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Thought to have originally developed in central Japan around 300 B.C. as a hunting dog, the Shiba Inu, compact, agile and strong, serves as an excelled watchdog or for those seeking an active outdoors type of dog. 

Physical Characteristics

The Shiba Inu possesses typical traits of dogs of northern origin such as small erect ears, powerful body thick (red) fur, and curled tail. It has a moderately compact and slightly long body and a good-natured, bold, and spirited expression. The dog moves with effortless and smooth strides and its gait is agile, light, and quick. Its double coat comprises a straight, strong outer coat and a soft undercoat, providing good insulation. Originally, all these traits allowed the Shiba to hunt small animals in dense areas.

Personality and Temperament

This hardy breed is always on the look out for adventure and may tend to be domineering and headstrong. It is fairly vocal and some even bark a lot. It is alert, shy with strangers, and territorial and is thus an excellent watchdog. The self-confident Shiba is a bold, headstrong, and independent dog. As long as it is given daily exercise, it is active outdoors and calm indoors. It tends to chase small animals and may be scrappy with unknown dogs of the same sex.


The Shiba requires a daily workout in the form of a long walk, a spirited game in the yard, or a good run in an enclosed area. It can live outside in cool and temperate climates if given warm shelter. However, it is at its best when it can spend equal time indoors and outdoors. The double coat requires occasional brushing every week and more frequently when shedding.


The Shiba Inu, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, may be susceptible to minor problems like allergies and cataract and major health issues such as patellar luxation. Canine hip dysplasia (CHD), persistent pupillary membranes (PPM), distichiasis, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) are also occasionally seen in the breed. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may recommend knee, hip, and eye exams on the dog.

History and Background

The ancient Shiba Inu is the smallest of the six Native Japanese breeds. Although its origin is obscure, the Shiba Inu is surely of spitz heritage, most probably used as a hunting dog in central Japan around 300 B.C. Many believe it hunted small game such as birds, but it may have also used occasionally to hunt wild boar.

According to some, the word "Shiba" may mean small, but it also may mean brushwood, a reference to similarity to the red brushwood trees and the dog's red coat. This is also the reason the Shiba is sometimes nicknamed “small brushwood dog.”

The the three primary types of the breed were the Shinshu Shiba, the Sanin Shiba, and the Mino Shiba, all of which were named after their place of origin: Nagano Prefecture, the northeast mainland, and Gifu Prefecture, respectively.

The destruction caused by World War II nearly lead to the extinction of the breed; its numbers were later decimated by distemper in the 1950s. To save the breed, various strains were interbred, including the heavier-boned dogs of the mountainous areas and the lighter-boned dogs from the lowlands. An unforeseen result was the Shiba's newfound variation in bone structure and substance.

The first Shiba dogs entered the United States in the 1950s, but the breed only gained recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1993. Since then the popularity for this hardy and headstrong has flourished.

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