Meet The Shiba

Owning a Shiba is not like owning other dogs.

Okay, everyone says that.  This is one of the breeds that, if you say you like it, the owners immediately go into a litany of why it’s not the right breed for everyone and that its natural temperament is somewhere between Vlad Tepes and that bitchy girl in 7th grade who tripped you going into Math class.

But, really, it’s not.

Shibas are this Beagle-sized breed of dog that looks like a tiny husky.  A little fox.  A Corgi.  A Basenji.  Mini-Akitas.  They’re 20ish pounds and they usually come in red.  But they could be black and tan.  Or sesame, which is a colour hard to describe, but looks like you took the red dog, rolled it in some glue and then in some charcoal.

But what we really want to warn you about is the temperament.  They’re great little dogs. Except when they’re not.  Except if you try to clip their nails.  Or brush their tails.  Or do anything – ANYTHING with their ears.  But they’re great little dogs. But there’s that other dogs thing.  Some of them play with other dogs.  Others destroy them in small bites, like furry piranhas.  It’s worse if there are two of them.  They feed off each other.  Oh, no, they don’t fight together.  Well, except for that one time.  That was a $250 vet bill.  But normally, they’re very nice.

Do they learn quickly?  SO quickly!  Then they use it against you.  Recalls are virtually unknown here.  Oh, this one is okay with the recall, but that just means they’ll come up to you if there’s nothing else to do.  You are the most boring thing on their walk or run or whatever you’re doing and, if there’s something better, good luck getting them to come back.  They never will.  Oh, one did this one time, but it was a fluke.  And a hunk of cheddar.

Grooming?  They’re so clean; they practically bathe themselves.  Well, there was that mud incident.  Bathing them is great if you are tired of hearing… everything.  They scream.  Did we mention the scream?  Like a train whistle crossed with a dying rabbit.  No, we’re not being crude; that’s how it sounds.  No, we haven’t actually been around a dying rabbit, but anyway, they’re loud.  They blow coat like Michelangelo painted – with great perseverance, as if they put their whole hearts into re-insulating your house.  We hope you like the colour cream.  We’ve already mentioned the nails?  Good.

How are they with kids?  Oh they can be great if raised with kids, but we do recommend older, respectful children.  Younger ones are merely springboards to the Cheerios.  Well, I wouldn’t say that they would bite them, but Shibas do like their space and aren’t always fond of darting youngsters.  Oh, and that little habit of Junior of grabbing dogs’ cheeks needs to be stopped yesterday.  I’m sure it’s cute and looks great in family photos, but your dog with Junior’s head in its mouth is going to look slightly less photogenic.

You have to go?  Well, it’s been great meeting you and introducing you to this wonderful breed that we love with all our hearts.  Maybe the Shiba isn’t right for you, but it is for us and – in some small way – that makes us special.

Fully Fenced Yard

One of my co-workers wanted an Australian Shepherd.  She is employed by the same dog daycare that employs me and works part-time for an obedience trainer, running the puppy training classes.  She already has a Boxer who attends daycare with her and occasionally demos in the classes.

She was turned down by two different kennels.  The reason: she didn’t have a fenced yard.

Another co-worker has finally moved into a place where she can have a dog.  She had been searching for the past few months for the right type of dog and was applying to adopt from some of the shelters in town.  She also works for the dog daycare and is hoping to find a medium-sized companion.

She was also turned down for not having a fenced yard.

I’ll tell you right now that stories like that make me rage.  You would think someone this obsessed with a breed that views front-door-bolting as an Olympic sport would be a stickler for secure fenced yards.

The truth is that I’ve never had a secure fenced yard and 2015 marks my 22nd year with Shibas.

Not actually a fully fenced yard.

Not actually a fully fenced yard.  At this point, the wood has rotted enough that it barely qualifies as ‘fenced’.

I realize that not all breeders and rescues use this as a deal-breaker, but I’ve heard enough stories about people being turned down for adoption solely due to their lack of a yard to make me pissed off.  Yes, of course, if there are other factors, certainly think twice about selling or adopting out a dog to someone.  But if there are no other factors, why is a fenced yard so damn important?

A fenced yard doesn’t make someone a responsible owner.

In fact, I think that it’s easier to be lazy with your dog if you can toss him in the yard instead of walking him.  I know that a lot of people do it.  Hell, if we lived in a medium-security prison, I might be okay with letting Tierce just wander out in the yard and do whatever he has to do.

Not having a secure yard means I actually have to get off my ass and interact with the damn dog, escorting him outside, preventing him from scarfing down cat shit and stopping him from aiming for the rotten fence boards that lead straight to the road.  Or, horrors, I or Mischa actually have to walk him.

Would I care if someone has a yard if I was adopting out a Shiba?  Well, yeah, I’m interested in the dog’s environment.  I’d want to know how the dog was going to get exercise and where.  However, I’d be looking for something like “I want to walk my dog.”  “I want to do a sport with my dog.”  “I want to teach my dog to bark in Pig Latin while it runs with me.”  Something that indicates that you don’t think that one-on-one exercise with the dog is something you do only if you feel like it, when you have time because, you know, you have a yard.  The dog can just run around in there every day instead of getting regular interaction with you and the outside environment.

What people who place dogs with people want is a good home where the dog will be loved and responsibly cared for.  A fenced yard just isn’t something that is going to ensure that a dog gets adequate exercise, appropriate and on-going interaction with society, or training.  Sure, it’s a perk, but it’s certainly not something that a dog must have to live a full life.

In fact, the number of dogs I hear barking in their yards and never see out with their owners would directly contradict that notion.  We walk in our neighbourhood at all hours; we know who walks their dog and who just opens the back door.

Now, according to the criteria of some breeders, rescues, SPCAs and shelters, I would not be approved for ownership of Tierce, due to the fenced yard thing.  Let’s take a look at Tierce’s experiences with not having a secure fenced yard:

Events in the Society for Creative Anachronism (medieval nerd club).  Not a fully fenced yard.

Society for Creative Anachronism event (our medieval nerd club).

Trestle on the Galloping Goose Trail, Saanich area.  Not a fully fenced yard.

Trestle on the Galloping Goose Trail, Saanich BC.

At Dogs in the Bakery in Victoria, B.C.  Not a fully fenced yard.

At Dogs in the Bakery in downtown Victoria BC.

In Fan Tan Alley, Victoria, B.C.  Not a fully fenced yard.

In Fan Tan Alley, Chinatown, Victoria.

On Government St, Victoria BC.  Not a fully fenced yard.

On Government St, downtown Victoria.

At Saxe Point Park Off Leash Area.  Not fully fenced.

At Saxe Point Park Off Leash Area, Esquimalt BC.

Hammond Bay Road area, Nanaimo BC.  Not a fully fenced yard.

Hammond Bay Road area, Nanaimo.

Sugar Loaf Mountain Park, Nanaimo BC, overlooking Departure Bay.  Not fully fenced.

Sugar Loaf Mountain Park, Nanaimo, overlooking Departure Bay.

Paddleboarding in Departure Bay.  If you think this is fully fenced in any way, there is no hope for you.

Paddleboarding in Departure Bay, Nanaimo.

Exploring the rock formations on Newcastle Island while paddleboarding.  No fences here.

Exploring the rock formations on Newcastle Island while paddleboarding.

Exploring the rock formations on Newcastle Island while paddleboarding.  No fences here.

At Paws for a Cause walk, Nanaimo.

Paddleboarding in Departure Bay, next to Jesse Island.  No fences.  I'm serious.

Paddleboarding in Departure Bay, next to Jesse Island, Nanaimo.

Off leash with his Shiba fan club.  Not fenced.

At the beach with his Shiba fan club, Nanaimo.

Diana Krall Plaza, downtown Nanaimo.  No fences.

Diana Krall Plaza, downtown Nanaimo.

On the BC Ferry, watching the coast slide by.  Fenced, but not fully.

On the BC Ferry, watching the coast slide by.

In Horseshoe Bay, near Vancouver, BC.  Not a fenced park.

In Horseshoe Bay, near Vancouver, BC.

Kayaking Nanaimo estuary.  Any fencing would have been submerged under high tide.

Kayaking Nanaimo Estuary.

Neck Point Park.  Not an off-leash area, but no secure fences.

Neck Point Park, Nanaimo.

Pipers Lagoon Park.  No fences.

Pipers Lagoon Park.

Petroglyph Provincial Park, Nanaimo BC, learning about petroglyphs and the people who made them.

Petroglyph Provincial Park, Nanaimo.

Tierce in his bicycle trailer.  I'm not even gonna tell you how much that cost.  We bicycle in unfenced locations.

Tierce in his bicycle trailer. I’m not even gonna tell you how much that thing cost.  North Nanaimo.

Top of Mount Benson, overlooking Nanaimo

Top of Mount Benson, overlooking Nanaimo

That dog has a fuller life than a lot of humans I know.  He gets plenty of regular activity that stimulates his mind and body.  How many dogs have this kind of life?  How would a fenced yard improve his quality of life?  I’m kind of leaning towards the opinion that it wouldn’t.  Sure, it would be a convenience, but it wouldn’t make his life any better than it is now.


My first co-worker finally got her Australian Shepherd puppy from a kennel in New Mexico.  Puppy is already clicker-trained on basic manners, is starting trick training, is housebroken, crate-trained and regularly comes to daycare to play with the other puppies.  She is also the demo puppy for the puppy classes.  She is laid-back, eager to please and well-adjusted to people, other dogs, loud noises, etc.

I kind of hope her person emails the breeders that turned her down with pictures when her dog gets her first obedience and agility titles.

My second co-worker just got a puppy.  After being turned down by rescues and rehomers six times because she didn’t have a fenced yard, she bought a dog from a breeder.