Monday, September 30, 2013

Behavioral Issues When Greeting Other Dogs

This is a long overdue post I wanted to make but kept pushing back and rewriting. For those who had been following us for a while would know that I've always took pride in socializing her early and that she gets along with most dogs nicely. Well, since a few months ago, that' no longer the case. 

I have been seeking help from forum members, Maya's trainer, and a behaviorist. This letter I wrote pretty much sums up the situation:
"I have a 3 year old Shiba Inu, Maya, who we owned since she was 8 weeks old.

Since a few months ago, Maya has started to growl at dogs when meeting, on and off leash. Sometimes when she's on leash, she would even lunge at the other dog. It started with big dogs, then to all dogs, from on leash to off leash, from indoors to outdoors.
A typical meet starts with her being all excited to see another dog. She would run up to the other dog, sniff its face and all of the sudden freeze up once the other dog sniff back. A split second later, she would start growling. The only dogs she's ok with, were the ones who avoids conflict and would turn away when Maya runs up.

We had been working very hard socializing her since she's a puppy and she had been great with dogs. But now things just keep getting worse and worse, and I don't know how to fix it.

I feel like I can no longer take her to dog parks, meetups, doggie daycare anymore. The only place that seems to be ok for her now is the beach, but I'm so afraid some day she can't go there anymore as well.

Today we met a Shiba puppy at training class. Maya was so excited, but as soon as the puppy came close to her, she growled, lunged, snapped within a split second. Both owners were quick enough to pull the dogs back, but I felt terrible, as the puppy was definitely startled. This is the first time she acted out on a Shiba.

I feel so frustrated and defeated..."

Maya's  trainer also helped me filmed a short clip of her meeting another dog. This is the typical worse case situation: big dog + indoors + on leash.

Members from the forums had been very supportive and told me this is a common behavior in Shiba Inus. Many owners carefully manage their dogs' greetings, avoid dog parks, or block between dogs during walks. I started to be more careful with managing her interaction with other dogs as well, but since this is still a newly developed behavior, I really wish there's a way we can "fix" it. I don't expect her to be a social-butterfly or get along with every dog, but I do hope she can be more tolerant of other dogs, learn that she can always walk away when she feels uncomfortable, or even just prolong the period of her growling / warning signals so I can react.

I contacted a highly recommended behaviorist, C.Z., in our area, and lucky she was able to add us to her busy schedule. She met us at our home and went through the details of Maya's everyday life. Then we took Maya to meet with her dog, Little Guy, and Maya did extremely well with the greeting. While I thought that it doesn't count because Little Guy is a super well socialized and polite dog, C.Z. believes this means Maya "still has hope".

She then left me some "homework" to do. Instead of dealing with the greeting problem, she wanted me to enforce Maya's recall, focus, and impulse control. While I was secretly hoping there's some quick answer and solution, I understand a solid training foundation is the key to take control when it gets too exciting, too overwhelming, or too scary for her. I guess I just have to be patient and take things slowly.

Meanwhile, as we work on the training, since she does well at the beach, we will continue to take her there as often as we can. Too bad it's not close enough for us to go everyday and the weather will be turning cold soon. It also sucks (for the dog and the humans) that we have to give her a bath after every trip.

Today, I took her for an evaluation at a doggie daycare, which was recommended by another reactive Shiba's owner. I was was super nervous and so afraid they won't accept her. However, the trainer there is really experienced and helped her greeted other dogs nicely. Since the place is near my office and they have half day (6 hours) sessions with very reasonable price, I'm planning to take her there once a week (after she's less itchy). Hopefully some positive interaction with other dogs can help her become more comfortable around other dogs..

I know when we got a Shiba that this may be what we signed up for, but we kind of let our guards down when we saw how good she was as a puppy. Especially after the allergies flared up and she lost interest playing at the dog parks, we've been slacking off on taking her out to meet other dogs. I really hope the training, beach visits, and doggie daycare can help with the reactiveness, or at least make her a happier dog in general.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cone Head

With Maya's new vet, new diet, and new Chinese medicine, we got through most the summer gracefully. Just when I thought it's about to be over, everything went downhill. In the past few weeks, the weather had been super hot for this time of the year around here and many owners told me their dogs were having allergy reactions or infested by fleas. I didn't find any fleas on Maya, but I believe she still got bitten and started to itch badly.

Yesterday, it finally got to the point where I can no longer distract her when she tries to scratch her face or lick her paws. I gave in and put the cone on. 

Somehow putting her in a cone seems to sadden me more than her. Comparing to the bandage wrap or doggy socks, she actually takes the cone much better. I just feel like all our efforts were in vain, and everything is back to how it was last year. Sigh... 

Nevertheless, yesterday I was finally able to sleep through the night without constantly waking up by the sound of her licking and scratching.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Yesterday was my dad's 60th birthday. Due to my work schedule, I wasn't able to fly back to Taiwan for the big party, but I decided to have Maya make a short film to wish her "grandpa" a happy birthday. Though my dad never allowed us to have a dog while we grew up, he had became Maya's number one fan, and always refers to her as his "grand-dog".

Maya and I woke up at 5:00 am in the morning to FaceTime with an entire room full of guests. After the call, Maya's video was projected on a big TV. Hope this brought some joy and entertainment to everyone.

Thank you dad for teaching us to be earnest, honest, and always curious. Happy birthday and every unbirthday!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Monthly Expenses: August 2013

August 2013
  • Vet & Medical: $200
  • Treats & Chews: $9
TOTAL: $209
YTD TOTAL: $2,528

Vet & Medical

For August, most of our expenses were for the 2 vet visit. One was with the holistic vet, Dr. M, and the other is for treating Maya's ear infection at our general vet. 

Treats & Chews

We got Maya a pig snout to try out. It looks and feels like rawhide, but actually much softer. She finished half of it within a few minutes, and got super soft poop the next day. I'm still debating whether to give her the second half. 

She also got a bag of Real Meat Fish & Venison Jerky Dog Treats. Since Maya has so many "trigger foods", I was glad to find a brand with very limited ingredients and reasonable price.