Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Curly-tail, pointed-ears: Dog body language

A few months after we brought Zuko home, I was talking with a fellow Shiba owner in the park. We were talking about dog body language and how some dogs seem to spot a Shiba from across the park and instantly hate him or her. Why?

This owner had a theory that dogs with pointed ears and curly tails are sending out on some body language signals that other dogs don't appreciate. I found this great article on dog body language. I thought it was interesting that it showed a pointy-eared dog, so I searched for another one and found this page with some cool diagrams.

Here are my observations though: I have never seen Zuko tuck his tail. Ever. At best, it uncurls a little, but that is in a relaxed state. If he is really in trouble with me and I am projecting "bad dog" energy and using a deep voice, his tail will uncurl a little bit also.  When he was attacked by another dog, his tail wasn't tucked after his butt was handed to him by the bigger dog. He was trembling, giving out the Shiba scream, but the tail was not tucked.

He doesn't wag his tail. Other Shiba owners have referenced this again and again about Shibas and Spitz breeds: the tail doesn't wag and the bottom doesn't wiggle. He only moves his tail for cats and toys and when he goes into a his "play crouch" - front end down, butt in the air. His tail stretches out when he runs - I mean, even a tightly curled tail is effected by the g-forces of a Shiba running! And every now and then I get a slight wag of the tail from him and I get all excited. "Yeah! My puppy loves me!" Of course, it was probably just him passing gas or something but I am going to take it as a tail wag darnnit!

His ears are almost always alert and forward. He's a hunter and curious as heck about the world around him - but, according to typical dog body language, he may be sending the "I'm dominate" message. Or at least not a submissive message. The first article did confirm what I've seen: what they describe for the ear position in the aggression stance is what I've seen him do when another dog runs up to him and is clearly not being friendly. The "guarding stance" - I saw that twice today when people came to the door. I have also never seen the white of his eyes, except on occasion when he's glancing sideways at me to see if I'm watching him.

So - do Shibas (and other Spitz breeds) send off body language signals that they are naturally dominant? Can they not express submission? Just wondering. I'd love to hear other insights.

Oh yeah, "top tuff dog" alright...

--- Posted by Zuko's translator

Friday, April 23, 2010

I iz Pillow Killing Ninja Dog

Pillows are dangerous enemies to dogs. You haz to be careful or they will sneak up on you and attack! I prefer the preemptive strike.

-- Posted by Prince Zuko: Pillow Killing Ninja Dog

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I like this

Of course, this is why mom says I'm not an "off-leash kind of dog" unless the fence is very, very high. And without holes of any kind. What-ever. I'd probably come back for food, sooner or later.

-- Posted by Prince Zuko who has springs in his hind legs

Friday, April 9, 2010

Socialization: Dogs & other Animals

Other Dogs:
After his shots at 16 weeks we immediately went to puppy socials. He was so shy at first! It was amazing to see this little ball of energy suddenly become a wallflower. He figured it out fast though and after about 20 minutes was exhausted. San Francisco is such a huge dog town that we had some other great resources available - we enrolled him in SF Puppy Prep for daycare and for training class. The daycare was a dogsend. They would come over, pick him up, take him to daycare and work on socializing and basic training for a couple of hours then bring him home. I credit this early socializing with his being such a dog-friendly Shiba.

SF Puppy Prep takes puppies up to six months of age. So once Zuko was neutered and turned 6 months, he had to graduate. Our dog-walker suggested Woofgangs, down in San Bruno. My husband works in San Bruno and I often drive down to San Jose - so the daycare is right along the way for me. Woofgangs was another dogsend! Half days of cage-free doggie fun time. They run around like the little beasts that they are and have tunnels and cubes to get on. There is a huge outdoor area and if the rain is bad, a huge indoor area for running in giant circles. Four or five hours there and he is a dead dog after. They call him the party animal and when I was first taking him in, they said one day "he's on his third dog today". Huh? He had worn out the first two dogs. LOL! How awesome is that? They've seen some not-so-well-socialized Shibas there and all dogs must go through an interview process. Zuko passed with flying colors and they said he was the best socialized Shiba they have ever met. Yes!

Due to the "no off-leash with a Shiba Inu" theory, we don't let him off-leash in most dog parks here in the city - they don't have fences and usually there is a bus line or heavy traffic just a sidewalk away. I do not want a pancake dog! However, there is one nice fenced in dogpark that is about a 20 minute walk from us. Zuko has always been terrific at this dog park BUT: most of the dogs here are with pack walkers or professional dog walkers so they are well behaved. Our challenge with dog parks are the dog owners who go there to socialize with humans - not have fun with their dog. So, their dog is off getting into trouble and the owners are a good block away chatting up someone.

The other issue is Zuko himself and the Shiba nature: they play HARD. It is all snarling and teeth and apparent "death to you" but he has never hurt a dog in play. It freaks me out when a giant snarl comes out of my little dog and I see teeth everywhere, but I've learned to let it go. I've also learned to watch his ears for signs of when he is actually pissed and when he's just playing. The other owners: not so much - they can often freak out. So, I tend to not let him play with dogs unless we've met the dog and the owner before, or at dog parks where I know the pack walkers are hanging. I also check in with the folks at Woofgangs now and then to see if he's ever had trouble with other dogs there and they say he's great there. 

Our challenge now is he wants to play with every dog he sees, all the time. We are working on training him on when he can play and when he can not - more on that in another blog down the road.

A small note on other animals. Since Shibas have a strong hunting drive, the general belief is they cannot be trusted. However, Zuko grew up with two cats when he was a young puppy and he loves cats still. They do not love him. I did not socialize him with gerbils, hamsters or any such thing and I'm sure he would chase them and try to eat them.

-- Post by Zuko's staff

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Anipal Times launched today: #atpawty huge success!

The NY Loft party, #atpawty, was packed with anipals! I gotz there late but was sharing a special bottle of bacon vodka with the anipals and mixing up bacon martinis with cheese garnish. My Shiba friend, Snickers, and my kitty-cat friend, Cokie, are our editors and pulled it all together.

What is The Anipal Times? Read it and find out!

Don't understand the hashtag and "pawty" concept? And how was I serving bacon martinis in a loft in New York City? Anipal Times article by my friend Hoote Cat explains it all.

-- Posted by Prince Zuko

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Socializing: Environment

We got Zuko out and about right after he came home to live with us, but didn't let him interact with other dogs. The breeder and the vet both felt early socialization was more important than him not having had his 16 week shots and that overall, the risk of him getting sick was low. The risk of not socializing a Shiba early is high, so there is the trade-off. We didn't let him really interact with other dogs or roll in their poop, but our building has another dog and the owner is a complete bitch who never cleans up after her dog in the backyard. So - he was exposed and never suffered harm.

After his full shots, we went everywhere together. We live in San Francisco on a busy street that was, at that time, being torn up by jackhammers. So early on, Zuko was socialized and exposed to all sorts of loud noises and crazy things - big trucks, buses, people with shopping carts, people with walkers, people in hats and hardhats, umbrellas, bicycles and so on and so on. We took him shopping with us to Union Square which is mass chaos and took him in the stores. We took him to a New Years Eve ball. We went to every outdoor cafe within walking distance - often.

It all paid off. Big buses can roll by and he doesn't even flinch. We walk along busy streets with no problem. He has never peed in a store. He is a perfect angel at cafes. I am not sure how we did this one, except I suspect it was the positive reinforcement. When we go to a cafe, I take a bag of treats. When he sits nice or lays down - he gets one. If he is super good, he might get a bit of our brunch. He must have made the connection early on. Also, he is a huge people-watcher and loves to sit there and watch all the people and dogs go by. I have to warn you: taking a Shiba to a cafe is a magnet for admirers. Seriously - we get people who stop and stare, who point or just start talking to us! It is so funny the things people say sometimes.


If you live in a quiet, rural area with a Shiba, I strongly recommend taking them to the busy city areas often during the 18 week socialization period. Essentially, anything a puppy has not been around by the age of 18 weeks can cause a fear reaction in them later. If you ever watched the Shiba Puppy Cam, you noticed Mr. and Mrs. Shoes would open and umbrella and just put it in the play area. They did all sorts of things to help socialize the puppies early on, before they even left to their forever homes!

-- Posted by Zuko's people