HISTORY PHYSICAL TRAITS HEALTH TEMPERAMENT
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There has been an unprecedented demand for puppies in 2020, and with that a rise in unscrupulous, even criminal actions. If you are looking for a Shiba Inu:
- The only way to guarantee a dog is purebred is if it is REGISTERED with the Canadian Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, or if overseas, the official kennel club of that country.
- Genetic health: it is not possible to 100% guarantee a dog won’t have some health issue, but if the parents and family have been screened and selected for sound structure and health, the odds dramatically increase. Shiba Inu breeding stock should be certified with OFA for hips, patellas and eyes.
- Breed Type: the reason to buy a purebred is predictability of size, shape, and to a certain extent, temperament. Along with that is the breeder’s commitment to protecting the heritage of that breed, which encompasses its historical form and function. There is a reason why any breed looks like it does, and a well bred Shiba is a total package of beauty, elegance, strength, agility, intelligence. The Breed Standard describes what the breed should be, and while you may not be wanting a show dog, you obviously want a dog that is a good example of its breed, in both looks and temperament.
- Temperament: a puppy’s temperament is influenced by genetics and environment. Therefore, parents should be available for you to assess. Shiba puppies not raised in-home with lots of human contact can be quite feral and more difficult to live with.
- There are disreputable breeders producing poor quality puppies in terrible conditions; there are also brokers who purchase puppies in bulk, and represent themselves as the breeders. These puppies are actually born in puppy mills, domestic and foreign. There are online puppy mills, fairly easy to identify (multiple breeds, mixes, cute photo sets). There are rescues that import dogs, with compelling stories of neglect designed to generate as much income as possible (referred to as ‘retail rescue’). And there are the scams where there is no puppy at all – send a deposit and never hear from them again.
It is fairly easy to check out any of the above – simply Google their names. Don’t send money anywhere until you are 100% sure you are dealing with reputable people. Ask questions, ask for photos/videos of parents of puppies.
Remember, the reputable breeders will be checking you out too!
Around 7000 BC the ancestors of today’s Japanese breeds accompanied the earliest immigrants to Japan. Archaeological excavations of the shell-mounds left by the Jomonjin show that they had small dogs in the 14.5 to 19.5 inch range.
In the third century BC, a new group of immigrants brought their dogs to Japan. These dogs bred with the descendants of the Jomonjin dogs, and produced canines known to have pointed, erect ears and curly/sickle tails. In 7 AD, the Yamato Court established a dogkeeper’s office which helped maintain the Japanese native breeds as an integral part of Japanese culture. Although the country was closed to foreigners from the 17th through 18th centuries, some European and Chinese dogs were imported and crossed with native dogs living in the more populated areas. Dogs in the countryside remained relatively pure.
From the original Japanese native dogs, six distinct breeds in three different sizes developed. They are the Akita (large size); Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kai (all four medium size); and the Shiba (small size).
World War II nearly spelled disaster for the Shiba and the other breeds, and many of the dogs that did not perish in bombing raids succumbed to distemper during the post-war years. After the war, Shibas were brought from the remote countryside and breeding programs were re-established. The remnants of the various bloodlines were combined to produce the breed as it is known today.
The Shiba Inu was recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1994, and by the American Kennel Club the following year.
At first glance, the Shiba Inu may look like a small husky crossed with a fox, or perhaps a very furry Basenji. The impression should be of a small, tidy athlete, with an alert expression.
The Shiba is a very proportionate dog with a height to length ratio of 10 to 11 (almost square shape). Height is measured at top of the shoulders, and length from front of chest to the ‘sitting bone’ – rearmost projection of the pelvis. Males are 14.5 to 16.5 inches tall, with females 13.5 to 15.5 inches. The weight varies according to height and substance, but generally males are 18 to 26 lbs, and 17 to 21 lbs for females.
It is a medium boned, moderately compact and well muscled dog of spitz type. Developed as a hunting dog, it must be quick, agile and able to turn on a yen.
The coat is dense and double: a soft, wooly undercoat with coarse guardhairs approximately 2″ long. Twice a year shedding occurs – it is a messy 3 week process. The breed is NOT hypoallergenic, but may be better for some allergies as their skin is quite dry and not oily.
Red, red sesame, and black & tan are the allowed colours. White/cream shadings are present on the legs, belly, chest and part of the face and tail – this is referred to as “urajiro”. Please note that true sesame is quite rare; more commonly seen are red dogs with heavy black tipping on their guard hairs known as a ‘dirty red’.
Cream/white dogs and long-hairs can appear, these are not desirable for showing or breeding, and are NOT rare or valuable varieties.
As a breed, Shibas can be described as sturdy, healthy little dogs, able to withstand the rigors of outdoor life as well as enjoying the comfort of indoor dwelling. They are easy keepers, and can run for miles with an athletic companion or take their exercise chasing a tennis ball around the backyard. Their catlike agility and resilience provide good resistance to injury, and the “natural” size and symmetrical proportions lessen susceptibility to conditions caused by structural imbalance.
Shibas do have some defects which all breeders should screen for, and affected animals not used in their breeding program.
Hip dysplasia occasionally occurs – mild dysplasia will not show any adverse clinical effects and the dog will lead a normal life; but again, should not be part of any breeding program. Xrays are needed to detect this condition.
Patellar luxation is not uncommon – it causes loose kneecaps and is usually not severe enough to be detrimental to a Shiba’s life, but should not be bred. An experienced veterinarian can detect this condition by palpation.
Eye diseases include PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) and Glaucoma, both of which are extremely serious. Both progress to blindness and are extremely painful. Early detection is important, but removal of eyeball may be required to lessen pain.
The above 3 conditions can be screened for, and certified by the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals), available for all to view.
Skin issues are an increasing problem in all dogs, caused by suppressed immune responses. Causes have not yet been identified, but vaccines, chemicals, allergens, parasites and other environmental factors may be involved.
A smattering of other issues have been reported, but none in numbers to indicate a problem in the breed.
The Japanese have three words to describe the Shiba temperament. The first word is “kan-i” which is bravery and boldness combined with composure and mental strength. The opposite of “kan-i” is “ryosei” which means good nature with a gentle disposition. One cannot exist without the other. The charming side of the Shiba is “soboku” which is artlessness with a refined and open spirit.
Shiba puppies are exemplary examples of canine cuteness, but are also fiery little fuzzballs-from-hell. They strut, posture, hunt their siblings, pounce without mercy, and the next minute are snuggling under your chin. These are “real” dogs – not wind up toys. Shibas require firm-but-fair discipline, consistency, and lots of human interaction. Early socialization is mandatory for the young puppy – they have to learn to trust and enjoy humans, which includes car rides, vaccuums, meeting strangers, and a host of other circumstances.
Generally, a Shiba puppy will integrate well into a household with pets already in residence. Please remember this breed was developed to hunt, so that pets like rabbits, hamsters, birds, etc are at high risk. Cats, on the other hand, are often preferred companions over other dogs. Intact (unaltered) males and females may find it difficult to co-exist with other intact animals as they mature and hormones start to kick in. Shibas have a strong sense of ownership – in other words, they don’t share.
Shibas have been described as stubborn, which is merely a reflection of their intelligence. They learn quickly, and also bore quickly. This is why obedience classes can be so challenging – a Shiba sees little reason in walking around and around in circles. Short, intense, and rewarding training sessions are the best way to educate a Shiba.
This breed has a very definite “personal space”, and the owner must be aware of that. Shibas do NOT like strange dogs intruding into that space, and will snarl or snap to protect themselves. They are not like Golden Retrievers that love everybody, it may take a Shiba several meetings before he decides that the new dog next door is OK. Do not get a Shiba if you are looking for a dog to run loose at a dog park and have lots of doggy friends.