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The Taming of the Shiba Part 2

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Obedience training made house training a lot easier, as it allowed me to condition a word to mean good,  I use “yes” and/or a clicker, while negatively associating “no” in order to mark good behavior.  “Loading” the word “yes” was trivial.  I sat on the floor with Loki, watching him, and every time he did some behavior that I would want to train later, I would mark it, and treat.   I would do this for about 5-10 minutes per day for about 3 days.  You’ll know its working when he starts salivating when you use your clicker or your “mark” word.  Training a non-mark was way more difficult.

In order to train the non-mark, I had to correct him.  When he made a mistake, I used a loud “no” in as deep a voice as I could muster.  Sometimes, when he was getting really obnoxious, like when he bit me, I would grab him by the scruff of his neck, get one inch in front of his face, and say “no” in a loud deep voice.  Note, this is not shouting, its just talking with authority.  Eventually he caught on that “no” was undesirable.   Now, if I tell him no, he’ll stop doing what he is doing and look back at me.  Its almost like he’s wondering, “well, what do you want me to do instead”.  I’ll then give him a “mark” for stopping the behavior.  Its important to follow the non-mark with a mark so he gets rewarded for listening.  If you fail to mark that behavior, you will wind up with a dog that ignores you  (I made that mistake at the beginning).

Loki Sitting Like A Pro

The first thing I taught him was to sit.  I did this by filling my hand with his favorite treat, and putting it above his head.  Most of the time his head would come up and his butt would go down.   When it did, I would mark it and treat.  I did this for about 3 days before he got the hang of it indoors.  That is when I moved my training to outdoors (which is basically like starting over).   I learned, by watching several Leerburg videos, that distractions are important when teaching your dog.  There are different levels of distraction.   A level one distraction would be inside your house with no-one else around;  Sitting outside might be a level 3 and the dog park is more like a level 10.  You have to do training with different levels of distractions in order to get your dog to reliably listen.  Think of it like you are telling him “yes, you also have to listen to me while you are playing”.  Earlier today A big dog was approaching and Loki wanted to play with him.  This is a training opportunity!  I told him to sit, and he did it immediately.  Had Loki not been through distraction training he probably would have ignored me.

Loki performing a down in the grass

Once I got this command down, reasonably well, I decided to teach him to “down”.  In order to do this, I would put the food in my hand, and close a fist around it, putting it on the ground right in front of his face.  He would be extremely confused by this, realizing that he is expected to do something for this food due to the “sit” training which preceded this training.  He would start trying random stuff.  He would sit, sometimes he’d jump on me, other times he’d just lay down.  He was experimenting to figure out what he could do to get his food.    Any time he’d lay down when I said “down”.  I would mark and treat.  Eventually he caught on.  He is currently going through distraction training with this command.  Next on my list is to train him to down stay, sit stay, and come.  Stay tuned until then!

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Categories: Loki

The Taming of the Shiba Part 1

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

I have been consistently making progress in Loki’s training. Thus far, he can reliably sit, down, and he is house trained; for varying values of house trained. He does still have to occasional accident when he’s scared, but what dog doesn’t. Training him has been more about training myself, and less about training him.

I would like to make a few points starting out.  First, timing of your marks is important.  If your timing is off, you will just confuse him.  So your marks and non-marks need to happen during the behavior.  That said, you can not correct your dog for something he has already done; you can only correct him while he is doing it.  So house training means paying attention, paying lots of attention, to your dog.  If you can’t watch him, don’t let him out of his kennel.

The first complaint with regard to this method of house training is, “its cruel to keep your dog in a kennel for 8 hours a day”.  Well, its fine for a puppy, since he will just sleep all day anyway however, if you are seriously that concerned about it, get an exercise pen.  Just be warned that if the space is too big, he will just section off a portion of it to pee and poop in.  In fact, I never give Loki free reign of my apartment.  If he is out of his exercise pen and kennel he is always on a leash; I will let him drag it around.  Your dog is going to be way faster then you, even as a puppy.  If you can not get to him immediately to give a correction you are going to miss a lot of learning opportunities.

Loki watering the lawn

The next complaint is, “I don’t have time to take my puppy out 8 times a day”.   Honestly, in this case, you probably do not have time for a puppy.  Luckily Loki was 4 months old when I got him, so he could basically hold it until lunch.  Loki’s routine is basically as follows:

  • 6:00:  Wake up (or get woken up) to go pee
  • 6:05:  Get fed (usually kibble)
  • 6:30:  Get taken out to poop
  • 7:00:  Get taken for a walk
  • 7:45:   Get stuffed in an exercise pen
  • 11:45:  Get taken out to pee and walk
  • 12:15:  Get stuffed in an exercise pen
  • 17:30:  Get taken for a long walk / training / play session
  • 18:30:  Get fed (usually a Raw Meaty Bone / Organ Meat)
  • 20:30:  Get taken out to Pee
  • 22:00:  Get taken out to Pee and Poop

So what is Loki doing in between those times?  Sleeping, that’s what.   He seriously sleeps most of the day.   That is the life of a puppy.   The important thing is to keep a strict schedule, so you can predict when your puppy is going to have to go.  Based on this schedule,  I know when he is going to have to go before he does.  With that knowledge I can be prepared to offer treats / rewards for going in the correct spot.  That is basically all there is to house training a puppy.  You simply give him a reward when he goes outside, and non-mark when he goes inside.  In fact, grab him, pick him up (while he’s peeing) and drag him outside.  Most puppies will stop urinating or pooping when you grab them.  This accomplishes two goals, you show him that going inside is acceptable while teaching him that he gets a reward for going outside.  This will make him want to trade his urine and feces for a treat later.  Remember to always be consistent and fair.  You want to set your puppy up for success, which means maximize the opportunity for success while minimizing the chance of failure.  If he makes a mistake inside, it is your fault not his.

Categories: Loki

Public Service Announcement: Dogs love to chew

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

After giving up all hope of ever seeing my security deposit again, I have learned a valuable lesson.   If you own a Shiba Inu, it is not good enough to use baby gates to lock him in the kitchen; these dogs love to chew.  They will eat anything, including things they shouldn’t, like your baseboards.  I took this route in order to keep the dog from urinating on my carpet.  I have since discovered that this was a bad move.  The correct response would have been to get a exercise pen (about 50$) along with an strip of linoleum (about 20$)  to protect the carpet; this is cheaper in the long run.   So learn from my cautionary tale, and get an exercise pen for your dog.

Categories: Loki

I Just Wanted to Play

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

None of you are going to believe this story; for that matter, I still don’t believe it and I was there. Shiba owners might believe me, but only because they know that these dogs are completely insane. In fact, they aren’t really dogs at all, but escaped mental patients disguised as dogs. Once you accept this fact dealing with them stops causing you to cry in a corner.

This story starts at 4:30am. I was sound asleep dreaming of the good days when I was rudely awakened by a whimpering dog. I assume that he needs to go to the restroom as he’s only 4 months old and can’t always hold it through the night. So I open his kennel and he bolts out the door, running the Shiba 500 at 4:30 am (yes this is way before the crack of dawn). When I finally catch him, and put his harness on, I proceed to drag him out of the door.

Once we finally make it out of the door, and make it to his favorite pump and dump spot, I realize he doesn’t want to go to the restroom at all; he just wants to play.  Unfortunately for him there is no software engineer on the planet who is in a playing mood after being awakened at 4:30 am by a demon in dog form, so I drag him kicking and screaming back into the house, where I proceed to stuff him back in his kennel.

After waking up from my alarm clock at 6am, and taking him out to do his morning routine, which he completes with due haste. I decide that I should probably play with him in order to redirect his energy away from eating my apartment; it’s better if he spends that time sleeping. In his excitement, he bit me. I don’t mean mouthing, I mean bit, hard. I still have the whelts on my hand 3 hours later. This is the part of this story where I restrain myself from breaking his legs. I immediately stopped playing with him, let out a loud “ouch” sound, and gave him a “no” which is his non mark.

After feeding and watering the dog, and getting myself ready for work, I finally start out of my door, glad that I can escape to something relaxing, like work. I quickly realized that I forgot something and walk back into the house which makes Loki extremely excited to see me. He is so excited, in fact, that he jumps in the air, nearly turning a back-flip, and lands right in his water dish. If you have been reading this blog, you know he doesn’t like water. It is, in fact, his arch nemesis.

He let out the patented Shiba Scream, probably waking up all of my neighbors. Water flies everywhere, all over my cabinets, the floor, and the dog; he is dripping wet with water and not happy about it. His instinct is to bolt, but he’s wet and on a tile floor, so he starts slipping and sliding all over the place, making the matter even worse.  After getting the mess cleaned up, and restocking his water dish, I finally depart to work, where I can relax.

Categories: Life, Loki

Best to let sleeping dogs lie

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

One day, I will figure out how he sleeps like that.  I am amazed that dogs can sleep anywhere, in any position, at any time *envy*.

Categories: Life, Loki

The Injured Loki

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Somehow, Loki got injured, and like most pet owners my first thought was “what did he do this time”.  Loki was still weight bearing, but was favoring his right leg.  This is probably benign, but there are literally scores of puppy bone diseases that also present with those exact symptoms, like hip dysplasia, so I had to get it checked out.

After getting up early enough to hear dawn break (to those of you who have never heard it trust me it is loud) I shuttled him off to the vet.  So happy little Loki limps his way into the exam room, being quite the trooper considering he is injured, or so I thought, and plops down on the exam table.

Those of you who have read about Shibas know this is the part of this story where the fecal matter hits the rotating air oscillator, in fact I can literally hear you snickering at me through the internet. The vet tech did the unthinkable; he reached down to pick up Loki, and the poor tortured dog let out a scream the likes of which I have never heard, and never will again; think exorcism of Emily Rose.  Everyone in the room heard it (rather temporarily until their eardrums ruptured).  Luckily the people in the waiting room was spared their hearing, but I’m sure they reported us to the ASPCA for animal cruelty.

It turns out that he probably just has a sprain, which is what I suspected, but I wanted a vet to take a look just to make sure since he is a 4.5 month old puppy.  Bone disorders, if not treated promptly, can lead to permanent lameness at this age.  The doctor recommended that I “get him out of the clinic before anybody else goes deaf” and that I take it easy with him for a week.  That means no running, jumping, walking up and down stairs or anything else stressful on his leg.  He can go on short walks only to go to the bathroom.  I wonder, now, if his plan was to get a free ride up and down the stairs every time he needs to go take a dump.  The world may never know.

Categories: Life, Loki