How to Train a Shiba Inu to Hunt

Hard
2-4 Months
Work

Introduction

Sammy is an independent, active, and sometimes stubborn Shiba Inu. Sammy's owners would like to find an activity for him that is complementary to his natural abilities, and to give him a physical and mental challenge to engage in. Shiba Inus were originally working dogs, not just pretty house pets. Engaging your dog in any task that engages his natural abilities and skills is fun for your dog! 

The Shiba Inu was originally a hunting dog, used to hunt mostly small game in the dense forests and bush of Japan. Your Shiba Inu has a keenly developed prey drive and likes to go after smaller critters. With a good nose for the job, he is able to follow a scent trail to locate game, and is persistent and courageous, willing to go over, under, and through thick brush to get his quarry. Practicing these skills and adding some commands so they can be directed will make him a useful hunting companion, and allow your Shiba Inu to bond with you. 

Defining Tasks

Shiba Inus are not known for being especially social with other dogs and may perform best working alone with their handler, rather than with other hunting dogs. Still, socializing your Shiba early is advised, as you may encounter other dogs and handlers in hunting situations. Many Shibas will naturally set game, but they tend to be easily distracted and are not always reliable for flushing or retrieving.  However, you can train your Shiba to hunt by locating and following game trails. You can then harvest game and reward your Shiba Inu with a treat, or maybe even part of the butchered game. This will really motivate your dog to help you locate game in the future, and reinforces the association between hunting behaviors and successfully taking game. If you do not want to harvest game, you can still reward your Shiba for tracing and locating with a favorite toy or tasty high-value treat.

Getting Started

Remember to be patient with your Shiba as they can be stubborn and independent and if you rush or push them when training, they are apt to show aggression or withdraw, making subsequent training more difficult. You can use food and game scent to train your Shiba to use his nose and follow scent trails. Toys and treats make good positive reinforcement to 'catch' desired hunting behaviors and reward them. Because Shibas tend to be independent, you may want to use a GPS collar when working off-leash in wilderness areas, in case you become separated from your dog.

The Develop the Nose Method

Effective
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Step
1
Create a treat trail
Create a scent trail by grinding your Shiba’s favorite treats underfoot and walking in a simple straight line. Put some treats at the end of the trail for him to reach.
Step
2
Encourage your dog to follow trail
Take your Shiba to the beginning of the trail and let him find the treats and follow it. Encourage him as he follows the trail and finds his reward at the end of it.
Step
3
Add difficulty
Continue making scent trails. Make them more complex by adding twists and turns, making trails longer, adding distractions, and hiding the cache better. Make longer spaces between scent 'pockets' and practice in different terrain, and different places until your Shiba Inu becomes proficient with his nose.
Step
4
Pair game scent
Start pairing the created treat trail with the scent of the animal you want your Shiba to hunt, like a rabbit, rat, or game bird. Add an item scented with the animals smell at the end of the trail to play with. Let your Shiba follow these trails and play with the scented object when he discovers it.
Step
5
Take it to the field
Remove the treat scent and create trails with just the scent of the animal you want to target. When your dog is good at following these set trails, start taking him out into wilderness areas to look for game scent trails.
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The General Hunting Method

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Step
1
Teach obedience
Teach your Shiba Inu good obedience commands and off-leash recall so you can control your dog in wilderness situations. Use treats and lots of positive reinforcement. Train in multiple short sessions so as not to lose your Shiba's focus and attention.
Step
2
Teach hunting commands
Teach specific hunting commands such as 'speak', used to indicated treed or burrowed game, and 'freeze' or 'whoa' to get your dog to stop and indicate where prey is located.
Step
3
Practice outdoors
Practice hunting and obedience commands and recall in natural outdoor settings where there are distractions. You may want to try in different terrains and environments in order to adjust your Shiba to a variety of situations.
Step
4
Accustom to gun fire
Acclimate your Shiba Inu to the sights and sounds of hunting like gun fire. Start by clapping your hands loudly and reinforce your dog with a treat so he has a positive association with loud noises. Use a noise maker and eventually live gun fire so that your Shiba is used to and not afraid of gunfire.
Step
5
Condition your dog
Take your Shiba Inu out in wilderness areas and practice navigating rough terrain, water, rocky areas, and any other terrain he may encounter. Make sure your pup is comfortable in the wilderness and in good shape to hunt.
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The Learn by Experience Method

Effective
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Step
1
Introduce animal scents
Familiarize your Shiba Inu with the animal you will be hunting. Obtain carcasses of prey animals like pheasants or rabbits and put scent on rags that can be used as toys or dragged and hidden to create scent trails.
Step
2
Introduce prey animals
If possible, introduce your Shiba to live prey animals such as rats, mice, squirrels, and rabbits in cages. Get him excited about the animal and reinforce aggressive behaviors like barking, lunging, and growling at the animal.
Step
3
Encourage chasing
Release caged prey animals and allow your Shiba to locate and chase them in a safe area like a large fenced yard or while on a long lead. Flexi Leashes are not appropriate for hunting, however, a long 6 to 10 foot lead allows your Shiba to explore and chase prey with you.
Step
4
Practice directions
Take your Shiba out in areas where prey is present and practice directions and commands you have previously taught your Shiba, such as 'speak', 'stay close', 'freeze' and release commands.
Step
5
Practice hunting
Practice hunting real game. Allow your Shiba to locate actual scent trails. Follow him and when game is located, reinforce freezing and alerting behaviours. Reinforce with treats at first, however, your Shiba will soon work because he loves doing it. Allow your dog to share game or have rabbit pelts or some bird meat to eat or play with after the hunt as a reward.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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