you’re enjoying yourself, your Shiba will be more likely enjoy it also.
- SOCIALIZE your Shiba well. No matter how much obedience training you do with your Shiba, if they aren’t well socialized, no one will ever know it but you.
- Check out Behavior Shaping which is a what "clicker training" is all about. This is absolutely the most fun way I’ve discovered to teach Snickers anything because it makes him THINK. We both enjoy it!
In summary, "training" the independent, primitive breed dog is about communicating – forming a bond – and making it challenging, fun and worth the dog’s while (otherwise, he’ll find more fun things to do). And don’t forget the cheese!
Feel free to share any training tips that have worked for you in the comments!