0

CKC-Approved Canine Nutrition Course

image1 592x1024 Shiba Inu CKC Approved Canine Nutrition Course

Tierce, attempting to supplement his diet with Shiba-appropriate nutrition.

Tierce: What are you doing?

Me:  I’m studying a canine nutrition course approved by the Canadian Kennel Club.

Tierce:  Why are you wasting your time with that?  I can tell you everything you need to know.

Me:  Because I want to know what goes into providing you with an optimal diet.  You… you’re not really what I’d call a reliable resource.

Tierce:  Sure I am.  I already know what goes into an optimal diet.  It starts with ‘ch’ and ends with ‘eese’.

Me:  I beg to differ.

Tierce:  I’ll beg for it, too.  I have no pride.

Me:  Then why don’t you like your bicycling harness?

Tierce:  That’s not ‘pride’.  That’s ‘dignity’.  Also, there’s the fact that the straps sap my will to live and make cats hate me.

Me:  Cats hated you before I even bought that harness.  Anyway, this is going to give me some good basic information about what kind of nutrition you need.  That way, I can make better decisions for you and become a better resource for my customers at work.  I’d like to know what supplements would be good for you to take, for instance.

Tierce:  I occasionally supplement with dried liver and anchovies.

Me:  Not exactly.

Tierce:  What?  They’re great.

Me:  Sure.  They’re just not what you need for long-term health.

Tierce:  I also supplement with other stuff.

Me:  Sure you do.

Tierce:  Cat poop!  Full of protein, trace minerals…

Me:  Ugh.  No supplementing with cat poop.

Tierce:  What are you, a hater?  Against a natural diet?

Me:  That’s not a natural diet, that’s disgusting.

Tierce:  Of course it’s natural.  I found it in the wild.

Me:  You mean the side of the house?

Tierce:  Yeah.  It’s pretty wild there.  The grass is really tall.

Me:  You are not allowed there anymore.

Tierce:  You’re all about feeding raw and natural and you can’t let me have a diet that would be natural for me if I was running free?

Me:  Well, ‘natural’ isn’t always ‘better’.

Tierce:  Then why do you feed me raw food?

Me:  Because I believe that a properly formulated raw diet, supplemented appropriately, is a healthy choice.

Tierce:  But you don’t let me supplement my diet as I see fit.  That makes you a hypocrite.

Me:  No, it makes me a little more cognizant of the physical and social consequences of certain dietary choices.

Tierce:  But you still feed me kibble sometimes.

Me:  I don’t think kibble is ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, just that it isn’t as good as fresh, whole food.

Tierce:  And sometimes it’s just easier.

Me:  Exactly.

Tierce:  So you’re lazy, too.

Me:  Not lazy enough to stop working so I have an excuse to not pay for your food.

Tierce:  Apparently laziness has a sliding scale.

Me:  Keep talking.  That sliding scale includes generic dog food.

Tierce:  A Shiba has no honour at his own dog dish.

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Parvovirus Outbreak Leads to Vaccine Backlash

Parvo vaccine spurs debate among dog-care professionals

As an advocate for human vaccines, I’m torn.  I feel that my information is desperately inadequate to make an informed decision about vaccines.  It’s been difficult for me to find an unbiased source to obtain useful statistics on vaccines and how they are really affecting pets.  SkeptVet (yes, I love SkeptVet) has a good overview of vaccines.

Tierce hasn’t had any shots since he had a reaction to his rabies booster at 7 months old.  I’m still wondering about that.  Three days after the vaccine, he started scratching at his face and, ever since, the summer is a long series of Vanectyl-P and searching on the Internet for something better.  I’ve been taking a look at Apoquel, but it isn’t cleared for pet treatment in Canada yet.  Call me a sheep, but I believe that I do pay my vet for hard-won expertise and I don’t want to merrily start dosing Tierce with something without her input.

There’s a middle ground here somewhere.  I’m just going to have to keep reading until I find it.

 

0

Notes on Dr. Ian Dunbar

About a year ago, the Nanaimo Kennel Club hosted Dr. Ian Dunbar for a three-day seminar and hands-on workshop.  Part of that included a question-and-answer event where people who hadn’t attended the seminar (i.e. me) could come and ask questions and listen to his answers.  I intended to write a blog post with the crappy notes I took, but… yeah.  So I came across them now and decided that hey, why not just post them here so my readers can see A) my crappy note-taking skills and B) read some of the hilarious things that Dr. Dunbar said.  He really is an awesome speaker and he LIKED MY HAT.  He said that to me when I was poking around after the Q&A.

So here you go.  Notes, with commentary.

Auto shaping device (I assume this refers to a treat ball/food dispensing toy.  Why?  Educated guess.)
Food treats
Stops barking
 
Bark activity counter  (The first thing that came to mind was a collar that clicks in a number whenever a dog barks.  Probably not what he was talking about.  But, somewhere… probably on Amazon, there’s someone selling them.)
 
Food bowl – no
Don’t feed dog out of food bowl – use food dispense toys, chew toys
 
Intervention: take away the food bowl 
 
Reduce barks by 90%
 
Barking:
Calm
Barkathon – let it out of the system
On cue. 1234
1. “Speak” Teach it to bark on command
2.  Accomplice
3. (Yeah, no number 3.  WE’LL NEVER KNOW.)
 
Treat add one second of silence each time
 
Fear based behaviour
 
“your dog is in pain every day. Same for the tiny dog as for the Rottweiler”  (This really resonated with me.  I had never thought of it this way, but it’s true.  Fear is not fun when you have no way of processing it like humans can.)
 
No treats, only kibble hand fed
 
Fearfulness is not funny in animals 
 
People ignore it
 
“Does anyone mind if I drink my beer?”  (Yeah, he really said that.  And had beer.)
Kokanee
 
“2 am, your dog is barking with two other dogs at the end of the yard an you’re getting laid: not such a good training scenario.”  (He said that, too.  Awesome guy.)
 
Dogstardaily.com puppy book for free
 
Biting: not appropriate 
Bite inhibition
Pain causes reaction – ow! Then walk away. 
Normal puppy behaviour 
 
Tie food treat holder in an open crate
 
Night: stuff with honey, bit of kibble
 
Teach dogs to want to do the behaviour. 
 
“Your dog doesn’t understand English”
 
Stop crying: jackpot. Sleep: jackpot
 
Bite: yelp. 
 
10 positive feedback to 1 negative
 
Puppies tugging on pant legs: play tug of war
 
Play rules
 
Dog cannot grab without requesting
 
Teeth touch hand game over
 
Instantly let go
 
You can let dogs win. 
 
Blew Cesar Milan’s mind  (I’m not sure what blew Milan’s mind… I don’t think Dr. Dunbar is a big fan of his.)
 
Alpha rollover: what do you want to teach the dog?  That you’re an asshole? (Like I said, awesome.)
 
Pay attention
 
Be directive and instructive
 
Puppy license until about 4.5 months old (Note:  This apparently does not apply to dogs like Tierce, who reserve the right to hate all puppies except the rude ones that get in his face.  Unless he decides to hate them, too.  I keep plodding along, trying to understand him.)
 
Don’t give up
 
Differential reinforcement
 
If this dog has blown me off, he is going to suffer. Training is the most exciting thing a dog can do – stopping training is a punishment. 
 
Teach the rules of the game
 
Make sure dog understands
Motivate
 
Suggestion: like a stop sign in Canada (Heh.)
 
Reward training
 
You know why you have to punish the dog?  Because you were an idiot and you let him do it wrong.”
 
The most important pee is the one in the morning, the dark yellow one that can kill redwoods. (And how.)
 
Breed excuses. “You have a dog, now train it.”  (Dammit, I have a SHIBA.  That ought to count for something… anything?)
And those are my notes.  I’m just lucky that this wasn’t college, because my old notebooks have a line or two of legible text which quickly devolves into lines with intermittent breaks and the occasional squiggle.  Dogs doodled in the margins, that sort of thing.
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Fallen Gods

god (ɡɒd)
— n
1. a supernatural being, who is worshipped as the controller of some part of the universe or some aspect of life in the world or is the personification of some force

A friend of mine lost her cat recently.  She’s the person who painted this awesome picture of Tierce:

tiercephillips500 212x300 Shiba Inu Fallen Gods

Tierce painting by LJ Phillips.

Her comic, Skins, and its spin-off, Smoke, Fur and Stone are NOT safe for work or for the kiddies, just FYI.

One of the things I said to her in a reply to her post about her kitty was:

We hold so much power over our pets’ daily lives, I think it’s jarring when we realize how little power we have against the forces that take them away from us.

It resonated with me because of the parallels between humans and gods when it comes to pets.

Food magically appears for them.  Doors open.  Cars whisk them away to places, good or bad.  We can just walk into a room and things happen.  No wonder they get excited when we come home; when we come home, things happen!

We are also strange and inimicable gods at times.  We yell and throw things, yank on leashes and get aggressive for reasons beyond an animal’s comprehesion.  We make noise and wield frightening objects like the vacuum.  We can leave them without food, without water, without shelter.  We can be too exacting during training, expecting too much too soon.  We are strangers with our hats and coats on.  We’re terrifying when we hold the symbols of discomfort or pain – the nail clippers, the shampoo and the stethoscope.

Yet, for all our power, we cannot turn the clock back, nor can we pluck them from the confines of a mortally wounded body.  For those of us who share our lives so intimately with our companion animals, it seems like the ultimate failure when we can do so many miraculous things in a pet’s eyes, yet we cannot simply stretch out our hand and order their lives to remain with us.

We spend their lives grandly making decisions, but when it comes to the most mortal ones, many people find themselves petitioning a higher power to intercede for them.  In my case (since I’m an atheist), I grimly assess the facts, ignoring the pleas of a desperate heart that is ever-hopeful that if we wait just one more day, Shassi or Buddi or Candy or Gremlin will magically get better.

It gets harder if there are options that might work, but finances and time curtail their viability.  Cue the guilt.  Well, do I really need to eat this month?  I’ve already spent $1500… should I just max my credit card?  Maybe there’s some cardboard boxes in an alley downtown I could fix up with some curtains.

Ultimately, I accept the need for bringing death to an ailing pet who will never get better.  I can’t say that I’ve made peace with it.  Even today, the phrase, “we had to put her down” is followed by the reasons.  It doesn’t matter that the recipient of the information knows that there is very little I would not do for my dogs.  I’m thinking that it’s not necessarily for their benefit; they know I would have chosen a different path if such was available to me.  It’s for mine, a chanted mantra to remind myself that what I did was necessary and right.

Maybe if I was a god, I would be so far removed from earthly cares that I wouldn’t even think about the suffering of those under my power.  Or, perhaps I would misinterpret it:

smbc god perspective Shiba Inu Fallen Gods

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic Copyright 2014 Zach Weiner SMBC is an awesome comic. Check it out!

I would like to think not.  Because, fallen god I may be, but at least I’m close enough to suffering to recognize it and do my best to alleviate it.

The pain we feel when our pets pass away might be good for us in the long run, reminding us that we are only mortal.  We can only do our best for our pets and, when our best isn’t good enough, we bring them peace – even if it’s at the price of our own.

0

Shiba In-Woo: My Issues With Pseudoscience And Anti-Science

A Short History of Medicine

I have a headache:

2000 BCE: Here, eat this root.
1000 AD: That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
1850 AD: That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
1940 AD: That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
1985 AD: That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.
2011 AD: That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.

Source: Unknown

As people who read this blog or TMS Facebook are, no doubt, well aware, I have problems with pseudoscience.  This includes stuff like animal communication, energy healing, ‘natural’ cures, herbal supplementation and a whole schwack of stuff marketed as ‘holistic’.

It’s not because this blog is funded by ‘Big Pharma’; unfortunately, it’s powered only by Cafepress and Tierce’s ego.  It’s because I really, really don’t like anything that purports to have The Answer™.  I view it as potentially harmful to pets and, ultimately, the people who love them.

What you don’t know can hurt your dog.

There are a lot of people who say, “Live and let live!  It might work and, even if it doesn’t, it makes the person who’s trying it out on their dog feel better!  Who are you to attack something that you can’t prove isn’t true?”

Problem is that if it doesn’t work (or works too well), it can kill or seriously harm your dog.  I remember being contacted about a ‘natural’ remedy that someone was giving their Shiba.  Unfortunately, when I looked it up on WebMD, it was listed as directly conflicting with Atopica, something she was also giving the dog.

Anti-Science Advocates Harm Pets

It’s distressing to me how many people completely discount or cherry-pick science when it comes to ‘natural’ cures.  If it works, why don’t more people want to prove that it works beyond a doubt?  Also, why don’t more people want to know the exact parameters of effectiveness?  What about conflicts with other treatments?  Wouldn’t you want to know if that herbal supplement has some effect on the pills your vet prescribed?

What is worse is that the same people touting ‘natural’ cures are also spreading distrust of vets and veterinary medicine.  Vets aren’t miracle workers; they’re applying the knowledge that thousands of people before them spent their lives learning and extrapolating for use by future generations.  Treatments that are proven to work in most cases.  And, no, not every treatment is going to work for every pet, but chances are that if it worked for the last several hundred dogs, it’ll work for yours, too.

And, of course, when it comes to people claiming powers of telepathy to ‘speak’ to an animal and telling you that they can help you make medical decisions for your pet, you are wandering into dangerous territory.  There is no proof – and I mean studied, verified proof – that ‘animal communicators’ or ‘pet psychics’ are able to in any way communicate mentally with animals.  Let’s not even get into the whole looking at a picture thing, because… no.

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence

If something simultaneously cures ADHD, cancer, headaches and the common cold, I want to see a lot of people in double blind studies that prove that yes, actually, it does do that thing.  If someone is going to claim the existence something that present-day science indicates there is no evidence for, they should be prepared to provide evidence.  Irrefutable, reliably replicatable evidence.  If what they claim is true, then there is nothing stopping them from proving it to everyone.  There really is no excuse.

The Presence of Belief Does Not Validate It

Believing something doesn’t make it real.  Reliable, repeatable results make it real.  I believe that if someone’s marketing something they claim will help your pet, it should have ample proof that it works, not anecdotes, not stories of how much someone believes that it works - proof.  How good it makes you feel is not proof.

Proof is obtained through study.  Studies provide parameters for the claimed phenomenon that help prevent personal bias, concurrent treatments and the placebo effect from affecting the results and the conclusions drawn from them. The scientific method is based on a genuine desire to increase knowledge, whether or not it supports the original theory.

Research is Biased

Science isn’t exact and research is prey to the same practicalities that plague many areas of life, namely funding, public support and the availability of qualified personnel to conduct research.  What is studied is also largely dependent on funding and interest.

While it would be nice if pharmaceutical companies would freely fund cancer research, the reality is that if they don’t make money, they can’t afford to pay the nice people who do the boring job of checking petri dishes and filling out spreadsheets.  So, they pour the majority of their funding into research that’s likely to provide reliable results.

How those results are interpreted by society at large is often highly dependent on the news sites and special-interest sites that write about them.  And they do spin them.  They spin them like dreidels at Hannukah.  I can take a study that associates aggression in Shibas with a particular genetic polymorphism.

“Shibas are aggressive, study says.”

“Inbreeding in Shibas Could Mean Danger.”

“Shibas Have An ‘Aggression Gene’, Study Says.”

None of these are really true, but if someone reports them thusly, how will you know if you don’t read the study and have your bullshit detector light blinking?

Can you trust studies?  By and large, my opinion is yes.  However, if you have a real interest in them, teach yourself how to understand them so you don’t need someone interpreting them for you through the lens of their own bias.

How To Understand Scientific Studies and Research

Here are a couple of links to pages that explain how to understand and interpret a study:

Stumptuous.com: How to read a scientific study

How to Read and Understand Scientific Research

As always, when looking at a work on Wikipedia, go to the citations at the bottom.

Wikipedia: Scientific Method

1

The Raw Story

tierceoffice Shiba Inu The Raw Story

Tierce’s office.

I’ve taken a position at a raw pet food store and I’m reading up everything I can about raw food, raw feeding, etc.  It’s a lot of information to take in.  I’m trusting to my considerable obsession with dogs and anything to do with dogs to carry me through.

So far, most of the studies I’ve found on raw pet food have to do with the level of Salmonella and bacteria they can carry and its transmission.  Opinions are divided, with natural feeding advocates and veterinarians butting heads.  ”Raw is natural!”  ”Raw is dangerous!”  ”Raw is healthiest!” “Commercial dog foods have decades of science behind them!” “Natural feeding!” “Feeding based on science!”

It makes sense to me that a diet of fresh food (I view food frozen upon processing to be ‘fresh’ in terms of the nutrients that are preserved by immediate freezing) would be preferable over a diet of kibble, if circumstances allow.  I don’t eat nutrition bars at every meal.  I’m told that a diet comprised of mainly fresh food and light on the processed, refined crap that I love so well is the best way to go if I ever want to make the acquaintance of my old jeans again.  Then again, I’m not a dog.

However, these opinions are not formed on cold scientific fact; they are formed from what I’ve observed.  I’m well aware that the human mind is sometimes its own worst enemy, with confirmation bias being something that one must ever guard against if a thorough examination of the available evidence is to be successfully undertaken.

SkeptVet states that recent studies have not indicated that raw feeding is significantly better than feeding a high-quality kibble.  He does note in another blog post on raw cat diets that any diet high in moisture may be better for cats.  I like SkeptVet because he really looks at the available evidence and draws conclusions based on it.

Anecdotal evidence is shaky at best when it comes to ascertaining whether a raw diet is ‘better’ than a kibble diet.  What I’m going with right now is the evidence based on Tierce’s forays into the raw fed world: his poops are smaller and there’s less of them and his coat is looking pretty good.  As we march towards the dread month of May, which is when his allergies start to act up, I’ll be interested to see if a raw diet has any effect on them.

0

Squirrel!

io9: Squirrel attempts to hide nut in BMD’s fur

Yeah, with Tierce, this probably would have the following ending:

Tierce: OH HAI WANNA PLAY WITH THE NEW STUFFIE I FOUND?

Me: What is that?

Tierce: Uh. My new toy.

Me: It looks like a dead squirrel.

Tierce: Yes! It’s my new stuffed toy!

Me: That’s not a stuffed toy, Tierce. Did you kill that?

Tierce: I played with it until it stopped moving. On its own.

Me: So you killed it. You can’t have that thing in the house.

Tierce: But… it’s my new stuffed toy.

Me: It’s not stuffed.

Tierce: Yes it is! With bloody, chewy goodness!

Me: Precisely why you can’t have it in the house. What’s that smell?

Tierce: I pulled some of the stuffing out of my new toy. Behind the couch. Why don’t you feed me stuff like that? It’s good.

Me: Does the word ‘de-wormer’ mean anything to you?

Tierce: No. Should it?

Me: It will.

(Thanks to Sarah, who provided me with the impetus for this completely imaginary conversation)

6

No! Stay! (Away From Shibas?)

shibasnuggles1 Shiba Inu No!  Stay!  (Away From Shibas?)

Used with permission.

Lately, the Doge meme has spurred new interest in the Shiba.  Buzzfeed picked up on it. Jezebel even commented on it in their For the Love of Doge, Please Do Not Get a Shiba Inu article.

…when a breed advocate says “DO NOT GET THIS KIND OF DOG UNTIL YOU MEET ONE AND ARE SURE,” it is probably a good idea to listen. ~ Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel

This is pretty much my stance, but some comments and a recent conversation with Sarah, the person pictured above with her Shiba Inu, Kit, made me wonder: Are Shiba enthusiasts overly negative about their breed, even out of the best possible intentions?

Here’s our conversation:

TMS:

I want to quote some of the stuff you’ve said about the Shiba owner issue – pushing people away from their breed. I don’t want you to think that I ignored your posts and comments about it – it’s just been percolating at the back of my head and I want to write a blog post about it.

Sarah

Absolutely, please feel free! And if you’re inclined to disagree with it, I hope you know that I will still adore you anyway and you don’t have to hold back on account of fragile friend ego if you’re inclined to take another position, I’m totes OK with that.

TMS:

Haha… no… I am actually one of the worst culprits when it comes to OHMAIDOGSTAYAWAAAAYFARAWAAAAY

Sarah:

LOL!!!!!

TMS:

I was thinking about why and, well, I think it’s partly because, yes, the breed looks cute, but is really tough…

But I think also it’s because it’s like being a fucking parent – a real one – and you’re talking to some kid who’s all “I wanna be a mommy!” and you’re saying to them, “This dog will infuriate you, ignore you, frustrate you and will rip out your heart when it dies. You want that?”

Other breeds are like the Kodak moments. You don’t generally have to worry about your Lab with kids. Your Collie just magically comes when called. The Shiba is the problem child, the smart one, the one with the most potential for greatness AND disaster. No wonder our hearts get fused to them so closely. No wonder we look at other people and worry about whether they’re ready for that kind of thing.

However, like a lot of parents, we can get a little too involved with our dogs. When it gets to the point where ‘no one is good enough’ for your breed, you really have to step back and re-examine what you’re doing.

Like mothers who don’t let their mates parent because they don’t put diapers on right or because they’re okay with the kid taking two bites of broccoli and not eating the whole thing.

Sarah:

I completely get that, I really do. Because Shibas are so much their own person, it really IS like having a relationship with an autonomous creature that knows his/her own mind and is willing to go to bat for what they want.

Kit is my first dog, so I didn’t actually come into the relationship expecting her to be (in the words of T’Pal, forgive the Trek reference) a subservient quadriped. It cracks my family up that I have a dog so much like me – stubborn, independent, determined to do things her/my own way. And I love her for it. It doesn’t really irritate me, I admire her for her moxie.

People do need to know that these dogs are SMART, and that having one is a partnership and will never be a master/slave relationship. They’re not for people who can’t do unconditional love – like parenting. The kind of love which accepts everything and delights in it all – the sassy moments, the disastrous decision of the child to TP the entire house, build an A-bomb in the garage, etc. etc. etc. – it’s all part of having a critter who is gloriously real and not just a yes-dog.

I agree with you that people should know what they’re getting into, and I *double* agree that it’s important to treat prospective Shiba owners as potential new parents who need encouragement and support instead of judgment (putting diapers on wrong) or criticism (make them eat all the broccoli) or disdain.

It’s a challenge, but it’s also wonderful to have a dog who is their own person. I love Kit’s lack of subservience more than I can say. I’m proud of her for feeling so empowered to assert her will even though she is so tiny and I am so big. I love that self-confidence and I can’t help it, it makes me smile.

Yes, sometimes I find myself standing in the freezing rain or next to the car door for 5, 10, 15 minutes because she and I are doing Immovable Object and Irresistible Force (it happens, sometimes she can’t get what she wants), but she knows that I will out-wait her no matter how long it takes and eventually she chooses to come along. I don’t actually find it particularly infuriating or aggravating because this is her, in all her glory.

I love what you just said about “When it gets to the point where ‘no one is good enough’ for your breed, you really have to step back and re-examine what you’re doing” – because that’s exactly how I feel, too. It breaks my heart to see Shiba enthusiasts trying so hard to make people never, ever want to get a Shiba.

These same people will swear up and down and inside-out that there is NO bad pit bull, only bad owners. But for whatever reason, they think Shibas are the fucking devil incarnate. It is so weird to me, and I sincerely wonder if some of these Shiba owners should probably have gotten a different dog if they have such negative feelings about the breed. And why the hell are they so against BSL and breed stereotyping when it comes to bully breeds, but so eager to do it to their own dogs?

I swear to god, if I got on that Shiba board and replaced the word “pit bull” with “Shiba” and replicated some anti-pitty diatribe with just the breed names replaced, everyone will fall all over themselves agreeing with me. Put up the same diatribe about pits, and they will shit themselves blind about how evil it is to do that. It is baffling. I don’t mean mean that people should be all pie-eyed and rose-tinted glasses and in denial about Shiba temperament, but I’d like to see more people like you – Tierce is sassy and indomitable and it cracks you up and you respect it, and you work with him and who he is, setting boundaries with lots of love.

These are definitely dogs that require human-style parenting; attempts to dominate them are laughable. I don’t know if I told you about how my Uncle Jerry tried to get Kit to treat him like an alpha male over Thanksgiving, but it was HILARIOUS. Poor ex-Marine with his macho alpha male personality. He’d walk up to her and take this wide-legged stance and glare at her, expecting her to go all submissive on him, and she’d just go (literally) “Hmph” and walk away. I swear she was laughing at him. It slayed me. But if Jerry had adopted a Shiba, it would be such a tragically bad fit. Unbelievably bad. For the dog and the person. I shudder to think, I really do.

But of course, alienating good people from the breed by trying to terrify the fuck out of them is not good for the breed. I think it’s worse than being cheerfully cautionary. Much worse. I’m really happy that you’re going to write about this. I know people respect you and your perspective.

TMS

Well, it’s a balancing line. I met a woman who just got a Shiba from some weird place or breeder or whatever and the message I tried to leave with her is that YES… You will find this breed is the devil sometimes. You will have to work harder, train more frequently, be more aware of what your dog is doing and how she’s reacting… BUT you’ll be okay. It’s not your fault if the dog freaks out at some random thing; it just means you need to find a way to work around it. BUT you’ll be okay. Even if your dog decides it hates other dogs with the fiery burning passion of a rash people won’t see their doctor about. BUT you’ll be okay…

Sarah:

I think that’s a great message.

And I should also mention that my perspective is maybe weird because I’ve made absolutely no attempt at all to train Kit. I would probably think she was the devil more often if I was trying to get her to do obedience and agility and stuff. She has mostly trained herself because of the collaboration and give/take thing. Her recall is mostly good, because she’s pretty sure that if I call her there will be pepperoni. Sometimes she values freedom over pepperoni, and then she’s magically deaf. She has figured out how to put on her own harness if I hold it up, because she likes going for walks. She sticks her head in and threads her own leg through the loop. I don’t think I could have “trained” her to do that in a thousand years.

People find it annoying that she doesn’t sit on command, but I take a certain smug satisfaction in watching them try to make her do it. HA GOOD LUCK. I don’t care if she doesn’t sit on command. Or roll, or fetch, or whatever. I just don’t. It’s not even a little important to me. All I care about is that she stops – every single time, dead in her tracks – if I yell “NO!” (No don’t eat that, no don’t run over there, no don’t chew on that dog, no don’t eat that tennis ball/acorn/coyote poop.) That’s the only thing I really need her to do, for her own safety, and she is flawless on “NO!” so we’re good. Everything else, meh. I admire people who have figured out how to communicate and collaborate with their Shibas, like Elee and that one novice owner who is getting all those agility championships. But Kit and I aren’t that ambitious.

Also, I might have found it devilish that she managed to completely remove the wainscoting from the front door when I left her uncrated in the apartment on a teaching day, if I hadn’t been so impressed. I’m lucky as hell that she didn’t tunnel straight through the drywall. I hate keeping her crated for so long (it’s like six solid hours) so I’ve been trying to get her used to being on her own and not in her crate, and she is getting better at it, but I currently have a door frame propped up against the wall in two parts, because somehow my wee little dog managed to pull two lengths of 7 feet by three inches timber off the wall.

TMS:

Heh. Life with a Shiba.

It was such a culture shock when we got Shassi – we were accustomed to dogs that basically lived to please. Shassi was… something new.

Sarah:

LOL! Yeah, I actually think there’s a lot to be said for Shibas being BETTER for first-time dog owners than experienced dog owners, which is the opposite of the standard lore on the matter. If I’d been used to a yes-dog, Kit might have been harder to accept. But she’s my first, so wasn’t really bothered. I didn’t have any pre-formed expectations in particular, I just learned what to expect from her as we got to know each other. And vice-versa, I’m sure. Her show owner was a lot stricter about food and heeling on walks. Kit used to walk loose-leash picture-perfect on my left, but she figured out that I’m a pushover 75% of the time pretty quickly.

TMS: 

You see, I’d be afraid that a first-time owner would be overwhelmed by a Shiba, but maybe you’re right. After a Shiba, other breeds would seem pretty tame.

Maybe it’s because we feel that it takes more to love a Shiba than another breed that’s easier to own and we’re forever terrified that by recommending Shibas as a good dog to try that we could be setting one up for abandonment.

But that doesn’t make sense. “Good” dogs are abandoned every day.

Sarah

For real. If a first-time owner has expectations based on fantasy, they would definitely get a buttshock when it came to reality. Same is probably true of most first-time owners of any breed, though. Kit only chews on her bones (and one rare time, a particularly odorous ballet slipper, she couldn’t resist the smell of foot), I gather from other friends with dogs that most dogs will chew freaking ANYTHING.

I have a neighbor with a medium sized mix (something fluffy and short) and I walked that dog while he was laid up with hip surgery. It was startlingly easy. I’m so used to Kit asserting herself vigorously that I kept thinking the dog must be depressed. He just didn’t show much interest in doing anything than walking right at my side.

You’re absolutely right. Good dogs are abandoned every day, and I hate to think that there are Shibas that won’t get homes (from shelters or rescue or retirement or whatever) because they’ve been depicted BY SHIBA OWNERS as the worst possible dog in the entire world.

When I told my mother I was getting a Shiba she googled when we got off the phone and then called me back and said she didn’t want me to get Kit, she wanted me – and I quote here – to “get a dog that will love you back.” That is the impression she got of the breed from searching about them online. That they are not loving, that they are aloof and obstinate and a pain in the ass. And she tried to talk me out of Kit. And I insisted on getting Kit, because I had met her and I just knew we were going to be soulmates. I will be gutted as fuck when she dies, but I wouldn’t give her up for anything. She was the best decision I ever made.

TMS: 

Yeah, I can get frustrated with people, but in the end, I want us Shiba people and us dog people to realize that we are mostly on the same side. We have to work towards the goals we all share and keep arguing about the ones we don’t in ways that facilitate learning instead of shutting it down.

Sarah:

Absolutely! I’d love to see the active Shiba forums become more supportive, encouraging, and positive. And I’d love to see more people interested in rescue and in supporting conscientious breeders. Without being shitmonkeys. Some crapnoodle on the forums said Kit should have never been born/bred because I thought she might be having seasonal allergies. I would have cheerfully punched her in the face if she’d said that to me in person. But that’s also just the internet being dire.

Thank you, Sarah!  (and thank you, Kit, for inspiring your person!)  

Kit was bred by Goldkress Shibas. To quote Sarah:

Lonita Kress is (IMO) a wonderful and responsible breeder who is passionate about the happiness and health of her dogs. She does not breed pets, she does 1-2 planned breedings per year and very occasionally has an adult who is retiring or a puppy who isn’t going to a colleague/show owner and is available for a pet home. I credit her for Kit being so affectionate and cuddly and loving, she gives her dogs a ton of love and affection and it shows in all of their temperaments. They’re all absolute people persons.

Do you think that Shiba owners are overly negative about their dogs?  Talk about it here or on Facebook.