Here is a link to the original article in the Seattle PI, which I copied here, written by Shiba training guru Diane Rich and featuring some Shibas I know:
What do you mean my breed can’t do this?
Raising the Bar
photo by Sandra Tung
Through decades of experience training most breeds, I have never been a trainer that is in to labels or breed prejudice as to what a breed can and can’t do. That being said, I am aware of the general characteristics, hardwiring and job description all breeds bring to the table and try to educate client’s dogs and their people accordingly.
I have always been an advocate of enriching the dog’s life with activities outside of obedience training and puppy manners in a classroom. This is where the wonderful world of dog sports enters the picture. There is a variety of fun activities available to pet parents to further the relationship and bond with one’s dog. Some breeds may take to a sport quicker than others and other breeds may surprise you with talent and enthusiasm for an activity. You will never know until you give it a go.
1. Find a trainer who doesn’t use cookie cutter training methods to guide you on your path.
2. If that trainer doesn’t appear to welcome your breed in class, find another trainer
3. Hopefully the class is peppered with fun along with an education and you and your companion enjoy the process.
Meet Sandra Tung and her Shiba Inus
Rally; photo by Mary Burlingame
Sandra has enthusiastically and passionately taken her breed to a level that now raises the bar for Shiba owners and parents of other breeds that do not fit the stereotypocal breed specific mental picture for a dog sport. I admire her.
I had the pleasure of working with Sandra when she first got into Shiba Inus. A breed I really like that has a reputation for being independent, feisty, no nonsense, aloof, not reliable off leash and what I like to call, a dog with an opinion. Can this intelligent breed be trained, absolutely. Are they easy to train, yes as pups and like many dogs, less so if not started early.
Hopefully, this blog will open the door for people parenting Shibas and other breeds that fall under the label of, What do you mean my breed can’t do this?
Agility; photo by Alex Vorkapich
I always loved the primitive look of the northern breeds, perky ears and curly tails. I also like their independent nature (not in your face or a Velcro dog) and their intelligence. I am especially attracted to the Shiba because of their smaller size, their urajiro (the white markings on certain parts of their body). Shibas are a big dog at heart, but in a smaller body.
I never had a dog before until I got my girl Maluko back in August 2010. My initial goal was really humble, to have a well-behaved, well-balanced pet.
Since I literally knew nothing, I was eager to learn. I bought and read a lot of dog training/dog behavior books and DVDs to better educate myself. This knowledge has helped me tremendously to not only communicate better with my dogs, but also put me in a better position down the road to evaluate different training methods/approaches, so I can be my dog’s advocates and not torture my dogs with unkind methods just because “some professionals” told me it is the only way!
Herding; photo by Lindsay Anne Tompkins
My first dog activity outside of basic training was Rally Obedience. After passing the Canine Good Citizen test with both of my Shibas, a friend of mine who also has Shibas suggested Rally Obedience to me. I knew nothing about canine sports or competitions, but thought it would be interesting to check it out and took a class with a friend and her Shiba.
I chose Rally for my girl Maluko and thought my boy Koji would enjoy Agility. I also attended a Nosework workshop around the same time and found a class near me to try. I became super interested in what else I can do with my dogs and found a doggie swimming pool and a herding place. This is how we started swimming and got to tried herding. I recently found out about Coursing and took my boy to try it and he totally loves it.
Nosework; photo by Carrie Reeves
Many people, (both trainers/instructors and fellow classmates or exhibitors give us funny looks when they first see me with my two Shibas. They think Shibas are difficult to train, aggressive/reactive and are only good for the looks, but nothing else. However, they usually change their minds after seeing us perform.
Sandra’s advice and I agree not only for Sandra’s breed but for all breeds:
Don’t let these people put you down and think you cannot train a Shiba. Stay away from any facility or trainer that tells you that your dog can not be taught something because it is a Shiba.
Thank you Sandra, for sharing your journey with my readers. You have raised the bar for pet parents who want to explore dog sports and dog activities and did not think it would be possible for their breed.
Sooo, moral of the story, if you ever meet a breeder who tells you “Shibas can’t do this” and “don’t bother, they are not Border Collies,” walk the other way.