I just have to tell you this awesome news. My son and I went cross country skiing today and took the pup. We went one kilometer with her on leash and she stayed in between us running happily. (I want her to learn to both follow and be chased.) We gave her breaks to catch her breath, but she didn’t want to rest long. Eager to go more. The snow was very fast and I worried about pulling on her neck if I got ahead of her going down hill. We unclipped her leash and skied. She was soooo happy, bounding along on the trail and shortcuts in the woods, always with us. We finished the 4k loop with her off leash. OMG!!! I couldn’t be happier with how things went. This is only the second time with me skiing. This dog is incredibly athletic. We slowed way down for the final kilometer to let her muscles cool down. She met a couple of other dogs there, and a bunch of people. I thought you would like to hear that story…. Four months old. Unbelievable…..
Update: Part II Training Your Shiba Off Leash!
Tang is the first dog I ever had, so maybe in some ways that is an advantage because I have never had a compliant dog. I would recommend to anyone considering a shiba, to do their research and make sure it is the right dog for them. Your website is really helpful to potential owners, and your direction to Adam Katz’s training methods is invaluable. Thanks for that! I also recommend Shiba Inus, A Complete Pet Owners Manual and The Complete Shiba Inu by Atkinson. Both are great books to “arm yourself” before you get a shiba. Next I would recommend Icewind Farm for where to purchase a puppy. I was looking for a quality breeder (not just a random shiba), and you have lots of litters to choose from, which gives a potential owner like me a variety of choices from pet to show quality. I can’t thank you enough for choosing such a wonderful and trainable puppy to fit our family’s lifestyle.
Coming from Minnesota, we had a choice of flying or driving. We drove with the idea that it would be less traumatic for the puppy to be with her new owners 24/7 in a safe and predictable environment. It was a good choice. We benefited in many ways: she bonded with each family member, she loves car rides, she saw many new environments, she always felt safe (no stress reactions).
Being “armed” with information about training shibas and independent minded dogs gave us a good start at home. When Tang started screaming about having the harness put on and other such nonsense, my first reaction was to run, but I knew better, and I made her submit. She pulled that trick for about a week and then gave up on it. I would never let my own children throw a tantrum like that, so why would I let my dog do that? I had an invisible fence installed soon after, and the installer suggested I teach her the “come” and “No” commands. “Nothing worse than a dog who won’t come,” was his comment. That made me motivated to teach her to come, since invisible fence training could start as early as 14-16 weeks of age. Tang always came for a treat, but the real test was whether she would come without one. The answer was no. So, as Adam Katz instructed, you teach a dog to obey you just because you are the boss. Non-negotiable. So I corrected evasions by dragging her by the harness to the place where I called her when I said “come”. Not painful, it just puts me in charge. She screamed her head off, but she submitted. Next time, she was better, and better and better. (You can tell that submitting does not come naturally to this dog. Too bad. It is for her protection that she must obey me. Cars have no mercy.) As she grows, we are continuing the combination of treat training, and no-questions-asked authority. Evasions are not okay, ever. Since I want to train her to go off leash — reliably– I will need to work very hard at this. Tang has her own life plans, and they don’t always include me . . . but they will.
I successfully let her off leash cross-country skiing with my 16 year old son recently. She ran an unbelievable 4 k at 4 months of age, and stayed between us most of the time; she wasn’t even panting. We treat her like an athlete, and give her a warm up and cool down workout. The next day, when I took her out by myself skiing and let her off leash she decided to do a little too much exploring, but she did come back to me and got back on track. However, when she saw the intersection to the chalet and an extra ski loop, she bolted. She was waiting for me at the chalet, but I was not pleased. I did not spank or punish. She would never understand. I realized that she needs proofing on the come command and proofing on boundary and perimeter training at the chalet, and proofing to stay with me. I will need to make a point of teaching her. I like Adam Katz’s videos on the subject. Very helpful. As are his insights into the canine brain. My horse riding instructor used this phrase when I first got my horse a year ago: “Once is a mistake, twice is a habit.” Another useful phrase, “Always end on a positive,” and “Don’t overtrain.” The parallels are this: No evasions allowed and Training should be short, purposeful and end with a positive. That way your dog/horse looks forward to working with you again. Work becomes play. Find the things that give your dog pleasure and use it as a motivator. I love this dog!!!
P.S. I took her skiing again. Started with some “Come” training in the house on a 6 foot leash. I said “Come” she pulled, I waited patiently with the tension on, she came and the tension released (her choice) and she sat in front of me. Praise, a treat, do it again. About 6 times. Then I did some boundary/perimeter training at the ski parking lot (per Adam Katz’s video). Next I took her out 1/2k on leash, and released her. When she wandered off the trail, I stopped and waited for her to come back to me, praised her, gave her a yummy treat and continued. As long as she stayed with me on the trail, we continued. Yes!!! she stayed with me! At the end, I put her leash back on so she wouldn’t bolt. When I got past the chalet intersection I released her again. She stayed with me, but I could tell, she knew we were close to home, so I needed to stop more often to correct her back to the trail and stay with me. It worked! She loves the all out running. Absolutely loves it. Her reward for being off leash is getting to run. But, I would not recommend letting your dog go off leash unless you are committed to doing the preliminary training so they will stay with you. My dog’s safety is my main concern. If she can go off leash safely, all is well, and she loves it!
Update: Part III Update for 2015
Tang is doing great. Yes she is still primarily an off leash dog. We have an invisible fence at home and at our cabin, and she has been obedient to the lines. It took some training and her testing the boundaries (getting out) before she was confirmed inside her lines, but all is well now. We took her to the Boundary Waters a few times and she portaged 2 or three times with us until all our stuff was across without tiring. Then she slept in a tent with one of us. She was great in the canoe! She also explores with me in the woods when it is safe for her to do so. She treed a bear in our back yard one evening about 1 or two years ago. Scared the heck out of me. I had never heard a louder bark (scream) and the bear was obviously terrified too. She is an excellent guard dog.
She turns a lot of heads when she rides in the car with me, which is most of the time. I always see people say “It’s a fox!”