Monday, December 28, 2009

Dog rescue: you're doing it wrong

Actually, I don't have any faith in the concept of "dog rescue", any more than "off-the-track thoroughbreds." Unless the "rescuer" has some serious knowledge of problem dogs (or horses, as the case may be) and a track record of improving the problems, "rescue" is really just moving the dog from one set of clueless people to another. And I'm not even convinced that the average "rescuer" is particularly well-meaning.

One "rescued" dog I know personally was cute as a puppy, and turned into a gigantic, high-energy dog. His people didn't walk him and had no time for dog training. He chewed things and peed in the house. So, friends of the family "rescued" the dog. They also never walk him, or the other two dogs in the house. They do marginally more training. The dog still chews things. The peeing-in-the-house problem, however, was solved by having him tied up outside all day. Swell.

Another family decided they wanted a specific breed of dog, because the man of the house had one as a kid and wanted the same breed, to hunt with. The woman wasn't sure that "that breed is good with kids." Hmmmmm... First of all, no dog, let alone breed of dog, is "good with kids." Either your kids know how to handle dogs safely, or they don't. Considering this woman finds it very cute when her kid points a loaded pellet gun at her, I'm thinking, no dog is safe around her kids. Second, when people want a hunting dog, they go to a breeder of hunting dogs, not to a rescue. I saw an ad for puppies once, it said "dam is exceptionally quiet in the hunting blind". That, obviously, is what you want to know about your hunting dog. That he's bred by a hunter, from parents who have been hunted over and done a good job. If you're looking for a rescue to hunt with, you probably know jack about hunting with a dog, and more importantly, you're too cheap to support a responsible breeder of good hunting dogs. Yay, you.

Unfortunately, they did find that particular breed of dog, more or less, in a rescue. They "rescued" it. It had undisclosed medical issues and they put it down after two weeks.

Another family had two shibas, not particularly well handled to begin with. They "rescued" a much larger dog that looked like a bird dog. Two mistakes: one, don't "rescue" a problem dog if your own aren't particularly well handled to begin with, and two, don't get a dog that needs way more exercise than the ones you already have.

The bird dog turned out to enjoy chasing smells and creatures. Gasp! Shocking! The person spent weeks obsessing about "what breed of dog hunts squirrels" and what on earth could cause a dog to dig after a scent. Meanwhile, the dog had more and more behaviour problems. The people chose not to hire a behaviourist, because they couldn't find one with whom they agreed. Now usually I'd be down with that, because it's unclear what makes a person a "professional dog behaviourist" other than their own business cards, however, if you're so clueless that you can't understand why your dog chases scents, maybe you should take someone else's word for it. However beside the point it will be, it can't be any worse than your ideas.

In the end they devised the solution of overfeeding the dog, which succeeded in putting weight on her but not in solving her behavioural problems. Then they returned the dog to the "rescue" organization.

The only successful dog "rescue" story I know is my former next-door neighbour. She wanted my dog. (Of course. Everyone loves Tinky-Winky.) Instead she ended up adopting a basset from another neighbour who had one too many dogs. Within a week, the next-door neighbour came knocking on my door, near tears because her dog wasn't house-trained, pulled when walking, stuck her head in the fridge whenever the door was opened, and otherwise made a nuisance of herself every two seconds. I told her the word of Cesar and had her read his books. Now she and her basset actually live happily ever after. But then again, she's a very smart and very teachable person.

You're only "rescuing" a dog if you can handle it well. If you don't understand a thing about the average dog, let alone problem dogs, all you're doing is stroking your ego at the dog's expense.

Bad "rescues" piss me off.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The dog ate my nuts!

No, this is not a shameless ploy to get more hits. Tinky-Winky really ate my nuts.

See, I had a bowl of mixed nuts, which never happens because I don't believe in junk food. And I was walking around the house eating from my bowl of nuts, and Tinky-Winky was following me around wagging her little curly tail madly with that "I know you're about to give me something good" look on her face.

"Ha," I thought. "Dogs don't eat nuts, you silly creature."

To prove it to her, I put the bowl on the floor. She sniffed at it and licked some of the nuts tentatively.

"See," I thought, "she doesn't like it."

And I walked away.

And then I came back. All the almonds were on the carpet around the bowl. All the other nuts were gone. My first thought was of the "poor poor me" variety. I was really looking forward to eating those nuts.

My second thought was "aren't nuts poisonous to dogs?"


I googled it, and it's only macadamias. Phew! Of course I have no idea which nuts are macadamias, and if there were any in the bowl, but they're not "poisonous" as in D1-poisonous. (WHMIS class D1 is "materials causing immediate and serious toxic effects".) She's not going to drop dead. At least, it's very unlikely that she's going to drop dead from eating my bowl of mixed nuts.

And just so you know, I picked up the almonds that she had spit out on the carpet, and I ate them. Dang it, I was really looking forward to my bowl of mixed nuts.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Things I love about my shiba

Tinky-Winky weighs 22 lbs. Ideally, according to her vet and her breeder, she's "supposed" to weigh 20 lbs. Except her breeder lives on Vancouver Island and I don't think the vet spends a lot of time walking shibas in winter. In my opinion, Tinky-Winky is like a tiny polar bear: she needs that extra 10% to keep warm during the eight months a year that it's winter.

Also, she has a much thicker winter coat than southern shibas. I read blogs of people who own shibas in... Texas, or places like that, and their shibas are thin with little silky coats. That's nice. It's not suitable for here, and I don't think it's very authentic, either, because Japan is pretty cold in winter. Tinky-Winky grows a nice thick winter coat. It's still nice and silky to the touch, but it looks a lot shaggier than those Texas shibas.

Anyway, I'm not on about her coat here. I'm talking about her weight. 22 lbs. 22 lbs is a good weight when you have to carry your dog around the block to relieve herself. Considering I really wanted a Malinois (75 lbs) or an akita (up to 120 lbs), I'm sure glad I chose a shiba instead. It's the smallest dog breed I ever considered (*) and I'm reaping the rewards now.

*: I considered getting a chihuahua and naming her "Candy", to soften my butch image, but I wasn't serious about that. A chihuahua just wouldn't be me at all.

Eentsy weentsy cold feet

In just a few days, the weather went from -10°C-ish to -40°C-ish. Tinky-Winky's feet didn't adapt. She always gets cold feet at the beginning of winter, and she refuses to wear boots, so she has to live with it.

Except... I can't very well let her sit on the -40°C snow and cry until she accepts the consequences of her choice not to wear boots. So, for the last few days, I've been carrying her instead of walking her. We start out walking, then her feet get cold and she cries, and I pick her up and carry her. Every once in a while I put her back down and see if she'll walk.

Of course it would be easier to stay home, except, she won't relieve herself anywhere close to the house. I kinda think the physical act of walking helps her move her bowel, but she also has a mental block about going close to home. So, for days, I've been carrying her ten minutes from the house, setting her down so she can poop, and carrying her back to the house. I'm not sure she understands that she has to go before I'll carry her back home. Some times she just starts crying again every time I put her down, instead of looking for a suitable place to poop. And even though this is her fifth winter up north, she still doesn't seem to understand that her feet hurt more if she tries to go in the deep snow. Or maybe her need for privacy when pooping is greater than the pain in her feet from the deep snow. Yesterday, in -38°C, she pooped in the deep snow while balancing precariously on two feet.

The other problem with all this is that she's already not getting enough walking in Yellowknife, let alone when all her "walking" consists in me carrying her to her bathroom spot and back. So, the lack of exercise really comes out in vastly multiplied dog aggression.

Fortunately, today is a lot warmer: -31°C. Warm, eh? Well, warm enough for her to do our routine walk on her own. So now she's all about more walking. Hopefully we can get in some decent runs this weekend to get some of the vinegar out of her, now that the piss is taken care of.

(Yes, I just wrote a long post about my dog's bathroom habits. And it's still more fun than reading about babies! Muwahaha!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mohandas Doggy

The place where the dog fight happened is on Gaetz Drive, and we walk through it every walk, so we had to go through there five times this weekend. The next walk after the fight, Tinky-Winky hesitated and looked carefully down the street as far as she could, and seeing there was no dog, she zoomed through where the fight happened. That's odd, in that it's the first time I've seen her show a memory of where she's had a fight.

The next walk, however, when she looked around the area, she saw a loose dog. Not the same loose dog, mind you, but she came running back to me. Well, fine, she's supposed to do that when there is a dog. I declined to put her leash on her and told her to just walk alongside of me. But no: she insisted on being picked up. Curiouser and curiouser... She only asks to be carried when she's hurting, usually from cold feet, or tired from too much walking. Yet, that was clearly not the problem. No, she insisted on being picked up, and looked anxiously back and forth between me and the loose dog.

Ok, I picked her up. And carried her past the loose dog, who was minding his own business. And she watched the dog the whole time. Once we were past the fight area, I set her down again, and she took off happily again.


I'm so impressed that my dog would ask me to carry her to make sure she doesn't get in a fight. No, she's not an aggressive dog. She's a dog who attacks when she feels threatened. Like any other dog. All that's needed to keep her safe is to remove perceived threats.

Like mother, like daughter

Ok, so Tinky-Winky was in a more aggressive dog fight this weekend. A loose dog approached me while Tinky-Winky was away from me. She hates having another dog closer to me than she is, so that wasn't good. The loose dog actually had very good dog manners. He came up quietly behind me to sniff my butt, and when he saw I had a dog with me, he waited for her side-on and not looking at her directly.

Tinky-Winky approached straight, looking at him, with her ears up. Oops, that's bad. I asked her to desist, but no, she lunged at the other dog. Double oops: he's much bigger, and she's totally out of practice fighting. She used to be invincible even against bigger dogs. Now, not so much. He threw her down, she got back up and went at him again, and then I managed to grab his collar and ordered everyone to quit. And they did. And I wasn't even surprised. Cesar is right: if I'm in control, there is nothing for these two to fight about. Doesn't matter that I controlled the dog that's theoretically not under my control.

So, then I asked the loose dog to leave, which he did, and admonished Tinky-Winky, and resumed walking. She took a few steps and then came to sit down in front of me in her "please carry me" pose.



I could see she was hurting somewhere, because she was holding her head funny, but she obviously not mortally wounded, and she started it, so, no sympathy. I told her as much, too. "You had no business starting that," I told her. "That dog was being polite. I'm not going to cuddle you for starting a fight."

However much of that she understood, she took off on our regular path again, still holding her head funny. Once we got home, I looked at her, and it appears she got her ear bit. Not much, but dog ears bleed quite a bit, so she looked somewhat worse off than she was. I wiped the blood and put some Bactine on the bite, and then I petted her and cuddled her.

On the one hand, it's not funny, and of course puncture wounds are apt to get infected, blah blah blah.

And on the other hand, it's somewhat funny, first because she needs putting in her place when it comes to fights. The more fights she loses, the more she thinks twice about trying again. But more importantly, because if I'm not mistaken, her mother was never shown due to losing an ear in a dog fight at a young age. And her grandmother, though nearly blind and deaf by now, makes a daily habit of antagonizing a Newfoundland dog on her street.

Still, I hope to get one of her bloodline when she passes away.

One shiba is better than two

You know what I notice about people who complain about their shiba problems? Most of them seem to try to resolve these problems by getting another shiba.


Ok: that's dumb.

First of all, like my old mentor used to say, one dog is a dog, two dogs is a pack. Two dogs aren't twice as much trouble as one: they're exponentially more trouble.

Second, people don't have shiba problems. It's the shibas that have people problems. If you're creating problems for your shiba as it is, getting another one means you're just creating problems for two shibas. Yay you.

And third, shibas are monogamous. They're not huskies or labs. Their weltanschauung is one shiba, one person. Tinky-Winky has never taken to anyone we've lived with, and she'd hate for us to get another dog. Although she'd like to have an alpha male human in our pack again, she's strictly my dog, and that's how we both like it. Not all of them are as strict about it as Tinky-Winky, but they're not affection whores and they're not big on sharing.

Get one shiba. No, don't get a shiba. Most people are crappy dog people. Get a lab. But if you get a shiba, and you have problems with it, deal, or get a lab instead. Don't get two shibas just because you're having problems with one shiba. That's patently absurb.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Funniest dog fight ever

I should mention that Tinky-Winky came to me labelled as an "aggressive" dog. After four years of working on her "aggression", it's come to my attention that she's actually a fearful dog who figures the best defence is a good offence. When she feels threatened, she attacks. Over the years, we've greatly reduced her perception of what's a threat, and also we've developed a procedure. When she sees a dog approaching and she's not sure she's comfortable, she comes back to me and sits. Then I hold her and deal with the other dog until its owner can control it.

The only problem we run into is that what Tinky-Winky considers threatening is what other dog owners call "friendly." Tinky-Winky is right, of course. A dog who comes running at a strange dog like a bat out of hell, making eye contact and getting into her personal space without introductions, isn't being "friendly": it's being unbalanced and extremely rude. Most of the time, she'll put those dogs in their place with a warning snap. The owners pout, but they know they're at fault for not controlling their dog, so they shut up.

Anyway, on to my anecdote.

Tonight on our walk, a dachshund in a parka came running at us like a maniac, barking frantically. Tinky-Winky lunged at him and there was some barking, snapping and growling, before I restrained her. Then she sat and was quiet for a little bit, but the dachshund kept barking and feinting at her, and she was getting upset. In fact, she was starting to snarl, and when Tinky-Winky gets snarly, someone's cruising for a bruising. Of course any normal dog would know a snarl means just that, and it's pretty weird that I understand dog language better than a dachshund, but that's the way people raise their dogs, sadly.

At this point the dachshund's owner finally caught up with her dog and restrained him, apologized profusely, and then, I'm not sure what her reasoning was, but she turned her dog around and offered his butt to Tinky-Winky, with the idea that Tinky-Winky would sniff it and be reconciled with the creature.

O... K...

So that was socially awkward, both by dog standards and human standards, but Tinky-Winky, after a moment's thought, resolved the awkwardness with characteristically decisive action: she bit the other dog's butt. With great enthusiasm, might I add.

The dachshund squealed and squirmed. Tinky-Winky sat back down with me. And the other owner and I just about killed ourselves laughing. It was so unexpected, under-handed and yet so aptly canine.

Tinky-Winky, clearly, felt that the situation was adequately closed, and we walked away without her looking back. The dachshund jumped into the vehicle he had previously refused to get into, whereat the owner said "oh, you're listening to me now are you?" We wished each other a good night with the greatest good will and fellowship. And I kept on giggling as I followed my dog.

Dog aggression isn't funny... but some times, it is.