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Possible Abuse Case
  • My girlfriend and I are becoming more and more aware that there is a good chance that Vaaska was abused when he was younger. We're not sure if this abuse happened at the pet store, or if he had a heavy handed owner that returned him, but it's gotten me incredibly upset.

    For the first couple days, things were going really well. Vaaska was warming up to us, and me in particular, as I am home all day. He would come when he was called, he learned sit, learned to scale back the rough play, and even got over his fear of the stairs enough to start to shakily walk up and down them without needing help. We even managed to get accidents down to just one in the evening.

    The trouble really started when his new leash arrived. Since he had, to our knowledge, spent most of his 1 year of life in a cage, we thought it natural he would be uncomfortable in a collar and leash. The pet store owner though wouldn't let us leave without purchasing a chain link leash, citing leash biting as a common behavior in shibas. Vaaska, who came to us with what seemed to be a fear of crossing thresholds (even cracks in the tile) seemed to be slowly getting over having a chain attached to him, but we felt that the noise, and weight of it was inappropriate for a dog new to being on a lead and ordered him a new one.

    It arrived today, and I thought I might try it out. He seemed hesitant at first, but as in the last few outs he had been resisting movement, I took it as his continuing to push boundaries, and kept insisting until he came. When we returned, I let him wander around the house with it, as I've been told that helps them get used to it, but he absolutely would not move with the new leash on. I told my girlfriend about his hesitance with the new leash when she returned, and suggested we might alternate until he got used to the new one.

    And this is where we started to worry. Vaaska simply sunk into depression. He stopped wanting to play, he lost the curl in his tail, he simply sat beside me the whole rest of the day and stared at me. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I thought he might be bored, and tried to engage him in play, but his interest was not held. My girlfriend and I let it go, and simply pet him when he came near, seeming to want attention. However, toward evening, as I was gently petting his cheek, he let out such a horrible yelp when my girlfriend stood that I thought she might have accidentally stepped on his foot! When he did it again, an hour later, at simply having his shoulder stroked, we knew something wasn't quite right.

    The crux was his final out for the evening. He was hanging around the door, just as we started getting ready for bed, and so I got up to take him out once more. I put him in his new leash, regrettably ignoring his hesitation, mistaking it for stubbornness and took him out. My mother had suggested that I try to make outs fun for him, so that he would want to potty outside, so I dropped the leash on the patio and attempted to engage him in a game of tag, since he also pees almost immediately after vigorous play. He seemed to want to play, though he was sluggish, until he got himself loosely tangled in his leash and began to panic. I got up to help him, but as soon as I got close, he let out another horrible yelp as though I were physically strangling him with the leash that had simply gotten caught around his foot.

    So now it seems that I am public enemy number one with him. He runs from me if I give him any sort of attention, and believe me, after that last outing, that attention has solely been offering my hands, low and palm up for forgiveness. However, he still follows me around the house when I'm not paying attention to him, and curls up at my feet on my bed (my girlfriend and I sleep side by side on futons on the ground, and mine is the one he's choosing).

    Keep in mind that neither myself, nor my girlfriend have laid any sort of physical punishment on him for disobedience or misbehavior. He has only been given loud or stern warnings for the things he's not supposed to do, and continual gentle encouragement to coax him to do what we'd like. We've never jerked him around on his lead, and have only ever exerted enough pressure to let him know that we were waiting for him to follow.

    I'm not sure what this all means. I'm terribly sorry that I've frightened him so badly, and that leash will never be used again. I feel like I've lost a friend tonight, and I'd like to re-establish the bond we had been forming, though I've read that it can be hard to regain a shiba's trust. I'm willing to start again from the ground up with him, but I'm worried that I'll always be seen as an aggressor now, even though I've never struck him, or been violent toward him in any way. The problem is compounded by the fact that my girlfriend has more experience with cats than dogs, which more or less leaves me with the job of training him.

    At the moment, I'm simply letting him have his space. I'm glad he still wants to sleep beside me, and still has some sort of an interest in me, at least, but I'm not sure if this is his way of snubbing me, either, as he currently is snuggled on my bed as I type this.

    Any advice from anyone who has dealt with abused, or very very timid shibas is greatly appreciated. Please help me bring my buddy back to me.

    Many thanks!

    [mod edit: re-categorized due to addition of new category]
    Post edited by sunyata at 2013-06-06 15:12:42
  • How old is he...he could be teething? That would account for jaw pain and maybe stressed behavior. I would make sure he has something yummy to chew as part of down time.

    No I don't think you have an abuse case though, it is possible but I doubt it. Actually dogs that spend an excessive amount of time in a crate during puppyhood (at petstore ) often develop patterns that make it hard for them to recover from certain stimuli or new situations. In this case you describe being leashed. Even the best developed dogs often hate a leash. I strongly suspect you simply have a super sensitive dog. With this type of behavior what the dog does in order to cope is what they call "shut down" the crouching on the floor or just literally sinking or freezing. Any type of force (pushing/scooting out the door) or frustration on your part for this type of personality will make it worse. Never force the issue thinking he is being stubborn.

    I would step back a bit and make the new leash his friend. Wrap it in a blanket/towel the dog uses to get new scent on it. Place the leash on or hook it to collar while feeding treats (maybe cheese)in short spurts say 1 or 2 minutes and then unhook. Also, If you have to, put leash in a container with some rawhide anything to hide the scent and make it a dog friendly smell.

    There will be some back and forth with fear of new things and change with this type of animal and you have to manage it accordingly to make it less traumatizing. Usually they will bounce back, that he is following you is an indication he wants to be with you but is upset. I think you can get him to respond with some treats etc, even if you have to leave them on the floor in front of him. Take it in baby steps so that he does not become flustered with new objects on him physically or around him. Never put a dog like this on metal choke collar and get a shorter 4 ft flat leash to reduce the tangles and graduate to longer as he adjusts. In this case I would get several garbage leashes and cut it to 2 ft, 3 ft and 4ft and use the increased length as he adjusts. The point is not to overwhelm and to avoid resistance on collar or pull as he moves.

    Go to the book section of the forum and take look at the list for shy dogs or sensitive dogs. This should help you take the next steps in dealing with his this type of behavior.

    You are super for giving him his space he needs and asking about it. Many owners get angry their dog is not responding and it only makes matters worse. Keep up the good work. I am sure you can get him over the hump, but keep in mind he probably will always be sensitive.

    Post edited by StaticNfuzz at 2010-09-17 00:09:03
  • Thank you for his comments. I doubt he's teething, as he is a year old. This wouldn't be so difficult if we actually had a backyard to take him out in, but as we live in Kyoto, all we have are streets and alleys and the hallway and stairs of our apartment building. The new cloth leash we got him is about 2/3 the size of the metal one we have. We are avoiding a choke chain as we've heard that shibas are sensitive around the neck, and personally, I don't care for them all that much anyway.

    When we put him in the cloth leash, he literally does not move. He stands and stares at us the whole time. If it is that he prefers the metal one, we don't mind using it. We only bought the cloth one because we thought it would intimidate him less.

    At the moment, Vaaska, my girlfriend and I are facing a tough choice; he knows he's not supposed to potty inside, but he's afraid of outside, so he holds it in until the breaking point. He's very good about going potty outside in the mornings. We wait 3 hours then try again, but he's just so timid outside he wont move.

    At the same time, we don't want to really play with him when he's holding it in because he's an excitement urinator, and when he gets riled up, he'll pee. He's getting better at going down the stairs, but it still takes a lot of coaxing and treats. We don't want him to get used to getting a treat for every time we ask him to do something, but we also want him to know that when we tell him something, we want it done in a timely matter, especially since I will start work soon, and can't afford 30 minutes waiting for the dog to go down 3 flights of stairs.

    As far as raw hide goes, he doesn't touch it. It took me shoving a treat into one of the holes to get him started on it. The raw hide and a knotted rope are the only toys we bought him that he shows any interest in, and he doesn't touch them often. Mostly, he has preferred to find a place to curl and sleep. This doesn't bother us, but we want him to be comfortable and happy with us. And to not pee in the house, obviously.

    This is still just his 5th day, though, so there's still adjusting going on, I guess. We'll keep the treats plentiful for a while longer.
  • emmyemmy
    Posts: 553
    Snf...does it change any of your thoughts that the dog was supposedly in a petstore for a yaer and is a year old now? So it's not teething.

    Do you have options to get a behaviorist? I am not one of the people here who jump to that--I haven't used one. But if my dog had ended up having some of the characteristics you describe I would be worried.
  • A behaviorist is a resource often called too late. Your dog sounds like he has some complex issues that would probably be much more easily addressed once seen through professional eyes.

    Even if he was not directly abused (hitting, kicking, etc) Spending your first year of life, especially all of your critical fear phases in a pet shop is at least abuse by negligence. Your poor pup has a long path to healing. But it sounds like you know that it is going to take patience and like your expectations are based in reality.

    I do not have resources in Kyoto, I am sorry. Though I seem to remember someone posting a link to behavioral specialists in Japan. I believe they were affiliated with ARK. That at least could be a starting point.

    I hope that the path runs more smoothly that we expect.
  • Thank you all for your help. I was so upset last night by his yelping, and that it seemed to be my fault. I nearly started crying. We seemed to have been doing so well. He was settling in and getting comfortable, chewing some toys, and coming to us for attention and play. Perhaps we started a little too soon/strongly in attempting to train him with both basic commands and house training. We'll pull it back again, and increase treats for his good behavior. We'll try and make outside into a fun place to be as best we can.

    We are very thankful that he is not an aggressive or possessive dog. He hasn't shown any desire to chase cats or birds outside, and has been very gentle with babies, kids and the elderly. He is a very well behaved dog and he came to us that way. We just need to get him over being afraid of things :/
  • We're quite confused by his recent behavior. This morning he did his usual routine at 7am, barking quietly at the door, which he knows wakes us (if we don't get up right away, he'll bark again). We took him outside, and he went potty, and we given lots of praise and treats. It's 4pm now, and he's been holding it in all day. He has been utterly miserable, and simply stares at us. He refuses to come when he is called, refuses to go outside and refuses to pee. Above all, he'll yelp like we're murdering him when we try to pet him. When he gets frustrated at his collar, he takes it out on his tail and back end, and mostly just sleeps, I suspect either so that he doesn't feel his collar move, or so that he doesn't feel how full his bladder is. I can't explain his behavior, honestly. The worst we've done to this dog is to scold him for peeing inside. Perhaps we've unintentionally frightened him terribly. It's such a dramatic shift from the inquisitive, playful dog he was 2 days ago. One would think we've spent the past couple days beating him for the way that he's suddenly become so timid and hand shy.

    What can we do? He wont even come for treats anymore. Is there any reason why a shiba would just suddenly fear his human companions? Is this a trust issue? Is he testing us in some way? Should we just let him be and let him initiate contact? What about his potty? Should we be letting him pee in the house and not attempt to take him outside?

    We are at a complete loss here :/
  • IT actually sounds like there may be something medically wrong with him. Much of that is the behavior of a sick dog. Go to the vet.
  • I agree with Jessica. It may have started as a fear/trust issue because of how he was treated during his first year, however now it seems as though it may be more medical. I know Skippy absolutely hates his leash if it's on his normal collar. However, once I put a harness on then his leash, he's good with that. One time the leash got caught "back there" and he screamed bloody murder. Come to find out his anal glands were plugged and they hurt. I'd say in the meantime, just give him lots and lots of love and get him to a vet that KNOWS Shibas. Live for awhile on his terms but let him know you're there to love and care for him. Stay on a schedule! When he is to go outside to potty, physically pick him up and take him out instead of waiting for him. Hopefully nothing serious medically is wrong and it's just a behavior thing that he'll have to understand and you two get through it.

    GOOD LUCK and keep us posted.
  • I agree with Jessica, in context of what you have further described, it is time for a medical check. I would have a full medical work up done on him, urinalysis and cbc etc. When dogs do not feel well they will often behave as you have described.

    The petstore issue is anyone's guess. I don't know the protocol for petstores in Japan. I was making a very big assumption that you were in the U.S. As you state it could very well be that someone had returned him. The past is the past and you should work it according to what you know and see on the day to day. A lot of the behaviors are related to confinement issues and being in a store cage for a year is a horribly long time. I dare say most humans would crack under such conditions. I would look into a behaviorist to help. There are two trainers that are in Japan that maybe can suggest help and possibly help evaluate the situation (see below). Understand it will take a long time and 5 days is nothing in the grand scheme of a dogs life. The first month or two in a new home can be very overwhelming so lots of behaviors can crop up. Be kind and patient as you are doing and keep us posted. I think you are doing a commendable job.

    Post edited by StaticNfuzz at 2010-09-17 14:04:39
  • Again, thank you all very much for your help and comments. It's nice to know that we aren't alone in our concern. We were so stressed out about all of this today, and fearful that our dog may never come to trust us. It seems that he has suddenly become terrified of everything around him, and by the fact that we are nearby, it is our fault. I'm not sure what could be wrong with him medically, but we're looking into vets in the area. We've more or less come to the conclusion that we've overwhelmed him in the past 5 days, to the point that everything around him is a stress button. So, for the next week, we'll just be working on taking him outside in the mornings and in the evenings and giving him lots of his own time to get used to things again.

    We are trying to take this with as much patience and good humor as we can. We know that he usually has one final movement 3-4 hours after he eats. So, we took him outside, and on the advice of a friend of ours who grew up around a dog kennel, we stayed outside with him, his favorite toy, and his bag of treats for TWO HOURS, in the dark, trying to get him to walk without touching him. Many people with their dogs walked by and we had to explain to them that he's really skittish and can't be touched (in Japanese). They seemed sympathetic and vaguely amused. Of course, this was the dog that held it in for NINE HOURS today, waiting until my girlfriend and I physically left the house before he peed on the carpet.

    At around the 1 hour mark, a cop car pulled up. Evidently, someone didn't like the fact that two strange white chicks were slowly skulking around people's driveways. They pulled out their bicycles and rode up and down the street staring at us, then had a mini conference at their cop car before finally driving away. My girlfriend, who has been rubbing Vaaska's peed on blanket on the telephone pole outside every time he has an accident eventually got him to walk around and around and around and around in circles around the thing until finally he had moved his legs enough that he peed.

    We were so relieved at this point, and he was so happy to go inside. Too happy. He took the stairs way faster than usual, tripped on his leash and let out his ear splitting yelp again. So much for all the progress we'd made on the 50 circuit telephone pole course. Now, simply being too close to a wall and his leash produces an ear splitting yelp. Once in the house, she simply reached for him to take the leash off and he yelped blue murder.

    I think next the cops will be banging on our door with animal abuse charges. At least we won't have to clean up another mess tonight.
    Post edited by Vaaska at 2010-09-17 14:54:32
  • Oh I see .....there are some dogs that won't eliminate around humans if they are watching. We had a rescue like that . To potty we had to take him to a remote place in the yard and for temp potty time I literally had to tie him to a huge bushy pine tree and walk to the other side or away behind another bush where he could not see me before he would go. Gradually over time he got used to us at the end of the leash and today you would never know there was a problem. He is still hand shy but for the most part he has come around. I don't recommend tying to a tree in your case given the leash issues However, in throwing out some ideas....Is there a more private area he can have to potty in/at? Maybe a Pee pad mat behind a screen or an EXpen would be a good start. Is there a place to put an expen outside so he can roam in it freely so you can give him some space? You can cover the sides with a towel or tarp for privacy.

    Post edited by StaticNfuzz at 2010-09-17 15:10:26
  • We'll try it. It's a good idea. To give you an idea of what our street is like... it's pretty much an ally that has pretty frequent traffic, but if we could put up a screen without making him feel trapped, it might work. We'll give it a shot, thanks!

    He's got his tail perky again now, and he's trotting around the house as we get ready for bed, sniffing us out, so we're taking it as a good sign, and just giving him his space, and chatting amongst ourselves. Hopefully he'll come and sleep with us again like he did last night. He's always welcome with the rest of the pack.

    I'll update again tomorrow. We're planning on giving him the morning out, leaving the house and coming back to see how he's doing. Keeping our fingers crossed!
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8589
  • emmyemmy
    Posts: 553
    So you don't have a vet? Even if he's doing better now, I think you should go to a vet anyway to get him checked out and start a relationship with a vet. I did and I feel so much more comfortable knowing that if Toby gets sick I know where to go, and I'm comfortable talking with her and the advice she gave. I have been to doctors before that I just didn't like, so I think that the same could be true of vets. Plus, if you can make him more comfortable and easier to deal with quickly by giving him some medicine, it would be better than the worry, right?
  • There isn't any grass around us within 15 minutes, unfortunately. Japanese cities are mostly all paved over.

    We don't have a vet yet, but we're looking for one... and for the Japanese language skills to convey what we want.

    Last night after we started getting ready for bed, he started a Shiba500 and we just watched him for 15 minutes as he ran around the house tagging things with his nose until he ran out of energy. He settled on his bed, but rose to sleep on my bed, until I shifted, then he took off again. Eventually, when I fell asleep, he slept on the end of my bed.

    This morning, he woke us up at 7 again to go out. We managed to get his leash on, took 5 minutes to coax him out of the door, and he peed just outside our apartment door. This is better than nothing, as our floor is open aired, but we'd rather him not get into the habit of peeing where the neighbors might get irritated. But again, its still an improvement over wetting in the house. When he came in, he tripped on the shoes at the door, knocked over the bottles and sent himself into another yelp frenzie, so.... all things are being taken away form the door to prevent this from happening again. We're planning on leaving him home again today, so that all of us can de-stress. Hopefully he doesn't take a dump inside while we're gone.
  • On the vet thing: call your embassy. The diplomats and their staff have to have pets. They may be able to assist you in finding an english-speaking vet. You may have to travel to get there. Or that vet may be able to provide you with a local contact
  • That's a good idea, thanks!

    Vaaska is back to being hyper nervous about everything. He's active and attentive when he's in play mode, but outside of that, he doesn't want to be touched or acknowledged, has his tail always down, and doesn't want to explore. Hopefully giving him his space will enable him to open up. I hope this turtling behavior doesn't become permanent.
  • Great news! We left Vaaska alone for another 3 hours today and when we came home, there were no accidents. We took him outside as soon as we got home, and as soon as he got to the telephone pole, he went poo and pee! Then, my girlfriend got the idea to let him run up the stairs to our apartment without his leash, so that he doesn't trip on it, and he's gotten a lot more comfortable now! He's still a little nervous around us, but we're giving him loves of positive energy, happy voices, and pets when he's willing. And treats. Lots of treats when he goes potty outside. We're so happy! We're hoping that this is some real progress again!
  • SayaSaya
    Posts: 6678
    I'm glad things are going better. =)
  • CaliaCalia
    Posts: 3664
  • He had shredded newspaper in his cage at the pet store.

    Today has been a good day. He's having a bit of trouble making it down all three flights of stairs to go potty, that is to say, he either goes right outside our door, on a different floor or in the lobby. As our apartment halls are mostly open air, uncarpeted and smelling like animal anyway, we're not making a big deal of this for this time being. We're excited that he's holding it in for set times [>.O I was just poked in the eye by a wet nose] and that he gets excited for when he has outside time. He gets really squirrelly inside, so we're hoping he gets over his outside inhibition enough to run out some of his energy there.He gets super energetic just before bed, and we watch him run it out in circles on the hard wood (the people under us are going to hate us).

    Today I'm not feeling so well, so he's feeling unloved because I won't play with him, but has mostly has been sleeping at the foot of my bed.

    I'll keep with the updates as they come!

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