About Us

A very, very, very young Julie and Buddy. I still have that Queen Anne chair.

My name is Julie Shasta MacTire and I train humans. I just put ‘dog training’ in the title so I’d get the right clients. I have been living and working with dogs for… a very long time. It started with a big dog named Buddy. He started following me around and never left my side until his death in 1988.

Kena, Buddi, and Shassi. Their respective attitudes of attention in this photo is representative of how much they GAF about my opinions.

Then there were Kena, Buddi, and Shassi. Buddi was an irascible Border Collie/ English Springer Spaniel who lived to be 17 out of sheer spite. Kena, a Rough Collie/ Husky, was one of the sweetest dogs I ever knew and the most obedient. This is why, apparently, I chose to foil that with Shassi: my first purebred dog, my first Shiba, and my first encounter with a dog who didn’t throw herself at my feet, begging me to tell her how she could serve me. It was… instructive.

To be honest, while Shassi was the reason I fell in love with Shibas and later created the website The Misanthropic Shiba in 1997, I didn’t truly connect with her. It was Tierce, with whom I took to a class at Best Paw Forward taught by Robyn Andexser called ‘Beyond The Leash’. It introduced me to clicker training. Previously, I had been introduced to the concept of positive reinforcement by Christina Young of Positive Dog, but I hadn’t been exposed to it in a class setting until that class.

Tierce turned ON. Suddenly, I didn’t have grudging acceptance that I held the leash; I had enthusiastic cooperation with whatever I wanted to do. Having had several tearful pissing matches over his nails, grooming, etc. this blew my mind when Christina showed me different ways to shape Tierce’s behaviour to make the areas of contention less stressful… even progressing to positive experiences and greater trust between Tierce and I.

Before I discovered how to motivate my Shibas, I was a big believer in the idea that I should be the ‘lead dog’, like Buck in The Call of the Wild. When I was introduced to behaviour shaping via positive reinforcement, I realized that this kind of leader was not how to win friends and influence Shibas.

Why ‘Wheel Dog’?

Wheel dogs, in sled dog terms, work next to the sled. They are often the biggest and strongest dogs because they have to do most of the work hauling the sled over difficult trail conditions. They must be even-tempered so they aren’t stressed by the sled’s position behind them or the dogs running in front of them. “Strength, steadiness, and ability to help guide the sled around tight curves are qualities valued in “wheelers.” ~ Wikipedia

While lead dogs set the pace and steer the team, wheel dogs steer the sled. As a dog handler, you can let your dog set the pace of learning and steer the progress while you ensure that they are able to achieve the goals you set.