Does he bite?

A common question from strangers is, "Does he bite?" It's a hard question for me to answer, because the real answer is, "Yes, under certain circumstances, but despite that fact, you can't approach him with any fear."

Loki's behavior really started to become better from about 1 - 1.5 years old. The last time Loki bit me was in January. (I was trying to take a chicken bone from his mouth. He had randomly found it during our walk.) After the incident in January, I thought his biting days were all in the past. The reason for the decrease in bites wasn't only attributable to his better temperament, but also to the fact that we better learned what his warning signs were and what his triggers were.

Unfortunately, I let my guard down or perhaps I was simply in denial about his temperament. Last Thursday he bit me for the first time since January. Here's what happened:

It started as a normal day for Loki & I, as I took him to poop. Unfortunately, it was one of those days where his poop was dangling on a long strand of my hair from his butt. (I have long hair; it drops everywhere.) He was successful in flinging the poop off by running around in circles like mad. But the strand of hair was still there. Uh-oh.

So I calmly got him to stay standing and pulled one strand out. Then I noticed another shorter strand. I suppose I was feeling empowered because I got the first strand out okay. But he put up a huge fight when I tried to get that second stand, and got bitten on my finger. I didn't even know I was bleeding until I saw the blood on his fur.

An acquaintance passed by during the incident and commented that perhaps it was hurting him inside when I tugged at the hair. I don't know if that was the case or not, but I gave up on trying to pull it out. Anyways, the issue resolved itself the next time he went to poop.

The reality is that Loki does bite and lashes out when he feels threatened. Honestly, I really wish I had a dog that never bit or showed any aggressive behavior. Other dogs cower, whimper, and whine under stressful and challenging situations. I keep wishing that Loki could be that kind of dog, but I don't think that he ever will.

I certainly try my best in training him to behave better. I have been successful in identifying certain triggers and finding solutions for them. For instance, we muzzle him when we do his nails. I used slow positive reinforcement to teach him to accept the harness, which he is very good about now. He still doesn't like it, but he accepts it. And currently, I'm doing more handling exercises with positive reinforcement. But I am starting to think that even with all the training in the world, Loki will still lash out if he feels threatened. Training with positive reinforcement only teaches him that certain triggers aren't threatening. It doesn't teach him to never lash out.

This blog entry is difficult to write, because I feel that there is a certain amount of judgment that is placed on an owner of such a dog... almost as if it were my fault for his behavior. I remember one day a year ago when I was out walking Loki and I told a ten year old girl to be cautious around Loki. She turned away from us and asked a nearby elderly man if his two Pomeranians bit. The elderly man replied, oh, no, never ever, they would never hurt a fly. I felt bad about not being able to say the same about Loki.

Whenever I search online, it's hard to find any useful information about dogs and biting. Google only brings up legal site after legal site informing people how to sue and sad news story after sad news story. There was one article that I was very happy to read on a Shiba Rescue site: Shibas and Biting by Carolyn Sanford. The lines that resonated the most with me were:
"Because a Shiba was purchased from a reputable breeder who did everything right, bred for temperament, socialized, trained, doesn't insure that Shiba will never feel a need to lash out if it feels threatened whether the threat is real or imagined.
Not addressing this aspect of owning a Shiba would be a disservice to the breed as a whole. Not acknowledging the potential for this 'reality' exists, and not educating owners or prospective owners of the possibilities does nothing to protect the breed or individual Shibas. Does acknowledging this problem exists in the Shiba breed mean it's a trait? No, but being realistic about the potential and acknowledging possibilities exist through the life of any Shiba may help to control the number of incidents and the public assuming this is a trait."
In the end, yes, Loki does bite. Even if he is very mellow, well-behaved, and calm about 90% of the time, under certain circumstances, Loki is not afraid to lash out. This is the reality of owning Loki.

Moving Across Country (Part 2)

I just ordered an airline approved crate for Loki. The one we currently have is wire, so that won't do for airplanes. I found shopping for crates to be really annoying. It's difficult to search for the best price. There are so many different names for the crates with different meanings for "small," "medium," and "large." On top of all this, if you are shopping online, shipping can be quite expensive.

In the end, I got a medium-sized Sky Kennel by PetMate for $47.99 from
Because they have free shipping (cough, cough) for orders over $49, I picked up a random cheap dog toy for $1.19.

Here, free shipping doesn't really mean free shipping. It means they drop the $8.95 base rate for shipping, but they still charge you $0.75 per pound! So, with their "free shipping" deal, I still paid $13.50 for shipping.

Big dog inside a little dog's body

Loki thinks he's a big dog. He acts like he's a big dog. And the most amazing part is that he makes me to think that he's a big dog too! Shibas sure are good at mind-control. When I'm away from him for awhile (like vacation or a weekend trip), he can't play tricks on my mind. Every time when I return from a trip, I always think to myself, Loki looks so small. Is he really such a small dog? After being back in his presence, it doesn't take long before I start thinking that he's a big dog again.

Here's a picture of his big dog mentality.
Big queen-sized bed.
Little dog sound asleep.

Chicken in my purse

Why in the world is Loki's head in my pink bag? The whole side is wet from him licking it! What's going on? (scratches head)

Oh... did I leave chicken in my bag again? Whoops! Since having Loki, I've gotten used to always carrying treats with me -- dried chicken works the best. It isn't crumbly or squishy or oily.

A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies

This shiba movie was released on DVD last month. I haven't watched it yet. (Note to self: prepare some tissues... afterall, I cried during the trailer.)

If you are interested in buying the DVD, it's available for purchase here:
  • Play-Asia: The only format they have is DVD region 3.
  • YesAsia: They have the VCD format, DVD region 2, and DVD region 3.
Lastly, if you are interested in watching it for free online, it's available in 4 parts here:
Wait a minute, where's region 1? I can't find a region 1 DVD anywhere online. Maybe it's not released yet.

Moving Across Country (Part 1)

In approximately a month, our whole family will be moving across country. Having finally graduated from school, I will be starting my career in our nation's capital, Washington DC. Moving is one of the most stressful events in a person's life. What might it be like for a dog?

Thus begins a series of blog posts devoted to moving a dog. Part 1 looks at some travel options.

The fastest way to transport a dog is to fly him. In flying, there are 3 main methods:
  1. As carry-on luggage
  2. As checked luggage
  3. As cargo
Loki is too big for us to take him as carry-on in a plane. What a shame, because that's the easiest way to transport him. The next best way is to fly Loki as checked luggage on the same flight as ours. Lastly, many airlines also fly pets as cargo, meaning that the pet travels alone.

As a 1.5 year old shiba inu, Loki passes all of the the airline breed and age restrictions. Most restrict typically aggressive breeds (Pit Bills) as well as breeds with short noses. Also, senior dogs (over 7.5 years old) may require additional vet papers documenting good health. (Note: All dogs are required to have basic vet papers stating good health, it's just that you may need additional papers for an older dog.)

Most airlines have some sort of summer embargo, in which they will not transport a pet if any city on your itinerary is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. For instance, Northwest Airlines specifies that it won't transport a pet to Las Vegas, NV and all cities in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, between June 1st and September 15th. I hope that Washington DC will be acceptable. I'm not sure yet and will have to call each airline to double-check. However, it looks like if they won't ship as checked luggage during the summer, they will ship as cargo. My guess is that they already have temperature controlling equipment in their cargo planes.

How much will it cost? For in-cabin pets, the fee tends to be around $100-$150 for most airlines. For checked luggage, the cost varies depending on the airline. For instance, Alaskan Airlines charges $100 regardless of size or weight, while Northwest Airlines charges from $139 for a small dog (25 lbs) up to $359 for a giant dog (150 lbs). Lastly, for cargo, the cost again varies depending on the airline. For instance, Continental charges anywhere from $149 for a small dog (below 25 lbs) to $659 for a ridiculously gigantic dog (over 200 lbs.).

Here's my compilation of airlines that transport pets:

Another option is to drive Loki across country. Having driven across country once before, I know first-hand that it's not fun. It might look fun in the movies, and some crazy people might insist that it's fun. But, really, it's not. Who wants to spend a week in their car?

There exist some services that will drive your dog for you. I'm not convinced that this is better than flying. The advantage is that the dog will not be subject to the airplane environment with all of its strange smells and sounds. The disadvantage is obviously time. And in either case, you have to trust your dog with strangers, whether it be airline handlers or a driver. I didn't research this option much, but it seems that the cost varies between $600 - $1000+.

Sit, Target

We make Loki perform tricks prior to every meal. Here he is protesting at the ridiculousness of this exercise. Isn't he so cute?!

Center of Attention

I often times take Loki with me when I go out to eat. All that is necessary is that the restaurant have outdoor seating. This is easy to find in sunny Southern California. He always behaves very well. He lies down & waits patiently for his humans to eat. But he typically doesn't lie under the table.

Today, he decided that the front & center is where he belonged. See diagram below:

He stretched his leash as far as it would go and plopped down in the middle of everyone's way, as if he owned the restaurant. The advantage of his behavior is that he caught more people's attention and we got to socialize him. Today he had not a hint of any skittishness when a couple women pet him.

What a funny dog!

More success at the dog park

Yay! We had a successful time in the main area of the dog park! I'm so glad.

First, I made sure that we had a long walk early this afternoon to drain some of his energy. It took about two hours in total, but that includes stopping for lunch.

When we first got to the dog park, I put him in the small dog section. All the other dogs were in the main area, so Loki was all by himself. He sniffed a couple dogs by the fence and ran along it too. I noticed that all the dogs in the main area were pretty calm and well-behaved.

Only because all of the other dogs seemed so calm, I decided to bring Loki to the main area. No dog came up to greet us when we first entered - a good sign. I took Loki to the water fountain and then ran over to a more secluded corner of the park. Then, I threw some tennis balls around for him to chase. Loki was very well-behaved when greeting a couple dogs and ran around for a little bit with one. We mostly stayed away from the main cluster of dogs and people and kept to ourselves. It was a good day =)

Cafe in Ventura

This morning I went to downtown Ventura with Loki. I stopped by this cafe, because it had outdoor seating.

I'm surprised by how dog friendly this town is. Look we got a water bowl! And on top of that the hostess gave Loki a complementary doggie biscuit. What fun!

Yay for all dog friendly places!

Fireworks & Loki

Last night we went to the beach with Loki to view the fireworks. We were approximately one mile away from the fireworks display of our town and five miles away from the fireworks display of the neighboring town. Since we were pretty far from both displays, the sounds were faint and Loki wasn't afraid at all. In fact, he watched them too.

He only became scared when random people around us decided to light their own fireworks, which isn't actually legal here in California. (Good reason to be scared in my opinion.) Loki was a cutie pie and crawled in between us for comfort. And when Yun put his jacket over Loki's eyes, he felt even more safe.

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July everyone!

A common problem that dog owners seem to have with Independence Day is that the sound of fireworks terrify their dogs.

I'm not sure if Loki is scared or not. He's only lived through this holiday once before and we didn't have fireworks nearby. We'll see how he does tonight.

If your dog is fearful of firework sounds, you can try slow desensitization. You can buy a fireworks CD here or make one yourself by recording tonight's festivities. Then play the CD at home at a low volume to begin with and steadily increase the volume.

Success with Small Dogs

Yay! Today we had a fun-filled time with three small dogs.

First, I took Loki for a brisk walk around the park, while I was on rollerblades. Then after getting some of that energy out of his system, I took him to the small dog section. To my surprise, there were three dogs in the small dog section - a corgi, a chihuahua, and a pomeranian. I was a bit hesitant, but Loki's pretty comfortable around dogs smaller than him. And he played wonderfully with them. He played the most with the Corgi, who was a submissive female. Very submissive. Loki tried to hump the Corgi a couple times and she just rolled over on to her back. Yay for a successful day at the dog park.


Determined not to let our bad experience ruin all future dog park excursions, I took him back to the dog park today and put him in the small dog section. Since no one ever uses the small dog section, he was essentially quarantined. We stayed for about an hour or so. He got to sniff dogs through the fence and run along side it. I also played fetch (yes, I was the one fetching) and ran around with him. Loki's behavior was fairly calm and normal. Aside from his apparent desire to be in the main area, he was happy.

I thought that there would be fewer dogs today, since it was a Monday. But, no. There were plenty of dogs this afternoon. I think I'll try going to the dog park daily (or as much as possible). If there are only one or two dogs, I'll go in the main area. Otherwise, we'll try the quarantine. I hope that works.

I think the dog fights must have traumatized him. His behavior has completely regressed. He was doing really well for almost half a year now. But in these past couple days, he's been very snappy. He's not afraid to express the fact that he does NOT like being picked up or handled. He even gets snappy when you just pet him! Admittedly, I'm a bit more cautious about touching him in any way, and I'm sure that he can sense my negative energy.

I try to remind myself that sometimes unfortunate situations occur, and his bad behavior can be corrected. It just takes some time and patience. Still, I'm a bit heartbroken by how snappy he is toward me.
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