Hi! I thought I should mention that this page is one of the old incarnations of TMS. It is now BACK, due to popular request!!!
INTRODUCTION TO THE
HELLSPAWN SHIBA INU
(Frequently and not-so-frequently-but-should-be-Asked Questions)
Where did the Shiba originate?
We can blame the Japanese for developing a breed of dog to catch and kill small things like cute, fuzzy rabbits and larger things like ill-tempered, undomesticated pigs. Unsurprisingly, this is what the Shiba Inu still does best. Apparently, one would release the Shiba in a wilderness area and pray that something would react to the ball of fur exploding towards it before the Shiba disappeared into parts unknown or inaccessible to the hapless hunter. But we don’t know for sure.History continued much the same in Japan as it did in other countries – the powers-that-be contacted or got contacted by “Western culture” and country life went on more or less as usual. World War II marked a turning point for the Shiba in that the ones that weren’t turned into shish kebob or 8-legged, 3-eyed mistakes of Nature died of illness. This was brought on by the fact that veterinary science was not yet advanced enough to cost the dog owner thousands of dollars to preserve the life of a dog who would, upon recovery, hurl itself under the wheels of a truck in an attempt to catch a rolling marble.
After World War II, the dearth of psychopathic canines made itself felt through the gradual improvement of blood pressure levels. So, people decided to breed more Shibas to support the declining psychiatric profession, the veterinary profession, and the insurance industry. Eventually some people decided to take them to North America, where they have been merrily ignoring commands and killing small animals to the present day.
What does a Shiba look like?
According to everyone who doesn’t have one, a little fox. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this. Yes, this is my 20 pound, stocky, orange, screw-tailed fox. Thank you for informing me. Apparently Shibas are also indistinguishable from Akitas, Chows, wolves(?), Huskies, Pomeranians and Corgis(?). I haven’t been asked if Shassi is a pit bull yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.Your Flexi should be a size larger than recommended. You’ll find out why when your dog hits the end of it in pursuit of a rattler. Amazing, isn’t it how a 19-pound, gangly, year-old Shiba can feel like a Rottweiler when it wants something.
Agility is one of the hallmarks of the breed. After chasing the animal all over the neighbourhood, you’ll finally get your hands on… oh no, you didn’t. She simply squirted through your fingers. Guess you won’t be going to the bar tonight.
What is Shiba temperament like?
Shibas are completely and utterly cute, adorable, sweet, lovable… and psychotic. (A severe mental disorder, with or without organic damage, characterized by derangement of personality and loss of contact with reality and causing deterioration of normal social functioning.) Well, they are to you. But then again, insane people always think you’re nuts. Shibas have no clue why you don’t want them to kill Thumper or play tag on the freeway.Shibas have a high prey drive. High. Greyhounds run, Border collies herd, Labs retrieve… Shibas kill things. Lots of things. Things you didn’t think could be killed, like the toilet seat or your down comforter. By the way, how is your gerbil? Heard the wheel spin lately? I’d better check if I were you.
Where do I find a Shiba?
Unless suicide appeals to you, A) From a responsible breeder or B) From a responsible rescue. Animal shelters and SPCAs rarely have purebred Shibas floating in from Heaven, so it is unlikely that you will find one there. However, if you do, read the rescue section.THE BREEDER
From a breeder who is certifiably insane, no doubt. You’d have to be to even contemplate adding a miniature canine Jack the Ripper to your household. Just imagine breeding them.
You want a breeder who, without being rude or supercilious, asks you why the hell do you think you want to add the canine equivalent to a three-year-old on crack to your life. Then the right breeder will question you closely on your living situation, plans for the future and plans for troubleshooting. They will observe you with their dogs. They will tell you every bad thing that I have just told you, complete with personal anecdotes about the time when… and expect you to tell them what you’re going to do about it. Good breeders don’t just want “good homes”; they want great homes.
You should also be able to ask the breeder as many questions. How long have you been breeding? What is your standing with the Canadian Kennel Club? Are you a member of the breed club? What activities do you engage in with your Shibas? Do you test for joint and eye problems? What screening method do you use?
You want a breeder who tests for things like hip displasia, patellar luxation (slipping kneecaps) and elbow displasia and eye problems. In Canada, joint problems are usually screened and rated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (you can search for Sunojo’s Aka Shasta here under hips) or Ontario Veterinary College. PennHIP is another method of screening hips. professionals recognized by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation evaluate eyes for problems that could possibly originate from hereditary defect. Whatever method the breeder uses, they will be happy to show you copies of the certificates (for both parents) upon request. Shibas are prone to patellar luxation and some eye problems.
The dogs at the breeders are preferably house dogs, but not all breeders can accommodate their resident dogs in the house. So you’re looking for clean kennels, fresh water dishes and alert, active dogs. The mothers may look a little scraggly (who wouldn’t after giving birth to a litter of 2-6 puppies?) but they should be clean and healthy looking. No dog should have a thriving population of fleas, worms or festering sores. Your puppy should have been wormed and at least had its first shots – no puppy should leave the mother before 8 weeks except in exceptional circumstances. And, if you are getting a Shiba for the first time, you will not be dealing with these.
The dogs should be friendly. Shibas have problems with shyness and fearfulness – you want dogs who will accept your presence relatively quickly. As long as the breeder is there, the dogs should not be exhibiting excessive fear or aggression. A dog made available for contact should permit petting and examination. Shiba puppies should be confident in their surroundings and boldly move off to explore new places.
Good breeders usually want you to sign a contract stating that you will take care of your Shiba, spay or neuter it if pet stock, and return the dog to the breeder at any time for any reason if you cannot care for it. Contracts are the breeder’s way to ensure the welfare of their animals. Some contracts are slightly different for show animals or special circumstances but they all make explicitly clear your obligation to your dog.
Responsible rescuers have to be even more insane than responsible Shiba breeders, if that’s possible. Instead of starting out with healthy, responsibly bred stock, they choose to take in the abandoned, neglected Shibas that were the victim of the it’s-cute-let’s-buy/breed-it syndrome. These dogs often possess temperament or health problems of varying levels of severity, largely due to the fact that someone was too stupid or selfish to research the breed and/or be a responsible owner.
Rescuers are not created equal. Some are the genuine article – the people who go through hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars transporting, feeding, medicating, retraining and placing dogs into responsible homes. Again, you’re looking at the breeder criteria – are the facilities in which the dogs are kept clean? Do all dogs have access to fresh water? Are sick/injured dogs receiving proper treatment and/or medication? What steps does the rescue take to retrain dogs? Do all receive veterinary checkups before they are placed? Are all dogs spayed/neutered when placed? Does the rescue require some investigation into your reasons for wanting a Shiba and your living situation? How about affiliations with the breed clubs? These are all good signs of a responsible rescue.
Some people style themselves as “rescuers” when they are really a low-level puppy mill, an animal “collector”, or even a well-meaning person who is trying to save a dog’s life. Puppy mills are breeding operations carried on by unscrupulous individuals who breed without thought to the health, temperament or living conditions of the animals they harbour or produce. “Collectors” often start out as well-meaning individuals, but find that the care of all the animals they collect exceeds their income and ability. They sometimes don’t get help until the animals are diseased and dying or have bred to produce unhealthy, genetically unsound offspring. Well meaning individuals are not necessarily irresponsible, but they often do lack the knowledge needed to place the animal in a home prepared for the problems it may have.
Lack of knowledge is often the case with generic shelters and SPCAs, the employees of which are not always versed in the specific needs of specific breeds. Some shelters and SPCAs work closely with recognized rescues which accomplishes two things: the release of the animal into knowledgeable hands and the freeing up of a space in the generic shelter’s kennels for another needy dog.
Are Shibas hard to train?
Don’t bully your Shiba. Give the The Kohler Method of Dog Training away. Your Shiba will not obey you without a damn good reason. It could be treats, praise, a game of fetch or permission to tear something valuable apart. Provide it. You want to train your Shiba by screaming her name and jerking her head-over-paws? Be prepared to enjoy sudden deafness, the refusal to move AT ALL or ear-splitting screams that send the neighbours racing to call the SPCA. Unhappy Shibas will become timid, sullen, or aggressive and may resort to many entertaining behaviour problems that you will pay dearly to fix. If you want Lassie, get a collie.
Shibas are smart. It takes them minutes to learn a command and as many years to obey it with any sort of reliability. Maybe. They’ll get smarter if you feed them bits of bacon or whatever treat they like best when they do something right. With frequent, consistent training, you may be rewarded with a Shiba who just might, if the weather is right and there is nothing to chase or destroy in the surrounding area, come when called. Don’t count on it.
Observe that while Shibas are learning commands, they also are figuring out A) how a lead works, B) how it doesn’t work when you’re not attached to it, C) how long it is (to the last inch), D) how fast you can run, and E) how fast they have to run to keep the lead skittering three feet ahead of you.
I cannot stress this enough
Do NOT trust your Shiba off-lead unless you are certain that she will come when called immediately. Most Shibas won’t. In this case, unless you wish to join the statistics of owners who say “Well she was always well behaved until…[insert tragedy here]” do not let your Shiba run free in an uncontained area. You will regret it.
How are Shibas with other pets?
I don’t know, can they catch it and eat it?Dogs
Shassi was brought into a household of two other dogs and three cats. She got along very well with my other two dogs and the dogs she met when she was a puppy. She does NOT get along with any others with the exception of dogs she was introduced to over a period of time. Male, female, spayed, neutered – it’s all the same to her. One has not lived until one has held a 20 pound Shiba Inu who is raging at the end of a lead because a now bemused Rottweiler or American Pit Bull Terrier has sniffed her tail.
Beware. Shassi’s mother has a split ear from a kennel fight with another Shiba. They don’t call ‘em bitches for nothing. Apparently Shibas, especially the females, are bad for this. The males of this breed are surprisingly less likely to cause mayhem in the canine community. Many Shiba males are very good with other dogs. But be prepared to handle and, more importantly, prevent dog-to-dog aggression.
If the pet in question can catch and eat them, your Shiba may decide to compromise. When I got Shassi, our cats towered over her. When she got big enough to tower over the cats, they had already informed her that she would be nicknamed Ol’ One-Eye if she ever messed with them. She got the message and lives in harmony with the family cats to this day. Shibas can get along very well with cats if introduced at a young age and all predatory aggression is strictly discouraged.
Shibas have an extremely high prey drive. If it’s small enough and runs away, your Shiba will kill it and eat it. If your hobby is raising canaries, garter snakes, and field mice, you may want to invest in another breed. Do not obtain a Shiba Inu if your passion is watching lemmings run free in your living room. Do not trust your Shiba with vulnerable livestock. You may see your chickens as an investment in egg money; your Shiba will see them as Outdoor Buffet. Your Shiba has highly developed instincts; do not expect it to love your other pets or recognize that they are under your protection.
How are Shibas with children?
This question gets me every time. The person asking this often expects a black/white answer based on the dog’s breed. Well, it doesn’t work that way and it never has. It hinges on how the children are with the Shiba and how responsible the parent or guardian is. Any brat can teach a dog to hate kids. On the flip side, any breed of dog can live harmoniously and safely with children if it is raised and trained to respect children and also is respected by them. This is the owner’s FULL responsibility.
Never trust any dog alone and unsupervised with very young, strange or abusive/troubled children. If something BAD happens, it happens because YOU were stupid enough to leave a creature whose instincts and reactions are completely different from your species’ alone with a completely clueless pre-adult human. Dogs are NOT furry people, they do NOT share our cultural and moral values and they should NOT be expected to reason out our social mores.
Smart owners socialize early. They bring big bags of treats to playgrounds and get children of all ages to feed the puppy (with associated lessons on no biting and no snatching food). They encourage children to pet the puppy and play supervised, non-aggressive games like fetch or sit-for-a-treat. They condition the dog to sit when a child approaches (in anticipation of a treat) and never to jump up. They strictly discourage all forms of aggression from mouthing to mounting with immediate correction.
Fucktards leave their puppy alone with children. They expect the dog to automatically love and guard their children. They expect the dog to put up with abuse and mauling with no sign of aggression. They don’t bother to teach the children how to control the dog or the dog to see the children as above it on the social ladder. Since a Shiba Inu is a cute, fuzzy, small breed, they allow their kids to treat it like a worn teddy bear. When (note I say ‘when’, not ‘if’) the dog bites, they either toss the dog out in a yard or on a chain or ignore the aggression until the dog really attacks.
Shibas do not, as a rule, attack and kill toddlers on sight. They will, however, rightfully resent fingers pushed into their eyes, tail-pulling or attempts at hugging (this is a dominance behaviour and Shibas don’t do dominance from Terrible Twos). Accept that your dog is a cute kid-magnet and teach the children around you how to properly respect it. No matter how gentle the child is with your dog, stay well within hauling off distance should something happen. It’s not likely to if you do your job right, but you don’t want your dog to get the notion that children mean anything other than treats and fun things.
Years after the initial child socialization, Shassi still thinks that children are hot dog dispensers. She associates children with positive things and is less likely to behave aggressively or fearfully. Should a child somehow get past my guard and rush up to Shassi, her first impulse is not to bite or run away. She is aloof with adults but very friendly with young children and is not bothered by children running or screaming around her.
Never let your Shiba view kids in any other way.
What about grooming? Do Shibas shed much?
Shibas don’t shed; they do the canine version of Hiroshima.
It is somewhat disconcerting to find your sleek little dog resembling a Brillo Pad. In the space of a few days, your house is filled with downy little mats that strain your coffee and add substance to your food. People start smiling condescendingly at you and ask if you happen to have a dog. Your carpet goes from dark brown to a light cream color.
The underfur that comes from one Shiba during one shedding season would do credit to a dog four times its size. They don’t think like small dogs and they certainly don’t shed like small dogs. Slicker brushes and pin brushes are invaluable tools in dealing with the choking clouds of fur and should be part of any Shiba owner’s grooming tools. A grooming rake is also a very good tool to have.
It must be noted that Shiba undercoat comes out most efficiently when adhered to formal dress, any sort of food, or dog-hating visitors.
Do they chew? Bark lots? Dig?
Do they chew? More properly, what DON’T they chew? Shassi has destroyed library books, my mother’s Bingo markers (on top of the ruins of Mom’s favorite pillow), my Tetris Gameboy cartridge (am I dating myself or what?), and many other previously valuable objects that now resemble recycled cat vomit. She’s gotten better now that she’s grown, but every so often finds it amusing to remind us of our complacency. Remember that this dog is entirely willing and able to jump onto tables and low shelves in order to redecorate your house.Do they bark lots? Only if you let them. If you are one of those owners the rest of us love to hate, you’ll leave your Shiba out on the deck to bark her head off at dogs, people, birds, insects, leaves… Learn to take your dog inside the house when it starts barking. Bored dogs bark. Give your Shiba something to do.
Shibas miss their country of origin and most if not all have dedicated some portion of their day, if possible, to digging back to Japan. Failing this, digging under the fence or in the garden will serve as an acceptable alternative. Supervise your Shiba in the yard or resign yourself to craters everywhere.
Fenced yards are not a substitute for walking and training your Shiba. If you don’t want to do these regularly and frequently, please, please, please invest in a goldfish. Dogs need stimulation and believe you me, if your Shiba doesn’t get enough stuff to do, she will find her own entertainment. Providing different amusements and proper confinement for your Shiba is what you do if you wish to keep her from chewing your computer cords, tunnelling to the neighbour’s chicken coop, or keeping the neighbourhood aware of every movement within one kilometre of your house.
Be aware that your Shiba can climb and fly off of seven feet of chain-link, tunnel under footlong extensions of the fence, and squeeze through cracks you can’t pass your hand through. I am against in radio collar fencing; your Shiba will be at high risk of torment by brats, loose animals and/or evil neighbours or will learn to ignore the shock.
How can I stop my Shiba from destroying my house, alienating my neighbours or making me want to kill her?
Your Shiba is extremely intelligent and active. Give it something to do. Some owners, like myself, do conformation showing. Shassi has also been involved in agility (great, positive-oriented dog/human sport) and obedience (yes, I tried, I really did!). Contact your local kennel club to see what classes they offer. Shiba Sports can give you a lot of ideas on what you can do with your Shiba. Check out the pics of the tracking and sledding Shibas. There’s even a story on a Shiba drug-sniffing dog!
Basically, if you don’t give your Shiba activities, she will find her own amusements. The odds are overwhelmingly in favour of a pastime that will have you in counselling.
The Misanthropic Shiba