How to Crate Train a Shiba Inu Puppy

Medium
2-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

People love Shiba Inus for their fox-like appearance. Sharp, inquisitive eyes and a pointed nose and ears make for a pet more closely resembling their wolf ancestors than the Golden Retriever next door. And while their aesthetic is nothing short of a pro for current or potential owners, Shibas are inherently independent and definitely not for just any dog owner. 

These canines are more commonly compared to cats by some experts because they tend to lack the "aim to please" quality that most dogs possess. This means that if your Shiba loses interest or doesn't care to learn a certain task, they will choose to ignore you. While this quality gives them their unique personality, it can make them harder to train, including crate training.

Crate training can be ideal for any dog breed as it appeals to a dog's natural instinct to create or find a "den"-- a place where they can enjoy quiet, solitude, relaxation, and sleep. If introduced properly to your Shiba Inu puppy, a crate may be their preferred cozy corner in your household. 

Defining Tasks

In addition to offering a comfortable, calming retreat to your pet, crates offer other benefits as well. They make potty training and obedience training easier, and they keep the puppy safe from getting into anything that could harm them while they're not under your watchful eye. 

Not to mention, this keeps your home safe from any potential chewing or accidents. 

Crate training starts with an introduction to the object itself, which may seem foreign and scary to your puppy at first. After the introduction, you may find that your Shiba will respond correctly to commands such as: "Kennel up!" or "Go to your bed!" or even, simply, "Go!" or "Crate!" 

Getting Started

To crate train a Shibu Inu, expect to dedicate a fair amount of effort to your Shiba. In time, their keen ability to learn will reward you both with success! Before getting started, however, there are a few items and tips you'll need. 

If any of these items aren't in your possession already, run to the store or browse online:

  • Dog bed or blankets you won't mind your pet sleeping on
  • Appropriate-sized crate (read further for details on sizing) 
  • Toys or other familiar items that provide comfort
  • Food and water tray
  • Kongs or other puzzle games
  • Pee pads (optional)
  • Crate cover (optional)

In addition to the items needed, you'll also need to learn or refresh on some crate training 101: dog's age and size are key. 

It's important to not crate train a puppy that's too young, as it could have negative effects and cause behavioral problems down the road. Be sure that your Shiba puppy is at least 10 to 12 weeks old before beginning. 

Size is the most important element to successful crate training. A crate too big gives the puppy room to use half of it as a bathroom, while a crate too small will make your pooch feel cramped and trapped. Thus, an appropriately sized crate will do three great things for you and your pet: 

  1. Give their crate the comfortable element you both desire 
  2. Help house train them 
  3. Help obedience train them 

And although just a pup with many months of growing ahead of them, many crates come with division slats that can be securely set in place, allowing your Shiba Inu to grow into the full space of the crate. 

A golden rule in sizing your dog for their crate is to add 2 to 4 inches to their length, width, and height. With this in mind, purchase a crate for their growth potential and utilize the divisions until they're full grown. 

The Den Method

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Step
1
Make the crate comfy
One of the most important attributes of your puppy's new crate is that it's welcoming. Be sure to add plenty of soft, warm blankets or bedding to the floor of the crate. You may choose to use a dog bed or even just some old towels. Whichever you choose your Shiba puppy will be thankful for the added warmth and plushness.
Step
2
Make the crate familiar
Now that the crate is feeling a lot more like a plush palace, add familiar scents by putting in their favorite toys. Items of your own clothing are great additions as well! Before going through the washer, these fabrics hold a wonderful scent your dog loves most: You!.
Step
3
Make the crate private
While a crate cover is optional, covering the crate will give it a more den-like feel. Simply use an old blanket or you may wish to buy a plastic tinted cover created especially for dog crates. This addition will help them feel more secure and cozy as well as block out any outside stimuli (birds or neighbors seen through a window) that may disturb them. This is an ideal step for any apartment-owners who worry about their puppy disturbing neighbors. And while Shiba Inus aren't known to be particularly mouthy like, say Huskies, they are known for their scream which can be very unsettling. Blocking movement from their view may help keep them subdued and quiet until you return home.
Step
4
Make the crate maintenance-friendly
This is another optional step that mostly benefits the owner, you! If you're worried about your puppy having an accident or two in their crate and ruining all of those wonderful blankets or expensive dog bed you filled it with, we suggest starting out with foam padding. Foam squares can be bought at almost any store chain, typically in the camping or exercise aisles. These are easily cleaned off, sanitized, and returned to the crate after and if an accident should occur. (Resourceful DIY-ers rejoice! An old yoga mat can be easily cut to fit the proportion of a crate and are maintenance friendly as well.) Pee pads marketed specifically to puppies work as well, although they don't add as much insulation or padding as foam matting.
Step
5
Add food
When training a puppy or dog, if you're ever in doubt, add food! Food is one of the top motivators in dogs, coming close to your love for them and chasing squirrels up trees. Shibas are not immune to a tasty treat or two! To make the crate feel positive and welcoming for your Shiba Inu, place their food and water bowl in the crate. Moving forward in your training process together, feed them all of their meals in the crate. Eventually they will come to associate their crate with meal time and love it even more!
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The Positive Association Method

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Step
1
Meet your new crate
Introducing a crate to your puppy should be done patiently. A big, new item in the household may scare them and as a Shiba, they're bound to be naturally curious. You can use to this to your advantage. When they go sniffing around the new item, boost their confidence about it by repeating "Good dog" in a soothing, happy voice. Show them that there's nothing to be afraid of by sitting or kneeling beside them and the crate and touching it.
Step
2
Play time by the crate
After properly introduced, try instigating a game of catch around the crate. Throw a toy closer and closer by the crate after each retrieval. After awhile you may even try throwing the toy into the crate. You should in no way force your Shiba puppy to go into the crate; as an independent breed, this should be, or at least feel like, their choice. If they do go into the crate to retrieve the toy, reward them with a treat and several positive verbals.
Step
3
Treats, treats, treats
Now that your puppy is at least familiar with the crate and understands that their curiosity in it is encouraged, add treats to the experience! Sit on the ground with your Shiba and their crate. Have treats in your hand or pocket, somewhere that they can see or smell them and know that some sort of training or rewarding is about to occur. Once you have their attention, have them sit or lie down, then reward your puppy with a treat. Next, hold a treat in your hand and let them sniff if through your fingers, guide your hand toward the crate and have them sit near it. Reward them for their bravery with the treat. Continue to do this, each time, getting closer and closer to he crate, as if making a trail. Your eventual goal is to get them into the crate. Even if they go into the crate to retrieve the food and quickly exit, that is okay. The point isn't to get them to stay inside, but to be comfortable going in and out.
Step
4
Practice closing the door
After a successful practice of the above steps, join your puppy on the ground by the crate once more with plenty of yummy snacks. Go through the training routine explained in step three, this time, however, practice having them stay in the crate. Once they're inside, very slowly and gently close the crate door, without locking it. Your Shiba may press against it with its head or paws - let them. This step is to show them that they aren't trapped in the crate, further giving them a positive association with their new room. You can also use this moment to teach them obedience by requesting that they sit before being allowed to leave the crate. In the future, this will save you from potential bolting out of the crate as soon as they hear the lock mechanism.
Step
5
Close and lock the door
Having graduated from an introduction to being in the crate with the door remotely open, try locking the door. Give commands to your puppy from outside the crate and feed them a treat through its bars. If your puppy seems scared, distracted, or disinterested in performing for you, simply feed them treats through the cage in order to express your approval. If they notice the door is locked and whine, give them more positive reinforcement with a soothing voice, but be careful that this isn't instigating whining or noise-making.
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The Final Test Method

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Step
1
Treat the crate like a shadow
For the 'Final Test' method, you'll want to treat your puppy's crate as a new piece of furniture to your household - a piece of furniture that follows you virtually everywhere. Think of it as a new addition to the family, much like your Shiba Inu was the day you brought him or her home. From now on, wherever you're at in the house, the crate is too. Cooking up some dinner in the kitchen? Place your crate near you or near the kitchen. Put a handful of kibble or a few treats in the crate. Repeat this step when you're lying on the couch reading or watching television, by placing the crate beside the couch with plenty of treats or toys to entice your Shiba with. At night, set it up in your bedroom and practice a few of the steps from previous methods to get them acclimated to the new addition. Eventually, your Shiba will come to realize the crate is associated with you and become familiar with and even open to its presence.
Step
2
Reinforce good behavior
Every time your puppy willingly goes into the crate, as it rests by your feet with toys and blankets and treats inside of it, speak to them in a positive, soothing voice, saying, "Good dog" or "Very good".
Step
3
Learn the word
This step will vary owner to owner. Some may prefer to call the crate a kennel, cage, bed, or even room: Saying to their Shiba, "Go to your room" and having them go nicely and quietly into their crate may be an ultimate goal. The fun part to this step is that you could even call the crate "castle" or "house" and the dog would eventually learn to go into their crate every time you command, "Go to your house!" This simply comes from repetition of the command and consistency. Simply put, this task is a lot like teaching 'sit' or 'stay'. While crate training, consistently say and refer to the crate, using whichever word you prefer, and consistently reward them with a treat every time they follow your command.
Step
4
Practice leaving
After you've practiced walking in and out of the crate together, applying some steps from the 'Positive Association' method, it's time to practice leaving your Shiba alone in the crate. By now, they've come to realize the crate is a new part of their way of life. They've come to associate it with rewards and treats, and they may even be associating it with a specific word or command. This is an important step for anyone who may live in an apartment or have nearby neighbors, because it will give you an idea of whether or not your Shiba Inu will whine loudly while in their crate alone. Command or lead your puppy to their crate, lock them in, then walk just outside your home. Wait and listen. If they make a lot of noise, which most Shibas aren't known for, you can come back in and tell them "No!" or "Stop!" You may want to practice this a few times, before deciding to leave them for an extended period of time. The goal isn't necessarily to get them to be quiet in their crate, but to be comfortable resting in it while you're not near.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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