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When a good dog turns bad

  • AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Dog trainer Terri Palumbo with 8-month-old Kichi-her youngest of three champion Shiba Inus.
    AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Dog trainer Terri Palumbo with 8-month-old Kichi-her youngest of three champion Shiba Inus.
Published May 08. 2010 09:00AM

When a good dog turns bad, what can you do?

That was a problem for a local couple whose Shiba Inu became overly protective of the owners - and the wife in particular - at times, baring its teeth when the husband approached the wife.

"The dog's issue was borderline aggression," explained dog trainer Terri Palumbo. "The dog had aggression issues, reactive issues, and was very protective of its owners. It was my first case, and it turned out to be a real doosie."

"The first thing I did was separate the dog from the wife because the dog was so attached to the wife, it became her surrogate, because she had made the dog her baby instead of a dog - big problem," Palumbo said.

Palumbo had the husband take care of the dog, and once the dog understood the husband was now the caregiver, she began to establish boundaries and teach it basic obedience.

"We taught it sit, stay and down," she said. "As you give the dog a job to do, the dog gains direction and the owners take responsibility for shaping the behavior."

Palumbo owns Sinopa Shibas Canine Training & Massage, a dog training, dog sitting and dog massage business. Although she is based in Penn Forest Township, Sinopa Shibas is not a kennel and does not board or train at its site.

Instead, Palumbo visits the dog in its home environment where she trains, sits or massages them.

After completing a dual degree in social work and psychology from DeSales, through the Animal Behavioral College of California she became certified in dog training, and through Maria Duthe, she became certified in animal massage.

Growing up in Coopersburg, Palumbo was charged with the care and feeding of her father's six hunting beagles. She had her own dog, Buttons, a miniature poodle which she trained.

"Buttons gave birth to two litters," Palumbo said. "In her second litter, she had problems delivering the last pup."

Palumbo called the vet, and with one hand holding the headset and the other hand feeling her way inside the struggling dog, Palumbo found the pup was in a breach position and she manipulated it around.

"It was an indescribable experience," she said.

Through her love for dogs, Palumbo began attending dog shows and researching online for a breed to match her temperament. She found it in the Shiba Inu.

"The Shiba was a perfect fit," she noted, "aloof at times, dedicated, caring, high energy, and with a willingness to learn and please."

Palumbo now has three champion Shibas: 7-year-old Reesey, 6-year-old Simba, and the youngest, 8-month-old Kichi. She also has Casey, a Husky Chow mix that would have been euthanized had she not rescued him from the Carbon County Animal Shelter.

Many of Palumbo's trainings came about when good dogs became bad dogs, and the frustrated owner was considering having the pet euthanized.

Palumbo found herself in that situation with her first Shiba Inu.

"Simba was a wonderful creature until he was a year old," she explained. "Then his temperament went south. He almost was euthanized due to his temperament. He was not so much aggressive as he was protective of me. When anyone would come near me, he would bare his teeth."

Palumbo trained him and he was rehabilitated.

"I didn't want to euthanize him because we had become such a couple," she said.

Palumbo's business name, Sinopa Shibas, consists of the words "Sinopa," which means "little fox" in the Blackfoot language, and Shibas, the ancient Japanese breed of small fox-like dogs.

For information, see:, or call (610) 730-0175.

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