Yesterday, one of my wife’s retail customers dropped off a little Shiba Inu named Kobe at her store. Kobe was going to be entrusted to us till Thursday; his owner was off to visit her scuba-diving daughter in the Bahamas.
Five days is a long time to be responsible for a dog that is not yours, but up until last year, we had been German Sheppie pet owners. In fact we had owned sheps since the late 90s, so we not clueless when it came to dog psychology. But we had never owned or taken care of a small breed like the Shiba before.
This two-part post is about the differences I have observed in the last 24 hours between a Shiba Inu and a pure bred German (straight back) female German Shep.
First of all, some background on Kobe. His owner has only had him since this summer. He is four years old, and in excellent health. Apparently Kobe has already had several owners; the reason for that is his alleged biting. We were told beforehand that this happens only when he came face-to-face with other dogs, or when when someone touched his dog bowl when he was eating. Apparently he was very possesive about that.
The owner had left with us two fuzzy squeaky snake thingies as well as a comfy doughnut for him to sleep in.
Kobe arrived around elevenish. I immediately took him for a walk in our side yard which is unfenced. He seemed quite pliable: there was no growling or resistance when we attached a leash to his shoulder collar to take him out. I had to be super careful, as there is literally an alligator who hangs around on the other side of the fake lake that abuts our back yard.
After his initial walk, Kobe came into the living room, and kind of zoned out like a sausage out on the carpet (not the dougnut) in front of his food and water bowls that my wife had placed by the TV.
We starting making ourselves a late breakfast before the start of the NFL games: scrambled eggs with avocado, lean pork mini sausages, and center cut bacon. It’s our version of a Keto diet breakfast.
Kobe turned out to be very interrested in the bacon situation.
He followed me into the kitchen, and stood behind me as I was cooking, causing me to be concerned about inadvertently tripping over him, The last thing I wanted was to spill hot bacon grease by accident and burn him.
By comparison, Saba (our 95 lb shepherd) usually stayed out of the way in the kitchen, and besides was much larger and so easier to sense or see when she came to vacuum the morsels of food that had dropped to the floor during cooking.
Like Saba, Kobe was a pork head: he absolutely loved munching on little bacon bits. I fed him the very crispy almost burn out delicacies, and told him to sit before feeding him by hand.
Thanks to the persuasive powers of bacon bribing, Kobe instantly complied with the Sit command, and did not bite my hand when I fed him. In fact, he was almost dainty, compared to a shep, when being hand fed.
I could see that his teeth were quite sharp, but so far there had been no problems. I praised him when he obeyed the Sit command. However, when I didn’t have a treat in hand and told him to Sit, he acted like he had no idea what I was talking about.
Now it was time for us to have breakfast.
Kobie did kind a little begging by emitting a distinctive, sharp little yelp sound. Compared to the serious, deep bark of a mature Sheppie, this dog’s vocalization was startling in its high pitched suddeness. But I wouldn’t imagine it would scare off any intruders trying to break into the house at night.
After lunch, we took him in the car for a walk in a nearby big lawn / park area. He couldn’t jump up into the SUV the way Saba could in her prime, so I had to lift him up to the back seat. He did not bite when I did that, and in fact was quite docile with the whole lifting operation and staying in the back seat as I drove.
He loved the park, and did his number 2s right away, and tons of terrritorial demarcation peeepees. We took a few pics, and speed walked with him a bit. I noticed that Kobe walked much faster than Saba: it is kind of a semi trot, which was great exercise for me, but because he is half the size she was, he could not pull me off balance if I suddenly turned in a different direction as we walked.
The shorter and much lighter body of the Shibu makes handling a Shibu much easier on a walk than doing so with a full grown shep; I was accustomed to Saba sometimes digging in with spread planted legs and refusing to a leave a tree or lamp post when she went into her oversniffing trance.
Kobe by comparison, was all business: no over sniffing; a squirt here, a squirt there, and off he went in any direction I wanted to go without trying to pull away by dint of brute force. He is far more easily managed during walkies compared to dealing with a 95 lb shep. Something to keep in mind, espcially if one is getting on in years.
Kobe actually pooped twiced during this long walk, and I was worried that the bacon bits would give him the runs. This turned out a false concern, even though I had also secretly given him a bonus sausage link end bit.
We returned back home to monitor the exciting Jets vs Steelers game (Jets won!) on the Internet, given that my wife and I are long time NY Jets fans, but often have to suffer being forced by the evil Roger Goodell to watch boring Miami Dolphins games, due to our living in South Florida.
This is when the first “biting incident” happened.
I was sitting on the floor next to Kobe, stroking his head and petting his chin. All seemed well. He didn’t seem to be on high alert or bothered by anything. But then when I put my palm on the floor to get up, he nipped at my wrist.
This was a bite, at least the warning of one. In Kobe’s defense, I could feel that he immediately let go, after his jaws had clamped down on my right wrist. He could have chomped down, but he didn’t, and no skin was broken. Still, an almost bite is kinda worrisome in a dog with a biting jacket.
Later, when my wife was about to take him for another peepee walk, he nipped at her feet twice. She had sneakers on, so no harm done, but — again — a bite’s a bite.
Then something else changed.
I noticed that he was now standing in front of us, planting himself like Mr T on all four legs, as we were sitting on the couch watching the football game on TV. No tail wagging, no ball playing: just immobile and staring at us in a semi confrontational, ambiguously menacing stance.
He also did not give room when we would get up — to go to another room or the kitchen or whatever.
Instead, he just stood there in front of us, like some diminutive TSA heavy with a ‘tude standing behind one of those hands-up full body scanner contraptions at some airport, and physically blocking the way to the small pickup area at the tail end of the luggage conveyor belt.
In addition, Kobe seemed overly alert when we walked to a part of the house where he couldn’t see us, and ended up at one point in the corner of the living room appearing to guard his food and water from us as he eyeballed us with apparent suspicion.
This was not good.
We started to worry.
Was Kobe going to be a problem? Would we have to gate him in the laundry room overnight, and board him at the vet on Monday?
Frankly, my wife had become a little wary of him, a little scared even.
What to do?
I realized I knew very little about this breed… and decided it was time to do some Google homework, before we decided Kobie’s fate with respect to staying in our house.