The Double Standard

TMS Note:  This is a guest post by Christine, of I Am Shiba.  One of the long-standing Shiba blogs on the Internet, I Am Shiba chronicled the adventures of Cortez Squirrelsbane Shiba-san and his friends.  RIP Cortez.  We love you and miss you, even though we never met you in the fur.  

Christine has made some excellent points in her post that I think deserve some extra attention.  This post has been reproduced from the author’s Facebook page with permission and nothing has been altered.

Shibas facing each other, negative image

Recently, a Shiba was attacked by a pit bull like dog. This is not an uncommon occurance; Cortez had two amazing battles against pit bull like dogs and somehow pulled through with some hair loss, a few scratches, and sheer luck. The other dog was not so lucky and his vet costs will be substantial. The owner also got hurt during the battle, trying to save her dog. I pray that all dogs are up to date on their shots (mainly rabies) because the treatment for rabies, while not as bad as it used to be, is still not a fun process. I have my own beliefs regarding how dog fights should be handled- whether they are in a dog park, if one dog gets loose and picks a fight, if the owners are around and not intervening, etc. There are a number of different scenarios where people get faced with the battle of Buck vs. Spitz. I am not a proponent of the “one bite” law; in most cases, I believe if skin is broken and the bite happens outside of play, the risk of future injuries outweighs the benefits of giving a dog a second chance. While there may never be a second opportunity for the dog to bite someone or another dog, is it worth the risk?

Recently, there was a picture posted of a small child grabbing a Shiba and literally smashing this Shiba’s face up against her own. At the same time, there was an adult behind the Shiba who had her hand on the Shiba’s head. Several people commented that this picture was “sooooo cute”; I, on the other hand, had to restraining myself from screaming, could you have set up a potential biting scenario any better? People might claim, well, there was an adult there supervising (as evidenced by the adult petting the Shiba while the young child was embracing the same dog) but we are talking about the face of the Shiba smashed right up against this small child’s face (the child was age 2 or under). This is not a cute photograph. This is a child who is not being taught (yes, children can learn at a very young age) how to appropriately behave around a dog, this is an adult that doesn’t give a damn (as evidenced by the picture of said cuteness) while the child is moving into a very dangerous situation, and this is a Shiba that if frightened or stressed, has no choice but to resort to the highest level of escape- fight to back out and get away.

Many people have posted about how their Shibas have escaped while being under their control; I am one of those people (Cruise is very adept at squeezing through the smallest of holes and shouting out the cry of Scottish pride “Freedom!”) Many people have posted about being bitten by their Shibas. Many people have posted that their Shiba has “Shibatude” with other dogs or that they can not foster because their dog is not “dog friendly.” Many Shibas are identified as not being cuddlers and as “not good with small children.” Many have stated that their dogs can not go to dog parks not because of other dogs, but because their dog does not play well with others. As Shiba owners, it is well understood that the breed is stand-offish in nature, but assertive when it needs to be or aggressive when it desires to be. They are not dogs that are 100% trustworthy unsupervised, but then, no dog or breed really is.

(Here is where I insert the token disclaimer that while the breed behaves in a general manner, there are exceptions to ever rule regarding Shibas and the general idea of what is a Shiba. So, while there are always exceptions to every rule, it still stands that statistically, shit happens and sometimes a Shiba can be knee deep in it).

When a dog attacks another person’s Shiba, people are very quick to blame the other dog and owner- stating that the dog should be put down, the owners fined and responsible for hospital bills, and legal action taken. For the most part, I agree with this. I do not care if the dog is a Golden Retriever or the people are the kindest elderly family in the city; overall, the rule stands that owners are responsible for the actions of their dogs and that dogs should not be bite. However, it is interesting that the following also happens:

– Individuals posting about letting their Shibas run loose
– Individuals posting about having problems with their Shibas running loose and how to make it a more pleasurable experience
– Individuals posting about their Shiba’s ill-mannered behavior toward other dogs and individuals agreeing “that’s it just their nature,”
– Individuals posting about getting bitten by their dog and justifying the bite- or action taken toward the bite is inconclusive
– Individuals posting about how their Shiba biting their child and how to change this behavior

etc.

Every complaint that people have made regarding loose pit bulls rampaging through neighborhoods, have been complaints that people have had about Shibas. And, like the rampaging pit bull, ultimately it is up to the owner to guide and modify the Shibas behavior. But Shiba owners are so quick to forgive their beloved breed of its faults, that they will even donate money to save a Shiba that was proven in a court of law to have bitten and killed an infant- and even blamed the parents for what happened while the dog was obviously an innocent victim.

We are living in a world of contradiction. Pitbulls are vicious mean dogs but if my Shiba shows that behavior, I either need to be “more alpha” or its just Shibatude.

No.

We as Shiba owners are just as responsible for our pets as any other breed. We can not just simply forgive the bad behaviors of our breed or do/encourage behaviors that we call irresponsible by other breed owners when Shibas are notorious for their unpreditable yet intelligent natures. We can’t ask that we train our dogs run loose and then blame other owners when they do the same. We can’t complain when a dog escapes from a yard when ours might do the same. We can’t yell at other owners for ill mannered dogs when we laugh at the antics of our own, and most importantly, we can never accept that biting is an acceptable behavior *and* place our Shibas in situations where its only alternative may be to do just that.

Shibas are an exceptional breed and often the exception to many rules. What works on many dogs as training, does not work on them and while many Shibas may like something, there will always be one or two that will break the rules (perfect example, the cavebed crazy- some like them, some don’t- I am not investing my money until I know that Cruise is 100% in favor of the idea and so far, he has said nothing on the matter). But if we are going to insist that a pit bull be put to sleep for biting, then why do we not insist upon a Shiba being put to sleep for biting? If we are going to hold owners accountable for damages done by a dog, why is it that a community can say, “we will pay to rescue the dog so that the owner can get a boot camp training program”? How is it that we can complain about having loose dogs and then ask for advice on how to have a Shiba run free in the woods or on a walk (the worst dog fight I ever saw happened when two hikers had loose dogs in the woods- and the two loose dogs went right after each other)- and it’s not like Shibas are at all territorial or view the world from a “Mine” perspective (i.e., Mine yard, Mine Street, Mine Woods).

It’s time that we as fanciers, rescuers, and promoters of the breed realize that within the context of what we are posting or doing, we are actually asking for permission or encouraging our dogs to do exactly what we expect other people and dogs for doing. I get mad when at the Vet, they assume that they need a muzzle? Why? Because I believe that first they could and should ask me but more importantly, it means that there are Shibas that they have encountered who required a muzzle- to which I ask, what has the owner and the vet done to make the vet’s office a more positive experience rather than a more restraining, negative one. It’s time that we start stepping forward and realizing that our breed is not perfect, often does have issues of assertion or aggression, and too often, these are ignored- to the danger of the surrounding environment which leaves others to pick up and untrain the dangerous habits. While there is no magic formula on how to make our breed perfect, there are many positive steps: good quality food, calm patient training on the leash, positive exercise and human attention/contact, boundaries, and socialization in non-stressful areas. Most of all, passing on the message and teaching children how to approach and work with dogs who potentially stress out if they have a hang nail or the fur on their tail suddenly feels funny. Let’s make March not just a month of rescue and rehabilitation, but with Old Man Winter leaving, let’s start off this Spring with doing the right thing for our dogs and that is teaching ourselves how to make them better dogs by making the right decisions.