Adopting an Older Shiba

Adult Shibas, six years and older, are the companions many people are looking for, but too often overlooked because of age. What is age? The life span of Shibas is approximately sixteen years, which means they reach their prime between six and eight years of age. By this time, a Shiba has matured, mellowed, is more interested in sharing and enjoying, and less interested in challenging and controlling. An older Shiba is more comfortable balancing the world it lives in with the canine world that drives it. There’s poise and dignity in an older Shiba that’s missing in young, less focused Shibas. Demands to be entertained and kept busy are replaced by a more relaxed Shiba able to amuse itself, or satisfied to do nothing. Their ability to stay focused and respond improves considerably with age. Every Shiba is different with some remaining physically active into their senior years, others preferring a life of leisure early on, with the rest somewhere in between. It’s the attitude, or lack of attitude, that makes an older Shiba a joy to be around.

Maturity and age doesn’t mean a Shiba won’t run, so leashing outside a secure area is still a MUST for the life of a Shiba. With an older Shiba, housebreaking, crate training, destructive chewing, mouthiness, plus the challenging and testing of a puppy or an adolescent are non-issues most often, leaving more time to enjoy activities and adventures, or doing nothing at all but giving tummy rubs in exchange for Shiba kisses.

Breed traits do not diminish with age. In fact, the confidence that comes with maturity only serves to enhance their spirited boldness and independent nature. They remain alert, inquisitive, open to new challenges and learning. Shibas age more gracefully than some breeds, and an eleven-year-old senior can fool quite a few people into thinking it’s half its age. They may not have the stamina of a younger Shiba, but they know how to pace themselves and take full advantage of down time. The seemingly nervous energy of youth gives way to conserving energy, expending energy then returning to conserving more energy for the next moment in time. They are always ready for the next moment in time and a new adventure. They aren’t as needy as a young Shiba either. With age and maturity also comes a longer attention span. There’s a renewed interest in responding to learned-commands, and participating in new activities. Repetition doesn’t seem to be as boring, or a waste of time. Long walks, possibly somewhat slower, while meticulously sniffing all messages left by other dogs or animals are always welcome. Tracking becomes more rewarding than chasing, but a good chase will never be ignored.

Even though adopting an older Shiba means fewer years together, the quality of time spent together is it’s own reward. Relationships are built on more of an “us” need than the “me” need of a younger Shiba. Older Shibas exhibit more of a devoted buddy, pal, friend, attitude combined with a proud dignity of belonging. There’s a feeling of closeness that wasn’t there when life was "all about them." An older Shiba never loses sight of what’s important, and continues to learn, grow, and teach. It’s an honor and privilege to accompany these regal creatures into their senior years, while they remain true to themselves, and the life chosen for them. Adopting an older Shiba is a new beginning. Lessons learned from an aging Shiba will be cherished forever, along with all of the wonderful shared memories.

This article is dedicated to my buddy, pal, friend, who’s shared his life with me for eleven years. He continues to teach me new things daily, currently, aging with grace and dignity seems to meet both our needs. It’s through our experiences with his puppy behavior (misbehavior), adolescent attitude (terrible twos, troubled teens), maturing and mellowing, I’ve become a true believer, "Older is Better in this Breed." There were more challenges his first five years than I was prepared to handle, which only served to question whether this relationship had a future. There were days and weeks we both felt overwhelmed and frustrated. He’s always demanded my best, and accepted nothing less. Even though I look forward to many more years together, I feel a need to start preparing for a life without him, and by sharing what I’ve learned from him, maybe older Shibas will be given a chance for a new beginning. I’ll miss his constant daily reminder that "I can do better." I only hope I’ve been as good a student as he has been a teacher. It was definitely a learning experience living with the independent, challenging, stubborn adolescent he was, but I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to share my life and love with the mature, dignified, amazing Shiba he’s become. ~ Carolyn Sanford

"Adopting an Older Shiba" was originally written by Carolyn Sanford for Northeast Shiba Rescue Association. Used by written permission.

Note: This article was written in July 2004. Scandal passed away in November 2006.
   Sea Breeze Talk of the Town, CD, CGC, TDIA (Scandal)
   March 19, 1993 – November 3, 2006