The Shiba Inu is an ancient Japanese breed that has been increasing in popularity since it first arrived in America 60 years ago. Today, it is the 44th ranked breed of 193 by the American Kennel Club.
The Shiba Inu is new to America, but it is said to have existed in Japan since 300 B.C. The name is a reference to its history as a hunter in the Japanese mountains; in Japanese, “Shiba” means “brushwood,” probably in reference to the breed’s red color, and “Inu” means “dog.” By the time World War II came about, the Shiba Inu had nearly died off; however, they managed to survive, and have grown in popularity to become Japan’s number one dog breed, and their popularity continues to grow each year in the United States.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SHIBA INU
Here is some information about the appearance and temperament of the Shiba Inu.
Shibas are a small, powerful breed, reaching roughly 16 inches in height and up to 23 pounds in weight. Their compact frames allow for well-developed muscling. Their expressions are intelligent and alert, and their quick, agile nature and smooth stride make them appear foxlike. Males and females have distinctive appearances – males are more masculine and without any hint of coarseness; females are feminine and boast a structure without a hint of weakness.
Shiba Inus have a thick double coat that gives them their signature teddybear look. Their coats can be red, sesame red, or black and tan, often with white markings. A running joke is that Shibas shed only twice a year – but each shedding session lasts for six months.
Brushing and combing will reduce the amount of loose hair, so occasional brushing is helpful. Using a hair dryer or vacuum in reverse to blow excess fur off your Shiba is also a useful method. Just don’t let it get too hot. Keep their nails trimmed short – Shibas tend to dislike nail clipping, so try to acclimatize them to it as puppies. If they continue to object, have them trimmed by a professional.
Shiba Inus are spirited and confident. They have a reputation for being bold and fiery, and a haughtiness resulting occasionally in something of a superiority complex. This is why Shibas are considered stubborn – they are intelligent and strong-willed. This independent streak makes them more difficult than other breeds to train. They are interested in everything and will go after what they want (even as you hold it in your hand, preparing to take a bite). It is important to socialize them early and set boundaries.
Shibas are often referred to as “catlike” for a dog. They are independent, dignified, and tend to be reserved around strangers. With their family, though, they are very loyal and much more affectionate. They aren’t barkers; they are “yodelers,” and will yodel for any number of reasons, from being hungry to being bored to being happy. They can be aggressive around other dogs, so be sure to introduce them to other dogs and people often when they are puppies to stamp out any aggression problems.
One very specific aspect of Shiba Inu’s personality is that they dislike being restrained. They dislike collars and leashes, so be sure to train them with their leash from a young age. We recommend picking a leash specifically designed to deal with pulling dogs. Once they’ve reached adulthood, they tend not to be destructive when left alone, but they can be prone to separation anxiety. As such, it’s highly recommended to crate them when home alone or at night. They have long lifespans, averaging 12 to 15 years.
CARING FOR A SHIBA INU
Shiba Inus are very particular dogs and require plenty of knowledge to care for them properly. Here is some extra information about their nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs.
Shibas run the gamut from being picky eaters to eating just about anything they can get their paws on. In general, they will do well with high-quality, dry dog foods. Be sure to choose a dog food that is age-appropriate (puppy, adult, senior). Consult with your vet to find the best dog food for your Shiba. As with any other breed, how much they eat will depend on a variety of factors, including their age, weight, and activity level.
Shibas are generally a pretty energetic breed and enjoy daily exercise. They aren’t crazy hyper like other hunting breeds and won’t fly around the house if they don’t get a workout, but a daily walk is a nice, welcome activity for any dog. Since they are quite independent, they often like to just run around on their own in a fenced-in yard, if available. Electric fences can be a helpful deterrent as well.
Shibas are strong-willed, and as such, can be difficult to train. However, training should be considered a necessary part of every dog’s growth into a well-mannered adult. One thing to be aware of, though, is that a Shiba should NEVER be trusted off-leash. Their strong prey drive will have them chasing after anything they see move, and if you accidentally leave the gate open you might never see your Shiba again. Unless they are in a gated yard, they should be kept on-leash at all times, no matter how well-trained you might think they are.
To train your Shiba, you must remain patient and diligent. It takes time, but you will see benefits. The good news is that Shiba Inus are very easy to housebreak; they hate relieving themselves anywhere near their sleeping area, so they take to potty training very easily.
Shiba Inus can be more prone than other breeds to allergies. Allergies often won’t manifest until past 6 months or so, so they can’t be tested for in puppies; generally, Shibas with allergies should not be bred. However, allergies generally manifest themselves as skin irritation and itchiness. If kept under control, your Shiba can live a very normal, happy life.
Be sure to work with a respected breeder who tests their stock for various genetic diseases like hip dysplasia, eye diseases, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease.
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