Over the weekend, my mom took me to two different parks and on a trail run. Like usual, we were stopped by people wondering what kind of dog I am. “Is that a miniature Husky?” is the most common question. My mom takes the time to explain that I am not a baby or miniature anything…that I am a Shiba Inu. More often than not, people tilt their heads—kind of like I do when I don’t quite understand human language—and reply “Say what?”
Even if you follow me regularly, I thought I would take the opportunity to share more about the Shiba Inu breed. One lady we met at the park was very interested in getting one, and maybe you are looking for a dog. Like anything, you want to do your own homework because dogs are a commitment. You want one that fits you and your lifestyle.
Here’s everything Shiba:
The Shiba Inu is a Japanese breed dating back thousands of years. Japan has three native dogs 1) Akita’s or the larger of the group 2) Kai, Hokkaido, Kishu and Shikoku or medium-sized dogs, and 3) Shiba Inu or the smallest of the bunch. Don’t let our size fool you, though; we pack a lot of personality into our 18 to 35 pounds. Woof! Our curly tails are not a handle. Oops, mom says I am getting off point. Sorry.
Shiba Inu dogs come in three colors: red, red sesame, and black and tan. Even when someone is familiar with my breed, they are usually surprised at my coloring. The black and tan or multi-colored Shiba isn’t as common. If you watch any of the dog shows, you will always see the red. Personally, I think the black and tan is more striking, thus why the Shiba Inu never wins the show. Again, I digress.
The word Shiba means “brushwood” and that describes the area of Japan they are from and where they would have hunted birds, small prey, boars and even bear! Inu in Japanese simply means “dog.” I am a brushwood dog with attitude. Ha! Although Shiba Inu’s are the official dog of Japan, they are relatively new to America. When my folks got me, they had only been introduced for a few years and were more difficult to find. Now there are Shiba Inu dog rescues. We aren’t for everyone.
My name in Japanese means Little Bear. The word “Ito” translates to little, and Kuma is “bear.” Japanese put the descriptors after the noun. Kumaito is my full name, and when I was itty bitty, I looked like a cute teddy bear. Kuma for short, and I like it. It sure beats the alternative that my mom considered: Pierre. Apparently, it is a French form of the name Peter, and mom’s heritage is French. Pierre originally meant “rock” or “stone” in French. Anyway, I can’t see myself as a Pierre.
If you read up on Shiba’s, you will hear the term “cat like” because we are independent, smart, and can be stubborn. This is one aspect that my mom really liked as she has been a cat person her entire life. She describes it like this: Shiba’s won’t love you simply because you breathe; they will form a deep bond and love you out of respect and relationship. We are good with all ages of humans when properly socialized.
We are an energetic breed, and my dad calls it “Going Shiba” when I race around the house at Mach 9. Don’t worry, though. We are just as happy being lazy, and we do fine in small spaces, thus why we are popular in Japan. I have never been, but I hear they have tons of people squished into an itty-bitty living space. Makes me grateful to have my home and wide-open spaces to adventure in!
Besides being striking and fox like, we are expressive. I don’t bark to bark and never understand when other dogs do it. I bark when the UPS truck drives by. Duh. That’s a given! I will bark when the doorbell rings, but I don’t bark at much else. I will, however, howl. Yeah baby! I can even yodel when the occasion warrants…like treat time, play time, or when my folks come home.
Although I prefer colder temps and mountain terrain like my ancestors, I do fine in the desert. We are lean by nature and adapt. Not to brag, but we are also very clean. It is like dirt doesn’t stick on us. Trust me, I have tried. I have rolled in yucky mud, and by the time we get home, it’s gone. Where does it go? I have no idea. I am glad, though, because that means less baths. And I HATE baths. Most Shiba’s can’t stand any water. I was introduced to water very young, so I like to swim in lakes, rivers, and streams. Shiba Inu’s typically avoid water all together. If you should attempt to give me a bath, you will hear sounds like nothing you have ever heard of before. We call it the Shiba scream aka torture. Hee hee. It’s a combination of yelling goat, squealing pig, and alien. It’s awful, and I’m quite proud of it, thank you very much.
All dogs like to chew, but we Shiba’s really enjoy it. When I was a puppy, I ate the kitchen cabinets. Why? Because they were there, of course! Mom learned quickly to have plenty of toys and bones around the house. Now whenever the urge strikes, I have so many choices, so little time. We also don’t do well off leash due to our ingrained hunting nature. When we get on the scent of something, we are laser focused. This is where training is important and high encouraged should you take on a Shiba Inu. I love to fetch, but I guess most Shiba Inu’s do not. Different strokes for different folks!
Did I mention that we like to dig and can jump really high? Yes, we have incredible super powers. I’ve dug a hole two-feet deep in seconds. Boom! I also could almost clear a six-foot fence back in the day. I’m eleven now and don’t jump quite as high, but I still have athletic abilities that require attention from humans. I still run, hike, and snow shoe with my family and love it. I’m always up for a good nap, too.
I love all humans, cats, and most dogs, but I am loyal to my family first. Don’t mess with them or you will see a side of me you won’t like! I will never initiate conflict, but I won’t back down either. For that reason, my mom doesn’t let me out in the yard alone first thing in the morning or as the sun is setting. This is when predators can prowl, and if I encountered one, I would fight to the death. It’s in my DNA.
Because we are smaller in stature, we can live up to 20 years. I think my doggy daddy made it to 22, so that’s my goal! Like any breed, each dog will have its own personality. Beth, my grandma aka breeder, says I was the last born. This meant I was not too aggressive, but I wasn’t needy either. In summary, we are a great breed! We are low maintenance and high fun factor. With early training, we can be a great addition to your family.
There you have it – everything Shiba! If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. Just know that not every Shiba can write a blog like me. Woof!
Hi! I am Kumaito (Kuma for short), a multi-tan Shiba Inu. My breed is one of the oldest and purest from Japan. I personally was born in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, moved to Friendswood, Texas, and now call Phoenix, Arizona home. I enjoy running or hiking almost every day with my mom, chasing rabbits out of my neighborhood, playing with toys, pestering my brother Edmond, eating, napping … well, I love just about everything and everyone!
My mom, Lorraine Bossé-Smith is kind enough to help me share my Great Adventures, big and small. My mom is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, business consultant, executive coach, behavioral-wellness expert, and author of eight published books. More importantly, she’s the best doggy mom ever!
and be sure to follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kumathedog/ and Instagram: kumaitothedog
Get outside! You never know what you’ll discover, and our paths just might cross. Happy tails!