Lotus, a female Shiba Inu aged 8 months

People make difference choices when getting a new dog. Many people choose a cross bred dog from their local pound or rescue centre, and this has much to commend it. Ireland has a huge surplus of unwanted dogs, with thousands being euthanased every year. If a home can be given to one of these individuals, then it can mean that one less dog is killed.

But rescued dogs do not suit every situation. Sometimes, new owners feel that they need to know exactly what type of animal they are introducing into their home. Important characteristics of dogs are inherited, and if the parents of a puppy are unknown, it can be very difficult to predict how the adult version will turn out. A pedigree puppy gives new owners the possibility of having a reasonable estimate about the size, shape and personality of the adult version of their pet.

When paying money for a pedigree animal, people need to be aware of the risk of accidentally buying a dog from a badly kept puppy farm, and there are some rules of thumb to try to make sure that a new puppy comes from a good background. The Irish Kennel Club (www.ikc.ie) can be a useful place to track down a breeder of the type of animal that you are looking for. If possible, you should visit the breeder’s premises, rather than meeting in an anonymous car park. And you should meet the mother of the puppy, with her identity confirmed by looking at the puppy’s pedigree chart, and having the mother’s microchip identification demonstrated for you. Ideally, you should also meet the father of the puppy. If both parents are calm, obedient individuals, it is much more likely that the puppy will grow up to be the same type of dog.

When a family has chosen to buy a pedigree puppy, they may have a vague idea about which breed they prefer, but often the choice is based on whatever puppy is reasonably easy to find at the time.  Breeds like Boxers, West Highland White Terriers, Labradors and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are very popular, and it is easy to find litters of puppies for sale.

The Ng family was unusual in that they knew exactly which breed of dog they wanted, and it was not one that was easily available. Ping is a big fan of a game called Nintendogs,  on her Nintendo DS,  featuring a breed of dog called a Shiba Inu. She adopted four electronic versions of the dog while playing the game, and she decided that this was the type of dog that she wanted in real life. The Shiba Inu is a very pretty dog, with a lovely long, deep coat.  The breed originated in Japan, and is one of the oldest breeds in the world, with DNA analysis demonstrating that it dates back to the third century BC.

Ping liked the idea that she was choosing an Asian dog, like herself. Ping was born in Ireland, with an Irish mother and a Chinese father. She visits China from time to time, to see family, and the Far East remains an important part of her personal identity.

The Shiba Inu is a rare breed in Ireland, and the Ng family had to do a lot of research before finding the right source. They eventually tracked down a breeder in Abbeyfeale, and they put in an order for a puppy a whole year in advance. They were kept in touch during the year and they were notified as soon as the puppies had been born.

They collected their puppy when she was six weeks old, and she was christened “Lotus”. She was expensive, at €850, but Ping’s parents see her as a long term investment. Lotus will grow into an adult that will be “the” family dog, so that Ping and her siblings will grow up remembering her as an important, central part of their childhood. She has been microchipped, and she is not left outside alone in the garden, because of the risk that someone could try to steal her in the mistaken hope that she would be a valuable commodity to sell.

Lotus is exceptionally well bred. Her half sister was in the top five at Crufts, but the family is not going to breed from her- she is just a pet, and she has already been spayed. Lotus has grown into a dog that has a close resemblance to a fox, and when she is taken for a walk, people often stop to ask why a fox is being kept on a chain. Her coat is magnificent, but it does need frequent brushing to keep it looking good.

Lotus is an intelligent, but independent-minded dog. She is very quick to learn, and Ping is currently undertaking a series of dog training classes with her. She can already sit, stay and walk to heel. She loves playing too, and she is quick to chase a ball that is thrown for her.

Ping still has her four computer dogs, but nowadays she spends much more time playing with her real-life version.


  • For most people, a cross bred dog from the local animal rescue centre makes a good choice of pet
  • For different reasons, a specific pedigree breed of dog can have an appeal to some families
  • If choosing a rare breed of dog, you need to spend time and money to make sure that you get it right

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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