When to take your Shiba out of the dog park.

What’s one place you’re not going to find Tierce this summer? At the dog park. It looks like his tolerance for puppies and ‘paws-on’ dogs there has reached its limit.

Tierce and Tex

Tierce and one of his friends at daycare.

A four-month-old puppy was in the dog park the other evening. Tierce went over and was sniffing her. She started licking Tierce’s face and he lost it on her. Snarling, snapping, pinning her to the ground, screaming imprecations in Canine… it was scary.

We checked the puppy and she did not appear injured, just scared. Information was passed on in case she did have an injury discovered later on. Luckily for us, once the owner realized that we were taking responsibility and the puppy wasn’t hurt, he was mollified. The puppy perked back up a little, but of course she was frightened and it was unpleasant for all concerned.

So, I think it’s time to retire Tierce from the dog parks permanently. He is just become too intolerant of dogs getting into his personal space. Previously, in the dog park, he would snap or snarl if a puppy got too up close and personal – just enough to tell them to get away.

I’ve talked to a bunch of people about this incident and there have been several theories advanced.

One is that face-licking can be viewed as intrusive even if it’s done very submissively. The puppy wasn’t doing anything I would view as ‘rude’ enough to warrant Tierce’s reaction, but I have very little idea what goes through his head at times. I can guess, but in the end, I’m kind of feeling my way.

Several people have mentioned that their Shibas have ‘cut-off’ dates, where their Shibas have up and decided that, nope, the Shiba was no longer open or business with other dogs or certain types of dogs – puppies, ‘rude’ dogs, overly energetic dogs, etc.

This makes sense, based on what I’ve observed with Shassi. After the age of about a year and a half, Shassi hated other dogs, cats, you name it. She warmed up to very few other dogs – Tierce was tolerated at best and threatened with early neutering at worst.

And, of course, there’s simply the Shiba explanation: Tierce is a Shiba and thereby motivated by dark forces to lead me into a false state of complacency and humiliate me at the most inopportune times.

Anyway, this blog post is about when to take your dog out of the dog park. Well, even though he didn’t hurt the puppy and may have been expressing his disapprobation with the puppy being in his personal space, I think that’s way too intolerant for him to be brought back.

I’ve had some experience swallowing my pride over the last nearly-20-years-with-Shibas, so maybe this decision isn’t as hard as it would be otherwise. I don’t want to go, “Oh, he didn’t hurt the puppy, so whatever,” and then have him hurt another dog down the line.

One thing I’m conflicted on: Tierce seems much more at ease on off-leash trails and I’ve never had a problem with him there.  Is it the environment as much as the dog-to-dog interaction?  So far, at daycare, he is doing well, possibly because he is part of the ‘regulars’ and has his friends and is mostly left alone by the younger dogs.

It’s so difficult trying to get into this dog’s head and I’d like to hear people’s opinions on the matter.


  1. Been there! I had to stop taking Mojo probably about 5 years ago. He liked the park at first, but gradually I began to see more and more “macho posturing” and each time we went, it started earlier in the trip. That sort of, I’m bigger, prancing, over alert set of motions. When he went for a dog that wasn’t remotely trying to do anything wrong, I drew the line. No one was seriously hurt, but could have been. Mojo was ready to rumble. He’s the same with my sister’s bigger dog, who’s a gamboling goofy sort of dog. I have to keep them separated when dog sitting. He’s okay with the smaller girl, but they did have a big fight before they got that friendly, so I still watch them closely. He’s great with our own lab, Risa.

    From what I’ve read online, it’s not all shibas that get this way, but definitely a higher percentage.

  2. My shiba Tatsu has NEVER been good with other dogs. I was warned about this when I rescued him as an eight year old, but overly optimistic, I still tried to bring him. It was ugly…especially when he thought he was much tougher than a friendly doberman. He has his buddies if he gets the time to know and interact with them, but it’s always a rocky start. He’s like a kid that never learned how to interact with other children!

  3. I didn’t have much chance even taking Yogi to the dog park but I drew the line when I realized that I wasn’t the right person to possibly teach him to handle that situation. Even my boyfriend at the time, an experienced dog trainer, deemed Yogi unreliable. I just knew that I couldn’t be relaxed and that would not help, and it wasn’t worth it. A few years later, Yogi is more socialized and I’m much better, but we just stick with the conservative plan.
    Really enjoyed your writing, by the way.

  4. He’s a Shiba. Not a Golden. Do I have to come over there and beat that into you? (hmmm, there might be some Shiba in me). Shibas form friendships with ‘some’ dogs, and the older they get, the more pickier they become. Licking one’s face is both submissive and invasive; it’s how puppies get their adult family members to regurgitate food after the hunt. Shibas can sound like they are killing each other, and when you break it up, they look at you like “what? we were just playing”. However, to other breeds and their owners, it sounds and feels like torture and slaughter. I’d say forget the dog park; he has ‘work’ to go to, he is good on trails – why would you want to go into a fenced area with a bunch of yahoos who don’t get the Shibatude?

  5. niko stopped liking puppies at two. he started snarling and snapping, but never biting.

    if we encounter a dog, even if it appears to be older, and niko starts to act that way, i always ask: “puppy?!” (btw, i define puppy as any dog under two) and the answer is always: “yes.”

    i did some research on this when niko turned two, because of how strong the change was, what i found was (or this explanation made the most sense) that the alpha male and female are not responsible for training the pack puppies. the responsibility falls on the beta dogs. so i started to observe niko interacting with puppies, and i found that his behavior isn’t necessarily violent, but he communicates that “puppy behavior will not be tolerated.” it’s a bit loud and scary, but he has never hurt a puppy…

    this has been my experience. niko for the most part is not an aggressive shiba, but like a shiba, he has very strong preferences and opinion about them.

    good luck.

  6. I stopped taking Sushi to the dog park a few years ago. But, probably about 5 yrs ago, we stopped letting him in the main are of the dog parks, but let him in the small dog area. Sushi is usually ok with smaller dogs, but NOT puppies, NOT bigger dogs, and especially NOT Boxers! He likes Shibas because he respects their attitudes and give it right back at him, vocally. But, mostly he prefers dogs that will do their own thing (same as him), and will let him make the first move. Otherwise, get out of his face. He has a few country dog pals here that come over to chase & play or just hang out, but they “get” him. Sushi used to LOVE big dogs, because he would literally stand underneath their bellies while the big dog tried to figure out where he was. Shibas are so unique in how they play – some dogs are ok with it, but not all.

  7. Tenjo has never been to a dog park. We got her as a rescue at around age 4 and it was obvious from the beginning that taking her anywhere with other dogs wasn’t going to end well for anyone involved. Before we started walking her on a harness she actually slipped her collar (curse the stupid Shiba neck ruff) and managed to attack a labrador 4 times her size. Thankfully the lab was too freaked out to fight back. She just doesn’t understand that she’s little, and we’re ok with that. It means she lives a more prescribed life, but there you go.

  8. This is one of the best things about maintaining this website over the years: the amazing feedback I get when I need help with something. Thank you all so much!

  9. Emery is almost 6, and she is still ok at the park. She does give a warning growl to just about every dog that approaches her though. Usually they back off a bit, then they can sniff and go about their own business. She has zero tolerance for pushy or overly excited dogs (so that usually includes puppies) but thankfully she hasn’t started a fight. The buddies she does have are beagles that just like to sniff around with her, and stay out of her space.
    I agree that Tierce is just being a Shiba, but it is probably a good idea to keep him away from the park for now 🙂

  10. Tonka became the same, the older he go the less he wanted anything to do with new dogs, like everyone else he had his friends but for some reason they quit showing up. It got to the point at about three years old I couldn’t even get into the fenced in area without him snapping and growling wanting to fight.

    I miss those days of him running crazy and having a awesome time…..

  11. Ziva and Jax are… okay, more or less. Dog parks aren’t hugely popular in the high, dry, sandy desert that is El Paso, TX, so when we go, we’re often the only ones there. When Ziva was a puppy, I could take her *everywhere*, because I was in Europe. It meant she was extremely well-socialized. I didn’t have anything close to that opportunity with Jax, and he’s much more reserved, whether with other dogs or with people. We helped take care of a friend’s Golden-German Shepherd mix puppy, and it was between ‘ok’ and ‘bad’, but it was in my guys’ territory. When in other dogs’ territory, Z still shows food aggression issues, but otherwise both are fine. That said, reading these makes me think my concern is justified, but also makes me wonder if there’s anything I can do. Ah, Shibas… Gotta love ’em! (Sorry I don’t have anything more productive to add…)

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