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A long time ago, in 1974, we welcomed a little black bear of an Akita puppy into our lives. “Tamyu” introduced us to the world of dogs and we participated in both obedience and conformation. She was bred once, and produced our beloved Can. Ch. Dogstar’s Akuma-Za CD, one of the first Akitas in Canada to earn both an obedience and championship title. We came up with a more unique kennel name (SunoJo), added more Akitas, and our dogs went on to become Specialty winning champions in both Canada and the US. More important, their health, soundness, and temperament were second to none. SunoJo Akitas can be found in the backgrounds of many successful kennels around the world today. We lost our last Akita several years ago, but we still miss her immensely.
In 1985, a little red whirlwind joined our family. SunoJo’s Ginger Tornado became our son’s best friend and taught us what being Shiba was all about. We loved her dearly, but she wasn’t going to set the show ring on fire. It wasn’t long before ‘Smidge’ joined us – she was the total package of type, soundness and more than a dollop of Shibatude. She was bred to a Japanese import, produced the wonderful brother & sister team of Toshi and Mitsu, and we haven’t looked back since. SunoJo Shiba Inu are well recognized for their quality, health, temperaments – all around the world. We have had Shibas in the Top 5 every year since breed recognition, specialty winners in both the US and Canada, Best in Show, Best Puppy in Show, and group placements that I have long ago lost count of.
I started the journey to become a conformation judge, and while studying various breeds, I was introduced to the Japanese Chin. Our daughter Rowan was looking for a small breed she could take with her while working as a professional handler’s assistant – and that is how such a dependent, snub-nosed, unnatural, hairy little beast came into our lives. They are the exact opposite of Akitas and Shibas, truly being so very dependent on us, never running away (!!), and living only to be near those they love. We dabble in the breed – I have never considered myself to be a breeder of Chin – the few litters we did have were incredibly difficult to part with, as no one is considered ‘Chin-worthy’.
Over the years, I have instructed both obedience and conformation classes, been involved in both breed and all-breed clubs, and am now a CKC licensed judge for all breeds (Terriers on permit). We have downsized both our home and the number of dogs we keep, but if anything, my commitment to all things purebred dog has increased.
Our Breeding Program
We are a small kennel, concentrating on quality, not quantity. You will not see 20 or 30 breeding animals at our home – it is not necessary to keep a “herd” to produce some of the finest quality Shibas in North America. We also do not believe the Shiba is a good kennel dog – they are very personable individuals who require attention and love on a one-to-one basis.
SunoJo Shiba Inu have been among the top-ranked Shibas in Canada since breed recognition, and we are pleased to have sent dogs to South America and Europe, as well as to the US.
While we are extremely active in the conformation show ring, and plan our breedings to produce the next generation of champions, we have never faltered from our principles in selecting only the best breeding stock:
Temperament: All our dogs must be mentally sound, human oriented, and a pleasure to be around. Doesn’t matter how pretty they are if you can’t live with them!
Health: The breed is robust and generally healthy – BUT there can be hip, knee, heart and eye problems. Reputable breeders screen for these problems using proven veterinary methods (xray, opthomology, etc.). A clean bill of health, while necessary, does not preclude hidden problems, and is no proof of a dog’s genetic makeup. Hip, patella and eye certifications are issued by the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals).
Soundness: This is the dog’s physical structure, and how well it performs its function of moving a dog from Point A to Point B. The Shiba was developed as an all-day hunter – they should be able to run effortlessly and seemingly tirelessly. A dog with legs of incorrect proportion (too long, too short) will tire sooner. Legs that are not straight are prone to injury. Elbows that do not fit properly against the ribcage have too much pressure on them, and will develop arthritis. Too long a back means a weak back, and corresponding muscle issues. There are numerous other concerns, but it boils down to Mother Nature is not happy with an animal that cannot run, hunt, jump for its dinner (even when we humans supply dinner on a gold plate!).
Now that part is fairly straightforward – “type” is where fanciers differ in their opinion. I very much appreciate the esthetics of Japanese type, and attempt to follow the Japanese guidelines, while adhering strictly to our Standards.
We discriminate against:
- round and/or light eyes
- large, thin, upright ears
- loose skin, wrinkles
- overdone bodies, too much mass
We select for:
- dark, triangular, oblique eyes
- well filled – in muzzle
- thick, well furred ears
- clear coloured coats, with definite guardhairs
- well proportioned bodies – not short legged nor long bodied
- full and correct dentition
We do not breed every bitch, every season – it depends on the girls’ show schedule, what males are available, time of year (I don’t like Xmas puppies) and other factors.
Our puppies are born in the house, and spend their first 4 weeks underfoot or carried around (a lot!). It is essential that Shiba puppies learn to trust humans, and this is done by lots of contact in the first few weeks of life. This is still a primitive breed, and their first instinct is to avoid everything that is not “mom”. So it is our job to teach the puppies that humans are pretty wonderful friends – we bring food, warmth, and are good cuddlers!
How We Raise Our Puppies
Our property is all fenced, with .5 acre dedicated as “Shiba Only” yard. There they can be ‘real’ dogs, where they can run, dig, chew, chase squirrels & mice (ew) and do all their doggy stuff. The house yard requires they are less primitive – they have to be polite with the Chin, not dig up my garden, and no fishing in the koi pond! The puppies spend their outside time here, learning to come in and out of the house on their own, and exploring.
My office/dog room is the old ex-masterbedroom, complete with a renovated ensuite that includes a tub and grooming area. This means the dogs live in in ‘our’ environment – cool in the summer, and not-too-cold in the winter. We have reduced the number of dogs that we keep, so this is a very manageable system.
Puppies learn house routines quickly – I find by 4 weeks they want to potty outside and not in the house. Puppies become part of the family group – we have Japanese Chin (5 lbs of hair and attitude) who teach puppies to respect ALL dogs, no matter how small! Several of our adult Shibas are puppy-crazy, and love to play and entertain the little ones. That’s a nice break for Mom and for me!
We feed a combination of raw, cooked, and high quality kibble, and feel this is the best we can offer. Note: RAW bones only, cooked bones splinter and can kill your pet!
RAW: chicken parts (necks & backs) are given whole, starting at 4 weeks – not that they get much down, but they lick and start using those little teeth for more than chewing my fingers! Lamb bones are much loved. I do not recommend beef, as Asian breeds do not have the digestive enzymes to break this down. Pork I hate myself, so don’t feed it to the dogs. I do however give the dogs RAW large beef soupbones – safer than Greenies, rawhides, or pig ears/hooves.
COOKED: I cook chicken, lamb, or fish to produce a thick broth, and then strain out the bones. I then pick off the meat, add rice and pureed veggies and some herbs.
KIBBLE: We feed and recommend Petcurean brands – producers of GO, NOW and Summit. it is the best dry dog food we have found in over 30 years. Several varieties are available, most recently “with grain” which I prefer as that includes rice which is an historical food source for Shibas. It is not sold in grocery stores, but in pet food stores and some feed stores. I do believe that the high volume of potatoes/sweet potatoes/lentils being used in dry foods is NOT good for Shibas.
Immunizations: The American Veterinary Board recently released new protocols for immunizing dogs. Dr. Jean Dodds has done considerable research and I recommend going to her blog. It has long been believed by those in the dog world that our dogs were being over immunized, and these new protocols confirm that belief.
SunoJo puppies are seen by our veterinarians at 8 weeks of age, when they are given their first shots (EXCLUDING Lepto and Kennel Cough), and wormed. Their second shot should be given 6 weeks later. Each puppy is thoroughly examined, and recorded in an individual health folder. Puppies do not leave their mother prior to 8 weeks of age.
Yearly shots are NOT required – every three years is sufficient, and further studies may show that even these are unnecessary. Rabies should be given not before 6 months of age, and not within 6 weeks of any other vaccines. Recent studies show that vaccines may be effective for 7 years or more; titre testing is an excellent way to avoid overvaccination.
Please check the “Puppy” page for availability of puppies.
Whether you’re looking for a loving companion or exceptional showman, SunoJo consistently produces sound, healthy dogs of superb temperament – just what you’ve been looking for!