Canine Breed Menu



Breed Organization
National Shiba Club of America
Native Country
Other Names
Japanese Shiba Inu, Shiba Inu, Shiba Dog, Japanese Small Size Dog, Brushwood Dog
Life Expectancy
Approximately 12-15 Years
Litter Size
2-3 Puppies
Breed Group
AKC Non-Sporting
Breed Appearance
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. Inu is the Japanese word for dog, but the "Shiba" prefix's origin are less clear. The word shiba usually refers to a type of red shrub. 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 old Japanese, 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".

Shibas range in height from 14.5 to 16.5 inches (37 to 42 cm) at the withers for males, and 13.5 to 15.5 inches (34 to 39 cm) for females, with males weighing approximately 23 lb (10 kg), and females approximately 17 lb (8 kg). Height or weight outside of this range is a disqualifier in the show ring.

Shiba Inu have double coats, with a straight outer coat and a soft, dense undercoat that is blown generally two times a year, producing a relatively large amount of fur given the size of the dog. Shedding normally occurs at the beginning or end of each season. However, between seasonal sheddings Shibas generally shed in smaller quantities and require regular brushing.

Shiba may be red, black and tan, or sesame (red with black-tipped hairs), with a cream, buff, or grey undercoat. They may also be creamy white or pinto, though this color is not allowed in the show ring as the markings known as "urajiro" are unable to be seen. The urajiro markings are defined as a pattern of white in contrast to the dog's primary coat color that exists on the underside of the Shiba.

Breed Description
Head: Foxlike. Broad skull. Distinct stop. Straight nose bridge. Muzzle tapers to the nose. Full cheeks. Tight lips.
Ears: Small, triangular. Held erect and slightly forward.
Eyes: Fairly small, triangular. Dark brown color.
Body: Straight back. Broad, muscular loin. Moderately short. Thick neck. Deep chest. Ribs moderately sprung. Belly well tucked up.
Tail: Set high. Thick. Carried curled or curved in the shape of a sickle.
Hair: Short, hard, straight. Longer on the tail. Soft, dense undercoat.
Coat: Red, sesame (hint of black on rich, dark red background), black sesame, red sesame, black and tan, brindle, white, light red, light gray. All colors except whites must be urajiro (whitish hair on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, under the jaw, on the throat, forechest, underbody, bottom of the tail, and inside of the legs).
Size: Dog: 38 to 41 cm.Bitch: 35 to 38 cm.
Weight: 6 to 12 kg.

This ancient, indigenous breed developed on Honshu Island. The Shiba Inu (Shiba meaning "small" and Inu meaning "dog"), thought to have Chow and Kishu blood, was crossed with English setters and pointers that had been imported to Japan. Therefore, by the early twentieth century, pure Shibas had become rare. Around 1928, measures were taken to maintain pure blood lines. A standard was published in 1934, and the Shiba Inu was declared a "Natural Monument" in 1937. The breed almost disappeared during World War II. Today, the Shiba is one of the most popular breeds in Japan.

Shibas are generally independent and intelligent dogs. Some owners struggle with obedience training, but like 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. Some shibas must always be on a leash, but with the proper upbringing, a shiba's loyalty will keep the dog with its owner for life.

The dog has a spirited boldness and are fiercely proud with a good nature and a feeling of artlessness. The Shiba is able to move quickly with nimble, elastic steps. The Shiba is a fastidious breed and feels the need to maintain themselves 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, and while walking will avoid stepping in puddles, mud and dirt. Because of their fastidious nature, the Shiba puppy is 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.

Health conditions known to affect this breed are glaucoma, cataracts, hip dysplasia, and luxating patella. Shibas are also prone to food allergies. Epilepsy is also becoming common in several bloodlines in Australia and the USA. Overall, however, they are of great genetic soundness and few shibas are diagnosed with genetic defects in comparison to other dog breeds.

The Shiba adapts well to life as a house pet. However, this is a sporting breed, and therefore long, frequent walks are required. Daily brushing is needed for this very clean dog.

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