Response to "Does he bite?" Comments

Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions.

I'm sure that there are plenty of shibas that do not display such behavior at all. If you have such a well-tempered dog, just be glad and don't press your luck.

The Dog Whisperer episode that some of you were referring to was "Marley and Piper" in Season 4. I actually haven't watched the whole episode yet, but I saw a clip of it on You Tube. I hope to catch the entire episode during re-runs.

As for the comment about not taking bites personally, I know this rationally. However, not taking it personally is difficult for me, as I bet it's difficult for most dog owners. I try my best, but I don't always succeed. The ironic thing is that the more frequently he bites me, the better I get at not taking it personally. I bet I'd be pretty good at not taking it personally if I've been bitten as many times as Cesar Millan has.

As for the comment about picking my battles, I'm now trying that. I'm not entirely convinced that it's the best course of action. The way I see it, a dog owner should have full control of her dog under any and all circumstances. Whether it be removing a chicken bone from his mouth, tending to dangling poop, or cutting nails. But in light of the fact that I know I will get bitten, maybe it's not worth it to insist so heavily on a "perfect" dog, or at least not a perfect dog immediately. Today, Loki found a small piece of hamburger on the ground. I let him have it. It wasn't going to hurt him like a chicken bone might. So I decided to pick my battles and this wasn't one of them.

Regarding the comments about how Loki is still young and in adolescence, I think you are absolutely right. He has yet to fully trust us, and I'm slowly working on that. His behavior goes in waves: sometimes an angel and sometimes a devil. I think part of me was hoping that because we were on an angel wave for so long that maybe he was done with his adolescence. But that was silly wishful thinking.

Lastly, I did watch a couple YouTube clips of the SATZ method, which I've never heard of before. It seems very similar to clicker training, which Loki and I learned last summer. The one thing she did that I may try more of is talking to Loki. He's much smarter at picking up human vocabulary than I thought. Cesar Millan never uses words or encourages the use of words, because he says they don't understand. But Loki definitely learns certain words (like treat, walk, and sorry) even without us actively teaching him. I'm sure he can pick up more words as long as I use them consistently.


Ellie & Jasmine said...

Doggies definitely understand words. Ellie and Aidan both know "out, treat, kennel" so I think talking to them is a good idea, it certainly can't hurt them in the long run anyway.

Bonnie said...

I totally understand where you are coming from about not taking the bites so personally the more it happens. You know it may happen and that is the difference. The first couple of times catch you off guard completely and all the "why" questions come flooding in. I agree with choosing when to pick your battles, just be sure to eventually choose them all ;) A dog won't completely change in one day (unfortunately!), but the more you work and stay consistent with things the better things will get.

Bravewolf, Shassi and Tierce said...

Have you tried NILIF?

Great nonviolent way of modifying behaviour.

I do that, but I will get in my dog's face if he decides that he's going to hurt me if I do something to him.

Tierce decided to lift his lip at me and growl when I was checking his tail out for something when he was about 9 months old.

I shook him like he was chicken in a Shake n' Bake bag and screamed at him that if he ever did it again, I would kill him and enter the next world and kill him again. It scared the living crap out of him and he's never lifted a lip towards me or anyone else since.

The reason that it worked is because he normally doesn't get screamed at or treated like laundry on SPIN. It was also a complete flip from what I was doing - talking quietly, handling him gently.

He was shocked and scared and, to be honest, that's exactly where I wanted him. I wanted him to associate aggression towards me with the worst thing that ever happened to him ever in his life.

I got pissed off at him and I showed it. Note that I did it in a controlled manner, with the purpose of modifying his behaviour the next time. Random expressions of anger towards a dog don't teach him anything but be scared of you, not be scared of trying to hurt you. I think it's okay to get angry at your dog for biting you - he's trying to hurt you! However your anger needs to be directed at actions that will discourage him from biting, not actions that may hurt or scare him, but will not teach him to modify his behaviour.

It might be counter to a lot of people's idea of positive-only training, but I think that the worst that can happen to a dog in this situation is to be hurt and/or killed because of inappropriate aggression towards a human being. Being shaken and screamed at and frightened is a lot better IMO than a pair of gentle hands and a needle.

Tierce is still a confident, happy Shiba, but I can grab any part of his body, flip him over, clip his nails, brush him, take stuff out of his mouth, take his food away, etc. and he doesn't make a murmer. He does jerk away when he doesn't like something and he'll vocally protest, but he doesn't bite or threaten.

I think this is important even if you're hurting your dog. In the case of causing a dog pain, I will understand if the dog snaps, but I won't let it go. Sometimes, your life with your dog means that you have to cause him some pain - shots, medical attention, parasite removal, emergencies, etc. I think it's imperative that he is taught to think three times before snapping even under some duress.

This is not something I recommend if you are hesitant about your ability to do this without a) hurting yourself, b) hurting your dog or c) stopping halfway through and inadvertently teaching your dog the level of aggression s/he can engage in to make you back down.

All I'm saying is that this worked for me and I think Tierce is a safer dog for knowing where the line is drawn.

Vi said...

To Bravewolf, Shassi, & Tierce --

Thanks for your suggestions and also for sharing your experiences. I have heard of "scruffing" as a discipline measure, but I don't see how to accomplish this without being bitten first.

Also, I am a very big proponent of NILIF and practice it everyday with Loki. I also hand feed Loki almost every meal, using it as a training session.

Xarien said...

Bravewolf, shassi and tierce, I'm also very much the get in the dog's face type of person. I think being the male, more often then not his aggressive behavior towards me is more of a challenge rather than defensive. I have no problem giving him a good smack when he tries snap at me. The results have always been very good in that he becomes submissive very quickly. In the mean time, I feel our relationship also improves as roles are established and reinforced.

Personally, I think there are inherent differences between how males deal with a situation and how females deal with a situation.

The Shiba said...

When Cortez came into our home, he immediately accepted me as the alpha but he spent close to a year challenging my husband. Even today, the two of them still have battles over who is going to be in charge. Cortez tried to bite Jean-Luc 3, 4 times in the first few days we had him, he had food aggression, toy aggression, you name it- he displayed it. It took close to a year for Cortez to accept Jean-Luc, but even today, he will still attempt to challenge his authority. Hence, Jean-Luc always has to assert himself over Cortez and remind him (by either feeding him by hand, changing the walk pattern, or taking his toy away) that he is to be respected in the same way I am.

By picking battles, it was not about the rules but rather determining which rules are more important than others. I, for example, do not insist that Cortez exit the door after me nor do I demand a heel at all times during our walk. I do expect him to sit outside the kitchen at all times unless I call him in. He is not allowed on our bed, couch, or chairs but ironically, he understands that when we do pet therapy, he is to follow my direction of getting near the patient via bed, couch, or chair (the command is "paws up"). But when I give a command, I expect to be obeyed even if he is in distress. But this he had to learn through that Trust vs. Mistrust stage of our relationship. Cortez only ever bit me once and that was when I gave him a bone outside and he reverted back to some wild state of mind. As a result, he gets no bones except under strongly supervised situations. I don't believe in tempting the devil.

Cortez's vocabulary is probably close to 50 English words. We talk to him constantly, and he responds to our conversation. He is also very alert to our habits and quick to direct his behavior around ours. But again, this has been five years of us demanding this of him; Loki is a rebellious teenager. When Cortez was his age, he was so dominant oriented, that his breeder could not trust him around any dog for fear that he would injure his kennel mate.

When I get angry at Cortez, I send him to his crate and ignore him. This affects him more than yelling at him because he wants to be with me, and I won't let him out (I don't shut his door, he just has to sit in there, and look out at me until I say its okay to come out). I only have to do this once or twice if he develops some kind of new thing or behavior because even at the age of 8, Cortez still periodically catches me off guard by doing something unexpected.

Cortez is a good dog, but I have learned what his limits are. He can never be off leash. He can never be loose around another dog. He can not be on a retractable leash. He can not have bones due to his possessive nature. He can never be left alone with the cat because he will kill her, I have no doubt. And the list goes on. This is what I mean by picking my battles with him. I will never get him to be dog friendly however he can and did learn that biting my husband is unacceptable.

Loki is a good dog. That is the basis of your relationship. From there, you build, understanding his personality and your tolerances, and as he continues to mature, he will grow to respect you more.

P.S. Just to add, Cortez is not afraid of manhole covers but he is terrified and intrigued by sewers which connect from the road to the sidewalk- they make funny noises and stuff gets stuck in them all the time. It is hard to get him to walk by one without him shying, and then having to investigate whatever change has happened after a rain storm. I swear that dog has every stick and stone memorized on our walk paths and if one is out of place, he is just flustered until he figures out where it is, or I just get him moving along again.

Anonymous said...

When we got Pepper, there weren't a lot of Shiba Inus in Southeastern PA so we were pretty much training her as a Border Collie.

One day, the trainer stopped everything. "She's very sensitive to throat sounds -- more like a Basenji" he said. He went on to say that Basenjis, as primative dogs, paid more attention to throat sounds than full voices. (Most folks now feel Pepper is part Shiba, rather than Basenji, but as Shibas are primatives also, it might help.)

Now, as I used throat sounds to "talk' to my cats for years (none of them ever learned the word "no", but "Uh-uh!", they knew!) so it's wasn't a huge leap for me -- and it made a HUGE different in how Pepper paid attention to me. And, there's been posts on about using tongue clicks instead of a formal clicker if you're doing clicker training.

So, you might want to see if Loki pays more attention to you if you use your throat to communicate with him -- and if you've already done clicker training, it might be easier just to continue it with your tongue, rather than device, to continue your communication with him.

It's all part of observing your dog and seeing what works for you.

The hardest part of interacting with Pepper, for me, was realizing that while I am a very verbal person, she is not a "verbal" dog -- she vastly prefers throat sounds and hand signals as communication. After 6 years, there are days when all I do is grunt and wave my hands around (which at times, can look/sound pretty embarressing), yet I have "perfect compliance" dog (that day! ;-D), so there we go!

As others have said, you're dealing with a rebellious adolescent, so you've got to hang in there, show Loki that he can trust you, figure out how he likes to communicate and also figure out which "rules" to enforce that you are in charge. (Me going first seems to be important to Pepper as a rule -- heeling doesn't seem to be a big deal so over time, we don't worry about that so much.)

It's exhausting, but it's worth it all in the long run. Our trainer told us that "your dog should trust you so much that you could prefer open-heart surgery on her." Pepper really didn't like me touching her all over, but she puts up with it and when it counts (we're outdoors a lot), she trusts us to help her when she's hurt. That's your goal.

Even at 6 years, Pepper can decide she wants to be the one that makes the decisions (the trainer told us to expect a "boundary testing" once a week, although at this point, it's more like every few months), so I'm not afraid to tower over her, growl very deep in my throat and make her sit, staring into her eyes until she looks away, which seems to work. I also re-assess my own behavoir and see if the "rules" were slackened off at that time, and if so, make sure to correct that portion of my behavoir, also.

The lady at the SmartDogs blog seems to be a no-nonsense type who didn't much like "just talking" to one's dog (mostly because she figured the dog would be bored with someone nattering on, as it appears she is! ;-)), but she got hammered in the comments and has since amended it to "talk to your dog, but make sure you underline or speak in a different tone when you are actually giving a command to your dog so that they pick it up." I think this is good advice.
Besides the throat sounds, I do talk to my cats and Pepper and they do seem to pick up what some of the words mean. Pepper also picks up "standard phrases" from other people that we visit often so she knows what they mean, too.

Hope you find all this helpful and that my own verbal tendancies haven't clogged up your blog too much! :-)


Briana said...

SATZ is the next step from Clicker training. With clicker training, the dog has to guess what you want.. with satz you give him "hot/cold" directions via the "xxxxxxx" indications to help him figure it out, thus building more communications between you. There's no luring with treats. instead he earns his paycheck. PK really does a great job explaining it on the yahoo list, she's just starting to get a few movies up. I think the lists is much better.

on the other hand, I do also interact as another dog would with him. as the other poster did, when he snapped at me or family members as a young puppy he got flipped and growled at and knew i was mad and we went through the take the food away a few times.. consistent "Nope I'm not going to let you get away with it and I really I am bigger than you and could cause you more harm than you could cause me" works. I've done this with my cousin's Akita too when she got cocky and was flipping/beating up on my very senior golden retirever.. perhaps not the smartest thing looking back, but i was in NO mood to be messed with cause my golden was so old and had bad hips. And I gotta say the Akita was my bestest buddy everytime she saw me after that! XD Your own attitude helps alot!

Perhaps you might want to get more familiar with his mouth? Do you brush/check his teeth? I know my Loki has a few teeth missing on the bottom.. and where the gaps are on the top so when he does pick up something I dont want him to have, but he wont drop, i know where to hold so he can't close his mouth and has to drop it. And he cant bite if he can't close it. Its also good that i'm in the OH NO YOU DONT! Mood. I only do this when he's got some small bone/other questionable small item as he closes his mouth and tries to swallow it.

I find that if he has something large, instead of tugging it pushing it back into his mouth (not down his throat) makes him release easier as well as just holding it and staring him down.

he is a mouthy dog still but doesn't BITE (but still does puppy play nips sometimes). It never really hurts (cept when he pulls on my pony tail XD) but I really dont mind him using his mouth, as long as its gently. Its such a big part of how dogs interact with the world.

Also he responds much better to me growling at him than a quick/loud NO.

He nipped at my pants this morning coming down the stairs.. usually he's good at just getting cloth but this time he pinched my leg. and first I Yipped cause it was unexpected, but then a LOW GROWWWLLED at him and he straightened up.

Your Loki has come so far this past year :) You're doing great.

Briana said...

oh and RE: the Akita above.. i wouldn't have done that with a dog I didn't know.. I was already doing a few basic manners/training with her since my cousin lived next door and didn't do much training with her.

Briana said...

Also: Re - Cesar saying dogs don't understand words..

Well of course they don't initially.. they have to learn it just like you had to as a child. But they can hear don't they? And they can distinguish between pitches and different sounds? They know their names.. they know treats, or BALL, sit, lie down.. etc. They'll learn if you take the time to explain and show it to them. Just most people don't take that time. And SATZ is main thing is to bridge that gap. =) okay, i'm done now really!

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