Training with Shikokus

My name is Lisa, I am 23 and in my home country Austria I’m doing an education for becoming a dog trainer. For getting some practice in training different kinds of dog breeds, I spent 3 weeks with the Shikokus and Shibas of Akashima Kennel on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. Thanks to the hospitality of Katja Weber and her family, I was able to learn more about these very fascinating dogs.

My first week, I spent walking the dogs and doing some basic training to get to know these dogs and building up some trust, like tracking tidbits in the grass or agility exercises. In this time I mostly realized the difference between dogs with a long breed history as companion dogs and the Shikoku dog, who is merely used as a hunting tool in Japan and isn’t treated like a family member like people in Europe or America often see their dogs. They didn’t show any interest in being cuddled, petted or touched, at least not from a stranger, where on the contrary the Shibas enjoyed being cuddled from the first day on.

The Shikoku dog shows other typical habits of a “primitive” breed too, like marking every 2 meters, scratching extensively after doing their business, both male and female, being aloof of strangers and a strong hunting instinct. They also are very submissive to humans and react very fast to a threatening body language or voice.

On the first view these character traits perhaps don’t seem to be very attractive, and it is right that Shikokus aren’t dogs for inexperienced dog owners, but I’m sure and my experiences showed me, that if you are willing to invest some time into such a dog, you will get a highly intelligent dog that is eager to please his owner. Doing some training with your Shikoku will show you that this highly attentive breed, is extremely good in obedience and agility. Their full concentration lies on the trainer and their speed in combining different training steps and in general in learning new things is really impressive and sometimes surpasses the trainer.

In the 2 following weeks of my training with these dogs I learned a lot of new things, and in particular how few practice I had with dog training and how many mistakes I had in my training plans. The Shikokus showed me every little mistake, inattentiveness, overreaction or misinterpretation in their reaction to my commands. Only 1 or 2 repetitions of a training step or an exercise were often enough, that they reacted perhaps not to my verbal command, but on my body gesture or the situation which they remembered during the training. A small example will show you in detail what I mean; I did some recall training with a female named Sachi. By mistake I called her back at the same spot, 2 times in a row. The 3rd time she was at that spot, she came back without a command because she had made a link between the spot and my command. With another dog, Kimi, I did some agility in the woods. Jumping and balancing on fallen trees. I only leaded her one time over the trees, but from this moment on, everytime we came there, she jumped on the tree and did the same I had shown her before. My own dog in Austria, needs at least 5-10 repetitions for just getting a glance of what to do. So this was really remarkable.

I didn’t teach them always useful things, but I’m sure we learned a lot from each other. This trip to Canada was one of my best experiences in my life, and I hope to visit Katja Weber, her family and her dogs soon again.

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