Originally, the Shiba Inu was the dog breed that started the “Doge” internet meme phenomenon . While the meme has become — and still is — a virtual sensation, the Shiba breed has established its own reputation, and is worth learning more about. Read on about the noble Shiba Inu!

The Shiba Inu is a Japanese small-to-medium hunting dog breed, and is the smallest of the six original and distinct spitz dog breeds native to Japan. 

Small, alert and agile that copes well with mountainous terrain and hiking trails, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting. Although It looks similar to and is often mistaken for other Japanese dog breeds like the Akita Inu or Hokkaido, the Shiba breed is a distinctly different breed in terms of size, bloodline and temperament.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Shiba Inu is the number one companion dog in Japan, and in 2016 the breed has been ranked 44th on the AKC Registration Statistics.

Shiba Inu Build & Measurements

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Shiba Inu (red)

The Shiba’s frame is compact with well-developed muscles. Males are from 35 to 43 cm (14 to 17 in) at the withers, while females are 33 to 41 cm (13 to 16 in). The preferred size is the middle of the range for each sex. Average weight at preferred size is approximately 10.5 kg (23 lb) for males, 8 kg (18 lb) for females.

Shiba Inu Appearance

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Shiba Inu (tan)

The Shiba Inu has several features to its appearance that distinguishes its breed. Most prominent is its double coat, with the outer coat being stiff and straight, while the inner or undercoat being soft and thick.

It has short fur on its fox-like face, ears, and legs. It also has guard hairs that stand off the body and are about 4 to 5 cm (1 1⁄2 to 2 in) long at the withers. The guard hairs protect their underlying skin and repel rain or snow. Its tail hair is slightly longer and stands open in a brush.

Another defining characteristic that makes the Shiba dog breed stand apart from others is its tail. Their tails help protect against the harsh winter weather. When they sleep and curl up, they use their tails to shield the sensitive areas on their face and nose from the cold.

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Shiba Inu (white)

In terms of color, Shibas may be red, orange, yellow, black and tan, or sesame (red with black-tipped hairs), with a cream, buff, or grey undercoat.

Also, the Shibas have ventral markings known as Urajiro (裏白) that literally means “underside white”. Per the breed standards, Shibas should have urajiro in specific parts and areas.

Although there are white Shiba Inus, the American Kennel Club considers this color as a “major fault”, and should never be intentionally bred in a show dog. Conversely, a white coat is perfectly acceptable to the British Kennel Club breed standard.

Shiba Inu Temperament

Because the Shiba Inu breed was originally bred for hunting, it tends to exhibit an instinctively independent nature. The Shiba is relatively meticulous, and feels the need to maintain good hygiene levels. Shibas can often be seen licking their paws and legs, much like how cats do. They generally go out of their way to keep their coats clean.

Those who plan to adopt a Shiba will immediately benefit from this trait, as they are generally easy to housebreak, often even housebreak ing themselves. Practically, dog owners can just take their Shiba pups outside after meal times and naps, and the pups will quickly pick this up as the time to relieve themselves. Other breeds offer different benefits, such as those that do not shed.

An audibly distinguishing characteristic of the breed’s temperament is the so-called “shiba scream”. When sufficiently provoked or unhappy, Shibas will produce a loud, high-pitched scream. This can occur when Shibas feel uncomfortable, especially if being mishandled. The animal may also emit a very similar sound during periods of great joy, such as the return of the owner after an extended absence, or the arrival of a favored human guest.

Shiba Inu History

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Shiba Inu (black)

The Shiba Inu has been identified as a principal breed that predates the emergence of the modern breeds in the 19th Century.

Originally, Shibas lived in the mountainous areas of the Chūbu region in central Japan, and was bred to hunt and flush small game such as birds and rabbits. During the Meiji Restoration, western dog breeds were imported, and crosses between these and native Japanese breeds became popular. 

Consequently from 1912 to 1926, pure Shiba breeds had become very rare. From around 1928, hunters and intellectuals began to show interest in the protection of the remaining pure Shibas. However, despite breed preservation efforts, the Shiba nearly became extinct during World War II due to a combination of food shortage and a post-war distemper epidemic.

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Shiba Inu (black & tan)

As a result, all subsequent dogs were bred from the only three surviving bloodlines: the Shinshu Shiba (Nagano Prefecture), the Mino Shiba (Mino Province, south of present-day Gifu Prefecture), and the San’in Shiba (Tottori and Shimane Prefectures). When the study of Japanese dogs was formalized in the early and mid-20th century, these three distinct strains were combined into one overall breed.

In 1934 The Nippo Standard, the first Japanese breed standard for the Shiba, was published. In December 1936, the Shiba was recognized as a Natural Monument of Japan through the Cultural Properties Act, largely due to the efforts of Nippo (Nihon Ken Hozonkai), the Association for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog.

In 1954, an armed service family brought the first Shiba Inu to the United States, and the first recorded litter was born in 1979. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1992 and added to the AKC Non-Sporting Group in 1993. It is now primarily kept as a pet both in Japan and abroad. 

Shiba Inu Health and Lifespan

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Shiba Inu outdoors

Overall, the Shiba Inu is a healthy dog breed, and can expect to live up to 12-15 years. It is best kept healthy with daily walks and exercise. Health conditions known to affect this breed are allergies, glaucoma, cataracts, hip dysplasia, entropion, and luxating patella.

Periodic joint examinations are recommended throughout the dog breed’s life. Eye tests should be performed yearly as eye problems can develop over time. If no joint problems have been discovered by two years of age, then a Shiba may be considered fully free from it.

Shiba Inu Grooming

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Shiba Inu (orange)

Shiba Inus 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 start accustomed when they are young.

A Shiba’s coat is coarse 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.

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