Adorable Shiba Inu: Japan’s Charming Canine Companion

Everything you need to know about character, nutrition, education and care

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By Alex

In this article we will discover some interesting facts about the Shiba Inu, one of the oldest primitive dogs of Japanese origin, which is characterized by its small size and incredibly graceful appearance. It is a silent and clean-loving dog, which shows its peculiar autonomy.

It is a hunting dog for birds and small animals, but it is also an excellent companion animal. Today it is often used for copper pheasant hunting, of which it seems to be the absolute champion. Let’s get to know it better together.

Origins and history of the Shiba Inu

Its origins are uncertain, but we know that it belongs to the group of native dogs in Japan, along with the Akita Inu, the Kai, the Kiushu, the Shikoku and the Hokkaido.

It is presumed that it arrived in Japan in the period between 6000 and 300 BC, immediately distinguishing itself from other dogs due to its particular body shape.

In 1936 Japan decided to consider this breed as a national monument. It went through a period of extinction during the Second World War, but then there was a great recovery.

Today, in fact, it has spread almost everywhere, from Australia to Europe, as well as in the United States.

The dog we know today actually derives from the crossing of different breeds: in each region the breed had taken on characteristic conformations. It was the veterinarian Saito who unified them under a single breed.

The standard was published in 1992.

shiba inu
The Shiba Inu is one of the oldest primitive dogs of Japanese origin.

What does Shiba Inu mean in Japanese?

“Shiba Inu” (柴犬) in Japanese translates to “Shiba Dog” or “Brushwood Dog.” The word “Shiba” refers to the breed’s small size and its habitat in brushwood or shrubs, while “Inu” simply means “dog.”

Shiba Inu characteristics

Despite its small size, this dog shows unexpected agility and strength, thanks to its muscular body.

Let us now look at the main physical characteristics:

How tall is a Shiba Inu?

The measured height at withers has these ranges:.

  • For the male 38-41 cm
  • For the female 35-38 cm.

How much does a Shiba Inu weigh?

Weight varies depending on living conditions, diet and physical activity, but should always be between 8 and 11 kg for the male and 6 and 9 kg for the female.

Physical characteristics

  • The tail has a high hairline and is generally coiled.
  • The ears are triangular and straight
  • The muzzle is elongated similar to that of a fox.
  • The jawbones are muscular and strong, suitable for a hunting dog.
  • The eyes are dark in color and are small.

The coat is characterized by a straight coat that is rough to the touch and a much softer undercoat.

What colors can a Shiba Inu have

The permissible colors are red (the most common), black & tan and sesame (present from its origins). The white shiba inu, however, is really a rarity.

Shiba Inu at a glance

Here is a summary table of the main morphological characteristics of this dog:

Morphology Wolfish
Size of the female 37 cm (+/-1.5 cm)
Weight of the female 8 to 12 kg
Size of the male 40 cm (+/-1.5 cm)
Weight of the male 10 to 15 kg
Original name Shiba Inu

The character of the Shiba Inu

There is a saying in Japan that goes “Shiba Inu is ¼ cat, ¼ monkey, ¼ dog, and ¼ human” which speaks miles about its complex and fascinating character.

And in fact it has a character all its own: it loves cleanliness and tries to keep everything in order. The Shiba Inu appears proud and austere, but at the same time it likes being pampered by its owners.

The feline side refers to its sense of independence, hunting instincts, and cat-like attitude to games.

Regarding the human side, it must be pointed out that this dog doesn’t bark much, only when it senses danger, preferring to communicate subtly through its gaze and expressions. It’s reserved around strangers but protective of its family.

Like monkeys, this dog is highly intelligent and thinks independently. It won’t follow commands unless it sees a reason, so specialized training is necessary.

Like all dogs, it forms strong attachments and remains loyal, rewarding its welcoming family with attentive guarding. But beware of betraying its trust; it can be sensitive and possessive.

It isn’t particularly fond of other animals, so early training to prevent trouble is advisable.

The Shiba Inu has a calm disposition but surprises with bursts of energy, curiosity, and mischief. Shiba owners often talk about its famous ‘quarter hour of madness’ when it races around the house, grunting, and tirelessly playing with toys.

Some points of attention about its character

It’s important to mention his flaws as well, as it’s easy to be charmed and underestimate the challenging aspects of his character. Unfortunately, many dogs of this breed are abandoned due to their difficult nature.

They don’t get along well with other dogs, especially those of the same sex. Having two males or two females together can be quite complicated. It’s better to have a male and a female together.

They are highly sensitive and possess subtle intelligence. Early socialization and exposure to various experiences are crucial to prevent them from developing irreversible fears or aggressive tendencies later on. Their sensitivity can make them stressed when there are changes in their routine or living situation.

Shiba Inus are strongly influenced by their owner’s mood. They require a firm and dedicated owner who can handle their strong-willed nature.

Their training should be a mix of gentle but firm guidance, and it needs to be ongoing. They won’t easily conform to others’ will, so patience is essential.

Remember, they are originally hunting dogs, so it’s important to be cautious with small animals like chickens and rabbits around them.

Care of Shiba Inu

This breed is generally slightly prone to health issues. It also tolerates the cold, but if you let it live indoors it will also appreciate the benefits of being sheltered at all times.

It does not shed hair except during the shedding period, so it requires little grooming. A bath and periodic brushing will be sufficient.

Feeding of the Shiba Inu: what to feed him?

An appropriate diet is very important to keep your Shiba healthy. You can choose between two types of food, a kibble-based diet or a mixed diet.

Be aware that the digestion of kibble is long — about 12 hours — while raw meat is digested in 4 hours. Also, kibble can tire dogs out; better to add a little oil or yogurt to improve the taste.

If you realize that the dog is leaving leftovers and losing weight, then better switch to another type of diet (mainly a raw diet).

However, you can make an ‘addition’ of quality kibble once a week to continue to maintain its taste.

Here is an example of a daily ration (300 g):

  • Meat + bones (60 percent) = 180 gr
  • Frats (10 %) = 30 gr
  • Vegetables and fruits ( 15 %) = 45 gr
  • Cereals (10 %) = 30 gr
  • Integrators (5 %) = 15 gr

As for meat, the best are, in order of assimilation, lamb, fish, chicken, and poultry in general. One can introduce both wings, thighs and bones of poultry, which are quite soft and well tolerated by the dog, not those of sheep, which can splinter.

As for fractures, both liver and heart can be served raw, while vegetables and fruits should be given raw in puree and mixed together.

The cereals, on the other hand, should be cooked. You can choose from rice, pasta, quinoa, wheat, barley or oats. If no grains are given, the meat ration should be increased.

You can also use some oil, all kinds of calcium will do, you can give some cheese, yogurt or an egg.

To improve the quality of the coat, you can also use fish oil or give it in the form of drops (about 10 drops in a bowl of water), but also remember to brush and massage it regularly.

The preparation of this type of food may take more time than kibble, but it is definitely cheaper, especially in the case of using high-quality kibble.

A diet of fresh, varied, and balanced foods is generally recommended by breeders themselves, because it helps avoid kidney problems, diabetes, tumors, and other food- and age-related diseases. It is also important to know how to dose quantities well.

Foods to Avoid

Here is a list of foods that should not be given to your Shiba instead because they are harmful to his health.

  • foods rich in starches, such as pasta and potatoes
  • sugar and sweet foods, because they bring distress to the pancreas and can seriously damage your puppy’s health
  • dark chocolate, is highly harmful, while white chocolate is more tolerated although not recommended
  • milk and all unrefined dairy products, because they create digestive disorders that generate diarrhea
  • canned or dry food for cats, because what is formulated for felines is not recommended for dogs, these are foods too high in fat and protein, which could disturb the dog’s digestive system
  • meat pork and beef dangerous for hormones, can generate digestive problems, while horse is totally to be prohibited.
dogs that don't bark: shiba inu
A beautiful specimen of Shiba Inu.

Recommended Foods

Instead, here is a list of suitable foods:

  • fish, either raw or cooked, as long as it is deboned, because the bones are fragile and dangerous. You can freeze sardines in the summer to make excellent ‘ice cream’ for your dog.
  • cheese, suitable for the growing puppy, replaces calcium supplements that could generate other problems, including overdose.
  • yogurt, promotes restoration of intestinal flora and aids growth.
  • raw eggs, mixed into food or kibble, because they polish the coat, promote regrowth during molting periods, and protect the puppy’s skin.

Shiba Inu puppies

It is essential to take care of the nutrition of Shiba Inu puppies, especially after the first few months after weaning, a critical period moreover for all puppies.

shiba inu

This stage is critical to ensure proper growth of the puppy after the nursing period in which it is protected because it receives antibodies from its mother’s milk.

With weaning comes a real stress from change: a difficult time that the Shiba Inu puppy can best cope with if we use some small precautions, such as avoiding taking him too frequently to dirty outdoor environments.

Mud and soil could be contaminated by bacteria and/or diseases dangerous to its health at this delicate stage of its growth.

Finally, it is essential that Shiba Inu learn early as a puppy to eat in its own bowl, but since it is an intelligent dog, it will not be difficult to convince it.

The price of a puppy

If you are considering buying a puppy you should consider a fairly high figure, between the 800 and 1,400 dollars. Alternatively, remember that you can always adopt a dog to save it from the stress of a life in kennels.

Puppies can only be removed from their mother after 60 days and must always be microchipped. Due vaccinations and routine checkups are also essential.

You can find Shiba Inu puppies and adult dogs for adoption or purchase through various channels, including reputable breeders, rescue organizations, and animal shelters. It’s essential to do thorough research and choose a responsible breeder or adopt from a reputable source to ensure you get a healthy and well-socialized Shiba Inu.

Questions and Answers

All the answers to your questions about this dog.

Can it live in an apartment?

It adapts to any setting, including apartment life and where children are present. In Japan it is also popular as an agility dog.

Does the Shiba Inu tend to run away?

Remember that it loves to escape and does not understand the limits of its territory: why limit itself to a garden when the world is so vast?

That is why he absolutely needs a well-fenced garden, and during a walk, he may not respond to the call. If he finds something interesting, he will not easily turn back to his master’s call.

Is the Shiba Inu an aggressive dog?

It is still a primitive dog, therefore with a independent and unaccommodating nature. For this reason, if poorly managed, it can also manifest aggression. It is very important to accustom him from an early age to various situations and make it clear right away what the rules are and how he should behave.

For example, it is recommended to make him wear a collar and do behavior exercises already at home.

You can also make him attend a school, but the typical traits of this breed will still remain: not very sociable with other dogs, wary of those he does not know, not very obedient even with the owner.

Does the Shiba Inu often get angry?

Provided that it is not an aggressive dog, in principle the behavior of the owner can affect its conduct. In fact, aggression often worsens if an owner does not enforce, if the animal is mistreated or treated harshly. When approached with affection and respect, it is likely to soften.

In particular, when faced with an angry animal, it is advisable to observe some general behaviors, which also apply to this Japanese breed.

  • Keep calm. If the dog senses the anxiety and fear, it may become even more nervous.
  • Don’t have an attitude of defiance or threat. Best not to try to stop the dog, especially if it gets agitated, or follow it. Better to stay still or move very slowly.
  • Speak calmly and quietly. Let it know by your posture and firm tone of voice that you have a commanding position over the situation.
  • Don’t stare at the dog. It is seen as a threat. Instead, back away slowly so as not to frighten the dog that might attack.

Can the Shiba Inu be a first dog?

In general, this breed is not easy to handle, and is therefore not recommended if it’s your first dog. However, indications about the temperament of the Shiba Inu are always general, then each dog may have a different behavior. To make a decision, it is important to know what it is you are up against.

The Shiba Inu is not easy to train and is not particularly social both with other dogs and with humans.
Also, being very independent, it has a tendency to obey only a few commands, which must be well instilled from puppyhood.

Those who wish to get a puppy of this breed should know that they will have to spend a lot of time training it, and this may also mean investing in a school or an educator. In addition, it is important to keep calm and have plenty of time to care for it, to walk together and constantly control it.

If you are looking for a companion with a quick and easy upbringing, who easily obeys commands, who likes contact with family, children and other dogs, who adapts easily to new situations, well, choose another breed of dog!

A Shiba as a first dog is not an impossible thing, provided you dedicate yourself to it, can provide it with a calm environment and no other puppies.

shiba inu

Is the Shiba Inu suitable for children?

While it is not very sociable, it is not incompatible with children and can be a fabulous playmate, but it must have been accustomed from an early age to contact with young children.

There are Shiba that stay with their owners to play in the snow, in the swimming pool, exchange tender hugs and accompany them everywhere.

It is important that it is the breeder who already accustoms the puppy to contact with children and it is necessary to continue when the puppy arrives home.

Puppies who are familiar with children will then be happy with their company, provided of course that they are respected so as not to upset their independent nature.

That is why it is necessary to explain well that the dog is also a member of the family, that when he is in his kennel it is necessary to leave him quiet, as well as when he takes his meal, that one should not tease and prank him, not pull his tail and ears, and not hurt him. And of course, Shiba will also need to be taught to respect children.

What to do if your Shiba Inu loses a lot of fur?

If your dog loses hair, one thing you can do is to give him supplements that can also help in specific situations such as shedding:

  • cod liver oil in the dosage of 1 teaspoon for small dogs and 1 tablespoon for large dogs during the shedding period, for up to 15 days.
  • brewer’s yeast has a very beneficial effect on coat and color, but the treatment should last for a maximum of 15 days.
  • olive or seed oil, at the rate of 1 teaspoon for smaller breeds and 1 tablespoon for larger breeds, to be used no more than 15 days.

If the situation does not improve, best to have him seen by the veterinarian.

Last, a video that show this dog breed in action:

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