Welcome to Shiba-Nunu

There is no real English word such as "Nunu", though privately, Nunu is a silly term of endearment my husband coined for our shiba inu, Mya, and all her shiba antics.

She is, then, our very own Shiba Nunu!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

About Breeding and Rescuing (Part 1)

Having been in more shiba inu forums than I can count with my fingers in one hand for years from the heydays of Dogster up to now that we have mostly migrated to various Facebook Groups, I have inadvertently interacted with people who are involved in the welfare of the shiba inu on various levels.  The ones that have struck me most are the Breeders as well as the Rescue Volunteers.
This blog entry is about breeders and breeding, among other things.

There are different kinds of breeders, but there are distinctions between a good, reputable breeder and a bad, irresponsible breeder.  In between, there are different kinds like there are shades of gray.

What is breeding?  I decided to see how Wikipedia phrases it in layman's definition for an objective wording:

"Dog breeding is the practice of mating selected dogs with the intent to maintain or produce specific qualities and characteristics."

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_breeding

Simply put, proper breeding is intentional. What qualities and characteristics does one want to achieve? When I come across breeders, I tend to ask the question, "What do you breed for?  Conformation? Temperament?" Sadly, some breeders do not even know what I am talking about. Those are usually the backyard breeders.

Breeding is not as simple as taking a pedigreed dog and letting it mate with another pedigreed dog and hoping to come up with cute puppies. The dog breeds as we know them today are what they are because of the efforts of breeders who have worked on improving them generation after generation. To be specific, the shiba inu dates back to the Japanese Jomonjin people dating back to 7,000 to 8,000 BC.  Eventually, with the effort of Dr. Saito, the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo), through the challenges of almost being depleted during WWII due to lack of food, a distemper epidemic, and the extinction of the Mino and Sanshin Shibas, the modern-day shiba has been re-bred to its current beauty.

Current-day shibas as we know them presently have so much history and culture in them and I can not help but truly love and respect the Japanese who made them what they are today.  Out of that respect, I can only hope that those who breed these dogs do 10,000+ years of preservation and selective breeding justice.  The most basic way to give this justice is to protect the breed from sure deterioration that may come from uninformed and irresponsible breeding. Deterioration from what? 

1.  Deterioration away from the Breed Standard---The breed standard has been set forth by the ones that created the breed in the first place (includes both conformation and temperament).  That is why most stringent shiba inu breeders hold the Nippo standard as the gold standard.

Responsible breeders select the best dog/s for breeding that conforms to the shiba inu breed standard (whether as set forth by Nippon, JKC or AKC) or the best dogs with the genetic make-up that will produce the next generation of dogs that will improve the breed.

      Temperament I can only give an example for this one using the familiar and well-know happy and friendly Labradors.
      "True Labrador Retriever temperament... The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive towards man or animal. The Labrador has much that appeals to people; his gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an ideal dog. Aggressiveness towards humans or other animals, or any evidence of shyness in an adult should be severely penalized." (Taken from the Breed Standard of the Labrador Retriever, AKC Website)

      And yet, recently, we have seen a surge of aggressive Labradors, to humans and to other dogs.  Last year I chanced upon a family having breakfast with their lab at a cafĂ©.  The waiter came by and set their food on the table.  Out from the side, the lab lunges and tries to attack the waiter. No physical harm done as the lab had a muzzle guard on.  But where in the Labrador breed standard does it say a lab needs to be muzzled?  Their kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive nature has been bred out due to unscrupulous breeding practices.

      If shibas are bred without consideration to temperament, goodbye "kan-i" (spirited boldness), ryosei (good nature) and soboku (naivete', alertness).

2.  Health---

      "The term ‘backyard breeders’ is commonly used in Canada and the U.S. to describe a breeder with a lack of knowledge and experience. Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_breeding
The most heartbreaking result of uninformed breeding is on the health of the puppies produced. 

      To have a basic good  knowledge of your dogs' genetic health, one needs to know his genetic background at least two generations back.  If a dog is bred without a thorough background check  and later in his life he is found to be passing on genetic issues, it is too late.  The puppies have been produced, rehomed, and who knows- they have most likely been bred as well. That is one mistake that can not be corrected.  That one well-meaning but uninformed breeder has successfully taken part in the deterioration of the breed population for generations to come.

Some things to watch out for with shibas:
  • Glaucoma- There is a yahoogroup which is a great support group for owners of shibas with eye defects 
  • Patellar luxation- Not sure if OFA does this certification as well, the way OFA does hip dysplasia checks.  One only has to send them the x-ray and they will interpret it for you.
  • Atopy- books will not say this, but many shibas have a lot of issues with atopic dermatitis ranging from mild to severe. Though the symptoms can be managed by medication, the regular steroid shots harm the kidneys long term.

Hope for the Shiba Inu in the Philippines

The shiba inu is rapidly starting to get popular in the Philippines though it is still in the beginning stages of  popularity.  When I would take walks with Mya when she was a puppy until she was three years old, barely anyone knew what kind of dog she was. I would just overhear people talking as we walked by exclaiming that she is a good looking "Siberian husky".  Someone asked me, "how many months?" And I replied "Three.  Three years." And we walk away.  The man was probably thinking that he had encountered one exotic breed- mini-husky. Then after the Hollywood movie, Hachiko was brought to the cinemas, people started referring to her as "Hachiko". "Fox" was also one of the classics.  And I got one or two "basenjis." These days, a few people already know she is a shiba inu. When I tell them she is a shiba inu, the replies are still pretty hilarious though:

"shiboo imoo", "shiba ano?", "shiva imo", "shiba emu"?

It Only Takes a Pair
For years, I have closely monitored the breed knowing that it only takes a pair of intact male and female shiba inus and willing owners to produce puppies and start a surge in the shiba population.  In the wrong hands, they will end up being bred indiscriminately by backyard breeders and commercial breeders and sold in petshops the way shihtzus are being overbred now.  The big difference is that unlike other breeds, the shiba is not easygoing. They have been described all the time as hard to train and not for first time dog owners. They require owners that are dedicated and willing to work on them throughout their whole lives. 

In the US, when cute shibas become unwanted as they get to their difficult adolescent years, owners may surrender them to rescue or to shelters.  Here in the Philippines, there is no shelter for unwanted pets.  They will end up locked up in a cage in someone's garage. This thought keeps me awake at night.

There is a reason why there are so many shiba inu specific rescue groups in the US. Because they need rescuing. Are we ready for this in the Philippines?

It is my hope and supplication that if you have a shiba inu in the Philippines, please give much thought before breeding.  You are responsible not only for the dog and the puppies you will produce, but also to your puppies' puppies' puppies.

If you still decide to breed, do it the right way.  Please see the Breeder Comparison Matrix below and strive to be a Reputable Breeder.  At the minimum get the health checks done.  Show your dog. It is the only way you can prove that you are breeding up to standard.  If not, you are only breeding up to your own perception of the standard.   Honestly look at your shiba with objective eyes before deciding on adding her genes into the country's shiba inu gene pool. Be humble enough and get an experienced mentor to train you with regard to breeding shibas.  In this case, since the breed is just starting, experienced mentors would logically be from other countries that have been breeding shibas for much longer. You may think that after reading a few books, you've got it all down pat.  But you will be surprised that it is not that simple. Please check out my next blog entry and you will know what I mean.
Respect.  Protect.
There is not much I can do now, but one thing I ask is that we respect the Shiba Inu Breed and the culture and history it comes with and also, to protect this National Treasure they have been proclaimed to be in Japan, their own country. We owe this much to them.


Monday, April 01, 2013

Summer with Mya and King

I took this photo last summer but it was edited and sent to me by a friend, Bong Rollan.  (Thanks, Bong!)  This is one of my all-time favorite photos of these two- none of them having gone overweight!

Looking forward to more early morning walks with the 2 of my feisty furpups! Hope I can wake up before the sun gets too intense for our walks.

Oh and the the drastic change and non-existence of blog updates can be attributed to my hands being full with them up there in the photo- smiling like they know what I got myself into!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Out-of-League Shiba

I have been asked many times what it is that I love about this breed.  This Nihon ken is usually not affectionate in the usual ways and has a very independent nature which means she keeps you at an arm's length. 

They like to be around you but not touching you, and definitely not on your lap... unless you're at the vet. Mya is not an exception.  Though I dream of her excelling in agility since she is a very spirited, agile and nimble trackster, we flunked out because she would rather go on her own terms. She will gladly take treats from my hands but not before sniffing every piece to make sure I know I still have to earn her trust.  She is proud, she is dignified and expects to be served.  A fellow shiba inu lover puts it aptly:

"Ever meet that hot guy our girl that's so beautiful you think they are out of your league? they always treat you like they can live without you and hardly ever give you the time of day. However there are those brief moments where they look at you with those eyes, cuddle with you for a minute or two that makes being "together" in this seemingly one-sided relationship worth it? And afterwards you go back to followimg them around like a lovesick puppy-dog picking up after their shit and putting up with their antics?

Yeah, owning a Shiba is something like that..."

Thanks, Jesse, for putting words into my thoughts!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mya Goes to School

Just a few convincing photos showing the value of patience and persistence in socializing dogs and teaching them how to "share".  Mya used to get snarky when she is with other dogs and suddenly, yummy treats come into the picture.

Here she is, practising self-control during a session of desensitization- desensitizing her to the presence of other dogs during treat-giving. Just look at the intensity of her stare. Ears focused and all.

Good job, Mya!

You deserve a treat!
Acknowledgements:  Pup Culture