They’re not all like that, continued

Continued from last Friday:

Tierce Cartoon Sitting, Looking Up & Cocking Head

Yeah, this is all about me. And why shouldn't it be?

I still have to keep from automatically launching into my spiel when people say that they want a dog like Tierce.  Because I don’t think I’m normal and maybe Tierce is the ideal dog for my circumstances because I shaped him that way and was aware of his needs.  As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, via Sherlock Holmes:

“My line of thoughts about dogs is analogous. A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones. And their passing moods may reflect the passing moods of others.”

The problem of putting this all at my door, or at Susan’s, is that I have adapted to owning Shibas just as much as Tierce has adapted to me.  For me, it’s second nature to waggle my leg in front of an opening door to confuzzle a Shiba hoping to escape.  Dominance is automatically met with the appropriate equivalent of You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”.  He gets out for several walks a day and I take him running and geocaching and to the dog park for heartier exercise.  I accept that I may never be able to let him off leash without doing a complex algorhythm in my mind, calculating the likelihood of other dogs or prey animals being nearby.

This is why I temper my raving about how awesome he is around the artlessly enthusiastic.  I know that without the complicated calculation that is great breeders, preparation, education, financial stability, the right attitude needed to effect change without breaking the dog’s spirit, time and the help of friends and family, Tierce would not be the awesome dog that he is.

For Shibas everywhere, that scares me, simply because I know the fickleness of the general population when it comes to dogs.  They don’t often look beyond the surface of a dog attack or breeds considered “snappy”, “fear-biters”, “bad with kids”, “horrible at the vets”, etc.  Thus, when people breed and raise Shibas irresponsibly, there’s the risk of people shrugging off unusual aggression or fear in a Shiba as ‘oh, that’s just how they are’.  No, we need people to say to themselves, “Well all the Shibas I know are great little dogs.  What’s wrong with that one?”

Understanding that dogs are individuals, affected by heredity and environment just as people are is, to my mind, one of the first steps to approaching dog ownership as a human responsibility, rather than something that can be determined or regulated by a dog’s breed or physical appearance.

Yes, HE’s great, but they’re not all like that!

Shassi Puppy Cartoon

Look! A random cartoonized picture of Shassi I did in Photoshop and put on this blog for no other reason than that you should see it! To connect it with this post, I will say now that Shassi was NOT an easy dog to own. Not at first.

I have a confession to make.  Tierce is really the easiest dog to own ever.  He’s miles ahead of Shassi in that respect.  Actually, the difference between him and Shassi is more like the difference between a sociopath and the average jock.

For a Shiba, Tierce is a good size.  Solid.  He’s gregarious, especially with people he knows.  He (now) doesn’t have a problem with most dogs.  He comes when he’s called and the odds that he’ll do it when distractions are present is steadily increasing (still dependent on the tangible laden threat in my voice).

As I’ve said before (or intimated), Shassi had a brain she used for evil.  I’ve enumerated the many ways she would manage to get out of the house, teach me to take nothing for granted, etc.  She is the dog that made me believe that, if there was a god, Shibas were the manifestation of the phrase, “Hubris is a sin!”.  She is also the dog that spawned TMS, because so many people would not believe that owning a Shiba was a serious exercise in humility.

But let’s compare the two:

***

Shassi:  Wailed for three nights straight until I gave up and let her sleep on the bed with me.

Tierce:  Went to sleep in his crate the first night and every night with no lonesome wails at all.

***

Shassi:  Took off at every opportunity

Tierce:  Can be bargained with.  Usually.

***

Shassi:  Separation anxiety when not in ‘her’ home, ‘her’ car, ‘her’ territory.

Tierce:  Could be happily plunked just about anywhere.  Does not flinch at loud sounds (like SCA heavy fighting), does not care where he is as long as he’s fed, walked and paid attention to when he wants.

***

Shassi:  Hated every dog she met outside of puppyhood, with very few exceptions (usually dogs she had repeated exposure to over a number of months).  Spaying did not fix this.

Tierce:  Was a macho pain in the ass until I had him neutered.  Now he is a regular at the dog park and I don’t act all squirrelly if another dog runs up to him (although on principle I want to throttle the owners who blithely call, “He’s friendly!”).

***

Shassi:  The number of times she would return at my call could be numbered on one of my hands, even if I should by accident lose two of my fingers.

Tierce:  Recalls are good.  Other dogs or prey animals blunt this to a great degree, but there’s hope there.

***

Shassi:  Never aggressive towards people.  Flashed teeth once, maybe, and a good scruff shake cured her of that.

Tierce:  Required a complete overhaul of his schedule to deal with his dominance aggression.  After the age of a year (and NILIF, a series of obedience classes and the intelligence that if he ever flashed his teeth at me or anyone else again, he could expect to spend the rest of his life hunting for them – one of the many reasons that I advocate positive training most of the time; it makes even mild negative reinforcement much more impressive and required much less often) he has never shown unprovoked aggression towards another person.  Even when he got his leg caught in the park bench, he allowed complete strangers to extricate him, even though he was in pain and scared.

***

Shassi:  Extremely good with children.  This, I attribute to early socialization and frequent trips to the playground at the end of the street.

Tierce:  Somewhat nervous around smaller children who don’t show complete confidence around him and will sometimes bark at them, despite frequent trips to the nearby elementary school.  Likes my friends’ kids/grandkids who he was raised with.

***

Tierce: 5 points in his favour

Shassi: 2 points in her favour

Now I know that a lot of Tierce’s virtues can be laid at Susan’s door (Tierce technically has a different breeder, but Susan bred his line), because she has taken pains to breed Shibas that are a little more in touch with the human world.  (When I was hunting for a male Shiba puppy we visited her to chat and my jaw dropped open when more than one Shiba came to the fence and wagged its tail.)  And, yes, Mischa and I have a LOT to do with how Tierce acts.  I am childfree and my job allows me a lot of freedom to spend time with him.  Mischa works at home now, so Tierce rarely needs a dog walker.  We spoil Tierce, but he knows where the line is and that crossing it is B-A-D.

But he’s so easy to live with – he can be warned away from the door when it opens, he is great in other people’s homes, he is a great companion when I go walking or running, he is reasonably friendly with people and other dogs – in short, he’s as close to ideal as I think a Shiba can ever come.

Continued next week.

“Hachi” is coming out soon… and K9 Solutions has a mission for you!

Calling ALL dog lovers!

In honour of the effort by concerned dog lovers, I present to you these wonderful shirts, which I have made to aid people looking to educate others about the Shiba Inu.  No, I’m not for blindly urging people not to get Shibas, especially if they sound like people who are prepared for the kind of ‘interesting life’ owning a Shiba will give them.  However, I think the statement will provoke conversations which, if people are polite and informative, could lead the way for education about Shibas and responsible dog buying in general.  K9 Solutions has links to flyers that you can give people if they want some more information.

No Buy Shiba Cafepress Store

No Buy Shiba Value T-Shirt

No Buy Shiba Value T-Shirt

No Buy Shiba Dark T-Shirt

No Buy Shiba Dark T-Shirt

These shirts come in other styles and colors.  There are also mugs, stickers and buttons.  By purchasing these items, you will both put yourself in the position to educate people about the Shiba (and Akita) and fund Tierce’s beef stick chewing ambitions.

Ideal Houseguest

Tomorrow, Mischa, Tierce and I are heading up to Courtenay, BC for a housewarming party. Well, Mischa and Tierce are heading up in the car and I’m cycling it. To make a long story short, I’m crazy and have been cycling long distances for a number of years. And it’s going to be nice out tomorrow.

I was thinking about Tierce and the fact that we have managed to bring him along to so many friends’ places. He is not obedient, he’s still a chewer, we have to keep an eye on him in strange homes so that he doesn’t blithely mark in the house and, while we managed to wrest a second dog out of him a while back, still sheds a good deal of hair. Well, it’s not so amazing that we managed to bring him to so many friends’ places; it’s that we managed to bring him more than once.

The key, of course, is that a) we never assume that Tierce is welcome without specific inquiry and b) we take exquisite care that he is properly exercised, fed, confined and entertained. His parasite prevention is kept up-to-date. His exercise pen and crate are standard equipment for an overnight jaunt – they provide a safe, familiar environment for him to stay. I also make a special effort to take him for a good walk and/or a place where he can safely run his little heart out. Tired puppy = quiet, happy guest puppy. We also are very aware of his abilities and limitations and take those into account

I truly appreciate our friends’ indulgence in permitting Tierce to accompany us to their homes and feel that the only way to return such a favour is to ensure that his deportment is nothing less than impeccable. Tierce is still a long way off from being a model puppy, so his deportment is largely dependent on his confinement and supervision.

It surprises me when other dog owners don’t take these kinds of things as a matter of course. It seems that people’s sense of entitlement extends past their overfed and underdisciplined spawn to their overfed and underdisciplined dogs. To my surprise, there have been stories surfacing of late that involve people bringing their dogs to places and events without ascertaining whether the dog was welcome. Some of these incidents have resulted in remarkably non-dog-friendly reviews of the situation. I like to reserve my disdain for stupid, selfish people, not people who happen to love their dogs – some people actually have a sense of limits.

Things we take when Tierce visits:

1) Crate
2) Exercise Pen
3) Dishes
4) Food
5) Kong – silent toy that can be stuffed with treats
6) Flexi and 6 foot leads

If we were visiting off-Island, I would also take copies of his vaccination records, veterinarian records, Canadian Kennel Club papers, identification (he’s microchipped, so that has to be noted), recent photos and grooming supplies. Just in case.