Many people start out looking at buying a pup from a reputable breeder, but are put off by the price. Yes, you can find Shibas at bargain prices in the newspaper. You may end up paying many times over the cost of a pup from a reputable breeder in vet costs. My first dog was a "Bargain dog" He had Hip dysplaysia, entropian in both eyes and severe allergies. His breeders cut costs but not screening their breeding stock for genetic problems, they were just breeding pets. His temperament was also wild and he was not a good dog for a first time owner and an experienced breeder would have matched me up with a better pup had I been willing to pay a little more and wait for an upcoming litter.
A pup from a reputable Shiba breeder typically costs $950 to $1500. This pup would have a champion background or parents, OFA/CERF clearances in his lineage, AKC limited registration and a spay/neuter agreement. We sell our pups as "show potential" At 8 weeks it is impossible to guarantee that your pup will be a show dog, se we will ask you to re-evaluate your dog at 6 to 9 months of age.
Lately the trend has been for backyard breeders to charge $1,000 and up for pets! I know of a couple of these breeders who have gotten dogs intended for pets because they produced many health problems. They turned around and registered the dog with ACA or APRI and are advertising Champion lines. They have no health clearances on their dogs, but of course they are seen by their vet every year and are in great health. A puppy from a breeder who does not have time to show and does no OFA clearances, or AKC papers is a $400 puppy at most! Any more then that and the breeder is breeding pets to make a quick buck and does not care about the breed and it's health and reputation.
If a website has a lot of puppies of varying ages, or more than 3 breeds the breeder is probably a puppy mill. Reputable breeders carefully plan their litters and do not breed every heat cycle. If a breeder is selling "Show Quality" puppies or "Champion Lines" I would also be careful. Most breeders do not just sell show dogs to any person off the street and just because a Shiba has champions in it's background does not mean that it is a show dog.
There are dedicated breeders showing NIPPO (there are not any shows in the midwest, most are on the west coast) and I have seen a few people show with IABCAA, UKC and CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) Not to be confused with the Continental Kennel Club where you send in a picture of the dog and tell them what kind of papers you would like!
Many vets can do OFA for hips. It is done once in the dogs life and costs about $300 here in MN. Almost any vet clinic can do OFA reports on Patellas. It is an exam and a $15 fee to register with OFA. Eyes need to be checked by a specialist. That can be harder to find, as I know of one in MN. It is $30 for the exam and $15 to register with OFA. It should be done every year, but most back yard breeders don't bother with it at all. They can make a trip into the Mall of America every year, but can't be bothered to take in their dogs even once during their lifetime to have their eyes certified...and then you should pay the same price as if they had!
Avoid buying from a place that uses alternate registries such as CKC or APRI. This is usually done to avoid AKC inspections for cleanliness and record-keeping. You should always try to visit the breeders home and meet the dogs before you commit to purchasing a puppy. There is so much information on the internet, but the real test is to see what the dogs and breed are like up close and in their home environment.
I was recently at a site that had three litters on the ground and two more due! Another site just changed from a "breeder and owner" of Shibas to "selling them for a friend." Yes they had 3 litters on the ground! A very convenient way to say you could not see the parents or inspect where the pups were raised!
USDA licensed facilities should also be avoided. Their regulations require that all puppies are raised in pens that can be sterilized. They must be in a separate building, not in the home. Most USDA breeders keep their dogs in raised plastic pens with plastic floor grates so the poop and pee goes through. The pups are not allowed on the grass or on any surface such as carpet or wood (your deck) so they are not properly socialized.
You may get lucky buying a bargain pup, but is it really worth the risk?