Category Archives: Dog Training

A big dog trapped in a shiba’s body

I’m continuously amazed at the bold and stubborn personalities inherit in most shibas. Ever since Loki was a pup, he has never backed down from fights with other dogs, regardless of their physical size. This has led to quite a few scuffles with dogs who are equally as stubborn.

ler Loki likes Leroy. His ears pointing back shows signs of submission

Our house was packed with relatives coming over for thanksgiving last night. They also brought along 2 well-behaved boston terriers, Mack and Leroy. Boston terrier’s are quite mellow, but Mack wasn’t a fan of Loki’s excitement and started growling. Loki, never one to submit, responded by snapping forward to instigate a fight. Now boston terriers are quite powerful, and I have no doubt he could shred Loki apart if he wanted to. Instead, Mack backed down and started avoiding Loki because he was afraid! When my cousin picked him up after the fight, the poor guy was actually shaking! My entire family now thinks Loki is a bully =(

“Off-leash” shiba fun

“NEVER LET YOUR SHIBA OFF LEASH” they say. That is, unless your shiba is uncharacteristically obedient and actually listens to you. Loki isn’t quite there yet, but hes definitely getting better.

It wasn’t always this way. 6 months ago that we were still using 50ft leads on hikes to train his off-leash recall. On several occasions, we were both chasing him down because he was so distracted with the environment. Now that Loki is a bit over a year old, he is still independent but has learned not to stray too far way from us. So what did we do?

1. 50ft leashes to start. We went on many hiking trips using this leash, and he gradually learned that running far away = nono.

2. Dog beach. I was terrified the first time I let Loki completely off at the beach since dragging a leash around sand isn’t fun. But the thing is, there just aren’t many places they can run off to. We also brought beef jerky, the only treat that he goes crazy over. Works every time 🙂 If worse comes to worse, bring a friend to help shorten the catching game.

3. Doggy backpack – It does a great job at slowing him on hikes. He gets more exercise, carries his own treats and water, and its harder for him to bolt at small animals. Just make sure to get it fitted in store before you purchase online, its a bit tricky!

Nowadays, Loki has graduated to a much shorter 5-6ft thin leash. We bought ours at target for under $5, the extra thin kind meant for tiny dogs. It is much lighter for him to drag around, but it still serves its purpose when we need to catch him.

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Side-by-side comparison with our flexi leash. I guess it doesn’t look too different, but it is much lighter than your regular 6-ft, 3/4″ leash for shiba-sized dogs.

Do you trust your shiba completely off leash yet? How old is your dog?

Dog park fail: resource guarding goes wrong

My experience taking Loki to local dog parks has been mostly pleasant. Loki turns 1 next month, and I’ve been noticing signs of his growing intolerance towards other dogs at dog parks. More specifically,

1. He snarls/snaps if other dogs sniff his face/butt, but tolerates it if he sniffs first
2. He prefers smaller dogs or dogs his size over larger dogs, and will assert dominance against larger dogs
3. He resource guards balls, toys, and especially sticks on the ground

The breaking point came today when I took Loki to our usual dog park. The moment he entered the park, he was unusually snappy towards dogs venturing into his space. In normal circumstances, other dogs take the hint and leave Loki alone when he snaps…but not this time. A persistant pitbull decided he didn’t like Loki’s snappy behavior and quickly pinned him down. No dogs were hurt, but I had to wedge myself between two snarling dogs to scoop Loki away from the pitbull.

Pitbull’s owner quickly called her dog away, and we waited a while before letting Loki down. He played with a smaller dog until he found something similar to this:

20130710_172657Loki: Back off ya’ll, this is MY stick

The problem is, I don’t know how to train him to stop resource guarding stuff around the dog park. I can easily take a ball or frisbee away…but a stick? A stick as big as this?! Reaaalllyyy?

Here is a video of him guarding against a friendlier dog, who simply backs off when Loki snaps.

A couple curious dogs come by to check out his stick. As usual, Loki gets snappy and the dogs back off…until Mr. Pitbull rejoins the crowd. No amount of distraction would take Loki away from his prized possession. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by dogs going berzerk from the brawl between Loki and pitbull. It was the first time I actually felt scared at a dog park, trying to manage a dog capable of easily biting my fingers off. Despite pitbull’s apparent size advantage, Loki had the nerve to lunge forward against him. As one lady put it, “hes a TRUE shiba!”

I was lucky that Andrew was nearby, who quickly picked Loki up by the harness and separated him from the pack. That was the last straw. We left the dog park with no injuries, but its clear after this incident that something has to change.

I’ve been debating all night with Andrew about this incident, unable to conclude which dog was more at fault. Was it Loki for being snappy over his resources? Was it the pitbull for responding aggressively to his snappy behavior? I don’t think there is a clear cut answer. I’ve read on shiba forums that many owners face the same dilemma.

Has anyone had success training their dog to stop resource guarding? Or are we doomed to avoid small dog parks all together?

The downsides of raising a shiba

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How can you not fall in love with this fuzzy face?

As much as I love my dog, I’d be lying if I said that raising Loki has been easy. Hes the first dog I’ve ever raised, and I sometimes find myself wondering ‘hmm, should I have adopted a more obedient dog instead?’ Breeders discourage first-time owners from raising shibas for this reason – they are aloof, independent, wickedly smart, and could care less about what you want. They require an extremely patient, confident, and compassionate owner to instill confidence and gain trust. Its easy to read these words and think “yeah yeah, I’ll get my dog to behave! Other people just don’t know how to do it right!” I’ve been raising Loki for the past 7 months now, and even I must admit that I’ve underestimated the challenges of raising a shiba. I’ve watched too many positive reinforcement training videos on youtube to remember, and scoured through forums hoping to find the perfect solution. Do these training methods work on shibas? Yes. Do they work reliably? Well….maybe in a couple of years…I hope.

I know I’m just venting right now after a long day. Disclaimer: we never yell, we never get physical, and we always train him through positive association (clicker training with treats). Hes very quick to learn, yet every time he senses me wanting to hold him (brushing his fur or putting on his harness), its yet another game of cat and mice, with a lot of grrr’ing in between. And that quickly gets old after a long day at work. STOP RUNNING AWAY DAMNIT!

I’ll be back in happy Loki mood in my next post. But for now, sigh. Loki, you are one hard dog to train. On the bright side, perhaps training Loki is a good precursor to whatever children will bring to the table. Night night.

Learning to trim a dog’s nails

Loki has grown quite drastically since the inception of this blog. His fur coat grew thicker and softer, which is nice to touch but makes it challenging to do outdoor activities in the middle of the day. Believe it or not, Loki is 8 months old and he never had his nails trimmed before! Wait – I take that back. I did buy a pair of doggy nail clippers before, but I am terrified of cutting his nails too short and hurting him. We all know how difficult shibas can get when they associate an object with pain…

After digging around amazon, I finally settled on the Dremel 7300. It isn’t marketed for dogs, but dog owners who bought the doggy-version Dremel insists that this model is more powerful, therefore reducing the amount of time you need to grind your dog’s nails.

dremel

I actually haven’t used the grinder on Loki yet. I’ve been trying to get him comfortable with the sight and sound of the dremel. I’ll turn it on for a minute, give him a treat, and wait for him to approach me with the dremel running. So far, so good.

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dremel3^ the dremel isn’t running! Don’t panic.

In fact, it worked SO well that when my dremel was laying on the floor, Loki decided it was his new toy and started chewing the base of the dremel =( Well, I suppose its a good thing. I’ll continue to this for the next few days so that Loki has no negative associates with the grinder. Only then will I start using it on him, can’t wait to see how that goes… (sarcasm).

*UPDATE*
So I finally used the dremel on Loki…and guess what? He didn’t freak out! Grinding his nails is a 2-person job though, and I’ll tell you a little trick. Andrew was holding Loki and distracting him with some honey on a spoon while I used the dremel to trim his nails – he didn’t even flinch! I have harder times brushing his coat than I do trimming his nails. I love how fast and easy it is to use this grinder – takes literally 1 or 2 swipes to round out his nails. Definitely would recommend this product!

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A tired puppy is a happy puppy

Yesterday, we took Loki to the beautiful Briones Regional Park  to explore new hiking terrain. If you haven’t already noticed, we are big on hiking on weekends to let Loki unleash some of his puppy energy. Considering how much we hike, I’ve actually considered creating a website that reviews all the hikes we’ve been on. Perhaps this could be the future of our blog – half doggy training, half hiking!

Our hike started around 1pm, which is a bit late if you are planning to go for long. We started with every intention on taking a well known trail, but decided last minute to head up longer trails since the sun was still up. That was our mistake.

Long Leash Training
Before I turn this blogpost into a recap of how utterly stupid and lost we got on this hike, I want to first talk about long leash training. I’ve been working on Loki’s recall for a while now, but he only responds 50% of the time to the ‘come’ command. When we go on long hikes, we don’t like keeping Loki on a short leash. For one, it doesn’t train him to prefer staying by our side. Two, it just gets annoying holding onto a leash for long periods of time. The solution to this problem? A 50-foot long leash for Loki to drag around. I bought the Guardian Cotton Web Training Pet Lead Leash and it has worked great so far. During this hike, there were only two times that we chased Loki back towards the right direction. The long leash makes a huge difference in how easy it is to catch him. Here is a video of him on his long leash.

Getting Lost in Briones Park

Loki pondering life

To continue from where I left off in my story, we got freaking lost on this hike. We decided to increase our hiking distance by using smaller, windier trails around 2:30-3:00pm. On the map, it looked fairly intuitive on how to get back. But on the trails, we came across increasingly steep trails, intersections with two paths, and fewer signs were available to direct hikers. Within two hours of hiking, I think we saw only two or three groups of hikers left. Wild cows and bulls that were 1/2 miles away were now 5-15ft within our trail. By the time it was 5pm, we had backtracked two trails and the sun was starting to set. Our hiking backpack contained 1 bottle of water, a pack of granola bars, two cell phones with 30% battery life, and no survival equipment. I was seriously contemplating the likelihood of us reenacting an episode of survivorman out there!


A beautiful and majestic sight

By 5:30pm, we walked past a ‘private property’ sign infront of a pavement road at one point, and decided to turn back towards this road when our trail was cut off by a fallen tree. When in doubt, always follow the pavement road! The road eventually led us to a house right along the park, where we thankfully found help from the locals who lived there. They were stunned at how far and lost we had come. It took 21 minutes and 20 miles of driving back to our original parking lot!

Needless to say, from now on, we will be carrying survival equipment whenever we go hiking in big parks like this. It might seem like an overkill, but I never want to go through that experience again!

Adjusting Loki to our full-time schedules

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I’ve been on a blogging hiatus since I started working at my new job, and I’m finally starting to adjust to my new lifestyle of waking up at 7am, coming home at 8pm, and sleeping at 10pm. Commuting one hour each way to work wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

Loki is almost 6 months now, and you might be wondering how I’m able to raise a puppy when both me and Andrew have full-time jobs. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Andrew’s work schedule being 3-days on and 4-days off, I don’t know how I would do it. The past 2 weeks have been especially challenging since we’re both adjusting to the new schedule. Prior to my new job, I spent a lot of time with Loki and made sure he got his 3 daily walks, worked on training, etc. His recall was fairly good outdoors, and he generally responded to his name and the “come” command. When I took him out today (I haven’t really trained him in 2 weeks), it was like my past 2 months of training completely vanished. He responded to his name 50% of the time, and the “come” command was completely forgotten. Treats also had no effect on him outdoors, which is interesting because he used to respond to treats. This leads me to believe that:

1. Our treats aren’t smelly or good enough for him
2. He isn’t getting taken out enough, and the outdoor environment is too stimulating for him

I’m guessing its more of #2 than #1, which is frustrating because I spend a lot of time working on his “come” recall. This week will be different though – Loki will be staying with me for the entire week. I’ll be waking up even earlier to feed and walk him, and then take him to daycare while I work during the day. I’m hoping that this schedule works out, and that he doesn’t pick up any bad manners from daycare. I’ll be updating this blog about my observations on his behavior.