Getting your Dog in Shape for Backpacking.

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment

A lot of people seem to think dogs are naturally in shape and able to conquer any mountain.  That is simply not true.  Dogs need conditioning just like people.  If you push your dog too hard too fast you risk injury and exhaustion; you may wind up carrying your little buddy on your back.  That is fun for neither Fido nor You.  Luckily, it is fairly easy to get your dog conditioned for hiking, it just requires realistic goals.

The most overlooked aspect of getting your dog ready for a long hike is actually your dogs feet.  Dogs don’t wear shoes (well they can, but that is for another post).  Dogs paws do not start off made up tough leather; they are actually fairly delicate when you first start out.  The key here is to not go too far too fast.  Check your dogs paws before and after every trip.  If they start to look worn and cracked, then give your dog a day or so to heal up.  Eventually, over time, your dogs paws will become tough enough to handle any terrain within reason.

Daria hydrating after a short walk around the neighborhood.

The theme here is start off small.  Buy your dog a backpack and keep it empty for the first week, only taking him on short walks.  The general rule seems to be that a dog can carry 10-25% of a dogs body weight depending on breed and condition.  I’ve heard a wide range here, so if you are dealing with a dog that isn’t built for draft work I recommend you ask your Vet for guidance.  Do not, under any circumstances, put 25% of a dogs body weight on his back his first trip out.  You can cause serious damage if the muscles aren’t ready for that much weight.

Week Pack Weight Distance
1 Empty 1 mile
2 1 lb 1 mile
3 2 lbs 1 mile
4 4 lbs 1 mile
5 6 lbs 1 mile
6 8 lbs 1 mile
7 8 lbs 2 miles
8 10 lbs 3 miles

The above table shows an approximation of my training plan with Daria.  She was doing a lot of other exercise at the time, but this was the general progression with the pack.  I walked her once in the morning and once in the evening.  My first goal was to increase the weight she could carry, afterwards push the distance.  She has been on 10 lbs and 3 miles now for about two weeks.  I recently took her on an 8 mile hike with a starting pack weight of about 8 lbs (ending weight of 2lbs) and she did great.  She was tired at the end, but not completely exhausted; her tail still had plenty of wags left in it.

Daria charged and ready to go!

Adopting a slow, gradual progression when conditioning your dog for exercise helps prevent not only sprains and strains, but it also helps prevent injuries due to foot wear.  Also, your dog is more likely to enjoy the exercise if his muscles aren’t sore after every trip into the woods.  Even Siberian Huskies can’t run the Iditerod their first time out in the field; they require a lot of training.  Your dog is the same.  One bit of caution, however.  Do not force your dog to exercise; always make it a positive experience.  If he’s not into that day, then come back to it later.

P.S. Your dog will need more food the more exercise he gets.  Daria is eating approximately 1500kcals per day, for instance.  You will need to adjust their daily kibble rations to match the extra activity.

P.P.S. Its important you allow sufficient time for your dog to rest between exercises.

P.P.P.S. Your dog will not tell you when you are overdoing it.  He will try his best to keep up with you despite how uncomfortable or painful it may be.  Dogs have been known to run themselves to death trying to keep up with their owners.

Categories: Hiking, Informative

Dealing with an injured puppy in a multi-dog household

September 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Shiba Inu Loki was recently diagnosed with and had surgery to correct Luxating Patella.  According to the vet, he is on light limited duty which essentially means no playing, running, jumping, or anything else puppy may deem as fun.  This is normally easy.  With a single dog household you just take all the dogs toys away and watch to make sure he doesn’t jump on furniture.  With a multi-dog household, however, unbroken dog is going to want to play with broken dog, and broken dog will not realize it is a bad idea until it is too late.

Daria taking her confinement quietly

Unfortunately, crating your dog for a month straight can cause the poor guy to go stir crazy, which is also not desirable.  If your dog starts panicking in his crate, he can do even more damage to his healing joint.   The solution I’ve found is to crate both dogs on alternating schedules; only one dog can be out at a time.  When Daria is crated, Loki is free to be out for a bit (with preconditions of no jumping, running, etc …).  When Loki is crated, Daria can be out.

Its Loki’s turn to be crated.

This gives both dogs a little time out of confinement without risking serious injury.  My highest priority is Loki’s physical healing process,  However I  recommend you take your dogs mental health into account as well whenever you can.  Any injury is a stressful time for a dog and anything you can do to make the process less miserable is a win in my book.

Categories: Informative, Injury

New Blog

July 18, 2012 Leave a comment

I created a new blog that I will use to log the training progress of my two dogs.  You can see it here.  This will keep me from flooding my personal blog with training related stuff.

Categories: Uncategorized

The taming of the husky

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Daria is an absolutely wonderful dog.  She is dominant, but not towards me.  She is very calm submissive towards me; she just shows dominance towards other dogs.  She is basically an easier dog to deal with than Loki in every way.

Loki is, perhaps, the most hard headed dog I have ever dealt with, as you all know.  He has tested me every day of every minute for the past year, and I really love him for that, but it has limited our progress.  In the past year I have been unable to progress past very basic obedience with him.  Admittedly, this is most certainly my fault for not knowing what I was doing with training dominant dogs, and I knew Shiba Inus were a nightmare to train.  Don’t mistake me, he is a wonderful dog, he’s just not going to always do what you say; he has a mind of his own.

Daria, on the other hand, lives to please.  She wants to do everything you want, you just have to teach her how.  In the past week she has learned sit, down, sit-stay, down-stay, on-by, gee, haw, and the basics for heel.  She also has a rudimentary understanding of  ‘come’.  In one week she has made it further in training than Loki has in a year.  This is not to say she’s smarter than Loki.  I think Loki is actually the smarter dog, she’s just not as hard headed as him.  Its like I told my mom when she commented that Daria was more intelligent.  If trainability correlated with intelligence, I would be one of the dumbest people on earth.  Meeting Loki for the first time was like unstoppable force meets immovable object.  Which one of us was which is left as an exercise for the reader.

Overall, I think Daria has been good for Loki.  He’s more confident, in general.  I think he feeds on her confidence; she shows him how to be a more stable dog.  He sees her having fun, getting petted, and having her tummy rubbed, and he wants in on the action.  So he starts to approach people, cautiously at first, and when he sees that they just want to pet him, he is that much more confident the next time he meets someone new.  I really think Daria was the right dog for us, and I am really happy I got her.

Categories: Daria, Life, Loki

Loki vs the Yellowjackets

July 15, 2012 1 comment

Me: Some guard dog you turned out to be, running from a puny little yellow jacket.
Loki: ‘A’ yellow-jacket?
Loki: More like 100 yellow-jackets.
Loki: Lets see you take on 100 yellow jackets with your teeth.
Me: I thought you liked killing tiny things.
Loki: I like killing *tiny* *thing*
Loki: IE: one at a time, not nests at a time.
Me: You could have gotten dari to help.
Dari: Hey, dont drag me into this; you guys are the pack leaders, its your job to protect the pack.
Dari: Call me when you need something pulled.
Me: Actually, I do need something pulled.
Dari: Call me this winter, i’m closed until then.
Dari: Also, bring lots of food, cats are preferred, but I can work for cheese.
Dari: I also aerate lawns.

Categories: Daria, Life, Loki

Loki and Daria: The Never Ending Play Session

July 9, 2012 2 comments

Everyone welcome the newest member of my quadrupedal family, Daria.   This young Siberian Husky comes from the Alabama Siberian Husky Rescue.  I was honestly not entirely prepared for how hard she can pull; she is an extremely strong animal.  I can see why people used them as draft animals; she was born for it.   Maybe I can foster her love of pulling come winter and train her in bikejouring or something similar.

Loki Giving Daria a Bath

Loki Giving Daria a Bath

It was really a rough day for Loki.  I got him a new car harness from amazon mostly because I did not have room for two crates in my car.  He spent the first half-hour of the car ride sulking because he had some new torture device firmly attached to his body.  Eventually something snapped in his brain and he realized how awesome this was; he can now move around and look out of windows.  This new found freedom instantly caused his tail to go from the down position to firmly up.  Loki, being the curious dog he is decided to explore the limits of his newfound freedom; he tried to climb into the back window.  Since the tether was much too short for that, he promptly got pulled backwards, falling on his rump.

Loki and Daria Taking a Break

Loki and Daria Taking a Break

We all know how well Loki handles new experiences, and this one was no different.  Once we arrived at the rescue to meet the two dogs the rescue thought were a good fit, Loki decided he was scared again.  He goes into panic mode.   We met the first dog, Darling Darla, and no reaction.  The two were essentially oblivious to each other.  I think it was mostly Darla’s lack of energy; she just wanted to relax.  Who can blame her, it was bloody hot outside.  The next dog was a different story.  When Daria arrived, it was a miraculous change in Loki.  He instantly went from being scared crapless, to being confident and happy.  He started to explore; he tried to play (despite the scorching Alabama heat).  I knew at that moment, that Daria was the one for us.  She was friendly, happy, and confident, and these are the exact qualities I needed to help rehabilitate Loki.

Loki and Daria Napping after an 8 Hour Play Session

Loki and Daria Napping after an 8 Hour Play Session

She is very submissive for a Siberian Husky, and Loki is so obviously the dominant one.  She submits to him fast when he gets testy.   I honestly expected to have to keep her crated for most of this week, but it was completely unnecessary.  I do crate her to give them a break, and to let her chew on a bone.  I do not trust them around each other with precious resources; that is the recipe for disaster.   But just to tell you how well they get along, they played *all* day yesterday, and *all* afternoon Saturday.   Daria, being twice Loki’s size, took it easy on him.  I think she did not really want to hurt him, even tho it was well within her power to crush him.

Loki in Full Play Mode

Loki in Full Play Mode

Thus far, she has three major issues that I need to correct before I go into obedience training.   The first one is that she does not know her name.  This is easily remedied, however, and not a big deal.  The second is she is not leash trained.  This is a big deal, and will be a challenge to correct.  She lives to pull; she is alive when she is pulling something.   This is different than Loki.  He pulled because he thought he could get where he wanted by doing so.   She, on the other hand, does it because she loves doing it.  Its like me trying to tell Loki not to stop and sniff dead animals; good luck.   The third is really minor, and expected.  She is having house training issues.  I honestly expected this.  Any time you put a dog in a new house expect them to have accidents.  They were also all my fault.  Once I get used to her cues, this will be better, really.  Its obvious she *was* house trained.  Its just she’s not used to me, and my house.  So it will probably take a week to get this fixed.

Play Play Play

Play Play Play

Categories: Daria, Life, Loki

Couch to 5k

June 21, 2012 Leave a comment

So Loki and Myself started couch to 5k.  I’ve heard that you need to set high goals to succeed in things like this, so I made my goal to successfully get of the couch; I succeeded in that respect.   Shiba’s are supposed to be very athletic dogs.   Like most stereotypes, they only apply to other people (or other people’s dogs), and not ones self.   Loki gets really into it for about 10 minutes and then he goes into “I have to stop to pee” mode every 5 minutes.  I never imagined the dog would be the weakest link here, I actually expected him to be dragging me down the street with excitement; I guess dogs need conditioning also, go figure.

Must ... get ... water ... going ... to ... die

Must … get … water … going … to … die

So at the end of the week, actual, measurable progress has been made.   When day one was over, I felt great, and I continued feeling great until the following morning; I could barely walk.  On day two I could actually pry myself out of bed, and On day three both myself and Loki finished our workout.  Of course after the workout, he crawled into my bed; I had to pry him out with a pry bar to get him into his exercise pen for the day.  The odds of him doing any sort of meaningful exercise –unless you count rolling over in bed as exercise — in it is zero.

Can't ... Move ... Too ... Tired

Can’t … Move … Too … Tired

Categories: Life, Loki

Curiosity nearly killed the cat

June 20, 2012 Leave a comment

One dark night, I decided to talk Loki for a walk when I noticed he was tracking something.  Curious to see what it was, I let him continue the track.   So we work our way around the house, when he switches from tracking mode to stalking mode (his ears go back, he puts his head down, and walks very slowly).  At this stage I had no idea what he had noticed, but I was still curious what he was after.  Next thing I know he pounced.  There was no scream, no cry for help, just a pounce and before I could react he was locked onto a cat’s neck.  The cat couldn’t do anything but try, desperately to breath.  I grabbed Loki by the harness and pried the cat out of his mouth; it ran off never to be seen again.

Loki honing his cat murdering skills on a rope toy.

Loki honing his cat murdering skills on a rope toy.


Before anybody accuses me of raising a vicious dog, you have to understand Shiba Inus.  They have high prey drives; they were bred for hunting wild boars in Japan.  Dogs with high prey drives like to eat things.  This can be a wild boar, or your neighbors pet cat.  If it is smaller than them, and it will run away from them, they will kill it and eat it.   Now, a retriever may have fetched the cat, a mastiff might protect it, a collie would probably herd it, Shibas will kill it.  The exception here is when they are introduced at very young ages.

Loki stalking a bug

Loki stalking a bug


I’m considering a second dog.  My first thought was “cool, i’ll get another Shiba”.  When I told my family this their first words were, “here is the number for a good shrink, call him”.  I absolutely love Shibas, but I think I have decided to go with a Siberian husky for my second dog; perhaps one of these gals.  Siberian Huskies are Intelligent and Independent, which are qualities I love in Loki.  They can be just as stubborn, and sometimes aloof.   They are generally more people friendly, however.  I want a people friendly dog to help balance out the pack.  On the other hand, if I combine the mischievous nature of a Shiba Inu with the strength and power of a Siberian Husky, I could be in trouble.

Categories: Life, Loki, Uncategorized

Loki and Zizou

February 13, 2012 Leave a comment

This weekend one of my friends came over with his 5 month old boston terrier.  Zizou, the boston terrier, has way more energy then he needs, which is great for a tireless dog like Loki.  Being curious how Loki would handle having a dog in his territory (which is considerably different to meeting new dogs outside) I decided to schedule some playtime between the two.  Initially things didn’t go very well.  It didn’t go badly, just not well.  Zizou instantly wanted to play and Loki wanted a few minutes to get the ritual butt sniffing out of the way.  Being deprived of his ass sniffing time made Loki nervous, but he quickly got over it.  Unfortunately, by the time Loki was ready to play, Zizou was more interested in raping Loki.  Zizou is a very small dog, and didnt have much success in this endevour as he was left in want of a stepladder.

Before I go any further, I would like to clarify that it was not really a sex thing; it was a clear dominance move on the part of Zizou.  Puppies usually get a pass on things like this, so Loki let it slide even tho you could tell he was visibly annoyed.  Unfortunately, the other dog did not give up easily.  Loki pinned Zizou on the ground and held them there; the mounting stopped after that, and the rest of the play time went smoothly.   I think it is important to let dogs sort out dominance issues themselves, so long as they are not trying to kill each other anyway.  Fights tend to happen when we get in the way.  The only thing i’m concerned about is that both dogs accept that I am higher in the hierarchy then themselves.  Where they are positioned after that is inconsequential.

I am planning to eventually buy another shiba puppy to eventually serve as a playmate for Loki.   This was a very useful experiment to determine how he would deal with an unfamiliar dog in his space, and he handled it well.  Adding a second puppy to the pack should not be a problem.

Categories: Life, Loki

Trekking across monte sano state park with a shiba

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I decided, since Loki is now 6 months old, to take him hiking. This involved two separate hikes to gauge his fitness level. The first hike was short, but over different trail difficulties. The second one was long, but over relatively easy trails.

The first hike was about 2 miles of easy trails, with about a half mile of double black diamond level. Loki did excellent over this, and the Shiba’s ability to jump 4 feet in the air from a standing position helped him conquer the obstacles that were in our way. He rather enjoyed the challenge, and seemed to have more energy at the end of the hike then at the beginning. Some of these climbs were rather hard, with 45% grades in some spots, but he held his own and never needed to be carried over the obstacles.

Loki checking out the view on a double black diamond trail

The second hike, was to gauge his stamina, instead of his athletic ability.  And as such, it was a combination of two trails (North and South Plateau Loops)  for a combined total of 5 miles.  He did outstanding for the first 4.5 miles, but I had to carry him for the last half mile as he just ran out of steam.  Now that I know his limits, I can start working on getting him in better shape.  Eventually, I expect, this Shiba will be able to out hike me, but he has a long way to go.  I am going to start planning hikes every weekend towards this goal, and planning long 3 mile walks during the weekdays which I expect to help.

It actually amazes me how unprepared people are on these hikes.  I met an older pair of women on a 3.6 mile trail, not long by any means, who carried zero water with them.  I met them on the trail and had to donate some water for them and their poor dogs.  Dogs dehydrate quicker then we do, so you always want to bring water with you on hikes.  Coming prepared is also a good idea if you get lost.  Even on day hikes I like to carry food (bring kibble for your dog) and water like I’m staying overnight and bring things like a rope, axe and shovel, and other supplies I’d need to survive if I wound up lost.  These things generally don’t weigh that much, often less then 10 lbs total, so its not a big deal and will help develop your core muscles.

In closing, hiking is a wonderful activity, and a load of fun for both you and your subservient quadruped, however please, for the love of god, don’t go into a forest unprepared.  It’s bad for both you and your dog.

Categories: Uncategorized