The Shiba Inu originates in Japan and is the country’s most popular dog breed; the dog is gaining popularity in the west but is still not seen in great numbers. You must correctly socialize the Shiba Inu if you want a mild-mannered dog that’s friendly to strangers and doesn’t have any aggressive tendencies.
Shibas are independent dogs, happy in their own company, but they still love their humans. They are highly intelligent, and while you, the owner, would just love to pick him up and hug him all the time, he’s not going to be too enthralled.
Everything You Need To Know About The Shiba Inu:
1. Shiba Inu History
The Shiba Inu goes way back; some say as far back as 300 BC, where they were hunting dogs in Japan. The Shiba Inu is the smallest and oldest of the six native Japanese dog breeds, the others being the Akita, Kishu, Kai Dog, Hokkaido, and Shikoku. The name Shiba may denote ‘small,’ or it could also mean ‘brushwood’ which identifies the red brushwood trees, which are a similar color to the dog’s coat color.
Originally there were three Shiba breeds, each taking their name from the geographical region they were from; Mino Shiba from Gifu, Sanin Shiba from the northeast area of the mainland, and the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano.
The breed practically went extinct during the Second World War and in the years after the war due to chronic food shortages and a distemper epidemic. To ensure the breed’s survival, subsequent dogs were bred solely from the three original Shiba breeds. In the early part of the twentieth century, Japanese breeders combined all three into the Shiba Inu. Introducing the Nippo Standard in 1934 saw the standardization of the Shiba Inu. In 1936 the Shiba Inu gained recognition as a Natural Monument of Japan.
An American family brought a Shiba Inu back to the States with them in 1954, but very little information exists regarding the breed until the 70s. A Shiba Inu litter was born in the United States in 1979, and the AKC recognized the dog in 1997. In 1983 the National Shiba Club Of America was formed, and four years later, a sister club called the Japanese Shiba Inu Club of Great Britain.
2. Shiba Inu Appearance
Some people like to describe the Shiba Inu as fox-like, and to some extent, it’s a reasonable description, but on closer examination, Shibas don’t resemble foxes in the slightest. The classic Shiba Inu coloring is reddy-orange with white covering their stomachs, chest, lower face, inner ears, and inside the legs. The Japanese created a specific word for this unique white coloring-Urajiro. You might also come across other Shiba coat colors such as cream, black and tan, and sesame or sable, although the breed standard doesn’t recognize sable in Shiba Inus.
Sesame is one of the four primary Shiba Inu coat colorings but elusive to describe and find on a dog. A natural sesame Shiba has a coat that is a red base with a black tip overlay. The black must blend evenly and not concentrate in any particular area of the coat. There must be no greater than 50% of the black within the coat, and even the black-tipped guard hairs need to have the proper percentage of black and red.
There is a marked difference in height and weight from male Shiba Inus to females. Males can grow to 16.5 inches and weigh upwards of 23 pounds, whereas females only grow to 13.5 inches and weigh 17 pounds. The male Shiba features a broader face compared to females.
Shiba Inus are light on their feet, agile, and compact. They are similar in looks to an Akita, but the Shiba is the smaller of the two dogs. The Shiba Inu has a long muzzle, rounded but pointed at the end to a black nose; their eyes are deep-set and look small in their broad face. Their tail is short, bushy, and curls over at the end.
3. Shiba Inu Temperament
A Shiba Inu has a very prominent personality; if you consider a Shiba, you need to appreciate their personality quirks before making a final decision. They are not a dog for everyone and probably not for first-time owners. The Shiba Inu is a challenge to bring them up, train and socialize. They look as though they would be easy to care for, but looks don’t tell the whole story and indeed not where the Shiba Inu is concerned.
Shiba Inu Aggression
There has been research on the topic of Shiba Inu aggression; a study in 2009 found that there may be a gene present in Shiba Inus responsible for their aggressive feelings towards strangers. Unneutered male Shibu Inus appear to be more commonly affected.
Independent Shiba Inu
Shiba Inus are what you might call independent, or to put it another way; they like to please themselves if the mood takes them. They are incredibly smart dogs, too smart for their own good sometimes. You’ll find them pushy and trying to get the upper hand with you. If it weren’t such a crazy thought, you would think Shiba Inus spend half their life trying to think of ways to outwit their humans.
Territorial Shiba Inu
Some dogs are easy-going about their food and toys and have no concerns if you take away either or both. Don’t count on your Shiba Inu allowing you to do either. Shiba Inus have a reputation for guarding food and toys and can even be aggressive about it if they feel that way out; they have bitten owners on occasion because of guarding or territorial issues.
If you have children of your own or have them frequently visit, they must be well aware and steer clear of a Shiba Inu if he’s eating or has his toys out. A better idea will be to remove them if you have children over; if you have your children growing with a Shiba Inu, you will need to make other arrangements; possibly feed the dog in another room and train your children to never go near the dog’s toys.
Stubborn Shiba Inu
Smarts and independence go hand in hand with stubbornness; at least that’s the case with a Shiba Inu. To help eliminate this trait, you need to train and socialize from a very young age; the younger, the better, I’m talking about from six weeks or as soon as you bring him home. Training a very young puppy that doesn’t appear to listen or understand you is still far more manageable than training a fully grown Shiba Inu, who wants to do whatever he thinks he wants.
The bottom line is the Shiba Inu wants to be part of your family; he does want to please you. But because of his quirky personality and smarts, he wants to push your buttons first and test the waters to see how far he can go. Shiba Inu are vigilant dogs, aware of every sight and sound; they are energetic and full of life. Loving, loyal and affectionate to their family, they can be wary of strangers, but they are happy pleasant dogs.
4. Shiba Inu Training
Start your training very early; as soon as you bring your puppy home. Enroll him and you in puppy training classes. Be careful of the trainer you choose; research and ask for recommendations before enrolling. You need a trainer who advocates positive reinforcement training and doesn’t engage in old-fashioned and outdated training methods.
In these initial classes, you’ll learn how to teach your puppy basic commands, and you can cover all the usual issues with puppies, such as biting, jumping, potty, and crate training.
Continue and practice what you learn in class when you’re at home, so you can reinforce what your puppy is learning. You’ll find you are building a bond with your Shiba Inu puppy far more substantial than you would have believed possible.
5. Shiba Inu Exercise
The Shiba Inu is best given at least one hour for exercise every day. They should be kept on a leash when outside because they do tend to run away, even if you believe he’s been well-trained. If you have a secure backyard, then your Shiba Inu will enjoy running and playing there. You can entertain him with fetch and catch games to tire him out. As we have mentioned, they are intelligent, so if you can fit in some activities and games that make him think, that’s excellent for his well-being.
6. Socializing Your Shiba Inu Puppy
Training your Shiba Inu Puppy is vital in creating a puppy with good manners and excellent behavior. But equally important is socialization; this goes hand in glove with training. A 2013 study set out to prove that socialization in young puppies can prevent future behavior problems. The study looked at the behavior of over one hundred and forty dogs.
The study results indicated that if a puppy attended class for only one hour each week for six consecutive weeks, it would reduce typical behavior issues such as fear of strangers and disobedience. If you want your Shiba Inu puppy to grow into a confident, well-rounded individual, socialization is a crucial element.
Dogs out of their comfort zone can be timid and anxious; in some cases, this can lead to aggression towards other dogs, animals, and strangers. You don’t want or need this; there’s nothing more humiliating than everywhere you go your Shiba Inu is aggressive and wants to fight every dog he meets.
To help a puppy’s fear of strange and new things, set about introducing your Shiba Inu puppy to unfamiliar sights and sounds. Have him meet new people, strange dogs, and other animals, take him out in the car with you. If you have a favorite coffee shop with an outside seating area, take him with you. Traffic noise is another thing he needs to become accustomed to. Some dogs are calmer and can deal with this sensory overload more readily; others take time and patience, but they can all get there.
7. Shiba Inu Grooming
Shiba Inus are renowned for their personal cleanliness; some think they have cat DNA how they are constantly cleaning themselves. As we mentioned, shedding is a significant factor to consider if you want a Shiba. If you suffer from dog allergies, then this is not the dog breed for you. While it’s not the hair itself that causes the allergies, that’s the proteins in pet dander, saliva, and urine; it doesn’t help to have a Shiba’s coat everywhere you turn. At the very least, you’ll be forever sneezing.
One way to get some control on the hair fall is regular baths. Now, I’m not advocating a bath every week, not at all. That will dry out their skin and coat, but it will help eliminate dead hairs, skin cells, and dander if you give them two or three extra baths during the shedding seasons.
Another way to control some of the hair fall is a pet vacuum or blow dryer. Both of these should be pet-friendly; by that, I mean they need to do the job with as little noise as possible; it can undoubtedly spook a dog if it’s deafening.
Shiba Inus are prone to skin allergies, so if you notice any red or sore areas or if your dog suddenly starts scratching, take him along to the vet for evaluation; there are topical medications he might suggest. One other thing to point out is when you’re brushing your Shiba’s tail; they might appear to be thick and robust, but that’s an illusion; underneath the thick fur is a fragile tail.
Shiba Inu Shedding
A Shiba’s fur has two tones; reddish or light gold colors with white running along the belly and chest area. Their double-coats are thick and are a similar texture to a Siberian Husky. There’s a tremendous amount of shedding.
They blow off their coats in Spring and Fall, but if you’re thinking about living with a Shiba, then prepare yourself for masses of hair on your clothes, floors, and soft furnishings all-year-round; granted, the hair fall is less, but there’s still a significant amount.
If the amount of hair upsets you, you’ll need to brush your Shiba regularly; I would suggest a couple of times a week; more in the Spring and Fall if you don’t want to taste the hair in your coffee.
Beyond The Shiba Inu’s Coat
Dealing with your Shiba Inu’s coat will take most of your grooming time, but don’t neglect other areas. For example, it’s crucial to clip his nails regularly. Nails that are too long can cause a lot of pain eventually. It can also destabilize your dog when he’s running and trying to grip the terrain. He can easily slip because of excessively long nails.
An excellent time to start dealing with their nails is when they are young puppies. Even if there’s hardly anything to clip, taking the time getting your Shiba accustomed to the sensation will help him and you down the road. It’s better to deal with a small puppy than a fully grown Shiba Inu that doesn’t want his nails clipped.
Although they are less prone to ear infections than floppy ear dogs, take this opportunity to check his ears for any problems. Look for any unpleasant odor coming from the ears, head shaking, or scratching.
It doesn’t hurt to use an ear cleaning solution in the ear canal once a month; it will clean and break down any wax build-up. Try to remove any hair that grows inside the ear canal; this can get damp and eventually cause a hygiene issue. If you’re a little squeamish about pulling hair out of your Shiba’s ears, your vet will be happy to do this for you.
Should You Give Your Shiba Inu A Trim?
Surprisingly, many dog breeds never require a haircut, either their hair never grows long enough, or because cutting the dog’s hair doesn’t do the dog any good; it can cause health issues for the dog.
With dogs such as the Shiba Inu, the two coats have specific jobs. The undercoat of the Shiba helps to keep them cool in hot summers and warm in the winter. If you cut into the undercoat, you would upset the balance and purpose of the undercoat. The Shiba Inu’s top-coat protects them from inhospitable elements such as harsh weather, dirt, pollutants, bacteria, and such.
So you will never need to cut or even trim your Shiba Inu’s coat. There may be the occasion when your vet shaves some of the hair to expose the dog’s skin for topical treatment of some sort if your Shiba experiences severe skin allergies, for example. Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s best to leave this to your vet.
8. Shiba Inu Health
Shiba Inu are typically healthy dogs; however, there is always a risk of catching some diseases, and accidents do happen. Shiba Inus are susceptible to some disorders the same as every dog.
Shiba Inu Allergies
Once a puppy reaches six months, allergies can kick in, which can happen to your Shiba Inu. If your dog starts to suffer from allergies, the signs are very apparent. Generally, they will have itchy skin, eyes, and ears.
About 50% of dog allergies are a result of their diet. If your Shiba Inu does present with allergies, the first step is to visit your vet for treatment, but you will more than likely have to change his food at some point.
While allergies are very uncomfortable and sometimes painful for your Shiba Inu, they are not fatal, and you can get treatment from your vet.
Shiba Inu GM1 Gangliosidosis
GM1 gangliosidosis affects Shiba Inu dogs and is a genetic lysosomal disorder. A dog with this disease cannot break down certain carbohydrates in the cells. Ultimately this causes damage to the dog’s central nervous system. A Shiba Inu affected by this disease will begin to show signs around six months of age. GM1 gangliosidosis is progressive, and the dog sadly will die by the time they reach eighteen months.
This is a rare disorder, but it does occur. For a Shiba Inu to suffer from this, he must inherit a mutated gene from each parent. If he inherits only from one parent, the Shiba Inu puppy will not be affected by the disease. Before you purchase a Shiba Inu puppy, you must see a health clearance certificate for this condition from the breeder.
Shiba Inu Eye Problems
Shiba Inu dogs have a predisposition to eye conditions, and you should regularly check them to ensure the dog is not affected.
A study in August 2006 took 1244 dogs, involving several breeds, and gave them eye exams. Of those dogs, one hundred and twenty-seven were suffering from glaucoma, and one-third of the one hundred and twenty-seven dogs were Shiba Inu. Those kinds of results would suggest the Shiba Inu has a genetic glaucoma issue.
9. How To Improve The Shiba Inu Health?
When you buy a puppy, it’s impossible to predict what illnesses he may or may not contract through his life. You can eliminate most of the hereditary conditions by ensuring you pick a responsible and professional breeder. Check all the health certificates you can and demand to see the parents of your prospective puppy. Should the breeder not be happy with your requests, my advice would be to move on.
You should also try to buy a puppy from breeders close to where you live. Create a radius of 300 miles in any direction from your home and choose a breeder within that area. I pick 300 miles because I would be prepared to drive that distance to find a healthy puppy from a reputable breeder; you might be happy to have a longer or shorter drive. Remember, you will probably want to pay at least three visits to check on your puppy’s development.
Shiba Inus have a life expectancy of between thirteen and sixteen years, which is very good. Give your Shiba Inu the best diet possible, sufficient or more daily exercise, and plenty of mental activity.
10. Shiba Inu Fun Facts
Even though the Shiba Inu is Japan’s most popular dog, it wasn’t particularly well-known in the United States and the UK or Europe. That was before the Siba Inu became an internet sensation.
Almost overnight, the doge meme made Kabuso the most famous Shiba Inu globally; Doge speak was a sensation.
Final Thoughts – The Shiba Inu
The Shiba Inu is a fantastic dog, but this breed is not for everyone, and first-time owners or novice owners might struggle.
Here are some significant points at a glance:
- Shiba Inus are loyal, loving, and affectionate family dogs.
- Shiba Inus are easy to potty train.
- They require moderate exercise.
- Shibas are sturdy and robust.
- Shiba Inus are intelligent dogs.
- Shiba Inus are aggressive at times.
- The breed requires a lot of socialization and training; this should continue throughout the dog’s life.
- Shiba Inus won’t be suitable for homes with young children.
- Finding a quality Shiba Inu breeder will not be easy.
- Shiba Inus don’t mix well with other tiny house pets.