The Breed History
This is an ancient breed, thought to have its origins in the rugged mountains of Japan over 5000 years ago. The Shiba Inu was formally named and recognized in 1920. The smallest of the Japanese dog breeds, they are named accordingly; small (shiba) dog (inu). Another theory is that shiba refers to the red color of the brushwood bushes in which they often hunted; many of the breed specimens are also red in color. In the 1940s Shiba became very rare, such that only three lines remained in Japan. These were used to diligently revive the breed. First dogs were exported to America in 1954. The breed was registered in AKC first in 1992.
Breeding for Function
Historically the Shiba dog was used for hunting, especially in low dense brush. They were widely used for small game hunting. Today, they are primarily companion and show dogs, though they are also widely valued as watchdogs.
Height at Withers: female 13.5-15.5" (34-39 cm), male 14.5-16.5" (36.83-42 cm).
Weight: females 17 lb (7.5 kg), males 23 lb (10.5 kg).
Coat: The double coat has a thick, dense, short undercoat of buff, grey or cream pigmentation; outer coat is straight and hard, with white to cream in specified pattern. This light outer coat pigment pattern is present with all three primary coat colors: Red, Sesame, and Black and Tan. Sesame is a black tipped coat with red as primary hair shaft color.
Longevity: 12-13 years
Points of Conformation: The Shiba Inu is a compact Spitz-type dog, with moderate bone and muscling and an almost square conformation. Slanting dark brown eyes are rimmed by tight black palpebral margins. Eyes are triangular in shape, and are deep and wide set. Upright pricked ears are forward tilting, and are small and triangular. The skull is flat and broad, the stop moderate, and the muzzle is straight, round in cross section, and pointed. The cheeks are prominent. Nose and lip margins are black, the neck is thick and the topline level. The thorax is deep with moderately sprung ribs, the abdomen tucked up, and the tail is high set and reaches the tarsus when straightened; normal carriage is over the back curled or sickled. Limbs are straight boned and the feet are compact, with toes well knuckled up. Front dewclaws may be removed; there are no rear declaws. They possess an athletic, agile, springy gait.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported characteristics of the breed include: Loyal, a good watchdog, bold, independent, often have inter-dog aggression; especially inter-male, possessing a dominant personality, good at escaping fences by digging or jumping, aloof with strangers, low barking tendency (high pitched sound), and early socialization and obedience training is essential. They are considered good with children if raised with them. They tolerate heat and cold well, have moderate exercise needs, are easily housetrained, and are not keen on restraint. They may require patience for leash training. They are considered to have low grooming needs, and have moderate shedding tendency overall.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Microcytosis: Small red blood cells can be a typical finding in Shibas. Erythrocyte mean corpuscular volume in Shibas ranged from 55.6 to 69.1 fl (mean +/- SD, 61.2 +/- 4.3 fl; median, 60.6 fl; reference range, 63 to 73 fl).
Hyperkalemia: Shiba Inu have a benign autosomal recessive inherited condition of high red blood cell potassium. A survey in Japan showed one-quarter to one-third of Shiba Inu were affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 6.9% affected.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 5.6% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 3.6% affected.
GM1-Gangliosidosis: A rare, fatal autosomal recessive storage disease causing loss of balance, intermittent lameness, ataxia, dysmetria and intention tremor around 5 to 6 months of age. Affected dogs can also form corneal opacities. The disorder is primarily seen in Japan where a genetic test is available, showing 2.9% carriers.
Glaucoma: Primary angle closure with pectinate ligament dysplasia occurs in the breed. Onset 10 weeks to 10 years. Can also predispose to lens luxation. Screen with gonioscopy and tonometry. Reported at a frequency of 33% in Japan. CERF Does not recommend breeding any Shiba Inu with primary angle closure.10,11 Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 4.04% of Shiba Inu CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.12 Allergic Dermatitis (Atopy): Inhalant or food allergy, presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported as a significant problem on the NSCA website.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 2.86% of Shiba Inu CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 2.3% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cataracts: Posterior suture punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 2.27% of Shiba Inu CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Shiba Inu with a cataract.
Ventricular Septal Defect: Shiba Inu are over-represented in cases of ventricular septal defect; a congenital disorder causing a hole in the heart wall between the ventricles. Clinical signs can vary from heart failure to subclinical.
Base Narrow Canines, Oligodontia, Rostrally Displaced Maxillary Canine, Uveodermatological Syndrome, von Willebrand's Disease, and Wry Mouth are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Congenital Nephrogenic Diabetes Insipidus: A two-year-old intact male Shiba Inu dog with excessive polyuria and polydipsia (PU-PD) was diagnosed as having congenital nephrogenic diabetes insipidus based on clinical findings, urinalysis, blood chemistry, a modified water deprivation test and a low dose dexamethasone suppression test.
Congenital Esophageal Stricture: An 11-week-old female Shiba Inu with a history of intermittent regurgitation since birth had a partial obstruction of the caudal cervical esophagus ue to a narrow, transverse tissue band. Surgical ligation was curative.
Cor Triatriatum Dexter: A Shiba Inu dog with marked abdominal distension was diagnosed with cor triatriatum dexter. Surgical correction was performed, postoperative contrast radiography of the caudal vena cava revealed normal flow into the right heart.
Collagenofibrotic Glomerulonephropathy: A 3 year old Shiba Inu presented with anorexia, high BUN, creatinine, and proteinuria. A collagenofibrotic glomerulonephropathy was identified pathologically, with massive accumulation of type III collagenous fibrils.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for GM-1 gangliosidosis is available in Japan.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination, and patella evaluation. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommend elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Brushwood dog, Small Brushwood dog, Shiba, Japanese Small-sized Dog.
- Registries: AKC, UKC (called Shiba in this registry), CKC, ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club), called Shiba in this registry.
- AKC rank (year 2008): 65 (1,376 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: National Shiba Club of America: shibas.org
Shiba Inu Canada: shibainucanada.com
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