Call for Help from the Shibasphere

I got this email a few days ago and, while you’ll see my deathless wisdom *pause for laughter* below, I’m thinking that the people who read this blog might have some good advice to offer Jessica:

I hope you don’t mind if I ask your advice/opinion on my Shiba….

I adopted him from a dog rescue in June. The vet estimates that he is around 5 years old. Some problems have surfaced since he came to live with us. First, he is the only dog I have ever met that has absolutely no problem sleeping in a pool of his own piss in his crate. He doesn’t mind going in at all. I shut the door. He looks up at me with an expressionless face, squats, and pees the most ridiculous river of urine imaginable, not once breaking eye contact with me. At first I thought “Hmn, maybe he’s doing this because he knows I am going to let him out so i can clean it up” and that this was just a plea for attention…. But lo and behold, whether I clean it or let him stew in it, he never fails to leave a pee puddle in his kennel. His crate is the perfect size for him- just enough room to lay, turn, stand, etc. I’ve tried plastic crates and I’ve tried wire crates… I’ve tried lots of bedding and no bedding at all. He goes outside before and after crating (where he finds a spot to lay down like a goat and stare at me blankly). So he gets ample opportunity to pee outside…. He’s been crated in my bedroom where he can see me, and he’s been crated in the dog room, where the other dogs are crated. Location seems to make no difference. In fact, NOTHING seems to make a difference. I really feel like he holds it all day long, just waiting to piss in the crate.

So aside from the peeing, he constantly C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-L-Y is pacing. Circles, circles, circles, allllllll day long. Will not sit still. Not even a little bit. My vet seems to think he has an anxiety problem. She’s prescribed doggy-prozac for him. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. I thought the peeing and the pacing could maybe be a side effect of some kind of health problem but two vets later and full blood panels, he is in perfect health. There’s nothing medically wrong with him that could be causing the urination in the crate.

He seems fearful of the most ridiculous things…. Little noises, movement, someone walking by him…. He’s ran headfirst into walls trying to get out of the way of someone walking by him. He scrambles away like his tail is on fire if anything rubs him the wrong way.

And the strangest thing ever? I can take him to dog shows, pet conventions, noisy pet stores, and he LOVES IT. No anxiety. No pacing. Relaxed. Mellow. WTF??! Like a perfect angel. And everyone comments on how well-behaved and precious and stately he looks. And he just sits there with his little Shiba-smirk while they go on and on about how good a dog he is….. And then the minute we get home its RUN FOR YOUR LIFE — SOMEONE’S GONNA EAT ME!!!!

I love this dog. He’s hilarious, sweet, and endearing… But really… I do NOT understand where he comes up with this stuff… I’ve been a dog lover all my life… I’ve had jack russels, shih tzus, american bulldogs, springer spaniels, and I breed Miniature Pinschers (which up until now I thought were the most hard-to-decode dogs there were). This Shiba is the most quirky creature I’ve ever encountered. How much of this is normal?? Its really the peeing in the crate thing that baffles me more than anything.

So.. I hope you don’t mind… But…. help?

And here’s my reply:

“Wow… that’s so unusual – normally a Shiba is fanatically clean! I’ve heard that some pet store pups have a similar problem, being literally forced to live in their waste. Puppymill dogs are also notoriously inbred/insane and you might be dealing with one. Your next step might best be to contact an animal behaviourist.

Do you mind if I post this on my Shibalog? Maybe some of the people who read it will have more insight into this.”

Jessica’s response was, obviously, yes, so here we are. Any thoughts?


  1. Easier hearing about the bad behaviour quirks… =P

    I’m no expert.. and certainly i could be wrong.. Not sure how long your Boy has been with you.. but.. i find that Shibabies that bond with their owners are more “obedient” than those that do not bond. They do not respond well to negative reinforcement (not implying you have done that) as it only marks the behavior.
    Potty training.. reinforce the good. we do the “yay potty dance” when he does. to the point that he pauses and looks over to say.. “Well.. i did it.. where’s my dance?”
    the scarey thing.. i found that if you approach things that some pups find fearful in a more matter fact way, they respond accordingly.. ambulance in the area.. sirens screaming.. “hey Nikko, here’s a ball!” fireworks in the area.. ” Nikko, chase me!”
    i completely ignore as i found he mimics what i send out. As far as people.. well you never know what he happened to him before you.. they really are sensitive pups.. too damn smart.. they retain it all. anyone that comes into your house, don’t acknowledge him til he goes to them.. and when he does, they give him a treat, don’t touch him.. eventually he will associate people.. good.. cheese..
    again.. i’m no expert.. but.. i’d try that.. they are smart.. but til there is a trusting bond.. be consistent.. the bond is integral

  2. Sounds to me like you have a dog that was housed in a puppy mill — at that age, he was probably breeding stock and has no idea how to behave.

    I think a behavoirist is a good idea, but you need someone who understands primitive dogs — they really do react differently from what most people have. Realizing that Pepper prefers throat sounds and hand signals to words was a real breakthrough in our relationship, but without the trainer pointing that out as a primitive dog trait, I would have never noticed it.

    Meanwhile, do some searches on how to rehab puppy mill breeding stock — the “being okay in one’s pee” is a classic for this that supposedly takes a long time to deal with, but supposedly can be done.

    Also, as primitive dogs, many Shibas won’t pee or poop in their own yards — this is something I noticed in Pepper and only realized it was her Shiba side (Pepper is also Border Collie) when I started hanging out on these blogs. I had the WORST time trying to get Pepper to pee and poop in a “designated spot” at our house like all the puppy books tell you to do — even when she cut her paw on glass under snow in the winter, my husband had to carry her five houses down the street or she would NOT go at our house. At six years old, she will now pee in our yard (sometimes and mostly because the male dog next door is eager to cover her scent), but she still will not poop there — I have to take her for a walk.

    So, take the Shiba on walks to let him empty himself, read up online about Shibas and rehabbing puppy mill breeders and interview behavoirists. It will take some time, but by checking out these blogs, you’re getting started on the right track.


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