Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Shibapalooza: The return of Snarly McGrowly

I've blogged extensively about Zuko and his challenges on-leash with other dogs. It is hit or miss - sometimes he's fine, sometimes he's not. A few clear problem areas are dogs who run up to him, stare him down or obsessively face-sniff him.

"Who me? I'm a good dog!"
Now - let's define how Shibas act based on what I observed at Shibapalooza:

  • They are nearly all face-sniffers (considered rude doggie behavior). 
  • Many of them like to obsess on things, like staring at another dog.
  • A Shiba may do these things, but typically will not tolerate another dog doing it to them. Especially another Shiba. 
So guess what happened at Shibapalooza? Zuko snarled at a few dogs while on leash. Shocking! But then, there was a lot of snarling, growling, barking and snapping going on. ;-)

However, there was a very sweet cream Shiba named Katsu who completely ignored Zuko. Katsu didn't even look at him - and Zuko never snarled at him once. It was interesting to watch the body language. Katsu had great manners and was not rude at all, which meant Zuko had nothing to get all macho about. 

Very polite Shiba - Katsu
With all of this, you would think bringing out food would just escalate the issues and cause a massive melee of Shiba furballs fighting. I was shocked to see that THIS is actually what happens:

Good dogs all around
For a brief moment in time they were all just being good dogs. 

This fits with what the trainers at Zuko's daycare were suggesting and what I've been working on with him: the "look" command to draw his attention from whatever he's obsessing on and move his focus back to me. Also, I continue to reward good behavior like proper butt-sniffing and moving him away from other dogs before it gets "growly". 

The event was a wonderful time - it was amazing to meet the other hudads and humoms of Shibas and to see so many adorable dogs ... but it was also exhausting for me and Zuko. Towards the end of the picnic he went after Rinji for like the 400th time and my patience finally cracked and he got the "just knock it off already" tone from me. 

Off-leash Zuko did very well - which also wasn't a surprise. Off-leash he is free to move about and display the body language he wants and to play. But, this weekend did bring a question to my mind: how much of his on-leash issue is related to him guarding his humans? I wonder...

-- Prince Zuko's mom



  1. I'm seriously beginning to think Misaki and Zuko are related, because she's a lot like this. I think she is slightly more tolerant when on leash than Zuko may be, but not hardly enough to say she's great.

    Those three bullet points describe Misaki to a T. She wants to sniff faces to her heart's content, but sniff her for more than three seconds and she growls. She will also growl a bit off leash, if in a group of dogs she perceives as violating her personal bubble.

    And she has a big bubble. :)

    Seriously, did Zuko not come from Oregon? Maybe he's one of Misaki's long-lost sons.

  2. zuko's a good boy, but it is necessary that a prince assert himself from time to time. and zuko's mom was pretty good about redirection instead of outright correction (cheese, anyone?).

    it must be said that the last photo is not just "good dogs all around" but prince zuko & princess tokyo holding court. tokyo is just to zuko's right.

    for other readers: rinji the jester is to zuko's left, with his sis mika to his left and the other mika to her left... and i'm all the way on the right, with suki (zuko's half-sister) in between me and tokyo.

    so, left to right: mika, mika, rinji, zuko, tokyo, suki, taro.

  3. @Jason: I'll have to pull his pedigree. ;-) His pup-dad and pup-mom are both from Cali, but his grandparents are all Japanese. Doesn't Misaka have a Japanese background too?

    @Taro: You are right! I forgot about the "court". Mika, sisfur of Rinji, is the wise one. Mika, sisfur of Kyuubi is a lady-in-waiting for Tokyo (Mika wears very pretty dresses), Rinji the court jester, Zuko and Tokyo, then Zuko's sisfur Princess Suki and brofur Prince Taro! :-)

  4. Misaki was born in Japan herself. :)

  5. You did a great job with him, T, & with all the dogs. I was happy that Yuki laid face-to-face with him (can anyone say treats?! ;)). I can say I understand where you're coming from because Yuki drained our energy. We literally went straight to the motel & knocked out.

  6. @Jules: Thank you! It was nice to see them together, I wish I had gotten a photo! It was great to finally meet Yuki. Like I said, she's much smaller than the Yukizilla I imagined from your drawings. ;-)