People have known for hundreds of years that having animals around makes us feel better. Animals calm us down, make us laugh, and perform important services for disabled people. And in recent years, more people have started getting their dogs certified as emotional support animals to help them deal with the daily stresses of life.
Jessica and her emotional support dog, Ocito, have worked hard to prepare for ESA life. Read on to learn more about how this shiba inu puppy became an amazing support animal for Jessica.
Jessica is a client of ours who lives in San Francisco. Like many of us, Jessica lives with mental health issues and in particular suffered from anxiety that made it hard for her to thrive in her day-to-day life. Recently, Jessica decided to get an emotional support animal to help boost her confidence and improve her mental health.
Jessica got a shiba inu puppy named Ocito and worked hard to train him to be a good emotional support animal. Her hard work paid off, and today, Ocito goes almost everywhere with Jessica, including on planes! Having Ocito around makes Jessica feel more confident, and she’s noticed a huge decrease in her anxiety with him in her life.
So what are shiba inus, and do they automatically make good emotional support animals? Shiba inus come from Japan, where they are the most popular choice for companion dogs. These dogs only made their way west in the last sixty years or so, but they’ve exploded in popularity in the United States.
Shibas are relatively small dogs, only growing to be about fifteen inches high at the shoulder and around twenty pounds. They usually come in red, red sesame, or black and tan colorings, and they have white markings on their faces, chests, and tails. Shiba inus have alert expressions and smooth strides, and they live on average between thirteen and sixteen years.
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
Shiba inus are affectionate dogs that are very protective and require a lot of mental stimulation. They’re a relatively energetic breed, and they can usually adapt well to most new situations. They tend to be playful, and they get along well with most strangers, other dogs, and children, although that will vary dog to dog.
Shibas are athletic and want to be involved and exploring new things. They can be relatively independent and strong-willed, so you’ll need to train them early and often to keep them in line. They can be somewhat standoffish around strange people and dogs, but they aren’t usually aggressive.
One of the biggest reasons shiba inus make such good service dogs is that they’re tremendously affectionate. They love being around their people, and they’ll be attentive and devoted to you. Their small size also makes it easier to take them with you almost anywhere, including on airplanes.
That being said, having a shiba inu as an emotional service animal can come with some challenges. This breed is smart and independent, and they can get headstrong at times. You’ll need to be firm and consistent with your training if you want them to be well-behaved enough to function well as an emotional service animal.
When you’re training an emotional service dog, one of the best things you can do is to take the dog with you everywhere you go. The more time you spend with your dog, the more in-tune they’ll be with your routine and characteristics. You’ll form a tighter bond with them, which can help to create the emotional support you’re looking for with this animal.
Taking your dog with you everywhere also helps them learn how to behave in different environments and around different people. Jessica tells us, “When my shiba inu was a puppy, I put him in my backpack and went everywhere with him!” If you do plan to take your shiba with you, be sure to keep them on a leash, since these independent little animals can easily get distracted and run off.
When your puppy is young, you need to start working to desensitize them to potentially scary experiences. Dogs learn from experience what is and isn’t worth being afraid of. An emotional service animal needs to stay calm in a variety of social situations, including those with a lot of people or loud noises.
Start exposing your puppy to things like loud noises, crowds, fireworks, and larger dogs when they’re young. When they look to you for reassurance, give them love and let them know that there’s nothing to be scared of. Jessica said, “I took Ocito across the Golden Gate Bridge, and that desensitized him to some of the loudest noises we have ever heard.”
Your emotional support dog will look to you to figure out how they should act in different situations, especially when they’re a puppy. They’re still learning what they should and shouldn’t be afraid of and how to react to new experiences. And dogs rely a lot on body language to determine how you’re feeling and how they should react.
Acting confident as you move through the world will teach your dog that it, too, can be confident. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed, stand up straight, and keep your chin up. Your dog will take their cue from your behavior and will become confident, too, as they get older.
In addition to desensitizing your shiba inu puppy and teaching them to be confident, it’s important to make them feel safe. Puppies that learn that you’ll protect them from danger will grow up to be less aggressive and more relaxed, since they don’t have to worry about defending themselves. You can also teach them that they don’t have to be afraid of new people, bigger dogs, or other such things.
When your dog is uncertain or afraid, comfort them and teach them that you’ll help them out of bad situations. If you encounter a larger dog, keep your posture relaxed and give your puppy a chance to say hello and explore this meeting. If possible, arrange play dates for your puppy with larger dogs you know won’t be aggressive so your shiba can learn that these dogs don’t pose a threat.
If you’re going to have an emotional service animal, it is absolutely critical that you teach them manners. Too many people get an emotional support animal certification for their pet just because they have separation anxiety issues. Oftentimes, these animals are neurotic and aggressive, and they can cause problems for both the people around them and people who have legitimate service animals that they want to bring with them into public spaces.
Your shiba inu puppy needs to learn to sit and stay on command, as well as to stay quiet and close to you in public spaces. They should absolutely not jump up on anyone, no matter how adorable you think it is, and they should never be allowed to growl or snap at a person or dog unprovoked. They should return to your side when you call them, and they should lie quietly at your feet when you’re in a public space.
One of the best ways to teach your shiba inu service dog manners is to take it to an obedience class. Contrary to popular belief, these classes actually aren’t focused on your dog’s behavior much at all. Instead, they’re meant to teach you how to interact with and train your dog in effective ways.
Obedience classes will give you the tools you need to communicate effectively with your puppy and teach them new behaviors. You’ll learn how to use positive reinforcement, how to communicate with your body language, and what to do when your dog is misbehaving. You’ll also learn some about why your dog behaves in certain ways and more effective ways to address those problems.
Even once you and your puppy graduate from obedience school, your training should not end. Shiba inus can be somewhat headstrong, and as they grow up, they may start to push their boundaries. Training them every day keeps them accustomed to the idea that good things happen when they do what you ask of them.
Training a shiba inu puppy every day can also be a great way to keep them stimulated and to build your bond with them. In addition to going over the basics – sit, stay, lie down, heel, etc. – you can start teaching them new and more complicated tricks. Teach them to roll over, shake, sit up on their hind legs, or play paddy-cake.
When you start taking your emotional support animal with you into public places, it’s important to know your rights and laws. In most places, emotional support animals are allowed into all the same places that other service animals are. You may need to keep documentation on you showing that your shiba puppy is a certified emotional support animal.
There may be some places, however, that have had bad encounters with some of those phony ESAs we discussed earlier. Have a game plan for how you’ll handle these issues when they arise. In some cases, it may be easier to let the issue go and take your dog home, rather than starting a fight with a store owner who’s worried – justly or not – that your dog might bite another customer.
If you live in a larger city, you may use public transportation on a regular basis. And if you have an ESA that you’re planning on bringing with you, sooner or later, you’re going to run into the question of if your animal can go on public transport. Unfortunately, in most cases, cities have the right to refuse to allow your ESA on public vehicles.
The United States Department of Transportation defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” This means that unless your shiba inu has training to perform a specific task for you, it won’t meet the qualifications for a service dog. However, if your ESA is also trained to recognize and avert panic attacks, for instance, it will meet the qualification.
For Jessica, one of her greatest accomplishments with Ocito’s training came when she flew from Honolulu to Orlando. The flight was fourteen hours long, and Jessica told us that Ocito did great on the trip.
“Ocito was so quiet that other passengers were surprised there was a dog on the plane. No one noticed him! He was placed on the floor by my feet, and he remained there with no potty accidents and no barking.”
If you plan to take your ESA on a plane, they must be just as well-behaved as Ocito. However, be aware that, in many cases, you may not be allowed to take your ESA on board with you. As of December 2020, the DOT no longer considers emotional support animals to be service animals and allows airlines to refuse to let them on board.
Jessica and Ocito have both worked hard to create an amazing human-ESA team. Shiba inus can be amazing emotional support animals, but they do need consistent training and socialization. Teach your dog how to behave in public, train them in obedience classes, and know the laws about where ESAs can and can’t go.
If you’d like to get your shiba inu puppy certified as an ESA, check out the rest of our site at American Service Pets. We are the nation’s leading all-in-one solution for approving emotional support animals for housing and psychiatric service animals for transportation. See if you qualify for free today and get your official letter accepted nationwide.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
More Great Resources