Kobe is a Shiba Inu who’s 4 years old. He came to stay with us on Sunday, and will be reunited with his owner on Thursday.
To recap an earlier post, the biggest problem we had with Kobe was his biting.
After worrying that this might get to be a serious issue, I discovered a very simple trick that solved this problem almost instantly: playing tennis ball soccer with Kobe in our enclosed back porch.
It turns out that 2 things were understandably worrying Kobe when he came to stay in our house:
a) who are these people?
b) are they going to mess with my precious food bowl?
I could see that Kobe was visibly tense for the first hour or two in our living room.
So we took him for a nice walk at a nearby park, gave him treats, praised him a lot for everything he did (“Good boy!”), but still he ended up positioning himself in the living room as if to protect his food bowl, while keeping a suspicious eye on my wife and I.
Finally, I sat down on the floor next to him — as I have done thousands of times with Saba, our late, beloved GSD — and petted him. No rough housing, as I used to with Saba, just gentle pats on the head and chin tickling.
Kobe remained tense, less so perhaps than before, but still evaluating his new situation: trapped in a strange house, with people he did not know, people who were strangely acting like they were his best pals.
The vibe was unmistakable, so I decided to leave Kobe alone. I pushed off the carpet with my right palm to get up, which is when he decide to go after my wrist. Not hard; but I felt it. It was a bit of a shock, unexpected since all seemed to be going relatively well.
Soon after this, my wife decided to walk him in our side yard.
He nipped at her feet, which now made us worry that Kobe’s history of biting was going to be a problem for the duration of his stay. We might have to gate him in the laundry room… or even board him at the vet — especially when he started planting himself in front of us in a quasi confrontational stance.
My wife took the car to run some store errands, as I sat in my studio at my comp, wondering what to do. I took in a few Shiba Inu videos on YouTube to gain a better understanding of this breed. I’m not one for amateur dog psychology, but I’d realized I knew nothing about this breed.
One of the things that kept coming up is that the Shiba Inu is a high energy dog. He needs exercise.
We had already walked him for a half hour, but that did not seem to be enough.
A light bulb appeared over my head.
Why not have him run after a tennis ball. Luckily we have an enclosed lanai — as do many Floridians — so I could take Kobe off his leash and work him without worrying about him escaping into the jaws of an alligator. I am serious. There is one that lurks in the man-made lake in the back of our house.
Tennis balls, in fact, turned out to be solution.
Kobe initially had to be coaxed out to the porch, but when he finally realized it was safe, he came out…. checking out the scene by sniffing every corner of the enclosure, including a thorough sniff of each flower pot where I grow spiced herbs.
Once he was done with scoping things out, I threw the ball hard against the wall, in a baseball pitch motion, and lo and behold, he went after it like Dr Flash… and actually caught the ball as it carreened back from the wall.
Fast little fuckers, these Inus.
He even brought the ball back, dropping it at my feet. Maybe this was not his first tennis rodeo.
Because my wife plays tennis, I had several cans of old tennis balls on hand.
So I keep throwing these fuzzy yellow suckers as hard as I could against the wall, and young Kobe went after each one. Unlike Saba, he could not seem to leap and catch the balls in mid flight. Maybe that’s just not an Inu thing.
After about 10 minutes of this, Kobe was wiped out. Panting, and I mean panting, he went back into the living room, and passed out, exhausted.
A little later, my wife returned, and Kobe perked up.
I started playing with Kobe and his squeaky snake to. That go him a little wound up. I made the mistake of tugging the snake with him, which I rarely did with Saba, since tugging at ropes or toys tends to make sheps aggressive.
The same sort of thing happened with Kobe, except that rather than do the I-won’t-ever-let-go-of-this-toy thing that Saba used to do, he suddenly tried to hump me .
I told him NO!, and got up. The humping incident has not been repeated since — perhaps because I never again played tug-of-war with the Kobester. Or maybe he just accepted that I Was The Boss.
Now that we are into Day 3 with Kobe, he has completely calmed down. His transformation has been remarkable.
He now seems to completely trust us. There is no more biting. And no one is dominating anyone, which is how we brought up our sheps, and will do so with Geneva.
Anytime he gets antsy I take Kobe outside to play ball in the back porch. He also goes out for five or so fast walks a day; his first one is at 7am, and his last at 10PM. This is probably a dog breed that you should NOT consider getting, unless you’re prepared and are able to spend a lot of time with — in fairly active mode.
By the way, Kobe has not once peed in the house, and sleeps quietly in his donut at night.
Sometimes on our evening walks, he encounters other dogs. Kobe does not like this, and gives them the biz with that distinctive Shiba Inu high-pitched bark.
But he completely ignores people — one of the biggest problems with Saba was that she went ballistic when older people for some reason, suddenly popped out of their garages especially at night.
This does not bother Kobe in the least; he just doesn’t like other dogs that much, so obviously he’s never been pack socialized.
After a day of love and treats — like Saba, Kobes absolutely can’t get enough hard boiled eggs, Greek yoghurt, and Lean Treats — this is now a very calm and relaxed dog and in fact is geting friendlier and more relaxed by the minute.
I don’t like the carpet scratching thing he does (Inus are diggers), but he stops when I say NO!
He obeys the SIT! command, the DOWN! one when you have a Lean Treat to bribe him with, but does not understand STAY!
All in all, he is very nice dog, and now instead of biting us, he likes to snooze a few feet away from me as I work on my comp in the studio, and lately he has even taken to dozing at my feet as I’m on the Internet.
Inus do not get all retriever or Irish Setter-like and instantly make every stranger they meet their latest best friend. And I don’t think Inus are really a cuddle type of dog. I would not trust them around small children, for example, although I can see over time that I might not have to be as super aware of Kobe’s every look and mood, when he is in physical proximity, as I am now.
But in their own own way, they are very easy to domesticate, in a cat sort of way — so long as you keep them busy with their walks and tennis ball exercises in a securely enclosed space such as a screened-in, large back porch.
By the way they are exceedingly alert, and have a very sharp sense of hearing. Too bad I did not have the camera close by to video how Kobe when our computer printer started self cleaning. It was the funniest things to watch Kobe deal with a device he obviously had never experienced before.
All in all, I’m glad Kobe has come for this visit.
This would not be my breed of choice. But I defintely understand why many of the older residents of this community get very small dogs. They are just easier to handle and take care of, if you can put up with the yappiness and Napoleon complexes they usually exhibit.
But all these walks have been a good experience, reminding us what is to come when Geneva, our German Shep puppy, arrives in a month or so.
Not to mince words, but I am 68, and overweight. German Shephers are large, active, strong dogs.
My question all along has been, can I really commit to get a German Shepherd pup, who is likely to live until I approach 80 — should I live that long?
How will I be able to physically handle a GSD in her prime, two, five, seven years from now?
More on this subject in future posts.