Monday, July 11, 2011

Zuko and Other Dogs: On-leash update

A year ago, I was writing about our troubles with Zuko being growly on-leash. We went to some classes and learned a things like how to properly meet and greet other dogs and we talked with the folks who spend time with him at daycare. We made some progress.

Once we moved, we saw even more progress.

"Who me? I iz a good dog!"
Over the past few months, the incidents of him lunging and growling at other dogs have been very rare and ALWAYS start with the other dog lunging and snarling first. As most Shiba owners know, they think they are a big dog and won't back down from a rude or aggressive dog. So I've been watching the body language of other dogs much more closely and I have become less concerned about Zuko's. Out in the parks, it still tends to be two types of dogs that cause issues: small yappy dogs who lunge and snarl at everyone and everything, and the big dogs who just like a challenge.

The small yappy dogs actually seem to humor Zuko a bit. He's almost tolerant - to a point. If they get too close he'll snarl back. The big dogs are more interesting - they see Zuko and they will stop, stare and focus on him. Clear warning signals that I now know to look for.

Any time I spot a potential problem, I immediately go for the treat bag and start doing "look" with Zuko. I keep him to my left and the other dog to HIS left - meaning if he's looking at me, he can't see the other dog. I use to always shorten the flexi-leash as I did this but I've noticed an odd thing in recent weeks - Zuko will sometimes naturally fall into a heel position when a big dog shows up ahead of us on the trail. I can't be sure, but it seems like he has started to associate "big aggressive dog up ahead" with "Zuko gets yummy treats, hang out next to mom". Now I keep the leash slack but I have the trigger finger ready in case the other dog lunges (see above: Shibas don't back down from a fight).

We had one pretty nasty case recently and frankly - it was 100% the other dog. We were out front with Zuko and he was tied up on a long leash to avoid he disappearing after a cat or a squirrel. He was in his driveway, being chill when another dog who was off-leash came BOUNDING up to Zuko before we could get the owners to call the dog off. Zuko was impressive - lots of big body language and fierce  snarls and huge Shiba teeth flashing. My husband and I both barely reacted - we could see that Zuko was putting on one hell of a show, but he wasn't making contact with the teeth. The other dog got the hell out of there as fast as possible and the owners gave us some pretty nasty looks. In our opinion, they were at fault. They let their off-leash dog charge up to another dog on his own territory. Idiots.

This weekend we head to Shibapalooza. At the recent very rainy, very cold NorCal Shiba picnic, we had to scurry under some cover. I didn't hesitate to bring Zuko in to the shelter and he (of course) snarled at Sinjin. Once. Then they all just stood there wet and miserable as only Shibas can look when they aren't getting their way.

So, I'm feeling pretty good about Shibapalooza and about Zuko behaving like a Prince and not a monster!

-- Zuko's optimistic mom


  1. zuko's a good dog and you have every reason to be optimistic. also, you should give him more treats.

  2. Thanks little brofur! I agreez. I should have cheeze for all my meals.

  3. I also have similar issue with my Shiba - Mac snarling at other dogs from time to time whether it be on-leash or off. He has been doing very well on leash recently but at dog parks he would growl the first few minutes until he establish himself.

    Whenever I thought I found a pattern he would throw a curve ball at me. I will be tagging along to your blog, can't wait to see zuko's progress, hopefully we can compare notes one day. =)

  4. @PupChow: Yes! I will keep updates here - you should check out the Shibapalooza post about Snarly McGrowly on here.