The Shiba Inu is one of Japan's six native dogs breeds and is the smallest of the group. Though they are now primarily companion dogs, they were once used for flushing birds for hunters and were even used to hunt wild boar. They have maintained their agility and bold personalities as family dogs. Shiba Inus do make lovely family pets and are loyal and affectionate with people they know, but can be suspicious of strangers. They live happily in apartments as long as they get enough exercise and are less prone to separation anxiety than some other breeds. This independence encompasses all parts of their personality - though Shibas are smart and quick to learn, they may not listen to everything you ask, even if they know exactly what you want. They will definitely require a bit of patience on the owner's part. But, with that patience, owners will be rewarded with a fun companion who is sure to delight with his clever ideas and unique sense of humor.
Key Breed Stats
Alternative names: The Shiba Inu breed is also commonly known by the names Brushwood Dog , Japanese Small-Size Dog , Japanese Shiba Inu , Shiba Ken, Shiba.
Life expectancy: 12 - 15 years
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Colors: Black, Black and Tan, Red, White
Key Breed Facts
Shedding: Heavy shedder
Grooming requirements: Low
Good with children: Average
Good with other pets: Average
Intelligence / Trainability: High
Exercise needs: Average
Tolerates being alone: Yes
Hunting drive: Average
Suited as Guard dog: Average
Good for novice owners: Yes
Hypoallergenic breed: 3
Drooling: Very low
General health: Average
Cost to keep: Average
The Shiba Inu is one of six dog breeds that are native to Japan. The other five are the Akita, Shikoku, Kai Dog, Hokkaido, and Kishu. The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the breeds and was originally bred to flush small game for hunters. Additionally, the Shiba is considered a 'basal' breed of dog, which means the actual breed that we are familiar with today predates the modern breeds the originated in the 1800s and later.
All of the dogs we see today were bred from only three bloodlines that were the only dogs to survive World War II. Food shortage during the war and a post-war distemper epidemic nearly eliminated the breed entirely. The surviving bloodlines were the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano Prefecture, the Mino Shiba from Gifu Prefecture, and the San'in Shiba from Tottori and Shimane Prefectures.
The Japanese Kennel Club was founded in 1948 and the Shiba Inu breed standard was drafted by Nihon Ken Hozonkai, which was adopted by both the Japanese Kennel Club and the Federation Cynologique Internationale.
An American service family imported the first Shiba Inu into the United States in 1954, but there is little else documented about the breed until the 1970s. The first U.S. litter was born in 1979. The Shiba Inu was recognized in the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class in 1993 and acquired full status with the Non-Sporting Group in 1997.
Shiba Inus are the smallest of the native Japanese dogs and are keen and confident companions.
Typical characteristics are:
- Moderately-sized head, round muzzle, deep-set eyes, and triangular ears.
- A Well-balanced body. Females are noticeably more feminine in overall appearance.
- A short docked tail.
- Double coat with stiff outer coat and softer undercoat.
- Colors: red, black or sesame with cream markings and cream undercoat.
Shiba Inus are intelligent dogs and though they learn quite quickly, are not always the best listeners. They are somewhat stubborn and recall is particularly problematic - a Shiba Inu will not always come willingly. Therefore, proper leash training is important because if you do not have a securely fenced yard, you will be exercising your dog on a leash. In addition, the free-thinking Shiba Inu requires time and patience to properly leash train, as they do not always take to it quickly.
Puppy obedience classes are a wonderful way to both train and socialize your Shiba Inu puppy.
As with all intelligent breeds, Shiba Inus require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with plenty of exercise and a job.
Shibas are energetic, playful dogs and therefore require a fair amount of exercise. 20-30 minutes of exercise twice daily is enough, and they enjoy many outdoor activities and are always happy to play with you. Bored dogs with too much excess energy can develop and undesirable and destructive habits.
Exercising your Shiba Inu puppy requires a few special considerations. They have an increased risk of hip dysplasia. Avoid exercising on slippery surfaces and climbing stairs under the age of 3 months. Exercise is needed, however, as strong muscles will increase the stability of the hip joint. Outdoor exercise on soft, uneven grounds seems to have a lower risk. Try to avoid exercise that involves running, jumping and playing on hard surfaces until the age of two.
Shiba Inus are people-oriented dogs and will want to be around their owners as much as possible. They will not appreciate being left alone for long periods of time. Loneliness and lack of attention/exercise may result in undesirable and destructive behaviors.
Though they are too small to be considered guard dogs, Shiba Inus may bark at strangers and can be territorial.
Because of their medium size and moderate exercise requirements, a Shiba Inu will do fine living in an apartment. However, they will require daily exercise regardless of the weather, so be prepared to walk with your dog rain or shine, hot or cold.
Shibas do not always come when called, so they do not do well off-leash. Therefore, they will need a fenced yard for exercise and playtime.
Children and Other Pets
A Shiba Inu will get along fine with children, as long as they are socialized early and the children are respectful of the dog. Shibas can be protective of their toys, food, and territory, so this should be taken into consideration. Special consideration should be taken with small children (under the age of 6).
- Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.
- Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.
- Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.
Because they do not like to share and may guard their things, Shiba Inus do not always get along with other dogs. Proper socialization is incredibly important when living with other dogs. Shibas do have a relatively strong prey drive and may chase cats and other small, furry animals.
HealthThe average life expectancy of a Shiba Inu is between 12 - 15 years. Like all breeds, the Shiba Inu is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Shiba Inu is prone to these diseases:
- Hypothyroidism (hereditary)
- Glaucoma (hereditary)
- Chylothorax (hereditary)
- Tail Chasing/Spinning (hereditary)
- Patellar Luxation (hereditary) : Patellar luxation is a very common orthopedic disorder in dogs. A patellar luxation occurs when a dog’s kneecap (patella) is dislocated or slips out of its normal position. More info»
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (hereditary) : Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of inherited degenerative eye disorders, which lead to loss of vision. PRA affects both eyes simultaneously and is not painful More info»
The Shiba Inu has a double coat with a soft, thick undercoat and stiff and straight topcoat. Shibas shed moderately throughout the year and excessively twice per year. Weekly brushing will help to remove dead hair and distribute oils.
Your Shiba Inu needs few baths, only when he gets dirty, using a pH balanced shampoo designed specifically for dogs. Some owners report that bathing helps with excessive shedding.
Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs.
Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. This helps prevent tartar build up and teeth problems. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.
Nail trimming is an important part of grooming if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Once or twice a month should suffice. Trimming a dog's nails too close can cause bleeding and pain, so it is important to trim carefully or seek the help of a vet or groomer.
All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.
1/2 to 1.5 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less.
Special attention is needed when feeding puppies. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a burden but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.
Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.
When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.