Basic Shiba Inu Information
The Shiba Inu is an attractive breed but do not be deceived by that adorable teddy bear looking face. This breed can be quite a challenge to train, leaving many dog owners frazzled if they are not prepared to deal with its independence, spirit, and energy.
Shibas were bred to hunt and flush prey from bushes and underbrush. As such they are hardy and independent with a tendency to roam if allowed off leash.
They can become bored easily if not given an outlet to exercise and play daily. Given their nature it is important to socialize and train this breed in a firm but gentle manner. It is HIGHLY recommended that positive training and socialization begin soon once a Shiba enters your home.
Shibas tend to be tidy and do not typically have “doggie odor.”
They do shed heavily at least twice a year, so a heavy duty vacuum will be your cleaning buddy. If you are allergic to other pets such as cats you may be allergic to a Shiba as well.
Like humans, each Shiba has its own character and peculiarities. Some dogs are sensitive, some are bold and some are extroverts. The degree of independence and sociability varies between individual dogs.
In the case of independent dogs they may be aloof and indifferent to people or other animals, dislike being snuggled & cuddled, and resent extended grooming or bathing. Generally independent dogs can “take us or leave us”. This does not mean they do not love us, just that they have an agenda of their own.
In general Shibas tend to be “busy bees” seeking out new activities on their own if you do not provide interesting diversions and lots of toys.
If raised with pets, some Shibas will get along with other animals but some will not care for other pets in the same household. Given their hunting instincts some Shibas will chase and hunt small animals and no matter what you do, you may not be able to extinguish this behavior.
Energy Requirements & Parenting
Shibas have a natural athletic ability and tend to perch, climb, jump, and “zoom” about. Some love to dig as well. They cannot be left off leash in unsecured areas. If you let go of the leash or they get loose they’ll keep running leaving you calling their name in the wind. Even with extensive training, a Shiba in an open area will be unreliable off lead! (Review Escape Artists)
Most Shibas like new challenges so they generally take well to many outdoor activities with their humans. However, for off-leash play and exercise owners need to have a fully fenced enclosure that is high and secure enough to be escape proof. If living in an apartment, a large fenced park area for them to run around and play in for daily exercise is ideal.
They can be tricky, fleet-footed escape artists and this is how many Shibas end up in rescue.
Shibas aren’t for everyone. If you want a dog who clings to you and is emotionally dependent on you, who you can walk off-leash, who always comes when called, forget the Shiba. They’re independent, headstrong, creative, and extremely inquisitive! However, they do make wonderful companions for those who understand their nature, are willing to patiently train them, socialize them properly, and keep them on leash when out and about.
This intro to the Shiba was originally written by Patrice Grossman for Mid Atlantic Shiba Rescue. Used by permission.
Do Shibas get Along with Other Animals?
Generally, if a Shiba has been properly raised around small animals such as cats, it should acclimate to small pets in a new home. However, there are some cases where a dog is raised with a particular pet and although it gets along with THAT pet, the dog may chase all other animals outside of the family.
Keep in mind that Shibas were bred to hunt small game and in some cases, life with other small pets will be impossible. A Shiba with strong hunting instincts will try to flush out your other household pets from under your couch etc. with less than desirable results.
Just as in humans, each Shiba is an individual and some dogs just do not like other pets, dog or cat. Our foster parents make every attempt to evaluate each Shiba to determine its suitability for life with other pets in a new adoptive home.
Do Shibas get Along Well with Children?
Usually, if a Shiba is kindly raised and socialized around children they make excellent family companions. However, do to a Shiba’s tendencies as an escape artist, extra precautions must be in place to avoid allowing dogs to dart outside as children enter and exit the home!
Adult supervision is a must around any dog who is among children. NO DOG SHOULD EVER BE TEASED OR TORMENTED BY A CHILD. It is up to parents to guide children on how to properly interact with a pet.
Be aware, there are some animals like humans who do not care for interaction with children. Again our foster parents make every attempt to evaluate each Shiba to determine its suitability for a particular family.
“Shibas With Children and Pets” was originally written by Patrice Grossman for Mid Atlantic Shiba Rescue. Used by permission.
Outside of routine vet visits for vaccinations and heartworm testing etc you should see to the basic grooming and hygiene of your pet.
Brush That Coat
Brushing the coat removes loosened hair and keeps shedding down to a minimum. Do not worry if you Shiba suddenly sheds in masses, unless you see bald patches underneath (see allergies ). Most Shibas will blow their coat twice a year. At that time they will look like moths have invaded.
When a Shiba sheds it does not shed lightly but explodes hair almost overnight. During this time there will be an extreme amount of hair that needs to be groomed out over several sessions to keep the dog from getting sore from brushing.
(What you see in this picture is a Shiba posing after a single grooming session. Behind the dog is a pile of hair that has been removed with a slicker brush. The hair mass covers 18 inches and is 2 inches deep.)
A nice warm bath and a good brushing will loosen the hair so that the shed can be completed more quickly. Usually in two to three weeks.
Do not bath your pet in cold weather and then allow it to run outside!! A Shiba’s coat keeps it warm in winter and cool in summer assisting in repelling the weather. If your dog is soaking wet it will not be able to maintain its body temperature in the cold or heat. It takes a Shiba’s coat a while to dry, so make sure there is a nice warm place to finish the salon treatment and for the coat to dry out thoroughly in cold weather. A good towel rubbing in summer and a shady spot are in order in
If you are fastidious about hair that floats about or you allergic to fine hair then this breed may not be for you.
Brush Those Teeth
At minimum your Shiba should have its teeth brushed once a week. Providing bones does not take place of brushing your pets teeth. (To get your pet used to a dental tip, brush or gauze, place yummy items on it such as peanut butter or liver flavored tooth paste. Be gentle as you work over the surface of teeth and gums. You can switch to non flavored canine dental paste later. Avoid toothpaste with sugar.)
Broken teeth are not considered a genetic issue as are missing teeth. However, broken teeth can cause difficulty in eating and contribute to abscessed gums and sinuses. Loss of more than one tooth will be the result if infection sets in.
Broken teeth occur if you pet has been given too hard of an object to chew on. Slab fractures of teeth in many cases go unnoticed because the actual tooth particle shears off at an angle and has been swallowed. Brush your Shiba’s teeth regularly and look to see how those back molars are doing.
Many Shibas are considered power chewers and will devour whatever they can find in their path. Culprits in aiding broken teeth are Nylabones or Durables, super hard shin bones, hard pressure compressed plastics, and chew hooves.
As an alternative, provide rope bones, flexibones or gum bones instead. Other items to consider are some rawhide chew flips or planet dog items so that your pet gets used to chewing softer products.
The general rule of thumb is, if it is too hard for a human to chew on, the enamel on the dogs tooth will not hold up either. The majority of chew products are not consumer safety tested as are human consumables, so you will need to be the best judge of flexible chew items for your pet. Always supervise dogs when they are eating rawhide. (Tip: Do not leave two Shibas alone together with rawhide or you may have a heated argument on your hands).
Trim Those Nails
Excessively long nails can lead to injuries during obedience and agility trials. At the very least they ruin your rugs, floors, and couch as well as providing additional momentum for digging under fences and enclosures. Trimming of nails every two weeks after adulthood keeps the quick from growing too far down the nail. As puppies you must keep up with weekly nail trims to avoid the quick from growing too far down. Once the quick develops to a particular point it is difficult to trim beyond it without injury.
The majority of Shibas hate nail trimming and will run the other direction if they see the trimmers. However, once they get used to it and gentleness is used they usually concede.
If you happen to have a dog that just won’t tolerate trimmings at all, without working itself into an apoplexy, see your vet to get the job done or in worst cases if you can live with long nails have trimmings done at an annual teeth cleaning when the dog is sedated.
This overview of basic Shiba Inu grooming and care was originally written by Patrice Grossman for Mid Atlantic Shiba Rescue. Used by permission.
Shibas tend to have overall good health. However, although they normally have decent health and are free of many genetic diseases that plague other breeds there are a few health issues that a Shiba owner must be aware of.
2) Patella Luxation
Glaucoma in the Shiba Inu
GLAUCOMA is a disease of the eye that generally tends to come about after age three. If you notice squinting or tearing of your dogs eye when in light or cloudiness over the cornea, get your pet to a canine Ophthalmologist immediately. We can not emphasize this enough!!
Although a regular vet may be well equipped to handle your pets basic health, he/she will not have the equipment needed to determine detailed eye problems. If immediate treatment is needed, a general practice vet will not be able to perform emergency surgery for the eye in a timely fashion. Never leave what appears to be an eye injury unchecked, even if it seems minimal.
If caught early (within the first 24 hrs) the sudden onset of glaucoma can be treated successfully.
Generally with glaucoma, your pooch will have one heck of a headache, be lethargic, and may be more irritable than normal with you or other housemates do to pressure behind the eye(s).
If Glaucoma is left untreated your Shiba may lose its sight permanently thus requiring more invasive procedures such as the removal of the eye itself.
As a precaution, any Shiba by the age of 2 should see a canine Ophthalmologist. Pressure readings while the dog is young and the eye is normal and healthy should be recorded. The record will be a good measure for comparison later if your dog’s eyes begin to fail.
Always keep good health records on your pet so that you can refer back to them as your Shiba ages. Periodic eye checks will help keep your Shiba in good health!
Patella Luxation in the Shiba Inu
PATELLA LUXATION is the dislocation of the ligament of the knees. On dogs the knees are located on the dog rear hind legs at the curve of the thigh. There are various grades of Patella Luxation and the majority are not debilitating.
Your vet will be able to determine the grade and degree of luxation once the problem has been diagnosed. If you pet experiences lameness after exercising and running about, for example hopping about or holding its leg straight back, this may indicate that there is a weakness in the knee(s) or possibly in another area such as the hips. Cease your pet’s vigorous activities until you obtain a diagnosis from your vet.
Hypothyroidism in the Shiba Inu
HYPOTHYROIDISM in Shibas is generally characterized by lethargic behavior, rough coat, and obesity. In many cases there is a change in temperament as well.
If you pooch is packing on the pounds although you are not over feeding and you are fully exercising your dog daily, then you should think about having your Shiba tested. This disease is easily treated with simple medication given daily.
Seizures in the Shiba Inu
SEIZURES can occur in many breeds of dog. In general, genetics determine the longevity and overall disease factor for most mammals. If seizures occur in your Shiba you will need closely monitor the dog to determine if medication is appropriate for the stage of your Shiba’s life in relation to the progression of the disease. Keep a journal or log of seizure bouts and what triggered the episode. Always consult your vet about treatment options and degree of severity so that your pet can live as comfortably as possible with as few episodes as possible.
Allergies in the Shiba Inu
ALLERGIES in Shibas are common particularly in the lower southern U.S. where seasons typically stay warm and fleas continue to thrive all year.
Allergies can run the gamut and can occur in northern spring season as well during high pollen counts. Inhalation allergies can be quite common in the breed.
Symptoms vary from dog to dog based on the allergen.
Typical symptoms of allergies, like in humans, are runny eyes, swollen eyelids, excessive sneezing or hacking.
In many cases the dog will rub its face on carpet, blankets, or towels, further irritating its nose and eyes and causing fur loss on extremities.
Grass and flea allergies may spurn on excessive licking or de-fleaing of feet or hindquarters. Pulling out of fur and just insane digging although only 1 flea is found are the results of flea dermatitis
In all instances see your vet as soon as possible before symptoms are out of control and your dog is miserable.
This overview of Shiba Inu Health was originally written by Patrice Grossman for Mid Atlantic Shiba Rescue. Used by permission.
Adopting A Shiba
Shibas are not recommended for first time dog owners, or the faint of heart. They can be aloof, challenging, unreliable, unpredictable, and driven by a need to control situations. At the same time, they are intelligent, independent, bold, alert to their surroundings, and with obedience training, socialization and a committed owner willing to meets their needs, they can and do become devoted, loyal companions. They learn quickly, responding best to positive reinforcement and motivation, but quickly become bored with repetition. They don’t work for free, with most expecting treat rewards, some prefer a toy, but all thrive on praise for their accomplishments, and a job well done.
Shiba puppies are irresistible little balls of fur, always ready to learn and explore the world around them. Positive interaction with humans, both adults and children, and socialization with dogs of all ages should begin early, and continue throughout their life. Shibas are fastidious, so housetraining usually isn’t an issue. Because of their inquisitive nature, crate training is a must for their safety, especially when left home alone. Puppies can be very mouthy, and need to be reminded from the start what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Biting, nipping, and chewing on anything other than their toys or chew bones is not acceptable. By redirecting the behavior to what is acceptable, they will learn what’s expected from them. Bitter apple sprayed on furniture and rugs will also discourage chewing and destructive behavior.
Around the age of six months, Shibas start to mature, and their cute puppy behavior can give way to testing and challenging. Spaying/neutering at this time is recommended, not only to reduce accidental breedings, but it also has health and behavioral benefits. Altering helps protect females against breast cancer (especially if they are spayed before their first heat), and males against enlarged prostate and testicular cancer. Neutering males also lessens aggression towards other male dogs, roaming, and marking territory indoors.
Also, between the age of six months and a year, Shibas can exhibit behavior consistent with toddlers known as “Terrible Twos.” It’s their time to test rules and challenge owners. Commands they may have readily responded to previously are ignored. Their new mission in life becomes one of controlling situations. Mouthiness can take on a whole new meaning during this time, and it needs to be addressed as quickly as it starts. If allowed to continue, snapping, nipping, snipping, or pinching can lead to biting and aggressive behavior, becoming a liability for an owner, and creating safety issues for everyone coming in contact with the Shiba. During this time, obedience training and socialization is mandatory to establish leadership, and reinforce rules. A strong, confident leader must be in control of all situations, but also must be patient and fair with expectations, while meeting the needs of a maturing Shiba. Positive reinforcement and motivation, along with training and socialization will build a relationship of trust and respect.
By remaining consistent with expectations and demands, meeting the physical and mental needs of a Shiba this age, an owner will begin to experience the joys of sharing life with their companion. Some Shibas, most often those with a more dominant personality, can go through another period of testing and challenging between the age of 18 mos to two or even three years. Sometimes referred to as “Troubled Teens,” they can become full of themselves, testing and challenging everything again, trying to rewrite the rules. A few refresher courses, repeating classes in obedience, together with patience and consistency will help guide them in the right direction. Many times it’s this behavior, at this age, when rescue is contacted for a Shiba needing to be surrendered. Owners feel overwhelmed and unable to work with the out-of-control Shiba. The behavior doesn’t happen overnight, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t addressed immediately. If it had been, it could have been corrected. Most problems are fixable if an owner is willing to put the time and effort into making it right.
Once a Shiba reaches three years of age, an owner will begin to see more positive changes. Some mellowing, less testing, and a Shiba more focused on living life to the fullest. This is a great age, and it gets better with every year that follows. The life span for Shibas is approximately 16 years. Unlike some of the larger breeds, Shibas don’t hit their prime until about 6-7 yrs of age, but remain quite active well into their senior years. Because of the breed’s versatility, exploring activities such as agility, tracking, flyball, carting, and lure coursing, can give new direction to any relationship. Shibas have the ability to accomplish just about anything when given the opportunity to learn and train. All they need is an owner willing to work and train with them. Some Shibas prefer nothing more than being couch potatoes, or guarding their home and yard. Those are also very noble activities, and should be respected as such. All Shibas love adventures, especially spending time sniffing and marking the great outdoors. It’s not the quantity of time, but the quality of time spent with a Shiba that forms an everlasting bond with a loyal companion.
One big downside of owning a Shiba many people have a problem understanding or accepting is, “A Shiba Must Always Be Leashed” outside a secure area. Shibas were originally bred to hunt and track, and this trait is still very strong in most Shibas. Given an opening, whether a door, gate, window, etc., most Shibas will follow their instincts to run with the wind. Some Shibas can be real escape artists, climbing over or digging under fences, and even squeezing through very small openings. Invisible/inground fences are not recommended for this breed because Shibas will take the jolt when they want to leave, and it doesn’t keep other dogs out of a Shiba’s territory. Another dog coming into a Shiba’s yard, uninvited, could cause the Shiba to become aggressive. Age or amount of training doesn’t seem to make a difference with Shibas running, and most often they don’t respond to being called, can’t be chased, and very seldom return on their own. Too often a Shiba pays with its life, and some are never seen again.
Two very important questions need to be answered before committing to a Shiba; “Is A Shiba Right for Me,” and “Am I Right for A Shiba?” They aren’t for everyone. Education is the Key. There’s more to a Shiba than size, color, and look. A potential owner must be prepared and committed to meeting all of the challenges of a Shiba, and dedicated to do whatever it takes throughout the life of their companion. Shibas require a committed owner who is willing to put time and effort into the relationship, and realize life with a Shiba is always a “work in progress.” It also helps to have a sense of humor, and understand you will be humbled by your Shiba more than once. Sharing life with these wonderful, entertaining creatures is priceless. When your Shiba talks to you with its dark, penetrating eyes, and you understand what it’s saying, then you’ve earned your way into the heart of your Shiba. When you’ve reached that point, your Shiba has already stolen your heart, and you’re completely hooked on this amazing breed!
Caution: Shibas are addictive, it’s hard to stop at just one!
“Is a Shiba Right For Me” was originally written by Carolyn Sanford for Northeast Shiba Rescue Association. Used by written permission.
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
Shibas are addictive, and most Shiba owners find it impossible to fight the urge to add “Just One More.” The reasons most often given for adding another Shiba are; my companion is bored, lonely, or needs a playmate. Like most dogs, Shibas live in the moment. When there’s nothing to do, they spend their time conserving energy until something spurs their interest, then explode into Shiba play. It’s hard to say whether a Shiba pines for a playmate, and difficult to know if adding another Shiba will make a difference in their life. One thing thats certain is a Shiba will accept a new addition, or not, but only on its own terms. Even though a Shiba enjoys playing with other dogs, sharing its home and people with a new addition may be a whole other issue.
Will they welcome the addition as a new pack member, or will they see a poacher in their territory? A new Shiba may be seen as more of a threat or intruder than a playmate, so don’t assume the existing Shiba will understand an owner’s good intention, or agree with the choice. An addition is competition in a world that was solely their domain. It’s times like this when an owner’s leadership will be tested to the limits.
Introduction and presentation of the new addition will set the mood for what will follow. Care needs to be taken when asking a Shiba to change its world, much the same as bringing a new sibling into the family. It isn’t possible to prepare a Shiba in advance for the new arrival, except socializing with other dogs, so taking the time to validate their position in the pack after the introduction is crucial. The future growth of the pack depends on it. An owner understands this is an addition, but will the existing Shiba feel “replaced?”
Quick decisions regarding feuding Shibas will become an everyday occurrence for an owner in the beginning. Planning ahead by assigning a pack order will help considerably when split second responses are needed. Keeping the pack order not only reinforces an owner’s position as pack leader, but also reduces fights for pack order between the Shibas. Obedience training and socialization is a must for a new addition. It will help form the bond needed between owner and companion, and secure an owner’s position as alpha. During this training time, guidance and patience will be needed, but allowing for slips with unacceptable behavior can lead to turmoil between pack members. It’s not uncommon to see the existing Shiba revert or exhibit unacceptable behavior when the new addtion challenges authority and rules. When there’s jealously or uncertainty about worth, getting attention becomes top priority, whether the attention is negative or positive. Even though unacceptable behavior will bring a reprimand, that’s attention, and for a Shiba feeling less than confident, that’s better than no attention at all. Inconsistency in expectations from either Shiba can cause unrest. Rules are to be followed. Breaking rules needs addressing immediately.
It can take as little as a few weeks or up to months for a new addition and existing Shiba to complete the transition. When owners say a trial period is needed to see if a new Shiba will work in the pack, with a guarantee to return if it doesn’t, is the weakness in the existing Shiba’s inability to accept an addition, or an owner unable to lead the pack? In all fairness to Shibas, a better guarantee might be an owner’s resolve to make it work, no matter what or how long it takes. Returning Shibas only adds more baggage to what they already have, plus it sends a message to the existing Shiba they control more than they should be allowed to control. If there’s an uncertainty whether a new addition will work, then possibly more time is needed to form a stronger bond with the existing Shiba before committing to the lifetime of an additional Shiba.
An owner’s biggest job will be to insure the existing Shiba feels comfortable with the new addition, confident about its place in pack order, and that its not being ‘replaced’. As leader of a growing pack, an owner’s position will be tested daily. The confidence gained through obedience training will be a lifeline during these times. An owner will feel more positive about decisions made because there will be a source, an obedience trainer, to draw from whenever there are questions, or problems. Without that support and guidance, an owner can become overwhelmed, and not give the pack relationship the time needed. What worked for the first Shiba may not work for the new addition, so an owner has to be prepared to learn new techniques and approaches while being consistent with existing rules and commands. Patience, understanding, fairness, while remaining in control of all situations is easier with a support system. Although it may seem hopeless at times during the transition, an owner’s time and effort will be rewarded when two Shibas curl up together or enjoy a day of romping outside. Forming a pack with Shibas can be a challenge. Some days everything seems positive, other days not so much, but remaining focused on a goal to make it work will eventually help the pack succeed. When that goal is reached, the biggest challenge for an owner is to quiet the urge to add “Just One More.”
“Just One More” was originally written by Carolyn Sanford for Northeast Shiba Rescue Association. Used by written permission.
Training & Living With Your Shiba
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.
It seems the number of Shibas participating in activities or out socializing with their owners is increasing weekly. This is a wonderful way for owners to bond with their companions but also a great way to challenge Shiba abilities and satisfy energetic needs. Along with their introduction into society, more questions are being raised regarding Shiba aggression toward dogs. This behavior often seems to escalate between the ages of nine months to three years. Each Shiba matures at their own pace, and during this time becomes aware of the two worlds that challenge them. They are driven by their instincts while trying to respond to the expectations in our world. It really isn’t much different than watching children become adults and go through their ‘troubled teen’ years. Even though this type of behavior needs to be addressed, owners must be cautious about labeling a Shiba ‘aggressive’. This type of mindset can affect a relationship before it ever has a chance to grow.
If there are no medical reasons and a Shiba is healthy, then reading the Shiba and learning what they are saying is a better way to approach questionable behavior. Don’t assume the Shiba has a bad temperament because it isn’t welcoming every dog with open paws. Thought needs to be given to their original purpose, how they would be expected to perform their tasks plus one needs to consider how the other dog is presenting itself to the Shiba. A Shiba should never show aggression towards humans.
If the Shiba didn’t have the opportunity for early socialization or training, has been taken advantage of by other dogs, or hasn’t experienced time with other dogs, their seemingly intolerant attitudes toward other dogs could be attributed to these things. Look deeper into what the Shiba is really saying about the situation and what needs to be done to redirect and encourage its growth. Even the best trained and socialized Shiba can have issues with some dogs. Because a Shiba reminds another dog about respecting their space, doesn’t mean they are aggressive, and because they are canines doesn’t mean their needs are any less important or valuable than ours. There are some Shibas who go after any and all dogs every chance they get, and should be consider aggressive. Whether this is due to temperament, a lack of good solid training or a lack of good leadership, only temperament testing could answer that question. The bigger problem with Shibas seems to be intolerance to rude dogs, that haven’t learned manners, and don’t know how to respect another dog’s space. The majority of time it merely comes down to understanding what the Shiba is actually saying, and what other dogs are or are not saying to them.
Breeding for temperament can eliminate true aggression in this breed but care needs to be taken not to lose the wonderful Shiba qualities that set this breed apart from other breeds. Through training, Shibas can learn manners, respect and how to remind a rude dog they aren’t welcome in their space. With some Shibas, reaching a point to where they will ignore dogs that push their buttons, but still respect that dog’s space, takes time and patience. It can be frustrating repeating the same training over and over with every new dog one meets, but it will happen if consistency, and the dedication to make it work is there.
For anyone who owns a Shiba, breeds and sells Shibas, or is thinking of committing to a Shiba, there is a very informative article which deals with this very topic. All breeders would do a great service to their buyers if they included this article in the information they supply. For all Shiba owners who feel their Shibas are aggressive and aren’t making the progress they had hoped for through training and socialization, this may help both you and your Shiba. The name of the article; “He just wants to say Hi!” by Suzanne Clothier. In fairness to our companions and the bond we want to become a reality, this is a Must Read. It may shed a whole new light on how you view the Shiba attitude. We owe it to our companions to understand where they are coming from. They are special and deserve the chance to be understood.
“Reading Your Shiba” was originally written by Carolyn Sanford for Northeast Shiba Rescue Association. Used by written permission.
Are Shibas biters? This question is an ongoing topic of discussion. Each time this unpleasant, but crucial, subject is debated, there seems to be either a lack of knowledge or a hesitation to admit the potential exists for any Shiba to bite at any age, any time, under any circumstances. It’s understandable when a new owner or person learning about the breed isn’t aware of the potential existing, but a breeder or seasoned Shiba owner should realize the possibility exists for any dog to bite at anytime, including a Shiba. Because the Shiba is such a strong-willed, independent breed, there is a need to educate regarding possibility, potential and reality.
Even though mouthing, nipping and/or biting seems to be the norm for young and maturing Shibas, that behavior needs to be addressed and eliminated. A big concern is for the mature Shibas who don’t normally show this tendency but start exhibiting unacceptable behavior with nipping, biting and becoming aggressive. An even bigger concern is with owners who seem to be living with a false sense of security, not understanding the potential for Shibas to revert when something is not right with their life. Medical problems or injury and pain can be a contributing factor for changes but if these have been ruled out other possible triggers need to be examined. Biting can be caused by fear, lack of self-confidence, change in lifestyle, addition to the pack or absence of a pack member. Any one or a combination of these plus many other possibilities can be an underlying cause for a Shiba to feel threatened and bite. Many times warning signals are overlooked, a Shiba’s needs aren’t considered and owners haven’t been informed of the possibility for any Shiba reverting to self-defense. Because a Shiba was purchased from a reputable breeder who did everything right, bred for temperament, socialized, trained, doesn’t insure that Shiba will never feel a need to lash out if it feels threatened whether the threat is real or imagined. Even breeders who have never had a problem with a Shiba in the past are not exempt from the potential of this happening. Downplaying the possibility, for whatever reason, or glossing over by comparing the Shiba to breeds where the potential is even greater, does nothing to protect owners or Shibas.
Not addressing this aspect of owning a Shiba would be a disservice to the breed as a whole. Not acknowledging the potential for this reality exists, and not educating owners or prospective owners of the possibilities does nothing to protect the breed or individual Shibas. Does acknowledging this problem exists in the Shiba breed mean it’s a trait? No, but being realistic about the potential and acknowledging possibilities exist through the life of any Shiba may help to control the number of incidents and the public assuming this is a trait. Educating is the key to success, and we need to keep this in mind when it comes to something that isn’t the norm, but where a potential exists for it to become a reality.
This description of Shibas was written by a Shiba Fancier, and addresses the Shiba’s natural instincts when it comes to biting:
“I feel that the potential for a Shiba to bite boils down to two things: (1) The temperament of the individual dog and (2) Shibas are primitive dogs.
(1) Individual dogs: I think temperament can be genetically determined to a large degree. Just like with people, some Shibas come from trouble free backgrounds, yet are fearful of new things or very dominant and aggressive. Some Shibas have come from a long history of hardships and are still calm and sweet. But when faced with challenges, I think Shibas can revert to basic non-submissive self-defense behavior (i.e., displaying aggression) more readily than maybe a retriever or a collie would. In short, they are more likely to snarl than cower.
(2) I tell all potential adopters that shibas are primitive dogs, like dingos, or basenjis. (That surprises many people). I tell them that Shibas are domestic dogs that have NOT been selectively bred to be puppy-like as adults for thousands of generations, as have retrievers and poodles. Nor have Shibas been selectively bred NOT to hunt and kill small animals, as have spaniels and collies. Shibas are intelligent, verbally communicative, strong-willed, independent, and some even panic easily, almost like a wild animal.
You can’t treat Shibas like a little lap dog because they’ll walk all over you. You can’t treat Shibas like a collie or a retriever and order them around or they will give you their little Shiba middle fingers and be disobedient just to make a point. Like all animals, Shibas will bite unless they are taught it is not productive or tolerated. (Even human toddlers have to be taught not to bite). If they learn that biting can get them places, then they use it! Many will try out biting as a tool, just as toddlers test their parent’s limits. Unfortunately in today’s society, we think all dogs should be utter milquetoasts, unaware that they have teeth. If people choose to keep a small domesticated wolf, they need to be aware that they must teach it how to live in the pack established by the humans. I guess just as we like to forget that the red meat tidily packaged at the super market was once a cow prancing through the fields, we like to forget our dogs were once (and essentially still are) wolves.
I think Shibas are closer to wolf/dingo behavior than less primitive breeds. I find their behavior fascinating, and really enjoy the trust and relationship I have built with each of my Shibas. I tell people that if they want a doting slave, get a border collie. If they want a loving companion they will have to respect and out-think, if they have patience and a sense of humor, get a Shiba.”
Respecting the potential of this breed and working to keep life safe for all concerned is the only way to insure the Shiba Breed doesn’t gain a reputation it doesn’t deserve. Informing owners, prospective owners and future owners is the best way to make this the reality. Owning a Shiba is a life long process of reading your Shiba, listening to what it is saying to you about its world and realizing that Shibas can and will do what they need to do if they feel there is something threatening their life.
“Shibas and Biting” was originally written by Carolyn Sanford for Northeast Shiba Rescue Association. Used by written permission.
Other Sites With Fabulous Shiba Information
Information on temperament, training, showing, the AKC and Nippo standards, rescue, advice on finding the right dog, and links to other Shiba and general dog resources.
National organization which promotes and standardizes the description of the breed. Includes breed standard, health issues, breeder directory, and list of regional clubs. Contains information on membership, rescue, awards, and events.
Courtesy listing available dogs from all over the United States, volunteer application form, how to list a dog, how to adopt, and ways to help.