I have heard many things of the shiba from people new to them. The first question is always "what are they like"? Well, having 10 in the house living together I can say I have ten different characters and personalities. Shibas are inquisitive, alert, playful. A little bit aloof with strangers. They have their individual traits which make each one special and endearing. Some like to drape across the tops of chairs like cats and look out of the window. Others prefer to sit and be cuddled and petted all day. They can sit aloof and proud, masters of their domain, surveying it as a lion would his pride of lionesses, or they can play like kittens chasing around, pouncing and playing, and the off switch is often hard to find. Either way, they are hunters to the bitter end, loving to chase rats and mice and catch the birds. They are not one to be safe off the lead, tending to suddenly go "deaf" and race off on their hunt.
It is easy to see a small dog, but the shiba is very much a big dog in a small managable package. They love to rough and tumble and often take up the top spot in households with large dogs. Rottweillers, Akitas, any large dog is just right for a shiba as they can play those roughest of games that the shiba loves. In the case of smaller dogs it has been known for a shiba to be just that little bit too rough for them, but having said that, a friend of mine has Yorkshire Terriers who run rings around her shibas! For the size and extreme games they play they can be a gentle dog, not often prone to violence or aggression. Yes they can stand their ground when challenged, but they do not actively go out looking for trouble. Many small dogs can have a reputation for uncertain temperament, especially with children, however, there are no nasty hidden tendencies in a Shiba, and that makes them ideal for the family. Children can play safely, but as with all dogs, supervision and training of both young children and dogs is simply common sense. Mind you, when it comes to who would wear who out first, my money is on the shiba!
Where the personality is concerned, it is easy to see why they are often seen as cats that think they are dogs or visa versa. Scrupulously clean about the house and fastidious in their own hygene, washing and preening themselves; The shiba seems almost cat like. Their mannerisms often betray the cat tendencies, rubbing themselves up you for attention, almost purring when being petted, hunting mice and birds with cat like movements. Even the way they greet you, reaching out to touch with a paw, rather than sniffing seems strange. Strange behaviour indeed for a dog? Yet suddenly when you are convinced they are a cat, they start acting dog like. Fetching balls, barking, coming to call (just to be awkward for once), even walking happily on a lead. Shibas have more levels to them than at first imagined.
Training can be fun, if not altogether one sided. Lead training is another thing entirely for the pup. The first thing you will notice is.. THEY SCREAM! A blood curdling "child being murdered horribly" type scream which makes you cringe in terror and wonder what the neighbors will think you are up to. Don't panic, all you did was put a collar on! This is the famous shiba alarm, one thing you soon learn to get used to. There is also an easy way to turn it off: CUDDLES! but then you may get a spoilt dog and no training done, so a happy medium has to be achieved.
(I have actually had the RSPCA called on me before whilst lead training a Shiba puppy. The noise really is that bad!, and non-doggy people have no idea what you are up to, and thus fear the worst. I can assure you though, it is nothing more than a Shiba tantrum :)
The shiba is primarily a spitz type dog, but unlike most spitz who are famous for the noise they can make, the shiba is remarkably quiet. Very rarely will you hear a word uttered. I even have one bitch which was born silent and never uttered a word until 1 year later when I had to leave her for a while. Upon my return I was greeted with a tiny, hard to hear squeek! If they feel someone strange is in the neighborhood they will give a warning, but they are not prone to barking for longer than is absolutely necessary. in actual fact the bark isn't realy a bark, more a "HWUF WOOOOWOOO", or yodel but they do try.
The Shiba-Inu tries very hard at a good deep throat 'WOOF', but it invariably comes out as 'HWUF'.
** NOTE TO ANY SHIBAS READING THIS ** To perfect the Shiba 'HWUF' you need to sit down, clear your mind, and then proceed by going 'HWUF' at regular 10 second intervals for at least 2 hours without break. This activity is best done with friends, and can be a great source if amusement when your 'Humans' start digging their nails into the arms of chairs and having nervous breakdowns.
The Shiba's volcabulary does not end there though, for it is a very complex dictionary of meaningfull and bizzare noises. The table below shows a rough translation of each of these utterings:
1. MMEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOW - "Good Morning :) " (Or after naps)
2. WARBLE WARBLE WARBLE - "Fuss me fuss me, hi hi hi" (Usually reserved for visitors)
3. I WANNA I WAAANNNAAA - "I want I want" (Usually directed at object of desire)
4. ERGNNN ERGNNN ERGNNN - "Nice. I like it, more more more" (Coupled with litttle licks)
5. PRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR - "Ahhhhh, nice" - (Used in the same manner as a cat would)
6. MUTTER MUTTER MUTTER - "NO don't wanna, put me down, grr" (Done under breath)
7. SCREEEEAAAAAAAMMMMMM - "ARGHHHH IT HURTS!!!" (Used during minor injuries)
8. SCREEEEAAAAAAAMMMMMM - "A LEAD ARGHHHH!!!" (General reaction to dog leads)
9. SCREEEEAAAAAAAMMMMMM - "ARGHHHHHHHH DEW CLAWS BEING CLIPPED"
10. SCREEEEAAAAAAAMMMMM - "I THINK I'M BEING KILLED!" (When you gently hold a paw)
11. SCREEEEAAAAAAAMMMMM - "I'M GONNA SCREAM JUST IN CASE THIS HURTS!"
12. UUURKKAAAA GUUURRKA - "I'm going to be sick right here" (Usually carpet)
13. WOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH - "I think I can howl like a wolf" (A wolf with a sore throat)
14. HWUF HWUF WOOO WOOO - "INTRUDER ALERT INTRUDER ALERT!" (Or relatives visiting)
15. SILENT STARE + PROD - "You know exactly what I want and, I'll hypnotise you if neccasary"
16. A FULL CONVERSATION - "Today I did the following..." (This almost sounds like english)
As you may have noticed from that little list, Shiba's enjoy a good scream :)