The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the original six spitz breeds of dog from Japan. The dog was originally bred to hunt and flush small game such as rabbits and birds. This breed has been identified as a basal breed that predates the out coming of the modern breeds in the 19th century. During WWII, due to a combination of food shortage and a post-war distemper epidemic, and despite efforts to preserve the breed, the Shiba nearly became extinct. All of the dogs that followed were bred from the only three surviving bloodlines. These remaining bloodlines were, the Shinshu Shibe (from Nangano Prefecture), the Mino Shibe (from Gifu Prefecture), and the San’in Shiba (from Tottori and Shimane Prefectures). The Shiba Inu is one of the few ancient dog breeds still in existence in the world today.
The Shiba’s frame has well developed muscles and is compact. The males of the breed stand between 14-17 inches tall at the withers, while the females stand between 13-16 inches tall. The average weight for the male dog is about 22 pounds and the female, about 18 pounds. This dog’s expression should be good natured, and possess a strong, confident gaze. His eyes are slightly triangular in shape, dark brown, deep set, and upward slanting towards the outside base of the ear. The ears of the Shiba are triangular, firmly pricked, and small. They should be in proportion to the head and body size. They are set well apart, and will tilt directly forward with the slant of the back of its ear, and follows the arch of the neck. The muzzle of the dog is full, firm, and round with a stronger lower jaw; the bite is scissors. The Shiba sports a double coat, with the outer coat being stiff and straight, while the undercoat is soft and thick. The fur on the face, ears, and legs is short and even. The hair on the tail is slightly longer and stands open in a brush. The colors of the Shiba may be black tan, red, or sesame, with a grey, buff, or cream undercoat. The Shiba may also be white, however AKC standards considers this a major fault.
The Shiba is independent in nature, and can sometimes show dog aggression. This occurs more often between female Shibas, and comes from the dogs strong prey drive. Because of this the Shiba is best suited in homes without other small dogs or young children. However, early socialization, and consistent obedience training can make a difference. The breed does however, interact fairly well with cats. This is a breed that is relatively fastidious and feels the need to be clean at all times. They will often be seen licking their paws and legs, and generally go out of their way to keep their coats clean. Because of their proud and fastidious nature, this breed is easy to housebreak, and in many cases the dog will housebreak itself. A distinct characteristic of the breed is known as the so called “shiba scream”. If the dog is provoked enough, or just unhappy, the dog will let out a high pitched scream. During times of great joy, such as the return of its owner after having been gone, the dog may also emit a very similar sound. While the Shiba is independent in nature, he is reserved towards strangers, but is very loyal and affectionate to those who earn his respect.
The average lifespan of the Shiba is between 12-15 years, the oldest living Shiba, Pusuke, died at the age of 26, and was also the oldest living dog at the time. Overall the Shiba Inu is a healthy breed. Some health conditions that have been associated with the breed include allergies, glaucoma, cataracts, hip dysplasia, entropion, and luxating patella