Life with Two Shibas

Sharing a bed

We frequently receive questions from single Shiba homes on what life is like with two Shibas. It's very difficult to answer because every family's experience is dependent upon the Shibas brought into the home. The only way that we can describe it is to share the way that we experienced it. To the best of my ability, here are the synopses of our experiences based on what I perceive as the most important topics that need to be addressed upon introducing a second dog into your home.

First Introduction

This is very important because it sets the tone for the relationship of the two dogs in the beginning. Emi came to us as a foster and we met outside the neighborhood dog run so that it was a 'neutral' setting. This means a meeting point outside of what your resident Shiba considers his resting location or home base. We never met Emi before and had no idea what her personality would be like. That day, an NYCSR volunteer transported a few Shibas so I wasn't the only person there to pick up a foster dog. Seeing that one of the foster humans needed a ride home, I offered to drive her and her foster dog home after dropping Shio off inside the house and took Emi with me. When I returned home, I allowed Emi to enter the home directly without the need for another introduction in a neutral area because she was just spayed and very delicately shy. Knowing that Shio is sensitive towards wounded animals, I knew that he would be respectful of her space. Under my supervision, Emi cautiously sniffed the home while Shio and I gave her space to explore. Shio maturely controlled his excitement towards the new animal in his home. When she finally finished sniffing her new home, Emi laid down in the living room to rest and that's when Shio started begging her to play with him. Unfortunately for Shio, after the long journey to Brooklyn, Emi was exhausted and closed her eyes to sleep under our media stand instead of reciprocating his request.

It's important that I disclose that this was how I chose to introduce them because of what I assessed of Emi's and Shio's personalities. Had Emi been a hyper puppy with no concept of boundaries or respect towards older dogs, Emi would've entered the home in a different manner. It's likely that instead of allowing both parties to have free reign of the home and freedom to go up to each other as they pleased, they would've been leashed and baby gates would be put to full use until they adapted to each other.

Mealtimes 

This gets a little tricky when you don't know your second dog. If you're unsure, it's recommended that the first few meals be in separate rooms until you get to know your second dog better or until you are able to gauge how your first dog will react with a newcomer around his/her food. I know that Shio is obsessed with food and treats so our goal when having another dog in the house is to keep him from eating food that's not his. Emi wouldn't eat kibbles the first night so we hand fed her some of Shio's homemade meatloaf and that did the trick. In the beginning, Shio scarfed down his food and immediately went for Emi's bowl while she was slowly eating. Neither were aggressive so there wasn't a need to separate them during feedings but I did need to supervise to make sure that Shio didn't eat two meals. After a while, they adjusted to each other. Emi eats a lot faster now so by the time Shio's finished, she's almost finished as well. Shio has learned to wait until I say it okay to lick Emi's bowl but sometimes he'll 'forget' to wait for me. :)

In terms of budgeting money for food, we basically doubled what we normally spend for food. Emi eats the same amount as Shio because she has more energy.

Leashed Walking

Shio is the worst at walking on a leash. He frequently protests when he doesn't want to go the direction you want to walk or if he's not up for walking. Emi was a dog that didn't even know what a collar or leash was until she came into our home. She also refused to walk because everything about Brooklyn sounds frightened her. If I had to do it over again, I would've made sure that Shio was trained to walk on a leash like a champ before we took in a foster. There's really no sight funnier than a person walking two dogs who refuse to walk. Except if you're that person who has two dogs who refuse to walk!

Initially, Emi would only walk to hide under cars or sit and refuse to budge altogether. Sometimes, she would wrap herself around sign posts and be amazed when she tethered herself to the post. After she was comfortable with the sensation of a harness/collar and leash, we started off with short walks to the dog run so that Emi could sit and take in her new surroundings as she pleased. It took a month for her to be comfortable enough to move away from sitting on the picnic tables in the dog runs and run around chasing tennis balls but she loved the dog run so much that eventually we moved onto a different park so she could gain more confidence.

When Josh and I were together, we'd each walk one dog. When it was just me, I had one leash in either hand for easy control of two dogs who enjoyed protesting. After time I learned to walk both dogs with one hand and used a coupler. However, we changed to having the dogs on one leash each because it's easier to control the dogs when they're on separated leads. For instance, if one was misbehaving, instead of pulling the coupler to grab both their attentions, I'd pull my hand left/right or foward/back to grab the attention of the offending party since the offending dog's leash would likely be the one that's taut.

Housebreaking

Emi was housebroken when she came to us but was on both a pee and poop strike for the weekend from stress. We went out for walks every two or three hours just as we would've with a 3 month old puppy. This went on for the first few days that Emi was with us so we could figure out how long she can hold it. We had one poop and pee incident each during the first week but we quickly adjusted to each other's schedules after that. She would only poop and pee on grass so we worked a visit to dog-friendly grassy areas during our neighborhood walks.

Basic Obedience Training

This was a little difficult because Shio already knows his commands and would often demand that we give him a treat when we wanted to focus on Emi. To this day, Emi only knows basic commands (sit, paw, lie down, and recall) whilst Shio knows a whole bunch of other tricks on top of the basics. We handled it just by alternating commands for each dog. Emi would paw and get a treat, then Shio would paw and get a treat.

When it became particularly annoying to have Shio paw my face 100x when Emi was learning, I'd take her into a room that Shio won't step foot in, the bathroom, and teach her in there. Luckily like most Shibas, Emi is a quick learner and it took little time. Shio's refusal to enter the bathroom helped us though trying to give him a bath is another story!

Veterinary Visits and Costs

This became a little tricky for us. With Shio, we've been lucky enough to only take him for basic visits but after Emi arrived, we've taken her to the vet a couple of more times due to the fact that she's clumsy. We wound up adding her to Shio's existing pet insurance plan and she's more than paid for the plan in full for the year already. We learned that with two dogs, you need to worry about illnesses and not as much accidents. What I mean by this is that if one dog gets sick, the other has a higher chance of getting sick. If one is accident prone, it's not likely that the other will need to be taken in to see the vet as well.

Otherwise for basic care, it's doubling the cost for wellness shots and routine visits. Some of us will be lucky and only need to make one visit to bring both dogs for routine visits but others will need to make separate trips for each dog.

 

I've covered what I think is most important with stories of how we experienced it and hope that you'll find it helpful. After the initial bumps work themselves out and the pups spend every morning and night playing or cuddling together, having two Shibas are such a wonderful thing. Just make sure that you realize that your productivity level will drop dramatically because all you'll want to do is play with them!

I'd love to hear stories from readers who already live in a 2+ dog homes, especially if there's something I missed!

Update on Emi

Emi lying on Shio

Time for an Emi update! Even though we've already adopted her, she's still growing in so many ways to adapt both to her new environment and our routines at home. She has officially been ours since December 13th but she came into our home as a foster on October 21st. This is our 3 month update!

Physical Appearance

Emi was 11 months old when she came to us so she didn't have much growing left to do but her physical appearance definitely had room for improvement.

Emi is a petite Shiba but when she arrived she was a little too skinny. You could feel each rib under her skin (not in a good way) but she was not starved. Emi would also tire easily after short periods of play time with Shio at home. I'm proud to say that since then, she has gained a pound or two and added a lot of muscle to her tiny frame. She can now run circles around Shio and still have energy to play fetch. Her legs are so muscular that she can gracefully leap onto any piece of furniture she wishes to and bounces around our living room with ease. Emi has such a high energy level that we started feeding her the same amount as we do for Shio and she still doesn't gain weight!

When she first arrived, her belly was shaved from her spay surgery and the fur from the base of her tail was missing thanks to a flea infestation. Her fur was brittle to touch and her skin was noticeably flaky. She looked a little scraggly but still beautiful. Since then, we switched her diet to home cooked meatloaf and added a squirt of salmon oil and ground flaxseed to her meals. We use oatmeal shampoo on her during baths. Her fur has grown back in and improved dramatically though her skin still flakes here and there. I'm a proud mama when people who met her during the first week with us compliment on the huge improvement in her fur condition since then! About two weeks ago, the fur on the back of Emi's head started turning red. She may actually be a redhead!

Emi's teeth were also covered with plaque when she first arrived. It was obvious that her teeth had never been brushed and likely that she didn't have any dog approved chew toys or food. When we took her to the vet, they told us that it was unlikely that the molars would ever rid itself of the plaque no matter how much we brushed with chicken flavored dog toothpaste. We're happy to report that she has sparkling white teeth after we let her gnaw on marrow bones! It was an amazing transformation and almost instantaneous! It was probably true that we would've never gotten rid of the plaque by brushing alone but allowing her to chew on bones made all the difference.

 

 

Personality Changes

Emi came to us as an extremely shy Shiba with very little exposure to the outside world. She would violently shake when we walked outdoors and hide under anything available or lay down and protest. She still shakes when she is outdoors sometimes but stopped breaking down during walks. She's now very comfortable in both our home and the dog run. For the first time this week, I watched her initiate play with a dog other than Shio outside while at the dog run! She will still shake when we are outdoors and there's a lot of people walking around but it has improved a lot. We've taken her almost everywhere with us to let her see and experience more of what the world has to offer. She's been to beaches, grassy parks, played in snow, shopping with me and visited my family on several occasions. She stayed with our puppy-sitter during our vacation earlier this month and our sitter said that she was amazing and sweet.

She's a very sweet dog and will jump up onto the couch and lay down next to me. She leans her head or body into my hand when she's looking for scratches and nibbles on my finger tips when I stop petting her. Emi has no sense of personal boundaries and will often leap and land on you when you're in her way while she's chasing after a toy. She's bonded with me but is still wary of Josh, especially when Josh is wearing a business suit. We're still working on that issue.

Emi can also be an off leash Shiba! She loves to run after balls and run back towards you, especially if she thinks that she'll be receiving a treat or scratches in return.

Week 3 with Goo Goo

GGPlaying

Just finished up our third week with Goo Goo. She's doing a great job coming out of her shell. Instead of hiding in or under shady places now, she is ready to meet the world with her bad ass Shiba self. I originally thought she would be okay with meeting new people but she's more Shiba than I thought. Goo Goo will duck away from being pet by a stranger like Shio! She's much more comfortable in our local dog run too. Still no playing with other dogs but she's running around and exploring the space and is much better at walking with me while leashed.

We've given her a bath as well. She doesn't like baths but is very good about tolerating them. No Shiba screams or scratching to climb out. Same temperament at the vet's office.

She's also successfully learned two new commands: 'Sit' and 'Paw'. More training will come as she becomes more comfortable.

Goo Goo also loves playing with Shio. They run around in circles in our living room and uses our furniture as a jungle gym. Our jumbo sized ottoman has become their personal wrestling platform.

Goo Goo really enjoys following me around everywhere in the apartment. Shio will now follow her while she's following me so I constantly have a Shiba train when I walk around.

Our favorite nicknames for her so far are Lady Goo Goo, The Goo-ster, and Goo Goo 2S.

This girl is awesome!

Week 1 with Goo Goo

Tired GG

We're into week #3 with Goo Goo so I'm behind on our fostering updates. The only thing I want to do lately is lounge around with my Shibas. Overall, fostering has been a great experience. It took us a very long time to take the leap to open up our place to another dog especially with one whom we have little information on the history of. However, knowing that we would be saving a life made the decision much easier. Goo Goo came to us on Friday, 10/21 and we didn't know what to expect at all. We knew her name, that she was 11 months old, a black and tan female, and held in our email inbox a picture of her beautiful face. Word on the Shiba block was that she enjoyed being held like a baby. Everything else would be a surprise. And a surprise it was. We met outside a Brooklyn dog run and at 15 lbs, Goo Goo had a much tinier frame than I expected. Her fur was coarse and dry. She had a bald spot on the base of her tail where fleas decided to nest once upon a time. One thing that was hard to miss was that she was violently shaking with fear. She had just been spayed the day before and was terrified though her large brown eyes still held a doe-like innocence to her whole being.

The first night was spent trying to hide under any dark place that she could crawl under. This included pulling her out from under parked cars after she wedged herself next to the tire. We did everything we could to avoid carrying her so that we wouldn't pull on the stitches on her swollen abdomen. She was too afraid to eat. She was too afraid to pee or poop. She finally found quiet solace in our crate that was covered to give her the cave-like zen she craved. The only time her eyes lit up that night was when I presented Shio's meatloaf to her and she hungrily gobbled it up as if she hadn't eaten for days. That was the beginning of my bonding experience with her. Shio followed her around but kept a respectable distance away from her. Our hearts wept for her on that first night.

The second day, we brought her out to Long Island so that she could be in a place that mimicked her old suburban environment. She was still swollen and sore from her surgery but made the journey with us. Her whole fragile being stole the hearts of Kaiju's hudad and his human grandparents during our #twiba meet up. We rejoiced when she crouched down and peed in Kaiju's backyard. Her tail lifted into a fallen question mark shape unlike the last 24 hours where it hung limp from fear. Then she spent the rest of the day hiding under couches and cars again. Small steps.

On the third day, we spent time sitting outside with her so she would get used to the new outdoor noises that she would experience. She peed and pooped once each. We did a little dance to celebrate. She still hid in her crate but was more curious about her new environment. Slow and steady progress for this girl. Shio patiently waited outside her crate each morning for her to emerge - he's a champ.

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Fast forward to the one week point, she was still scared while outside but noticeably less. She was very curious about her surroundings and had regular bathroom breaks. She let dogs sniff her and sniffed in return. Her stitches were almost fully healed and we went for our first vet visit. The vet praised her for being a great Shiba and gave her many treats. She started replying to Shio's desperate attempts to get her to play with play bows and chomping at his face. He loved it so much and could barely contain himself. She was excited to be fed, ate treats from anyone at the dog run, and wanted to be outside of her crate all the time to spend time with us in the living room. She even picked out a favorite spot on the couch to sleep in. Each time she saw me walking up towards her at the top of the stairs, she flattened her ears and jumped up to give me excited puppy kisses all over my face. It was a real transformation in just one week. Everything from here on forward was just to sit back and continue to watch her blossom. Oh, and she LOVES to be held like a baby, just like they said she would.

All this progress was made in just ONE week.

So far, this is an experience that I wouldn't trade for the world.