Behavior & Training
My shiba is attacking random small dogs
My 1 year old female shiba (spayed) has slowly started to stalk and attack dogs smaller than her. She herself is really small (15lbs).
What she does is lock eyes and just goes after them. Nipping, pulling, thrashing pushing, etc. Definitely not play.
Now she doesn't do this with all small dogs. Just 80% of the time, to throw out a percentage. She just started to play and get excited when she sees my neighbors toy dachshund and Chihuahua, and she has come across small dogs that she doesn't do it to.
I had a one on one training session with an aggression trainer who thinks that might not be a true dog on dog aggression.
He thinks it might be the following
1. The first and only dog to actually attack her was a small jack russell terrier. She used to love ALL DOGS and was really good at changing her play based off of size and I took so much time socializing her as a puppy with as many dogs and people as possible. But after this fight, she slowly started attacking the small dogs.
2. She is submissive to most dogs. She is submissive to my neighbors TINY dachshund. Her best bud, a 50lb aussie shepard is the only dog I've ever seen be assertive and dominating with. So he thinks it might also be her way of dominating over something.
I've had some people tell me that it is just a shiba thing and not much can be done because of high prey drive, but I don't think that is what it is. That fact that she doesn't attack every smaller dog she comes across, she doesn't go after cats, she doesn't give a crap about my BF parents rabbit, doesn't really go after the resident ducks (we live on a lake). Not saying she doesn't have a prey drive, but her attacks are inconsistent and there isn't much of other high prey drive examples.
The trainer gave us these tips
1. Work on getting her to listen and pay attention to me. Good advice. Been neglecting that. Getting much better now with her paying attention to me and listening.
2. Control her greetings. Only let her sniff a small dog for a quick sec and move on. Don't allow her the chance to even strike. Praise her for all positive interactions with small dogs
3. Take her to places where there are small dogs, such as dog parks. Keep on the leash and control her greeting with all the dogs. He suggested a longer 20ft leash so she isn't restrained, but the situation can be controlled easily if anything gets out of hand.
4. Slowly have her leash off but keep it handy to put right back on when a new un-introduced little dog comes into the park and again, force a controlled positive meeting.
Any other advice to this? I can't accept that it is a breed thing and nothing can be done. I personally feel that 95% of dog behaviors can at least be modified to an extent to be more positive. I know it will take time. She is already doing much better with responding to me and I can start slowing walking her more to come across little dogs. She does seem to be completely fine with all the little dogs she already knows or sees on a regular basis.
I agree with the first 2 points your trainer made. But not the final 2. Yes, you should work on her looking to you as a role model and keeping experiences positive. But don't take her leashed into the dog park or expect you can "force a controlled positive meeting." Leashes in a park make dogs anxious and easier targets for other dogs. And like people, not all dogs care to be social butterflies and get along with everyone - you can't force that. What you can hope for and work towards, is her learning to ignore other dogs and not cause a scene.
The truth is, this is extremely common behavior. With maturity, Shibas typically grow intolerant of strange dogs. That is a breed trait. Very few mature Shibas are dog park material. The Shiba forum has a whole section on this
Another thread here
I agree with
. I also would find another trainer/behaviourist because this person is using outdated ideology (dominance theory) and is giving VERY bad advice (leashed in a dog park?!).
I think you are leaving out a lot of very important information here. What kind of situation is Taro in when these events take place? What is the other dog doing immediately before Taro gets defensive? Has she ever broken skin on another dog?
Shibas do become intolerant of other dogs as they mature. It IS a breed thing, and while there are things that you can do to minimize the effects of this intolerance, you may have to resign yourself to no longer taking her to the dog park or to socialize with unknown dogs. It is not necessary for her to greet every dog that you meet on the street. If there is a known issue with smaller dogs, then perhaps you should avoid close encounters with smaller dogs.
I have a dog-reactive dog (she has been attacked by multiple off leash dogs). With a lot of work and management, she is a great companion for me and my other Shiba. She can tolerate being around other dogs as long as the other dog gives her space. If I feel that a greeting is possible, I allow a very short (less than three seconds) and controlled greeting and praise the heck out of her if the greeting goes well (which these days, it usually does). I never have her in off leash situations (unless she and I know all of the dogs involved) and have learned to be an advocate for her when irresponsible owners allow their dogs off leash in inappropriate areas.
Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
Some of the advice by the trainer is great. But in my experience, taking your shiba to the dog park to socialize with small dogs is bad advice. Not all dogs in the dog park are on the same page on socialization, which can cause a dog fight. At dog parks, you go at your own risk. You are better off find a trainer that specializes in socialization groups to help you and your shiba to feel comfortable around small dogs. This way you and your dog are in a controlled environment and have a trainer to assist you.
There's a good NK presence in the PNW, particularly Seattle, so there should be some experienced trainers in the area. There was a brief discussion of Seattle trainers here, and maybe
have further suggestions for behaviorists.
I've been trying to take note of the situations when she reacts since it happens both on and off leash.
On leash, she either does one of 2 things: Locks eyes or lays down on the ground in a ounce type position (which she pretty much does with all dogs). I have been currently working this out of her since I feel that even though 98% she just waits for the dog to come to her, rolls on her back, I feel it is her obsessing and paying too much attention to the dogs we come across.
Sometimes she does a quick sniff and I will take notice if her back hairs are up. Sometimes they are not up and then instantly up and then she snaps or they might be up prior to meeting the dog (if I notice them up prior to a dog coming at us, I will move on and not let her sniff them).
She has NEVER broken skin. However her attacks have been getting more and more brutal. The first handful of times it was more "bullying". She would rush them, nip at their feet, chase them, and maybe jump on them a bit.
The last one I witnessed, she pushed it to the ground, was grabbing and trashing it's leg and pulling at it. I am actually surprised that dog came out unscathed. It was a silky Terrier and I was throwing the ball with Taro and he came over all excited and hadn't met her yet so he was wagging his tail and walking over to her and when he got within 5 feet of her, that was it. All around her were other dogs smaller than her and she was ignoring all of them, one of them was decently fearful of her and would run off when she came by and the others kind of ignored her too. But she took one look at the terrier and just went for it.
The other dogs aren't doing anything that I can tell. The ones she attack are ones that come up to sniff her gently. They are not in her face or being dominant, barking etc. They will come over to sniff her butt slowly and that is usually when she jumps on them. They aren't sneaking up behind her and they are coming up behind her. They usually come from the side and she might get one quick sniff in and then when they go for the sniff, she attacks.
At the dog park (and at daycare where it finally happened) she will do her own thing and then if she sees one, she just locks eyes and then just goes running after them and even when I try to go after her, if the dogs break, the small dog of course is running away so it entices her to continue the chase versus her listening to me and stopping.
It does seem that the small dogs she attack I think are more submissive. I have been trying to notice if they are fearful or not, but that seems to be mixed as well. I've seen her go after some that come up to her wagging their tails and go in for the proper sniff introduction and she snaps.
She has also had other little dogs that snap at her as we walk by (because they are aggressive) and she doesn't do anything. She doesn't snap back and kind of just walks away from them so not sure if that is because those dogs are already aggressive and she knows it isn't worth picking a fight so maybe it is a dominance thing?
I will look into different trainers because I definitely don't agree with keeping a dog on leash in a park because I think that is just dangerous in general.
She just loves the dog park and we take her into the dog park (not even for this reason but now she stays there for this reason). She prefers the big dogs and likes being around them more. But it sucks when someone brings in their smaller dog in (which they have every right to do) but she will see it and just immediately run after it before even sniffing or anything.
We are adopting a submissive 3 year old Kai ken this Sat who has no aggression issues (at least within his old pack) so she will have a playmate now and maybe we wont need to go to the dogpark much but I just find it interesting because she is a very social shiba. She seeks out other dogs and is extremely playful with such a wide variety of dogs.
I will continue to work on this. It has been going on since June and I've been limiting her interactions with small dogs she doesn't know in the meantime. I am pushing for her to play with my neighbors daschund more since she seems to like him a lot and is very submissive and gentle so trying to keep her experiences positive.
Thanks for all the advice so far and I will reach out to some other people.
Most of my Shibas stalk and pounce like this, all ages, during play. When they do it with each other, they all understand the game. They can sound and act quite fierce, but it really is just a game for them. If you get a chance to see Shibas in big groups, this happens a lot. I don't view it in them as anything more than channeling their inner cat. It's what they do. Sometimes other breeds or single dogs that aren't used to rough play get freaked by it (it's mostly the other owners who think it's "aggressive").
It is really a hoot to see them do the stalk and pounce with other herding breeds. I think it shorts out the border collie brains and the Shibas just die from waiting for the pounce to happen (and it never does).
All the little details you describe like piloerection and chasing and snapping seems normal to me for what Shibas do. But again, you are entering a situation (off leash dog park) where you have zero control about what's going on. If it makes you uncomfortable, then redirect the behavior but don't let them get into a situation where you don't have control in the first place.
My older female Kai right around this age started exhibiting almost the exact same behavior your describing, it's scary how similar it is.. i won't bring her to dog parks around smaller dogs, it's just not worth it to me and there's too many things that can happen in literally a split second that i can't control (also, the more i really pay attention the more i think she never actually really liked the dog park, she would play sometimes but often would get pretty tense and just stand by me)..i have been letting her say hi to them on walks with praise and treats after for good demeanor, working together to keep focus on me, etc..
if you happen to find anything out from another trainer, i would love to hear!!
i'm sure your kai and shiba will get along great!
Michelle, with Kai girls Kona and Kimber
She has reached that age where shibas become words I cannot say on here toward other dogs. I would guess with some dogs she is seeing an opening to be rough. Shibas play rough and will look like they are tearing into small dogs. As soon as the other dog actually holds it's ground our shiba loses interest. Most owners are not going to be happy if your shiba pushes their dogs to that point though. It's quite common that dog parks are not possible for nihon Ken no matter what you do. Prey drive does have some impact. I've found my akita and shiba seem very random when choosing their targets. They don't go after everything. Certain things acquire their attention through various experiences. You have to know the whole picture to figure why they choose to go after something but not another.
Best thing would be to teach not playing with all dogs instead of trying to greet all dogs. See if you can better understand when she will become a brat and immediately encourage her to ignore the dog and move on. The problem is this should not be done with yours on a leash and others approaching loose and you should know by now shibas can tune you out easily. It's hard to set up good training situations. A dog obedience class with a trainer willing to individualize some training for such problems would probably be the best place for reducing her reactions.
I am so glad that I am getting great advice on here. I know I posted about it to one facebook group a month ago and all the responses I got were "Thats just a shiba and there is nothing that can be done, you are just going to have to deal with it..."
I like the idea of redirecting or encouraging her to go do something else when I noticed her initial attack stages.
Thanks again, all very helpful information!
Another thought came to mind. If you have a second person that comes to you at the dog park, have them video tape your shiba. This way if a incident does happen you can watch it at home and watch the signals that your shiba is giving off and what's happening around. You learn what signals mean what for your dog in certain situations. It keeps you alert for the signals and when they do happen, you can redirect your shiba before it becomes out of hand.
A lot of great advise on here. And keep in mind there is always room to improve your relationship between you and your dog.
Thanks again everyone. I've reached out to one of the trainers mentioned in this thread and have yet to hear back, but in the meantime, I have my new Kai Ken so a lot of time is spent adjusting him.
One good thing is my other training is working! Taro is being way more responsive to me especially when heeling. She is doing better outside with it, but still not where I need her to be, and she is listing to my "wait" command more promptly too.
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