Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Choosing sire & dams

This was going to be an post about how I choose males for my lovely female Shibas but it's turned into something else with my over flowing of words and information.  

The males we choose to breed to our lovely Shiba girls are usually not the same dogs as the breeders around us use or the newest champion in town.  There usually end up an abundance of offspring from new champions in what is called  "popular male syndrome."  Luckily in the PNW we have some great breeders and above average quality in our dogs but I am usually looking for something completely different then show wins and pretty faces when I choose a sire for a litter.

First of all a breeder has to know their female dogs well. Know their natural tendencies in behavior that is called their temperament.  Are they over reactive to stimuli? Are they more active then you'd like in a house dog? Are they a bit shy or timid in new surroundings?  Those are things you can modify with exposure and training so you have to know what they would do naturally in those situations because that is what their pups will tend to be like also and pet owners don't have the skills to deal with an already difficult breed that has a lot of hurdles to overcome to create a great pet.  Then you look at the physical qualities you may want to change.  Is the topline soft, or is the tail too tight, do you want more pigment in the coat? More slant to the eye or ear pitch.  And of course their is personality traits are also passed.  Are they sweet natured and kind, do they play with other dogs or go all Cujo, do they enjoy training?  Then I know the kind of males I am looking for to enhance the temperament and personality of the females.  

Something I've learned over the years is most breeders don't learn enough about their dog's trainability and tractability if they don't teach their dogs strict manners and basic to advanced obedience so always keep that in mind when interviewing breeders.  Good breeders show their dogs in conformation but only minimal training is required to be successful.  GREAT breeders ALSO train their dogs in performance events like FORMAL obedience, agility & tracking.  Less training is required for rally, scent work, barn hunt, lure coursing, tricks and all the other kooky events AKC has come up with in an attempt to create attainable titles for the average owner and to stimulate income in what can only be called the dying sport of dog shows.  STILL with a Shiba ANY performance sport is a MAJOR deal because their nature is so independent. It's not in their DNA to play as a team like it is for other AKC breeds.

In the male, of course I want a beautiful dog with great features but I'm always wanting to improve upon on the female I am considering breeding him to.  I tend to go with an older male 5-7 years old who is MELLOW, easy going, non dog aggressive and a great companion and house dog.  Then I look at his overall health and the puppies he has produced in the past.

My main goal is great temperament and personality, health and beauty.  If a Shiba doesn't have a fantastic personality and good heart and isn't adored by his owner they won't pay a giant vet bill in an emergency.  If an owner pays a $40,000 vet bill to save their Shiba they really love that Shiba!  Realistically I know I can't pay that kind of a vet bill nor do I expect any of my young pet owners to pay that kind of bill but when an owner does decide to go in major debt for a pet you stand up and take notice.  You know who you are............Ichi.  As a breeder I know I did something right and produced a great family dog when the family loves them that much.  Sigh of awwwwww.

So a breeder has to focus on a lot more than just putting two pretty dogs together.  There is an old saying that many of you have probably have never heard before, "pretty is and pretty does."  I actually said that once and was asked what that meant.  In such a superficial world everyone should know that saying.  A pretty dog, human, horse, cat, whatever is only as beautiful as his or her actions.  Example: a pretty dog that bites everyone is only a pretty big asshole and has no redeeming qualities worth reproducing.

While no being is perfect, when breeding dogs you want the scale to tip to freaking awesome!  

Then there is health to consider.  I'm going to write another post on it in detail but genetic and physical testing is very important.  We rarely have hip dysplasia in Shibas yet we always test for it.  Why?  Because if we stop it will creep back into the genepool when we aren't looking.  The Shiba is overall a very healthy breed compared to a dog like a Golden Retriever who probably has about ever health problem you could possibly think of and a ton more to be yet discovered.  It is probably the most popular dog in the entire world and for good reason.  The funny thing is the Shiba and the Golden are about as far apart as you can get if you start comparing temperament and behavioral traits.  Very rarely do I have a person who owns a Golden inquire about a Shiba.  I can think of 2 times and one was actually a Goldendoodle............yikes, don't get me started.

Behavioral traits and personality are import to me.  Not many breeders are professional dog trainers who study dog behavior.  Most people and most breeders just lump temperament & personality together and I don't.  While both temperament and personality have genetic markers to pass them on personality is a little trickier.  Maybe a better example is this, a good temperament is a good temperament in any breed.  Stable minded, proper energy level for the breeds purpose, no extreme reactions to stimuli.  But a good personality in a Golden is totally different then a good personality in a Shiba.  So if you were doing an AKC temperament test for Shibas and Goldens you would get different reactions to some of the portions of the test because of breed differences.

All my dogs have excellent temperaments for Shibas but each one has a different personality.  Some are super attentive, always near you, willing to please, wanting to do tricks for treats and others don't give a rip what you are doing or what you might ask of them they just go through life happily chasing butterflies and killing bunnies.  Both are totally great Shibas.  More on the difference between male and female pets in another article.

Below is Haku with Darla looking on (horse right above Darla's tail).  These dogs are soooo different, both great Shibas.  Darla is my mock border collie and is honest as the day is long. She waits for instructions while Haku doesn't give a second though about darting out an open door in impetuous Shiba fashion.  Haku is more the norm but my goal will always be for another Darla because it is my personal preference in a pet.  Darla is a tad more active in the house then I typically like but she can control her impulses pretty well.  Haku is a great house dog and if I am still he will mimic me and lay down to wait until I move again.  I have to TELL Darla to lay down but luckily she listens.  So they both have great temperament and different personalities, both great dogs.  A Darla type dog is usually easier for a pet owner to "train" and Haku dog is the kind of dog best managed with baby gates.

I love the tail on Darla, Haku's is OK but less curled tails balance out the front and the back of the dog better but Haku has soooo many other good traits I use him to enhance a female lacking in those traits.  Goals, goals, goals.  And I'll leave you with that.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Holiday memories with dogs and their people

I want to tell about a wonderful memory of the holidays we had when we lived in California.

We used to have a haunted cemetery at my parents house every year and I considered that my very own birthday celebration. It came complete with the fog and lightning machines and all the other possible goodies and gadgets from the current Halloween technology of the time. I had painted a castle structure to surround for the porch and a big sign for the opening of the cemetery complete with a lounging skeleton on the top that said " The Fellinger's Very Scary Cemetery." It was way cool.

All my available friends would come over all dressed up to "work the grave yard." We'd have snacks and drank adult punch (tee hee) and could chat to catch up while I did their zombie makeup and everyone got into character. Tina would stir the giant bubbling kettle dressed like a witch. Joy would pop out of the coffin and I would draw attention on the street and guide passers by through the maze of tombstones. We have several zombies, a devil and even more ghosts hiding amount the tombstones. My friends all knew they couldn't do anything more wonderful for my birthday then making these memories every year as it's my favorite day of the year.....Halloween.

My parents got a kick out of counting the trick or treaters and families that came from other neighborhoods. One year 650! Every year my parents would say they had to buy more and more candy but I could tell they really loved it. We did that for about 10 years. After Marcel and I moved to WA my parents said people would come to the door and asked what happened. My nephews tried to carry on but they didn't quite have the finesse it took to be just scary enough NOT to scare the little ones.

My obedience school students had a doggie costume contest and many of them helped put on a dog & owner Halloween costume contest at the Pleasant Hill October Fest celebration to raise money for local animal charities and we had a decorated graveyard backdrop for $5 photos.

For Christmas we had dress up again at dog school and we also put on pictures with Santa at any pet related store that would have us. Marcel got peed on a lot. That's pretty funny.

We also went in several parades each year. You've probably read my earlier posts about how we met our first Shiba. If you look closely at the picture below you will see Marcel in the middle with Spencer the Poodle and Kiko the first Shiba we ever met and who inspired us to get our own Shiba. Kiko was a dog training project since 3 other trainers had deemed her emotionally "unreachable' and "untrainable." Sheesh. She turned out great under our tutelage and her owner added Spencer to the family. We were their pet sitters and they joined us in adventures until we moved to WA.

Funny story.....Liz and Lola (the dog) who went to my dog school became best friends of ours and since Liz lived several cities away she would bring Lola to the house before work then come get her before we left for dog school. She said she wondered what we did all day. One day she got of work early and snuck up to the house and peering through the screen door she saw Taboo and Lola sitting next to my sewing machine, each with bunny ears on their heads! BUSTED! We still laugh about that.

Marcel's mom worked at a convalescent facility as a nurse her entire carrier and Marcel and I went there for a few house every holiday because we figured it was the most lonely time for those who didn't have family or who's family did not come visit or take them home for the holidays. We started a group of interested students in joining us. We did visitations to 3 local facilities and started our own chapter of therapy dogs.

We got to know several of the full time residence at the facility mom worked at because we picked her up every day after work. Sometimes we would go in to say hi if we arrived before mom got off duty. Mom said the elderly folks really liked seeing young people and we brightened up the place. Sometimes we would bring little things for people to enjoy like flowers or pictures to hang in the communal areas.

One young resident had been brain damaged by gun fire in a robbery. When we would stop in to see how his day was going he would always say "it's a good day to be alive" with a big smile. He really enjoyed our Rottweiler Taboo. That nice young man passed away from complications of his injury eventually. One day we went to pick up mom and she said he had passed.

Another permanent resident was a dedicated & decorated veteran. We really enjoyed talking to him because he had spent time in Japan and he knew what our Shiba Inu was as soon as he saw her and told us about the different Shibas and other Japanese breeds he'd met while stationed there. He talked through a machine that looked like a tiny laptop computer. I can't remember exactly why he had lost the ability to speak, maybe throat cancer but we had to be patient while he typed. He was a very intelligent and charming man.

Our dogs had a lot of different costumes we would put on them when we'd go visiting. Taboo pulled a cart that we could put decorations in. She had a sleigh, an Easter basket, a Conestoga chuck wagon and an American flag covered wagon she'd wear with her uncle Sam hat and cap for 4th of July. Taboo was not good with other people and I could never leave her alone in the house with anyone (even Marcel for a while) but the two things she loved were obedience shows and pully that cart. Her face would light up and her little nubby tail just wiggled. She was always good when I was present but I think she just enjoyed frightening people. It was just her personality and she got a kick out of it. Nobody else did though.

Every animal you meet or own will teach you something new if you just pay attention to them. It can be hard to see them as teachers when they are being naughty but as I think back to all our pets that have passed and all the people and their animals I've met during my training career it has been a fantastic life and quite the education. Enjoy these pictures I know I did looking at them again.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Evacuation from Summer Fires

 E-gads.  Like we don't have enough to worry about with Covid and of course with life in general now the fires are crazy on the west coast.  Talk about culling the herd.  Geez.  We are basically surrounded by them and anyone could end up trapped.  It's not very often that civilians die in fires but I know that some died in OR.  This is terrible.

We are in level 1 preparation mode at this time. There is a fire 16 miles up the road where an evacuation is in order but it's only 8 miles as the crow flies.  Poor Marcel has asthma and of course I can't expect him to help much in this situation because he has to stay inside so it's all on me and I'm so tired.  Loaded trailer for horse, dogs and cats yesterday.  Luckily a friend stopped by to help me before she got her own pets out of town.  Wow. 

I am blessed with many fabulous friends.  I had a place to take my menagerie of animals offered to me.  I didn't even have to ask and Marcel has a room closer to work so if it gets to that point so we are covered that way thank goodness.  My friends keep calling to check on me.  

It really is important to be ready for the worst case scenario.  I got the basics covered but I have things in the house I need to look for while I still have the time so that is my goal today.  Photographs are important to me so it's a scary movie and going through the boxes and boxes of photos.  Of course I had to take the many many boxes of cremains I have from pets.....and a few people.  I'm sentimental and can't leave them behind especially since I have time but man, they weigh a lot!

And of course I'm still getting puppy inquiries.  During this plethora of inquiries I have found many great people and families and many of them have had Shibas before but of course I have to turn away a lot of people too.  By now I am booked for my next 7 litters. That's at least two years work for me. Could take longer if the female only has a one puppy litter but it could be a shorter wait if there are 4 or more in a litter. That is all I can say at this time.  All the best breeders are booked out a year or more.

Well that's all for now.  I hope anyone who reads this is safe, healthy and happy.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Finding perfect homes for dogs and puppies

Marcel and I both grew up with animals in our respective families and once we moved in together we've never had a pet-less moment.  Our lives pretty much revolve around our animal pets.  We've had many breeds of dogs, cats, horses, rats & mice, birds, rabbits and hedgehogs.  We've taken in many animals in need and found them their perfect forever homes.  My lifelong friend Tina says "You have a knack for finding perfect homes for animals" and that has always been a blessing.

Most of the dogs we breed ourselves will be placed as pets either as 8 week old pups or as a young adult after a career as a show & breeding dog. I think it's even better to find homes for mature animals because we really know them and know what kind of situation will make them happiest.

As rule my Shiba girls will have 3 chances to produce their female puppy replacement utilizing 3 different sires.  The puppy should be better than her mother and hopefully ads the qualities of the sire I picked for her as well.  If I haven't gotten a puppy from the female after 3 litters there just isn't any reason to breed her again.  She will be spayed and "career change" to a super pet for someone.

The majority of my girls fit right in the pet home I place them in like they have lived there for their entire life and go on to be the best dog their owners have ever had.  I hear that over and over again.  Or how they are thrilled that their last Shiba's negative behaviors aren't present in the girl I placed with them. It never grows old hearing how loved my girls are in their second home.

Knowing my Shiba girls the way I do it's usually pretty easy to find them a perfect home.  Luckily my dogs are well adjusted and fit in just about anywhere a person is somewhat Shiba savvy.  The one thing I'm sure is of they are used to running and sunning in large paddocks and while most would rather be having their turn inside the house with us they still like to go for a yard patrol and potty break so I don't place them in apartments of condos.

What becomes a problem is when a person makes comparisons to their last dog, be it Shiba or another breed.  People who have had other breeds are surprised by the Shibas non dog-like behaviors.  Even people who had Shibas before forget what it was like when  their Shiba was a puppy, they only remember the last few well behaved years together.

New dogs of any age in a new home must be treated like puppies when it comes to bathroom habits and taken out every few hours until you see regular success.  Dogs that must now go potty on leash can have bashful bladders.  Shibas have been known to "hold it" for 4 days or more until they get home to familiar grass or gravel or whatever.  Shibas are truly creatures of habit which can work for you or against you.

Shibas that are well adjusted are more likely to be open to new situations and in forming new habits in new homes.  Dogs that are not well socialized and haven't been challenged with new experiences as puppies have a hard time with changing homes.

We always give people 21 days to return a puppy or dog that doesn't work for them for any reason.  I seriously try to impress upon the new owner that this time should be spent really observing the dog in their home and looking for potential deal breakers and then sticking to their guns.  It's hard for most people to think with their minds and not their hearts when it comes to pets.  I would not offer to take the dog back if it didn't matter to me.  A pet is supposed to add enjoyment to your life not make it more complicated, difficult, sad, messy or angry.  There is always another dog that will fit better and make you both happy.

Over the years we have only gotten a handful of dogs returned because we usually place them wisely but circumstances do change and sometime choices need to be made.  I don't condem those that return a dog, I think they are strong and caring and probably thinking with their mind which they need to do in this situation.  Most of these dogs are rehomed with no problem.  Some have been real gems.  We finally kept one Rottweiler that was returned 3 times.  I think he was the best Rottweiler we've ever had and I miss him every day.

How deeply do we need investigate the the people who inquire about a puppy?  Usually I get a feeling about a person whom I've talked to a few times and then eventually they come to house to meet face to face and I can observe how the adults supervise their children's interaction with the dogs. Marcel and I make a great team because he thinks to ask all the questions I've forgotten to ask about.  Then we discuss our instincts about the potential puppy owners we've met.  We do home checks on local people and I have a network of other breeders all over the US that can do home checks for us.  Google satellite is awesome.  References are called.  A google search, Facebook scan and in some cases a background check will reveal something that makes placing a puppy with them not possible.  Also, the Shiba community will go on alert if a questionable person is making the rounds to breeders searching for a puppy.  Unfortunately there is always someone who will sell them a puppy.

Finding great homes can be a challenge for animal breeders that really care about the sweet baby animals they produce.  Those babies depend on us, their breeder, to find them the best homes we can.

Time for goodbye to a good dog.

The sad fact is that animal lovers will outlive many pets. How do we deal with this loss?

Many people tell me they just can't stand the loss of another animal so they won't get another cat, dog, insert animal here.  I don't understand this way of thinking at all.

I used to get sad and depressed and stay in bed for weeks but I've overcome that.  Now too many animals depend on me for their care to take the time to grieve in that manner.

Now I focus on the good times and remember my animals fondly and without so much sadness.  Instead I am happy in the knowledge that I gave them the best life I could and I let them leave this earth with their dignity.

So how do you know when it's the best time to take your pet his last visit to the vet for euthanasia?  Everyone has a different opinion for this but Marcel and I have decided that we would rather not see any animal suffer much further than the regular woes of old age.  Once an animal shows us his quality of life is gone we have the discussion about the next move.  I have my own way of finding the best time to end my animal friend's life.

If you listen your dog, cat, horse he will tell you when he's ready to go.  Have a quiet moment alone together.  Clear your mind of all thoughts and breath deep and slow.  Relax your body all over. You can speak or you can just think it but ask the question "are you ready to go?" then being quiet and concentrating on your breathing wait for a response and his answer should just pop into your mind. Some people have the "gift" and can do this easily and other people never achieve the ability to communicate with animals in this manner.  I seem to only be able to do to it when the situation is very serious and the weight is heavy on my mind about an issue being passing or doing something else like moving one to a new home.

Many people keep their animals alive simply because they can't let go.  I do not think of that as kindness.  To me it is very sad situation.  Animals live in the moment, that is what they have to teach us silly humans.  When there are no more good moments for them it is kinder to let them go. This is against the grain for us humans who typically live in the past and then spend our lives planning for some uncertain future.

Animals bring such joy and special knowledge to us humans I can't imagine not having some kind of pet in my life.  I hope there is never a time when I can't take care of a pet because that will be the time I'm ready to leave this world and see all my past pets in the next phase of my being.  And what's sad about that??????

Monday, May 11, 2020

Shibas in Pandemic

While people are in lock down at home during the pandemic they start thinking about how this would be a perfect time to get a puppy.  AKC informed their members that puppy inquiries are up 65%.  The news tells us shelters and rescues have been emptied out by adopters.  I think there are two perspectives on this.  The first is if we responsible breeders do not provide good quality health puppies to those interested in purchasing one buyers will be forced to buy from puppy mill and back yard bred dogs on line and in virtual pet stores.  The other train of thought is that responsible breeders should only place puppies as planned with people with those who are on their paid reservation or waiting list because everyone else is just bored and looking for pups on a whim and once everyone goes back to school and work the pups will left alone at home or taken back to the shelter or rescue where they came from. 

I don't necessarily think the second perspective is true of all purebred dogs. Usually if someone pays a large amount for something they don't trash it but there is no denying that we live in a vary wasteful culture.  Hopefully we get to know our buyers and know they have given purchasing a Shiba a LOT of thought.  Besides, breeders have agreements that if any of their dogs ever need to be re-homed it should be returned to the breeder.  Buyers SIGN this agreement but do they follow through?

I have had a few people break the rule.  This is after they have jumped through all the hoops to convince me they are ready for a Shiba only to find out they can't deal with it for no fault of the Shibas but the fault of their own over confidence.  They are embarrassed to come back and have to admit it was too difficult or it didn't fit their lifestyle after all or they plain old aren't cut out for a pet.

People say all kinds of things to me that they expect I want to hear.  Those things make me shudder because I know better.

  • I work from home
  • We live near the dog park
  • We plan on using doggie daycare
  • I grew up with dogs
  • I've read everything about Shibas
  • We feel confident and ready for the Shiba temperament
  • I've never actually met one but......fill in all the statements above.

Yikes I say!  I have rebuttals for all those statements that I won't address here.  While all those things might influence the outcome it could never prepare you for the journey through your soul you are about to embark on. 

A lot of it boils down to how well do you know yourself and are you HONEST WITH YOURSELF about your capabilities to own an animal as smart and complex as a Shiba?  Because they do have an evil and mischievous side that is going to test every fiber of your being.  I shit you not.

It doesn't matter where you acquire your Shiba it is still a Shiba.  If you get your Shiba from a rescue you might be told about all the illnesses the Shiba currently has, that he screams and nips at people or other animals when he is scared and that he will take a long time to adjust and trust you, etc., etc.  If you get your Shiba from a breeder they can tell you all about the Shibas healthy background and you can see the good temperament of both parents and how your proper care & training will make him a wonderful family dog.  Both are Shibas and both are extremely intelligent.

This is how a Shiba negotiates the world:

Self preservation is the top priority for a Shiba which means not trusting anything or anyone but themselves until proven otherwise. Running away and/or screaming and biting being the most likely response when stressed, challenged or threatened.  Protecting themselves from other dogs manifests as dog to dog aggression.  He's scared for his safety so he attempts to make the intruder go away by attacking it before it attacks him.  Always just staying out of reach from owners grabbing hands equates to staying safe from the slashing tusks of wild boar. They are extremely fast and agile. Learning by observation and just one or two repetitions means they stay safe and are prepared for the next move.   The aloof and dismissive attitude toward strangers tells us the Shiba does not NEED humans, they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and surviving in the wild, something ingrained in them from thousands of years as a semi-feral village dog in the mountains of Japan.  The Shiba decides to stay with a human family if it sees value in the arrangement, if not, they move on just like a cat.  It will be perfectly clear to you if the Shiba is not happy and is requesting to move on. 

Right now is a bad time to try to meet Shibas but I usually tell people to go to a Shiba meetup group and spend some time with Shibas.  There is nothing like first hand experience with the breed and talking to other pet owners about the complexity of living with one.  Depending on you and whom you finally get your Shiba from it will be a piece of cake OR the most difficult thing you've ever done. The words in articles or books cannot fully explain the experience.  It's all sugar coated.  But that being said, people who own Shibas become completely devoted to the breed.  It is a life changer.  Kinda like surviving a family tragedy and coming out the other side a different person.  I became a better person with a more accepting and understanding nature.  It's a strange thing but I see it over and over with everyone who becomes involved with this breed.  It engulfs your life.  Shibas have lessons to teach us, it's amazing.

So even with the challenges and difficulties this breed it's sooooo worth it.  Most people will be hooked on the breed the rest of their lives and will tell you no other breed will do for them.  A few will say they'd never have another one, it was an awful experience.

I think the first major obstacle for Shiba owners to overcome safety issues.  Can you keep your Shiba alive and in your possession through the puppy & teen stages to the adult stage. Once to they are adults and you have a system for containment and control things get much easier. That is besides the fact that all dogs seem to settle down by 3 years of age. 

Human nature being what it is everyone thinks they can handle a dog.  Humans also like to find out the hard way.  After you have chased your Shiba through the woods for two days or through several lanes of  busy traffic you most likely will not make that mistake again. 

So considering life with a Shiba is a major deal.  Our home, the yards, the barn and small kennel is organized and fenced to manage and maintain our Shibas safely and even so we constantly need to be looking out for the new and exciting ways the Shibas attempt to escape so we are constantly changing our system.  NOT they want to run away per say, we own a large property with plenty of space.  Their goal is always to get into the house and get the 4 delicious meals a day that momma's get when they are raising baby puppies in the kitchen.

There are so many good qualities in the Shiba too.  They're clean, quiet, non demanding of attention, perfect size for a house dog and for traveling with, easy to train (not as easy to make listen), gentle, sweet, they mirror your energy level at home but are always ready for action and adventure.  Once you overcome the more difficult stuff he is a loyal friend that still retains his dignity and independence. They are also just fascinating to observe while they interact with nature.  They make you laugh. What's not to love? Then there is always the cute factor because it's off the freakin' carts!  Like any relationship it takes time, dedication and commitment and it's totally worth it.