Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Shiba Experiment: Can K9 Nose Work® Help Me Find a Reason to Tolerate (maybe even like) My Shiba Inu?

Confession time: I have a dislike of my Shiba Inu, Jade, so strong it borders on hatred. When I say "my Shiba Inu", I mean this like a prison warden would call a convict "my prisoner". This dog lives in my house, and I take responsibility for her care, but she's not mine mine. I take care of Jade, mainly because she's used her evil Shiba mind-control powers on my wife, Rachel, and made her have irrational feelings of love. I take care of the Shiba-beast, but, my not-so-secret hope is for this dog to run away in a snow storm and disappear from our lives forever. After over 4 years of living with this soulless creature, I've come to grips with the fact that no matter how many times she's run away or appeared to be choking on food she's stolen from one of the other dogs, this constantly nipping, yipping, shedding, snarling black imp is not leaving my life. Hoping this little Darth Vader dog may have a shred of goodness somewhere inside her, I've decided to turn to K9 Nose Work to bring her to the light. Who knows how this manipulative minion of darkness will respond to such a relationship-driven activity, but one thing's for sure, my Karma bank account should be in the black forever with this act of kindness.

How did Jade & I come to live with - and despise - each other? Human love. My wife, Rachel, had two dogs before we met, Jade, and a mutt named Deogee - who is a great dog & best buds with my dog, Muriel. The first time Jade & Muriel met, Jade forced her into a corner and frightened her so badly she emptied her bladder in fear. The second time they met, Jade physically attacked Muriel. This time I intervened and grabbed Jade by the hind legs, hoping to prevent bloodshed. While dangling in my grip, this serpent-dog coiled up and bit my elbow. The bite caused a reflex that sent Jade flying. She skidded across the floor, hit the wall, and popped up like a fluffy little four-legged terminator, driven by the singular purpose of inflicting pain on me and mine. Only because of my love for her human, was Jade allowed to be a part of my life. When Rachel & I moved in together (first in a one-bedroom guest house in the San Fernando Valley), Jade had numerous opportunities throughout each day to terrorize Muriel and drive me crazy. She would try to bite me any time I touched her for anything, she'd dig under fences, bring near-lifeless birds & squirrels to the front door of the guest house - once she dropped a bird in the landlord's family room - and she would emit a shrill banshee cry for hours each night, no doubt communicating the effectiveness of her dastardly deeds to some distant evil overlords. Like a comic book villain, she's no less black of heart after all these years, rather, she's become more patient and selective in the pain she inflicts. Most recently, she's run away several times, attacked Muriel over food a number of times, frightened the vet's office staff with glass-shattering screams in protest of a temperature reading by rectal thermometer, and murdered a few frogs in the back yard, leaving me to clean up frog bodies like the county amphibian coroner. In between her bouts of mischief and mayhem, she sits calmly with a blank stare that says she's fully expecting to outlast me in our little game of thrones.

Jade isn't entirely new to K9 Nose Work. I've been thinking about the possibility of working with Jade as my next nose work dog for a while now, and I did demo her a month ago at a clinic to show that even convict-dogs can benefit from some time in the "exercise yard". And, true to our relationship, Jade clawed at the ground, pulling against the leash as I led her into the demo area - she probably thought I was planning a public execution. Even as we played the game, she nervously popped around, expecting a trap to spring at any moment. I can't even imagine how we would work together as a team - trust is not something either one of us has found in the other. Yet, as much as I would enjoy the clean slate a puppy brings to the game, I find it much more interesting to try and use K9 Nose Work to dismantle the bad behaviors of the past and repair a broken relationship, with the hope of forging some previously unfathomable bond between dog and handler.

Over the next few months, probably as a members-only feature, I will document and share parts of my K9 Nose Work journey with the cute little excrement sack all of the neighborhood kids want to pet (unless said kids are holding food, in which case Jade will body slam them to the ground), in hopes of capturing the magical power of K9 Nose Work to alter the core of a being (or two beings) and to create trust and a bond where, before, only malice existed.

Jade giving the camera her favorite look: evil.
Here is a photo of Jade, video will probably follow as part of the members-only content. She's a highly food-motivated dog, so, if nothing else works, she'll learn to love food even more and hate that I hold large stores of it captive from her jaws, accessible only through honest sniffing work (not bullying and thievery). As this experiment moves forward, I really have no idea what I will do if this dog & I develop neutral - or worse, positive - feelings for each other. It will truly be a K9 Nose Work miracle!

Happy Sniffing!


  1. Is it bad that I laughed at this? Can't wait to hear all about your journey with Jade.

  2. Can't wait to see how this works out.

  3. Can't wait. This series sounds even better than the real Game of Thrones!

  4. Hi Jeff! I have no doubt that both of you will gain from this experiment. And we will be entertained! :) I've heard that some shelters are doing K9 nose work for their dogs and it really benefits them. Perhaps Jade will learn from you too. I'm excited to follow your journey. Good luck!

  5. I love this post. This is one of the reasons my dog Gypsy and I got started in Nosework. We adopted her because my husband fell in love with her (one lick was all it took), and she has been a Daddy's girl ever since. The first few years we had her I would come home to find only MY things chewed up and destroyed. There was no end to the damage she could do...cell phones, winter coats, shoes, hats, clothing; all mine and never his! It was hard not to resent her. Doing K9 NW allowed us to build a relationship, and she even won the Harry Award :) These days I couldn't be more proud of her and we look forward to our practices and trials as a team.

  6. I am really curious to hear how this is going!