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.

Emi's May Update

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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.

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.

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.

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/