Welcome to The Sheba Chronicles, your guide for how to raise a happy, confident, well-mannered puppy right from the start!
Check back often for new posts and videos so you don't miss the good bits, the messy bits, and everything in between that comes with raising a puppy. Also be sure to like and follow Sheba on Facebook and Instagram.
Warning: cuteness overload ahead!
Sometimes, outings or training moments with your dog just don't go to plan --- maybe there's too much going on and your dog is overstimulated, or maybe you're trying to do more than your dog is capable of in that particular moment, or your dog is just in a mood (hey, we all have bad days!). This happened to Sheba and I just yesterday morning...
Sheba had been doing so well on all of our recent trips to downtown Savannah so I figured she was ready to graduate to a higher level of stimulation. My plan was to walk her for only a few blocks along busy Bay Street (and Factor's Walk for a picture on the iconic Love Lock Bridge) to one of my favorite cafes, Cafe M, that I used to frequent with my previous dog, Scout. I hadn't been there in a while and this would be Sheba's first time there (although she has eaten out with us countless times at other locations). I really had my heart set on their Bombay Chai latte and a macaron ;)
So I parked where I normally park us when we venture near that area of town and Sheba did just fine at first. But as we moved along, I could see her starting to get worse...
Many people know that it's important for their young pups to be exposed to new people, other dogs, novel objects, new environments, and various sights and sounds to build their confidence and become a well-rounded pup that doesn't show fear, anxiety or reactivity/aggression. Yet we also know we must protect our young puppies from coming into contact with any harmful pathogens that could cause serious illness, which is why many vets will advise to avoid taking your pup anywhere there may be other dogs until after they are fully immunized.
But did you know that the first 16-20 weeks of a puppy's life and the experiences s/he has during this time can be critical in determining the pup's future confidence? This is why it's SO important to still give your pup exposure to the outside world - we do not want to miss this very important window of opportunity, we just want to be sure to do it in a way that is still physically (and emotionally) safe for your pup at the same time.
With some breeds of pups in particular (such as many herding breeds, terriers and hunting breeds), early socialization and exposure is paramount to getting ahead of problem behaviors such as anxiety and aggression later on in life. Since I know this is so important for Shiba Inus - who tend to be sassy and strong-minded but not exactly confident or comfortable with novelties - I want to start right away with giving my Sheba girl exposure to various sights, sounds, new people, other dogs, different environments, etc and not wait until she is fully vaccinated to do so (since that is still at least 6 weeks away).
So what is a good way to "meet in the middle" and keep her safe but ensure she still gets out and about? Taking her out in a carriage like the Queen that she is!
Step one: make sure Sheba sees the carriage (which we have named the "Scoutmobile" after our late corgi, since we bought it for him when he got sick and couldn't do as much physical exercise anymore) as a good place and not something to be scared or stressed by. How do you do that? Watch the video below!
Regardless of your puppy's breed, sex or age, you can make the concept of potty training easier for any puppy to grasp by providing clear parameters and working in small slices to build your way up to your final goal. The more clear and consistent we are in having good training opportunities, the faster your pup will become housetrained! These are the "rules of potty training" that I share with my clients and that I am practicing with Sheba...
Puppies tend to be curious, inquisitive, and can unknowingly get themselves into trouble - these are some of the traits that are so cute about puppies and fun to watch, yet nerve wracking at the same time! Bringing a new puppy home is also a transition for the puppy as well as for you, and the first few days can be stressful as your pup learns how to navigate her new world and build trust and security. This is why it's imperative to set up a "puppy proof" space in your home that you can trust your puppy to be alone in without getting herself in harm's way, and at the same time help her feel secure to build her confidence to be left alone (so you can still have the much-needed breaks, go to work, etc).
I specifically selected a playpen with only vertical bars (not horizontal) so Sheba could not climb her way out, since Shiba Inus are known for being quite agile, and one that was made of steel as opposed to plastic or wood (which is more easily chewed by a puppy). I also wanted one with a full door that we/she could walk through easily, that latched securely so she could not accidentally push it open, that could stay open if I wanted to give her free reign of the room and that would close automatically behind us if I didn't want it propped open. The pen I chose is the Frisco Steel 8-Panel Configurable Dog Gate and Playpen, available on Chewy. I am pleased with how well it is made and how easy it was for me to put it together by myself (no second person required). I also like that I can change the configuration anytime I want from a stand-alone pen of various shapes, to a gate across a wide open space in the house, to a pen I can secure against a wall in a corner space as needed. I don't know how often I will use those other features at this time but they are nice to have as options!
I have included some items in or nearby her pen to provide mental stimulation - including various types of toys and things for Sheba to engage with or check out on her own - and some items for a feeling of security...
I have also "puppy-proofed" the rest of my office, which is the room where the pen is set up, so that Sheba can be free in my office as well if I am in there working or doing a few things around the house. After all, these are good training opportunities! More to come on that later ;-). The floor is tile, which makes for an easy clean-up if she were to have an accident, but I have also included a washable pee pad on the floor of her pen. I have tucked away any electrical cords where she cannot reach them, have removed any fragile items from anywhere within reach for her, and have made sure there are no areas she can get "stuck" without having enough space to turn around or get out. Lastly, I keep the door to the adjoining bathroom closed so she cannot help herself to the trash or toilet paper when I am not around and I have a gate in my office doorway so she cannot escape into the hall.
The more Sheba has settled in, the more I have already been able to trust her free in my office without incident while I have taken a shower or gone out to run errands, etc. Way to go, Sheba!!
If you have known many Corgis in your life, you may know that Corgis can tend to be bossy (given that they're an active herding breed), independent-minded (they will give you a "run for your money" and are not great for first-time dog owners, despite their cute looks and fluffy butts!), and they act like big dogs in smaller dog bodies. This "larger than life" personality is what attracted me to Corgis so many years ago and it is the same thing that attracts me to Shiba Inus.
Shibas are one of the oldest and most popular breeds in their native Japan, but have been lesser known in the U.S. until more recent years and especially gained popularity when they became the face of Dogecoin cryptocurrency. Their pointy ears and big smiles may make them appear adorable and innocent (like Corgis), but don't let those cute looks fool you into thinking they are just cuddle bunnies - Shibas are bold, proud, and active! Similar in some ways to a Corgi's tendencies as a herding breed, Shibas are hunting dogs meant to flush birds and small game - so they are smart and like having a job to do. Without the proper outlets to provide mental and physical stimulation, they can tend to get themselves into trouble and are even notorious for not coming when called if they get loose to venture on a walkabout! So I am looking forward to meeting these challenges with our Sheba girl (including many walks and hikes again) and chronicling her experiences for others to see and learn from!