Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Japanese Shiba Inu
Average Cost to keep/care for a Japanese Shiba Inu
The Shiba Inu is a neat Spitz-type dog, their name literally means "small dog" in Japanese. They are in fact, a smaller version of an Akita and were also originally bred to work as hunting dogs. They always seem to be interested in everything that goes on around them and over the years they have earned themselves a reputation for being reliable, trustworthy and fun-loving family pets in their native Japan. They are gaining popularity elsewhere in the world too although anyone wishing to share their home with a Japanese Shiba Inu would need to register their interest with breeders because pedigree puppies are hard to come by with very few being registered annually with The Kennel Club.
The Japanese Shiba Inu is an ancient breed and their ancestry can be traced back thousands of years. Evidence of very similar looking dogs have been found on pottery and terracotta remains that date back to the 3th century BC when it is thought immigrants first took their dogs with them to Japan. These dogs were then interbred with local dogs and the result produced dogs with known pointed, erect ears and curly tails.
Originally there were three main types of Shiba, each named after the regions where they were first bred. 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 seen in the breed today. From these foundation breeds, 6 distinct dogs were developed with the Shiba Inu being one of them.
In 1928, the “Organisation to Preserve the Japanese Dog” was founded with an end goal being to save native breeds from vanishing altogether. The same year, the first dog shows were held under the club's banner and they were an immediate success. However, with the advent of World War II, many Japanese breed numbers fell dangerously low which included the Shiba Inu, but luckly their numbers were restored when dogs were found in the more remote regions of the land which were then used in breeding programmes to save the breed from extinction altogether.
The breed was only called Shiba Inus during the 1920's and by 1936, they were considered one of Japan's national treasures. Numbers fell dangerously low for a second time in the early fifties due to a serious outbreak of distemper. Yet again the breed had to be saved by using two types of Shibas, one being a stockier, heavier boned dog and the other being a longer legged dog found in other regions of Japan.
Today, the Shiba Inu is still one of the most popular dogs in their native Japan both as companions and family pets. They are gaining popularity here in the UK thanks to their charming looks and their loyal, fun-loving natures although few pedigree puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year.
Height at the withers: Males 39.5 - 41.5 cm, Females 36.5 - 38.5 cm
Average weight: Males 8.0 - 11.0 kg, Females 6.8 - 9.0 kg
The Japanese Shiba Inu is one of the smallest of the Akita type dogs. They look very much like a smaller version of an Akita and are slightly longer than they are tall much like their larger Akita cousins. They have broad, flat skulls and nicely muscled cheeks with a clearly defined stop and a charming furrow. Their muzzles are straight and taper gradually to a dog's nose. Their lips are tight and noses black although some white dogs have flesh coloured noses which is acceptable as a breed standard.
They have relatively small, almond shaped eyes that are set well apart on a dog's face being a nice dark brown in colour. Ears are triangular shaped and small which dogs carry pricked and pointing slightly forward. The Japanese Shiba Inu has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are slightly arched and moderately long being thick and very well-muscled.
The Shiba Inu boasts having moderately sloping shoulders and well developed forechests with their front legs being straight and strong. They have quite high, well developed withers, level backs and short loins. Chests are deep and a dog's ribs are moderately sprung. Bellies are nicely tucked up adding to the Shiba Inu's athletic appearance. Back legs are powerful with long upper thighs and short, but strong second thighs. They have very cat-like feet with well knuckled toes, tough, firm pads and strong dark nails. Tails are set high and thick which dogs carry curled in the shape of a sickle.
When it comes to their coat, the Japanese Shiba Inu has a straight, hard outer coat with a much softer, dense undercoat. The hair on a dog's tail is slightly longer than on the rest of the body. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
The Japanese Shiba Inu is an alert, inquisitive and playful character and one that forms a strong bond with their owner and families. They tend to be a little wary and aloof around people they don't know, but once they get to know someone they are usually fine with them. They boast having some quite cat-like traits and much like their cousins, the Japanese Chin they will drape themselves on the backs of chairs, wash their faces using their paws and purr very much like a cat when being petted.
The Shiba is often referred to as being a big dog in a small dog's body and they are known to play "rough". If allowed, they will become the "top dog" in a household which is something to be avoided at all costs. As such, this particular dominant side to their nature has to be gently curbed from a young age because it's essential for a Shiba Inu to know their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household right from the word go.
With this said, they are affectionate, gentle dogs that are not known to be aggressive. However, it's crucial for these dogs to be well socialised from a young enough age and it has to include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated for them to be less “hyper” when they are older.
They are intelligent and love to please which means they are easy and fun to train. However, keeping a Shiba Inu focussed can prove challenging. They love nothing more than being with their owners and involved in everything that goes on around them. This includes being given lots of attention and affection as well as what people are having to eat. As such, it's essential for boundaries to be established when a Shiba Inu is still a cute puppy so they grow up knowing what is allowed and what is not. However, a Shiba Inu will always put these boundaries to the test which is why their training and handling has to be consistent throughout a dog's life.
They are independent dogs by nature which is another trait that has to be gently curbed when they are still young. Shiba Inus also like the sound of their own voices and will "yodel" to get attention. However, they have a good range of noises which includes screaming with delight when a dog is excited by anything. They can be a little protective of things which includes food, toys and other items which again has to be gently curbed when dogs are still young or it could turn into a real problem later on.
A puppy's training has to start as soon as they arrive in their new home and once they are fully vaccinated, Shiba Inus need to be given as much socialisation as possible to prevent them from getting too excited whenever they find themselves in new places, around new people and other dogs when they are older.
They are intelligent and training can be fun although a little challenging at times because it can be hard to keep a dog focussed on what is being asked of them. They can be a little stubborn which does not help when training them either. The key to successfully training one of these high energy dogs is to keep the sessions short and as interesting as possible so that a dog does not get bored by too much repetition.
Their training has to start early and it has to be consistent so a dog understands what an owner expects of them. It's a good idea to enrol a Shiba Inu into puppy classes once they've had all their vaccinations which goes a long way in socialising them and it's a great way to start their training in earnest after they have been taught the basics.
It's important to pay particular attention to the "recall" command because like other Spitz-type dogs, the Shiba Inu has a strong prey drive and will happily take off after any prey they spot in the distance if they get the chance, ignoring any recall commands in the process.
The Shiba Inu loves being in a family environment and enjoys being involved in everything that goes on around them. The Japanese Akita Shiba Inu is best suited to households where the children are older and who therefore know how to behave around such imposing, large dogs. As such, Pets4homes advises that Akitas are not a good choice for families with babies or very young children.
Anyone who already shares a home with an Akita Shiba Inu where there are younger children should always make sure they are never left together unattended. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.
Shiba Inus can be a little aggressive around dogs they don't know which is why it's so important for young dogs to be well socialised as soon as they’ve been fully vaccinated. If they have grown up with a family cat in the house, they usually get on well together, but a Shiba Inu would be quick to chase off any other cats they see. Because of their high prey drive, care has to be taken when they are around any smaller animals or pets. In short, any contact is best avoided.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Japanese Shiba Inu is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Shiba Inu is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and handsome dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Shiba Inus need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Japanese Shiba Inu boasts having a thick double coat that consists of a soft, dense undercoat and a much stiffer and straight outer coat. They shed copious amounts of hair all year round, only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary to keep on top of things and to remove dead and loose hair. It's important to play with a puppy's paws so that when it comes to trimming their nails, they don't get too stressed out because leaving it too late could cause a lot of problems especially as these dogs don't like having their paws touched.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Shiba Inu is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded and obedient dogs. They need to be given anything from 40 to 60 minutes exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible, but this should only be done in very secure areas. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Shiba Inu would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these high energy, inquisitive dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Shiba Inu puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Shiba Inu puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Japanese Shiba Inu, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £800 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Shiba Inu in northern England would be £19.02 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.75 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Shiba Inu and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Japanese Shiba Inu would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
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