Friday, December 31, 2010

The “next dog” conundrum

It occurred to me yesterday that I’m worrying for nothing about what kind of dog to get after Tinky-Winky. Not that I won’t have to face that decision sooner or later, but most likely, it’s going to be much, much later.

Dogs in Tinky-Winky’s family tend to live about 16 years, short of violent death such as cars. Tinky-Winky is 11, but doesn’t look even close to that old, so I’m rather hopeful that she’ll have an exceptionally long life. Twenty is probably too much to ask, but 18 seems plausible enough to me. So that’s seven more years, praise be to God.

After she’s gone, I’ll have a few dog-less years. Partly to avoid the “rebound dog” thing, but much more because I have some projects I want to pursue in life that just aren’t compatible with having a dog. So for a few years, maybe, say, five years, I won’t be looking for another dog. And that makes twelve years.

So let’s say ten to fifteen years, plausibly, before I have to worry about finding a new dog.

But I still worry about it. Partly because I’m not sure whether the things that annoy me with Tinky-Winky are her own idiosyncrasies, or really “breed traits” that I’ll have to put up with again if I get another shiba. I can deal with the attitude (sometimes barely) because I love Tinky-Winky. I don’t think I’d tolerate it from any other dog. Of course I could argue that she was already six years old when I got her, and if I had had her from a puppy, I could have raised her differently.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

So should I take a chance on another shiba when the time comes, or am I better off to go with a less cute but “probably” more cooperative breed like a Norwegian buhund?

It’s not for another ten to fifteen years. Why am I worried about it now? Why don’t I let it go?

Who knows. Talk to The Brain about that.

Another thing that’s begun to nag at me in the Next Dog Conundrum is the realization that the next dog is probably the last dog I’ll ever have. Ten to fifteen years from now plus fifteen years of the next dog’s life means any subsequent dog would almost certainly outlive me, and I don’t want to do that to a dog. So the next dog is gonna be the last dog.

Again, why is this gnawing at me? Who cares? Why does it matter?

It shouldn’t matter. But I have several dog names in mind and I won’t have as many dogs as dog names. I don’t believe in imposing names on dogs anyway; I let the name come to me as I get to know the dog. So I’d like to name my future dogs WHMIS, Riddick, SatÄ«, Shi Huangdi and Cheka, but realistically, at most one of those will happen. Which of these five dogs might cross my path? Each name evokes a specific personality in my mind. But at most one of the five will become real.

It really doesn’t matter. Not for ten to fifteen years. Right now my precious has stacked all her doggy beds and blankets in a neat pile and is sleeping peacefully curled up on top of the pile… with one ear toward the fridge and one ear toward me. The last thing I need to decide now is “shiba or buhund.”

But it keeps gnawing at me.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Greed, thy name is dog

As I was saying yesterday, the dog ate half of a huge steak for Christmas dinner, on top of her regular supper. So afterwards she lay passed out like a snake that has eaten a goat.

After a while I turned her out for a digestive stroll, and when she got back, the first thing she did was… go look for the meat wrapper in the garbage. Excuse me? I told her “leave it”, which is one command she respects pretty consistently. So then she looked expectantly at the microwave and the tops of the counters. She can’t see that high, of course, but she uses this looking-up trick to communicate to me that I’m about to give her something good.

Yeah: no. You had all your regular food plus half of a really expensive steak. And there are kids starving in Africa, by the way. So that’s more than enough for you today.

That’s the species’ entire evolutionary strategy: insatiable greed, complete absence of conscience, and the ability to mutate into shapes that make us think they’re adorable.

But it still beats the average boyfriend.

Of dogs and men

One thing my dog does have in common with the average boyfriend though, is she has “her” side of the bed.

Technically, all sides of the bed are mine. So I’d like to think. However, since I have to turn off the light before I get into bed, I always get into bed on the same side, and so I don’t sleep quite in the middle, and so it appears the dog has decided the other side of the bed is hers. I hadn’t realized that until yesterday, when I had stretched my legs on “her” side and she jumped up, found “her” spot was taken, glared at me, and then made a big show of lying down on my leg as if it was comfortable.

Hmmmmmm…

I’m not really full-out Cesar Millan in the rules of the house, but I think this requires firmness on my part. I like having the dog on the bed, but it’s my bed. All of it. Whatever side of the bed I want to sleep on, the dog can bloody well take the other side, or else sleep in her own bed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Things I love about my shiba

She loves the way I cook meat.

One thing I don’t love about Canada is how people cook meat, especially beef. They marinade the crap out of it, paint it with steak sauce, and then grill it until it’s tough as rawhide. You might as well be eating a steak sauce-flavoured chew toy. My ex especially always said he hated the taste of meat, so he’d buy really expensive cuts and cook them so you’d never know you were eating cow. I don’t see why we couldn’t just have bought tofu and soaked it in steak sauce.

I cook steak the way my father taught me in the Old Country. You get the pan red hot, throw the steak in, flip it, get it out. Ninja steak. If you want seasoning on it, you put a bit of expensive mustard on your plate and apply it to the steak as required.

For Christmas dinner, the dog and I had steak. Today instead of yesterday, because I broke my wrist on the 22nd and yesterday I was still feeling too sick to celebrate anything. And one great thing about having a dog instead of a boyfriend is, the dog has no idea what we’re celebrating or why or when, and it’s all the same to her that we had Christmas dinner a day late.

So I cooked the steak the way I like it. About that, actually, I’ve taken to eating my meat much more rare since I’ve been cooking dog food. Every time I mix a batch of dog food I’m tempted to eat it, which of course I don’t because raw ground beef is not considered safe for human consumption. But on the rare occasions when I eat steak, instead of medium-well like I used to before I had the dog, now I make it rare. Today we had a really expensive piece of meat which was more than an inch thick, so I had to cook the outside for about three minutes to pretend that the inside was gonna be anything other than raw. This didn’t completely succeed; in fact in the thickest parts of the steak, the meat wasn’t even hot. It was dark red throughout and bled profusely. If it had been any less cooked it would have mooed when I poked it with my fork. And so tender, you hardly had to chew it at all.

Dang, that was good.

Tinky-Winky, of course, got half the steak. Probably 100 to 150 grams (4-5 ounces). She ate her share in about four seconds and has been passed out ever since. She’s like a snake that just swallowed a goat.

One other thing Tinky-Winky and I have in common is that when we eat steak, we wash it down with water, not alcohol. That way she doesn’t get crazy and verbally abusive after supper. It’s nice being able to share a holiday dinner with someone who appreciates my cooking and mellows out after eating.

If men were as good as dogs, maybe I wouldn’t be single.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Does your dog eat zucchini?

Mine does. I didn't even know that, as I don't typically cook any, but I had made a zucchini casserole for a potluck, and I had two zucchini left, and I have to eat all my leftover foods before we leave next Tuesday, so I threw something together. Rice, bread crumbs, cheese, zucchini, olive oil and basil. It's not even particularly good by human standards, which is fine because I have no palate anyway.

The dog got super excited about me cooking. I assumed that since I normally cook only for her, she figured I was making her something good. Then when I was eating it, she was staring at me with her big brown greedy little eyes. I figured she was after the rice, bread or cheese, three things she likes to eat. So I gave her the last bite, as I usually do. Including one small piece of zucchini, which I figured she'd eat around.

She ate the zucchini.

Ok, mistakes happen, right?

The next serving, I left her more zucchini and less of the rest. She ate the zucchini. I've now eaten five of the six servings I had created, and she's still loving the zucchini. Today she spat out a big piece and left it on the floor, so I thought, she's finally realizing that dogs don't eat zucchini. I picked it up to go throw it out, but she ran after me, followed by the male cat, who doesn't like anything we eat but begs for it anyway. So I gave Tinky-Winky the zucchini, and she gave it another try. She had a hard time with it because it was so big, so she had to chew it - not a skill dogs are good at, especially for chewing vegetable matter. Their teeth aren't shaped to do that. But, not only she managed to eat the whole piece, but she also gave the cat the evil eye when he tried to get too close to her prey.

Ha. You practically have to mince carrots to make her eat them, but she will have words with a cat over a giant piece of zucchini. What up with that?

Seriously, if you're reading this, do me a favour and leave a comment to let me know whether your dog eats zucchini. I'd like to get a feel for how normal this is.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dear cat: I like you as a friend. Get out of my bed.

The roommate's cats like me. Not more than they like her, of course, but she works long hours, so they've seen a lot more of me than of her the last few weeks. They're a bit attached to me. They sit with me and ask me for food. The male especially likes to come into my room and sit on my bed. More specifically, on Tinky-Winky's assigned blanket on my bed.

Hmmmmm...

I like you, cat, but this is my bed. Mine and Tinky-Winky's. You don't get to sleep here. Only Tinky-Winky and I sleep in this bed. Also, I'm allergic to you, so please stay the heck off my pillow.

Also, I think the roommate is not too amused that her cats like me a lot more than my dog likes her. Tinky-Winky likes the roommate more than any prior roommate, but she's a stand-offish and very monogamous little dog. My monogamous little dog.

And I think Tinky-Winky doesn't like how much the cats like me, and the cats don't like how much I like Tinky-Winky. We all get along really well, but there is a small undercurrent of jockeying for each other's affections. Which makes me glad that I've never got a second pet to keep Tinky-Winky company when I'm not home. I know she likes having the cats when no humans are home, but I don't think it's worth more to her than having my undivided love. And I don't feel like dividing my love anyway. Once upon a time I had four cats, two dogs, a horse, and a variable number of tropical fishes. Most of them didn't get nearly the amount of bonding and attention that Tinky-Winky gets.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another reason I'm glad I have a dog

One word: litterbox.

The place with the cats in Calgary is actually very nice for a roommate place, but the litterbox is just off the kitchen. It's sick. Like anybody else, I hate the smell of litterbox, let alone when I'm trying to make food. And even if it didn't smell, I'd rather not have a big box of excrement in the house. It's certainly no worse picking up after the dog than doing the litterbox, and at least the smell stays outside.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm glad I have a dog

Two of our roommates in Calgary are cats. I used to have four cats, long before Tinky-Winky, so you'd think I'd love cats.

Now that I have a dog, I don't like cats as much as I used to. They're strange creatures. Their skulls are so tiny and bony, it feels like you could crush them like eggs. And when you pick them up they're all limp and saggy, like water balloons with claws.

It's not that I dislike cats, but I'm glad I have a dog instead. My Tinky-Winky is no more ornery than a cat and at least she's a solid, not a liquid in a cat pelt. Her skull is nice and solid, and when you pick her up she maintains her cylindrical shape.

I prefer the love of my life not to deform so easily.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

World's spoiledest dog

It's actually my goal in life to have the world's spoiledest dog. Not in terms of behaviour, or by buying her outfits and carrying her in a purse, but by giving her as much as possible of what dogs want out of life.

Dogs want three things in life: pack, food, walks. Which is why Tinky-Winky and I walk off-leash as much as possible. At home that's once a day if I'm working, three times a day if I'm not. But right now we're in Calgary AB for my technical training, so off-leashing is twice a week at Nose Hill Park. In fact, I picked Calgary not only because it's an excellent school, but because of Nose Hill Park. And I picked the place I'm renting because it's close to Nose Hill Park, and I picked my church because it's close to Nose Hill Park.

See, Nose Hill Park is the greatest urban dog-walking place EVAH. It's gigantic and nobody goes there. Well, some people go, but compared to the size of the park, there is almost no one. Perfect for a dog who's unpredictable in her dealings with other dogs. Also there are porcupines, and Tinky-Winky loves porcupines. Though not in a good way.

The downside of Calgary, however, is that it's located high up the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and that leads to some pretty surreal weather. Up to last Sunday, November 14, it was warm. I didn't need a coat to walk around. Neither did Tinky-Winky, so she blew her coat with a vengeance. She looks like a rat.

In the night of Monday to Tuesday, an Arctic air mass blew in. It got to -13C (9F), it snowed, and it was hideously windy from the north. I don't remember ever being so cold in -13C. I don't remember being this cold in -30C, for that matter. It was UGLY.

After three days, the snow stopped, and the wind died down mostly, but the cold stayed. Arctic air masses get really stable once they stop moving, which is why in our subarctic latitudes back home, we get beautiful winter weather: -20C (0F), sunny and no wind. Perfect construction weather, I can tell you. So, it wasn't so bad, but it was still ugly for my poor dog with no coat. It's pretty normal for her to get cold feet at the beginning of winter, because she's getting older, but usually she gets over it pretty quickly. This time, she can't get over it, because she has no coat and her whole body is freezing.

So, I wasn't going to take her to Nose Hill yesterday, but towards park-going time, she got all excited and pushy. Poor dog. I loaded her in the car and we went. At the park, she ran up the hill all excited like she usually does. "That's going better than I thought", I thought. Then she got to the top of the hill and ran right into the wind. And she turned around and ran back down the hill just as fast as she had run up, and back to the car. We were out of the car less than ten minutes.

Today, same thing: I wasn't gonna take her, but she was begging to go out, so I took her. But this time, I took a fleece blanket along. I carried her partway up the hill wrapped in the blanket, then I put her down. She went about five steps, got cold feet, and stopped. So I wrapped her up in the blanket, picked her up, and carried her until she stopped shivering. I put her down and she went five steps, and got cold. I picked her up and carried her.

After the fourth time, she was feeling warm enough to start galloping around on her own feet. She stayed near me for a while, and then took off ahead as she usually does. I was somewhat happy that she was feeling better, but on the other hand, I was worried that she'd get overconfident and get frostbite or hypothermia before I could get to her and all I'd find would be a sad frozen little dogsicle.

Luckily, that didn't happen; I was close to her when she got cold. She had run maybe ten minutes on her own. I turned around and carried her until she stopped shivering again, and then I put her down and she ran right back to the car of her own free will again. We were out of the car for 25 minutes.

I wish we could have got a photo of me carrying her around the park all bundled up like a scarecrow. She was adorable.

So how does that make her the world's spoiledest dog? Well, I don't know anyone else who puts one tenth as much effort into making sure their dog gets off-leash time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You know what else looks like a shiba?





A Norwegian buhund. It's about 20% bigger than a shiba, and I bet it recalls a little better.

Some people are so rude

In the neighbourhood where we're staying in Calgary, there is someone with a small bearded dog, like maybe a miniature schnauzer. I've only seen it at night, so it's hard to tell. Whatever it is, though, it's aggressive towards dogs.

So, as we're walking along today, Tinky-Winky and I saw that aggressive schnauzer thing coming the other way on its flexileash. And you know how we feel about flexileashes.

Tinky-Winky and I pulled over into a driveway to give them room to pass by. But the schnauzer came at my dog, barking and snarling. Still at the end of its flexileash. Ha. I'm sure Tinky-Winky is gonna take that kind of BS... NOT!!! She started barking and snapping too. I held her back and waited for the person and the schnauzer to walk by. Instead of which, the person stopped and pulled feebly at the leash. She didn't reel in her dog, she didn't talk to him with authority, she didn't simply walk by and pull him along. She stood there feebly while her dog tried to start a fight. If I had reacted the same way and let my dog go after hers, we'd have had a big fight on our hands.

In the end I had to pick up Tinky-Winky and carry her away from that annoying little rat. And his useless person.

Really, who does that? You're responsible for your dog. If it's trying to pick a fight, control it and get it away from others. Don't just stand there uselessly waiting for a fight to start.

And by the way, if your dog weighs less than about 40 lbs, PICK IT UP. Solves just about any problem you're having. Or however many pounds you can lift. Get a dog that weighs less than you can pick up off the ground, then you always have a way to control it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Things I love about my shiba

Some times she twitches in her sleep.

I suppose all creatures do that, really. It's just way cuter when she does it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I gotta have this dog's babies


Isn't he just God's gift to bitches everywhere? He's a Shikoku inu and I don't know his name... but for my next dog I want his baby. (Photo by Kato the Walrus who writes Tora Inu.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rebuttal from the "puggle" people: "die, bitch!"

I think that was more or less it, but really I didn't waste my time on reading too much of it. One guy apparently went through every bit of information about me that can be found online so he could construct a lengthy essay on why my life sucks. Clearly, a potent rebuttal to my opinion on "designer dogs" and the arseholes who breed them.

So, statistically, 100% of a self-selected sample of "puggle" owners not only have lousy literacy skills, but are also really rude, mean people who don't know how to respond to an argument.

Curiouser and curiouser, isn't it? I know all kinds of very normal people who own mutts, and yet everyone I know, even marginally, who owns a "designer dog" is apparently a nasty moron.

You gotta lay off that "designer dog" shit; clearly it's ruining your mind.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Herding: you're doing it wrong


This photo is from May 31 but I forgot to post it. I had stopped to take photos of bison, obviously, and Tinky-Winky got out of the car before I could close the door. Luckily the bison didn't stampede. She's spooked a whole herd before, but this time they must have realized she's only a foot tall and there's only one of her. So they ignored her, and being not a herding dog, she ignored them... until she crossed the path of this cow who was trotting past me, and gave herself a good scare. The cow was nowhere close to Tinky-Winky, really, but no one likes to see a 1,200-pound cow coming right at them. I doubt she learned anything from it, though.

That fox looks just like a shiba!



The thing with foxes is, they move fast. Really fast. Much faster than shibas. So I got two shots at this one. He (or she) is the only fox I know who has more or less the same colour as a shiba. And there are lots of foxes in Yellowknife; you just don't see them on this blog because I'm not fast enough to shoot them. But you can come see for yourselves if you'd like. Foxes, even the species that's called "red fox", are at best a muddy blackish kind of red. This is the only one I've ever seen that's orange like a shiba. Even so, it still doesn't look like a shiba. It's tall and skinny with a huge poofy tail, and it looks like it's on crack.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Also, "puggles" will ruin your literacy skills

My last post about the "designer dog" fraud drew many angry, rude comments from "puggle" fanciers, which all had this in common: they had nothing to do with what I wrote.

Hmmmmmm... Well that's amusing. Who would have thought that 100% of a self-selected sample of "designer dog" owners would have lousy reading skills and no ability to think rationally?

Ok, actually, it's very likely that I would have thought that. If you're buying into the "designer dog" thing, I'm not gonna have high expectations for you.

For those who can actually read, let me explain what's wrong with "designer dogs."

First of all, I've said this before, but there is nothing "designed" about them. The only design is to part fools from their money. Large amounts of money. A breed is designed and created over generations by selecting stock for desired traits, so that the end result consistently produces those same desired traits over and over when bred to the same breed. Beagles and other scenthounds, for example, are designed to have very keen noses, lots of endurance, and a one-track mind. Terriers are designed to be small enough to go down a burrow, tenacious enough to want to do it, and brave enough to face down the creature that lives in the burrow. Sheep dogs are designed to herd. Retrievers are designed to find the ducks you shoot and bring them back to you.

Are you following this? Breeds are designed, that is, they have a purpose. And they're bred selectively over generations to isolate the traits that fulfill that purpose. Most of the time the traits are either recessive, dominant but uncommon, or partially inheritable, so you have to make sure you bring together the individuals who best display those traits, in order that the offspring show the trait as well or even better than the parents.

In some breeds, particularly pugs, the desired traits are grotesque morphology and below-average intelligence. Whoever designed the pug should have been beaten bloody for the evil scum of the earth s/he was, because who would do that to a dog? It can't hunt for itself, it can't burrow in the snow, it can barely breathe or drink without choking. All it does it entertain people by its grotesquerie. It's the politically-correct twentieth-century version of the medieval fool: a stunted, misshapen human kept as a pet to entertain other humans.

Anyway. Let's consider now the "designer dog" fallacy. "Designer dogs" are not bred from two carefully selected specimens to enhance a desired trait. They're also not bred with a consistency of purpose. If someone was trying to create a new breed, the offspring that best displayed the desired traits would be bred to offspring of a like crossing that also displayed the desired traits, and on and on until the new breed was stabilized. That's not what "designer dog" breeders do, though. They just breed the same cross over and over and send forth the offspring into the world for $600 a head and don't care what happens next.

The original "designer dog" was actually bred for a purpose, which was to create a hypo-allergenic service dog by crossing Labrador retrievers with poodles. The offspring, predictably, was unpredictable in both its hypo-allergenic aspect and its ability to train as a service dog. It was also discovered that this was completely unnecessary, because well-bred poodles are very smart and perfectly able to train as service dogs.

The average "designer dog", however, is bred for the sole purpose of selling the puppies. The "puggle" is a particularly good example of the failure of that ill-thought-out cross as a "breed". If you look at photos, they're losing almost all of the pug phenotype, and no data is available on their success as hunting dogs. So the desired qualities of both breeds are lost. This is predictable if you care to remember that breeds are mostly from traits that are recessive, dominant but rare, or partially inheritable. Obviously the recessive traits of both breeds will be lost; dominant traits never breed true unless the recessive alleles can be culled; and partially inheritable traits are diluted by breeding to individuals that don't have them. So, you get something that has no specific traits by which you could write a breed standard, and that will not breed true.

Why is that important? It wouldn't be, if you don't care about predicting a dog's likely aptitudes, size and personality. But most people do care about that, and what's more, "designer dog" fanciers will actually tell you that their "breed" is such and such way. They're lying. There is no predicting what traits each parent will pass on, or how the various traits will work together. I know a dog who is allegedly a Labrador retriever x Belgian shepherd cross. It looks exactly like a lab... and is very aggressive like a badly-handled Belgian shepherd. I think it's a remarkably stupid cross because most people expect a retriever to have a mild, friendly personality. Breeding a dog who looks exactly like that but has an aggressive personality common in a completely different breed means people will approach your large, aggressive dog as if it was a nice friendly black lab.

Another problem, along the same lines, is when people decide after the fact, without any knowledge of a dog's breeding, that it's such or such "designer dog", and in addition, buy into the lies the "breed" fanciers have come up with about that cross's traits. Guessing a purebred dog's breed is one thing, and most people get it wrong a lot. A friend of mine once lost a Gordon setter and found it at the pound labelled as a "Rottweiler x spaniel." Guessing the parents of a mutt, even assuming both parents were typey purebreds, is an exercise in futility. Like the puppy in my previous post. It looks exactly like a bloodhound puppy, but that's not a breed most people have ever seen in person, because it's very hard to keep, so that's not somebody's first thought on looking at that puppy. Well, it was my first thought, but of course I spend tons of time looking at breed standards.

If you're going to assume it's a mutt, then there are many possible crosses. Clearly, it looks like a scenthound, though not particularly much like a beagle as they're never self-coloured. Other hounds that have the same body shape as the beagle include the foxhound and harrier, and I'm not sure how anyone pretends to know by looking at a mutt whether its ancestors were beagles, foxhounds or harriers, seeing as they all look practically identical except for height. The most you can say is that based on probabilities, there are probably way more beagle owners willing to breed them to anything that pisses on fire hydrants than foxhound or harrier owners.

Then again, why would it be a pug x beagle if the colouring occurs in neither pug nor beagle? One could assume that both colours are recessive and that the offspring are getting the brown colour from the beagles and the self-colour from the pugs, but that the tricolour or bicolour or gray coats are all recessive to self-brown. But then if we're going to say that, we're admitting that this cross is losing the most visible trait of each breed, and then how can we pretend that we're going to predict any of its traits?

Back to guessing the parents' breeds, again, why are we guessing "beagle" when it looks like a bloodhound? Bloodhounds are not bred by crossing pugs and beagles, so where do we get the idea that if it looks like a bloodhound, the most likely ancestry is pug x beagle? If it has pug in it at all, which there is absolutely no reason to believe given the absence of any pug-like traits, it would still make more sense to assume the other half was a bloodhound rather than a beagle. Because at least it looks like a bloodhound.

The whole thing is clearly futile. If you're getting a mutt from a rescue, it's a mutt. It's not a maltipoo, yorkipoo, cockapoo, labradoodle, puggle, boggle, borkie, pomchi, shichon, zuchon, glechon, porkie, shorkie, snorkie, or anything else of the kind. It's a mutt. M-U-T-T mutt. It might be a wonderful dog or a retarded creature who can't even housetrain, or anything in between, but you'll never know until after you bring it home, because as a mutt of unknown breeding, it doesn't have any predictable traits. Except that being a dog, it will probably eat, shit, sleep, and want to go for walks and chase living creatures.

On the other hand, if you're buying your "designer dog" from a breeder or a pet store, you're just being had. You're paying hundreds of dollars for something you could get for free from the shelter, and you're encouraging the unscrupulous individual who's selling it to you to continue adding to the dog overpopulation problem.

And that, more than anything, is what's wrong with "designer dogs." The very concept of "designer dog" exists strictly for the purpose of selling random mutts to gullible people who don't care about dog overpopulation. Then, they get a dog who's not what they expected, and it ends up in rescue.

If you want a dog, either get a mutt for free from the shelter and call it a mutt, or buy a purebred from a responsible breeder and call it a breed. Never buy a dog who's advertised under a portmanteau name, because they're ipso facto lying to you. Don't buy a dog from a pet store or a backyard breeder. In fact, don't buy a dog at all unless you have a very specific set of criteria and you've found the purebred that will match them. If you just want "a dog", get a free one from a shelter and call it a mutt.

And don't comment on people's blogs if you don't know how to read.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Reader comment: I don't agree with your stupid blog, therefore you shouldn't even have a blog

Piss off, morons. I blog whatever the Ford I want. Doesn't bother me any if you don't like it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seriously, get over the "designer dog" BS

A fellow blogger was given a dog, which looks like this:


"It's a puggle", she says. A reader commented that indeed, the puggle is a recognized "species."

Yeah... not so much. A "puggle" isn't a breed, it's a portmanteau word to refer to a dog believed to be a pug x beagle cross. Waste of a beagle, if you ask me, because why breed a scenthound to a breed with a nose so misshapen they can't even breathe? People do the dumbest things.

So I looked at the photo and it looks nothing like a pug. Not much like a beagle either, but certainly nothing like a pug.

"Oh yes he does," she says. "He has a wrinkled face."

And... your point is? Most puppies have wrinkled faces. Many breeds also have wrinkled faces as adults, such as... scenthounds. Imagine that. Pugs don't just have wrinkles, they have a squished face, which is a genetic deformity that has been bred for selectively, for no good reason, to produce things like bulldogs and mastiffs. And pugs. All dogs who are not very good at breathing, and in the case of bulldogs and pugs, not much good for anything else either.

Luckily, this puppy looks nothing like a pug. Yes, it has a wrinkled face. But it doesn't have a squished face, or bulging eyes, or a curly tail, which is very common in "puggles" if you look at the "breed's" official website. There's nothing about this dog that suggests it's ever even been near a pug.

You know what it does look like though?


A bloodhound puppy.

Not a highly typey, award-winning bloodhound puppy, but it looks like a bloodhound puppy. And you're gonna be sorry if that's what it is, because a bloodhound is a BIG HUNTING DOG. It needs tons of training, tons of exercise, mental stimulation, firm leadership, tons of exercise, and did I mention tons of exercise? It needs tons of exercise. Like a beagle, except tons more.

Also, most hounds bark often and very loud. That's what they're bred for.

Also, bloodhounds are reputedly difficult to house train. Or to train to anything, but most people never go any further than housetraining, so that's no big deal, maybe.

And also, bloodhounds are on average a medically high-maintenance breed.

So other than the fact that there's no such thing as a "puggle", maybe you shouldn't take home a puppy of unknown ancestry just because someone made up a cute portmanteau word for it... because in your lack of knowledge, you might be taking home a bloodhound that you'll never be able to handle.

There are two kinds of dogs: purebreds and mutts. Purebreds are bred from consistent stock to have consistent traits, so there is some predictability in them. Mutts are everything else, and you never know what you're gonna get until you try. And calling it a "puggle" doesn't make it anything other than a mutt. Or maybe a bloodhound.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

More training practices that don't involve "positive reinforcement"

My dog is trained to puke on the linoleum. As were all the dogs and cats I had before her.

How is that even possible, you ask?

It's simple. Every time they start heaving, I pick them up and move them onto the linoleum. Then I stay with them and hold their hair while they're puking.

That's seriously all it takes to train your pet to puke on the linoleum. And they get very committed to it, actually. One time Tinky-Winky started throwing up blood. While I was at work, she threw up so much my entire kitchen was just a sea of blood. By the time I came home she was too weak to walk, in fact she hardly had the strength to blink... but she never let a drop of blood hit the carpet. My brave little dog.

So is this positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, or extinction?

Actually, it's none of the above. It's something much more useful: understanding. It works on people, too. You can try to train your employees to do things your way by rewarding them, by punishing them, or by making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard... but the most effective training method by far is simply for them to understand what result you're trying to achieve. My pets know I don't want them puking on the carpet, so they go puke on the linoleum. Simple as that.

But you could try teaching them the same thing with candy, I suppose.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tinky-Winky makes friends with a pug


The difficulty with Tinky-Winky isn't so much that she's aggressive, but more that she's unpredictable. I would say 95% of the time, if she meets another dog off leash, she will come back to me and nothing happens. Out of the other 5%, some times she attacks like a demon, especially small dogs... and some times, as in this case, I find her peacefully having a pee on a rock with a pug. Of all things, you'd think she'd hate pugs? Not at all. Maybe she just doesn't realize they're dogs at all.

In any case, that's my problem with her. If she was always aggressive, she'd never be off leash, and if she was never aggressive, she'd never be on leash... but you never know with her. That's the problem.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

That dog looks just like a shiba!






You think???

It doesn't, really. It's the same colour, and clearly a spitz breed, but it's not a shiba. Though I have seen people adopt dogs that look just like this and tell you that it's a shiba "with a strange coat."

Hmmmmm...

Ok. It's not impossible. But as for the dogs in these pictures, they're not shibas. They're Icelandic sheepdogs.

I've been looking at them for a while because I worry about what to do when Tinky-Winky dies. I can't imagine having no dog; I can't imagine having a dog that doesn't look like a shiba; and most of all, I can't imagine taking that much lip from someone other than my precious. So... maybe the Icelandic sheepdog will be a valid compromise. But hopefully I won't have to find out for many years yet.

Dogs I'm glad I don't own

I'm glad I don't have a sheltie. It's an attractive breed. I thought about it when I looked for the perfect dog. Now there is a sheltie on the street where I stay in Yellowknife, and I'm glad it's not mine.

The sheltie is always running. Always. It goes for "walks" with its person. The person rides a bike, and not slowly either. The sheltie runs like a maniac beside the bike but still pulls on its leash to go faster or to go check out other things. Then they get home, the sheltie gets tied in the front yard, and it runs back and forth along the fence like a maniac every time something walks by. I don't know what it would take to get the energy out of that dog, but I'm sure glad I don't have one.

I'm also glad I don't have a retriever. I've never even considered a retriever, because their "I love the whole world" attitude annoys me. I don't love the whole world. More importantly, what good is it that someone loves you, if they love the whole world anyway? I want a dog who loves me and only me of all humans. Even if I'm buying her love with food.

But the main reason I don't want anything like a retriever is that a retriever is a very large duck-hunting dog. No, really. I'm not sure why people with little kids buy retrievers. Because it's "good with kids"? There's no such thing as a dog that's good with kids. Some kids are good with dogs, not the other way around. I'm sure someone somewhere has had their baby eaten by a retriever and could tell you they're not good with kids.

So yeah, I'm not sure why people who have little kids and never walk further than around the block would buy a very large duck-hunting dog. I'm guessing they've never seen field trials for retrievers. I have. It involves making the dogs run through swamps and standing water all day. The dogs get absolutely filthy, but they sure don't get tired much. You have to keep at it for a very long time to wear them out. And then you still have a filthy, wet dog.

So then people take these very large duck-hunting dogs and think they're gonna walk them around the block once a day and it's all good... it's not. They're very large dogs with lots of energy. They pull on the leash, because they're not walked enough. The more they pull, the less they get walked. Then they find water or mud, get dirty and smelly, aren't wanted in the house anymore, and end up spending the summer on a chain in the backyard. Not getting any walks at all.

I'm sure glad I don't have a retriever, but I'd be more glad if other people didn't have them either. Unless of course they do a lot of duck hunting.

For the same reason, I'm glad I didn't end up getting a spaniel. My short list of dogs was either one of four breeds of spaniels, or a shiba. I'm thinking the spaniels would have been a lot more trouble than the shiba.

Altogether, I'm pretty glad I don't own a dog that's not a shiba.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dogs don't sin

A while back, against my better judgement, I let myself participate in a really stupid conversation about religion, on a dog blog. (Terrierman's, if you must know. Hence I don't read it anymore.)

Now normally I try not to dwell on things, because it's bad for me, but I keep being mesmerized by one particular moment. I said that dogs don't need communion because they don't sin, and Terrierman said "how would you know?" or something to that effect.

I'm mesmerized because it's self-evident that dogs don't sin. At least I should think so. I think it's much more self-evident than "all men are equal in rights", which we can plainly see is just utopia. Whereas dogs, obviously, don't sin. And yet, because it's so self-evident, it becomes somewhat challenging to explain why dogs don't sin.

Or, maybe not.

Dogs don't sin because sin is a human invention. Likewise dogs don't have money because money is a human invention, and they don't sing dodecaphonic music because dodecaphonic music is a human invention. But to take a more scripturally-based approach to the answer, it's like this: sin, the original sin, was that man ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I haven't pondered, or asked my pastor, exactly which is the sin: disobeying God (unknowingly), or acquiring the knowledge of Good and Evil. I think it's the latter.

In the Tao Te Ching it says, and it's obvious when you think about it, that we name "good" only by opposition to "bad", "short" by opposition to "long", and so on. I think the concept of the Tree of Good and Evil is a way of saying that good and bad are only as we make them so, by our perception. Before we ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, nothing seemed to us either good or evil, and also we had no sin. Sin, apparently, is what happens when we decide to call some things "evil" and others "good".

Dogs don't sin because, metaphorically, they didn't eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and more literally, because they don't think in terms of good and evil. They seek out what feels good, and they feel good about the rest as they get it. Sunbeam: good. No sunbeam: also good. Rain: also good. Food: good. Home-cooked food: good. Rotting carcass on the ground: good. Other dog: good. Smelling other dog's butt: good. Dog fight: also good. They're not at all concerned with the notion of "evil" and knowing the difference between good and evil. They just maximize their comfort and minimize their discomfort. If you're religious, they're doing exactly as God intended, without knowledge of Good and Evil, therefore they have no sin. And if you're not religious, you don't believe in sin, therefore dogs have no sin.

So I'm still mesmerized that someone would ask "what makes you think dogs don't sin?" But as to how I know, well, now you know.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Things I DON'T like about my shiba

Shibas, unfortunately, have a big neck and a little head, so if you pull forward on the leash, the collar slips right off them and they're free.

And they're fully aware of this.

Of course, so am I, so it's really rare that she gets away on me, but she was aggravating the crap out of me on our evening walk with her meandering and foot-dragging, and I pulled when she was behind me, and she got free.

Ah, CRAP!

Back home this wouldn't matter, I just finish my walk and go home and usually she'll get there before me. But we're in Yellowknife this weekend, and it's really not safe for a dog to run loose around here. Especially when we're on the Frame Lake trail and we have to cross Franklin Avenue to get back to the house.

So, I did the next best thing, which is to sit down. She doesn't exactly want to be away from me when she's on a runaway, she just doesn't want the leash. But if I sit in one place long enough, after a while she just comes to me. So I'm waiting for her on a park bench with a totally non-scenic view of Stanton Hospital, and she's running around doing her own thing, and running past me once in a while.

Then, I don't see her for a long time. I know there are other dogs on the trail and they might have found her because they're barking, but normally she'd come back to me when confronted with three large dogs. So why is she not coming?

Hmmmmm...

Now I have a dilemma. Maybe she's gone back to the house on her own and the dogs are barking at something else, and I should get back to the house myself before she annoys the neighbours. But if she's still on this side and I cross Franklin, then she'll cross as well, on her own, and that will be bad.

Hmmmmmm...

So, I get off the bench and start walking along the trail, and a man asks me if I'm looking for a dog. "Why, yes," I says. "What does she look like?" he says. And I say a foot tall and orange, and he says he saw some kids carrying such a dog in the other direction on the trail.

Good grief! Some kids stole my dog!

Ok. Fine. I follow the trail and promptly find the kids, along with some adults who have also asked me questions about my dog. Turns out the adults recognized the dog and knew she didn't belong with the kids, and asked questions, and meanwhile I caught up with them. And the kids are two little girls who always ask to pet her when we see them, which explains why she let them pick her up when the three large dogs came along.

That sucks. Bad enough that kids are always interrupting our walks, but now she's going to let them grab her and carry her away? That's a problem. It wouldn't be a problem if she couldn't escape, though, so maybe a harness would be appropriate at this point. I put one on her the first day I had her and she fought like a demon, but whatever. If she's gonna keep on causing problems, she'll have to take the consequences like the rest of us. I can't have her getting abducted by any random kid she's met before.

Anyway, the girls gave her back, but they kept wanting to hold her some more, and kiss her, and make her ride their bikes (???), and otherwise interact with her, which was incredibly annoying because I wanted to go to bed. Finally an older sister showed up and dragged them away, and I continued towards the house... only to run into more kids who like to pet Tinky-Winky every time they see her.

F@@@@@@@@@@@ck! Seriously, I've been working in full sunlight, in 24 to 30 C, 10 hours a day, for three weeks, five days the first two weeks and six days this week, and I only have 38 hours off before I have to do it again, and I'm really, really f'ing tired, and I have to be up in eight hours, and whatever the Ford people's kids are doing running around unsupervised at 21:30 talking to strangers, I JUST WANT TO GO TO BED.

I really hate Yellowknife.

Training my dog with punishment

Tinky-Winky used to be very good in the car. She'd just lie down in the back seat and sleep until we got somewhere. But last November, I hit a bison and went into the ditch. No one was hurt, not even the bison, but once we got out of the ditch, Tinky-Winky wanted to sit in my lap. And I let her, because she just had a big scare.

Then on the return drive, she wanted to sit in my lap, and I let her.

And the next time we went, she wanted to sit in my lap, and I let her.

And so for the next seven months, she sat in my lap all the way from Hay River to Yellowknife and back. Most of the time it's not dangerous, but it did get annoying, and then as summer heated up, it got really uncomfortable.

Then, we got the New Car. Which is a minivan with captain's seats in the front. So, I thought she wouldn't be able to sit with me, and that would be the end of that annoyance.

I was wrong.

The first drive in the van, she sat in the passenger seat. The return drive, however, she tried to sit in my lap. I pushed her away. She tried again. I pushed her away. She got more and more pushy, and I had to push her away more and more forcefully. She's strong when she wants something.

Finally I stopped and tied her to something in the back seat. Her leash is just long enough that she can sit with her nose between the two front seats, so she did just that, for a while. Then she tried to climb into the passenger seat, so I unhooked her and let her do that.

Then... after a while, she tried to sit in my lap again, and got even more ornery than before, so I stopped and tied her up again. Halfway through the trip I untied her, and after that she didn't try to get into my lap again.

Now when we do that long drive, she sometimes shows that she'd like to be in my lap, and I tell her no, and she finds something else to do.

And this was all punishment: I did something to decrease a behaviour. It worked very quickly, and it did her no harm at all. She didn't stop bothering me because she was traumatized, but because she got the point that I didn't want her in my lap. And if you think I could have done it with positive reinforcement alone, you're wrong. I tried giving her treats for being in the right place, she doesn't care. She doesn't even like to eat in the car anyway, and she won't take treats when she's upset. And even if she had taken the treats, she'd have kept trying to sit in my lap as well, because some times she'd rather have a treat, and some times she'd rather be in my lap. She's not a machine; her needs vary from time to time.

You have to punish your dog some times if you hope to train it. Or your cat, horse, child or employee. There is no effective behaviour modification without punishment. If you have issues with punishment, it's not because punishment is wrong, it's because you have maladaptive schemas about it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Iams: life IS better

Remember that really stupid breed matching test I took that told me I should get a "yorkipoo", whatever that's supposed to be?

HA.

Well anyway, I found a much better test. Not that I'm looking for a new dog, but I'm just so annoyed with all the kids who want to pet my Tinky-Winky when we're walking. And for that matter, all the adults who want to talk about Tinky-Winky. And especially the creepy men who think she's a good excuse to come talk to me. It's not that I don't like people (though I really don't like people), but when I'm trying to have a walk with my dog, I just want to walk with my dog, not have a tea party. So why that leads to breed matching quizzes is, I thought to myself, "Self, we should get a really fugly, mean-looking dog next time, that way no one will bother us on our walks anymore."

So I googled and I found that Iams has a Dog Breed Selector.

How well does it work? Well, the first breed they recommend for me is... a shiba.

Iams. They're good.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Having a shiba doesn't make you fluent in Japanese

One thing that annoys me about shiba owners, other than writing blogs how difficult their dog is, is the ones who figure that because they have a shiba (who's never set foot in Japan, of course), everything needs a Japanese name. First of all the dog, of course. Ok, fine. That's their dog, the fact that it annoys me is really just my problem. But naming everything else in Japanese just because your dog's breed originated there?

Well, ok, technically, that's still just me judging them for the sake of judging them. But that doesn't change the fact that having a shiba doesn't teach you Japanese. So you can't translate your blog title and hope to have it come out with a reasonable meaning in Japanese.

Some times however, it works out better than you'd think. I used to read a blog of surpassing stupidity which the author tried to call "crazy about dogs". In Japanese, because she has a shiba. Except that what she wrote actually translates as "dog idiot." Much more apt, though unintentional.

So yeah. Your dog can't teach you Japanese. Neither can googling.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Water dog: fail


Seriously, this dog does NOT like water. She'll sit on shore and watch other dogs playing in the water in horrified fascination, and she doesn't mind if she falls in the water while hunting something, but as far as playing in the water herself, no way. I thought maybe if I waded in she'd follow me... obviously not.

On the plus side, this means I never come home with a dog soaked in filthy ditch water.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things I love about my shiba

Shiba Shedding Time.

Shibas blow their coat twice a year. How much coat is on a shiba? I'm thinking, about five times the size of the dog itself. There is seriously a lot of hair on the creature.

Most people I read have some kind of aggressive shedding brush to speed up the process. I've never tried them, but it looks unpleasant. Personally, I use a nice, regular, soft brush on my Tinky-Winky when she's shedding. And I brush her very softly, for as long as she's willing to lie still. Most days I can only brush one side, because she'll fall asleep while I'm brushing her, and I don't want to turn her over.

It takes longer to shed her out that way, but it makes her comfortable. Like a whole-body scalp massage. And because she's not a cuddly dog usually, that's my opportunity to cuddle with her without her noticing. And she only likes being brushed when she's shedding, so I definitely make the most of Shiba Shedding Time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

World's tallest shiba!


Not very often your shiba gets to look down at you, eh?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No, your dog isn't a "designer dog"

Hopefully everyone here just went "what's a designer dog?"

The answer is, there is no such thing as a designer dog. It's just what people call a mutt when they don't want to admit they have a mutt.

More specifically, you get a "designer dog" when you breed two badly bred dogs of two different recognizable breeds together, and then make up a ridiculous portmanteau word for it, like "cockapoo."

How do I know the parents are badly bred? Because people who have high-quality, papered, unaltered dogs, breed them to high-quality, papered, unaltered dogs of the same breed. People do not breed their many-thousand-dollars Canadian champion poodle to a cocker spaniel.

The dumbest thing about the "designer dogs" fallacy is that they're actually the very opposite of "design." There are mutts that are bred by design; for example, sled racing dogs. Those are bred selectively to enhance specific desirable traits. "Designer dogs" aren't. It's a one-off cross which isn't intended to produce anything in particular. It's just that your kid has a cocker spaniel and your sister has a poodle and for whatever reason, you think that's a good way to add to the dog overpopulation problem.

Naturally, because they're crosses, "designer dogs" have no consistent type. Which doesn't stop people from writing lengthy notes about what a "cockapoo" is like. Realistically:






These are all "cockapoos." They all look different. You wouldn't even know they're the same "breed" - for the excellent reason that they aren't. They're not a breed at all, they're a MUTT. And if you were to cross two of the above, you'd still have no idea what you're gonna get, because it's not a breed.

A breed is "a group of domestic animals or plants with a homogeneous appearance, behavior, and other characteristics that distinguish it from other animals of the same species." When you breed two of the same breed, you get back the same homogeneous appearance and other characteristics. It takes many generations of purposeful cross-breeding, and selecting the traits you're looking for, to create a breed.

And the fact that the unscrupulous Continental Kennel Club will register your "cockapoo" just shows there is always a niche for taking advantage of the gullible; it doesn't in any way validate your "designer dog" nonsense.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

You still can't train with just positive reinforcement

Last weekend, I reprimanded Tinky-Winky.

Gasp! The horror!

Clearly, I'm a totally abusive dog owner, and I should go to H*, me and Cesar both.

So what happened is, Tinky-Winky likes to tear stuff up. So I'm always careful to make sure she can't tear the wrong thing. Except, when the roommate bought a new futon, I didn't realize that Tinky-Winky had been sitting on it (no one else does), until a tear appeared. Uh... oh...

I keep thinking I'm going to fix it. Any day now. But I still haven't. So on the weekend, I was at the computer, and Tinky-Winky was on the futon, and she started picking the stuffing out through the tear.

Was she doing it because she's bored? No. She sleeps 20 hours a day, she doesn't get bored much.

Was she doing it because she has too much unspent energy? No. We had six good walks on the weekend, she was tired.

Was she doing it because she's stressed and neurotic? No. She's a happy, mellow little dog.

She was pulling the stuffing out of the futon because it's fun. Like smashing light bulbs. Why do people smash light bulbs? Because it's fun. Even if you totally have better things to do, you're not bored, you're not frustrated, and it's late in the day, and you find a stash of old light bulbs, you're gonna smash them, because it's fun. Or if you want to use big behavioural terms, it's a "self-rewarding behaviour." Smashing light bulbs is its own reward, and pulling the stuffing out of the futon is its own reward.

Ok, so then, how do I stop her doing this? Wait patiently for her to stop, with my imaginary clicker in hand, and give her a click and a treat when she stops digging? Right. How much stuffing do you think she's gonna go through before she stops of her own free will? And what is it gonna teach her except "if you dig the stuffing out of the couch, you get a treat when you're done"? And what's going to stop her doing it when I'm not standing there with a treat ready for her?

My dog knows where treats come from. They come from me and only me. If I'm not there, there won't be any treats. But pulling stuffing out of the futon will still be fun even though I'm not there. So... what's going to stop her pulling stuffing out of the futon when I'm not home?

Ha.

I reprimanded my dog. I said to her "excuse me, what do you think you're doing?" She stopped and looked at me. She knows by my tone of voice when I'm not impressed, and even though she's a shiba, she cares if I'm not impressed. So, she stopped what she was doing. And she hasn't done it again since. Will she do it again some time? Probably, if I don't fix that tear. But it stopped her at the time, and it stopped her even in my absence. Because even when I'm gone, she knows that digging at the futon makes me unimpressed. If she's at all like me, she's going to hear my voice in her head every time she goes to dig at the futon, going "excuse me, what do you think you're doing?" And that will be enough to stop her, for a while at least. Whereas the treat method would only stop her while I'm standing right there.

This is also why so many people think their dogs are trained to stay off the couch, but as soon as they're out of the house, the dogs are all over the couch. They're not trained to stay off the couch, they're trained not to let you catch them on the couch. The dog knows that the consequence comes from you. They know the treats are only there when you are, but the memory of a punishment endures while you're gone. So they're gonna make sure they don't get caught on the couch, but they're sure not going to stay off the couch.

And no, punishment isn't traumatic. All I did was say "excuse me, what do you think you're doing?" I didn't beat her, shock her, wrestle her to the ground, or otherwise abuse her. I just pointed out that I wasn't approving of her behaviour. That's all a punishment is: something you do to decrease a behaviour.

Like I keep saying, if you think you're training your dog with "only positive reinforcement", either you're not teaching your dog a whole lot, or you don't understand what positive reinforcement is.

No, seriously:





Did anyone mistake these for a shiba?

No you didn't. Don't even lie. This looks nothing like a shiba. You know why?

Because it's a fox.

By comparison, this is a shiba:


Again, this is a fox:


and this is a shiba:


They're not the same shape, size or colour, see? That's how you know they don't look alike.

Seriously.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Note to self: the dog knows too much

You know how some dogs can tell if they're going for a walk by what clothes their human is putting on? Well, mine can't because I always wear the same clothes anyway. So I was getting ready for our walk and she was watching me from the couch, wondering whether there was any point in getting up. Normally I tell her "walky", but for whatever reason, I just showed her that I had my camera. And she jumped off the couch and ran for the door.

She knows me pretty well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Anti-Cesar: fail again

I read somewhere that Cesar has "no formal training or qualifications" and therefore he's full of it.

Gasp! The horror!

Seriously... Get your head out of there, it can't be comfortable.

Of course Cesar has no formal training or qualifications. And you know what else? Major civilizations have been built by guys with no formal training or qualifications. Seriously. "Formal training" is another of those bourgeois North-Americans "we're too weak to do anything for ourselves" conceits. In just about any other time and place, you learn by watching and doing, and if you're good enough, then that's good enough. And when it comes to animal training especially, if you need "formal training", then you need to look for a different career. Like Lao Tse said, the Way that can be taught is not the real Way. If you have to be told how to train a dog, you just don't know how to train a dog, notwithstanding your little course-completion gold star. Personally I would never hire a dog trainer who had to go to school to learn to train dogs.

Come to think of it, you know who else doesn't have "formal training or qualifications"? Dogs. No, really. Maybe that's why they don't give a dog's ass whether Cesar has parchments all over the walls. Dogs don't care about credentials. Like any normal people, they only care about results.

So yeah. Cesar has no formal dog-training training. More power to him, I say.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Things I love about my shiba

She's adorable.

She's so adorable, when I'm walking around the house and I see her sleeping peacefully, I laugh out loud.

Her cuteness makes me happy.

The awesome power of cheese

Friday night, a friend came over to visit, and then we decided to go out for dinner. And it happened to be exactly at the time when Tinky-Winky usually gets her evening walk, so she lined up at the door while we were putting our shoes on. My friend doesn't have a dog, so he wasn't in that mind set, and blithely opened the door without thinking about where the dog was.

Oops...

Naturally, Tinky-Winky was off like a shot. And of course my friend expected me to go chase after her.

Er... No?

My dog can run 40 km/h and she's a foot tall. There's no way I'm gonna catch her.

Seeing that I wasn't chasing the dog, my friend tried to call her back. Also something I wasn't planning on attempting myself. She's on a runaway; I really don't think she's going to turn back just because someone calls her.

Everyone expects me to chase after my dog when we're separated, and I never do. I'm never gonna catch her, but I don't need to, either. First of all she knows where her food dish is to, and second, she doesn't really want to go running around by herself. She doesn't like to walk without me, and neither do I like to walk without her. We're a pack. We go together.

So, I knew she'd be back shortly, though she still might not want to get in the house.

After a while she did come back, but then, a poodle came trotting across the parking lot. On a leash. And Tinky-Winky went to investigate.

Oh, crap.

At this point I did run after her, hoping to prevent a fight. This turned out to be unnecessary: she sniffed noses with the poodle, and then walked away. Arguably it could be because I was running toward her and she didn't want to get caught, but I doubt it. When she's going to attack, it doesn't matter to her if I'm trying to catch her.

So that was interesting... her walking up to a poofy little dog and not starting a fight.


Anyway, it was becoming quite necessary that I catch her. She came back to the door again, still with no intention of coming inside, and then I got wily. I grabbed a slice of processed cheese from the fridge. Now Tinky-Winky has selective hearing: she can't hear me calling her, but she can hear cheese from a mile away. She still wasn't about to come into the house, but now I had her attention. So I walked up to her, gave her cheese with one hand, and picked her up with the other. Voila! She never even struggled. I put her back into the house with her slice of cheese, and the rest of us went to dinner.

That's a nice thing about dogs, they're not really strategic.

How to tell if you're walking enough

When you come home from your main walk of the day, your dog should drink, eat, and fall asleep. Nothing else. If he's trying to play, he hasn't walked enough yet. And when you pick up the leash for your last walk every day, the dog shouldn't get excited. Then you go out and the dog will ask to turn around before you're thinking of it.

If your dog does these things, he's spending his energy productively in walking. If not... keep walking.

One more reason to walk your dog

I found $20 on the ground on our evening walk. Which is timely, because there's no telling when payday is nowadays. This will keep us both in kibbles for the rest of the week.

See, if I didn't walk my dog, I'd never have found $20.

Myth: wild animals never fall through


I actually read this on a Yellowknife blog during freeze-up: wild animals never fall through thin ice, because "they know somehow".

Another of the many myths you'll learn about the North if you read blogs.

If you look at the picture above, you'll notice there is ice around the duck. You know why? Because she fell through. I was watching her. She was walking carefully on the thin ice, and poof, she fell through.

Of course she's a duck, and she was walking on the ice to get to the open water anyway, so she doesn't care that she fell through. But she did fall through. Moments later a seagull being chased by a raven tried to make a fast landing on the ice and fell through as well. Again, a seagull doesn't mind falling in the water, but yes, it fell through.

Wild animals fall through thin ice, just like the rest of us. They don't have a magical ice-thickness sensor. If they're ducks and shorebirds, they don't care. If they're foxes and deer, some times they drown. C'est la vie.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Terrierman rules!

I like Terrierman. He's full of sense. Here is some Terrierman wisdom: Terrierman's Top Ten Tips for Avoiding Expense & Misery.

Summary:

  1. Avoid giant breeds.

  2. Avoid "tea cup" dogs.

  3. Try to get a dog weighing less than 40 pounds.

  4. Avoid dogs with misshaped bodies.

  5. Avoid flat-faced dogs.

  6. Avoid merle-coated dogs, dogs with pure white coats, spotted dogs, and dog with blue eyes.

  7. Avoid dogs with exaggerated features.

  8. Avoid any breed with a disease named after it.
A friend of mine has a basset and is looking to buy an English bulldog. Sigh... How much do you want to spend on vet bills when these two dogs reach 7 or 8 years old? People have no sense some time. Buy a dog that looks like a dog, eh?

And this is also part of why the "she looks just like a little fox!" comment is so aggravating. Tinky-Winky looks just like a little dog. A dog is supposed to look exactly like that: proportioned body, coat to match the climate, pointy ears, pointy nose. Yes, pointy nose too. I always go "no she doesn't" and people say "it's because of the pointy nose." Dogs are supposed to have pointy noses. Having a pointy nose makes her look like a little dog, not a little fox.

It's really sad that dogs have gotten so misshapen (thanks to our efforts) that most people don't even recognize the normal shape of a dog when they see one.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The real problem is you. Again.

A while back, the What Kind of Dog Hunts crazy woman triumphantly "proved" that Cesar is evil. Thusly.

On one episode, Cesar dealt with a dog who would lash out when you try to groom him. Insert video of Cesar restraining the dog while continuing his calm assertive conversation with someone off-camera. Cesar then proceeds to solve the problem without using candy. The horror!

Meanwhile, another TV trainer whose name hasn't registered on my higher consciousness dealt with a dog who would lash out when you try to groom him. This candy-based trainer restrained the dog repeatedly, then took it to a groomer who had the same problem and did the same thing: restrained the dog. Thus obviously, Cesar is evil. Then, the candy trainer solved the problem with candy, thus "proving" that candy works? Because apparently the concept of positive reinforcement needs proving?

More importantly, and I've said it before, positive reinforcement is one of four behaviour modifications techniques, thusly:

I do something or give somethingI stop doing something or remove something
to make you do something more oftenPositive reinforcementNegative reinforcement
to make you do something less oftenPunishmentExtinction

Refer to this post if you need a clue. No one is claiming that positive reinforcement doesn't work, so you needn't waste your puny faculties proving it. But outside your little dream world of rainbow unicorns, there are still three equally effective mechanisms of behaviour modification, and you need all four of them. If you think you're using "only positive reinforcement", either you're not identifying the other three mechanisms, or you're not getting results.

Don't believe me? Let's look at the next time the candy trainer turned up on What Kind of Dog Hunts's blog. This time, the candy trainer had to deal with an aggressive dog. Candy didn't work, so she had the dog put down.

Er...

What?

So your favourite trainer has a dog put down that someone like, say, Cesar could have taken on, and you're still convinced that she's the bestest trainer ever and candy is the end-all and be-all of dog training? You're a fool. But we knew that already.

Meanwhile, on another blog, another anti-Cesar guy watched an episode where Cesar wore out an aggressive dog over the course of three hours. Three hours. Cesar triggered the dog, the dog attacked Cesar, Cesar controlled the dog. Then they did it again. And again and again and again. After three hours, the dog was too exhausted to fight anymore... and it was still alive. And no candy was harmed in the making of this episode.

So let's see. Cesar's way: live dog with a solution. Candy trainer's way: dead dog.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm...

Yeah: shows how smart you are.

What you're not getting here, in your little Care Bear world, is that Cesar works with aggressive dogs. "Aggressive" doesn't mean cutting in line or backstabbing at the office or whatever will get your silly little feelings hurt. Aggressive means a creature who attacks. Man, dog or horse, it's all the same. They attack, and they keep attacking.

One time I had an abusive boyfriend who yelled at me for 35 hours straight. Threats, insults, whatever. That is aggressive. Why didn't he also assault me physically? Because he knew he wouldn't get away with it; I'd have put him in jail for sure. Aggressive people, or dogs, attack when they're sure to win, not when they're sure to lose. Then one day the police had to come get him out of the house during a domestic. He attacked them, one against two cops, and laid a beating on them. One cop was injured. My ex was injured. I have PTSD. The cop also ranks it one of his nastiest experiences yet in law enforcement. They charged him with resisting arrest, he pleaded, and the judge was so incensed over the violence of his behaviour, he got 30 days with no priors. Because everyone could see the obvious: he's aggressive, and he's dangerous.

The great thing about it though, is that after that I never even had to raise my voice with him again. If he got fighty, I could say "don't you even start", and he'd leave the house and take his temper somewhere else.

What does that have to do with dogs? Because an aggressive dog, like an aggressive man, needs putting in his place. He needs to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he starts a fight, he's gonna lose. Bullying is a self-rewarding behaviour, they do it because they enjoy it. Therefore they don't do it if they know it's gonna get non-enjoyable. That's what the cops taught my ex, and that's what Cesar teaches aggressive dogs.

Can you teach the same thing with candy? Absolutely not. Try being nice to an abusive boyfriend and see where that gets you. The more you give them, the more you make them happy, the more they're enjoying themselves. And the more they're going to bully you. The more candy you give them, the more they're gonna expect candy from you, but that doesn't do anything to remove the rewards of bullying. Now the dog has two ways to get happy: manipulate you to get candy, or bully you just for fun. Yay you!

Candy works. Candy works on dogs who don't like brushing or who don't sit-stay too good. And winning a fight works on aggressive dogs. What Cesar does takes a lot of work and a lot of skill to be able to win those fights with minimum injury to himself or the dog. Granted it doesn't soothe your little Care Bear psyche with candy and rainbows, but you're not actually important in this question, because you don't even understanding the word "aggressive."

Other people have pointed out that Cesar gets bitten and what he does is dangerous and therefore he's wrong. Again, that's only true if reality is irrelevant to you. Yes, Cesar gets bitten. Yes, what he does is dangerous. And either he does it, or you can get the candy trainer to come put your dog down. And you know what, cops do dangerous work and get injured, and that doesn't mean we'd be better off to get rid of cops and just give criminals a lot of candy.

One more thing. One blogger said that at his or her house, they don't do Cesar, because they "don't need alpha rolls" with their dogs. Really? Well you know what, I bet Cesar would totally agree that you don't need alpha rolls. First of all because he doesn't even do them himself, and second because your dogs aren't aggressive and they don't need an aggression abatement program. When your dogs turn aggressive, you'll know the difference. So no, you don't need Cesar's top skills. But as far as not doing Cesar's way, you're wrong. Because I read your blog and you're fairly calm and assertive, and that is what Cesar is trying to teach you. Cesar never told you to go mano a mano with an aggressive dog. What he said for you to do is be calm-assertive, and walk your dog.

So again to summarize: Cesar works with aggressive dogs. Aggressive dogs can't be fixed with candy. But what Cesar told you to do isn't to wrestle with your dog because it won't sit-stay; what Cesar said is for you to be calm-assertive and walk your dog. So the problem isn't with Cesar, it's with you having no clue what Cesar said. And therein is one of the cornerstones of cognitive therapy: people hear exactly what they want to hear, and then everything they say or do based on something they made up is warped.

Straighten out your cognitions, then you'll understand what Cesar is talking about.

Why you shouldn't dock tails

Once upon a time, docking tails was done for some utilitarian reason which eludes me. But if you have a dog with a docked tail, that's not why. Your dog got docked because it's a tradition in that breed and you didn't ask yourself why on earth you'd want to do that. But the thing is, pet dogs need to have tails. Here's why.

Today on our afternoon walk, some bulldog-like creature attacked Tinky-Winky. And for once we have right on our side, because we were on leash and minding our own business, and the creature came running at us out of nowhere, with its people trying desperately to recall it. I don't even know who struck the first blow, because I didn't have time to turn around and look, but this dog was clearly on the attack. No dog means any good by coming at another at speed with erect body language anyway; if you're one of those people who call that "my dog is friendly", you're wrong. At best your dog is rude, and that's your fault, but if your dog is just rude and clueless, it will scream and run as soon as Tinky-Winky gives a warning snap. This dog dig not turn and run. She attacked, she got the upper hand immediately, and she kept attacking.

The bulldog's person later alleged that the dog "has never done that before," and I don't believe a word of it, because this dog knew exactly what she was doing. Dogs who don't fight don't know how to fight; they get thrown down and lie on the ground screaming in fear while the other dog bites them. This dog had all the same tricks Tinky-Winky has, and she was attacking. You don't have to know anything about dog fights to see when a dog attacks: it lunges and bites, trying to grab at the other dog, instead of retreating and trying to protect itself.

Now where this has anything to do with docking tails is, a bulldog has no tail. It also has no coat. And that's a very big problem when it's attacking something else, because the way to break up a dog fight is by grabbing the attacking dog's tail. First of all, it's the only thing that sticks out of the melee, and second, it's the part least likely to get bitten, therefore the safest place to grab them.

On that note, let me point out that pulling the defending dog away is the dumbest thing you can do. Idiot people with poofy little dogs always do that: let the dog run to the end of its stupid flexi-leash and get into a fight, and then pull on it over and over to try and fix things. How dumb do you have to be? Every time you pull on the leash, the dog is choking and is being jerked off its feet, plus, you're turning the dog's head towards you, leaving the tooth-less, eye-less, vulnerable rear end to face the attacking dog. Your dog is sure to get bitten and it's all your fault. But even if you grab the dog and pull it away by something other than its leash, the attacking dog is going to keep coming, so you haven't achieved anything unless you're able to lift your dog out of harm's way, which never happens.

No, obviously, to break up a dog fight, you have to control the attacking dog. And the way to do this is to grab it by the tail. And a bulldog has no tail, and therefore it's very difficult to stop it from attacking. So this is why you shouldn't dock your pet dog's tail. You have no practical use for that dog anyway, so it's not gonna be in its way, and when your dog gets into a fight, you'll need that tail to pull him out.

Now since I'm on the topic of dog fights, I'll point out something else: blood happens. BFD. Some people go into hysterics if there is any blood on their dog, and that's ridiculous. Especially because the hysterics usually come from the same people who bleed profusely once a month to begin with (hence the word "hysterics", of course). You'd think they'd be used to blood. Not only that, but I've bled more from a paper cut than the total amount of dog blood I've ever seen in fights in all my life. If there's blood on the dog, then there's blood on the dog. It's really not a big deal. And most of all, it's probably not even that dog's blood. Most of the time it's the attacker's blood, because the thing most likely to bleed in a dog fight is the attacking dog's tongue. Tinky-Winky came out of today's fight with blood all over her; both sides, her head, her feet, she had blood everywhere. And not a nick on her skin. The other dog bit her own tongue and bled on my dog, that's all.

And even if your dog does get cut in a fight, put some Bactine or Polysporin on it like you'd do for your kid, and get over it. Your dog isn't injured because it has a little blood on it. When your dog is injured, you'll see the difference.

So that's my rant for today. Don't dock tails, learn to break up a dog fight, and get over the sight of blood.

As for closure on my anecdote, after many tries I was able to grab the bulldog's collar and push her away, and as soon as she was under control, everything was quiet. Which shows again that the bulldog was the attacker, not my dog. If Tinky-Winky had been on the attack, getting the other dog an arm's length away wouldn't have made any difference.

Then I still had to wait for a while, with a dog in each hand, for the bulldog's people to catch up to her. Polite conversation was had, the source of the blood was investigated, and then we each went our separate way. And the dogs were in no way upset. And that's another thing people in our limp-wristed society fail to realize about dog fights: dogs like dog fights. Not all dogs, and not usually if they get their clock cleaned, but a fairly even dog fight where both dogs are fighters is like a bar fight among humans. It happens, it lets a lot of the piss and vinegar out, and it's often the least boring thing you'll do all weekend.

Seriously.