The Shiba Inu is the most popular companion dog in Japan, He also makes an excellent guard dog, since he is reserved with strangers, and alert and fearless. They are known for their independent, and sometimes stubborn, nature, and they can be aggressive. A strong prey drive makes them good hunting dogs as well, but they are also good family companions and devoted to their owners.
Male adults reach a height of 14 to 16 inches, and females a height of 13 to 15 inches. Males weigh 18 to 25 pounds at maturity, and females 15 to 20 pounds.
The Shiba Inu has been around since 300 B.C. and is one of the original spitz type of dogs. It was originally a hunting dog in Japan and was used to flush out game such as rabbits and birds, and hunt them. The word ‘shiba’ is Japanese for brushwood, which is a tree or bush that has leaves which turn red during fall. It is thought that these dogs were named this either because one of their common colors is red, or because they used to hunt in shrubs.
During World War II the breed almost became extinct, due to disease and lack of food. Three bloodlines were used to carry on their breeding, and the first one documented to enter the United States was in 1950. Since then they have grown in popularity.
Shiba Inus are confident, fearless and alert – making great hunting dogs and guard dogs. They also can be very independent, which may make training difficult. A strong prey drive means they will most likely give chase to small animals unless they are on a leash. But the Japanese also describe them as good-natured, and they make loyal and devoted companions.
The Shiba Inu looks like a miniature Akita, and is fox-like in appearance with its pointed ears and muzzle. His eyes are triangular and his tail curls upwards over his back. They have double coats, with a soft and thick undercoat, and a straight and short-haired outer coat. The color of their coat is usually red, sesame, or black and tan, with a lighter colored undercoat of cream, grey or buff. Cream or white coats are also possible, although may be considered a fault depending on the breed standard of the country.
Shiba Inus can manage in an apartment so long as they get sufficient exercise. They can also be kept outside because of their weatherproof coat, but they prefer to be with their family. This is not a good breed choice for a novice owner because they can be difficult to train with their stubborn and independent spirit. They do tend to develop separation anxiety if they are left alone for too long. This will usually result in destructive chewing or a lot of barking.
A good watchdog, the Shiba Inu is reserved with strangers. They have the potential to be aggressive with other dogs, so should be socialized at an early age and kept on a leash. Although they are devoted and good-natured, they are not usually recommended for families with small children because of their high spirits and possessiveness. If a child takes one of their toys away they might snap at them. They don’t usually do well with cats in the house either.
This breed tends to clean itself, like cats, and don’t have a ‘doggy odor’ as some other breeds do. So they only need to be bathed as needed, which won’t usually be very often. They do shed, so will need a weekly brushing, and a daily brushing during shedding season. Some owners also use a blow dryer to loosen hair and dead skin, although you should keep it on a temperature that is not too hot. Their ears should be checked weekly for any signs of infection, and their teeth should be brushed every week. Their nails should also be trimmed regularly unless they are worn down by outdoor activities.
Housebreaking is easy for the Shiba Inu as they are very clean, and like to get away from where they sleep to use the bathroom. They should never be let off the leash when they are out and about though, as they will very easily run away. They have a strong prey drive and will give chase to small animals and also may be aggressive with other dogs. Shiba Inus are intelligent and learn quickly, but training can be a challenge. This is because they are also independent and stubborn, and may not want to learn what you’re teaching them. Many breeders recommend working with a professional trainer who understands their temperament.
Shiba Inus should have several walks a day to satisfy their need for activity. They shouldn’t be let off a leash in a park as they may attack other dogs. It’s best for them if they are in a house with a large yard that they can roam freely in. Agility courses and hunting are great activities for them, as they can satisfy their need for mental stimulation as well as physical activity.
It’s best to feed your Shiba a high quality dog food. The National Shiba Club of America says that it should contain ‘about 30% protein, and 15% to 18% fat.’
When you bring your Shiba Inu puppy home, start off by feeding him the same food as your breeder gave him. He will need feeding three times a day from 8 weeks till about four months old. You can feed them a regular puppy food until they get to about 90% of the size they will reach as an adult.
If you dog shows signs of itching on his skin, and hair loss, a food allergy may be the cause. Symptoms of food sensitivity might include an upset stomach or diarrhoea. If you suspect a food allergy, you can try an elimination diet. This involves stripping back your Shiba’s diet to a couple of limited ingredients that he doesn’t normally eat and seeing if it clears up. If it does, then you can start to reintroduce other ingredients one at a time to see which one is causing the problem. Some breeders and owners also like to use a grain free diet, since grains can often cause problems and don’t have as much nutritional value.
Recommended daily feeding amount: 1 to 1.5 cups of high quality dry dog food every day, divided into two meals.
Be careful you don’t let your dog get overweight. If they are spayed or neutered they will generally need a bit less food, and the amount needed will also depend on their activity levels. You can keep an eye on their weight by looking at them and feeling their ribs. You should be able to feel their ribs but not see them.
Common Health Concerns
Hip Dysplasia is a common problem in this breed, as with many others. This is where the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint, and can result in lameness or pain. They can be screened for this by X-ray. If you’re buying your puppy from a breeder you should check to make sure that the parents have been screened for it before breeding.
Allergies are also common – including food allergies, contact allergies, and inhalant allergies. Treatment will depend on what is causing the allergy. It may involve changing their diet, keeping them away from whatever causes the problem, or giving them medication.
Patellar Luxation can also affect Shiba Inus, and results in the kneecap slipping in and out. This can cause pain and lameness, but many dogs have the condition and manage to live a normal life. They are also susceptible to certain eye diseases, such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Glaucoma and Cataracts. They should be given regular eye examinations so that any eye conditions can be diagnosed as they occur. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a gradual deterioration of the retina. It starts with night time blindness and eventually progressed to daytime blindness as well. Dogs can manage with this though, if the furniture is kept in the same place in the house – as they are good at finding their way around.
Shiba Inus are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Shiba Inus in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Shiba Inu rescue.