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Shiba Inu Information


Shiba have a "fox like" appearance that is captivating.  They are unusually hardy and robust little dogs that do not require the pampering and grooming that so many breeds require.  They are the smallest of all the Japanese breeds, with a very compact, muscular body.  This gives them great agility and an attitude of gracefulness and elegance.  They are a very friendly dog, lively while also being very attentive to their owners feelings.  They can be an excellent guard dogs, yet are not a yappy breed.  They make an excellent family pets and wonderful playmate for children.  The loyalty of the breed to their masters and family is a much repeated statement that we have heard from the people who have owned them.

An Introduction to the Shiba Inu


General Information on the Shiba Inu



AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 44 of 192


Height: Males 14.5 to 16.5 inches, Females 13.5 to 15.5 inches, 

Height over the upper limits is a disqualification in the show ring.


Weight: The weight varies according to height up to about 30 pounds.


Life Expectancy: About 15 years.


Colors: Red, Red Sesame, Black & Tan and Cream.  White/cream shadings (urajiro) are present on the legs, belly, chest and part of the face and tail - this is referred to as "urajiro". Cream is not preferred  in the show ring.


Coat: Dense double coat: a soft, undercoat with coarse guard hairs.


Character: Shiba Inu are curious, cheerful, and watchful. They bond closely with their owners. They are easily housebroken and are not barkers.


Watch-dog: Medium to High, suspicious of strangers, so will alert you but usually will not protect.


Learning Rate: High, intelligent and creative, self thinking.

About the Shiba Inu


If you are already this far, you have probably caught your first glimpse of a Shiba. It may have been at a dog show, walking in a park, or just a picture in a book. Cute, huh? The Shiba is probably one of the most universally appealing of all breeds. It has the look toy manufacturers try to capture in their favorite stuffed animal, the teddy bear. But the Shiba is not a toy. It is a very lively little dog with a unique set of characteristics. Each one is an individual with his own personality, but there are some traits that are considered typical of the breed. Dog ownership is a long term commitment; not something that can be stuffed in the closet once the novelty wears off. A dog's love is for keeps.


A Brief History of the Shiba Inu

Originally, Shiba were bred to flush birds and small game and were occasionally used to hunt wild boar. Now they are primarily kept as pets, both in Japan and the United States. There are more Shiba in Japan than any other breed. Around 7000 BC the ancestors of today's Shiba may have accompanied the earliest immigrants to Japan. Archaeological excavations of the shell-mounds left by the Jomonjin, or Rope-Pattern People (a name derived from the pattern found on their earthenware), show that they had small dogs in the 14 1/2 to 19 1/2 inch range. In the third century BC, a new group of immigrants brought their dogs to Japan. These dogs then interbred with the descendants of the Jomonjin dogs, and produced canines known to have pointed, erect ears and curly or sickle tails.


In the 7th century AD, the Yamato Court established a dog-keeper's office that helps maintain the Japanese native breeds as an integral part of Japanese culture. Although the country was closed to foreigners from the 17th through 18th centuries, some European dogs and a breed known as the Chinese Chin were imported and crossed with native dogs living in the more populated areas. Dogs in the countryside, however, remained relatively pure. Originally there were three main varieties of Shiba; each named for its region of origin. Although similar, the Shiba from each area contributed to differences in breed type seen today. From the original Japanese native dogs, six distinct "breeds," in three different sizes developed.


They are:

 *Large Size - The Akita

 *Medium Size - The Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, & Kai

 *Small Size - The Shiba


The small size dog has been called the Shiba since ancient times, with several theories surrounding the development of that name. One popular explanation is that the word Shiba means "brushwood," and the dogs were named for the brushwood bushes where they hunted. Another theory is that the fiery red color of the Shiba is the same as the autumn color of the brushwood leaves. A third conjecture is related to an obsolete meaning of the word Shiba referring to its small size. These explanations are often combined and the Shiba is referred to as the "little brushwood dog."


World War II nearly spelled disaster for the Shiba, and most of the dogs that did not perish in bombing raids succumbed to distemper during the post-war years. While the Mino and Sanin Shiba became practically extinct, more of the Shinshu Shiba survived. After the war, Shiba were brought from the remote countryside, and breeding programs were established. The remnants of the various bloodlines were combined to produce the breed as it is known today.



Physical Characteristics




The Shiba is a very proportionate dog with a height to length ratio of 10 to 11. Males run from 14 1/2 to 16 1/2 inches tall, with females ranging from 13 1/2 to 15 1/2 inches. Heights over or under the limits are a disqualification in the show ring. The weight varies according to height. It is a medium boned, moderately compact and well-muscled dog with a generally Spitz-like appearance. Because of its hunting heritage, it is quick, agile and able to turn on a yen. It has a dense double coat similar to that of a husky. Although all colors are acceptable in the Shiba standard, red, red sesame (sable) and black and tan are preferred. White and cream shadings (urajiro) are present on the legs, belly, chest and part of the face and tail.





With a black button nose, little pricked ears and a curly tail, the Shiba enters the world knowing he is a superior being. Whether with intrepid boldness, squinty-eyed cuteness or calm dignity, he is king.


The Japanese have three words to describe the Shiba temperament. The first is "kan-i" which is bravery and boldness combined with composure and mental strength. The opposite side of "kan-i" is "ryosei" which means good nature with a gentle disposition. One cannot exist without the other. The charming side of the Shiba is "Soboku" which is artlessness with a refined and open spirit. They combine to make a personality that Shiba owners can only describe as "irresistible."


If a Shiba could only utter one word, it would probably be "mine." It is "mine" food, "mine" water, "mine" toys, "mine" sofa, "mine" crate, "mine" car, "mine" owner, and "mine" world. Sharing is a concept he feels others should practice. Some Shiba may carry "mine" a bit too far and become aggressive in their resource guarding, particularly in the presence of other dogs. It is wise to remove favored toys and food-based treats in the presence of other dogs and small children so the dog doesn't become overly possessive.


If the bait is dangled when a potential Shiba owner sees an adult, the hook is set when he encounters his first puppy. They are exemplary examples of canine cuteness, fiery little fuzz balls from hell, no words can describe the appeal of the infant Shiba. A litter of Shiba is a overload of cuteness,  strutting, posturing little windup toys.


Health Considerations


Responsible breeders check their Shiba eyes for hereditary eye defects. No breed of dog is totally free of hereditary eye defects.


Allergies, especially to fleas (see flea section of this page) are the frequent nemesis of dogs, and Shibas are prone to them too. With the advent of the newer flea preparations, the problems should be minimized. Other allergies require veterinary help. A rule of thumb: If the itching is from the shoulders back, it is probably fleas. If the itching is somewhere else, it may be something else. Just like with humans, allergies are not life-threatening, but are very common and very annoying.


Occasionally, a Shiba puppy may exhibit a heart murmur. Usually these go away without treatment, and there is no cause for alarm.


Smatterings of other defects have been reported, but none in numbers to cause concern at this time. Reputable breeders do all they can to screen for serious problems and will guarantee their puppies to be free of disabling hereditary problems for the first few years of life.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:



We test for 







A Reputable Breeder


You have probably been admonished to buy from a reputable breeder. Where are they? You may look in the newspaper, but the best breeders use other methods of advertising. Many do not need to advertise at all as they only have a few litters each year and their good reputations precede them. In fact, if you are reading this article, you are already there.


Let your best instincts guide you when choosing a breeder. Don't pick a puppy because you feel sorry for it or want to "rescue" it. This is an animal that will be sharing your life and the life of your family the next 15-17 years or so. Take your time. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Choose one who is willing to help you both before and after the sale. Since Shiba often aren't readily available, choose the breeder first and place a deposit on an upcoming litter.


Sometimes adults are available from breeders or people who have kept them as potential show dogs. For some reason, the dog did not turn out to be a show dog. These dogs usually make outstanding pets as they have been carefully raised and are past the "puppy stage." Some mature show dogs are no longer being bred and are the perfect age to take up residence on your sofa, under your desk or as a traveling companion.


Sometimes, whether through impulse or frustration in trying to find a good breeder, people end up considering a pet store puppy. Puppies found in a pet store have been bred strictly for profit. Quality is seldom a criteria. People who breed these puppies do not know where they go and have no contact with the animal after it is sold to the pet store. It is not to say that a nice puppy cannot be obtained through a pet store, or rescue but common sense dictates that it is better to work with someone who has the welfare of his puppies as his highest priority, not money.


Unfortunately, some of them will end up in rescue services. If you feel you could take one of these dogs, check for a rescue organization in your area. Rescue dogs can be nice dogs whose owners could no longer keep them or they could come from puppy mills. Either way keep in mind they did not come form a reputable breeder as any reputable breeder does not allow their dogs to go to rescues or shelters or humane societies. They make sure they can be taken back and found a proper home if needed. With rescues be aware that you will need to be patient and probably retrain for bad habits or deal with temperament issues.

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