Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It Had to Happen

I am a public figure now, you know, and so a lot of people have been asking about me and saying that they want to have a dog like me someday. Mom decided that today I should talk about Shibas, choosing the right dog for you, and why a Shiba is not the dog for everyone.

There are some things you should know about the Shiba Inu before you bring one into your life.

First and foremost, if you're looking to find a purebred pet of any kind, please find a responsible breeder. There are websites that explain what a responsible breeder is and what it is not. And this isn't just about puppies, either. Girl and Gerbil got their rats from a rattery in Andover, not from a pet store. For most companion animals, the same rules apply. Pet stores just are not good places to find a pet. Even stores that say their puppies do not come from puppy mills can't introduce you to the parents, or at least one parent, of the pet you're bring home. A responsible breeder can, and should. A pet store has a bunch of different kinds of animals taken care of by people who may know a little about dogs and a little about cats and a little about rats and mice and fish and turtles, but not a lot about the pet you're looking for, or a lot about matching a pet to your desires and needs. Responsible breeders can match you to the right companion, and can tell you if the breed they have isn't right for your lifestyle - and if they say no, don't take it personally. They know a lot more about the animals they breed than you do, and you should trust them. Pet stores are staffed by people who know very little about the pets they are selling, and often give misinformation in an attempt to sell their "product", which is US, animals. That doesn't meant they don't care about the animals they sell, but it does mean that they don't have the expertise or experience to give you the information you need to make the best choice. Most breed-specific groups and societies have a listing on their website of breeders who have proven that they are dedicated to improving the breed and to placing quality, healthy puppies in good forever homes. Most pet stores have very limited health warranties on the animals they sell. Responsible breeders are very careful about the health of their animals. I could go on, but you get the point. Breeders, not pet stores. If you're looking for a pet that's not a purebred, then a shelter or rescue organization is a good choice. Just be sure to ask them lots of questions, get references, and make sure before you adopt. With the internet, it's very easy for anyone to set up a website and say they are a shelter or a rescue; whether they are or not is a different story. If they don't have a place you can visit, and see the animals in rescue, but instead want to meet you in a parking lot to deliver your new companion, they probably are not a very good choice.

Second, Shibas (that's me!) are one of the so-called Ancient Breeds. This means that we are one of the breeds that have, so far, been identified  as being the closest to wolves in our genetics. In some ways this effects our behavior, or so many people believe. They say it shows in our behavior and our reactions to the world around us. Within about twenty-four hours of my being here, mom commented to my breeder, my first mom, Charleen of Cape Cod Shibas, that I seemed very feral in my reactions to things. That is to say that I still have a lot of natural instinct. For example I don't, when scared, run to a human, even mom. In fact, I am not sure I would even run to my biological mom and she's a Shiba! My instinct is to run away, fast, and far, and if I can't run my instinct is to fight back. It's called fight or flight, and humans have it too, but I have it more. Now, this is changing some the longer I am here, but it's unlikely that I will ever be able to be off a leash or outside of a fenced-in yard. Like in my whole life, ever. Compare that to Berner Buffalo Boo-Boo, the "farmer's dog", who never has a leash on unless it's dark or he's going to the vet. He has no desire to run away anywhere. If something scares him, he runs straight to mom - that's part of his breed's characteristics. Even when I am older and doing performance work in Rally or Agility where dogs have to be off leash, it's kind of a risk. Mom plans to take me mostly to places that run their Rally and Agility classes indoors for my own safety. Mom chose my breed knowing this, and had planned from the very beginning to find a dog that needed the kind of work and discipline she had in mind for me. I am also going to get my Canine Good Citizen certificate, and I hope to be a Therapy dog someday. There's a lot of work in my future, which is good, because Shibas need a lot of work to keep their busy minds and bodies occupied.

Which bring me to the next point. Shibas are very, very smart dogs. My little wheels turn endlessly, even when I look like I am asleep. You'd think I am just relaxed and not alert, but every part of me is in tune with my environment. Mom can't even stand up, or sometimes shift in her chair, without my head popping up and my tail coming up and my body springing into action. Smart dogs need a lot of direction. Girl just said this evening that I am "...a lot of work", and she didn't say it exactly as a compliment. I am pretty sure she sighed heavily. Now, before me, mom had Kioshi, an Akita, who taught her a lot of what she needs to know about me. Mom did a lot of research before she got Kioshi. She found out, for example, that a lot of Akitas end up in rescue for killing the family cat. But she also found out that they were bred as a hunting dog, so leaving them unsupervised with something that looks like prey seemed a little unfair to the dog in mom's opinion. If it doesn't seem unfair to you, then an Akita (or a Shiba) may not be a good choice for a companion. See, I have the same problem, if you want to call it that. Shibas were used for hunting everything from small game like birds and rabbits to wild boar. I have a lot of what's called prey drive. This is a little different, and a little harder to manage, than a herding dog, say, who has a drive to control and herd livestock. If it moves, I think I should chase it, and that extends to "kill and bring home to mom".

Mom and dad took Kioshi everywhere; into the city, to fireworks, parades, hiking, in the car, to the beach (I can't wait to go there!), the lake; any and everywhere. She was a lot like me at times - afraid of new things in a different way than a "regular" puppy. One time she was afraid of some orange cones that had been set up on a hiking path to warn hikers of a slide area. Mom had to walk her back and forth, over and over, with a lot of patience and calm talking and ignoring her scared behaviors before she relaxed and wasn't afraid any more. She's done the same thing with me a few times. All the time, every minute, every day mom has to be aware of me, because I am always aware of everything around me. This doesn't mean mom is nervous - in fact, she's very relaxed and calm, and spends a lot of time ignoring my antics, while at the same time being very aware of and in tune with my body language and behavior. She says it's a little like walking a tightrope. I don't know what one is. I suspect it would freak me out if I saw one.

Mom has heard people say that it is unfair to have a Border Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Aussie Shepherd, or other herding dog if you don't have sheep. She hasn't quite found a corollary to describe what you need to have to have one of me, but she's making a list of things you need in order to have one. Here's what she has so far.

In order to have a Shiba, or be owned by a Shiba, a person should have:

1.) Lots of dog experience, or a willingness to learn everything you can about dogs and canine instinct and behavior.
2.) Endless patience so you don't lose your cool and send a dog like me into some kind of behavioral tailspin, because if you get angry that's just what may happen.
3.) Energy. Energy. And more energy. Because we don't ever really stop.
4.) Enough money to pay not just for vet care, but for classes. Obedience with a dog as smart as me is critical, and socialization in my early days is vital to how successful I will be as an adult.
5.) Endless love. You need this because I will make a LOT of work for you, not just the typical peeing on the floor puppy kind of work either, and the love will make sure you remember why it's good work.

That's all she has so far. I would add some things here myself...

6.) SALMON! Lots of salmon - fresh, cooked, treats, you name it. I just LOVE fish. Kioshi loved fish too and mom is beginning to think Japanese dogs just have an affinity for fish.
7.) BALLS! Tennis, squeaky, hard rubber, soft and pop-able; you name it. I love balls.
8.) STUFFIES! Preferably with squeakers, and bonus if I can pull all the "guts" out, which you will then have to pick up and throw away.
9.) CHEWIES! I need to sharpen my teeth for that cat. Ok, really a growing puppy like me teethes, just like a human. Our baby teeth fall out, and chewing makes that more comfortable.
10.) CRATE! I love my crate. It feels like a safe place when mom and dad go out. Most dogs who have a crate will hide their good stuff in their crate. I do already. And it's a nice place to take a nap or get away from people and other animals in the house.

I think that's it.

When it comes to choosing the right breed of dog for your lifestyle, it's a good idea to get a lot of input, meet a lot of dogs and talk with friends and family. The internet has a lot of cool resources and tools about how to choose the breed of dog that's right for you. Mom, for example, thought she wanted a muppety, floppy dog, but after some research about temperament and breed characteristics, and with a little nudge from Auntie Kathy, she realized that what she really wanted was a huge amount of work, a fox-face, and a brain almost as big as her own, so she got me! And I am glad she did!

Now, there's no pictures of me today, just that stuff up there. And the only new thing I did today was to go outside, in the dark, while dad was unloading the grain and shavings into the barn (because mom is Wicked Lazy, she says)... this involved strange noises, dark, the truck (running!) and my orange raincoat for practice. It was a lot to take in. I did pretty well. Mom had to pick me up when I started to spin around and wanted to run back to the house at first. Then she put me in the truck and we drove back to the garage with dad - a whole 100 feet or so. I watched dad spread sand on the driveway with a shovel, too, which was very interesting. But it was too near the running truck for me to get too-too close!

Also today mom swept with the green dust mop, and instead of just letting her do it or being nervous and barking, I decided it needed to be attacked! That was FUN, until mom said I needed to stop. No sense of humor sometimes. She THINKS she has one, but she's all rules sometimes!

We practiced loose lead waking as well as sit, down, stand and stay. Mom also is making me wait at every meal for my food. I can stand or sit, as long as I do not move a muscle until she says it's time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. She makes Boo do it too, so it's at least fair. Sort of. I mean, it's MY food and I should have it NOW!

I hope you'll all continue to follow me - mom is going to stop posting my blog updates to Twitter and Facebook every day, but she will be posting just about every day for my whole hundred days, and probably beyond that. If you want to follow me, consider using Google Reader (which is my reader of choice!) so you'll know when there's a new post.

Mom says tomorrow there will be pictures, which is good because I like it better when there are some. Let me see if she has any in here...

Wait! Here's a good one!

Remember, every dog should be a wanted dog, not just today when we're cute and fluffy but tomorrow when we shred your toilet paper tubes, too.

Much love, fan-base, and please keep on reading! You inspire me to be the best dog I can be!


  1. My Dear Yoshi,

    I enjoy your posts each day, but I really enjoyed your post today. You have so much insight into what makes a dog like you fun and happy to live with. You are smart beyond your "weeks/months". You are fortunate to have a human family that cares so much about you and takes a leadership role in teaching you about life. Your right. Your breed is not a dog for everyone and I think it is absolutely "pawsome" that you are making folks aware of this and explaining why. I new you were going to be a good will ambassador.

    Love the new coat!


  2. Aw, Yoshi! Thank you so much for helping me out, you see, my other half (Brian) and I are thinking about getting a pup, and we love Akitas, Shibas and Huskies (we love handsome dogs like you), so you covered your breed and now we have to read A LOT into the other 2 to make our well-informed decision.

    I secretly am just madly in love with you, I think your Mom knows that...