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This breed has a similar appearance to the Japanese Akita, and while it is smaller in stature, it is an effective hunter. In Japanese, the word 'Shiba' means brushwood which is a type of shrub whose leaves turn a russet golden red in the autumn - the same colour as the coat of this lovely dog.
While this dog was introduced to the UK in 1985, the history of the breed goes back into history much further than that.
The Shiba is the eldest native Japanese dog. Around 7000 BC the ancestors of today's Shiba are thought to have accompanied the earliest immigrants to Japan. Archaeological excavations in the country show pottery and terracotta remains which depict small dogs of a similar appearance to the Shiba Inu.
Around the 3rd century BC, a new group of immigrants brought their dogs to Japan. These dogs then interbred with the descendants of the local dogs, and produced canines known to have pointed, erect ears and curly tails.
Originally there were three main varieties of Shiba, each named for its region of origin. These were the Shinshu Shiba from the Nagano region, the Mino Shiba from the Gifu region and the Sanin Shiba from the north-eastern region of the main land. Although similar, the Shibas from each area contributed to differences in breed type seen today.
From the original Japanese native dogs 6 distinct breeds were developed, this breed being one along with its cousin the Akita.
In 1928 Nihon Ken Hozonkai was founded. In English this means 'The organisation to preserve the Japanese dog'. The club were recognised by the Japanese government as official organisation and was founded to save native Japanese dogs from extinction.
In 1928 the first dog shows under the clubs banner were held and they were an immediate success, however the advent of World War II was a disaster for many Japanese breeds including the Shiba Inu but numbers were restored when dogs from the less war torn areas of the countryside were bred from - to this day many Shiba Inu's can trace their linage back to this era.
The Shiba Inu was originally used as a hunting dog for quarry such as raccoon, foxes, pheasant and hares, but now it is more commonly found as a pet in people's homes.
Average height to withers: Males up to 16.5 inches with females slightly smaller at up to 15.5 inches.
Average weight: 10kg for males and 8kg for females.
The usual colour of this dog is a beautiful russet or tawny golden red, like the leaves in autumn from the shrub that the dog is named for. It can also make appearance though in black and white, white or pale sesame. The coat of this dog is double, with the under coat being soft and the outer coat being stiff guard hairs. The underbelly of the russet and red dogs may display a showy white streak or band in contrast to the burnished fur elsewhere. The hair on the foxy face is shorter than the rest of the body. The dark eyes express a sharp intelligence and the ears are triangular and stand erect on top of the head.
The body of this small to medium sized dog is strong and athletic with it being made to spend time running through dense bush and scrub. The legs are strong and straight, as is the back which is shaped into the traditional curled tail, which is carried high over the back.
Shiba Inus are inquisitive, alert and playful but can be a little aloof with strangers. Each dog has distinct and individual traits, which owners say make each one special and endearing. Like the much smaller Japanese dog the Chin, it displays cat like behaviours - some liking to drape across the tops of chairs, while others prefer to sit and be stroked all day.
The Shiba is often called a big dog in a small dog's body. They love to rough and tumble and often become 'top dog' in households with larger dogs. They do not tend to get on with same sex companions though.
For the size and extreme games they play, they are a gentle dog who is not often prone to aggression. Many small dogs can have a reputation for uncertain temperament, especially with children, but the Shiba Inu is generally quite patient and they are a popular family pet in their native country. Of course, this is enhanced with early socialisation and dogs and children should always be supervised anyway when playing.
Another cat like trait displayed by this dog is being scrupulously clean about the house and washing and preening themselves. The Shiba Inu seems almost cat like when it rubs up to you for attention making strange cat like sounds - almost purring - when being petted. But just when you may be mistaken for thinking they are a cat in dogs clothing, they revert to canine behaviour, fetching balls, barking and lolling around on its back.
They are an intelligent dog and training can be fun, if a little difficult on occasion! Being quite stubborn sometimes, they will not respond if they are not in the mood so positive and rewarding training methods work best to encourage this dog. A good recall is an absolute must as they have retained their innate hunting instinct and will chase anything that moves outside of the home. They can live with non canine pets in the house, so long as they have been socialised at an early age with them.
While oldest known Sheba Inu lived to the grand old age of 26 years, on average they tend to live up to 15-16 years of age in good health. They are classed as a healthy and hardy breed of dog, which can be prone to some eye conditions such as cataracts but whom generally do live long and fit lives.
These dogs know how to take care of themselves! The cat like grooming behaviour means that the input from the owner on this level is minimal, but when they are shedding they will appreciate a little help to keep it under control. The coat needs minimal bathing. They are an active breed and will enjoy being outdoors at any available opportunity and when not outside, can often be found sitting on a high surface in the house, gazing out of the window.