"Oh my God, I want your dog.", is something that I am quite use to hearing on the trail and when I am walking Isis around the neighborhood. It makes me smile and I agree (although I may be a bit biased) that she is a great dog. Trust me though, she is not a dog for everyone. You have to be a special breed of person to own a Shiba Inu. Let me explain....
Shiba's are described as a breed who thinks she is superior to everyone and every thing. She's the queen of the world and no one can tell her different. She's got a bold and independent personality to go with that queen attitude and so, she's a little hard to train, nail down, or convince that your way is better. Although I have had the good fortune of training her on the trails since 4 months old, Isis is a wonderful trail dog. And for that reason, many people stop us and ultimately want to take her home. Off trail, she can be possessive of everything that is hers and mine and that also includes the cat of the house too. The cat of the house does not appreciate being a chase toy as Shiba's are born hunters and will probably NEVER get along with a cat. Although, there as only one time at a friends house that Isis was actually submissive to a Maine Coon. I think it was because Isis knew that we were not home and she was on her best behavior. My cat (a feisty Manx) tolerates Isis and understands that she can just go to higher ground. Shiba's are highly intelligent and the owner has to show dominance immediately or loose the the Shiba forever. Also in regard to intelligence, Shiba's have been known to figure out how to escape from pens and even yards. You have to stay one step ahead of this breed. It has been said that a Shiba is not for the first time dog owner. Mind you, Isis was my first dog ever and at 40 something, I feel I actually picked a winner (for me). I think that the Shiba personality and mine actually match and for that I am thrilled with having her in my life.
Isis is very protective of me and of our home. The breed actually can make great guard dogs even though they do not bark much. She will often be protective of me on the trail or on our local walks too. I trust her with my life and I think that lends to the relationship we have. Shiba's can become dog-agressive with dogs of the same sex or in Isis' case, many other dogs. She is choosy about who she plays with and because of her dog-agressive nature, finds herself with myself and the cat for companions most of the time. Many other dog owners do not like the aggressive play and attitude of a Shiba. This of course has gotten better over time with more exposure to other dogs on the trails. Isis does not lunge or even bark anymore. She now practices that aloof ignore attitude that Shiba's seem to get around humans that are not their owners. However, it should be said that if anything were to happen to me, I'm pretty sure all bets would be off or Isis might run and find rescue before they found me. She is very much my dog. Shiba's are one owner dogs and become very bonded to their caretakers. A Shiba Inu will ignore most other humans in favor of their caretakers. That is unless your name is Isis. She LOVES people. I trained her that way and she is very friendly to other humans on the trail (again, other dogs not so much). I think it's also fair to say that Isis and I are a bonded pair given all that we have experienced together. She does not leave my side at home. Ultimately, the breed is very loyal to their owners and her territory (all toys and things included with in said territory).
There should be an easy care label on the maintenance of a Shiba. They are cat like and often groom themselves. No need to actually take them to a groomer and no need to bath constantly. Because they are double coated, frequent washing will wash away the undercoat that keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Let them be and use baby wipes to freshen up. I bathe Isis once every 6 months (if that) unless I really need to. Of course, I learned this the hard way and let me tell you, when she lost her undercoat, she looked awful. I also felt awful for it. Rookie dog owner mistake but then again, I have never owned a dog until Isis. I trim her toenails if I need to because regular exercise keeps them trimmed. The only down side to the double coat is, it gets blown out twice a year. I have a dark house and a white dog... My vacuum cleaner actually cries when she blows her coat. Enough said. Isis goes to a vet every 6 months because she's an athletic dog and every 6 months, the vet tells me to keep it up. She has maintained her healthy weight and all bones and muscles are strong. I had originally thought that starting her on the trails at 4 months was a big mistake. Turns out, it was the best one for both of us! She gets regular exercise and I get a great hiking partner. Shiba's are smaller dogs with males standing 14.5 to 16.5 inches tall and weigh about 23 pounds. Females stand 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall and weigh about 17 pounds. Isis is right on track at 16 pounds.
Because the Shiba Inu has originally been bread for hunting, they really cannot be trusted off leash. Isis would sooner forget about me completely if she saw a squirrel on the trail and because of that, she is on a leash when we hike. I have more control over her and she is safer for it. There was one occasion on Mt. Jackson in New Hampshire that she got out of her harness (cheap PetCo fashion harness) and I never want to go through that again. I was lucky she stuck to the winter trail and only ran wicked fast up and down a section. I had her extra collar and was able to get her secured again after a very anxious couple of minutes. So, because of this and because of our bond, I'm OK with that leash and after over a 100 summits with her, she is too. We follow all trail etiquette and I find that a 6 foot leash (non-retractable) is best. I use a carabiner to clip her to my pants for hands free hiking.
So, the Shiba Inu who looks like little fox, wolf, or any of a number of woodland creatures, is quite fetching when seen on the trail. You really don't see a lot of them as hiking companions either. They have a very distinct personality that is not for every person and as they say, a Shiba is not for the first time dog owner. ( Unless you are me and you go in blind and it turns out to be a great match.) Isis was my greatest impulse buy ever and I am not sorry for one minute we have spent together. I feel bad when I have to go to work in the morning and heaven forbid I need to leave her at home for a hike or some other reason. I'm that dog owner that will show you pictures if asked and because I have no human kids of my own, her pictures are all over my house and office. She is my family.
People ask me all the time about Isis and I never seem to go into too much depth about the breed. Please understand that I love my Shiba Inu and I mean the best when I say, DO NOT GET ONE if you cannot handle one. They are a lifestyle more than a dog to be owned. Isis, she fits my independent lifestyle and dare I say, we get each other because we spend a lot of time together. She's not traditionally trained but she is trained in the things that are important to me. She doesn't need to give paw or roll over. She just needs to sit when called to do so and that is usually on the trail. Isis has a great personality that is uniquely her's. I could not have asked for a better hiking companion and have never regretted my decision to start my dog relationship with a very challenging breed.
If you would like to follow Isis, feel free to like her page Hiking Pup Isis