Wolves, Wild Dogs and Dingos

Breedlines article from Dogs in Canada October Issue:

Teenagers- the reaction to this word is as multifaceted as the age group; extremes of mood, personality and physical development seem to be the earmark of this group, not to mention multicoloured hair, body piercing, new hobbies, friends and changing interests often... so to with the Shiba.

Somewhere between the 6th and 8th month your cute little girl or boy, who up until now was a sweet cuddly little teddy bear suddenly begins to act like a.... like a teenager.

Not able to run down to the tattoo parlour or piercing studio, your Shiba, who has endeared himself to you by bringing you his favourite toy as a gift, complete with ears laid back flat against his head and lips curled in a smile, now bears his teeth, hisses and growls at you as you perform routine household chores such as changing the water in HIS water dish or picking up HIS toys as you straighten up the house.

The battle for the alpha position has begun! Like an ongoing game of chess, your Shiba teenager will test for the limits. "Loss of hearing" is a favourite ploy as is forgetfulness (oh, did I already learn not to jump on the furniture?)

Why? Why? Why you ask. You provided the best of everything; love, shelter, food, playthings, training.... and now this. (kinda sounds like your Mom when you were a teenager).

The answer, may in fact, lie deep in the very nature of our primitive Shibas.

The very same struggle is being played out by 'teenage' pups in the wilds of Canada, northern Europe and Asia, on the plains of Africa and in the Australian outback. Wolf, Wild Dog and Dingo packs all need to sort out the rank order so that they can function effectively as a group and ensure their survival.

Although the human / Shiba relationship can be fairly accurately traced back to at least 3000 BC, the Shiba is still classed by many as a primitive breed, essentially left as it was by generations of breeders that appreciated the Shiba for what it is and not for what they (the breeder) would like it to be. Thus the primitive roots of our Shibas often come to the surface during this 'teenage' phase. In the wild this sorting out of role is usually settled with a bit of posturing, growling and the odd fight. Your Shiba, however, realizes that size alone will give you the edge, and so a 'battle' of wits will often ensue.

How you, the true alpha of your pack (family), deal with the situation, will, to a large part, determine how your Shiba interacts with you, the rest of the pack and the outside world.

Firm, consistent control and a lot of patience is required to ensure a clear understanding develops between you and your Shiba. This is not to be understood as physical or verbal abuse. A tightrope walk between control and freedoms lies ahead that will lead to your Shiba understanding his rank position in the pack, while allowing him to fully develop his independent self.

As suddenly as this behaviour started it stops. Only the new twinkle in his eye as he brings you his favourite toy as a gift, complete with ears laid back flat against his head and lips curled in a smile as he stays just out of reach betrays the fact that your Shiba has passed yet another milestone in his development.

This then is one of the challenges and rewards of having a Shiba as part of your life, a living, breathing example of the oriental yin and yang, of balance between kan-i (bravery and boldness), ryosei (good natured and gentle) and soboku (open spirit).

George Weber

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