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

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