He looks just like a fox!
You have probably seen this foxy little dog, walking his little walk around your neighborhood. Or perhaps you saw him at the dog park, strutting his stuff,… or maybe it was at the dog show.
These little foxes are striking. They act like they are on show all of the time, and they stand out wherever they go.
What are they?
Sounds like Sheba Inu, Shibu Inu, Shiba Enu … the one and only Shiba Inu.
The Shiba Inu – What’s That?!
The Shiba Inu is a Japanese dog breed. There are six original distinct breeds of dog from Japan, and the Shiba Inu is the smallest one.
The largest in the group is the Akita. There aren’t many red and white Akitas in the United States, but the few that I have seen, look just like larger versions of the red Shiba Inu. And not in the Schwarzenegger-DeVito sort of way.
Between the Akita Inu and the Shiba Inu, are the medium sized Japanese dog breeds, including the Shikoku, Kai, Ainu, and Kishu. These six Japanese dog breeds have very similar appearance and temperaments. They all belong to the Spitz dog family.
Shiba Inu – What Does It Mean?
The Kanji or Japanese character for ‘dog‘, can be pronounced as ‘Inu‘ or ‘Ken‘. Therefore, Shiba Inu simply means Shiba dog. Sometimes, you will also hear the Shiba dog being referred to as Shiba Ken.
The exact interpretation of ‘Shiba‘, is less clear. It could mean ‘red shrub‘, for the red bushes that grow in the region, where Shibas come from. Alternatively, it could also mean ‘small‘.
The Shiba Inu is certainly a cheeky little red shrub, so both interpretations work out well.
Shiba Inu – What Does It Truly Mean?
I know that discussions of red shrubs are truly riveting, but you probably want to move on to what it truly means to be Shiba, am I right?
Well, you know what they say about red-heads and their fiery temper.
The same is also true of the red-headed Shiba Inu. You may think that you can get around this thorny issue, by getting a Shiba of another color, such as the red-sesame, black and tan, or cream colored versions. However, the Shiba God is indeed one step ahead of you.
Shiba Inus of all colors, have the same fiery red personality.
That is why they are also known as –
- The ‘devil dog’,
- The ‘not for everyone dog’, and
- The ‘honey, why the hell did you get this thing?! dog’.
Indeed, the Shiba Inu is not recommended for first time dog owners.
However, figuring I was smarter than everyone else, or mainly because of lack of research, I decided to get a Shiba as my first dog anyway. It was not an easy first dog experience, but after over a year, Shiba Inu Sephy and I reached a somewhat peaceful state of cohabitation.
My little red shrub still has some thorns, but he is growing some beautiful flowers as well.
Standard sized male Shiba Inus tend to range between 20-25 pounds, for an average weight of around 23 pounds. Female Shiba Inus are slightly smaller, and have an average weight of 17 pounds. There are always outliers though.
My male Shiba is a big boy, and comes in at around 30 pounds. He is not an overweight dog, just big-boned.
Recently, some breeders in Japan and the United States have started breeding Mame Shibas, which are essentially smaller sized Shibas. ‘Mame‘ means ‘bean‘ in Japanese, so these are bean-sized Shibas.
Mame Shibas are not recognized by any of the kennel clubs in Japan, or in the United States. As a result, the breeding of Mame Shibas is not regulated, and many of the breeders who sell them, do not breed for health or temperament.
Since the Shiba Inu is already a difficult dog breed to begin with, we want to try and get one that has a balanced temperament. Therefore, it is best to get a Shiba from an accredited club breeder, who has to follow strict breeding guidelines.
The Jomon period is the time in Japanese history from around 14,000 B.C. to 400 B.C. The Jomon inhabitants reared hunting dogs that were a big part of their culture.
Archaeological sites have uncovered well-preserved skeletons of the Jomon dogs, which show that they have prick ears and a sickle tail. Scientists believe these dogs to be the ancient ancestors of the Shiba Inu, and the other five original Japanese dog breeds.
Some breeders in Japan have founded the Shibaho association, to breed dogs with physical characteristics that conform to the Jomon dogs of old.
The Jomon Shiba is a more feral looking Shiba, with a narrower head, and larger teeth. True to their even more primitive roots, Jomon Shibas are more stubborn and less obedient, than their domesticated Shiba Inu brothers.
Given the already high level of stubbornness and willfulness in a regular Shiba, it may be best to stay away from these Jomon dogs.
Shiba Inu – Why Not?
Truthfully, there are many easier and friendlier dog breeds than the Shiba Inu.
The Shiba Inu is independent and aloof. If we want a lap dog who likes to cuddle with us, then the Shiba is not for us.
The Shiba Inu is feisty and active. If we want a calm dog that just lies at the end of our bed, and warms our feet, then the Shiba is not for us.
The Shiba Inu is a dog rebel. If we want an obedient dog that follows our every command, and only lives to please us, then the Shiba is not for us.
Why Do People Get Shiba Inus?
Yeah, they are a bit nuts. Maybe more than a bit nuts. However, once we get beneath that fiery red temper, we will find a rich and deep Shiba soul.
The Shiba Inu is a trickster. He likes to play tricks, and he likes breaking rules. We will never be bored if we live with a Shiba, because he will always be up to something. Sometimes, it is even something good.
The Shiba Inu is a clown. He likes being the center of attention, and he will do much to get to that coveted spot. What he does, will be original, funny, and very entertaining. In fact, Shibas remind me of stand-up comedians. They can easily make others laugh with their crazy hi-jinks, but they have a very sensitive and fragile soul.
The Shiba Inu is a charmer. He can charm birds from the trees, if he wants to. Most of the time, he may not want to, but when he does, look out! It is simply not possible to resist those deep dark eyes, his infectious grin, or roguish charm.
The Shiba Inu is one of a kind. He is not like a regular dog. In fact, many people describe the Shiba as a dog that is more like a cat.
If we want a dog that is a bit different, a dog that will challenge us and grow with us, a dog that will surprise us in both delightful and sometimes non-delightful ways, a trickster, a prankster, and a rogue, but sensitive, deep, and surprising – then the Shiba Inu is the dog for us.
He is like Han Solo and Indiana Jones, except with more fur and without the hat!
Getting a Shiba Inu
Should we get a Shiba Inu puppy?
That would depend on our temperament, lifestyle, and the amount of time we can devote to a new puppy. The Shiba Inu is a challenging dog breed, because he is extremely stubborn, dominant, and smart.
Shiba Inu training is a must, and it can be a very time consuming and frustrating process, especially in the beginning.
Patience and time are two key ingredients, that we will need in abundance.
Shibas are inside dogs, that need the company of their people. A Shiba puppy that is constantly left in his own company, will become stressed, unhappy, destructive, and aggressive.