Bringing Home a Shiba

Eskimo Kisses

Since Emi's arrival to our home 11 months ago, we've received a number of readers contacting us directly through the 'Contact Us' form submission on this site. Thank you all for the kind wishes and sentiments! We've also received more general questions from readers who've stumbled upon this site and I usually like to answer them through a public post since it's likely that other people also have the same questions. Most recently, we've had readers contact us for advice on bringing home a new Shiba. The closest we've ever come to a blog post highlighting tips was back in April 2010, where I listed the Top 3 Training Tips we received from other people. Two years and two Shibas later, I finally feel comfortable dispensing our own list of must-dos when bringing a new Shiba puppy home. As a disclaimer, this is purely based on our own experience with Shio so please take this advice with a grain of salt!

 

1. Crate Training

This was a lifesaver for us when we brought Shio home. He was 3 months old when he came home with us and not fully potty trained and didn't know the house-rules so we crated him to keep him out of trouble when we couldn't watch him. He cried bloody murder in the living room for the first two nights that we crated him but we ignored him (sorry neighbors!). Shio adjusted to his crate quickly and it helped save our apartment during the potty training and teething process.

2. Socialize, Socialize, Socialize

Knowing that Shibas can be aloof, we had Shio meet as many people and dogs as we could. Most of the dogs were from our neighborhood and luckily very tolerant of puppies and allowed him to jump on their faces but corrected him whenever Shio went too far. By meeting and playing with so many dogs, he learned what was and was not appropriate behavior. Shio was stopped by a lot of people outside our apartment building because he was so little and fluffy at the time and socialized with adult humans in that way. We were more particular about the children that were allowed to approach him because we didn't want him to have terrible experiences with kids and kids to have bad experiences with dogs. In the end, Shio wound up becoming aloof as he entered adulthood but that's something that's our of our control.

3. Training and Exposure

It's never too early to train a Shiba puppy basic obedience commands. They're very smart and the sooner you train them to listen to you, the better. We also exposed Shio to as much as life as possible when he was young. From sitting on a park bench to bringing him down to the subway tracks, I took him everywhere with me so that he saw everything that I saw. He learned to master  riding escalators, traveling on trains, watching fireworks, and shopping with me by the time he was a year old. We saw that Shio loves to figure things out by watching our physical behavior and the elements so we kept him busy by showing him everything we could.

4. Martingale Collars

Though there are many different opinions on collars/harnesses, we personally stand by martingale collars. We find it the best at helping us control Shio during walks and also the only type of collar/harness that he hasn't managed to slip himself out of when used and sized properly.

5. Set the Ground Rules

Rules of the home with a new puppy should be established prior to the puppy's arrival. Bullet point the rules on a list and post them on the wall in your home for every family to see and memorize. Nothing is more confusing to a puppy than mixed signals. For example, J and I established that Shio would not be allowed table scraps so we never gave him scraps from the dinner table no matter how much he begged. Correct unwanted behavior the moment that it happens even though the pup will inevitably be adorable when ripping the toilet paper roll to shreds. :)

Hope this is helpful to those who are bringing a new pup into their home.

Good luck and congratulations to you all!

 

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!

Emi's May Update

photo 1

Nothing but progress for our little Emi last month. Physically, she's finally adding some meat to her bones and I'm guessing she's 17 lbs right now! She has very solid hindquarters and a big ol' tush now. Her once brittle fur now has a beautiful sheen to it after some much needed Omega-3s and the skin flaking has subsided. She and Shio have been shedding up a large fur storm and our apartment has become dust bunny central!

One of Emi's greatest skills is that she knows when to get excited and when to lay down and be a cuddle bug. She loves to hop onto the bed in the mornings and snuggle up next to me and I wind up losing an hour every day laying next to her with my face buried in her fur. I call that lost hour my "Emi Spending Time." She still gets very hyper around midnight and has Shiba zoomies by herself. We like this because she tires herself out!

When playing with Shio, you can tell that she's a lot more confident and will use her front paws to smack him around while biting his face. The four of us went away to New Jersey for the Memorial Day weekend and Emi did very well on the road trip. Our long neighborhood walks in the morning and evening are helping her adjust to her loud surroundings though we still have a ways to go. It has been tradition for her to shy away from new people so whenever we have guests in our home, we expect her to hide under our bed until she feels comfortable enough to come out. Our friends and family usually make a big deal about her emergence from the bedroom towards the living room so she retreats immediately back under the bed. This repeats over and over again throughout the night. In our last 48 hours while my in-laws visited, Emi felt very comfortable hanging out in the same room with them after her initial run to the bedroom and hide reaction. The difference was that they carried an even toned and light hearted conversation the whole visit and ignored her the whole time.

We were finally able to test her reaction around cats for the first time last month. We visited our friend Georgie at their apartment and Emi ignored him the whole time. Then she stole his window seat and his bed!

Now that Emi's a lot more comfortable, we've started working on training both the dogs. It's very difficult to have Emi acknowledge us when she's frightened outside but we're working on training her at night first when she's less afraid. Soon, we'll work on daytime training to reenforce the work we do at night and take it from there!

Overall we're very excited to see what next month will bring.

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.

.

.

.

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.

Back to Basics

Our foster, Goo Goo 2, will be here in an hour! In preparation for her arrival, we've gone back to the basics.

1. Crate for training

Having very little idea of Goo Goo's background, we are prepared to crate train her, just as we did with Shio. When Shio was a puppy, he was only allowed out of the crate under supervision and was crated when we were out of the apartment and bedtime. I remember for the first two nights after we picked up Shio, he wailed all night. If Goo Goo does the same, it'll be a loooong weekend.

2. Potty training

Not sure where to start with this one. I'm sure that Goo Goo will experience some sort of anxiety and her whole system will be thrown out of kilter for the first couple of days. If she's 11 months old, I anticipate four breaks a day like Shio had when he was that age.

3. Leash training

Being that the NJ-22s did not have room to run and were not walked, I've been told that though they are generally good dogs they lack the training for walking on a leash. We've stocked up on treats for that!

4. Puppy proofing 

Spent all morning making sure that the things that are touching the ground are moved to higher ground or run the risk of having it destroyed. Fingers crossed for this one!

Wish us luck!

Thanks to our little Shiba community for the well wishes. Hope you are just as excited to meet her as we are!

PS - Please consider donating to help with medical expenses for these Shibas on the NYC Shiba Rescue site: http://nycshibarescue.org/donate/