Owning a Shiba Inu

Please note, this is not a how to raise a Shiba Inu. This is a documentary on our experiences with our Shiba Inu, and ours alone.

Let me start off by saying I love Booker. She’s a fantastic dog, quirky, loving and adorable, but Shiba Inus are not for everyone. They can be difficult, stubborn, and confusing. They are not meant for people looking for a first time dog. She has traits that Sander and I have grown to love and accept but this doesn’t mean that everyone will. Even our friends and family have a hard time understanding her but because Sander and I have raised her, we know what to expect and how to deal with her behavior. This behavior may be limited to her. Her behavior may just be a breed/race issue. Whatever the reason, I do believe that the Shiba Inu is not for first time dog owners, but they are still wonderful dogs.

That’s it. If you want detailed literature on everything Books has done and how we’ve dealt with it, then feel free to continue to read. However if you want the short answer on if you should get a Shiba, ask yourself these questions.

Can I love a dog with mood swings?
Can I love a dog that will be my personal court jester?
Can I love a dog that shows affection via nibbles and biting?
Can I love an intelligent dog that learns quickly and remembers well?
Can I love a dog that may not listen and requires extra love and training?
Can I love a dog that is very independent?
Can I love a dog that is loyal to few and wary of everyone else?
If you said no to any of these, you may want to reconsider. To find out why, please continue reading.

Before Booker
Sander and I knew that we have little space for a large dog, even a medium dog would be difficult to keep in the current flat we have now. Just to give some clarity, our space is around 67 m2. We have a kitchen/living room/office space in our main and largest room. Our bedroom is giant but was meant to double as office space. Since Sander and I are computer nerds, we spend more time at the PC than watching TV. It just made sense to keep our computers in the “living room space” (as was suggested by the blue prints) and move our living room to the “dining room space”. This means we have no dining area and eat on the couch.
Sander and I also enjoy long walks and biking. Without each other, we never did these things because we’re too shy to be adventurous alone. Now that we had each other, we wanted to go out in our free time. Spending all our time at home was extremely boring and the Netherlands has fantastic weather (most of the time) and with so many nearby parks, it’s impossible to say no to going for a walk.

TL;DR: We needed a small dog, energetic when we wanted to be and calm when we needed her to be. We also wanted an intelligent breed that could handle large breed dogs.

Why not adopt?
I desperately want to adopt a dog from the local shelter but the ones up for offer are mostly pit mixes. I have nothing against pits or any larger dogs but we needed something small. We wanted to be sure we knew what breed we were getting and not just guess. In the future, we want to adopt but this will be after we expand to a larger space. Sander and I are just settling in for right now so there’s no rush to move either.

Booker as a pup
We did a lot of research on breeders in the area. Unfortunately it came down to only a select few, and out of them, only one had a single female left. For me, buying a puppy is an important process, and emotions should not get in the way. For Sander, however, once he saw her, it was love at first sight. It was clear that this tiny Shiba pup was not interested in us at all. She was too busy sniffing around the other dogs (these breeders had some Akita puppies as well) and she was unafraid to be left with strangers. She didn’t like being hugged, she didn’t like being put on her back. In short, she was a feisty one. We couldn’t walk away from her though, Sander was sold on the spot.

She was fantastic on the ride home. The trip was about two hours in the car and she slept most of the way, in my arms and wrapped in a warm sweatshirt. We stopped once for her to use the bathroom, she was so tiny and fragile looking that we nearly died from her cuteness when she stopped to squat.

After a few days we noticed she was having very bad diarrhea. Unsure if it was stress or something else, we took her to the vet and found she had contracted giardia. It was a very scary time for us. We cleaned like never before to try and get rid of the parasite but it took months before poor Booker was deemed clean and clear.

During this early time with her, the very early mornings to clean up the most disgusting pudding poops ever, and being scared about contracting the parasite myself, I began to regret Booker. One night I broke down to Sander and told her I couldn’t deal with it all. He, like the level headed man he is, calmed me down and ensured me it was just a phase and everything would work out. He encouraged me and promised me Booker would be well soon and we’d forget about all the horrible events that came from her being sick. I’m so glad he did.

TL;DR: Booker got sick and I wanted to give her back but Sander said we’d pull through it.

Booker growing up
Extremely high energy and playful when awake and absolutely wasted when tired. The running joke to this day is, Booker has only two modes, feisty mode and wasted mode.

We would go on long walks with her and she would never tire but as soon as we were home she’d lay down and we wouldn’t hear from her for hours. She would spend time with Sander’s parent’s dogs, Snowy and Lucky who are frieze stabij/collie mixes, and Booker would only step away from them to take water breaks.

We occasionally took the trio out to parks for a few hours at a time and the three of them ran all their energy out by chasing balls and each other. Booker’s favorite thing to do is chase after Lucky when Sander throws her a tennis ball.
The larger wooded areas are far from traffic and safe for dogs to be left off leash. We would only take Booker off leash because we knew she will follow another dog back to us. For example if we call Lucky to come, Booker will follow too.

She’s bitten through a few items but she’s usually pretty good at keeping her teeth to herself. She was always given treats to chew on as her baby teeth were falling out so we only lost a total of 4 wired products.

TL;DR: A roller coaster of energy waves with Booker but if she’s gotten enough exercise, she’s out for hours.

Booker and house breaking
Booker caught giardia quite young so she would often run around the house spewing the smelliest brown soup. It was awful. I would wake 3am to her whining to be let out, only to have her dash away from me to a corner she favored to let all her poops out. After a week and a half of enduring and having that break down, Sander woke up to deal with her. I always felt bad since he had work the next morning but he was an angel and never complained.

Other than the poop issue, Booker was amazing at being house broken. She quickly learned that grass was where the waste should be. She used to have one or two accidents once a month but after she turned 5 months, she was completely over it.

Booker now
At nine months, we finally let her sleep outside of her crate. She did extremely well. She slept in the bedroom with us, left a few times to get some water, but returned right away. She’s been sleeping on the floor, or her doggy bed, but sometimes sleeps on the floor next to my side of the bed. She’ll get up occasionally when the cat gets up to eat (if you ask me, the cat has been the annoying one through the whole process) but once she’s satisfied her curiosity, Booker is right back down to sleep.

We feel safer with taking her off the leash because we’re using special tasty treats when we go on walks. These training walks only happen in the larger parks and never in our neighborhood. I’ve read many posts recommended that Shibas should never be off leash, but Sander’s determined to train her. So far, she’s doing very well.

Booker is the type of dog that will not come if she’s distracted but we’re working on it. She places all her focus on other dogs in the area and often refuses to stand and walk on. We know she just wants to play but it’s annoying when we take her on walks in the rain and she plops down on the ground because she sees a dog in the distance.

Booker loves car rides and loves going to the park but she hates her harness. She often pulls when she’s only on a collar so we’ve had to get her on a harness for each walk. She often snarls at us, but these are all empty threats. She likes to pretend she’ll bite our faces off, but she hasn’t done so yet.

She’s been spayed and handled the ordeal quite well. She wore a super cute onesie during her healing process and there were minor complications after her stitches came out. She had minor swelling which vanished in a week.

TL;DR: We’re still working on her behavior since she’s got a mind of her own, but she learns quickly.

Booker’s Personality
Googling “Shiba Inu” yields these results for temperament: Fearless, Keen, Charming, Faithful, Alert, Confident. I completely agree with all of these traits.

She’s also hilarious to watch, super silly and just plain ridiculous at times. She’ll make a tunnel under her doggy bed and lay there forever. She’ll randomly chase her back left leg instead of her tail (although she chases that too). She grumbles a lot, as if she’s talking to herself. She’ll also people watch from either a window or the outdoor furniture. She’s provided us with a million laughs and she’s not even a year old.

Booker and other dogs
She’s made numerous friends in the neighborhood and all of them are large dogs, except one.

Booker’s best friend is Kaya, a Belgian Malinois, who is nothing but high energy and rebellion. Another friend of Booker’s is a Pom/Terrier mix named Seb. He’s got that feisty little dog blood in his bones and can’t help but chase after Books when he sees her.

Two floors down from where we live, is Helen and Bella. Bella is a four year old shelter mix who is nothing but love and licks but she cannot stand Booker’s energy. I don’t blame Bella. She’s got the build of a barrel chested dog and tiny little legs. Bella is a lovely couch pup but clearly not made for running. When she and Books get together, Booker is left trying to play while Bella just sits and watches her.

TL;DR: Booker has many friends but the ones that match her energy are medium and large breeds.

Booker’s relationship with the cat
Our cat Lucky was less than excited about a new member to the family. Lucky was 11 years old when Sander adopted her. She wasn’t doing well in the home she had come from but I don’t know all the details too well. I do know the house had multiple dogs though and Lucky wasn’t getting along with the other cats. Long story short, she lived like a queen in the year and few months before I came to live in the Netherlands. She had free reign while I was around but it was only a few months after that we got little Books. Needless to say, in protest, Lucky peed on the couch.

Since then, we’ve had to move all her things around so that Booker and Lucky wouldn’t have to see each other. Lucky absolutely hates Booker because little B is high energy. So to my dissatisfaction we’ve had to move Lucky’s food, water, and even litter box (for health reasons, she developed urine crystals and found it convenient to pee in first her bed, and then ours…) into the bedroom. I’m a very light sleeper so every time Lucky eats, drinks, pees… I wake up to it. Sander loves cats but now he’s second guessing if he wants another one, while he’s definitely interested in getting another Shiba.

TL;DR: Cats and dogs can have a wonderful relationship, but ours do not.

Booker and grooming
Booker hates the water. Hates it. Will only drink it and will only frolic in the ocean but try and bathe her and good luck. Shiba Inu are known for being very clean dogs. Booker never has an eye booger, always has white paws, and never leaves her lady bits unwashed. However, these cleaning routines are on her terms. Once water and shampoo come in, all bets are off.

What did surprise us though, is when we went to the beach and she became a merpup. Completely different from how she usually is, Booker had no trouble running in and out of the ocean to play with the other dogs in our group.

However, she’s still a dog and will not resist rolling in duck poop mixed with mud.

It is important to take note that Shibas shed. A lot. Like you could make several other Shibas out of the fur of one. We live in a flat and share an elevator with our side of the building. At least once to three times a week I need to vacuum up the area outside of our front door because our front door is directly across from the elevator. She hates the harness and shakes as we wait for the elevator, thus depositing nearly a pound of fur on the floor (I’m kidding but the little dog does shed quite a bit, all the time).

What sucks for me is that my wardrobe is mostly black, and her shedding fur is mostly white. I love touching her and hugging her, so you can understand the pain… She’s got so much fur that when she sleeps on her side, it looks like she’s got two plump butt cheeks… Talk about a thick butt.

Shiba Horror stories
It’s true that I’ve heard lots of horror stories about the breed. I’ve seen people complain they are too difficult, too hyper, too destructive and stubborn. Honestly, it all comes down to how you care for your Shiba. If you show them that you are the pack leader, and they should listen to you, then you’ll be fine.

I know it’s not possible for everyone to stay and watch their dog all day (I had the luxury of doing so) but at least make sure that you love them, give them a good workout daily, and not give in to their bad behaviors. Booker is a wonderful, affectionate, attentive dog. She seeks us out and nibbles on us lovingly. Booker always makes us laugh with her quirks and undeniable lust for play. She’s a fantastic dog and I would not trade her for another.

TL;DR: Treat them like a dog, like family, and you’ll have a loving and super adorable dog at your side!

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