Sunday, June 24, 2007

Shassi - AKA The Misanthropic Shiba

On October 22nd, 1993, I brought Shassi home. She had been born on August 27th, 1993. Now, it's two months shy of her 14th birthday.

I see her growing more vague now. She's nearly blind and at least partly deaf. (We don't know how deaf; since she's never listened to a thing I said in her entire life). She has progressed from giving other dogs the evil eye to trembling violently if she encounters one. She has her little routine with my mother and aunt and spends most of her time sleeping now. She needs some help in and out of the car.

It's funny how a dog's life can mark an era in a human's. I got Shassi when I was 16 - an awkward, self-hating, undersocialized 16. Now I'm three months shy of my 30th birthday. Well, I'm a bit more socialized at least. During Shassi's tenure, I graduated high school - back when it still meant something, left home, started The Misanthropic Shiba, graduated from college, joined the military, left the military and returned to Nanaimo.

Shassi, ever since she toddled into my life, has always been her own dog. At first, it was startling and almost offensive. Dogs were supposed to come when they were bloody well called, dammit! They were supposed to at least pretend some regard for you past the thirteen seconds that it took to ascertain that you hadn't brought any meat or cheese home from the store. They weren't supposed to be the catalyst for the most absurd events that cling to the memory of one's growing up.

We got used to it, even to the point of dragging out the latest Shassi story whenever someone wanted to know if anything interesting had gone on in our lives. Shassi was the dog that everyone gravitated to, proving once again that people are attracted to beings that couldn't care less if everyone around them lived or died. Kena and Buddi, the elder dogs of the pack, were perfectly happy being petted and made much of, and I daresay they got their fill. But Shassi was special. A dog unto herself.

I wish I was more like her. Not to the point where I say, "To hell with everyone!" and live only for my immediate gain. But to the point where I can forgive myself and think well of myself even if I've made mistakes or done something stupid or thoughtless or careless. The ability to take note of a situation, take the lessons to heart and move on is something that my dog possesses that I really wish I did.

But I'm only 29 and I have time. Shassi is nearly 14 and her sun is setting. I believe that she has a year or so left; perhaps even two or three. But it won't be long, in the terms of a human lifespan.

Shassi, dog of my childhood, I love you. For your sake and the sake of all the dogs who I was privileged to share my life with, I wish - I hope - that there is a better beyond where we will meet again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A wiser puppy

Tierce has settled down some now. He is mouthing a lot less and his tantrums have slowly dwindled. This is good. He is walking a lot better onlead now - actually trotting and moving ahead! Puppy class will commence on the 24th - for us humans!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tierce Temper Tantrums

Well, Mischa and I finally experienced what Mom went through last weekend. Tierce was lying in Mischa's arms and decided he needed to get out of them NOW! When thwarted, he started baring his teeth and snarling and twisting to get free.

Mischa shook him by the scruff of the neck and held him down. He wasn't hurting Tierce, but the cacophony of wails and screams would have had one believe that the dog was slowly being roasted over an open fire. Then Mischa carried him over to the ex-pen and dumped him in. Silence. A slightly bewildered puppy stared at us through the wire. I picked him up and cradled him. Nothing.

I had previously emailed both Tierce's breeder and Shassi's breeder about what Mom went through. Apparently it's not unheard of, especially when the Shiba is a little alpha male. Tierce did the equivalent of a three-year-old human screaming thrashing and kicking at anyone and everyone.

BUT... and this is a big but...

Mom still has that deep scratch. We're going to be watching Mr. Tierce very carefully for signs of another temper tantrum and responding to them accordingly. This kind of thing has the potential to get out of hand VERY quickly.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Troubles with Tierce

Tierce bit my mother the other day. It's a one-and-a-half inch long scratch that has a tiny bruise purpling in on one end. This is not good. Some people might think that he's 'only a puppy', but this kind of behaviour has to be stopped RIGHT NOW.

Mischa and I had come back from SCA camping (we had figured that since he only had his second shot, he should wait until his third to come camping with us) to find a note to this effect in the kitchen. Upon reading this, I phoned her and she came over. She had had extreme difficulties from the start; Tierce did not like his harness, did not like his leash and was extremely aggressive. She said that he snarled and growled "like a big dog" and that he snapped at her when she had tried to put his harness on.

I got her to put the harness on him again and he was showing his teeth towards her. I took him and gave him a big shake. He yelped and after that, Mom didn't have a problem putting anything on him.

The thing is, that while Tierce is mouthy and a brat, he has never exhibited these signs of aggression towards us. He doesn't like his harness that much, or his lead, but has never snarled, growled or threatened in any way. We have been correcting him for his mouthiness and thought that we had that part covered. Apparently not. I am worried, because I want to socialize him and a biting puppy is not something that most people want to pet.

1. Mom is going to come over to see how I handle Tierce. We are going to involve her in his obedience training and practice putting the harness/lead on and off him.

2. This dog is going to get socialized. I'm going to start taking him downtown and wherever there is a lot of people and stuff going on. The vet says it's okay if we stay away from heavily canine-trafficked areas.

3. I'm going to enrol him in obedience classes as soon as possible. Puppy classes have already been and gone at the kennel club, but if I can get some somewhere else, I'm there.

4. He is never going to get away with anything remotely resembling dominance aggression. I'm going to load a tiny spray bottle with Bitter Apple to spray in his mouth. It's quicker than having everybody cover their arms and hands in the stuff.

5. While there is no excuse for this behaviour, I am probably going to get my Tierce-walker friend to take care of him on the weekends I'm away. He has had no problem with Tierce so far, so he's a better choice. We'll just have to work around his work schedule.

I am very upset with this. Tierce is a pushy, dominant puppy with the potential to go seriously wrong if he is not brought up short. Dominance in a young puppy is never to be ignored or laughed off. It's a serious matter that needs immediate attention.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dogdammit, you get up early!

It's O-Dark-Thirty in the morning and Tierce is whining to get up. Here are the steps, in order:

1. Check the time in exhausted disbelief.
2. Open the crate door.
3. Shamble out of bed, sleepily avoiding the puppy now frisking and gnawing at my ankles.
4. Locate housecoat, Crocs and put on same, still avoiding frisking puppy.
5. Go downstairs to let puppy out.
6. Go back upstairs to the third-from-last step where puppy is stuck, having used up all his courage in getting down the top two steps.
7. Put puppy on ground in front of door.
8. Re-orient puppy, who has decided that a grease stain on the kitchen tile is more fascinating than the pee threatening to dribble from his nether regions at any given second.
9. Watch puppy charge out of door, trip over the only stick in the yard, and come up to stand stiff-legged for six seconds. This is the Holy Grail of dog ownership. The dog has peed outside.
10. Watch eagle-eyed as puppy tears around yard to see where he squats to poop so you can pick it up before he smears it across the yard and himself. He invariably picks the spot around the house or behind the bush, causing you to trudge across the damp lawn to make sure he's done the job.
11. Play puppy keep-away as you attempt to catch the little darling who decides he doesn't want his breakfast as much as this lovely game of chase.
12. Catch puppy.
13. Bring puppy inside and hand feed him his breakfast in my arms. This reinforces the dominant position I'm supposed to have with this dog.
14. Put the rest of his breakfast in his dish and refill his water dish.
15. Collapse on the couch beside the ex-pen and fall asleep, dreaming blissfully of the day that Tierce can hold it for eight hours or learn to flush the toilet.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Boss puppy? I don't think so!

Tierce is a very dominant puppy. He doesn't like to be held on his back and mouths a lot. We're in the process of teaching him that humans don't make good chew toys. Also, that ALL humans don't make good chew toys!

I find that people either are too concerned with disciplining someone else's dog or think it's cute that a puppy is gnawing on them. I think that this is a behaviour that needs to be nipped in the bud. I believe that puppy biting can lead to adult biting, because the puppy has been lead to believe that it's okay for him to bite people. No matter how gently the pup is mouthing, it's still a dominance behaviour. Basically the dog isn't respecting your boundaries as a pack member and that has to be stopped.

I use scruff shakes as my main method of negative reinforcement. It triggers an ingrained response, as that's where a bitch would grab her puppies to carry them. It's also one of the main points for a dominant dog asserting his/her status to grab. I also tap him on the nose when he starts biting at my hands. He doesn't like that very much! However, I don't want negative reinforcement to be my main method of dealing with this.

One of the things I'm trying is feeding Tierce his breakfast while he's on his back, one kibble at a time. Since he only eats a handful at each meal, this isn't too time-consuming. He was a lot better once he figured out that relaxing on his back meant that he got breakfast! I think I'm going to continue this and see how it goes. I also try to carry him around on his back, like a human infant, several times a day.

Once Tierce is fully immunized, I'd like to start him on a "stranger feeding plan". Basically this means that I take his breakfast/lunch/dinner with us on a walk and give it to people, especially children, who want to feed the puppy. This way he associates all strangers with food and good times. Also, he'll get reinforcement for obeying commands from other people = submission. Tierce isn't going to be allowed off lead in an unfenced area and he's not a protection dog. Therefore, I think that encouraging him to obey commands given by other people is a good step to showing him his place as a subordinate to all humans.

I've also got him a beef chewie that he likes very much. I plan to get more, and maybe some of the bigger bones. He has a stick (see picture) that he is very fond of. I think providing outlets for chewing may also help. Tierce is a puppy, after all, and puppies need to chew a lot!