Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat!

It is almost as if my friends at Woofgang's Doggie Daycare know I am a Demon Dog!

Trick or Treat. I think I was TRICKED!
-- Posted by Demon Dog

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Beach!

I luvs the beach. We haven't been there in a long time, even though it iz only like 2 miles from our howse (lazy hoomans).

One thing you might not know about the beach: there are Teradactyls there. See the footprints?

Evidence: Exhibit A - Footprints

My mom sayz these are not teradactyl prints. She claims these are "seagull" footprints. I disagree. Notice me examining what had clearly been a teradactyl party spot before I arrived:

More clues
Unfortunately, everyone knows the Shiba Inu is a mighty hunter. Since I did not see, stalk or capture a teradactyl on the beach, I can only assume they left cuz they knew I was coming for them.

Next time I getz them!

-- Prince Zuko, Master Detective and Hunter Extraordinaire

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leash Monster: Update - the proper way to meet and greet

Last week in Leash Monster training, we continued to practice the "leave it" idea. As you dog sees or approaches another dog, you do a "leave it" and then turn the dog around and walk backwards.

It sorta works with Zuko. I think Shibas are related to that little girl in the Exorcist though - Zuko can swivel his head around to a shocking angle and STILL be walking towards me while giving the evil eye to the dog behind him. Impressive, but not helping the situation.

What's that over there? Can I obsess on it? Is it a dog? Please let it be a dog!

Our trainers from Dog Evolve swear by the Gentle Leader head collar. They claim there are pressure points on the back of the head where the leader sits that help calm a dog. Jokingly, they refer to it as "doggie Prozac". And clearly, some of the dogs in class really, really need this. One woman has a herding dog mix who she says is a spaz. I've never seen it - because she's had the Gentle Leader on the dog in every class and he is super mellow. However, I struggle with this - I don't want to use something artificial to force behavior in Zuko. Nor do I want to put him into a zen-trance. I love my happy, energetic dog. I just don't want him lunging at other dogs and being a leash monster. Every other dog in class is using the Gentle Leader now except us. The trainers asked and I said I'd rather not - and the one trainer supported this. She said the only dog she has ever had a complete freak-out-melt-down when having a Gentle Leader on was.... wait for it... yeah, a Shiba Inu (surprise!).

What I have done is switch back to the front-clip Easy Walker harness instead of a collar. I'm guessing dragging him away and him making choking sounds as it happens is not reinforcing the message that leaving dogs alone is a GOOD and HAPPY thing. Of course, this puts us back where we were months ago - we think he was clipped by a harness buckle as a puppy and he flinches everything one of those snap close behind his head. We tried reconditioning him out of it, but he's like a cat - he will never, ever, ever forget it.

So - back to the lesson last week on proper greeting. In my last post I talked about Mr. Rudeness and his face-sniffing issues. In class, we focused on first approaching a dog and doing the "leave it" and turn and walk backward before anyone got snarly. Next, we would pass each other - quickly - the whole time talking to your dog and dangling a treat in front of them. In this exercise, the dogs are next to each other so when they are looking at you and that tasty treat in your hand, they are ignoring the other dog.

The next step is to just stop as they reach nose-to-butt position.  The dogs are facing opposite directions and positioned in the right place to turn their head, sniff butts and be polite. Even the slightest turn of the head to proper sniffing position is immediately marked and rewarded and you continue walking forward.

Whew! Easy enough in class - the dogs are all getting to know each other and everything is calm. At the end of the class they brought in a good sized female lab - a new dog!! This was the test... and everyone passed except for the one dog who barks so much at other dogs she has to be isolated during class or she will not stop. (This dog's trainer is the one who actually needs the training - he's very timid with her).

I am personally relieved I do not need to lead by example to show Zuko the proper way to meet and greet another dog. ;-) We've been working on doing the "leave it" and then "go say hi" and stopping where he can be set up to properly greet. Of course, this morning we met a Shiba mix who he knows and we passed each other, stopped, and they BOTH immediately turned all the way around so they could face-sniff. No monster-badness happened, but I was still left standing there rolling my eyes and shaking my head. Shibas. 

-- Posted by Zuko's bewildered mom

P.S. - If you haven't heard, the Twitter Shibas are considering a National Shiba Inu Meet-up next year! If you could / would attend, please complete this survey before Oct 30th!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

If you could do a National Shiba meet-up, where would you go?

@WalkingYuki @LeahShiba @_tar0_ and I started a Twitter thread on the dream of a National Shiba Inu Meet-up. Where would we meet? When?

Ideas so far:
St. Louis
Needs to be over 3-day weekend
Dog-friendly city and hotel or B&B

For those of us on the West coast, St. Louis shows about 30+ hours of driving but my mom sayz she has always wanted to do the "Route 66" drive so it is possible. From NYC it is about 15 hours.

Other locations "mid-country":
Amarillo, TX
Wichita, Kansas
Omaha, Nebraska

So what do ya'll think?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Leash Monster! Training class report

Over the past nine months or so, Zuko has been getting more and more reactive to other dogs when on leash. It tends to be very hit and miss and unpredictable. Off leash, he's great. He loves other dogs and does well at daycare and at the off-leash beach. So, needless to say, we were a bit mystified by his on-leash behavior.

Does that look like a Leash Monster to you?

This past Thursday we started "Leash Monster" training with Dog Evolve. First - I just have to say - Zuko is a pretty well adjusted dog. The other dogs in his class have a number of issues going on: attention barking, leash straining, cowering from people, etc. It was nice to get this perspective that he's a pretty easy dog - especially for a Shiba. We believe a lot of it is he has good genes, but I think we should give ourselves some credit for doing at least a few things right with our pup.

OK - so Leash Monster training is specific to dogs who are good off-leash but reactive on-leash. We learned two very important things Thursday night:
  1. Zuko is rude. 
  2. The lunging, barking and snapping is out of frustration, not aggression.
Let's talk about the rudeness. The trainers were saying his behavior is not unusual for Spitz breeds and Shibas: he's a face-sniffer. He will butt-sniff also, but he often approaches a dog and sniffs their face and apparently in the dog world this is RUDE. So we had a few laughs about needing to train him to always butt-sniff and I expressed that I sincerely hoped I was not going to have to lead through example.

This face-sniffing thing gave me one of those "doh" moments though - I flashed back to his most reactive moments and it is after he has approached a dog and face-sniffed. I'm guessing the other dog then says "rudeness, get out of my face" in some doggie language I don't see and Zuko gets all badass and lunges and snarls. It would also explain why the sighting of another Shiba can sometimes be a total mess as both of them snarl and lunge at each other - because they are both being rude badasses.

One approach the trainers recommended is to pass the other dog and walker first. This sets the dogs up to be facing the proper greeting area - their butts. It also gives you a quick and clear escape route forward if your dog reacts negatively versus being face-to-face and having to drag your dog back away from the other dog.

The second lesson was a bit of relief for me: he's reacting out of frustration, not aggression. We suspected this may be the case since we noticed early on that he would often start growling when we pulled him away to continue his walk. The trainers described the dog's feeling as this: imagine you love ice cream and someone keeps taking you into the best ice creams shops and never letting you buy or taste any ice cream. Wouldn't you be frustrated?

Our homework this week is to work on doing a "leave it" and redirecting his attention when he sees another dog. Since Zuko tends to obsess a bit when he sees another dog, this is challenging but we are working on it. The other homework is to just go the other way when you see a dog or do a very fast "blow by" the other dog - not stopping, not looking, getting past the other dog and then when Zuko is re-focused on us he gets treated.

All of this is easier said then done. San Francisco is a dog-crazy city and so many dogs are off-leash where they shouldn't be and not under any kind of voice control. So I had to ask the question: what if you turn and leave the situation and the other dog follows you. The advice was to keep going, don't look back. If the dog just will not give up, the final emergency-last-ditch advice was to take treats, turn, and throw them at the dog. This will surprise them and they should start snarfing up the treats on the ground and leave off. The trainers discussed that they are not in support of feeding other people's dogs nor rewarding bad behavior (following you and your dog forever) but you have to take care of your dog first. If the other dog's owner isn't doing their job you have to do what you have to do.

So, as with all things: practice, practice, practice this week! Looking forward to our next class!

-- Zuko's Trainer

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy 2 years Zuko!

Our little dude was born two years ago today - one day before our wedding anniversary. I have many, many Libra friends so I guess it was fate that Zuko would be our pup.

His daycare, Woofgangs, celebrated his birthday on Friday. I still have no idea how they get pictures of him in a hat without getting the "airplane ears".

We took the little guy with us everywhere this weekend, including a winery and The Refuge yesterday. He did indeed get to try the famous pastrami at The Refuge and he loved it. Today we walked up the hill to brunch. Our family doesn't eat pork, but based on recommendations from @iamkaiju, Zuko insisted on trying some. I ordered a side of applewood smoked bacon and he loved it. (He only got about 1/2 of one piece though).

Finally, we went by one of his favorite pet stores, George, and picked up some of his favorite treats and a new toy. While I did try the bat-wings on him as a possible Halloween costume, I decided I couldn't do that to him on his birthday. I'll sneak back and buy them later. ;-)

Happy Birthday!
Nom Nom Nom....

Happy Birthday Little Dude! You make us smile and laugh every day and we love you!

-- Mom and Dad

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Good Life

Well, since little Prince Zuko thinks if he lived in Japan he would get to hunt wild boar and be worshiped as royalty on / near Mt. Fuji, I thought I'd set him straight just a little.

Our friend recently visited Tokyo (so jealous) and brought back this magazine called "Shi-ba". Yes, a whole magazine dedicated to the Shiba Inu and their awesomeness. Zuko was pretty pleased with this. It did start off well:

Clearly this Shiba is master of his own domain and having a happy life. But then the horror starts:

Is that an UMBRELLA on that Shiba?

A cow? Cows are prey, not a Shiba costume!
So when Zuko starts getting a tad too big in the ego department, I now bring out this magazine and start asking him which costume he would like me to purchase for him. The cow? The sheep? The fish-on-your-head? The Santa Claus costume?

-- Posted by Bad Mommy