When to take your Shiba out of the dog park.

What’s one place you’re not going to find Tierce this summer? At the dog park. It looks like his tolerance for puppies and ‘paws-on’ dogs there has reached its limit.

Tierce and Tex

Tierce and one of his friends at daycare.

A four-month-old puppy was in the dog park the other evening. Tierce went over and was sniffing her. She started licking Tierce’s face and he lost it on her. Snarling, snapping, pinning her to the ground, screaming imprecations in Canine… it was scary.

We checked the puppy and she did not appear injured, just scared. Information was passed on in case she did have an injury discovered later on. Luckily for us, once the owner realized that we were taking responsibility and the puppy wasn’t hurt, he was mollified. The puppy perked back up a little, but of course she was frightened and it was unpleasant for all concerned.

So, I think it’s time to retire Tierce from the dog parks permanently. He is just become too intolerant of dogs getting into his personal space. Previously, in the dog park, he would snap or snarl if a puppy got too up close and personal – just enough to tell them to get away.

I’ve talked to a bunch of people about this incident and there have been several theories advanced.

One is that face-licking can be viewed as intrusive even if it’s done very submissively. The puppy wasn’t doing anything I would view as ‘rude’ enough to warrant Tierce’s reaction, but I have very little idea what goes through his head at times. I can guess, but in the end, I’m kind of feeling my way.

Several people have mentioned that their Shibas have ‘cut-off’ dates, where their Shibas have up and decided that, nope, the Shiba was no longer open or business with other dogs or certain types of dogs – puppies, ‘rude’ dogs, overly energetic dogs, etc.

This makes sense, based on what I’ve observed with Shassi. After the age of about a year and a half, Shassi hated other dogs, cats, you name it. She warmed up to very few other dogs – Tierce was tolerated at best and threatened with early neutering at worst.

And, of course, there’s simply the Shiba explanation: Tierce is a Shiba and thereby motivated by dark forces to lead me into a false state of complacency and humiliate me at the most inopportune times.

Anyway, this blog post is about when to take your dog out of the dog park. Well, even though he didn’t hurt the puppy and may have been expressing his disapprobation with the puppy being in his personal space, I think that’s way too intolerant for him to be brought back.

I’ve had some experience swallowing my pride over the last nearly-20-years-with-Shibas, so maybe this decision isn’t as hard as it would be otherwise. I don’t want to go, “Oh, he didn’t hurt the puppy, so whatever,” and then have him hurt another dog down the line.

One thing I’m conflicted on: Tierce seems much more at ease on off-leash trails and I’ve never had a problem with him there.  Is it the environment as much as the dog-to-dog interaction?  So far, at daycare, he is doing well, possibly because he is part of the ‘regulars’ and has his friends and is mostly left alone by the younger dogs.

It’s so difficult trying to get into this dog’s head and I’d like to hear people’s opinions on the matter.

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.