I have only previously been to four Shiba Inus in all my time doing this. Here we have female Shoko age 2 and male Azuki, 18 months. Shibas can be a challenge and are noted for being somewhat aloof, not easy to trust off lead and not too good with other dogs. These two are an absolute pleasure because their people have put so much effort into their training.
I find it very interesting how many dogs that live in London are proofed against noise and traffic. These two go to work daily with the lady which involves a walk by busy streets, a trip through a park and then a bus journey. Both dogs are excellent off lead and never run off. They are fine with other dogs.
The problem is that Azuki, who can cope with crowds and sirens and traffic, is scared of lone people – though fine when they come into his house. He is absolutely fine in moving crowds, but it is when a person is standing still at a bus stop, or may look like he or she is lurking or if a single person is approaching head on from a distance that he spooks. He will bark fiercely. He also reacts aggressively if someone suddenly appears out of a doorway or around a corner, or if for some reason they look ‘different’, and this despite his being a London dog used to all sorts of cultural differences and garments. Like many dogs, he is worse with men and in the dark.
If you think about it, we ourselves might feel the same if somehow we were trapped and feeling vulnerable. If we see a single person standing still it could be intimidating, particularly if they are staring at us or wearing something that prevents us from seeing them properly. If I were walking alone down the road in the dark and a lone man was walking towards me, I would be very aware of him – in a way I wouldn’t if the street was full of people. I would feel even worse if I were shackled (like, in effect, a dog is on lead). We also would be alarmed if all was quiet and suddenly someone appeared round a corner, particularly if we were unable to run. With lots of people moving about we feel invisible.
I’m sure the main cause of Azuki’s unease is because, necessarily, he’s trapped on lead. The person holding the other end of the lead isn’t behaving in a way that gives him confidence. In fact she herself admitted she was mirroring his own tension and so she reacts inappropriately and is in fact feeding anxiety down the lead. The result is that he barks at people.
People often need to work on themselves before they can work on the dog. She will behave more confidently and work on being much more relevant to him when out. The two owners will take the dogs to work with them separately so they can work on Azuki alone. She can keep his attention on her. Fortunately he is very food orientated and while his eyes are looking into her own or while he’s sniffing the path for bits of dropped chicken he won’t be barking at an approaching person!