There is a lot of information about the Shiba Inu breed available on-line. Some I have found to be true and some false. Everyone has an opinion and some of the people with lots of advice to give have only owned one or two rescue dogs, have never bred a litter and have owned a Shiba for 5 years or less! I will give you my experiences with the breed and the dogs I have owned.
There are many stories about nasty Shibas out there! Some of the early imports did produce stubborn dominant dogs that were VERY difficult to handle, or on the other end of the scale extremely shy. Breeders of quality Shibas today have a much bigger gene pool to pick from. and we raise Shibas in a way where they are well socialized. None of my Shibas have ever shown any aggression towards people. Shibas like to have their own personal space when it comes to other dogs. Nothing will upset an adult Shiba faster then a big goofy dog running up and trying to bowl it over and rough house. Typically the Shiba will go after the offending dog all teeth and snarls, but rarely is skin broken. the Shiba is just putting the other dog in its place and letting it know the shibas are off limits for rough play. Shibas will get along with each other as long as their is a decided pack order. Most people find opposite sex works best as that is the easiest combination. Shibas are usually better with other breeds then with each other. There are certainly many other popular breeds that are much more aggressive then the Shiba Inu!
Shibas are typically very sturdy healthy dogs. The most common complaint is patellar luxation. This condition is evidenced when the patella (kneecap) is or can be displaced from its normal position in the femoral trochlea. Severity can range from a grade one where the patella can be displaced manually but returns to normal when released to a grade four where the patella will be luxated all the time and the dog exhibits lameness and conformational abnormality, usually bowed legs. Since there are many causes for patellar luxation ranging from skeletal abnormalities to soft tissue changes, diagnosis cannot be made by radiograph alone. Palpation by an experienced veterinarian is mandatory to diagnose this condition. There is much variation within the "normal" range and too vigorous manipulation of the kneecap, especially on a young puppy, can actually do damage. All diagnosis are not equal. The amount of looseness to be tolerated varies with the individual veterinarian. When in doubt, a second opinion may be warranted. A patella that requires surgical repair would cause the dog to limp and walk on three legs of have a wobbly gait. Patella surgery is often over prescribed and according to my vet is the latest of the popular surgeries vets do to make money. He initially recommends 6 months of light activity, and having the dog on a premium diet. He has seen many dogs heal and patellas tighten naturally in this time! He also is a firm believer in waiting until a pet is dome growing before doing a spay or neuter. There is too much evidence that this procedure causes many orthopedic problems.
Male or female?
For most first time owners a male Shiba is the best choice. They tend to be more playful and outgoing with other people and other dogs. Females tend to be more selective with whom they will interact. They can become spoiled princesses and be more moody then males. If you have another dog opposite sex will work best for most people. Two females will be the most difficult to handle for inexperienced owners. They are just to jealous of their owner giving another girl attention!
Of course every pup has its own personality. There are excpetions to every rule! We will try to match you with a pup that suits your lifestyle, and are always willing to help out with any issues that arise.
Shibas are quick learners, many times out thinking their owners! They have a strong desire to please...themselves! Shibas have the reputation for being bolters and runners. My first Shiba pup would run in my fenced yard with my 3 Siberian Huskies. He could squeeze out a small gap in between the fence and the wall and having only had Huskies before I would panic. He would take off like a shot around the fence and I would run out the gate after him. By the time I would get out back he would have finished his business and have run back to his hole and into the yard. he just did not want to potty in his play yard! I can let any of my shibas run without fence or leash. Shibas are not runners like The Siberian Husky. they know where home is. We have several acres and no close neighbors to attract their attention. My Shibas also spend time in their outdoor kennels and coming to the house is a BIG treat and reward so after a quick run of the farm they head to the deck.
Most people live in town and have close neighbors. Your Shiba will probably spend 90% of his time in your house. Being outside will be his big reward and he may come when called the first time or two, but expect your quick thinking pup to figure out that coming means play time is over! He will then discover that you are willing to come out and chase him, the ultimate doggy fun! For most owners a fenced yard or tie out is necessary. Take your Shiba to the dog park and let him run and there in a secure area you can work on coming when called.
For obedience training Shibas are quick learners. They are not reliable like Labs, Shelties or Goldens, but can certainly earn obedience and Agility titles. They are much easier to train then most Hound breeds, Toy breeds and many Working breeds! Keep lessons short, and do not work on one exercise for more than 10 minutes, At home atraining session should not exceed 30 minutes. Class is different.
Shibas can be VERY vocal when things are not going their way. The "Shiba scream" is something you will never forget. It is not something that happens often. Usually at 14 weeks or so the little Shiba decides to test his parameters. It is usually over nail trimming or walking on leash. The little fuzzball starts to scream like he is in intense pain and if you insist on restraining him he gets louder and struggles. DO NOT GIVE IN! Stay calm and hold your pup firmly on his back until his tantrum subsides. One he calms down and relaxes let him up slowly, pet him calmly and continue to trim ONE more nail or walk a SHORT distance. Then quit while you are ahead and go back to it another time when he is not so easily agitated.
One or two?
After being owned by a Shiba many people start thinking about adopting a second one. Most Shibas do well with a Shiba of the opposite sex. Typically the female will end up being the boss. Consider how your Shiba acts around other dogs, especially those that come to visit. It is usually easiest if your current Shiba is 1-3 years old, but well socialized older Shibas can adjust to a puppy. I have found that bringing your Shiba to meet a puppy here does not work. They hear and smell the other dogs as well as ducks and chickens and get very excited and nervous. They pay no attention to the puppy and may even growl at the pups as they want to go outside and investigate all the new sights, sounds and smells. So while it is a good idea to have the two meet on a neutral territory, here is not usually the best place. Take the puppy home and have the two meet on the end of the driveway. Once they start to play and relax they can go inside. Do not let the pup in the older dogs food bowls and treats. The puppy should have his own crate, dishes and toys. Do not let them play unsupervised as an adult can hurt a puppy if the pup persists in playing rough or goes after a toy the adult Shiba is possessive of. Crate training is best as the puppy can observe the adult without being underfoot and the adult can see, hear and smell the puppy and get used to him or her.
I DO NOT recommend adopting litter mates. While two pups are cute, it is VERY difficult to get them to focus on you. You would have to keep them separated most of the time and spend a lot of individual time with each pup. Otherwise they bond to each other and become very insecure around people and away from each other. They can become aggressive with each other as well. If you know you want 2 Shibas let the first pup get trained and out of the puppy stage. 9-12 months of age. That way the new puppy will see both of you as role models.
Exercise and Grooming
Most Shibas need a moderate amount of exercise. Young dogs are more active then adults. Shibas are not a breed that requires a lot of exercise to wear them out, and most are happy with a couple of walks or a run in a fenced area. Do not let your Shiba be a couch potato or restrict exercise for a young dog. Shibas are not "complainers", but if they are not given proper exercise it can lead to poor development, weak pasterns, and patellar luxation. They are not destructive inside. My first dogs were Siberian Huskies and they will rip your home apart if left for even a couple of hours. My first shiba could open her crate and I would come home to find her sleeping on the recliner, but nothing in the house was ever touched. I recommend starting out with crate training. Give your Shiba pup some toys and chewies to keep busy with. Once he is 4 months old you can start to trust him. Start with short time periods and you can gradually extend the time. I have only had a couple of Shibas that were chewers, and they can be satisfied with a rawhide. We recommend pressed rawhides or natural pork twists. Our Shibas are not interested in the plastic nylabones, but every dog has it's own preferences.