Shiba Survey

If you want to put in your 2 cents about your Shiba’s behaviour and temperament, head on over to The Misadventures of a Shiba Inu and take the surveys.

Part I: Basic Information
Part II: Training and Socialization
Part III: Care (coming soon!)

If you’re looking for information on how to get two Shibas to get along, check out this blog; there is a lot of information about how Loki and Jujube’s owner deals with having two Shibas, dominance issues and training.

C-BARQ: Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire

cbarq

C-BARQ is a series of questions that are designed to evaluate your dog’s behaviour.  It’s interesting, but I find that it is somewhat imprecise.  Tierce was red-flagged on areas where I think he’s pretty much normal.  He’s never threatened to bite or snap at a stranger of any age, but he is nervous around small, erratic children.  His energy is pretty much normal to me – off the charts.  Of course, right now, he’s not living up to that rating:

cloak-005

Oh well; any online test isn’t guaranteed, right?  You can find C-BARQ here.

A Warning

tiercesnarlI had a wake-up call a couple of days ago.  It’s hard to get it down here, because I feel so utterly ashamed of myself.

We have friends who own a pit bull.  “Buddy” is a lovely example of the breed; happy and friendly with people, but also with the single-minded intensity and dominance around other dogs that are hallmarks of the breed.  Despite this, he has had amicable relations with other dogs, so we thought he and Tierce should meet.

Buddy and his owners came around the corner of the house.  We were outside, because we thought it would be easier than in the house.  I brought Tierce forward on the lead to let them sniff noses.  Tierce was excited and went directly to Buddy… and Buddy grabbed him by the ear and Would. Not. Let. Go.  Tierce started SCREAMING and thrashing.  Luckily, Buddy’s owners were right on both the dogs and held them down so Buddy couldn’t shake his head and Tierce couldn’t thrash about too much.

At this point, I’m ashamed to say that I completely freaked out and could do nothing but alternately cry and scream, “Oh my God!”.  I couldn’t see how much damage Buddy was doing.  I couldn’t get in there because it would have made things more complicated, meaning worse, since Buddy’s owners were already in there and getting him to open his jaws.  Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done if I had been alone and I don’t want to know, because I broke down so completely.

They separated the two dogs and took Buddy to the car, while I got Tierce into the house. I was freaking out, my boyfriend was frozen with horror, my friends’ kids were hysterical and terrified that Buddy was going to be taken away or put down, and my friends had each been bitten by Tierce while he was freaking out from the terror and pain.

Amazingly enough, Tierce did not have a scratch on him.  It had been a warning.

But what a warning!  I was thinking of Bella, who is still at large.  I was thinking of all the pictures that I’ve seen of pit bull attacks.  Despite the fact that Buddy is a well-socialized, well-trained dog, he still took a long time (it probably was maybe 45 seconds to a minute) to let go and one of my friends had to stick his fingers down the dog’s throat to do it.

At this point, I would like to emphasize that this is NOT an anti-pit-bull post!  This was a huge human error on both sides.

Above all, I am kicking myself for not foreseeing this and protecting Tierce.  Buddy is a great dog, but he is a pit bull who has been attacked by other dogs before – it’s not strange that he would be on the defensive.  And, for an ABPT, defensive is usually a really, Really, REALLY good offensive. APBT have been bred for generations to fight other dogs and are very, very good at it.

Thank Dog my friends took the time to train and socialize him.  Thank Dog they were on the ball.  In the end, Buddy was a true APBT.  The only injuries that occurred were from Tierce and I’m going to give him a pass on that because he was hurting and scared.  Buddy never bit or threatened to bite his humans.  However, he would have severely injured or killed Tierce if things had not gone the way they did.

After this horrorfest, we got Tierce calmed down, Buddy calmed down and the kids calmed down.  After a visit from his “mom”, Buddy was a happy dog again.  Tierce was happy after I had the kids feed him a huge slab of turkey.  We dressed the wounds that Tierce made and spent a reasonably relaxed hour visiting… “So, anyway, how ya been?”

We also discussed the situation and came to the following conclusions:

Mistakes:

– Expecting Buddy and Tierce to get along because we wanted them to.  This was a big one, because we relaxed our guard around two male dogs, one an APBT and one an intact Shiba.

– Introducing the dogs near the house.  That was Tierce’s territory.  Out in the street or even farther would have been better.

– Bringing Buddy around the corner of the house to meet Tierce.  Surprising a dog with the presence of another dog is not always the best idea.  We would have done better to go out in the open where they could have seen each other coming.

– Letting Tierce come up to Buddy right away.  Keeping them separated to see their reactions could have clued us in to the fact that this was a Bad Idea.

– Not acknowledging the fact that Tierce is a very dominant dog and therefore is likely to approach other dogs in a dominant, in-your-face way.  Not something a male dog, especially a male APBT, is likely to take in good part.

– Forgetting that dogs often make decisions based on smell or minute behaviour that humans can’t easily detect.  Tierce’s entire demeanor up to the instant that Buddy grabbed him was, “Who the fuck are YOU?”  Buddy probably had figured that Tierce was going to try to take a chunk out of him well before Tierce came within touching distance.

I am heartily ashamed of myself for not stopping to think.  I could have easily cost Tierce his life or his left ear.   As it was, neither dog was hurt and the humans will recover.  I think my friends were scared – Buddy had never done that before.  I’m guessing he made the decision, after he was attacked by a loose Labrador, that a pre-emptive strike was best.

This was also an excellent lesson on the kind of responsibility that goes with the ownership of an APBT.  Buddy’s owners were prepared to deal with him and did not hesitate to act when things went south.  This is the kind of owner that a pit bull needs.  Buddy is a good dog who has a great temperament and who is owned by knowledgeable, prepared owners.  However, this great temperament is directed at people.  Dogs are a completely different ballgame, as we learned that day.  This incident proved that even the best owners can be blindsided by their dog; fortunately, Buddy’s owners acted immediately and saved Tierce from permanent damage.

Of course, if Tierce had been someone else’s dog, they could have easily blamed Buddy for the incident, because he is a pit bull.  It wasn’t Buddy’s fault. It was our fault, for not recognizing our dogs’ limitations and stress thresholds.  Unfortunately, since Buddy is a pit bull, the onus tends to be on his owners to prove that he didn’t start a fight or that the fight was the natural result of dog-to-dog dominance and not he’s-a-pit-bull-and-they-are-all-vicious-uncontrollable-dogs-that-should-be-killed.

In retrospect, Buddy acted exactly like a typical dog of his sex, age and breed would have acted.  In fact, given what we know about APBT, it was odd that a male pit bull in the prime of life, possessing all the speed and power gifted to his breed, latched on to Tierce and did not leave a single toothmark.  Maybe it was luck or maybe Tierce was very lucky that Buddy was socialized with other dogs in his youth and did not immediately go for a killing hold.

Repeat after me.  Dogs are not people.  Just because a dog gets along with people, does not mean s/he will get along with other dogs.  Shibas are very smart about a lot of things, but their comprehension of their size and fighting power is grossly exaggerated.  Shibas are little shits who will take a shaky situation and make it worse if they possibly can.  Despite the fact that Shibas are little shits, it’s the owner’s full responsibility to make sure they don’t pay the price for being said little shits.

So, if you have a dominant Shiba, be very careful about their attitude towards other dogs.  A Shiba that is extremely submissive may not have the problems that were brought up by my experience, but then again, I have never met a Shiba that didn’t think it owned the world.  If you want to introduce your dog to your friend’s dog, stop and think:

-am I prepared to cancel the physical meeting of the dogs if I think that they are not reacting to each other well at any point?  I ignored my inner warning voice because I wanted the dogs to get along.

-is my dog really good with other dogs?

-is my friend’s dog good with other dogs?

-is there any history that might indicate that the dogs may not get along or may start to grate on one another?

-are the dogs stressed at all?

-am I choosing a neutral venue that allows the dogs plenty of time to see and evaluate each other before physically meeting?

-if there is a fight, am I prepared to deal with it?  Can I break up a fight if it happens? (this is a big one for me; I learned that I need to know what to do if this (DOG FORBID) ever happens again, instead of standing around like a useless, screaming git.)

In the end, this was a relatively minor incident that ended as well as such incidents can.  I didn’t blame Buddy for being what he was.  I didn’t blame his owners; I was just as much at fault for not seeing the pawprints on the wall.  They didn’t blame me or Tierce.  While we were shaken up and frightened at what could have happened, what could have happened didn’t.  It was human error, not canine viciousness and I daresay that Buddy’s owners learned as much as I did about their dog’s abilities and limitations.

I just hope that this story will encourage people with dominant dogs to take things slowly when introducing their dogs to other dogs and keep their dogs away if there are any signs that things will not or are not going well.

Tierce the Shiba ambassador to veterinary clinics everywhere

Vet and staff: Oh, no, another Shiba!

Tierce: Doo-de-doody-doo… hey, cheese!

Me: Yeah, the vet’s office is a WONDERFUL place, isn’t it?

Staff: He’s friendly?!

Vet: I don’t have to muzzle him?!

Tierce: I get to eat hamburger!

Me: What kind of Shibas have come in here before?

Vet and Staff: Neurotic fear-biters.

Me: Oookaaay…..

Vet: Okay, now I’m going to check him out.

Tierce: What are you doing?

Vet: Listening to your heart.

Tierce: Oh. Mmm… this is the expensive stuff from the top fridge shelf, isn’t it?

Me: Yes. Don’t tell Mischa; he’d flip.

Tierce: Don’t worry, I won’t. Yum.

Vet: Aaaaand… check your temperature…

Tierce: Hey! That’s a private area!

Me: Cheese!

Tierce: Yay!

Vet: Okay, can we check your teeth?

Me: Okay, Tierce, we’re going to check your teeth!

Tierce: Do I get cheese?

Me: Absolutely; just show the nice doctor your pearly whites.

Vet: Looks really good, except for the hamburger stuck between them.

Tierce: I’m working on it, okay?

Vet: Time for a shot… can you hold him?

Tierce: What’s she doin-

Me: Cheese!

Tierce: Yay!

Vet: Just a little pinch…

Tierce: What’s that?

Me: Cheese!

Tierce: Yay!

Vet: Okay, he’s good to go. This really is the friendliest, best behaved Shiba I’ve ever seen.

Me: Me too. It’s the magic of animal food products.

Call for Help from the Shibasphere

I got this email a few days ago and, while you’ll see my deathless wisdom *pause for laughter* below, I’m thinking that the people who read this blog might have some good advice to offer Jessica:

I hope you don’t mind if I ask your advice/opinion on my Shiba….

I adopted him from a dog rescue in June. The vet estimates that he is around 5 years old. Some problems have surfaced since he came to live with us. First, he is the only dog I have ever met that has absolutely no problem sleeping in a pool of his own piss in his crate. He doesn’t mind going in at all. I shut the door. He looks up at me with an expressionless face, squats, and pees the most ridiculous river of urine imaginable, not once breaking eye contact with me. At first I thought “Hmn, maybe he’s doing this because he knows I am going to let him out so i can clean it up” and that this was just a plea for attention…. But lo and behold, whether I clean it or let him stew in it, he never fails to leave a pee puddle in his kennel. His crate is the perfect size for him- just enough room to lay, turn, stand, etc. I’ve tried plastic crates and I’ve tried wire crates… I’ve tried lots of bedding and no bedding at all. He goes outside before and after crating (where he finds a spot to lay down like a goat and stare at me blankly). So he gets ample opportunity to pee outside…. He’s been crated in my bedroom where he can see me, and he’s been crated in the dog room, where the other dogs are crated. Location seems to make no difference. In fact, NOTHING seems to make a difference. I really feel like he holds it all day long, just waiting to piss in the crate.

So aside from the peeing, he constantly C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-L-Y is pacing. Circles, circles, circles, allllllll day long. Will not sit still. Not even a little bit. My vet seems to think he has an anxiety problem. She’s prescribed doggy-prozac for him. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. I thought the peeing and the pacing could maybe be a side effect of some kind of health problem but two vets later and full blood panels, he is in perfect health. There’s nothing medically wrong with him that could be causing the urination in the crate.

He seems fearful of the most ridiculous things…. Little noises, movement, someone walking by him…. He’s ran headfirst into walls trying to get out of the way of someone walking by him. He scrambles away like his tail is on fire if anything rubs him the wrong way.

And the strangest thing ever? I can take him to dog shows, pet conventions, noisy pet stores, and he LOVES IT. No anxiety. No pacing. Relaxed. Mellow. WTF??! Like a perfect angel. And everyone comments on how well-behaved and precious and stately he looks. And he just sits there with his little Shiba-smirk while they go on and on about how good a dog he is….. And then the minute we get home its RUN FOR YOUR LIFE — SOMEONE’S GONNA EAT ME!!!!

I love this dog. He’s hilarious, sweet, and endearing… But really… I do NOT understand where he comes up with this stuff… I’ve been a dog lover all my life… I’ve had jack russels, shih tzus, american bulldogs, springer spaniels, and I breed Miniature Pinschers (which up until now I thought were the most hard-to-decode dogs there were). This Shiba is the most quirky creature I’ve ever encountered. How much of this is normal?? Its really the peeing in the crate thing that baffles me more than anything.

So.. I hope you don’t mind… But…. help?

And here’s my reply:

“Wow… that’s so unusual – normally a Shiba is fanatically clean! I’ve heard that some pet store pups have a similar problem, being literally forced to live in their waste. Puppymill dogs are also notoriously inbred/insane and you might be dealing with one. Your next step might best be to contact an animal behaviourist.

Do you mind if I post this on my Shibalog? Maybe some of the people who read it will have more insight into this.”

Jessica’s response was, obviously, yes, so here we are. Any thoughts?

Shassi and Tierce love Violent Acres

Well, Shassi and Tierce couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Violent Acres. But I do. The latest posts that V has written concern how to train children to behave. It’s excellent reading on directing positive and negative reinforcement to effectively modify behaviour. In fact, it’s very close to clicker training, which is a very effective behaviour modification technique.

Training children to behave on cue

Effective Negative Reinforcement

Effective Positive Reinforcement

The last is, I believe, the best of the three. Shiba owners will find a lot of effective strategies here. First, set the puppy up to succeed. If circumstances are such that he can’t do anything but engage in a desired behaviour, he will develop that into a habit. Incompatible behaviour training is effective in situations like meeting people – if the dog is taught to sit for a treat, then taught that all strangers feed him, he will automatically sit when he meets a stranger. Enthusiastically praise, to the point of absurdity and beyond, a behaviour that you want to reinforce.

And check out the rest of Violent Acres.

Do I say “Hi” to you with a baseball bat?

He Just Wants To Say “Hi”!

The above is one of the best articles on dog behaviour that I have ever read. It ties in to both the Shiba temperament subject and my pet peeve about dogs who are allowed to run up to mine.

A lot of owners are oblivious or just plain stupid when it comes to their dogs running up to others. They think that just because there is no fight starting immediately that their dog is “just being friendly” when, in fact, he is creating the potential for a severe backlash.

Clothier provided an excellent analogy in the above article, but let me provide another.

I’m walking down a city street and notice a big man staring at me. Without warning, he starts running towards me and nearly knocks me over. He then starts feeling me up and asking personal questions. When I kick him in the nuts and follow it up with a boot to the head, he starts screaming that he’s going to call the police and charge me with assault.

Sound fucked up? But that is exactly what thousands of fucking assholes are doing to responsible dog owners every day. The implication is that they can allow their dog to run up to yours and jump all over him, but if there’s a fight it’s your dog’s fault because their dog was “just being friendly”. For variety, there’s the OMG!thishasneverhappenedbefore! breed of idiot haunting city streets and pathways.

I also love how morons with their dogs on Flexi-leads allow their dogs to pull them over to my dog so that the dog can jump all over him. It smacks of the dog telling its owners what to do and the owners allowing a potentially dominant dog to get into my dog’s face. It’s like somehow things are okay because the dog was the one initiating contact. Never mind that I might be holding my dog close by my side so that we can pass by in peace.

Tierce is friendly with most other dogs. I like to have him meet other dogs regularly. On my terms. I don’t like it when someone else assumes that he is fresh meat for their dog to jump on. I know Tierce and I know that he’s a dominant little sumbitch. Therefore, I like to initiate how far and fast he gets into other dogs’ faces because he will jump all over them and paw at their eyes and nibble on their ears. Not a good thing with the wrong dog.

Tierce also is figuring out that I will not allow him to dictate where we go and what he does. Because I’m the Alpha and I say whether he gets to meet that dog or run over to that person. Poor little guy never gets to have any fun.

You can touch this one!

How are Shibas seen in your area? Good? Bad? Indifferent? What the hell is that thar dog?

Today, Tierce and I decided to drop into a local doggy daycare to check out what they had for sale. While I was there, the staff exclaimed over the fact that Tierce was friendly and pettable. They told me that the one Shiba they took care of needed to be lassoed in order to take her for a walk and didn’t like to be touched at any time. Seven months ago, my veterinarian said that Tierce might well be the only Shiba she doesn’t have to muzzle. Even people at the school where Tierce goes for socialization have remarked that Shibas are snappy around children.

The truth is that members of our breed, when they are not bred and raised responsibly, are nasty little creatures. We’re starting with a dog that, even when it is healthy and well-adjusted, is naturally dominant, high-strung and independent. Bred without care and raised without structure, a Shiba will evolve into a canine Vlad Ţepeş.

I blame Shiba owners for the breed’s bad reputation. They are not doing their jobs. What every Shiba owner has control over is the structure that they provide and enforce. Yes, yes, I know – sometimes people acquire Shibas that have less-than-stellar origins over which they and the Shiba have no control. That still doesn’t preclude them from starting and maintaining control over their Shiba’s behaviour.

Insisting that your dog behave politely towards other people and not immediately try to kill other animals is not just good for you and your dog. It also helps pave the way for the Shiba breed in other situations. Breed prejudice has long been considered the problem of Pit Bull people and Rottweiler fanciers, but it can work against any breed not considered “nice”. Some people will refuse to rent to people who own certain breeds of dog or refuse to interact with them without a muzzle. This is not how we want the Shiba inu to be reacted to!

Little dogs are often perceived as less dangerous than big ones, and that causes some people to treat their little dog’s aggression/dominance as not serious. Every person who has had to deal with a little dog who refuses to be touched, groomed or let someone take items away can attest to this fallacy. While a little dog may not be capable of the sheer damage of a large one, it is still capable of inflicting severe wounds and, in the case of small children, even death.

Things every Shiba should be informed of:

1. Nothing in life is free.

2. Children are living hot dog dispensers provided that you sit quietly.

3. Vets are actually kind people who dispense cheese (most veterinarians encourage you to bring your dog around for random treats so that they associate the vet’s office with cheddar rather than shots).

4. Your food/toys/leash/collar/brushes are not your property and you will not treat them as such.

5. Your nails will be clipped. Your ears will be cleaned. Your fur and teeth will be brushed. You will sit/stand/lie quietly and not bite the brush or the hand that wields it. This is not negotiable. You may pout.

6. At no time will you ever growl/snarl/snap/bite at your owner or any person who is put in charge of you.

7. Lunging and trying to kill other animals upon sighting them is not in your best interests.

It’s all very well to say “this is bad and don’t let Shibas do this”, but how do you correct them when they step out of line? Thoughts on this will be chronicled in a future post.

Shibas in love

Today was our introduction to Beginners obedience. No dogs; our trainer just went over the concepts/purpose/schedule and gave us our first week’s homework. Along the way, she stated that “dogs don’t love”. In other words, she believes that dogs don’t have human emotions as we see it and that they operate on “what behaviour will get me what I want”.

When I was in the sixth grade, I had a teacher who insisted that dogs were stupid and that if he fed and was kind to my dog, Buddy, that Buddy would follow him around just like me. When I disagreed, he sneered “Don’t be naive!” By the way, Mr. Prentice, it’s been nineteen years and I hope you are or will be in a nursing home somewhere, being indifferently cared for by light-fingered nurses.

For me, the idea that dogs can’t love like humans is rather painful but makes sense. Kind of like my attitude towards higher powers, an afterlife and the supernatural – it would be really cool if it did exist and I really wish it did, but I really don’t have any evidence that it does. Then I get depressed, wondering why I keep a dog, especially a Shiba, who probably wouldn’t fake giving a shit even if he could.

One issue is that people need for things in their lives to have meaning. We can’t just accept the fact that a dog may not care about us the way we care about him/her. We have to have some perceived return on the investment that we make in loving our dogs. Which, for a Shiba owner, can be very, very difficult when the dog is throwing a full-scale temper tantrum at the mere hint of attaching a leash to his collar. Or ignoring you after you walk in the door without a slab of beefsteak in one hand.

I have come to the conclusion that Shassi and Tierce probably don’t remotely give a shit about me like I do about them. They would happily go on with their lives as long as they ate, got walked, slept (Shassi) and occasionally (Tierce) had a toy to chew on.

Should it matter whether a dog loves you? It is a human choice to bring in another animal to the family circle and it has to be a human realization that the animal won’t value what humans do. I believe that you can (and should) teach your Shiba to respect the things you wish them to respect, but expecting them to value you like you value them is unreasonable.

But it would be nice if it was true.