When we first got Loki, we made a concerted effort to socialize him. We took him to puppy socialization classes. We enrolled him in a basic obedience class. We took him to the dog park once a week.
He did fairly well at the dog park for about a year. And although he never did get used to dogs sniffing his butt, he was pretty well-behaved.
Then we had a couple of dog fights.
Afterwards, I made a concerted effort to slowly reintroduce him into the dog park by making use of the small dog area. I was fairly successful with that.
Then we moved across country. Our lives became busier, as I took on a full-time job. We weren’t able to take him to the dog park once a week anymore. He got to go once last fall, and that was about it. Then we got Jujube.
And now, Loki is no longer a well-socialized dog, at least not with other dogs. (He’s gotten much better with people and visitors, but that’s for another blog post.)
He can be aggressive on-leash as well as off-leash. It started very slowly and gradually increased. At first, I thought it was just with large, black dogs. Then one day while on-leash, he snapped at a small, black dog at a pet store. I thought, maybe it’s just all black dogs. A few months later, he snapped at a golden retriever. So maybe it’s not just black dogs. I don’t know what it is any more. He’s not reactive 100% of the time. He still has his good moments with some dogs, but the bad moments outweigh the good.
At this point in Loki’s life, I don’t think he can safely go to dog parks. My view is that, if Loki never gets to go to another dog park again for the rest of his life, that’s fine with me. He has Jujube for a companion. They might not cuddle with each other or be best of friends, but they definitely do wrestle with each other and run around like crazy together. My motivation for bringing him to the dog park was so that he’d have a chance to interact with his species. There’s nothing like watching dogs run and chase each other. It’s quite captivating. But now Loki has Jujube to interact with. Is it really necessary that he go to the dog park? Is this even a goal worth working towards?
Yun’s opinion differs from mine. I think Yun sees the situation as rather sad; he wants Loki to be able to go to the dog park. He thinks Loki needs to be exposed to dogs more, not less, and hence Loki should be brought to the dog park more often. Yun has been an advocate of trying to re-socialize Loki.
So, on Yun’s insistence and my reluctance, we attempted to take Loki to the local dog park a couple weekends ago. To start with some good news, Loki was very well-behaved with a couple dogs. One was a black, female Chihuahua -- at least I infer that she was female since she was decked out in pink clothing. Loki was very interested in her and didn’t mind her being in his face. Loki was also pretty good with a very calm, light-colored spaniel -- I’m not sure what type of spaniel it was.
But other than those two, he wasn’t good with any other dog. We did not get into any fights, but he snapped at a few dogs.
Loki doesn’t have issues with other dogs as long as they respect his personal space. He really starts to have issues if they sniff him up close by his muzzle. For the first few seconds, he’ll tense up. If the sniffing continues, which it almost always does, he starts to growl and show teeth. This will continue for a couple seconds. Then if the sniffing continues, he’ll take a snap.
The interesting observation that Yun made was that Loki does give ample warning before he snaps. He doesn’t snap immediately. There’s plenty of time for the other dog to back away. So my question is why doesn’t the other dog back away? Of all species, wouldn’t other dogs know how to read the warning signs?
For the dog park issue, I’ve basically given up. If he doesn’t get to go to the dog park, that’s fine by me. I do think it’s possible to re-socialize him, but that will take more time and effort than I’m willing to put in. The payoff isn’t worth it to me. The payoff isn’t interaction with other dogs. It’s the incremental interaction with other dogs on top of what he already gets with Jujube. So in my opinion, the costs outweigh the benefits.
And although I say I’ve given up, I am hoping to re-socialize him to some degree. Maybe not full-fledged off-leash socialization, but more controlled on-leash socialization. Our shiba meetup tomorrow is a hike. We are taking both Loki and Jujube. Hopefully, Loki will get to socialize with the other shibas while on-leash. The leash will give us better control, and allow him to walk with all the other dogs. The last time I tried a shiba meetup hike, I met up with only one other shiba and Loki was well-behaved the entire time. I’m anticipating more shibas this time, but I hope it will be a good experience for him.