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If you happen to have a Shiba Inu, you probably are familiar with their bold, playful and confident personalities. Yet, they are also intelligent and are quite trainable. In fact, contrary to popular belief, you can train your Shiba Inu to come when you call her.
Professional dog trainers call this behavior “recall.” Although you can teach the basic command in a single session, you will need to plan on practicing often, and in a variety of different places, in order to make sure you build a strong and reliable recall for your Shiba Inu.
One note about this breed: Shiba Inu were bred for flushing small game and hunting large game. As a result, they tend to have a very high prey drive. Unfortunately, this means that you may never be able to rely on her ability to come back in the presence of distractors that could trigger her prey drive. It does not make recall training worthless, it still may come in handy in an emergency, it simply means you will have to continue to keep your Shiba Inu on a leash around potential prey.
We will show you step by step instructions to train your Shiba Inu to come in the methods below. In addition, follow these tips during your training to keep that recall strong and reliable.
Don’t punish your dog after a recall. This will lead your dog to have some concern that coming when called may not end well for her, lowering her willingness to come when called
Touch the collar before the reward. If you do not include this ritual in your recall, you may find that although your Shiba Inu comes to you in the field, he may not let you grab his collar to get him on the leash.
Say the command once, and then enforce it. Although it is recommended that you ignore failure early on in training, at some point you will need to start enforcing the command. By only saying the command once and then enforcing it, you are teaching your Shiba Inu that she only has one chance to get her reward.
Here are some things to have ready when training your Shiba Inu to come:
Long line: In order to work on recall outside, you will need a long leash or rope (at least 25’, maybe longer) so that you can regain control of your dog if she decides to bolt after something. In addition, as you add distractions to your training, you can use the long line to help her get past them if the temptation is too strong.
High-value rewards: We suggest you start with food rewards such as small treats, pieces of chicken or cheese. However, as you progress with your training, other rewards like a tug, a toss of a ball, or vigorous praise are good to add to the mix. Just make sure your rewards are things he thinks are the bee’s knees.
Hidden treats: If you only train in certain places with your treat pouch attached, your dog will figure out pretty quick that she is only going to get rewards when you are in “training” mode. Once she has the basics of recall down, start calling her from different rooms of the house when she least expects it and use a secret stash to reward her.
The Recall Basics Method
Goals of recall training
The principle behind training your Shiba Inu to come is to give him the general idea that coming when called is likely to land him a big reward. The steps in this method will give you the basic starting point to teaching this behavior. Then, read on to the 'Advanced Skills' section to really get that recall strong and reliable.
Call after he is coming
The very first step is to associate your recall command with him coming to you. The trick is to get him running your way, and THEN use his recall command. You can usually get your dog to chase you if you start running away. Another trick is to just bribe him with food or a favorite toy. Repeat 10-20 times.
You want to gradually transition as your dog builds some confidence. Incrementally shift to calling earlier and earlier until you are calling BEFORE he is on his way. Likewise, fade lures and bribes. You want to get to the point you are standing still, you call your dog, and he comes to you. This will take some time, but once he has it, you can start adding some challenges to his recall drills.
Distance is the first thing you want to add to any recall drills. You can also move training outside to add even more distance. Make sure to use your long line for safety. Read the 'Advanced Skills' method for more on “proofing” your dog’s recall.
When first training recall, you can ignore failures and focus on making a big deal out of success. However, at some point you will need to add a consequence to a failed recall or your command will not be very strong. Once you make this shift, you will need to continue to enforce the recall every time. In other words, do not use your recall command if you are not prepared to enforce it. A good suggestion for a consequence is a 3-5 minute “time out” in a crate or isolated in a small room after retrieving your dog.
The Fun Recall Games Method
Why use games?
When you add games to your training regimen, it helps you and your Shiba Inu remember that there is no reason training can’t be loads of fun. In the context of training her to come, using games will help her to associate coming to you with fun and exciting vibes. This method will cover several ways to make a game out of your recall training.
Monkey in the middle
With one or more helpers, do a little back and forth recall drill. Keep the tone engaging and exciting, running away at times to encourage a fast run while your dog is doing their recall. This is a really good game to enlist the kids to help learn some leadership with your Shiba Inu.
Once your Shiba Inu is a pro at the Monkey in the Middle game, try holding her at each stop, through the next recall, and for a few seconds after. This will get her wound up to play even harder. This will teach her that recall is most fun when done with some intensity.
Try to find me!
A game of hide and seek pairs well with some recall training. Play inside by hiding behind doors or in a different room. Only call once and then you can give her some hints if she needs it. Or, put a long line on and try this game outside for an extra challenge.
This is an important skill to teach your dog: “Bring me what you have in your mouth and not only will you get a bonus reward, you can have your toy back!” This can be critical in an emergency if your dog gets into something she shouldn’t. Start close to your dog when she has a favorite toy. With a treat in your hand, ask her to “drop it” and if necessary, bribe her to drop it with the treat. Once she does, pick up the toy and reward her. Then give her the toy back. Start adding this game to your recall work and you will be teaching your dog a valuable life skill.
The Advanced Skills Method
You want your Shiba Inu to come when called all the time, not just in your home, yard or regular training space. In order to do that, you will need to do what professional trainers call “proofing.” This will involve adding new environments, people and distractions to your recall practice. The following steps will help you make the most of your recall training.
New people and places
Go out of your way to take your dog to as many new places as you can so he can work on doing recall training in new environments. Having other people join in on training drills and games will also further reinforce and strengthen this behavior.
It is likely that the most difficult distraction for your Shiba Inu will be small animals that may trigger his prey drive. There are a few ways to work on recall in the presence of such distractions. Always use a long line when working with your Shiba Inu outside. Take him to a large field where small animals are likely to be active in order to proof around potential prey. Another option is to have a cat or bunny in a small carrying crate, calling your dog past this distraction, using the long line to enforce if necessary.
If you have some treats stashed around the house, you can do a surprise recall drill any time of day and be able to reward it. When you practice recall outside of a formal training session, you are teaching your dog that even when he is not expecting a recall, it pays to come when called.
In order to get the fastest and most enthusiastic recalls, at some point you will want to start only rewarding the very best 10% of recalls with very big rewards. This will strengthen your Shiba Inu’s recall, as well as make it faster and reliable.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021