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Japan Subculture Research Center

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Teaching an old dog (breed) new tricks


Jul 23, 2011

On July 19th (2011), Mr. Futaba (二葉), who belongs to an indigenous breed of Japanese dogs, known as shiba-ken (柴犬), became the first Japanese dog to qualify as a police dog in postwar Japanese history. He will be serving with the Okayama Prefectural Police Department. It was his third attempt at qualifying, after having failed the exam in the fiscal years 2009, 2010. The third time was the charm, proving the Japanese saying, (三度目の正直・sandome no shojiki=the third time is when a victory is really decided) is both true for humans and canines as well.

Mr. Futaba is 50 centimeters tall, and weighs 11 kilograms. In compliance with the personal privacy information protection act (個人情報保護法),  the Okayama Prefectural Police Department will remain silent on Futaba’s real age. He is not over the age limit.

He will be spending the next year primarily searching for missing persons. In a normal year in Japan, one without colossal earthquakes and killer tsuami, over 80,000 people are reported missing; he will be one very busy dog.

According to the Asahi Shinbun, typically, native Japanese canines make very poor police dogs because, “they are stubborn, go at their own pace, and do not listen to orders from anyone other than their own masters.” In many ways, this passage could be used to describe the average Japanese bureaucrat–they also make for poor police officers.

Up until now, reverse discrimination had relegated most prime police dog positions to foreign breeds, but Mr. Shibata’s inspiring victory has shown Japan and the world that it is possible to teach an old dog (breed) new tricks.

Mr. Futaba, on July 19th, became the 1st native Japanese dog to qualify as a Japanese police dog. It was his third try.
11 thoughts on “Teaching an old dog (breed) new tricks”
  1. Shibas are said to be extremely stubborn, if they don’t want to do something, they just don’t. They lack the “will to please” that German Shepherd dogs have in overabundance.
    They just don’t care whether you like what they do or not. It’s possible to train dogs like that, it jsut requires a lot more time, love and patience.

    But I see what you did there with the reverse discrimination.

    1. Reverse discrimination? Me? I’m incapable of irony. Actually, one of the things I like about Shiba-ken or Shiba-inu is that they are extremely stubborn and don’t go out of their way to “please everyone.” It says something about old Japan’s national character. (LOL). However, there is something seriously interesting about people and dogs that don’t care whether you like what they do or not. And I don’t think there’s any animal in the world that doesn’t respond better to more time, love and patience. Except some humans. I’m sure this puppy will turn into a fine police dog.

  2. Jake san, a policia do japão treina cachorros velhos para trabalharem auxiliando a policia em desvendar crimes? Os cachorros são da raça AKITA? ou ele utilizm outras raças à exemplo Rotwailler ou Dog alemão?

  3. (JOKING!) “Inu” not “ken”. As an honored member of the OPPD I think we should at least give him that amout of respect lols. At least he is within the standards for his breed, although teeth count, coloring, etc. has yet to be verified. (^_^)v

    1. Thanks Teruo-san! I’ve had multiple people writing in as to whether it is 柴犬 (しばいぬ)(shiba-inu) or (柴犬)(shiba-ken). Both reading are acceptable in Japanese. I originally went with “shiba-inu” and then was told that it was more commonly known as “shiba-ken” in the US so I changed it to “shiba-ken”. Well, regardless of the romanization he is a 柴犬 and even the Japanese would dispute what’s the best way to say that in Japanese, but they wouldn’t dispute that he’s the first indigenous dog to qualify as a police dog post WWII.

  4. Love the story. love the breed. it can be trained and does very well if you are patient. I love they are not in your face dogs, but do love you very much and show it in many ways. I have bred several Agility Shiba’s so they retain what they are taught but they truly will thumb their nose at you if they do not want to do something that moment.
    BTW I am surprised you found that Shiba Ken was used more often as I have been in this breed 23 years and always it has been Inu with al breeders in the Parent club. In any case, thank you for a nice story of a wonderful breed.

    1. I think they’re great dogs. And actually, the description the Asahi gives of the dogs sounds like the ideal for a yakuza member. (LOL).
      Glad you enjoyed the story. It’s nice to write something sort of inspiring now and then.

  5. I am sure that this Shiba will be a wonderful addition to the police force and will locate many lost individuals – when they take on a job with responsibilities they are amazing.

    We are permitted to care for our two Shiba Inu – the older one used to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity when I worked as a construction supervisor. No one ever sneaked up a ladder behind you and no construction professional got onto the site without her approval while many volunteers were able to come and go as they pleased without her charging down growling like she did with the professionals. She would also stay at the site while I went to to hardware store if anyone younger than the seniors were present otherwise the seniors could fend for themselves and she would hop up into the cab of the truck and go with me. My two Shibas have pull me up a hill where I could get no footing. Once when the older one was having a fight with a Shiba rescue we were trying to adopt, both Shibas closed their mouths on my arm which I had put in between them to grab a collar and they both stopped and released my arm horrified at what had happened. My older Shiba did get her CD Certificate. My younger Shiba enjoys being a dog with all the privileges that gives him. The older one was attached by a dog when she weighed 12 pounds and when I tried to release her and the dog went for me she got in between us and got bit on the leg a second time and the dog would not let go. A couple months later the vet said he would have to remove the leg because she was not walking on it but someone did Reiki healing for her and she still has all four legs 14 years later.

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