KAWAKO SHIBA INU
(pronounced: cow-a-co she-ba e-new)
I'm always telling potential Shiba owners to read as much as possible about the breed and then honestly assess their capabilities for caring for a dog as complex as a Shiba. It isn't if the Shiba is the right breed for you but are YOU the right owner for a Shiba? Read some good articles at rescue sites. It wasn't long ago that nothing could be found in writing about the Shiba. Then a few general books on the breed were written. Once the Shiba had some devoted breeders in the U.S. a few thorough table books were written with info and pictures about the foundation dogs and the pioneering breeders. Thanks to the Internet information can be found about Shibas from all around the world. Still nobody wants to put in writing what it really can be like to own a Shiba. Information is general and the most serious stuff is sugar coated. It tells you that Shibas can be "difficult" but it doesn't tell you how to deal with a Shiba puppy temper tantrum at 2am in the foyer of your apartment building. You have to read between the lines. Purchase your puppy from an experienced breeder who socialized the puppy during its young formative stages of development and who will help immediately if you have any questions. Since you can find general information on how to choose a puppy elsewhere I would like to share honest no nonsense information with you and what you should expect if you decide on a Shiba. Take the opportunity to listen and learn from other Shiba owners, experienced breeders and the Shibas themselves. An understanding of canine and primative wolf behavior is a good place to start. Ongoing studies provide new information in canine communication that has thankfully changed dog training philosophy forever. Understanding what motivates a dog is very important here as the Shiba is highly driven to meet his own needs, whatever they may be at the moment. A wise Shiba owner learns how to use this single mindedness to his advantage in the training and management of his Shiba. The Shiba has been said to be difficult to train. Nothing can be further from the truth. A clear and concise request will be responded to quickly and remembered indefinitely. It's just that an intelligent animal like the Shiba doesn't appreciate or understand our ridiculous need for repetition. It goes without saying that it's much more difficult for humans to learn the art of speaking clearly to animals. The good thing is most animals are forgiving, some more than others. Unfortunately the Shiba is NOT one of the forgiving. He can make what seem to us to be odd associations with actions, places or objects. Part of your responsibility in owning a Shiba is learning to communicate in a way he can understand and trying to avoid traumatization ESPECIALLY with a puppy! Anything else is irresponsible ownership. GROUP DOG TRAINING CLASSES are mandatory. Puppy socialization classes, intermediate class during adolescence (5-8 months old), through formal Obedience (8 months to 1 year old) require time and energy. Socialization should never stop with a Shiba. You will have a polished dog by age 3 and a wonderful companion who takes things in stride instead of over-reacting like many Shibas do. There are special online courses offered for reactive and aggressive dogs like those by Ian Dunbar who says "Lifetime maintenance — all food fed from the hand and only in the presence of other dogs. People with friendly and confident puppies please note: your Young adolescent will require ongoing classical conditioning to see him though adolescence. In terms of dog-dog interactions, you can begin to relax a bit when your dog is three- to four-years-old." We highly recommend our puppy buying clients to purchase Puppy Culture programs. It is extremely user friendly and easy to understand.
The Shiba is highly intelligent, a brilliant thinker and a phenomenal problem solver. Contrary to what is written the Shiba is capable of prolonged concentration and learning long chains of behaviors. This coupled with his nimble physique makes him a formidable mental and physical opponent. To top it off there is nothing that he likes more than a good challenge. He has the tenacity of the finest terrier, the wiles of a coyote, the stealth of a jungle cat. He uses his paws like a raccoon. He is a ruthless hunter. He is easily provoked into combat with those he thinks mean to harm him. These traits can be disturbing to some people and they are all evident in a 9 week old puppy!
Shibas, along with only a handful of breeds, pass through developmental stages more rapidly than most puppies. SHIBAS TRULY ARE DIFFERENT THEN OTHER DOGS. This means you have a shorter window of time for training and socializing. It also means the Shiba forms habits more quickly. This is how we can housebreak our puppies and teach them to accept sleeping through the night before they go to their new homes at 8 weeks of age. This can be GREAT if you use it to your advantage and very bad if YOU aren't on top of things and unwanted habits are formed. I find this all incredibly fascinating and like you I just had to have a Shiba! To be a successful Shiba owner you should be an open minded and creative thinker. There will be lots of practice thinking outside the box while solving never before encountered doggie predicaments. Throw the things you learned from the other dogs in your life right out the window because training a Shiba is more like training a cat than a dog. You should enjoy challenges as much as the Shiba does. A good sense of humor helps too. Shibas love drama, thus the Shiba Scream, and they love nothing more than embarrassing you in public. There is no room for your ego with a Shiba. The Shiba has enough for both of you and more! Once a Japanese breeder of Hokkaido told me the Shiba was the "frivolous" one in the Japanese group of native breeds because you have it to serve no purpose beside being beautiful to look at. A little harsh yes but that word frivolous has always been in the back of my mind when I think about trying to describe the Shiba because the larger Shikoku can do the job of a Shiba so why a smaller dog? I love and respect the breed and I'm happy just to watch in wonder at its beauty. The Shiba has also been described as feral or primitive. While the majority of the Shibas traits may seem to be primitive in nature there are other traits that are obviously created by domestication. The Shiba Scream for example. In the wild any pack member who was loud and dramatic would be a detriment to the pack and would be either dispatched or driven off to die alone. So drama is strictly a man made behavior which must have served some purpose at one time during the development of the breed. I'd sure like to know what on earth they were thinking with that trait. Of thousands of dog breeds in the world the Shiba is the second breed most closely related to the gray wolf. You can find historical Shiba information at this site. His feral ways have served him well for thousands of years and the Japanese hold his dignified warrior spirit in the highest regard. These same characteristics can be problematic if not acknowledged and put into perspective. Not all Shibas have all the following traits but you should be able to accept any or all of the possibilities if you are considering owning a Shiba Inu because you never know what combination of traits your puppy will have. Proper socialization & training helps manage these traits but you cannot change what is in his soul, nor should you want to.
Some Shiba Facts:
•Shibas can be quarrelsome with other dogs and predatory of small animals. (Except cats, MOST Shibas seem to LOVE to have a cat companion) •Shibas are fine with well behaved children and dislike the ill-mannered ones. (ME too!) •Shibas can take a while to “warm up" to friends & strangers. (Or may be forever indifferent) •Shibas are unresponsive to typical dog training techniques (Nothing "typical" about Shibas) •Shibas are ON LEASH ONLY DOGS! If you want an off leash buddy it is best to choose another breed. (That's pretty much all I can say about that. Most people have to find out the hard way) •Shibas require a calm, assertive owner that they can count on to be a firm & fair master. •Shibas molt like a buffalo two times a year. (Full time indoor pets shed much less) •Shibas are naturally obedient to an owner considered a worthy master. (Yes, grasshopper) •Shibas are sensitive to vaccines so talk to your vet about taking appropriate precautions. Now that you know about the Shiba's naughty side, you will be prepared for it, it won't come as a shock and you'll have one up on the little bugger. Here is a hilarious (yet true) discription of Shiba behavior. Please continue your research on the breed and talk to as many pet Shiba owners as possible. Become familiar with the Shiba health issues. Study the latest information on pet care, grain free or raw dog food and especially about the dangers of over vaccination and the new vaccination protocol. Be prepared for the arrival of your new puppy with good fences outside and baby gates inside. Find a vet who is familiar with the Shiba and shop around for a dog training school that has a puppy class so you can join in shortly after your puppy arrives home. Plan for a busy first 6 months but after that you'll have a wonderful Shiba for 12 to 16 years.
Shibas are very healthy dogs provided they come from conscencious breeders. I continually have people say that they have heard Shibas have severe allergies, crusty skin issues, blinding cateracts, crippling hip dysplasia and all sorts of problems. This surprises me because I've never encountered any of those things in my own dogs. Yes one or two have seasonal allergies but so do I! I deal with it. An occasional skin irratation is solved easily with a few baths and carefully drying the dog down to the skin. I've never had a Shiba with hip dysplasia. The poor Shibas with these aflictions are acquired from puppy mills and backyard breeders. The only way to shut down these animal producers is for the public to STOP BUYING FROM THEM!
One health problem that I know of as fact is patellar laxation. Even a well bred Shiba can have slipping patellas. At Kawako we only breed Shibas that have been tested and have good tight patellas but that does not mean we can guarantee every puppy we produce won't have a patellar problem. All small dogs (even large dogs) with straight hind legs are prone to this problem. Even large dogs damage their knees but it is usually traumatic damage where as the small dog it can be congenital or hereditary and it gets damanged because it's his weakest link. SInce Shibas have only been in the U.S. 30ish years the Shiba is still in its infancy here and we still have many things to learn that only time will tell. As far as health testing goes I feel the U.S. has the most stringent health testing available to breeders and with the new DNA testing available we will be able to produce the healthiest dogs in the world.
So how do we keep our dogs disease free? Consciencious breeding is the start. OFA and DNA testing parents is great but once the puppy leaves the good breeder's care the puppy's owner influences the knees development through nutrition, environment and exercise. Poorly fed, fat puppies who sleep all day waiting for you to come home, jump up and down excitedly, go on a little walk, retrieve a few toys thrown across a slippery kitchen floor then sleep in a crate all night aren't getting the support they need to develop strong bones, joints, tendons and the muscle that holds it all together. Then they go to the dog park on the weekend and get hit broadside in the hind end by a huge labradoodle! Think football players and you get a good idea how dogs play at the dog park and how one injures their knee.
At Kawako our Shibas RUN and play all day in large grassy paddocks. We don't let our dogs get fat. They eat a good grainfree kibble and get lots of different raw meats, vegatables and real bones to chew on. We do not encourage jumping and standing on the hind legs. We monitor a puppy's play with other dogs and don't let them play rough with boisterous big dogs where they might get hurt. The results are healthy Shibas with excellent hip ratings and very few injuries.
This page was last updated: 3/26/2020
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