Inside every Shiba lives a “Free Spirit” waiting for an opportunity to satisfy its need. These wonderfully, enchanting furry creatures all share an urge to “run free and explore”. If this behavior is not addressed, it has the potential to determine a Shiba’s future. There’s a lot more than “what you see is what you get” with this breed. Education is key, but understanding Shibas are unreliable, unpredictable, and “Must Always Be Leashed” outside a secure area doesn’t begin to address their ability to escape from those secure areas when their “Free Spirit” controls the situation.
Climbing: Shibas are not only fastidious like cats, they can also climb and jump like cats. They are quite agile, accomplishing great leaps, effortlessly, in the blink of an eye. Given time and opportunity, a determined Shiba will figure out a way to jump, or climb out of just about any enclosure. Chain link fences and trees aren’t seen as barriers to a determined Shiba, they’re a challenge to be conquered. Stockade fences aren’t even a deterrent for some determined climbers. Boredom, many times, will trigger the urge to escape other times it’s the chance to chase or hunt that drives the behavior. Invisible/in ground fences are never recommended for this breed. There’s always the possibility a Shiba will ignore the jolt, and cross, then will be either unable or unwilling to return. It also doesn’t keep other dogs out of a Shiba’s yard.
Digging: If escaping by climbing isn’t a possibility, digging is always an option, and the “Free Spirit” urge motivates record time excavation. In a matter of minutes, a determined, unsupervised Shiba can tunnel out. Of course, if there are any opportunities to take advantage of openings under the fence, or around the gate, they will find a way to down size their Shiba selves, and squeeze through.
Jumping: Also, their jumping abilities need to be taken into consideration. Shibas can jump quite high from a stand, no need for a running start with this breed. Even though a 4′ fence looks adequate for their size, with a determined Shiba a 6′ fence “might” be a better option, but that’s not even a given. Any object close to a fence can be used as a springboard, or launching pad, that includes decks, roofs of doghouses, swing sets, and tree limbs hanging close to, or over the fence. A Shiba’s inquisitive cat-like nature drives that “Free Spirit” to explore and stay active. Leaving a Shiba unsupervised for long periods of time, even in a secure fenced yard, it not recommended, especially with a high energy Shiba. Frequent yard and fence inspections, plus supervision, will insure any escape routes and roaming tendencies are caught early.
Door Bolting: Always a major concern with Shibas, door bolting needs addressing and correcting immediately. Training is crucial, and requires cooperation from all members of the household. Rules regarding open doors “must” be implemented, and consistency regarding those rules is required. Before any door leading to a non-secure area is opened, a Shiba “must” be secured. Relatives, friends, and visitors “must” be informed of the open door rules, and be willing to follow through. Any lapse in those rules leaves an opening for a Shiba to escape. A Shiba “will” take advantage of an opening, even after training supervision and reminders of what’s expected of them is often needed. Besides open doors, windows with no screens, or poorly fitting screens, can become escape routes for Shibas. The “Free Spirit” never loses its urge to run, no matter the age, so keeping a Shiba safe and secure “is” a lifetime commitment.
To insure the safety of any and all Shibas, vigilance, supervision, and crated indoors when left alone, is always the best choice. Training is a must for all Shibas, but for an escape artist, it could mean the difference between life and death. A Shiba needs an educated, dedicated owner committed to working through any and all behavior, especially behavior that threatens their future. Shibas are intelligent, independent, inquisitive, comical, and most of all, very resourceful. They require an attentive owner, who encourages positive behavior while redirecting negative behavior. All breed traits, characteristics, abilities, and possibilities need to be considered before making an “all important” lifetime commitment. Even though Shibas make wonderful, loyal companions, they aren’t for everyone, and time taken to research the breed completely and totally is time well spent for anyone considering adding a Shiba to their life.
"Shiba Escapes" was originally written by Laura Paquette for Northeast Shiba Rescue Association. Used by permission.
Photo used with permission. The Shiba is CH Tibbs Don Juan, NA, NAJ and is owned by Mary Hager of Kishi Shibas.