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The Furry Critter Network
Shiba Dog Breed Description
Shiba Inu, Japanese Shiba Inu, Brushwood Dog, Shiba, Japanese Small Size Dog
Approximately 12-15 Years
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 Shiba Inu".
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.
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 Shiba Inus 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.
Shiba Inus 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 Inu 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.
The Shiba Inu 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.
These dogs are very clean, so grooming needs will likely be minimal. They naturally tend to hate to be wet or bathed, thus, it is very important to get them accustomed when they are young. A Shiba Inu's coat is coarse; short to medium length with the outer coat being 2.5 to 3.2 cm (1 to 1+1⁄4 in) long, and is naturally waterproof so there is little need for regular bathing. They also have a thick undercoat that can protect them from temperatures well below freezing. However, shedding, also known as blowing coat, can be a nuisance. Shedding is heaviest during the seasonal change and particularly during the summer season, but daily brushing can temper this problem. It is recommended that owners never shave or cut the coat of a Shiba Inu, as the coat is needed to protect them from both cold and hot temperatures.
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.
"Don't Shop ... Please Adopt"
If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for on Petfinder, don’t give up. Some shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)
Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network
Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. RescueShelter.com is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.