Shiba Inu - Revered in Japan for Their Look, Loyalty and Strength

07.10.2022 - Reading time: 6 minutes

Shiba Inu Hund steht mitten im Feld

In its homeland of Japan, the Shiba Inu remains one of the most beloved breeds, despite strong competition from the European small breeds. And no wonder: Shiba Inus are loyal and affectionate toward their chosen human and delight with their intelligence and pleasant nature. Because of this, the Japanese breed has become a popular family dog outside of Asia, especially in North America and Europe. And by the way, Shiba Inu means “little dog” in English.


Newsletter Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu
Spitz and original breed (Asian Spitz)
35 to 41 centimetres
10 to 13 kilograms
muscular, broad head with prominent stop, square frame, curled tail
dark brown, triangular, outer corner of the eye slightly raised
small, triangular, upright ears
Coat and colour
medium length hard top coat with much undercoat, red, black tan, sesame with red or black; mandatory prescription: "urajiro" markings (white coat from cheeks and muzzle along throat and chest to belly and underside of tail and inside of legs)
Special features
original breed, strong genetic relationship with wolves
loyal, clever, dominant, strong-willed
easy to maintain; regular brushing, more often when they are blowing off their coat
reduced red blood cells; otherwise no explicitly breed-typical risks

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The history of the Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu is descended from the dogs that were wide-spread in the mountain regions of Japan, kept for hunting birds and small game. The breed has been systematically bred since 1928, after the previously purebred Shiba Inus had nearly disappeared due to cross-breeding with English hunting dogs. Since 1937, the breed is considered a “national natural monument” in Japan. The modern type is somewhat stronger and has longer legs than the progenitor breed. The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the Japanese breeds and is without a doubt one of the most beloved breeds in Japan. Since 1980, they have also been found more and more frequently in Germany, though they are still somewhat rare. According to the breed portrait, the Shiba Inu belongs to the FCI Group 5, Section 5, alongside its Asian cousins, such as the Chow-Chow and Akita Inu.

Personality and character of the Shiba Inu

The character of the Shiba Inu can be described as self-reliant and independent. It needs a strong leader figure who provides affectionate but consistent clarity and structure. Carelessness or mistakes in training can be shamelessly exploited. The Shiba Inu is a lively dog that is light on its paws, but also does not create chaos. According to the breeding standards, aggressiveness or noticeable fear reactions are exclusion criteria for breeding. The typical characteristics of the Shiba Inu are friendliness, calmness, curiosity and courage, as well as a tendency to dominate its owners when they don’t set clear boundaries. However, once a human has shown the qualities of an “alpha”, the dog will follow them with loyalty, trustworthiness and affection. Otherwise, this self-confident dog will take on responsibility for its “pack” itself – which is not always in the interests of its human companions. Its strong territorial behaviour, pronounced hunting instinct and natural mistrust of strangers make the Shiba Inu a dog not suitable for beginners. However, these features help it to protect its castle. This small and visually unassuming dog is well-suited to guard-dog duty, even if it tends to bark unnecessarily.

Training and husbandry of a Shiba Inu

It is not easy to turn a Shiba Inu into a well-behaved, obedient dog. The breed tends to be stubborn and is difficult to bribe. Even being strict won’t get you anywhere with these self-confident dogs. The desire to please humans is not characteristic of this breed. Yet the Shiba Inu is an intelligent animal that learns quickly – when it so desires. Due to the pronounced hunting instinct, it is risky to allow free run. In any case, a visit to the dog school should be completed, so that at least basic obedience is reliably practised in everyday life. If possible, the dog should be socialised with other dogs, pets and children when it is still a puppy. Only intensive imprinting and good socialisation of the young dog will ensure that the full-grown Shiba Inu gets along with his fellow dogs. Not only strangers but all other living creatures are also met with reluctance.

As a housemate, the Shiba Inu is calm and good natured. However, he meets strangers with healthy suspicion. This qualifies him as a capable watchdog, who can assess real danger well and only makes a noise when something unusual actually happens. It is ideal for the Shiba Inu to have access to a secure outdoor area such as a garden or at least extensive walks (on a leash) are a must. The energetic “nature boy” insists on these in all weathers; he doesn’t mind mud and muddy weather. His mistress or master must come with him without any ifs or buts. In short, training a Shiba Inu is not easy and should not be taken lightly. It is important that his owners spend a lot of time with him, both during the imprinting period and in adulthood.

Care and feeding a Shiba Inu

Occasional brushing is enough for the soft and plush coat of the Shiba Inu. As with most other dog breeds, the six-monthly coat change puts an enormous strain on the coat. During this period, it is important to remove the undercoat from the dog more often, otherwise it can become extremely hairy. When it comes to diet, there are no breed-specific peculiarities for the Shiba Inu. Meat should be the first priority for every carnivore. A balanced nutrient composition that provides the dog with everything needed for a vital life is a basic requirement. However, make sure to adjust the portion of training snacks and treats to the daily ration. Excess weight inhibits the lively and light-footed nature of the Shiba Inu and can cause health problems.

What you should consider when buying a Shiba Inu

Since the Shiba Inu has never become a fashionable dog due to its dominant and strong-willed nature, it hardly brings any genetic predispositions with it, unlike popular dog breeds such as the Golden Retriever or the Labrador Retriever. The prerequisite, of course, is to choose a reputable breeder, who is genuinely interested in the welfare of the animals and only breeds healthy dogs with each other. The Shiba Inu can live up to 15 years, if kept well and in good health. If you choose this breed, you should be aware of the great responsibility. A good breeder will explain the high standards of the Shiba Inu to you, answer all your questions and hand over a healthy dog with all the necessary papers, vaccinations and health checks. Always inspect the kennel and ask to see the parents. It is especially important that the puppies are already well imprinted, know some things that are taken for granted, such as the hoover, and have already been allowed to meet strangers. All this is important in order to train your Shiba Inu to be a sociable and social dog with a self-confident nature.

Special features

The Shiba Inu is one of the so-called primitive dogs. This means that it shows strong genetic proximity to the wolf. The fact that such primitive genes could be preserved over the millennia has geographical reasons: Due to Japan’s island location and in the isolated mountainous region inland, the original domesticated dogs hardly came into contact with other breeds. Thus, genetic mixing did not take place for a long time.

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