Shiba Inu on leash or not?

Recalling your dog is a basic skill of every owner. When we go out for a walk, the dog is in our care. If we don’t have him next to us on a leash, we have to keep an eye on him. Recall training Shiba Inu is a different story. Most Shiba owners don’t let them run free in the open, let alone in a city with traffic. Mainly because Shiba doesn’t listen.

It doesn’t matter what age or sex, Shiba simply is this way. He likes to have his freedom. There are periods in a dog’s life that he’s more focused on us, but there is no special rule for that. Sometimes the little puppy listens to us, but when he starts to grow up the raging hormones will make him feel more independent – one escape during his lifetime is guaranteed. Then, with age, a few years old (5–6–7–8 years old, etc.) Shiba settles down and the dog’s tendency to run away decreases, but it can happen anyway.

In discussions with other Shiba owners, there is always someone who claims that his Shiba does not run away; when asked about the dog’s age it turns out that it is 5–7 months old. Okay, I think to myself, let’s wait till 9–12 months and then return to this conversation. Noah didn’t listen to me very much at puppy age either, but at least I had a chance to catch up with him. After the first “flight” which happened when he was around 9 months old, I completely stopped letting Noah run without a leash. I was just too worried about him.

And for the unbelievers, I offer a quote from an interview with a Japanese hunter who talks about his dog:

Koro wasn’t an easy puppy to train and couldn’t be called back very well. It only changed around the age of one. I had to leave her in the mountains several times and recover the next day. Regardless of that, she could easily manoeuvre in and out of bushes and streams, and she had the quality to become a great hunting dog. When Koro was three years old, she became a wonderful companion in the Tanzawa Mountains.

What’s the worst that can happen when Shiba is without a leash?

The dog may get lost, hit by a car, caught by a stranger and never be seen again, meet an aggressive dog on its path and stand no chance in a fight due to its light weight. When we let Shiba loose in the woods, he may encounter a wild animal and not survive it. Although Shiba is a great hunter, he needs to learn these skills; he has a strong hunting instinct in his genes, but not necessarily the technique. The hunter mentioned earlier, observed the dogs for a long time and trained them to hunt, and then chose those that really had the desired skills.

There is also another group of unbelievers among the future Shiba owners who believe that these dogs simply have not been well taught to recall. This is not true, most of the Shibas I know have undergone obedience training, dog kindergarten or individual recall lessons. And they know exactly what it means: COME/COME TO ME! However, what they are going to do is a different story…

I know one case of Shiba who walks without a leash and generally listens. (Consider that dogs aren’t robots, and even the best-trained border can go deaf, hence the word “generally”)… but the dog’s owner doesn’t want to reveal herself, because she doesn’t want anyone to take an example from her, knowing perfectly well how Shibas are in general.

When does Shiba usually run away?

Shiba runs away when he gets the chance. Any open fence gates or opening/closing entrance gates are a great opportunity for escape. It should also be remembered that uncastrated males or bitches in heat should be under even greater control. Escapes often occur when our dog is walked out by random people who do not know his character and temperament.

Tips for recalling a Shiba: a bag full of treats, favourite toy for a walk, a herd of other dog friends – it all works; but only until our Shiba makes their own decision: “I’m so interested in what’s around the corner that I’m going anyway.” Or a random situation will happen, and the dog unexpectedly gets scared and runs away – no treat will work in such a case. And Shibas really don’t like garbage trucks, rumbles or strange loud sounds because they have very delicate senses.

So, where do those beautiful photos of Shibas running loose come from?

First of all, session photos are often taken only for such a picture, i.e. somebody takes the responsibility for letting the dog run free for an hour because he wants to have nice pictures. Secondly, thanks to photoshop you can quite easily remove the rope/leash from the picture. And that was precisely the case with Noah’s autumn session. Noah ran loose with a cord on a large fenced plot area.

Leash removed with Photoshop 😉


If I were to give one of the biggest disadvantages of these dogs, it’s the fact that we can’t take an idyllic walk with them with our hands free, like in an ad of yellow cheese or other idyllic food. The dog has to always be on a leash/long rope, constantly under our greater or lesser control. From my personal experience: I now keep Noah on a long rope on the beach and he stays really close to me. However, he’s already 7 years old and I thought it was because of our close bond. This bond faded for a while when he saw a ball lying by other beachgoers and went to get it, took it and then came back to me. That’s what it looks like with Shiba.

I also recommend the entry in Polish and English Shiba (and not only) off-leash by Agnieszka i Taimah 

Read my very new book about Shiba Inu, pre-order is available HERE!


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