BREED PROFILE: Shiba Inus are an ancient Japanese dog breed. They resemble Akitas, but are much smaller, and only weight between 20 and 25 lbs as adults (females tend to be about 5 lbs lighter than males). They were bred to hunt small animals (and even bears according to one source, yikes!). So, Ella loves digging in the dirt for rodents, and giving what we call a “death shake” to her fluffy, animal toys. We had heard from different sources that the males tend to be more playful than the females, who can be more aloof. But, we haven’t found that to be the case with Ella, who can entertain herself for hours playing with her toys.
CHARACTER: We read a lot about the character of the breed before we got Ella, and found that she has a pretty typical Shiba personality. She is extremely confident and extroverted. She loves people, and takes on dogs as playmates that are two, three times her size. She is extremely intelligent, learns new things quickly and likes a good challenge. She is fiercely independent and really doesn’t like to be told what to do!! She can get aggressive and dominant, especially over spaces where she is accustomed to playing. When she starts biting and growling, we stop playing and ignore her. We’ve also installed a tension-mount baby gate in our apartment (so we didn’t have to screw anything into the wall), to create a time-out/penalty zone where she is exiled to when she gets really out of hand! BUT, Ella also has a real sweetness to her: she is very loyal and affectionate, and is happiest spending time with her family.
COAT COLORS: Shibas are found in the following coat colors: red, sesame (red with black-tipped hairs), black and tan, and cream. The Reds – like Ella – are most commonly associated with the breed. Sesames are more rare, and Creams are considered to be a fault (but still very beautiful!) Also love the black and tans that are more husky-like in appearance and look like little bandits!
PROS: Shibas are head-turning dogs. They are extremely beautiful and still pretty unusual on the East Coast. So if you want something novel, Shibas are definitely a good choice. They are great for apartments because they are relatively small, and don’t require AS much space or exercise as most bigger dogs. We’ve found that Ella does best when she gets 1-2 hrs of exercise per day, especially before she goes to bed (she tends to get REALLY hyper at night for some reason!). We went for a Shiba because we both love big dogs, but didn’t think it would be fair to get one in an apartment. Shibas are small dogs, with a big dog mentality. You can do all the things with them that you would do with a larger dog, like play and rough house. They are bold, adventurous, and will always do something to make you laugh! They are extremely athletic and are also known for their endurance, so we are looking forward to taking Ella for a hike in the Spring!
CONS: Shibas are dominant, assertive, aggressive, stubborn, and can be destructive — think “Stitch” in “Lilo and Stitch”. They are not easy dogs to train. We had read in a lot of places that if you’re first time dog owners, Shibas are not the best dogs to start with, and would definitely agree. We’ve raised 5 dogs between us, and Ella is a definitely the most challenging. You HAVE to acclimate them early and get them used to being touched all over their body, expose them to different experiences, sights and sounds, children and other dogs For example, we’ve found that Ella gets agitated by things on wheels: including skateboards, bikes and carts.
BATHING: Shibas like to keep clean and are pretty low-maintenance dogs. Many say they are “cat-like” in their grooming habits. Their coats contain special oils that repel most dirt, odors and are even water-resistant. This means they shouldn’t be bathed very often (only when they really start to smell), as it actually strips their coats of these important oils. We were a little skeptical when we read this at first, but found that wiping Ella down with a wet towel will do usually do the trick if she’s been rolling in the mud or dirt!
GROOMING: Shibas blow their coats twice a year. When this starts to happen, we’ve been advised to first bathe Ella to loosen her hairs, and then brush her to remove shedding. We’re also going to try out a deshedding tool to remove loose hairs, and will report back soon on which we like best!
CRATE TRAINING: Because Shibas like to keep clean, they will do everything to avoid having an accident in their crate. Ella hasn’t had one yet and is very good about letting us know when she has to go out. This is easiest breed to housebreak, so it’s one less thing to worry about when it comes to training!