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Aggression and repeating attacks
  • Post edited by tom_n_haiku at 2016-07-26 14:47:11
  • Sorry to extend an already so long thread, but there's one more behaviour that I cannot decipher. I fed him. We ran around the apartment in circles, chased each other for about 10-15 minutes. Had a little break. Then played with his toy bone, everything was great. He goes to play with his toy by himself. He curled up and started napping. The bone under his paws. I went to give him a bellyrub and it could be seen that he's worried about something, being a little stiff, but allowing me to turn him on his back and rub his belly. He even licked my hand and such, but was still quite wary. I then picked up the bone and tried to give it to him. His mouth was closed and he didn't seem to want it, just looked at me with his big brown eyes. I threw it to him, he ran after it and brought it back closer to me. I took it again, we tugged at it a little and that was that. I then grabbed a chunk of bone with a hearty piece of meat on it (he loves them). He was really excited, did all the routine - sit, lie, crawl, stand, jump, to the cage, out etc.. eyeballing the piece of meat. I've usually thrown the pieces in his cage and he would eat them there. We have started locking the cage because he's been defensive around the food and when he's in the way, unwanted incidents can occur. So I tried to feed him by hand. He first started licking the piece, chewing really gently at it, but then stopped and started staring at me. I did a couple more exercises (out, sit, lie, to the cage) - he seemed happy and cooperative again. Gave him the piece again (fully open palm), and again, licked it at first, but then stopped and started staring at me. I looked at him and saw his lips twitching a little bit, as if showing aggression. So I closed the cage (he was sitting in there the whole time) and took away the piece of meat. Now sitting here and don't know what to do not to reinforce this behaviour and wondering why he wouldn't eat even though I was offering it to him freely.
  • BootzBootz
    Posts: 3495

    1. Stop grabbing him by the collar/harness. He sounds like he's fearful and by grabbing his collar/harness or picking him up forcefully won't help the situation. You only do that when it's an emergency.

    2. Do not do what the breeder says... Sounds like the breeder is not reputable. Anybody that knows Shibas would know that kind of forceful method will not do good with Shibas.

    3. I think instead of standing tall above your Shiba, you should crouch down or sit on the floor so you can properly bond with your Shiba.

    4. When walking to or from your Shiba, I think you should train him to sit or stay while you walk past him, then reward for his good behavior.

    5. Try to remove the word "no!" Seems like it is used a lot. Instead try "ah ah" or "leave it".

    How old is your Shiba now? 4 months still? Shibas are notorious for being biters/mouthy when teething. My Shiba went through a similar phase. Is there any chance he seems to be wanting to play and you Misinterpret it for aggression? Also have you brought him to a vet to get him properly checked when you got him?
  • spacedogsspacedogs
    Posts: 361
  • @Bootz, He's 9 months old now. This biting cannot by any chance be mistaken for being playful or mouthy, it's clearly guarding his resources and solving the problems aggressively using his teeth rather than submitting to the owner. Snarling while biting and his furious face confirm the fact. And also the bite that caused my girlfriend to limp for a week.

    2, 3, 4 and 5 seem all like reasonable suggestions. Grabbing by collar/harness is I learned from Susan Garrett's Brilliant Recalls series ( and we've been doing that daily so he is really used to collar grabbing in regular situations. There are times when a collar grab is necessary and I don't want to provoke an attack at a critical time, so I'd rather think that it's useful to train him to tolerate that.

    Raising him up by harness/collar has only been used in emergencies, when we need to get him away from a foot or a hand that he has buried his teeth in.
    Post edited by tom_n_haiku at 2016-07-26 15:45:08
  • spacedogsspacedogs
    Posts: 361
    About the bone - He was tense when you approached for a belly rub because it's his bone and he was afraid you'd take it. Then you took it, reinforcing his fear. He wants it, but he doesn't want you to touch it. Same goes for the piece of meat - he was afraid you would take it away from him, and so he was guarding it in your presence, and then you reinforced that fear and took it away from him. In his mind nothing good comes from you being near his food, you just take it away from him.

    When taking something away, if you don't want to reinforce the fear that you're going to steal their things, you have to offer something of more value to them. Also, if you don't want him to be afraid that you're going to steal his things, then just don't steal his things unless there's a good reason to do so. Other than your concern over his behavior, there was no need to take the bone away from him. Give him the bone, leave the room, come back in and ignore him. If you do approach him or give him attention, do so in a calm and soothing voice and offer him a treat. You want him to trust you but so far as he understands you just steal his things and punish him for having them.
  • Post edited by tom_n_haiku at 2016-07-26 16:14:32
  • It may or may not work, but how we handled guarding situations is we would give the dog a high value treat and go and sit next to them, not looking at them, ignoring them, and just sitting there. Or sit down and offer them the treat and stay sitting, encouraging them to sit near you. You could even try holding the treat while they eat it, but that may be too advanced for your poor guy. Rinse and repeat, until the dog wasn't stressed out by us sitting next to them with the bone/antler, whathaveyou. Then we moved to petting, gentle scratches always on the back and away from their head, and once that was comfortable, then we moved to trading the treat for another treat - like cheese or hot dogs. There is no guarantee it works for every dog, but it worked really well for us.
  • spacedogsspacedogs
    Posts: 361
    Oh good, you're using a clicker! Are you using it while he's playing, interacting, or walking near people? Keep it with you all the time when you're home, when he's being good periodically click and reward him. Let him know what behavior you want.

    If he only has toys when you're interacting with him, what does he have or do when you're home but not playing with him?

    Guarding in his crate - have you tried rewarding him when you're near the crate (no other interactions occur here - just approach, sit near the crate, toss treats at him inside). Move closer and closer every time you do it - over the course of a few days - up until you're right in the door and hand feeding him treats while he's in his crate. Eventually you'll be welcome there, and your hands will be allowed inside. You BOTH need to do this. Closing the crate when you don't want him in it is a good idea to start, but your goal here should be to teach him that it's okay for you to be near or in his space.

    When Laika would go in to Crazy Dog Mode and start guarding something, if it was a place (what she deemed her spot on the couch) we would remove her from it, put something else there (like pillows) to block her access to it, and if she continued to be anxious we would take her to a different room and reward her there until she calmed down. Once calm we'd re-enter the other room, staying at her side, and reward her for not showing interest in the space she was guarding previously. Eventually we'd take her to the couch and one of us would sit in her spot then call her on to the couch beside us and reward her if she didn't react negatively. At any point in the process, if she showed immediate interest in the couch or her spot, we'd remove her from the room again and repeat the process. It takes a lot of time, sometimes it took 5 hours to watch a movie, but she no longer guards any places as being hers, anyone can sit anywhere they want without worrying that she'll go crazy dog and snap at them.

    If it was a toy she was guarding we remove the toy and put it away and ignore her until she calmed down. If it was a high value treat we took the treat and put it away in a different room then went back to where we were. She would excitedly run back and forth between here and there for a few minutes but eventually she would stop, and that's when we would reward her with a less valuable treat and some pats.

    When she was particularly aggressive we put her in time out and ignored her until she calmed down. We never hit her, yelled at her, grabbed her by the scruff, or otherwise physically handled her except to pick up her leash and lead her to time out.

    As long as you aren't leaving his space or his things alone when he bites you he won't learn that biting gets him what he wants, but he will eventually learn that biting gets him time out with no toys, treats, or interaction.

    Rather than making him work for his food with sits and downs and such and hand feeding him, give him his food (outside of his crate) and toss him some treats while he eats but otherwise leave him alone to eat. Let him learn to trust that you aren't going to steal his food and that you around his food is a good experience. If hand feeding hasn't provided you the results you want yet then it likely won't work for him.

    I know it sounds daunting and in the beginning it might seem like this will never work, but it just takes time and consistency. We have the benefit of working from home and lots of opportunity to interact with our dogs so for us the process went faster only in theory - it was still quite a few hundreds of hours of work.
  • spacedogsspacedogs
    Posts: 361
    I want to add, there are some treats with her that are just too high value to overcome the guarding. Once identified those treats are removed and are only offered if we're holding it while she eats.

    Also, we've never taken something from her unless there was a reason or need to do so, and always ALWAYS offer something in return. The only time an item is taken forcefully is if she refuses the offer of a trade. Always try to offer a trade that is equal to what you're taking. If you're taking something that can be chewed on for hours, offer something in return that can be chewed on at least until you're free to interact with them again.

  • sergemansergeman
    Posts: 20
    @tom_n_haiku It does sound like some normal Shiba tendencies that have been exacerbated some by guarding. I thought I might add a few things that helped me out early on.

    Rather than initially trying to eliminate all biting I worked to lessen the intensity of the bites by hand feeding; and by teaching him to interact with my hands. I put a favorite treat in my closed hand. If he approached it with his face, licked my hand, or even lightly nibbled on my hand, I rewarded him with the treat. If he bit hard I took my hand away for a few seconds and gave him another chance at it.

    Unfortunately I haven't been able to eliminate biting entirely, but it's never to the point of injurying me. Maybe it will change with age, but it seems like early on they just like to communicate with their mouths.

    I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with not leaving all of his toys or his food out, but after you give him something taking it away when he still wants it will definitely make the guarding worse.

    I wouldn't try to see any of it as a winning or losing situation. He has desires and so do you. He's trying to communicate them to you in a way that he knows how, so you just have to listen for that. And your continued training will help him learn what you want from him.

    Let us know how things go!
  • JuniJuni
    Posts: 1269
    You've been given a lot if advise already so I just want to add on a few things.
    First of all, have you had him checked out at the vet to make sure he is not in pain?
    Secondly, there are things available that may calm him down slightly such as Adaptil (that you can spray in the flat, or use as a collar or plug in in a socket). It releases feromones that are relaxing and may be useful.
    Thirdly, without reading through the whole post again it looked to me that he has given you warnings pretty much every time. Growling is only one way of telling you, getting tense is a very clear signal to me that he is getting upset. You asked if he won't think he has won if you back off when he does these things. In my opinion if you think of everything as a power struggle it won't help you.
    If you think of it as in he is trying to communicate with you and you either ignore him telling you he is uncomfortable or you notice and show him that you understand him by backing off. Then I think you are getting somewhere.
    Obviously this is not acceptible behaviour, but you need to teach him the right way when he is relaxed.
    Good luck!
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8589
  • SayaSaya
    Posts: 6678
  • Lrose1990Lrose1990
    Posts: 80
    I agree he NEEDS to see a veterinary behavior specialist, and soon. The fact that he's bitten enough to pretty seriously wound a person is no joke; if this happens to another dog or child, it will create serious, potentially life-threatening problems.

    This is not a dog trying to be "boss." Dogs do NOT try and form hierarchies with humans; dominance is resource specific, and may change depending on the resource etc. They know we are not dogs and are not trying to conquer us.

    Here is a link to the diplomates of the veterinary behavior specialty:
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8589
  • Yojimbo_90Yojimbo_90
    Posts: 45
    Post edited by Yojimbo_90 at 2016-07-29 10:06:33
  • spacedogsspacedogs
    Posts: 361
    I understand about the biting, and wanting to make it stop. While I don't chastise the dog with physical force or anything, I DO yell "OUCH!" very loudly and give a "No" or "Leave it" command and if they still don't release I'll use my hands to open their jaws. Haven't had to do this with Laika in months, but it still took hundreds of hours to train her to not do it in the first place. I was a bit luckier than you, she was 4 months old when we went through this so while she had sharp little puppy teeth she also had much less jaw & upper body strength. She was able to puncture flesh a few times but not strong enough to actually tear tissue and cause serious damage.
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8589
  • spacedogsspacedogs
    Posts: 361

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