The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the six original and distinct breeds of dog from Japan. A small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting. It is similar in appearance to the Akita, though much smaller in stature. It is one of the few ancient dog breeds still in existence in the world today.
Inu is the Japanese word for dog, but the origin of the prefix "Shiba" is less clear. The word shiba means "brushwood" in Japanese, and refers to a type of tree or shrub whose leaves turn red in the fall. This leads some to believe that the Shiba was named with this in mind, either because the dogs were used to hunt in wild shrubs, or because the most common color of the Shiba Inu is a red color similar to that of the shrubs. However, in an old Nagano dialect, the word shiba also had the meaning of "small", thus this might be a reference to the dog's small size. Therefore, the Shiba Inu is sometimes translated as "Little Brushwood Dog".
14 1/2 to 16 1/2 inches (male); 13 1/2 to 15 1/2 inches (female).
15 to 28 pounds.
Recent DNA analysis confirms that this is one of the oldest dog breeds, dating back to the 3rd century BC.
Originally, the Shiba Inu was bred to hunt and flush small game, such as birds and rabbits. Despite efforts to preserve the breed, the Shiba nearly became extinct during World War II due to a combination of bombing raids and a post-war distemper epidemic. All subsequent dogs were bred from the only three surviving bloodlines. These 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 Shinshu Shibas possessed a solid undercoat, with dense layer of guard-hairs, and were small and red in color. The Mino Shibas tended to have thick, prick ears, and possessed a sickle tail, rather than the common curled tail found on most modern Shibas. The San'in Shibas were larger than most modern shibas, and tended to be black, without the common tan and white accents found on modern black-and-tan shibas. When the study of Japanese dogs was formalized in the early and mid-20th century, these three strains were combined into one overall breed, the Shiba Inu. The first Japanese breed standard for the Shiba, the Nippo Standard, was published in 1934. In December 1936, the Shiba Inu was recognized as a Natural Monument of Japan through the Cultural Properties Act, largely due to the efforts of Nippo (Nihon Ken Hozonkai), the Association for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog.
In 1954, an armed service family brought the first Shiba Inu to the United States. In 1979, the first recorded litter was born in the United States. The Shiba was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1992 and added to the AKC Non-Sporting Group in 1993. It is now primarily kept as a pet both in Japan and abroad.
Shiba Inus are generally independent and intelligent dogs. Some owners struggle with obedience training, but as with many dogs, socialization at a young age can greatly affect temperament. Traits such as independence and intelligence are often associated with ancient dog breeds, such as the Shiba Inu. Shibas should always be on a leash, unless in a secured area, because of their strong prey drive.
From the Japanese breed standard:
A spirited boldness, a good nature, and an unaffected forthrightness, which together yield dignity and natural beauty. The Shiba has an independent nature and can be reserved toward strangers but is loyal and affectionate to those who earn his respect. They can be aggressive toward other dogs.
The terms "spirited boldness", "good nature", and "artlessness" have subtle interpretations that have been the subject of much commentary.
The Shiba is a fastidious breed and feels the need to maintain itself in a clean state. They can often be seen licking their paws and legs much like a cat. They generally go out of their way to keep their coats clean, yet thoroughly enjoy swimming and playing in puddles. Because of their fastidious and proud nature, Shiba puppies are easy to housebreak and in many cases will housebreak themselves. Having their owner simply place them outside after meal times and naps is generally enough to teach the Shiba the appropriate method of toileting.
A distinguishing characteristic of the breed is the so-called "shiba scream". When sufficiently provoked or unhappy, the dog will produce a loud, high pitched scream. This can occur when attempting to handle the dog in a way that it deems unacceptable. The animal may also emit a very similar sound during periods of great joy, such as the return of the owner after an extended absence, or the arrival of a favored human guest.
Points of Interest
Health conditions known to affect this breed are allergies, glaucoma, cataracts, hip dysplasia, entropion, and luxating patella. Overall, however, they are of great genetic soundness and few Shibas are diagnosed with genetic defects in comparison to other dog breeds
The joint evaluations are generally considered good for the life of the dog and are generally discovered early in the dog's life, but the eye test must be performed yearly to be considered valid. At two years old, Shiba Inus can be tested as fully free from joint problems, at which time the skeleton has had time to finish growing.
As with any dog, Shibas should be walked or otherwise exercised daily.Their average life expectancy is from 12 – 15 years. Exercise, especially daily walks, is preferred for this breed to live a long and healthy life. These dogs are very clean, so grooming needs will likely be at a minimum. A Shiba Inu coat is coarse, short to medium length with the outer coarse guard hard being 1-1 1/4 inch long, and naturally waterproof, so there is little need for regular bathing. However, there is one drawback and that is shedding, also known as blowing coat. They have a thick undercoat that can protect them from temperatures well below freezing. Shedding is heaviest during the seasonal change, especially during the summer season, but brushing should be performed on a daily basis whenever possible.
Hunting, tracking, watchdog, guarding, agility, and performing tricks.