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Could use some advice about Chiba's aggressive behavior and biting
  • Hello everyone -

    I used to post here a bit a few years ago when we got our shiba, Chiba, about 3 years ago now. I don't frequent the forums as much anymore, but I am in need of some solid advice, and I know this is where to get it. Please bare with me, because this post may be a bit lengthy.

    Chiba is 3 years old, male, neutered and comes from a very reputable breeder in the area. To make a long story short - his aggression has become concerning to my boyfriend and I am I'm not sure of the right steps to take. We have one other dog - a beagle lab mix, who is very docile, and a cat. In the past 6 months to 1 year, Chiba has become increasingly aggressive in most surroundings/environments. We learned several years ago he was intolerant of other dogs and not good at dog parks or with other dogs in general. He will chase our cat, bite his neck, and most of the time is playing with him like in a game of cat and mouse, but tonight he flat out attacked the cat when the the cat jumped on the bed and it really scared me.

    A few other things have happened recently that I should mention. Over the past year, usually at night, if he is disturbed in any way he growls and bares his teeth. If he thinks someone is going to touch him he will do this, if we accidentally touch him on the couch or in bed, he growls - in a grumpy kind of manner. If we were to pick him up or flip him on his back, he becomes completely docile and is fine, but he does not want to be disturbed, basically. It seems like he doesn't want to be touched from behind. If we came at him from the front to pet him, he's usually fine. He sleeps at the foot of our bed and my boyfriend and I have both been bitten several times in the middle of the night if we have accidentally touched him (he immediately gets mad at the other dog, tries to bite her, and ends up biting us). He is very reactive. If a human upsets him, he lashes out at the other dog and barks at her and bites her. When Chiba and the other dog are playing/fighting, if it gets a little bit heated, there have been multiple times where Chiba has bitten me and my boyfriend because we were in his path. He usually realizes he is biting one of us and kind of lets up, but he has drawn blood before.

    This weekend he bit me very badly in my leg - to the point where I probably should have gone to the doctor. I feel like the situation is my fault, however, and can't exactly get mad at him: He will not let us come near him with nail clippers. My boyfriend and I are both certified service dog handlers and have tried conditioning him, treating him (he is not very food driven at all), you name it - we've tried it - to clip his nails. The vet cannot do it, dog groomers cannot do it - they just tell us "sorry, he's too difficult". So the vet gave me doggie xanax to give him to try. This weekend I tried it and it it had the opposite effect it was supposed to have - Chiba became, quite literally, nuts. He is a very dainty eater normally and he was choking down food. He was jumping all around and being very playful. I got out one of his toys - and he and the other dog immediately started fighting over it - and before I could even get out of the way, I had a chunk taken out of my leg. I didn't read online until after this happened that sometimes xanax can do this to dogs, and you should "expect wild changes" and aggression. I don't think he would have bitten me that hard any other time. It was my fault for riling him up when he was on the medicine, I just realized it too late and it happened too fast.

    I thought it was a one time thing, but tonight he attacked the cat with the same level of aggression - grabbed the cats skin in his mouth and tugged hard, with intention to hurt him. It was terrifying. It is a territorial thing, no doubt. He rules the house and the beagle lab is afraid to enter a room if he is there first. He is just kind of a grumpy bully.

    Having children is in our near future and we have friends with children as well. Of course we would never allow a child to be around the dog unsupervised, but I cannot help but worry about all of this right now. If a child went to pet Chiba, I could not be comfortable with that situation. If our two dogs fought in the middle of the living room and people were around, they could get hurt, and our other dog and cat are being hurt.

    What do we do? Where do we start? Have others been bitten badly by their dogs? Everyone's first instinct is to tell me to get rid of him (because kids). The thought of him with other people is not something I can even think about without my heart sinking. I am going to contact the breeder for advice as well.

    I think getting him some more exercise could help with aggression and some desensitization perhaps. I think I'm just looking for some reassurance and stories of your own. Thanks for reading - I appreciate any comments and can give more details if necessary.

    Post edited by Danielle_83 at 2014-09-17 08:32:20
  • BootzBootz
    Posts: 3495
    #1 if he was biting and chasing your cat... I think you should have separated them from the start. No need to stress out your cat, even though the cat is good with your other dog.

    #2 if he's protective/intolerant when disturbed during his sleep, then you should not let him on the bed. Have you crate trained him? That's the best way for him to have his space, and you yours.

    #3 this is the most important one. When was the last time you had a blood test done on your shiba? This is something I highly recommend people to do ask their age hits age 2-3 just to make sure all is well, and also to have a basis for future reference. But since your dog is acting up, there might be a medical reason and it's best to rule that out.

    I'm sorry but it sounds like you didn't set up your Shiba up for success...especially since your cat and first dog is terrified of your shiba.

    But I am glad you are here for help, instead of listening to those irresponsible people who would rather get rid of your Shiba than put in effort.
  • Thank you Bootz. I will respond to your comments individually.

    #1 - the aggression towards the cat didn't start until the last year or so. We had the cat before Chiba and when Chiba came along, there wasn't any indication that the two wouldn't get along for quite a while. What can we do now? Are there training methods for teaching cats and Shibas to get along? I haven't stumbled onto any. Maybe rewarding him when they coexist peacefully? (Which happens sometimes)

    #2 - we failed miserably with crate training him from the start (he would scream for hours on end and try to hurt himself in the crate to get out). I was constantly on the forum seeking advice, haha. We tried again once he got a little older and he didn't mind the crate as much, but again, had no reason for it because he was great without it. Out other dog is crated when we are not at home and loves her crate. We dropped the ball with Chiba though. I guess not allowing him on the bed is an option. He's a typical independent shiba and I would care more than him I'm sure.

    3 - thank you. I am going to call the vet and make him an appointment today. He has been having some other issues (I think urinary) that have come and gone and he's not quite been himself over the last few days and I think that's why.

    I have to agree with you about setting him up for success - I know we haven't done it as best as we could, and it makes me mad at myself because I know better and I have the skills and resources to do better.

    Should we to back to the drawing board? Intensive training? It's hard because he's not food driven really. But he learned sit, roll over, down, and speak etc very easily so maybe it's worth a shot.

    I'm just lost in terms of the aggression - any specific tips? Thanks for your comments.
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8587
    First, vet check with a full blood panel, including thyroid tests.

    Second, there needs to be a LOT of management on your part. You need to keep Chiba completely separated from the other dog and the cat when you are not there to 100% supervise. When you are there to supervise, you need to make their interactions positive. Remove anything that Chiba (or the other animals) might get possessive over, such as toys, treats, chews, etc. You also need to work on crate training Chiba if he is not already crate trained. This is for his safety and the safety of your cat, dog, and visitors to your home.

    Third, if there are no medical issues that can explain this behaviour, then you need to get professional help. You need to call in a certified behaviourist (NOT just a trainer) that uses positive reinforcement methods. Trying to work through this on your own is most likely going to end in tragedy for someone involved.

    Chiba's reactivity sounds pretty serious from what you have described. It sounds like he was allowed to bully the other animals and has gotten used to having his way by using force. I would say that 99% of aggression and reactivity is based in fear. It sounds like Chiba has a fear of losing things (resource guarding). You need to get to the root of this and find ways to reinforce the fact that his resources will always be there and that there is no reason to get defensive over them. He also needs a safe space to sleep where he will not be disturbed (this is where the crate training comes in handy!).
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
  • I think getting blood work done is definitely an important first step!

    While my Shiba is still only a little over a year old, I can speak to issue #2 that you had. I encountered this with mine about 4 months ago. Kira was given permission to sleep with us in the bed, but our cats always did as well.

    Kira started barking/snapping at the cats in the middle of the night when they would jump on the bed when she was around 10 months old. I corrected her the first couple times but it continued.

    I started putting her in a playpen with blankets and a bed by our bed after that so the cats wouldn't disrupt her sleep and startle her. I have to keep the door shut during the day to keep the cats out. But at bedtime I just open the door and she goes right in and stays all night. I don't confine her to it, she prefers to sleep there. Every so often, she's permitted to sleep in our bed and no longer barks at the cats. Hope this helps, good luck!
    Cynthia, Proudly owned by Kira
    Kira the Cream Shiba Inu 吉良 - Facebook Page
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    “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
  • This is great advice. Thank you everyone. I certainly agree his aggression is fear based - and yes - he has started to to run the show in this house. It started so slowly we didn't even realize it at first. I think bringing someone in is an excellent idea and I have a lot of resources to contact. Thank you!!
  • RikkaRikka
    Posts: 1501
    Hm, from the comments above and other speculation, maybe this is a grumpy Shiba thing?

    He sleeps at the foot of our bed and my boyfriend and I have both been bitten several times in the middle of the night if we have accidentally touched him

    Sagan doesn't sleep on the bed with me anymore, but whenever he lays at the foot of my bed and I accidentally manuever my leg over to where he is, he'll get startled and growl and/or bark. He'll jump off the bed immediately afterwards, though, but it's always been like that. He did snap at me once when I went to softly pet him when he was sleeping, but again, I think it was just him startled. 100% my fault.

    But repeating what others have said, yes, vet / blood work should be done.
    Lauren, living with a 4 y/o Shiba named after a scientist. ☆
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8587
    @Rikka - It is safe to say that a large chunk of the Shiba population would growl if disturbed when sleeping. Even Bella, who is incredibly even tempered and tolerant when it comes to people, does this and has since she was a puppy. But growling is all that she does. If she has to move, she moves. If I bump her by accident she will either move over or just go back to sleep.

    The situation described above is much more complicated than a Shiba that is upset because he was disturbed while resting. This is resource guarding, reactivity, and aggression and needs to be dealt with immediately before someone else gets hurt.
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
  • RikkaRikka
    Posts: 1501
    @sunyata - Oh yeah, I totally agree this is something way more serious. That part just caught my eye since I've seen and heard that in other Shiba's, is all.
    Lauren, living with a 4 y/o Shiba named after a scientist. ☆
  • Thanks folks! Its good to know that many Shibas are grumpy sleepers...I did not know this. If Chiba is disturbed he will either growl or leave the bed, too. Usually, it does seem like he's just a grumpy fellow, but recently some of that serious stuff like reactivity and resource guarding has been occurring more frequently. My boyfriend and I have begun looking for techniques to deal with these things.

    We know about the positive reinforcement/treating/etc to reward and reinforce good behavior - but we'll need to be educated more about how to stop or redirect negative behaviors, especially with the cat and resource guarding/aggression.

    I appreciate your input!!

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