Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tick-Tock (and an Adorbale Beast)

Yesterday it happened.  I was sitting on the couch, snuggling with my shiba, when I felt something crawling on me.  As my skin started to creep and crawl I looked down and saw red, disgusting wood tick. 

There are many things I love about spring.  The flowers, the green, the shiba that feverishly feels the need to pee on everything on our walks to "make it mine".  The re-earthing of the wood tick is not one of those things.  I looked down again at that peaceful, lazy shiba laying on my lap and knew he was the vermin that brought this unwanted guest into my home.

The beautiful and lush red or black and tan coat of a shiba make for an excellent hiding place for ticks, fleas, and other revolting friends that love to invade our homes and wreak havok on our beloved critters.  Some species of ticks carry harmful diseases that can be potentially fatal to your dog.  When the ticks get hungry (and spring time is an excellent time to feed) they may hop on your dog for a ride and take a little nibble while they are at it.  It is important to both use a preventative AND check your dog periodically for any unwanted hitchhikers.

According to an article by  Jennifer Kvam, DVM on PetMD these are the appropriate steps to checking your furry friend for ticks (or other disgusting, unwanted visitors).
  1. Starting at the head, run your hands over the dog’s body, checking under the collar, and using your fingers like the teeth of a comb, thoroughly check all of the body, making sure to look under the tail and around the anus. Ticks are drawn to the dark, hidden areas on the body, so be sure to check between the toes, as well as inside the groin and front legs (armpits).
  3. You are feeling for something about the size of a small pea. You may also want to use a brush or flea comb to check through the dog’s fur, stopping if you hit a bump or snag. Do not pull or force the comb over the bump, stop to see what the bump is before proceeding (pulling part of the tick’s body out can be damaging). You will also want to check the skin for areas that appear red or irritated, and watch your dog for any signs of excessive scratching or licking in any particular areas. This can be a sign that a tick has attached itself to the skin in this spot.
  5. The ears are another particularly attractive area for ticks to lodge, as they are dark, moist, and hidden. Check the ears thoroughly, inside and out, during every inspection. If your dog is shaking his head continuously and you can’t see anything in the outer ear canal, your veterinarian can inspect the inner canal of the ear more closely with a special instrument (otoscope).

Needless to say, this unwanted tick reminded me that it was that time of year to make a trip to the vet for a heartworm test, and to purchase some flea/tick meds and heartworm preventative.  Luckily it's a short and relatively inexpensive visit...cheaper than if your shiba were to actually contract heartworm, fleas, or any of the other parasitic diseases carried by these things. 

So, if you haven't yet - please take a minute to get your beloved shiba in for a check, and pick up some of those preventatives while you're at it.  No one likes a creepy-crawler!

And, I didn't forget the Adorable Beast that was due this week...In honor of our wood-tick chaperoning shiba Guiness's 7th birthday - here is our favorite picture of him!

Guiness about 6 months old (Bayfield, WI)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Your Adorable Beast

Once a weekend we will be looking to post some of our favorite shiba pictures.  If you want to see your shiba featured, email pictures or stories to!  Now enjoy this weeks, Adorable Beasts!

Thanks Simona for this cute little sleeping shiba!

Story from Jen R about her MSIR Alum Taylor:

Taylor used to break in to the large plastic bin by removing one of the four doors at the base, and pulling out compost and having a snack. So I constructed a chicken wire fence around it. I should have buried the chicken wire, because he dug under it, as well as tore the wire from the stakes in the back corner, and got right in to eat more garbage.
"Okay," I thought. "I'll buy extra stakes and pound them through the handle of each of the doors to hold them in place. It didn't work—he still managed to lift them, giving him access to the sweet, sweet garbage. Or, if the mood would strike him, he'd mix things up by removing the lid (HOW?!) and go in top-down.

That's when I bought the sturdy, wrought-iron fence sections to ensure that once-and-for-all, this beast would be permanently separated from the refuse. (Never mind that the fence cost twice as much as the bin itself!) Surely there was NO WAY he could get around this!

Well, of course I was wrong. He managed to jump up and break the hinges on the lid, and continued to dine despite the protective fence. I'd find the lid in the corner of the yard, and peels, coffee grounds, paper towels, and the like strewn about.

"This will be easy to stop—finally, I've won!" I foolishly thought, as I placed a very large, heavy landscaping stone on top of the bin. It is heavy for ME to move, and quite frankly, a pain when I need to fill the bin. (But you saw the word "foolishly" up there, right?)

Last night I went outside to find the stone five feet from the bin, the lid removed, and the garbage all over the yard again. And a fat, happy-yet-shameful-looking Taylor on the deck.

Shiba Moat design plans by Jen R.

Of course the simplest solution would be to get rid of the bin and stop composting. But I like the idea of composting, as it significantly reduces my volume of trash, and in theory, will someday provide rich soil for my flower beds (assuming the contents don't all end up in Taylor's belly). Besides, then I'd be letting the dog win. Who's the boss here, anyway?!
So this weekend I will be electrifying the iron fence, then digging a deep moat around the bin, and filling it with piranha and crocodiles. Cameras trained on it. A war elephant on guard. Shiba-seeking missiles pointed toward it.

Yet somehow, deep down, I am sure this will not be the end of this story.

You can't see me!


The amazing (and somewhat facebook famous) floating shiba!  Thanks Ginger!

Friday, April 20, 2012

More Adventures from Puppyland...Clicker Training

Michelle has recently added a second dog to their house.  And adorable puppy named Katsu.  She'll be sharing some of her adventures in puppy-land with us from time to time...

So, let me confess something to you, I do not like puppies. I am strange, I know that, but I prefer older dogs that can think and can work with me. I like dogs that if I tell them to do something, or minimally show them how to do it, they do it. Now, yes, Shibas tend to do it a bit different than other breeds, and you can’t say they do anything 100% of the time when asked, but they at least know I asked. Puppies do not work that way. You try to teach a puppy something in the 5 minute window you have before their attention wanders to the piece of lint on the floor, and you may get lucky and see that behavior again in a few months. Maybe…
Puppies and new fosters are relatively similar except with older fosters, you have a dog that has the ability to concentrate for at least 10 minutes and if you have a nice food treat, maybe even longer than that. True, fosters typically have no training when you get them . Yet, you are not at square one with housebreaking and they are capable of paying attention to you. I absolutely love when my foster dogs figure out how the clicker works. They love throwing out behaviors to see what I will click and treat.
Yesterday I took out a clicker for Katsu (11 week old Shiba puppy). My intention was to just “prime the clicker” which is basically click it and give her a treat so she associated the click with food. Simple enough so I thought. First, she wanted to eat the clicker. That was new to me. So, I put the clicker in my hand with treats so I could keep her a tiny bit away with my other hand. Nope, that did not work. She just bulldozed herself into my lap and found she could get the treats faster now because I could not keep my hand completely closed around the food. I’ll give her points for creativity. Now I remember why I use a marker word and not a clicker with my older dogs. You cannot hold a clicker, treats, a leash, and a puppy all at the same time. To complicate matters further Taiko heard the clicker and was all excited and thought it was time to train him with it. Then he got grumbly because Katsu was getting treats and he was not. So, I had to start handing out the treats to Taiko occasionally or put him in the back room. Decided to let him outside in the backyard and went back to puppy that now had pottied on the living room rug while I was dealing with Taiko. Eventually, I used up all my treats with her in a very loose definition of clicker work. Even before my treats were eaten up, I could already tell I had lost her interest completely in this “game.”
So, what I thought was going to be a simple 5 minute exercise training Katsu, ended up being about fifteen minutes teaching me a humbling lesson of needing to be better prepared when I start training and understand I was dealing with a very young puppy that really cannot handle a regimented training plan for even a small stretch of time. I always knew when working with Shibas you need to be flexible and roll with it. Puppy brains though, it has been a while since I have dealt with that level of immaturity. Thankfully, puppies grow up and become dogs. I love my adult dogs. 

Michelle H. (Minnesota)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Adopting an Older Dog

Last weekend I did an evaluation on a fantastic dog.  He is sweet, snuggly, well mannered and loves people.  It made me sad to think that he was very clearly a loved dog who for whatever reason no longer had a home.  The only "catch" on this dog, was that he was somewhere between the age range of 5-7, and for whatever reason, once dogs hit the ripe "old" age of five, people don't seem to want to adopt them anymore.  As I sit here, with quite possibly the worlds greatest foster, and my own wonderful seven year old shiba I struggle to see the logic in why someone wouldn't want an older dog.

To a certain point, I get it - as dogs age there comes the potential for more problems.  As dogs age, there comes the potential for us to have less time with them.  As dogs age...etc, etc.  True, many of our rescue dogs have some quirks to work through. But many of them do regardless of their age. With adult dogs, more often than not, we are able to identify what those quirks are. There are other things that come about with an adult dog- and these other things are too often forgotten.

As dogs age, they quit chewing on things, as dogs age they are less likely to destroy your house, as dogs age they are more likely to be potty trained, as dogs age they become more peaceful companions, as dogs age you know what you are getting personality wise, as dogs age they are still perfect and loveable pets. 

I get it, puppies are cute.  But having just come out of fostering a puppy I tell you that I will take this 6 year old gem of a shiba over the cutest of puppies, any day.  That cute and sweet adorable puppy did more damage in three days than any of the adult fosters I've had have done ever - combined.  And as much as I love paying to get my carpets cleaned...well, you get the point, lol.

I have no doubt that people shy away from adult dogs because they think that by getting a younger dog they may be able to postpone the inevitable.  I have a wonderful friend who opted to get new puppy (non-shiba) over a rescue dog she was looking at because the rescue dog was "old"...and by "old", I mean three.  Unfortunately, her puppy passed away of cancer at the age of four.  The rescue dog she was considering is still alive and doing well, we know this because her mother ended up adopting it a few months later.  My shiba is seven, I love him tremendously and hope to be able to have the privilege of enjoying another seven years with him.  Seven years is a long time, but when the time comes I know it won't seem like it was enough.  But it wouldn't if that time was today - or twenty years from now.  The fact of the matter is, that no matter what age of dog we get we will never have enough time with them. We will always have to say goodbye sooner than we are ready, and we are going to be sad. 


However, these adult dogs have an amazing amount of love to give and they deserve to have a home and a family of their own to share it with.  Some of these "adult dogs" we take in are just learning how to live life.  My very first foster was a six year old mill release who had never even gone for a walk.  Watching him play with a toy for the first time and experience that glorious "squeak" each time he killed it remains to be one of the highlights of my rescue experience.  At that moment, he was not an "adult dog", he was a ten week old puppy who was just learning to play and he was loving it.  Four years later dog is still going for 2-3 long walks/day, he is healthy, happy, and still ripping squeakers out of toys.  He gets to sit on the couch and snuggle with his sister shiba.  He is loved, and he gives great love in return.

As a foster home, and an MSIR adopter, I encourage people to consider giving these older dogs a shot.  We love our own adult dogs, but I also look at Kenji and think that he is everything we want in a dog.  In all honesty, if we could have a third dog he may not be up for grabs.  He is healthy, he is sweet, he is kind, and most importantly, he'll happily snuggle on the couch with my toddler.  He'll "play" trains with her (ie lay on the floor with her while she plays trains and not chew up Thomas when she puts it in front of him), he'll sleep with her, he'll be her friend - her dog. Something she wants so badly from our other dogs.  But, we got them as young dogs and we didn't know that they would tolerate, but not necessarily love our future kids.  We wouldn't trade them in for anything, but it gives us something to think about for the future. 

Adult dogs are not necessarily set in their ways, but their temparments are more predicatable and they become more reliable. This is not a bad thing especially when considering adding a new dog to an existing household.  Of course adding a dog to your family is a personal decision, and it is not up to me or anyone else to decide which dog is right for you.  But I just ask you to think about this, and consider them.

Alison N.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Adventures from Puppyland...Adding a Second Dog to the House

Michelle will be a guest writer from time to time on our page.  A valuable MSIR volunteer, Michelle will be sharing her experience of integrating their new puppy into their household. 

So, now you have a second dog in the house...

Last month our 12 year old matriarch female Kita passed away relatively suddenly. She was our first Shiba, but certainly not our last. The whole house misses her including our 10 year old Shiba Taiko. So after some time, the question of, “Now what?” weighed on our minds. With a family of four, the answer was not easy, but an opportunity came up to get a new puppy. It was an opportunity that was difficult to say no to, so we didn’t.

Now understand, Kita was a puppy when we got her, but Taiko was 18 months when we got him, so we had not had a puppy in the house for over 12 years other than some fosters. Dealing with fosters is not quite the same as dealing with a dog that will stay around forever. Also understand Taiko has a history of really disliking puppies. Once they hit a certain age, he is fine with them, but that magic age is around 18 months and not much before that. So, we knew making this decision would be tough on him. In fact, his opinion on this subject almost made us not take in this new puppy.
So, with a few reservations and a lot of faith that ultimately we can get this to work out, we drove 3 hours to meet our new puppy- a female black and tan Shiba that we named Katsu. The initial meeting with Katsu and Taiko was done in a grassy area by a gas station (very neutral territory) and Taiko was not forced to approach her and we did not let Katsu approach him directly either. We let them walk next to each other as best we could since she was not leash trained and the area was smaller than desired. Meeting number one went ok. He did not snark at her and remained ambivalent to her presence. That was about the best we could hope for there.
Once we were home with the new puppy, things got a bit more difficult to manage. Taiko resource guards me from other animals. He would not do it with Kita because she’d take him out, but he will even with our cat every so often. Every time he resource guards me I have to get up and walk away. I have tried sending him away when he does it, but that negative attention did not correct the problem and sometimes made it worse. The only clear way to show him he cannot covet me is to take me out of the equation. It is not easy for me to do this 100% of the time, but it is the right way to do it and it will take time for him to fully get the message.
Taiko has been walking around like Eeore for the past few days. I have been making sure he gets treats when he is around Katsu and he gets to go on his long walks that he loves without her- at least until she is leash trained. We have not gotten through this transition stage successfully yet. There will be set backs and mistakes made while we go through it. We are starting a new journey with a new pet. Change is never easy. It will get better though with some training and time.

Michelle H.