Breed Type: Spitz
Country of Origin: Japan
Popular Names: Shiba Inu, or “Little Brushwood Dog”
Size: Small
Height: (At the withers) Males 35-43 cm, Females 33-41 cm
Weight: Males 10 kg, Females 8 kg 
Best suited as: Pet or show dog with an active owner or family. May be used as a hunting dog
Lifespan: 12-15 years

One of the few ancient dog breeds remaining, the Shiba Inu is small and agile. It looks very similar to an Akita but is much smaller. In Japanese, Shiba means “brushwood” or “small.” Inu is the Japanese word for “dog.”

A well-bred Shiba Inu looks like a fox, with a small, compact and muscular body. It has a blunt, triangular-shaped head, triangular ears, and dark eyes. The preferred height at the withers for this breed is 37-39 cm for males and 34-37 cm for females. They have a moderate bone structure. The Shiba Inu has a double coat, with a thick, soft undercoat and a straight, thick outer coat. The fur on the face, legs, and ears is short, while guard hairs may be as long as two inches at the withers. The tail hair is brush-like and open.

Shiba Inus may be sesame with a cream, grey or buff undercoat; black and tan; or red. It is possible to get cream-coloured Shibas, but this colour is considered a “major fault.” Show dogs must have “urajiro” – or a cream/white colour in these areas: inside the ears, on the cheeks, on the upper throat and underjaw; inside of the legs; on the abdomen; on the sides of the muzzle, around the ventral side of the tail; and on the vent.

Originally bred in Japan as a hunting job in 3rd century B.C.E., this spitz-type dog is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. It was used in Japan’s thick undergrowth in mountainous areas to flush and hunt small game like rabbits and birds. They were also used to flush bear and wild boar. The breed almost went extinct during World War II – only three bloodlines survived. These three bloodlines: the Mino Shiba from Gifu Prefecture, the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano Prefecture, and the San’in Shiba from Tottori and Shimane Prefectures were combined and the result – the Shiba Inu – is what we have today.

The Shiba Inu is a wonderfully affectionate dog with lots of enthusiasm for life. They are curious, independent, and very clever. They are not likely to listen to every word you say, but as long as you use gentle and positive obedience training tactics, you will have no problem with this breed. They do have a tendency towards dog aggression, especially between females, so early and ongoing socialization is very important.

Shibas are very easy to housetrain.

Shibas do not tend to be barky or overly-protective, but their highly alert state and caution around strangers make them a good guard dog. They are great with children and usually do okay with other dogs and even cats, as long as they are socialized from an early age. Because of their hunting instinct, this little dog is not safe to have around small family pets like birds, rodents, or rabbits.

Because of their small size, these dogs are well-suited for apartment dwellers, although care must be taken to ensure they get adequate exercise.

They make very good treatment dogs since they are so good-natured.

One characteristic of the breed is known as the “shiba scream” – a very loud, high-pitched “scream” that the dog produces when being mistreated or – on rare occasions – when it’s very happy.

Care and Grooming (incl exercise requirements)
These dogs do not require much grooming as they are very fastidious about keeping themselves clean. They have little-to-no “dog scent.” Because of the waterproof nature of their coat, they require very infrequent bathing. They do enjoy swimming, though, and playing in puddles.

When they are shedding, you may have to brush them at least every other day, but when they are not shedding, a once-weekly brush should be sufficient. They are average shedders. Shedding tends to coincide with changing of the seasons and during warm months.

The thick and warm undercoat makes the Shiba tolerant to cold temperatures below freezing.

As mentioned, these little dogs need a fair amount of exercise – usually a minimum of one hour a day. Make sure you always keep your dog on a leash when not in a fenced area, because the Shiba’s hunting instinct will have him run after small game in an instant. They do very well in sports and agility trials.

Check its ears weekly for build-up of wax or other signs of infection or irritation. From a young age, brush your dog’s teeth at least once a week. If your dog does not have a concrete surface it walks on (which will wear down its toenails naturally), you should trim its nails once a month.

Overall, the Shiba Inu is very hardy and has very few genetic predispositions to diseases as compared to other breeds. Some health conditions noted in the Shiba Inu breed are cataracts, allergies, hip dysplasia, luxating patella, PRA, entropion, and glaucoma. Choose a conscientious and responsible breeder.

Since this little dog can develop allergies to grass pollen, make sure you keep your lawn short. It is also important that you feed your dog a high-quality, well-balanced diet free from artificial preservatives, colours, and additives.

Suitability As A Pet
Because of their intelligence and ease in housetraining, the Shiba Inu makes a good dog for a novice dog owner. They are not prone to troublemaking, either, like some breeds.

People with small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, or caged birds should not choose a Shiba Inu as a pet. Accordingly, families with young children should ensure that the dog they choose has been well-socialized with babies and small children before adopting it.

Some Shiba Inu dogs today are still used for hunting purposes.

The Shiba Inu is very adaptable and does well in large homes in the country as well as in small apartments in urban settings. 

Shiba Inu Organisations in Australia
Oriental Breeds Assoc of Victoria Inc

Shiba Inu Organisations in the UK

Shiba Inu Organisations in the US
American Kennel Club – Shiba Inu
Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue

Did we miss your organisation? Let us know. Contact Us