You want me to do what ?!?!

Monday, I came home from work to a peeing accident. Tuesday, I came home again to a peeing accident.

Suspecting a urinary tract infection (UTI), I call the vet and talk to the receptionist.
“You want me to do what ?!?!
You want me to get a urine sample?
For my DOG?
Are you joking?”

My ever-evolving opinion of Cesar Millan

It was Malcolm Gladwell who first introduced me to Cesar Millan in his 2006 New Yorker piece. Soon afterwards, I saw Cesar Millan featured on Oprah. Intrigued by the endorsements of two very different people, I started watching The Dog Whisperer. From the first episode, I was hooked. Everything Cesar did looked so effortless. Everything he said sounded so simple. “What was wrong with all of these dog owners?” I thought. “It looks so easy! Anyone could do that!” With just a few catch phrases, “Exercise, Discipline, and Affection” and “Calm and Assertive Energy”, even I felt like I could rehabilitate troubled dogs. Clearly, this was before I got Loki.

Random Shiba Links

This is NOT my Loki. It's some amazing footage that I came across. Craziness! Yes, shibas are escape artists. If you want to use an exercise pen, get a top.

Happy Birthday Loki!

Loki turns 3 today.

Couple more kids

We had two kids in our home today, although not at the same time.

The little youngster, my cousin's daughter, returned to our home late Friday evening and stayed until early Saturday afternoon. Loki was still barky, but definitely better than before. A few more visits and he would've been fine.

Later in the evening we also had a six month old baby visit our home for a couple of hours.  Jujube was extremely curious and sniffed all around the baby.  Loki wasn't curious like Jujube.  He wasn't initially barky, but did end up barking at the baby later on. Unfortunately, this visitor was also from out of town, so we won't be getting any repeat exposures.

I've come to realize that although I want to use positive reinforcement, the thought doesn't occur to me until after the problem presents itself. And by that point, it might be too late. (Well, it's never really too late to train, but it's less than ideal.) When the baby first arrived, we were caught up in greeting our visitors, and I was trying to make sure that Jujube wasn't getting into the baby's face too much. I didn't notice Loki's non-barking (Why would you? He's not barking.) It would have been a good time to give him treats for not barking. That way you establish a positive association right away. Ideally, you want to give him treats for behaving well. If he starts barking, then you have to get him to be quiet first. Ignoring the behavior, waiting for him to lose interest and get quiet on his own takes way too long. So, inevitably, I use negative feedback. Something along the lines of:
"Loki, quiet."
"Uh-uh, quiet."
"Loki, sit"
Sits and barks.
"Uh-uh, Loki, quiet."
All of the "Uh-uh"s are negative feedback. I do believe in the importance of negative verbal feedback (some people don't), but I still acknowledge that it is indeed negative. And so, the initial association with the baby is negative. It's not very negative, just slightly. The initial association is of being wary, being fearful, and hearing negative feedback. I think it's very easy and almost natural to make a dog's first impression of a baby negative. The first thing a mother holding a newborn wants to do is to shush her barking dog. It's practically instinctive. And so the dog's first impression is negative.

Still, in retrospect I have to think that maybe we handled the situation today correctly. I think that it's important to greet your out of town visitors right away and give them your full attention. And it's possible that Loki wouldn't have barked at all at a baby. Who knew? I thought that he wouldn't care about a baby who wasn't independently mobile.

With all that happened today, the current plan is to give Loki treats immediately when our baby comes home, so that his initial impression is of good things and not of being shushed.

Oh no! A kid in our home!

This past weekend, my cousin's family came to visit. They have a 2 year old girl, and Loki does not like children, especially young ones. He barked at this little intruder all weekend long. Ugh! So annoying! At first I tried ignoring it, hoping that his barking would eventually subside. It didn't. Then we tried giving the little girl treats to give to Loki. This worked to silence the barking for about 20 minutes. We did this repeatedly throughout their visit. Then, I also tried sitting next to him, projecting calm energy, and petting him. This only sort of worked for the duration that I was with him.

He was able to remain calm for long periods of time if she remained in our living room or the guest bedroom and didn't venture into the kitchen, dining room, or hallways. If she was in her space and he was in his, then he was happy. Any disruption to equilibrium was stressing to him.

If my cousin wanted her daughter to learn that not all dogs are nice, then Loki definitely succeeded in teaching her that lesson.

Unfortunately, my cousin and her family do not live near us. Otherwise, I'd bet if they visited regularly, then Loki would get used to it and finally stop barking. They have left us temporarily for the week, having gone to the hotel of the conference they're attending. They will be back on Friday. I hope Loki will be better the second time around.

So, yeah, yeah, I know, we have a baby on the way, and this isn't a good sign. A suggestion that I often hear and read about is to expose Loki to more children and to train him to behave around them with positive reinforcements. A nice idea in theory, but I have two problems. One, I don't have the time. Two, using children who are strangers as training guinea pigs doesn't seem like a good idea to me. (I have no friends with children in the area.) Not all children are well-behaved and the last thing Loki needs is a bad experience. Some kids will poke and prod, which I understand that's just what kids do, but Loki will lash out and bite. And that would not be good.

What worked the best in socializing Loki with adults and visitors was simply for us to have lots of our friends over. The more visitors we had, the better he got. Trying to schedule time for specific training didn't work as well. It's a bit artificial and unnatural. It's not a bad idea, but it requires a lot of time and effort. When we simply had visitors over, it was more natural and wasn't a chore. The focus wasn't so much on the dog, but rather just going about our lives. Loki eventually learned and adapted to our lives. In some ways, I think that this is a good approach to training a dog -- just go about your lives as you normally do, and let the dog adapt to your life. [Disclaimer: I'm not a dog expert, and this is not expert advice.]

I'm hoping that I will be able to do that with children. Trying to schedule specific times and situations to train him with children might work and might be helpful, but it requires time, effort, and seems like a chore. If we just go about the course of our lives, then perhaps Loki will simply learn to adapt to our lives.

Of course, I plan to always manage the situation between my dogs, especially Loki, and my future baby. Between the choices of training or managing, I'll have to opt more on the side of managing. Even with training, I'm not convinced that he'd ever behave reliably around children.

P.S. Jujube, on the other hand, is absolutely wonderful with children. My cousin's little girl identifies Jujube as "Go-go no bark". (Go-go means dog in Chinese.)

Dogs can forget

Dogs can forget previous associations. Or at least that's what I have found in my experience with both Loki and Jujube.

Forgetting the couch Edit: Wait. nevermind, I spoke too soon.

Loki used to love our couch. It was his couch. He slept on it all the time. He guarded it from Jujube. If we didn't force him to be in the same room as us by shutting the door, he'd be on that couch. The pet behaviorist recommended that we keep both dogs off of all beds and couches. We did this for awhile. We crated both dogs at night, so no one could sleep on the bed. We kept the dogs off the couches. And we also blocked off Loki's loved couch with the coffee table and other items, so that he couldn't jump on it. With the improvement of their behavior, we've stopped these preventative measures. We no longer crate both dogs at night. Instead, Jujube sleeps on our bed, while Loki chooses to sleep in the open crate. They seem to have no problems with this arrangement. And interestingly, Loki's previously loved couch is no longer blocked, but he seems to have forgotten about it. He doesn't jump on it and lay there anymore. Now he lounges at the top of the stairs, in our bed, on the basement couch (a different couch), and the dog beds in the dining room. All sorts of different places, but not on his previously loved couch. What used to be a very strong association seems to have been lost.

Edit: Yeah, okay, nevermind. I spoke too soon. I just caught him on the couch today. I guess he showed me!

Forgetting my underwear
Jujube's favorite chew toy when she first arrived was my underwear. I don't know why. She didn't care for Yun's underwear, only mine. She ruined many pairs before I started putting my dirty laundry on a high shelf. I did this for almost a year. Then one day a couple weeks ago, I decided to try putting my underwear in the laundry basket again. I thought, "Let's just try it and see what happens." The laundry basket sits on the floor in the master bathroom. It's easily accessible. So far, so good. All of my dirty underwear appears to be untouched. Interesting. She seems to have forgotten.

I guess that dogs can forget. And that is a good thing.

Random Shiba Links

Posted by Janie on the Shiba Dogster boards, here's a crazy and cute video.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy shiba (wait, I mean) akita.

Dogs Playing Outside

Here's a video of Loki and Jujube playing outside.  Jujube is the one going crazy in the beginning.  Loki is the one going crazy at the end.  There's no sound because the video is taken from inside the warm confines of our home.

Some new adventures ahead

Three years ago, Yun and I were newlyweds. We spent half a year in marital bliss, but soon I was antsy for something more. Our family of two didn’t feel complete; yet, it was too early for us to think about having a baby. Caught between the desire for a richer family and not being ready for a baby, we got a puppy. This is how Loki came into our lives.

Loki was our practice child, and he taught us many things. He taught us what it meant to care of someone else. He taught us how to divide the responsibilities of caring for a helpless creature. And he taught us what it was like to disagree about parenting philosophies.
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