13 Common Shiba Inu Behavioral Problems (for Beginners)


Shiba inu playing with cat

Shiba Inus are know for being stubborn, independent, and headstrong. So to front run any potential issues I wanted to understand what exactly I may be getting myself into when it comes to common behavioral issues.

Shiba Inus are a basal breed that are born and bred hunters. This has led them to have a high prey drive, be independent thinkers, intelligent, and somewhat self-sufficient. Those same qualities lead to aggressive, antisocial, and primitive behaviors if you neglect to properly train and discipline them.

While I got the general idea and concepts I wanted dig in and understand the specifics on what, why, and how Faith, my Shiba Inu, may act out or act poorly. The details of which I’ve listed below.

How To Stop Common Bad Shiba Inu Behaviors

Every action, reaction, thought, and behavior a dog has has a direct and specific trigger or reason. Dogs, just like us, don’t act or lash out for zero reason at all.

An aggressive Shiba Inu is mad, stress, and upset for a reason. Just like an overexcited Shiba is happy and going crazy for a reason. Your pet may have had an accident in the house because they haven’t been outside in hours and couldn’t hold it any longer.

Understanding and identifying the root cause of your dog’s actions and behaviors gives you a blueprint of what you need to do to remedy their bad actions. While no two Shiba Inus are exactly the same, nor are the causes and effects for their bad behavior. Each pet handles stress, fear, and excitement differently.

I’ve broken down 13 of the most common behavioral issues Shiba Inus have along with provided you some potential reasons and steps you can take to improve their actions. For many of the sections below I’ve also linked out to other relevant articles I have going into that specific topic in more detail.

Aggression

Aggression is not a natural behavior for Shiba Inus. Aggression is typically a result of poor socializing and training habits, primarily at a young age, that show as they grow and mature. These poor habits have commonly led to problems around food, toys, strangers, territory, and other pets.

Shiba Inu aggression generally speaking has the following warning signs:

  • Ears are pulled back
  • Growling
  • Lips curling
  • Showing teeth
  • Stiff body language

Dogs communicate primarily through body language, followed by noises and barking. So when a Shiba starts to get agitated or aggressive they usually display at least 2 or 3 of the above warning signs.

If your pet has been trained, conditioned, or disciplined in a way that shows aggression is acceptable they may display zero warning signs before lashing out or biting. Improper disciple is the most common cause of no-warning aggression. Thinks like yelling, hitting, kicking, smacking, dragging, and so on. I have some more specific information on Shiba Inu aggressionOpens in a new tab. here.

All of those actions stress Shiba Inus and teach them it’s acceptable to use aggression to fight aggression. After all, you were aggressive with them so it’s only natural they’ll be aggressive right back at you. 

While training is crucial properly handling mistakes, accidents, curving aggression, and properly disciplining all of the above is the biggest things that moves the needle for your pet as they are growing up and learning. Puppy and dog trainingOpens in a new tab. focused on the animal just as much as they are focused on their owner. You can learn more about how to properly disciple your Shiba Inu here.

Constant Barking

Shiba Inus are generally a quiet apartment-friendly breed unless provoked. Each bark a Shiba Inu makes has a trigger or cause. The best way to remedy excessive barking is to identify the root cause, interrupt their train of thought, and redirect them to more desirable behaviors.

Thankfully dog’s don’t bark for nothing, there’s always a reason Shiba’s bark. They could see a squirrel, want to go outside, see someone walking home, want to play, or feel left out of the fun if they are in another room.

Some potential reasons your Shiba Inu may be barking are:

  • Attention seeking
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Excitement
  • Stress
  • To alert you

While the list above isn’t extensive it’s a fantastic starting point. Every action and behavior a dog has or makes is the result or response of something. Getting a solid idea of there “reason” makes all the difference in tackling and reducing their excessive barking behavior.

If you believe your Shiba Inu is barking excessively there are some steps you can take to mitigate it:

1) Identify the root cause.

2) Interrupt the behavior.

3) Redirect them to more desirable behaviors.

4) Steady and consistent repetition.

The specifics for each individual step varies based on the exact reason they are barking. I breakdown the causes, steps, and specifics of everything in another article: How to manage excessive shiba inu barkingOpens in a new tab..

If you believe your Shiba Inu is barking due to excitement, I briefly touch on it in the article above, but I have another article specifically going over overexcited Shiba Inu behaviorOpens in a new tab. here.

Begging For Food

Begging is a small act, that typically starts while they’re a puppy, that quickly becomes a terrible habit. Your Shiba may start begging for your food or additional meal topping if you consistently give into their demands. You can curve begging behavior by completely ignoring them and breaking line of sight.

Begging is one of those bad habits that starts small and innocent, usually while they’re a puppy, but quickly spirals out of control. Even more so for Shiba Inus. A stubborn breed that only learns, hears, and does what they see as the “best move” according to their own master plan.

Breaking begging behavior can be done, but will take time and patience. Emphasis on patience, especially since most will start to act out when they don’t get their way like they use to. 

Both the best and worst thing about begging is the amount of control we have over the behavior, which is all of it. Dogs repeat behaviors based on the amount of reward or attention they receive, and if you’ve consistently given into their begging they will continue to beg.

The first step you can take to break down and reduce Shiba begging behavior is to identify what and why they are begging for, let me explain. 

While most dogs always want our food, so they beg at or near the kitchen table, picky eaters will start to beg to get the toppings or desserts they want. You need to understand which “type” of food begging you are working with.

  • Our food
  • Picky eating

If our food is the focus

Step 1) ignore and distance yourself from your Shiba Inu. Completely and totally ignore them while you eat, give them the cold shoulder.

Step 2) If they start whining, barking, pawing, nipping, or jumping on you then add some distance. Either put them in another room behind a door, baby gate, or even in a play pen. You want to distance yourself from them and break line of sight all at once.

Step 3) If they decide to start making a fuss, or even a mess, redirect their attention to something else. Make sure they have toys, turn on some music or a movie, or you could start feeding them when you plan on eating. That way both of you can focus on your own meals.

If they’re a picky eater

Step 1) There will be times your Shiba doesn’t like the food you get them, it happens, but there are also times where their food doesn’t agree with them. Food allergies, sensitivities, and so on are common in pets (with the 2 most common ones being chicken and beef). Check to see if they have a food allergy, it could be why they always want something else to eat.

Step 2) Allergies aside, there’s also the possibility you’ve added something to their food once or twice and now they expect it every single time. It could have been some vegetables, canned pumpkin, olive oil, or peanut butter but they HAVE to have it now. Stop all addons or meal toppings and ignore any “reluctant” whining you get.

Consistency is going to be your best friend here. Shiba Inus live and thrive off habits and routines, so make some around their begging. Be calm, cool, and patient as well any kind of aggression or lashing out at your pet will only stress them out and lead to even worse behaviors, like aggression.

If you are struggling with a Shiba you believe is a picky eater, we’ve got an article going over shiba picky eatingOpens in a new tab. here.

If you are having a hard time getting them to listen, or if they aren’t responding to you at all, look into our proper Shiba Inu disciplineOpens in a new tab. article here.

Biting, Nipping, and General Mouthing

A Shiba Inu’s best tool to interact with things is their mouth. Leading to nipping, biting, and general mouthing being the most common issue owners have. This bad habit starts while they are a puppy, is seen as cute and get’s ignored or rewarded, then becomes an ingrained habit before adulthood.

Most mouthing a Shiba Inu does is for play and entertainment purposes. And generally happens while chasing your hand as you grab a toy, catching your finger during tug, or nipping at your legs as you walk away.

There are times where their nipping and biting is more aggressive or sinister. Thankfully your Shiba Inu typically warns you ahead of time if things are getting out of hand, and they are about to get a bit aggressive. Those warning signs being:

  • Ears are pulled back
  • Growling
  • Lips curling
  • Showing teeth
  • Stiff body language

Do be aware that just because your Shiba has displayed one of these warning signs, that doesn’t immediately mean they are going to bite you. Dogs communicate primarily through body language and will show several of the above signs before lunging at anything. Unless they have been conditioned to attack without warning.

If you are worried your Shiba Inu is being too aggressive while playing or biting, click the link to go to our Shiba Inu aggression article.

If you are struggling to reduce your Shiba Inu’s biting behavior, take a look at our article going into detail about stopping excessive Shiba Inu biting at any ageOpens in a new tab..

Chasing Other Pets or Animals

Shiba Inus are a stubborn basal hunting breed with a high prey drive. That prey drive leads to them chasing rabbits, squirrels, other dogs, and even cats while ignoring your input. For that reason, it’s recommended you keep them on their leash and pay close attention to them while around other pets.

Shiba Inus are also quiet intelligent, which is both a blessing and a curse for the breed. You have a smart dog, that prefers to do things their own way, and gets extreme tunnel vision the moment anything interesting pops up.

The fixation and tunnel vision leads to another common issue owners run into, their Shiba not responding to calls or commands.

Which can be a disaster if your Shiba Inu sees your other pets as prey or entertainment. Due to their nature and high prey drive, it’s hit or miss whether or not they’ll get along with your other pets.

While at first glance they may seem like a terrible pairing if you already have cats or other small dogs, that isn’t exactly the case.

It is entirely possible for a Shiba Inu to see cats or other pets as friends instead of toys. That isn’t always quick or easy for every Shiba to learn, but it is possible with time and consistent training. Both of which I go into more detail in another article: How to introduce your Shiba Inu to a catOpens in a new tab..

Destructive Chewing

It’s common for high energy breeds, like Shiba Inus, to develop destructive chewing habits. Excessive chewing is usually the result of excess energy. Shiba Inus are at their best after getting anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes of daily exercise as an adult and 10 to 20 minutes as a puppy twice a day.

You can learn more about your Shiba Inu’s daily exercise needs here.

But exercise isn’t everything, you need to make sure your Shiba Inu is happy, healthy, and properly entertained. Shiba Inus are smart and independent, if you provide them enough entertainment they’ll find their own. Which is where most owners of this breed run into trouble.

Chewing is an easy and fun pass time for your pet leading to damaged carpet, furniture, molding, door frames, window sills, or more are.

Some potential reasons your Shiba Inu is destroying your belongings are:

  • Anxiety
  • Clean their teeth
  • Curiosity
  • Boredom
  • Excess energy
  • Frustration
  • Puppy teething

The above possibilities fall into 3 categories:

1) Excess energy – Which we went into detail above.

2) Stress & anxiety – This is usually caused by some kind of separation anxiety

3) Oral health – Different materials work better for not only cleaning their teeth but also relieving any teething pain they may be having.

All of which, along with a simple step-by-step guide, I break down in more detail here: How To Curve Destructive Shiba Inu Behavior (Answered)Opens in a new tab..

Digging

Most Shiba Inus, when left alone outside for extended periods of time, start digging. While there are several potential reasons, the majority of the time it’s out of boredom. Shiba Inus live and thrive off entertainment, and if they don’t have any, they are more than willing to find their own.

The 5 most common reasons your shiba inu may start digging are:

  • Comfort seeking (to cool off if it’s too hot)
  • Boredom (too much energy)
  • Pregnancy (to protect her future pups)
  • Prey drive (if they are chasing something)
  • To hide something (like a bone or toy)

While each of the above example reasons are simple, that doesn’t mean tackling them will be easy. The best way to stop a bad behavior before it becomes an ingrained habit is to redirect their attention and remove the core cause of their digging. 

Here are a few steps you can take to help minimize and manage your shiba inu’s digging:

Step 1) Redirect their attention to something else you are comfortable with them doing, like chewing on a bone or toy.

Step 2) Once they are distracted take a mental step back and try understand what got your shiba to start digging.

  • Are they full of energy and bored?
  • Were they chasing a bug, a rabbit, a squirrel?
  • Is it uncomfortably hot outside for them?

Step 3) “Eliminate” the root cause:

  • If it was boredom, take your shiba on longer walks or have a 15 minute play session.
  • If they were chasing something, was it inside your fence? is there a hole you can patch?
  • if it’s too hot then you can let them play inside of set up some shade for them in your yard.

Step 4) Watch, respond, repeat. Any habit takes time to build and break, you will need to be consistent, patient, and fair while managing this new, or old, digging habit.

Each pet and situation is different, so while these steps are simple and reasonably flexible you may need to tweak them or add your own as you walk through them. 

Just be sure you are patient and consistent with your efforts. Shiba inus thrive on habits and routines, make it a habit to redirect their digging attention right when you see it happening. This is a process that will take time. Click here if your redirections, punishment, or discipline doesn’t seem to be working.

Excessive licking

Licking is an instinctive action for Shiba Inus. It’s a sign of affection, a way for them to bond, a natural stress reliever, and how they clean both themselves and others. Due to licking’s multiple benefits, it’s easy for them to develop a compulsion to lick themselves or others.

Licking for any dog can have several root causes, such as:

All of which have their own specific causes, effects, and details that I dive into here: Why your Shiba Inu won’t stop licking. And what’s listed above isn’t an exhaustive list.

How you tackle your Shiba Inu’s excessive licking depends on what and why they are licking. For example:

Paw And Crotch Licking – While this is normal for most dogs, if it goes on for several minutes at a time it’s a sign of irritation, a potential coping mechanism, or it could be a nervous tick. Which requires a completely different approach compared to why they lick your left pant leg nonstop.

Hyperactivity

An overly excited Shiba Inu is seen as friendly, so most people reward the behavior, telling your pet to repeat it. That positive feedback loop, even if unintentional, teaches your dog that getting overly excited is acceptable. If left unchecked this leads to jumping and a lack of impulse control.

Excitement and hyperactivity are a hard response to break down.

  • On one hand, the fact they are happy and friendly is perfect and exactly how you want them to feel and act.
  • On the other hand, if left uncontrolled, it leads to other issues down the line. And since attention is a reward for most dogs, all of those issues become ingrained habits.

Some common signs of excitement are:

  • Barking / Screaming
  • Chewing / Gnawing
  • Eager biting
  • Excessive whining
  • Flat ears ( Airplane ears )
  • Jumping
  • Not listening to commands
  • Reduced attention span
  • Reduced bodily control ( submissive peeing )
  • Running around ( zoomies )
  • Wagging tails

Some habits they may start forming due to over excitement:

  • Jumping on people or in their laps
  • Panicking at a door somebody is behind, like a knock at the front door
  • Submissive peeing

Understanding and riding that fine line between acceptable and unacceptable is difficult but worth while. We actually have an entire article breaking down overexcitement and how to properly calm your Shiba InuOpens in a new tab. in more detail here.

Indoor Accidents

Most indoors accidents are caused by a poor potty schedule. Shiba Inus can hold it for roughly 1 hour for every month old they are, minus one. A 3 month old Shiba Inu puppy can hold it for up to 2 hours. While an adult caps out at 8 hours. A consistent and regular bathroom schedule prevents most accidents.

Accidents happen, but knowing “why” they happened makes all the difference. While every Shiba Inu is different the reasons they have an accident aren’t. Those being:

Are feeling sick – Everybody struggles while they are under the weather, sometime that urge to go sneaks up on you out of nowhere. And that same situation and feeling can happen to your pets. Be polite, understanding, and mindful of the fact they aren’t feeling the best.

Are marking territory – Urine-marking can start as early as 3 months old and is typically a male thing, but that doesn’t mean female Shiba Inus won’t mark as well. Female dogs do mark, similar to males, but they usually do it out of anxiety.

Can’t hold it any longer – While Shiba Inus are known for being exceptionally clean and pretty good when it comes to potty training, they have their limits. Generally speaking, a Shiba Inu can hold it for 1 hour for every month of age, minus their first month. Here’s, a quick breakdown:

  • 2 Month old puppies can hold it for 1 hour, maximum.
  • 3 Month old puppies can hold it for 2 hours, maximum.
  • 6 Month old puppies can hold it for 5 hours, maximum.
  • 12+ Month old Shiba’s can hold it for 8 hours, maximum.

Found a previous accident and repeated – Shiba Inus, from a very young age, instinctively do their best to “do their business” as far away from what they call their “home” or “bed”. That being said, if your Shiba or another pet has had an accident in the house, and your Shiba Inu finds it, they may deem that spot bathroom appropriate. Which is both frustrating and quickly becomes a hassle to break.

While these aren’t the only possible reasons your Shiba Inu may have had an accident inside they are the 4 most common reasons. I have a more detailed article going over indoor accidents, how long a Shiba can hold it, and general potty trainingOpens in a new tab. here.

Jumping On People

An excited dog is a happy one, leading to bad behaviors like jumping getting a pass from most owners. Failing to correct a Shiba Inu’s jumping behavior leads to it becoming a ingrained habit. The fault here lies mostly on the owner, for allowing the pet and people to feed into the over excitement.

Excited jumping is a bad behavior we as the owners allow, usually without realizing it’s a bad habit before it’s a problem.

A happy Shiba Inu is seen as friendly, leading to people wanting to meet them. While your Shiba Inu is a puppy they’ll start jumping to get to whoever they are trying to meet, which is seen as cute, and gets a pass from virtually everybody at their size and age.

The “issue” with a Shiba’s jumping behavior doesn’t really sink in until they are adults. A 20 something pound dog jumping at somebody isn’t as cute as a 5 lbs. puppy.

Thankfully there are some steps you can take to remedy and prevent excessive jumping, and over excitement if that’s something your Shiba Inu struggles with.

As for jumping there are 2 main methods people use:

1) Four On The Floor – Where your Shiba must have all four of their paws on the ground when meeting somebody.

2) Sit For Greetings – Where your Shiba Inu must calmly sit and wait for the person they are meeting to make the first move.

Both have their own unique steps and potential issues that I list in more detail here: How To Stop Excited Shiba Inu Jumping (Complete Guide)Opens in a new tab..

If you realize your Shiba Inu isn’t necessarily having a consistent jumping issue but is overly excited and goes crazy when meeting someone you may want to check this article out.

Leash Pulling

Leash pulling is a common problem for Shiba Inu owners. Pulling, similar to begging, is a bad behavior most owners accidently reward their dogs for doing, usually by giving into it. And since dogs learn and repeat behaviors based on rewards, if left unchecked, it can quickly become an ingrained habit.

Leash pulling is the most common issue any dog, and Shiba, owner run into. Every pet gets excited taking in all the new sights, sounds, and smells. For pets it’s their favorite part of the day.

Managing that excitement while also properly correcting pulling is a real struggle because your first instinct, usually to pull back, actually tells your Shiba Inu they should pull even harder. It in a way “rewards” the behavior.

Dogs learn and repeat behaviors based on rewards, usually some kind of food or attention. Some steps you can take to minimize, and prevent, your Shiba Inu from pulling on their leash are:

Step 1) Stop walking when they start pulling and call them back to you. Allowing them to pull makes them think they are in charge and get to decide where the two of you go.

Step 2) When they walk back to you, praise and reward them, then start walking again. This may only take a few seconds, or several minutes, it really depends on your specific Shiba and their personality.

Step 3) Repeat steps 1 & 2 each time they begin to pull or the leash is tight. You have to be consistent. Shiba Inus live and thrive on habits and routines. If you respond to their pulling differently each time you’ll only confuse them.

Step 4) If they decide they would rather continue pulling instead of listen, turn around and start walking home with a simple “this way” or “let’s go”. Anything verbally works here but the goal here is getting their attention.

Start using the steps above and gage how your Shiba is responding to them over the next few weeks. Some will get it quickly and begin to improve their behavior, while others will be stubborn and will be slow to respond.

Leash pulling, similar to begging, is a bad behavior most pet owners unintentionally reward their dogs for. Leading to both being common and universally frustrating to tackle. The majority of the work and fault lies with the owner, your Shiba is just doing what they’ve been allowed to do.

Not Responding to Calling

Shiba Inus are a stubborn breed with a high prey drive, which is why they struggle with recall commands. A lack of interest or tunnel vision on perceived prey trumps you and what you are saying to them. You can improve this with consistent training using what your specific Shiba sees as “high value” rewards.

“Come” or other “recall” commands will be spotty for this breed. Shiba Inus are born and bred hunters, so if there is any potential prey nearby you’ve been completely tuned out. On the other hand, prey or not, they are stubborn. 

Shiba’s love to do their own thing that their own pace, making this an uphill battle. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, thankful Shiba Inus are pretty smart and quick to learn, but it does mean that odds are they’ll never rush over to your side when called each and every single time to call them.

The best thing you can do for “recall” issues is to start training them the command in multiple places and situations and to be consistent. Most issues boil down to 3 things:

  • A lack of training
  • Nearby prey
  • Zero interest

A lack of training can be improved, well, by training. A regular recall schedule will do the trick. Just know they may “understand” and loosely follow the command on the first day, but that doesn’t mean you are done. This is a process that will take several weeks or months to get them to be reliable, depending on how diligent you are.

Nearby prey is a fight that, odds are, you won’t win. This is one of the core reasons they’ll never flawlessly respond to any commands. It’s also a major reason why Shiba Inus aren’t a good breed to go “off leash” with compared to other dog breeds, their high prey drive does and will get the best of them.

Zero interest is the other major reason Shiba Inu’s are known for not following everything you ask them. Just like how you and I have our own personal preferences, motivators, wants, and goals, so does your Shiba. If what you are doing, or asking them to do, doesn’t aligned with what they want, you’ll be ignored. Proper training helps with this, especially if you use what your unique pet sees as a “high value” treat (like diced hot dogs).

Recall commands will be something you have to dust off and run through a mini training sessions regularly throughout your Shiba Inu’s life. While they may never perfectly listen or respond to them that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.

You also want to be careful when you give them a recall command. Shiba’s are smart, if you consistently call them when you are mad and they know they are in trouble, they’ll stop responding to them when you aren’t upset.

Colby Adkins

I am a proud Shiba Inu owner who is just looking to share any tips, tricks, or advice I have to help others.

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