Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shiba: 3, human: 0

I thought I was ever so clever and bought a cat harness instead of a dog muzzle. Because really, if you turn it upside down, a cat harness looks exactly like the muzzle I want.

So I put it on the dog to try it out, adjusted so I can get a finger underneath in accordance with the Interwebs.

The dog didn't move. Just looked at me with an inscrutable look.


very calmly,

she took her evil little paw,

and wiped the muzzle off in one fell swoop.

Zut alors.

Ok, I tightened it and put it back on.

The dog didn't move, just looked at me with a longer, more inscrutable look.

Then she swiped at the muzzle and it didn't move.

"Victory!" I thought.


In two tries, she got a claw under the muzzle and took it off again.


Fine. I tightened it as much as I dared. She could still open her mouth, enough to lick her nose anyway. The strap sit close to her eyes so that gives her a bit of an angle at the toothy end.

So this time, she licked her nose, and then tried to take the muzzle off, and it stayed on.

She sat and thought about it for a while.

"Great," I thought, "she's just gonna get used to it."

Then she got up, walked away from me, put her head down, and I didn't even see how she did it, but she got the stupid thing off again.


Fine. I see what needs to be done, I think... I can put some side straps to run from about the 3 and 9 positions on the nose strap to the neck strap. Fairly low on the neck strap, so it's not in her field of vision, but high enough to stop the nose strap from pivoting. Only thing is, I don't have materials here in Yellowknife.

Just you wait till we get home, you wily one... I'll get you yet.

It's a hunting dog. Really.

Most people seem to forget, or maybe never bothered finding out, that a shiba is a hunting dog. Hence the photo above. That bird, the willow ptarmigan, is almost invisible in the snow. The only way I've ever been able to photograph them is with Tinky-Winky's help. Off leash, she flushes them, and on leash, she points. Ptarmigans are good eating, too. So if I had to survive by hunting, I could actually shoot food with Tinky-Winky's help. How awesome is that?

But for anyone who's here because they're thinking of getting a shiba and never walking it, let this be your warning. Shibas are hunting dogs. They're small and cute and everything, and they need tons of walking. Preferrably off leash. I say this all the time: Tinky-Winky is 10 years old and the mellowest shiba her breeder ever met, and she needs about 10 km a day off leash. If you don't plan on doing that, don't get a shiba.

And if you're looking for a hunting dog, I wouldn't count on a shiba to retrieve too much. Flush and point, yes, but if she finds your bird first she's gonna take it and run and you'll never catch her.

"Specious" isn't synonymous with "you're absolutely right"

Typically I don't waste my time having discussions with people, because either they're right and there's nothing to discuss, or they're wrong and they're never gonna let go of it. But one thing I always find interesting is when you can tell that a position is probably stupid, simply by observing how its proponents reason.

First of all, obviously, any kind of "argument" that is based on emotional reasoning is irrelevant.

Second, when people with bad logic congregate in defense of one opinion, it's a fair sign that that position is flawed.

So where this has something to do with dogs is: are the people with bag logic pro- or anti-Cesar?

Let's see some examples of bad logic from the blogs.

  • Dogs are not wolves. Wolves don't do that. Therefore dogs don't do that. (anti-Cesar blog)

  • I don't know how to rehabilitate aggressive dogs. I don't do it like Cesar. Therefore Cesar is wrong. (anti-Cesar blog)

  • Treats work. Cesar doesn't give treats. Therefore Cesar's way doesn't work. (anti-Cesar blog)

  • "Dominant dogs like to sleep higher than the pack" is the same as "every dog who sleeps in a high place is the dominant dog in his pack." (anti-Cesar blog)

  • My dogs sleep on the bed. I'm the bottom of the totem pole. Therefore dominant dogs do not sleep higher than their pack. (anti-Cesar blog)

  • Operant conditioning works. Therefore Cesar is wrong. (anti-Cesar blog)

  • Cesar got bit. I got bit. Therefore Cesar is wrong and I'm right. (anti-Cesar blog)
Ok. All these are nonsensical statements. All these come from anti-Cesar blogs. Oddly, I'm not getting a gigantic harvest of failed logic from the pro-Cesar blogs.

So. People with bad logic are anti-Cesar. And Cesar's way works. Therefore... yeah, it still looks like Cesar rules.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why is this so complicated?

Here is the dog muzzle I want:

I can buy it from France for €14.99. Plus €47.99 for shipping and handling. Hmmmmmmmm... Not so much.

Or, here is the muzzle I can buy here in Canada:

What a sad design. Obviously any dog with half a brain will get it off in one move. Especially a short-necked dog like Tinky-Winky.

And of course by "here in Canada" I don't mean here in Yellowknife. Allegedly there's a pet store somewhere, but I'd have to look for it, and that means going out and driving around Yellowknife, and I'm not doing that.

Whatever. I'll just copy the French pattern myself. Save some money.

Tinky-Winky loses a privilege

First, back story. Tinky-Winky came to me labeled as "extremely dog-aggressive." And, she was. She would attack any dog that came in range, which is a lot of dogs because people are retarded and will let their dog run to the end of the flexi-leash and approach another dog even if I tell them "keep your dog away." And they'll be like "oh don't worry, my dog is friendly." Which isn't true, because that's not how a friendly dog acts, but that's a rant for another post. But the bigger point is, what kind of retard lets his dog approach another dog despite being warned not to?

So anyway, on leash, Tinky-Winky gets approached by a lot of stupid people's dogs, and when I first got her, she would attack so fast you didn't have time to blink, let alone pick her up. She would go for the jugular, no matter what size of dog, and not let go. I've had to pry her jaws open a few times to free another dog. One time, she was on leash, and a guy was walking two Doberman pinschers off leash. They came running up to us, and Tinky-Winky lunged at them so menacingly that they turned and ran away screaming, even though she didn't even touch either one of them. And that's a much larger breed that has a name for ferocity.

So, all that to say, Tinky-Winky was a serious problem. Even on leash, we could only walk quietly between 11 pm and 5 am when other people are indoors, or on the back road where all the aggressive dogs go. If she wasn't such a small dog she'd have been put down long ago. Four years later however, you wouldn't know it's the same dog. Turns out she's not an aggressive dog, she's a timid dog who figured the best defence is a good offence. Now that she figures the best defence is me, she just comes back to me when she's not comfortable with another dog. I can walk her off-leash with other dogs, I can have her visit at someone else's house, she'll even let another dog walk into our apartment and eat her food without saying boo. And she doesn't bark at the door anymore, either. Dog-whispering magic.

The only thing is, she still attacks small poofy dogs. Not smooth-haired dogs like Jack Russels; only poofy ones. She will go way the heck out of her way to go attack a small poofy dog. That's a problem.

So yesterday, as we were coming home from walking, she got distracted by two ravens who were eating popcorn in the Highrise parking lot, and then a small poofy dog walked out of the building on a flexi-leash.

Ah, crap.

Tinky-Winky left her popcorn and went to investigate. I tried to catch her and failed. Instead I kicked her in the hip as she went around me, and that also failed to distract her. She stopped about two feet from the other dog, who was pulling on his leash toward her, and they looked at each other, and then she attacked. And the stupid person who was with the poofy dog started screaming like a pig and pulled on her dog's leash, with the obvious result that her dog couldn't breathe, freaked out, and also was forced to turn his back to Tinky-Winky, so he got bit on his back. Obviously.

Not that this detracts in anyway from the fact that it was my fault for not controlling my dog, but a less stupid person would have a) not let her dog out to the end of its flexi-leash, b) not let her dog run out way ahead of her on the leash, c) brought her dog back to her when another dog showed up, d) picked her dog up, and/or e) at least let it defend itself.

Well, of course a non-stupid person wouldn't have been using a flexi-leash in the first place, but again, that's a rant for another post.

So, the poofy dog got bit on its back, and he's fine. The woman, on the other hand, screamed like a banshee, and decided to call the RCMP, like they give a frack about a dog fight at 6:00 pm on a Sunday night on private property. And since they indeed didn't give a frack, she thought it would be clever to tell them I was drinking and driving. Which is funny because first I don't drink, so she just cost herself any credibility she might previously have had with them, and second, they still didn't give a frack about the dogs. A cop came and found me, asked if I was drinking, declined to give me a breathalyzer, mentioned that I'd be civilly liable for any damage my dog might do, and went home to write his report.

The other reason it's funny is that I would have felt bad about the incident if she hadn't started screaming, somewhat less bad once she acted like an idiot, and not bad at all after she proved to be an evil bitch. Not that you expect any less from people in Hay River, mind you, but now I'm positively amused that she's upset.

Still, I'm not at all amused with Tinky-Winky, and since it's been 4 1/2 years and all her other behaviours are gone and she still attacks small poofy dogs, I'm rather out of solutions. Keeping her on the leash wouldn't help, especially as long as there are stupid people with flexi-leashes who let their dogs approach other dogs. She gets into more fights on leash than off anyway. And going back to ungodly hours and back roads doesn't suit me.

So, what's gonna happen is going back to Plan A: a muzzle. I had bought one for her a few years ago, and never ended up using it because she was improving so much. Since she doesn't seem to be improving anymore and she still can't be trusted, she can get the muzzle now. It will keep her from fighting, it will also keep her from eating gross stuff on the ground, and as an added bonus, maybe it will finally convince retarded people with flexi-leashes not to let their dogs approach her. For whatever reason, people believe a muzzle a lot more than a verbal warning.

The only downside of this plan is it's been so long, I have no idea where her muzzle is now, so I'm gonna have to buy a new one. That's rather a waste of money.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where do people even come up with this stuff?

Like I said before, people dedicate entire blogs to how much trouble it is to own a shiba. Which mostly makes the point that they don't know how to handle a dog, but that's not the point for today. The problem with those blogs is the spreading of nonsensical stereotypes about the breed.

Today's blog myth: shibas hate having their paws touched.


Ok, so your shibas hate having their paws touched. Mine doesn't. I can clip her nails, massage her paw pads, play with her toes, whatever I want. She was raised that way. In fact, I'm touching her paw right now and she's not even reacting.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it many times more: whatever is wrong with your dog is probably just something that's wrong with how you're raising him.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You're still wrong, though

It seems that everyone who has a blog right now has to take a side, for or against "dominance", and defend it vociferously. Hmmm... Ok, I'll play again.

"Dominance" is real and not just in dogs. The reason you don't believe it is, either you don't understand what "dominance" means, and/or you're just not watching your dog(s).

The argument against dominance is usually as follows: "wolf packs aren't dictatorships with a strict hierarchy, therefore dominance doesn't exist in dogs." Except for the "what breed of dog hunts" crazy woman of course, whose argument is simply "my dogs don't." And given her keen understanding of canine psychology, that's a rock-solid argument, eh?

Anyway, about your wolf pack argument: first of all, I don't have a pet wolf. I have a pet dog. I don't give a fig what wolf packs do and don't.

Other than that, you're right: a wolf pack isn't Qin Shi Huangdi and his army. And... what's your point with that? Nobody said it was; you're just projecting some maladaptive schema of yours onto everyone else's use of the word "dominance". If you can prove that wolf packs don't work that way, it's like proving that the sky isn't red. Yes, you're right, but no one was saying otherwise, and it doesn't advance the question one bit.

If you want to understand dominance, you have to look at your workplace. Assuming you don't work in one of those namby-pamby places where feelings are more important than performance.

At my work, because we're a certifiable trade, we automatically have a hierarchy: The Boss, then the journeymen, then the fourth-year apprentices, then third, second, first, and finally labourers. People lower down the ladder generally obey those higher up, for the simple reason that the higher you are, the more training you have, therefore the more you're right. And everyone obeys The Boss, whether he's right or wrong, because he's The Boss and the survival of the pack depends on him.

Other than matters of business, we don't have a rigid order of precedence. We all get along pretty well, we joke with each other, lower pack members get to make non-essential decisions such as what radio station we're listening to. There are still dominant personalities and a certain deference of the lower orders to the higher ones, but it's not imperial China.

Likewise in animal packs and herds. The boss dog, or horse, or wolf, is The Boss, and his authority is respected because the pack depends on him. Below The Boss, the dogs have a certain order of doing things as far as the business of the pack, but there's no need among them to be aggressive with each other. It's just a natural organization that they live with comfortably, just as we do at my work. And outside business hours, everyone is more or less equal, within limits.

The business of a dog pack is two-fold: eat, and walk. Mostly eat, though. In my pack, I'm the boss bitch, therefore all the food, and all the food decisions, are mine. I say who eats what when. Tinky-Winky wouldn't dream of taking food away from me, unlike my old cat who would steal food right out of my hand. That's the business of our pack, and when it comes to food, I'm the unconstested ruler.

When it comes to walking, I say when we walk and where we walk. Some times I look at where she's trying to go and go that way, but if I don't want to go her way, we go my way. The reverse isn't true. If she doesn't want to go my way, we still go my way. She has tons of freedom while walking, but ultimately the decisions are still all mine.

Other than eating and walking, we're just buddies. I don't believe in never approaching her to pet her, and it doesn't make her misbehave when I do that. If she takes my spot on the couch, I move her, but if she takes the best spot on the bed, I let her have it. If she wants attention, I usually give it to her, unless she's being rude. She used to be very dominant and stand up to make me do her bidding, which didn't work for her, but she persisted, until one day I licked her nose. I'm not sure why that established in her mind that you don't stand up and push me, but I've never had that problem since.

That's how dominance works, and yes it exists in dogs, as in any other society. Your neurosis about accepting other people's leadership is irrelevant to the question, as is the existence of alpha rolls in wolves or lack thereof.

Dog packs, human packs, and mixed dog/human packs, work on the basis of dominance. With a good flow of dominance, a pack works well. Without, it doesn't. And you're either dominant to your dog or you're not, whether you understand the word or not.

I'd go on, but it's time I go hunt with my human pack.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Clockwork dog

It's 10 pm. Tinky-Winky is chasing her tail.

Tinky-Winky always chases her tail at 10 pm.

Why? Because normally I shower at 9:30 and go to bed at 10. If I stay up late, at 10 she reminds me that it's time for bed. Then if that doesn't work, she just goes to bed without me.

Also, Tinky-Winky reminds me when it's her walking time, by lying in front of the door if I'm in the living room, or coming to stare at me if I'm upstairs.

The only time Tinky-Winky doesn't care about time is in the morning. She's not a morning dog at all. Unlike my old cat, she never reminds me that it's time to get up. Left to her own devices, she sleeps until early afternoon.

Anyway, I'd better be going to bed.

Best LOLZ ever! At least best LOLZ today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tinky-Winky's best friend

You can't really tell because the two of them wouldn't sit for a picture, but that other dog is a big brindle boxer. His name is Carter. His person's ex-husband used to be best buds with my ex-common-law, so Tinky-Winky and Carter got to know each other. Then Carter's person and I got together to commiserate about our exes, and we got to be friends, and we walked the dogs together, and on occasion I've taken Carter along on our walks. He's a nice dog when he gets to know you.

So, Tinky-Winky and Carter are friends. As you can see in this photo, that means mostly that they don't fight. Mostly they ignore each other and pay attention to the humans around them. Some times Carter will play-bow. Tinky-Winky has no concept of how to play with another dog, but she's at least not afraid of Carter when he play-bows. If he gets into her personal space she'll bite his nose, but he's wise to that and gives her respect.

That's how a good pack works. Everybody calm and quiet and in their proper place.

No couch is complete without a dog

Everything has to be a LOLZ

I keep telling you, walk your dog more!

This is Jackfish Lake. We got there by mistake and had to climb from the lake up to this vantage point. There are stairs, and I had lost track of Tinky-Winky and thought she didn't know where the stairs were, so I was calling her and calling her...

And she was already at the top of the stairs waiting for me. She hates to backtrack to come to me when she knows she's going in the right direction.

She's going to be 11 years old in August. You'd think two hours of running madly and climbing to the top of the Jackfish Lake stairs would tire her out, but no... Eight hours later, she's all antsy to go for a walk again.

I keep telling you: you're not walking your dog enough. I know I'm not.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I can't believe she ate the whole thing

Tinky-Winky seemed off her feed the last few days. She didn't even eat her soup bone on the weekend, which annoyed me because I don't like her wasting meat. So, to try to get her to eat more, today I got her a treat: a little hip steak. Granted a hip steak isn't the tastiest part for human consumption, but still, it was a steak, from Canada AAA beef. Some dogs get to eat tripe and other offal, or just kibble their whole life. My dog eats real meat every day, and a Canada AAA steak once in a while. I think she's got it pretty good.

Anyway, I gave her this little steak, which I think was about 50 g. There are three in the package, so she can have more tomorrow. I thought she'd be at it a while, enjoy herself, all that... I was wrong.

She swallowed it whole. Like a bird eating a fish. Just put one end in her mouth and kept swallowing it until it was all gone in her stomach.


I didn't even know her stomach was that big.


She expected her regular dinner on top of that, too. And I gave it to her. And she ate half of it, which is another 150 calories or so.


I think I'd better get up early tomorrow so we can have a long morning walk... She's gonna have a lot of crapping to do.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What are you teaching, anyway?

Terrierman had a blog post about humane v. abusive training aids.

My first thought was, I don't have to ask myself whether I'm abusing my dog - I don't train her at all and we walk off leash as much as possible.

Then I started asking myself, what in the world according to Garp are people trying to teach their dogs anyway? I don't mean working dogs, obviously, but pet dogs. What do people train pet dogs to do? All they need to know is to relieve themselves outside and come when called. Both of which they do naturally.

Yes, I just said that.

Dogs naturally relieve themselves outside the house and come when called.

Yes, I mean it.

First of all, dogs don't like to live in their own filth. Left to their own devices, they'll foul somewhere other than where they sleep. Of course in a big house, that's lots of places they could relieve themselves without inconveniencing themselves, so it's a little harder for them to define where to go or not to go, but they'll still prefer to go somewhere else. As long as you're walking them regularly, often, and long enough each time, they'll wait for a chance to go outside instead of fouling the house. Voila, instant house-training.

Of course there is the odd dog who finds it normal to foul his territory. And then eat his feces.

Yes, that's disgusting.

No, it's not normal.

If your dog is doing that, there's something wrong with your dog. Probably caused by you.

Yes, I just said that, and I mean it.

Second, as to coming when called, yes, dogs do that naturally. They're pack animals. They want to be with the pack. They also want to obey the rules of the pack. So when you, the pack leader, call, the dog naturally wants to come.

Oh wait... That's right, you are not the pack leader, because you don't "believe in dominance."

Ok then. That would be why your dog doesn't come when called. You're not the leader, so who are you to tell him what to do?

My dog comes when called, and shibas are notorious for having poor recall. And if you watch her, you can see why: because she's making a conscious decision to come or not to come. If Tinky-Winky is busy with something, she'll come to me... once she's done. Or when my growling becomes menacing enough that it's not worth it anymore.

Is that inconvenient? Some times. Is it horrible? No. And I frequently inconvenience her by stopping to take photos, so I don't mind so much. I know she's coming sooner or later, she knows she's coming sooner or later. All good.

So what does that have to do with proving that dogs come naturally when called? Exactly because of what I just said: she chooses to come or not to come. Therefore, she doesn't need to be conditioned to do it. All we need is an agreed-upon signal for me to let her know that I desire her attendance. And this is very easy, because dogs naturally have that. I don't know what biologists call it, but I call it a "pack call" or "trail call."

Where did I get this idea?

I learned it from Tinky-Winky, thusly. She's a very quiet dog, but once in a while, she'll give one bark. One. A very specific sound that I recognized from the first time I heard it as one thing: "Mama, come help me!"

Why did I know what it meant instantly? Because humans and dogs have formed mixed packs for more than 10,000 years, I suppose. Also because my dog doesn't bark constantly, so it was immediately obvious that she needed something. Whether we're on the trail or at home, when she gives that one bark, I know she needs me. This is her "pack call."

I, conversely, developed a unique sound for calling her. I always call "Tinky-Winky, come!" in the same pitch and rhythm. Some times louder, if I think she's far away, and some times with a growly sound, if she's pissing me off, but always the same pitch and rhythm. Because I know she recognizes that sound as her pack calling to her.

Does it work? Absolutely. Before I figured it out, Tinky-Winky would get lost on the trail and be gone for hours. Now, I just give my pack call from time to time when she's out of sight, and she hasn't been lost since. Even if she doesn't come straight back to me, she knows where her pack is and she's reminded to keep up. That way she doesn't get absorbed with what she's doing and lose track of me.

Of course the way Tinky-Winky and I came to understand this is by walking off leash a great deal. So once again the answer to your dog training problem is: walk more.

If you walked far enough, often enough, and off-leash enough, your dog would be house-trained and come when called. And that's the only two things a pet dog needs to know. "Sit-stay"? Useless. Tinky-Winky doesn't sit-stay, and not once in four years together have we felt a need for her to sit-stay. She does, however, drop on recall. She does many tricks, in exchange for cheese. I think that's absolutely fair. I expect to get paid to do someone else's bidding, and so does she. But as for the two cardinal pack rules of "don't foul the den" and "come when the pack calls", I never had to teach her either of those. She's born with it, that's all.

At this point you may be disagreeing with me because your dog isn't house-trained and doesn't come when called.

Well, let me put it to you this way. Those are the two things your dog does naturally in his pack. If you can't even "train" him to do just that, you're a pretty piss-poor trainer. Maybe now would be a good time to start "believing" in dominance.

Second, you may be thinking that you can't possibly walk your dog far enough, often enough, and off-leash enough, because you live in some ungodly cityscape where there is nowhere to walk, plus you work for a living and you don't have that kind of time.

All right then. Get rid of the dog and get a cat.

I'm serious.

If you can't walk your dog far enough, often enough, and off-leash enough to prevent behavioural problems, you mustn't have a dog. Or at least not that dog. And yes, I said "mustn't", not "shouldn't". I'm not suggesting you get rid of the dog. I'm telling you. Get rid of the dog.

"Oh, no," you say, "I love my dog, it's ok that I can't do everything perfect, that doesn't mean I can't have a dog."

Actually, it does mean you can't have a dog. If you were keeping a child under such conditions that he'd start eating his own feces and losing track of the most elementary rules of human behaviour, you'd be going to jail. Whatever you think you're doing for your dog, the fact that he has behavioural problems is prima facie evidence that you're doing it wrong. Don't make me use the A-word, but yeah, your dog has problems because you are causing him to have problems. Either change what you're doing, or get rid of the dog. (Unless of course, the problems pre-date you having the dog and are decreasing the longer the dog is in your care.)

And as for the humanity of various training aids, it all doesn't matter. It's a dog, not a circus pony. Whatever you're using the training aids for, stop it.