Shio vs. Walking

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It's no secret that we have always had trouble getting our older Shiba to walk. He frequently lays down in protests and has always been like this since the first day he came home with us in March 2009. In fact, I had another blog post with the same title from July 2010. It was cute and funny at first but like most things that start off with that description, the behavior quickly got old and frustrating. Alas, we thought that this is what we thought our Shiba is and what he will be forever so we accepted it and moved on by avoiding taking shorter walks and going to the dog run to let him play off-leash. However after we moved to Brooklyn, things changed and he didn't run around in the local dog run. Less energy was spent and he still didn't like to take long walks with me. We played indoors and let him be since we heard that Shibas' personalities change as they grow into their adult selves. When Emi came, things changed. Emi had a lot of energy and once she became acclimated to her new home in Brooklyn, we needed to be able to take long walks with both dogs outdoors so that Emi could face her fear of the new noises and people. Shio, having far less energy, was not pleased with long walks and would frequently lay down to remind us how much he hated walks. That's when it was decided that it was time to retrain him because we needed him to cooperate with us. We also hired a dogwalker so that they can socialize with other dogs and be taken around the neighborhood with an experienced person who can handle them.

  

The neighborhood walker that we hired is also a dog trainer and it helped us because he understood our Shibas' personalities more than we did after time. I would catch up with him for reports on how they did and never once has Shio laid down in protest with him. They've been walking together since April and not one protest while I have to get Shio off the ground on at least twice during a 30 minute walk. The dogwalker mentioned that training Shio would be most difficult for us since he's accustomed to behaving this way with us for 3 years now and it'll take time to change his way. Times that amount of time by a thousand for retraining a really stubborn Shiba.

In June we started on our training journey and never looked back. June came and went and I would be mentally and physically exhausted after walks with the two dogs. Day after day Shio and I played tug of war while walking and Emi hung around my legs frightened by the joggers and children in playgrounds. Most days I would be frustrated and my right forearm would hurt from the strain and we'd all flop down in the living room in exhaustion afterwards. Most of July was the same but at some point during the month I realized that I was able to handle the protests with a better sense of humor and coerce Shio to getting back up much quicker. I also noticed that Emi was less frightened by the noises and people in the park. Walks were cut shorter due to sudden rainstorms or extreme high temperatures. I had Shio walking 3 miles a day by the end of July and I thought that would be the best it was ever going to be.

While chatting with dogwalker this week, he told me that Shio "enjoys walking." I asked him if he had the correct dog in mind and laughed it off. However his words resonated in my mind. Could Shio, the Shiba that would rather lay in the middle of the road then walk, really enjoy walking?! Yesterday I set out with a different attitude, one that was happy to go out on a walk with my two crazy dogs rather than one where I was just dragging two dogs outdoors, and it worked. I have two dogs that are happy to follow me on walks and happy to be outdoors with me. Can you believe it? I can't but I have photographed evidence.

The journey to get here was rough but I'm happy we made it. Tired pups are the best.

Life with Two Shibas

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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!

Emi's April Update

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It's been over 6 months since Emi first arrived into our home as a foster! I can't believe how quickly time flies. First and foremost, the most important achievement so far in my eyes, is that Emi has finally gotten used to Josh's presence and now adores him. It took a very long time for her to trust him but in April she finally allowed him to be a part of her life. It took a lot of treats and playing fetch in our living room but she will now go up to Josh and cuddle up next to him. In return, Josh has allowed her to fully enter his heart and watching him sing personalized songs to her is priceless!

Shio and Emi's relationship is just as strong as ever. In the 6 months that Emi's been here they've really only had 4 significant arguments. The last one was from March and it was a result of Shio's insistance that both marrow bones were his and Emi wasn't allowed to have one. We've remediated that situation simply by separating the two of them when we give them chew treats.

The biggest problem we have right now is Emi's hesitation when outdoors. She still hasn't gotten accustomed to all the passersby in our neighborhood and is still very skittish when she hears loud noises which is unfortunate because there's constant construction around here. We've started to take her on walks away from the dog run because she's gotten incredibly comfortable there and we want to expand her horizons to build her confidence. We still hire a dog walker twice a week to take the pups around the neighborhood and work on their fears. Our dog walker told us that while with him, she's gotten comfortable enough to let a little girl pet her! Otherwise, when I take her out, it's like the movie '50 First Dates' where Emi needs to readjust and realize that she's been down this path before.

We've tried to fatten her up but Emi remains steady at 15.5 lbs. She is very muscular from running and jumping around all day at home but she's just a very slender gal. Her face has lightened up a little more and there's a little more light in her eyes. She doesn't play with other dogs besides Shio and would rather chase squeaky balls around a park.

Week 3 with Goo Goo

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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!

Goo Goo the Pole Dancer

Goo Goo is learning how to walk on a leash. We haven't trained her to walk properly yet because she's timid when she's outdoors. Living near a highway and having many tourists make for many loud noises and chatter that this Jersey girl is not used to so we are more focused on having her get used to all the new noises first. Yesterday, she wrapped herself around a street sign pole. Twice.

This girl is quite special.