Shibas are addictive, and most Shiba owners find it impossible to fight the urge to add "Just One More." The reasons most often given for adding another Shiba are; my companion is bored, lonely, or needs a playmate. Like most dogs, Shibas live in the moment. When there’s nothing to do, they spend their time conserving energy until something spurs their interest, then explode into Shiba play. It’s hard to say whether a Shiba pines for a playmate, and difficult to know if adding another Shiba will make a difference in their life. One thing thats certain is a Shiba will accept a new addition, or not, but only on its own terms. Even though a Shiba enjoys playing with other dogs, sharing its home and people with a new addition may be a whole other issue.
Will they welcome the addition as a new pack member, or will they see a poacher in their territory? A new Shiba may be seen as more of a threat or intruder than a playmate, so don’t assume the existing Shiba will understand an owner’s good intention, or agree with the choice. An addition is competition in a world that was solely their domain. It’s times like this when an owner’s leadership will be tested to the limits.
Introduction and presentation of the new addition will set the mood for what will follow. Care needs to be taken when asking a Shiba to change its world, much the same as bringing a new sibling into the family. It isn’t possible to prepare a Shiba in advance for the new arrival, except socializing with other dogs, so taking the time to validate their position in the pack after the introduction is crucial. The future growth of the pack depends on it. An owner understands this is an addition, but will the existing Shiba feel "replaced?"
Quick decisions regarding feuding Shibas will become an everyday occurrence for an owner in the beginning. Planning ahead by assigning a pack order will help considerably when split second responses are needed. Keeping the pack order not only reinforces an owner’s position as pack leader, but also reduces fights for pack order between the Shibas. Obedience training and socialization is a must for a new addition. It will help form the bond needed between owner and companion, and secure an owner’s position as alpha. During this training time, guidance and patience will be needed, but allowing for slips with unacceptable behavior can lead to turmoil between pack members. It’s not uncommon to see the existing Shiba revert or exhibit unacceptable behavior when the new addtion challenges authority and rules. When there’s jealously or uncertainty about worth, getting attention becomes top priority, whether the attention is negative or positive. Even though unacceptable behavior will bring a reprimand, that’s attention, and for a Shiba feeling less than confident, that’s better than no attention at all. Inconsistency in expectations from either Shiba can cause unrest. Rules are to be followed. Breaking rules needs addressing immediately.
It can take as little as a few weeks or up to months for a new addition and existing Shiba to complete the transition. When owners say a trial period is needed to see if a new Shiba will work in the pack, with a guarantee to return if it doesn’t, is the weakness in the existing Shiba’s inability to accept an addition, or an owner unable to lead the pack? In all fairness to Shibas, a better guarantee might be an owner’s resolve to make it work, no matter what or how long it takes. Returning Shibas only adds more baggage to what they already have, plus it sends a message to the existing Shiba they control more than they should be allowed to control. If there’s an uncertainty whether a new addition will work, then possibly more time is needed to form a stronger bond with the existing Shiba before committing to the lifetime of an additional Shiba.
An owner’s biggest job will be to insure the existing Shiba feels comfortable with the new addition, confident about its place in pack order, and that its not being ‘replaced’. As leader of a growing pack, an owner’s position will be tested daily. The confidence gained through obedience training will be a lifeline during these times. An owner will feel more positive about decisions made because there will be a source, an obedience trainer, to draw from whenever there are questions, or problems. Without that support and guidance, an owner can become overwhelmed, and not give the pack relationship the time needed. What worked for the first Shiba may not work for the new addition, so an owner has to be prepared to learn new techniques and approaches while being consistent with existing rules and commands. Patience, understanding, fairness, while remaining in control of all situations is easier with a support system. Although it may seem hopeless at times during the transition, an owner’s time and effort will be rewarded when two Shibas curl up together or enjoy a day of romping outside. Forming a pack with Shibas can be a challenge. Some days everything seems positive, other days not so much, but remaining focused on a goal to make it work will eventually help the pack succeed. When that goal is reached, the biggest challenge for an owner is to quiet the urge to add "Just One More."
"Just One More" was originally written by Carolyn Sanford for Northeast Shiba Rescue Association. Used by written permission.