Dear Dr. Baum —
I have a male Shiba Inu who is one year old. He is not normally aggressive, but when we do something he doesn’t like, such as bathing or instilling ear drops, he gets aggressive by scratching and biting. We are careful not to hurt him.
We have tried a muzzle and he will not allow it. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I know it is probably fear aggression, but he can get bad.
Newport News, VA
Dear Ann —
Unfortunately, the behavior of your dog seems to be typical of the Shiba Inu breed. There are several avenues to pursue to lessen the problem. First, I would advise you to neuter him if it hasn’t been done yet. The next step should be a training regimen characterized by a step by step approach. For instance, if you want to be able to cut his nails, it is unrealistic to expect that he will have the patience to let you accomplish this in its entirety. Rather, you should start by working with him to let you simply touch his paw. Reward him as he allows you to do this and pretty soon you will have trained him to shake “hands.” As you gain his trust — over a number of weeks — then, and only then, should you attempt to cut ONE nail. Patience on your part and providing consistent rewards for desirable behavior will enable you to eventually do basic maintenance without each effort being a life and death struggle. For treating his ears, start by petting him on the head and conclude by gently massaging the ears. For bathing, don’t start by dumping him in a tub and inundating him with water; simply go out to the yard or patio and start petting and massaging him and subtly introduce a wet sponge to get him use to the feeling of warm water. Remember — do things gradually!!
Depending on how psychotic his behavior you may find the use of tranquilizers handy for spot situations, especially when you attempt to take a procedure to the “next level.” If you cannot even get to first base by doing the introductory actions, use of anti-anxiety medications should be considered. These would need to be given on a daily basis and can gradually be decreased once the desired effects are reached.
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