I liberated the photo at left of Shassi from Mom’s place so I could scan it for her birthday. In doing so, I found a picture of Tierce that had similar properties and was struck by the difference.
Shassi, at 3 months is already graceful and compact. She could run extremely fast (as we found to our chagrin) and in this picture, taken in 1993, she appears to have the structure that would later grow and solidify into a healthy framework for a female Shiba. She grew proportionately – while she did go through a gangly adolescent phase, it was relatively short. She “came together” at about a year and a half, although it would be another few months before she filled out.
Now look at Tierce’s photo. At 8 1/2 weeks in 2007, he’s already All Boy, with a big head and muzzle compared with Shassi’s more delicate accoutrements. With that maleness comes a chunky gangliness that is apparent even this early. His ears didn’t stand up completely for another 2 months or so, leaving me to wonder at the age of 3 1/2 months whether my Shiba was going to have Sheltie ears for the rest of his life. He took a long while to grow into his body, being around 2 years old when everything finally came together.
I found Shassi’s temperament to be more reminiscent of the Japanese ideal for their Shibas: very much her own dog and not given to really looking to us, the humans, for direction. She was playful in her youth, but matured early and she was never given to retrieving balls or sticks (although she did deign to chase them for a few minutes if she was really peppy).
Tierce at 2 and 1/2 years, is still playful, loves his toys – especially his Kong and his stuffed Dracula that intones I’m going to suck your blood! when squeezed – and actually will come when called (not super-reliably, but definitely regularly enough to qualify for some kind of Shiba World Record). He is the product, though, of almost 15 years of Sunojo breeding for temperament and health – the latest generations of Sunojo Shibas are happy, friendly dogs who will actually acknowledge your presence!
It may not be the Japanese ideal, but I think I like Tierce’s temperament better than Shassi’s. He’s still a Shiba, but he’s also a lot more fun to play with. 🙂 However, while I think it’s the product of careful breeding, there is a lot to be said for the differences between male Shibas and female Shibas. I have heard many times that the males tend to be friendlier with people (although not with other male dogs!) and more playful. It is somewhat unusual, as people accustomed to other breeds of dog usually used to the opposite – female dogs who are friendlier and more responsive to people and male dogs who are more aloof and aggressive towards them.