Around 7000 BC the ancestors of today`s Shibas may have accompanied the earliest immigrants to Japan. Archaeological excavations of the shell-mounds left by the Jomonjin, or Rope-Pattern People (a name derived from the pattern found on their earthenware), show that they had small dogs in the 14.5 to 19.5 inch range.
In the third century BC, a new group of immigrants brought their dogs to Japan These dogs then interbred with the decendants of the Jomonjin dogs, and produced canines known to have pointed, erect ears and curly or sickle tails. In the 7th century AD, the Yamato Court established a dogkeeper's office which helped maintain the Japanese native breeds as an integral part of Japanese culture. Although the country was closed to foreigners from the 17th through 18th centuries, some European dogs and a breed known as the Chinese Chin were imported and crossed with native dogs living in the more populated areas. Dogs in the countryside, however, remained relatively pure.
Originally there were three main varieties of Shiba, each named for its region of origin: the Shinshu Shiba, from the Nagano Prefecture; the Mino Shiba, from the Gifu Prefecture; and the Sanin Shiba from the northeastern part of the mainland. Although similar, the Shibas from each area contributed to differences in breed type seen today.
From the original Japanese native dogs, six distinct "breeds" in three different sizes developed. They are the Akita (large size); Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kai (medium size); and the Shiba (small size). The small sized dog has been called the Shiba since ancient times, and there are several theories surrounding the development of that name. One popular explaination is that the word Shiba means "brushwood", and the dogs were named for the brushwood bushes where they hunted. Another theory is that the fiery red color of the Shiba is the same as the autumn color of the brushwood leaves. A third conjec ture is related to an obsolete meaning of the word shiba, referring to its small size. These explanations are often combined and the Shiba is referred to as the "little brushwood dog".
World War II nearly spelled disaster for the Shiba, and most of the dogs that did not perish in bombing raids succumbed to distemper during the post-war years.
While the Mino and Sanin Shibas became practically extinct, more of the Shinshu Shibas survived. After the war, Shibas were brought from the remote countryside and breeding programs were established. The remnants of the various bloodlines were combined to produce the breed as it is known today.
Because of its hunting heritage, it should be quick, agile and able to turn on a yen. It has a dense double coat similar to that of a husky. Although all colors are acceptable in the Shiba standard, red, red sesame (sable) and black & tan are preferred. White and cream shadings are present of the legs, belly, chest and part of the face and tail.
The Japanese have three words to describe the Shiba temperament. The first word is "kan-i" which is bravery and boldness combined with composure and mental strength. The opposite of "kan-i" is "ryosei" which means good nature with a gentle disposition. One cannot exist without the other. The charming side of the Shiba is "soboku" which is artlessness with a refined and open spirit. They combine to make a personality that Shiba owners can only describe as "irrisistable"!
If a Shiba could utter one word, it would probably be "mine". It is "mine" food, "mine" water, "mine" toys, "mine" sofa, "mine" crate, "mine" car, "mine" owner, and "mine" world. Sharing is a concept he feels others should practice He doesn't want you to forget those wonderful things your mother taught you about generosity!
If the bait is dangled when a potential Shiba owner sees adults at a dog show or pictures in a magazine, the hook is set when he encounters his first puppy! Exemplary examples of canine cuteness, fiery little fuzzballs-from-hell, no words can describe the appeal of the infant Shiba. A litter of Shibas is a Dakin convention and a school of pirahna; strutting, posturing little windup toys!
The adult Shiba is far from a toy. "Macho Stud Muffin" has been used to describe the male Shiba. The body may look "muffin", but the mind is all "macho stud". The Shiba takes the "spirited boldness" part of his temperament quite seriously. Early socialization, temperament testing, and careful conditi oning are mandatory for the young puppy. This fiery aspect of the Shiba nature cannot be taken lightly.
Most Shiba owners learn to deal with the difficult aspects of the dog's temper ament in order to enjoy the delightful ones. With "soboku", the Shiba sets his hook into the heart. This is "artlessness" with squinty-eyes, airplaned ears, and a vibrating tail. It is "charm" standing in your lap washing your ears, and "dignity" plus "refinement" born of the knowledge of superiority.
Let your best instincts guide you when choosing a breeder. Don't pick a puppy because you feel sorry for it or want to "rescue" it. This is an animal that will be sharing your life and the life of your family for the next 12 years or so. Take your time. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Remember, people become stupid about their Shibas, so it`s best to become stupid about a nice one.
Debbie Meador, Editor
5271 Hillside Dr
Warrenton, VA 22186
by Rick Tomita
by Gretchen Haskett and Susan Houser
Published by Alpine Publications
The Complete Shiba Inu
by Maureen Atkinson, published by Howell
You should be able to feel his ribs, backbone and hip bones, but not see them. An adult Shiba will eat from 1 to 1.5 cups of kibble per day depending on his size and energy level.
A size 200 airline crate will suit a Shiba for his entire life and will also fit on the back seat of almost any car. He can ride safely in a crate in the car, and with a little ingenuity, a crate can be seat belted or bungied into place. When you're not home, you will never wonder where your puppy is or what he is doing if he is in a crate or exercise pen.
Keeping a puppy in a crate day and night is not good, and even though he may be exercised, it is akin to you staying in bed, going out jogging, and going back to bed again. While the puppy is small, an exercise pen set in the kitchen, garage or in any room of the house on top of a six foot by six foot piece of inexpensive linolium is an ideal place to leave the puppy while you're at work. This allows the puppy room to move around and play while keeping him safe and comfortable in the house.
Later, when he is mature, he may be allowed free access to the house or yard. The Shiba is an excellent indoor/outdoor dog with a coat that will protect him from both heat and cold. He must have shelter from the sun in summer and storms in winter, but he can withstand a wide range of temperatures.
Unless you plan to give your Shiba all his exercise on a leash, a fenced yard is mandatory. Nothing is more devastating than going out to find your beloved Shiba is a $600 carpet remnant on the street in front of your house. No amount of training will deter your little hunting dog from darting across the street to chase the neighbor's cat -- at just the wrong time. This is true of any breed of dog. Dogs also dig and some climb. Check frequently for possible escape routes. A Shiba is safest indoors or in an escape-proof run when you are away from home.
With all this room, most seldom stray very far from the house until he goes on his daily "run". Dogs like to go for walks with their people, and for many it is more exciting than eating. A wheelchair-bound Shiba owner takes his two dogs for a four mile "walk" every day around the streets of suburbia. The majority of people snap on the retractible lead and make a morning(or evening) tour of the neighborhood.
It is a good exercise for both man and beast and a great way to meet the neighbors!
A very successful sled dog driver lived with 12 large Alaskan Huskies in his house. His home was not destroyed by the animals and everyone lived together amicably. This man handled his dogs by the philosophy that dogs do not make mistakes; people do.
It's something to think about.
Puppies should have a complete set of vaccinations before exposing them to situations where many other dogs have been. These vaccinations are against distemper, hepatitis, kennel cough, parvovirus and coronavirus. Often the first shots do not contain a vaccine against letospirosis (lepto). Lepto has frequently been fingered as the "bad guy" in vaccine reaction and vaccine manufacturers had a difficult time combining it with coronavirus vaccine into a single injection.
Since puppies are much more likely to be exposed to coronavirus than lepto, many breeders and veterinarians prefer to wait until the puppy is three to four months old before giving an injection with lepto. Several Shiba puppies have experienced anaphylactoid reactions to vaccine on their second injection even when it did not contain lepto. This is the same severe allergic reaction some people experience when stung by a bee. Epinepherine must be administered immediately, so a veterinarian should be warned of the possibility of a reaction. A puppy should remain in the waiting room of the vet's office for 15 to 20 minutes after his injection to ensure there is no reaction. Rabies shots are given at four months of age.
Rabies is the only vaccination required by law. All others are for the puppy's health.
Housebreaking is easy and something that Shibas do naturally. If a puppy is taken out whenever he awakes from a nap or after a meal, he will almost never soil in the house and especially not in a restricted area such as a crate. A puppy as young as five weeks can hold his bowels all night, but not his bladder. He will want out or will wet on a blanket or paper in his exercise pen. As soon as the puppy figures where "out" is, he will try to go there to potty. This becomes easy when there is a door directly to a back yard. Leashbreaking is not as natural for the Shiba as housebreaking. It involves something they truly detest - restraint. It is best to put on a snug collar or soft nylon choke collar and let the puppy wear it around for a while. Attach a leash and let the puppy take you for a walk. You go where he goes. After a few times, you can suggest he follow you. He may pull back and scream a little, but that is natural.
Encouragement and praise help, and soon he will be walking with you. Never leave a choke collar on an unattended puppy and never tie up a dog with a choke collar. A dog can easily hang himself by a choke collar just by getting tangled in something as simple as a bush. Some Shibas can carry around their distain for collar and leash all their lives. They do it in the form of the patented "Shiba Shake", where they cock their heads sideways as if something was in their ear then stop and shake violently. Amazingly, this "ear problem" goes away the minute the leash is removed, and returns the minute the dog is near the show ring.
The fiery aspect of the Shiba temperament is apparent at an early age. Even as puppies they stage mock battles and make much noise as they vie for top honors. With people they are all kissy-face, but with other dogs, and especially other Shibas, they are macho little muffins. There is a wide range of variation in this aspect of a young Shibas temperament and difficulties should be discussed with the breeder. Many Shiba puppies are just playful and not quarrelsome, but others are more serious. All like to play with other dogs once they are acquainted. Just as there are hundreds of books on child rearing, there are as many theories on how to deal with canine temperament.
Dog trainers who are not familiar with the Shiba temperament may only make the problem worse. Shibas seem to work well with the reward system. They easily learn commands like sit, and down, and such parlor tricks as roll over, speak and sit up. Obedience work done on lead is readily acquired, but a Shiba who reliably "comes" on command is any situation is rare indeed. There are a few who learn boundaries, come when called, even when chasing a cat, and can wander loose in any situation. These are exceptional and usually a combination of an extremely responsive temperament plus diligent training. It is realistic to expect that the average owner with the average Shiba will not have that situation. Most Shibas will not wander miles from home, but will want to investigate every nook and cranny within a larger radius than the owner is comfortable. Expect your Shiba to be an "on leash" breed and if he proves otherwise, then you are amoung the fortunate.
Do not feel your Shiba is untrainable, for he is is not. Shibas love "agility" training as it is a natural for their athletic ability. They are smart and enjoy activities that challenge their mind and body. If you work with the Shiba nature rather than against it, training will be fun for both.
Interactable children should have animals made of plastic, or maybe cement. All dogs, and especially puppies, regard very small children as peers rather than superiors. Puppies will try to play with children as they would another puppy, particularly if the child falls on the floor or runs around making squealing noises. Nothing was more misleading than an advertisement aired on television a few years ago depicting a two year old child rolling around on the ground, laughing while being bombarded by about six small Labrador puppies What wasn`t shown were the tears that must have followed as the puppies sharp nails raked the child`s tender skin and the puppies pulled at his hair. The responsibility of how a puppy interacts with children falls on the parents. Most trainable children over six years of age should have no trouble adjusting to a Shiba puppy. Dog oriented people find it easy acclimating a Shiba to a household with children. People with little dog experience should visit several households with Shibas.
DO NOT FALL IN LOVE WITH A SHIBA AT A DOG SHOW AND IMMEDIATELY RUN OUT AND BUY ONE. Take time to visit the dogs in the home environment. See how they react to children and let your intuition be your best guide. When adults visit a home with Shiba puppies, they usually sit and wait for the puppies to come to them. Children tend to pursue the puppies. Shibas do not like to be continually restrained and manhandled. Although a well socialized puppy will tolerate some of this, too much will make him shy or irritated. It is absolutely necessary that a child learn to sit and let the puppy come to him. It is difficult to train a child who is used to running in and out of the house at will to close the door quickly and make sure the Shiba doesn't get out. It is even more difficult to train the child`s friends. Training the puppy and child when little can make the child aware of the necessity to use a double door system or exercising caution when going in and out, but it is up to the parent to watch when visitors come and to put the puppy out of harm`s way.
Neutering a male before the age of six months will usually prevent marking and other "big guy" ideas. Females should be spayed at about 5 months of age, before they have their first heat cycle. This makes it easier on the little girl as the uterus is small and the female lean. Recovery is quick and after a few days, you won't know anything has been done. Sometimes it takes up to eight months or more for a Shiba male`s testicles to drop into the scrotum. They seldom fail to arrive, and if the vet can locate them at all, he can perform the castration. DON'T POSTPONE IT!
Tattooing is an additional method of identification. It is usually placed on the inside of the dog`s thigh. Although it is permanently attached to the dog, a person finding a lost dog may not look on the dog`s leg for a tattoo, and if he does look, may not know what to do about it. Hopefully, most animal shelter personnel will look and know who to contact. The AKC is strongly encouraging all dog owners to tattoo their dogs for two reasons. One is the hope that a lost or stolen dog can be returned to its owner, and the other is for the definitive identification. The AKC wants it to be possible for any stranger to go into a household and identify the dogs. If the dogs are tattooed with the AKC registration number, the dogs can be identified with the registration papers or the records at the AKC. This would also assist in the dispute over ownership of a dog. The AKC registration number is like the dog's Social Security number; it's his identification for life.