This is a diary of what it’s like to look after a very independent dog for the first time.

I was originally going to start with the adoption process however it’s different from country to country so best check if you want to adopt where you can do so in your own country. Shinzan, Sasuke as he is known at home, is a Hokkaido mix native Japanese breed with a gorgeous personality and love of life. He spent the first few years as a stray in Gifu prefecture before being rescued and taken to Nose and Ark rescue center north of Osaka where he spent a further three years.

Late last year (August-September) I was in a position to adopt and went to the shelter to do just that when I found him. I was told that he is nervous but friendly and a little boisterous too. As recommended we went for walks to try and figure each other out and we discovered that we got on really well so as a result I formally requested adoption. Ever since he arrived home we have never looked back!

Nearly a year on we have had many ups and downs as we have been adjusting to our new lives together. Much of which has been a result of separation anxiety, acclimating to a new environment, city life for Shinzan, and chewing… lots and lots of chewing.

To over come this chewing phenomena I turned to many you tube videos for training and suggestions on how to help Sasuke over come separation anxiety when I have to go to work. These, for the most part, have been successful and the destruction has been kept to a minimum now, if there is any at all. All recommend walking your dog for as long as possible so the dog(s) can release all that excess energy they have, however, in our case, Sasuke had initially refused point blank to go for walks outside so any excess energy was focused on destroying things (the Burberry Coat incident is now infamous and we never talk about it).

Regardless of the time of day or night he hated to be outside. Everything was scary – if you can name it or think it-he was (and to a degree still is) scared of it. People, bicycles, people riding or walking near bicycles; cars (oh dear-cars!!) of all shapes sizes and sounds, plastic bags, random city life noises even at night. He was terrified. It came to a head after the Burberry coat incident which we will never mention and after I had a serious bout of Bronchitis in early January 2020. I was off work for two weeks grappling with trying to take Sasuke out to poop and pee on mats while struggling to breath let alone anything else. Two weeks indoors and we both had enough and I took him outside to walk. We managed to walk along the roads behind the apartment and back again early in the morning without too much stress. Success!

Nine months on we are walking outside morning, afternoon (in the winter -Kyoto literally cooks in the summer) and long into the evening. I discovered that he absolutely adores walking along the river and if given the chance to walk actually in the river and the reed bed so he can chase and torment ducks!

Some things I wish I had known about when having a dog for the first time are little things that other dog owners have either forgotten or simply don’t think to mention – probably because it’s different for every dog. The first is time of adjustment after immediate arrival; general rule of thumb is about 3-7 days. It’s often about 3 days before pooping and peeing occurs because of being in a new environment. Although it’s best to start the routine of potty training/ oshiko as soon as possible. On top of that there is a high chance of hiding back in the crate or simply not eating as much because of being nervous.

The second is background. Sas, while at the rescue shelter, did have some skills such as ‘sit’ and ‘paw’ – he had never lived in a house before – ergo no domestic skills. Unlike breeds or dogs who are to a degree domesticated… Sas didn’t know any of this. He still doesn’t know ‘fetch’ or ‘stay/leave it’ (although to be fair I think he does, he just doesn’t play along 🤨).

The third is environment. How often do we look at life and the world from a dog’s perspective? I can say for certain that I never did until Sasuke. Oh my goodness it’s terrifying. Even after navigating a world of new sounds and smells there is still the constant problem of people. Specifically people on bicycles who don’t follow the rules of the road-forcing their way past at speed, often with no bell only a light making it harder to gauge proximity; taxi drivers who think they are above the law and don’t have to obey road rules revving their engines and generally being impatient. Aaaaand finally moped riders who should be banned from riding for continuously revving engines, being loud and obnoxious and riding on pavements. All of this and more isn’t covered when you first get a dog and people insist on you training your dog. How? What’s the best way to help your dog adapt and with minimal stress??

Update: We are fast approaching a year together and if there is one piece of advice I could give, aside from the obvious stick with them they are totally worth it! It would be learn the Art of War by Sun Tzu. Pick your battles!!! There will be tears, tantrums and destroyed clothes – and thats just you. Don’t worry it does and will get easier, funnier and a lot more harmonious as you get used to each other. My life was soooooooo boring before Sasuke, how did I ever do it?

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