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The Shiba Inu

"Little Brushwood Dog"

Enjoy (( ))

What are the six breeds of Japanese Dogs?

Six Japanese Dogs. Clockwise from upper right: Hokkaido, Kai, Kishu, Shikoko, Shiba, and Akita. All are named after the region of origin, except the Shiba.  Image courtesy from http://obaka.atja.jp/. 

Japanese Dog Breeds

So, Shiba,..., Who are you really??

See the "All about The Shiba Inu" - Hawai'i Shiba Inu Club Video

See History of the Sbiba

The Shiba Inu (柴犬) is an ancient breed from Japan.  In 1936, Japnaese declared the Shiba Inu the National Dog of Japan. The United States received its first import in 1954, but there are no reported litters before 1978.  There were three main lines of the Shiba that have been combined to form today’s breed. These were the Mino Shiba, known for its fiery red color, the Sanin Shiba, which is larger boned and slow to mature, and the Shinshu Shiba, which had a very thick bristly outer coat.  The Shiba Inu was almost lost in the early 1940’s during World War II and then again in 1959 due to an outbreak of distemper.  Because of these disasters to the three breeds of Shibas ("Sanin Shiba", "Mino Shiba" & "Shinsho Shiba"), the Japanese Nation implemented a rescue breeding effort to work. The Japanese breeders have worked long and hard to protect this national treasure.

Three Japanese Words Define the Shiba Inu

"Kaani-i" = Spirtual Boldness / "Ryosei" = Good Nature / "Soboku" = Alertness


Yes, it's in the Genes,...Cute?

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Family Ties - National Geographics Society, 2012

(What Dogs Tell Us: The ABCs of DNA, February 1, 2012)

In 2012, the National Geographics Society, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation analyzed the DNA of 85 dog breeds. Scientists found that genetic similarities clustered and cateorized them into four broad categories (Wolflike, Herders, Hunters and Mastifflike).

The groupings reveal how breeders have recombined ancestral stock to create new breeds; a few still carry many wolf like genes no stronger that the Shiba Inu, Chow chow and Akita. Researchers named the groups for a distinguishing trait in the breeds dominating the clusters, though not every dog necessarily shows that trait. It is the Wolf genes that we see and love in the Shiba Inu.


With roots in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, these breeds are genetically closest to wolves, suggesting they are the oldest domesticated breeds.

The length of the colored bars in a breed’s genetic profile shows how much of the dog’s DNA falls into each category.

Of all of the dogs tested, the Shiba Inu is the closest to the ancient wolf based on DNA making the Shiba Inu one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. And the original three breeds of Shiba Inu of the Japanese six dog family breeds is the grandparent to the rear.

Read on to get to know this noble breed.

National DNA Study of Dogs

John Tomanio, Lawson Parker, NGM Staff
Source: Heidi G. Parker, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health


Shiba Inu Dogs 101 - Small Dog Big Attitude

Physical Characteristics

The Shiba Inu comes in three accepted colors, red, red sesame, and black and tan.  The coat is a double coat, which consists of harsh guard hairs and a soft undercoat.  The undercoat will be cream, buff or gray. The correct height for the Shiba: dogs, 14.5 to 16.5 inches at the withers and bitches, 13.5 to 15.5 inches at the withers.  The average weight: male dogs, ~23 pounds and bitches, ~17 pounds.  The eyes should be triangular, deep set, and the iris should be dark brown, almost black.  The ears should also be triangular, forward set and small, but in proportion with both the head and body.  Shibas have a nimble, elastic gait.

Positive Characteristics

The Shiba Inu is a beautiful animal that resembles a plush fox, although some claim it looks more like a miniature Akita.  This small spitz-like dog is compact, attractive, clever and possessed of a charming personality.  Shibas are very intelligent dogs.  They thrive as both city or country dogs.  Typical of most northern breeds, the sturdy Shiba can tolerate most temperature extremes.  Those who have owned them claim their behavior is similar to that of a cat.  They are clean, controlling, aloof with strangers, and quite independent.  They will even walk on tabletops and counters in the fashion of a housecat.

Negative Characteristics

Due to its dominant nature, the Shiba can exhibit aggression towards other dogs. However, it is usually the female Shiba Inu that is aggressive toward other female dogs.  Because they were originally bred for hunting they are highly observant and easily enticed into the chase for any prey animal that makes itself available.  They are very likely to run away if allowed off-leash outdoors. 

Specific Training Advice

This is a very sensitive breed, so the degree of correction must be adjusted accordingly.  These are strong-willed dogs that require very firm handling, but if the corrections are too strong they will react poorly and become snappy.  Be firm, patient, and consistent.  The trainer must balance these elements and accept the reality that these are difficult dogs to train.  Early socialization during puppy hood is of significant help to the training process.  Any early signs of aggression must be taken seriously and corrected immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions About Shibas

Where Can I Buy a Shiba?

You need to decide if you want a puppy or an adult Shiba Inu.  A good reputable breeder will have puppies and possibly juvenile or adult dogs available for placement.  Rescue organizations usually have adults that have been altered updated on their vaccinations and can be placed for a reasonable donation.  Pet stores do sell the Shiba, but the cost will usually run you from $1000 to $1800 and they cannot offer the support network a good breeder or rescue organization can.

How Much Can I Expect  to Pay for a Shiba?

The price of a puppy varies with the breeders, geographic region and quality of the dog.  Expect to pay more for show and breeding prospects; up to $2500.  Puppies that have been determined to be of pet quality will run about $1200 to $1500 and will probably come with a spay/neuter contract and/or limited AKC registration.

Are Shibas Good Family Dogs?

Shibas are naturally loyal and make good watchdogs. Like all pets with children at home, training both the Shiba and children to be good companions is key. They are also tolerant and patient; however, like any other animal, the Shiba will protect itself if he/she is repeatedly abused, challenged or teased.  The Shiba is usually a loving companion, but they enjoy their independence.  Breeding and environment can affect the behavior of all animals.

Are Shibas Good with Other Animals?

Hmmm,... Yes and no.  The Shiba was bred to be a hunter of small game ranging from birds in the bush, on up to and including the Japanese boar.  Shibas will be tolerant of the animals they are raised with, but not necessarily the animals that live next door.  The introduction of any new animal should be handled with care and respect for the current animal residents.

Are Shibas Easy to Care For?

The Shiba Inu needs to be fed a good quality dog food.  Do not feed them, or any other animals either onions or chocolate.  They should be bathed, brushed and have their nails cut on a regular basis. They are like cats; they gloom themselves. Their coats are naturally gloomed.

Can the Shiba be Obedience Trained?
Yes, and it should be ASAP.  There are many reasonably priced puppy, novice and advanced classes available.  To be able to take your Shiba anywhere because you both took the time to learn new things together is the greatest benefit of having a well-trained dog.

Does the Shiba Require a Large Yard?

Conditional No.  The Shiba Inu can fit into almost any living environment, provided that moderate exercise is provided.  A good walk, twice a day, a romp in the back yard or a charge through the house will give your Shiba a good exercise. Never let your dog run without a leash.  Shibas are known to be escape artists as well.

Should I Get a Shiba?

  1. You need to ask yourself, Am I ready to make a commitment of 15+ years to my dog?  A Shiba is not a “backyard” dog that just needs food once a day.  They need to be with their “pack” and that’s you and your family.

  2. Is the Shiba Inu the breed for me?  This breed is intelligent and has no problem with testing you.

  3. Do I have enough time and energy to exercise, train, and groom my Shiba? Once a routine is established, these tasks are not hard, but can sometimes be time consuming.

  4. Have I considered the cost involved in caring for a dog, like food, equipment and vet bills?  Since the Shiba is a small breed, food is reasonable.  You will need bowls, bedding, crate, collar, leash and plenty of toys.

  5. Will I mind the shedding and other minor nuisances that owning a dog entails?  Getting up early for morning business and puppy proofing your living space are two examples.  Shibas do “blow coat”, in other words they do shed and you will be removing it from your clothing and furniture.

  6. Will I be a responsible pet owner by neutering/spaying my Shiba if he/she is not show or breed quality?


A Quick Checklist for the Shiba Buyer

  1. Read a copy of the American Kennel Club standard for the Shiba Inu, so you will know something about the standard and requirements for the breed.

  2. Be sure that your puppy comes from parents that are registered with the American Kennel Club.  Ask to see the papers.

  3. Observe the parents of your puppy.  Remember that temperament is inherited.

  4. The puppy should have an outgoing, friendly attitude.  He/she should look healthy and well cared for.

  5. Be sure that your puppy has had at least its first vaccination and has been wormed.  Check with your veterinarian for recommendations.

  6. Be sure that your breeder provides you with a health record for the puppy, AKC papers and care instructions.

Recommended Reading

* Shiba Inus by Laura Payton
* The Total Shiba by Gretchen Haskett & Susan Houser
* The Complete Shiba Inu  by Maureen Atkinson
* Jojofu by Michael P. Waite, illustrated by Yoriko Ito

Shiba World by Tanacross Enterprises
Shiba E News - National Shiba Club of America

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