The Shiba Inu, also known as the Shiba Ken, the Little Brushwood Dog, the Japanese Turf Dog, the Little Turf Dog, the Japanese Small-Size Dog or simply the Shiba, is the oldest, smallest and most popular of all Japanese breeds. Its name translates from Japanese as "small dog." It strongly resembles a smaller Akita but is solid in coat color. Today, the Shiba Inu is the most abundant companion dog in Japan, and it also makes a wonderful watchdog. The Shiba is independent, disinterested in strangers and retains its strong prey drive. It rarely barks, and when it does vocalize it tends to emit a strange howl called the "Shiba Scream." It is cat-like in its cleanliness and can be headstrong. The Shiba Inu was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1992, into its Stud Book and as a member of the Miscellaneous Class. It became eligible for full registration as a member of the Non-Sporting Group in 1993.
Mature male Shibas should stand 14½ to 16½ inches at the withers; females should stand 13½ to 15½ inches in height. The preferred weight for males is 23 pounds, and for females 17 pounds. This is a double-coated breed, with thick but short hair that does not require excessive attention. It has alert pricked ears and a tightly curled tail, and always looks alert and ready for adventure.
History & Health
The Shiba Inu developed on the steep slopes of the Japanese mountains and was used to hunt both large and small game for many centuries. They were especially adept at hunting birds, although occasionally boar, bear and deer were their targets. There may be some Chow Chow in this breed's history. The breed officially got its present name sometime in the 1920s. The first breed standard was written in 1934. In December of 1936, the breed was designated as a precious natural resource of Japan, through the Cultural Properties Act.
The Shiba Inu was entered in dog shows starting in the early 1930s. Most of these dogs came from the Yamanashi or San In areas of Japan, brought down from the mountains, and they were rough and variable in type and temperament. World War II almost extinguished the Shiba Inu breed. The war was closely followed by a massive outbreak of distempter in 1952 that almost finished the task. Those few dogs that were left were from three distinct bloodlines: the San In Shiba, the Mino Shiba and the Shin Shu Shiba. The modern Shiba Inu descends from these three lines. Today's Shibas are elegant and very consistent in type. They retain their hunting instincts and remain independent, aloof and affectionate only to those who earn and deserve their respect.
The first known Shiba in America arrived in 1954, brought by an American soldier from Japan. In the late 1970s, more Shibas were imported from Japan by breed fanciers. The first litter was born in the United States in 1979, with both sire and dam imported by Julia Cadwell. The Shiba Inu was admitted to the Stud Book of the American Kennel Club in April of 1992. It became eligible to compete in the Miscellaneous class in June of 1992 and received full eligibility for regular classification in the Non-Sporting Group in June of 1993.
The average life span of the Shiba Inu is 13 to 16 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, dental problems, eye problems, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism and patellar luxation.
Temperament & Personality
Shiba Inus are alert dogs with fiery personalities. Many owners call their Shibas little "spark plugs" because they are so spunky. Owning a Shiba Inu means committing to plenty of exercise and lots of intensive training and socialization. These three ingredients are essential to raising a well-adjusted Shiba with good manners. Shibas love their families and will want to be included in all activities both indoors and out. They are good with children, though toddlers may not make the best siblings for a Shiba. They prefer the company older kids who understand how to behave around dogs. For experienced dog owners, Shibas can be loving, affectionate companions, as this is a breed who truly gives back what his family is willing to put in.
Shiba Inus require a lot of vigorous activity to maintain health and and even temperament. They may be appealing to apartment dwellers because of their medium build and unique look, but Shiba Inus need several walks a day and plenty of time to run. Because they are dog aggressive, parks are not always the best places for Shibas, so homes with fenced yards are the ideal living space.
Shibas enjoy interactive games and will happily chase balls and search out hidden toys in the back yard for hours. The most ideal activity for a well-behaved Shiba is the agility course, as their minds are just as active as their little bodies, and boredom can set in quickly. A bored Shiba is a destructive Shiba, so keeping him occupied can save your shoes and furniture.
Shibas can be difficult to train, especially for dog owners. Many breeders recommend working with a professional dog trainer who understands the Shiba personality and temperament. They are dominant dogs who like to be in charge and will make you work for your position as leader. A calm-assertive demeanor is important, as is generous praise, treats, and 100% consistency. If you give a Shiba Inu any leeway to bend the rules, he will walk all over you.
Once leadership has been established and basic obedience has been mastered, Shibas should graduate on to an advanced activity like agility training. They are smart animals who like to use their minds as well as their bodies, and they will appreciate the opportunity to bond with someone they love.
Socialization should begin early with your Shiba Inu so that he does not grow up to be mistrustful of strangers. The strong temperament of the Shiba Inu gives them a bad reputation in some circles, but when a commitment is made to properly train, socialize and exercise a Shiba Inu, they are very well-mannered dogs. The consensus among breeders is that ill behaved or aggressive Shibas are a result of poor training.
Shiba Inus are prone to dog aggression. Properly socializing your Shiba around other dogs can minimize this, but it is best to keep him on a leash at all times, especially if your male is not neutered. They are also prone to chasing cats, so it's best that Shibas not live with a feline, and caged rodents will be terrorized by a Shiba Inu constantly stalking.
This breed is very possessive of toys and food. Shibas are good with kids, but when small children are around, it is best to hide your dog's toys. If a stranger takes something that is his, he won't be happy and can respond by snapping.
Separation Anxiety is a common trait in Shibas, but is most commonly caused by lack of exercise. Before leaving the house for long periods of time, you should wear your Shiba Inu out with a long walk or a run in the park. This breed expresses their anxiety through excessive barking or screaming and very destructive chewing.
The Shiba is the smallest of the Japanese native breeds of dog and was originally developed for hunting by sight and scent in the dense undergrowth of Japan's mountainous areas. Alert and agile with keen senses, he is also an excellent watchdog and companion. His frame is compact with well-developed muscles. Males and females are distinctly different in appearance: males are masculine without coarseness, females are feminine without weakness of structure.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Males 14½ inches to 16½ inches at withers. Females 13½ inches to 15½ inches. The preferred size is the middle of the range for each sex. Average weight at preferred size is approximately 23 pounds for males, 17 pounds for females. Males have a height to length ration of 10 to 11, females slightly longer. Bone is moderate. Disqualification--Males over 16½ inches in dogs and under 14½ inches. Females over 15½ inches and under 13½ inches.
Expression is good natured with a strong and confident gaze. Eyes are somewhat triangular in shape, deep set, and upward slanting toward the outside base of the ear. Iris is dark brown. Eye rims are black. Ears are triangular in shape, firmly pricked and small, but in proportion to head and body size. Ears are set well apart and tilt directly forward with the slant of the back of the ear following the arch of the neck. Skull size is moderate and in proportion to the body. Forehead is broad and flat with a slight furrow. Stop is moderate. Muzzle is firm, full, and round with a stronger lower jaw projecting from full cheeks. The bridge of the muzzle is straight. Muzzle tapers slightly from stop to nose tip. Muzzle length is 40% of the total head length from occiput to nose tip. It is preferred that whiskers remain intact. Lips are tight and black. Nose is black. Bite is scissors, with a full complement of strong, substantial, evenly aligned teeth. Serious Fault: Five or more missing teeth is a very serious fault and must be penalized. Disqualification--Overshot or undershot bite.
Neck, Topline and Body
Neck is thick, sturdy, and of moderate length. Topline is straight and level to the base of the tail. Body is dry and well muscled without the appearance of sluggishness or coarseness. Forechest is well developed. Chest depth measured from the withers to the lowest point of the sternum is one-half or slightly less than the total height from withers to ground. Ribs are moderately sprung. Abdomen is firm and well tucked-up. Back is firm. Loins are strong. Tail is thick and powerful and is carried over the back in a sickle or curled position. A loose single curl or sickle tail pointing vigorously toward the neck and nearly parallel to the back is preferred. A double curl or sickle tail pointing upward is acceptable. In length the tail reaches nearly to the hock joint when extended. Tail is set high.
Shoulder blade and upper arm are moderately anuglated and approximately equal in length. Elbows are set close to the body and turn neither in nor out. Forelegs and feet are moderately spaced, straight, and parallel. Pasterns are slightly inclined. Removal of front dewclaws is optional. Feet are catlike with well-arched toes fitting tightly together . Pads are thick.
The angulation of the hindquarters is moderate and in balance with the angulation of the forequarters. Hind legs are strong with a wide natural stance. The hock joint is strong, turning neither in nor out. Upper thighs are long and the second thighs short but well developed. No dewclaws. Feet as in forequarters.
Double coated with the outer coat being stiff and straight and the undercoat soft and thick. Fur is short and even on face, ears, and legs. Guard hairs stand off the body are about 1½ to 2 inches in length at the withers. Tail hair is slightly longer and stands open in a brush. It is preferred that the Shiba be presented in a natural state. Trimming of the coat must be severely penalized. Serious Fault--Long or woolly coat.
Coat color is as specified herein, with the three allowed colors given equal consideration. All colors are clear and intense. The undercoat is cream, buff or gray. Urajiro (cream to white ventral color) is required in the following areas on all coat colors: on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, inside the ears, on the underjaw and upper throat inside of legs, on the abdomen, around the vent and the ventral side of the tail. On reds: commonly on the throat, forechest, and chest. On blacks and sesames: commonly as a triangular mark on both sides of the forechest. White spots above the eyes permitted on all colors but not required. Bright orange-red with urajiro lending a foxlike appearance to dogs of this color. Clear red preferred but a very slight dash of black tipping is permitted on the back and tail. Black with tan points and urajiro. Black hairs have a brownish cast, not blue. The undercoat is buff or gray. The borderline between black and tan areas is clearly defined. Tan points are located as follows: two oval spots over the eyes: on the sides of the muzzle between the black bridge of the muzzle and the white cheeks; on the outside of the forelegs from the carpus, or a little above, downward to the toes; on the outside of the hind legs down the front of the stifle broadening from hock joint to toes, but not completely eliminating black from rear of pasterns. Black penciling on toes permitted. Tan hairs may also be found on the inside of the ear and on the underside of the tail. Sesame (black-tipped hairs on a rich red background) with urajiro. Tipping is light and even on the body and head with no concentration of black in any area. Sesame areas appear at least one-half red. Sesame may end in a widow's peak on the forehead, leaving the bridge and sides of the muzzle red. Eye spots and lower legs are also red. Clearly delineated white markings are permitted but not required on the tip of the tail and in the form of socks on the forelegs to the elbow joint, hind legs to the knee joint. A patch of blaze is permitted on the throat, forechest, or chest in addition to urajiro. Serious fault--Cream, white pinto, or any other color or marking not specified is a very serious fault and must be penalized.
Movement is nimble, light, and elastic. At the trot, the legs angle in towards a center line while the topline remains level and firm. forward reach and rear extension are moderate and efficient. In the show ring, the Shiba is gaited on a loose lead at a brisk trot.
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. At times aggressive toward other dogs, the Shiba is always under the control of his handler. Any aggression toward handler or judge or any overt shyness must be severely penalized.
The foregoing is a description of the ideal Shiba. Any deviation from the above standard is to be considered a fault and must be penalized. The severity of the fault is equal to the extent of the deviation. A harmonious balance of form, color, movement, and temperament is more critical than any one feature.
Males over 16½ and under 14½ inches.
Females over 15½ and under 13½ inches.
Overshot or undershot bite.
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Sources: American Kennel Club