The story

The story of Japanese dogs begins in the prehistorical Jōmon period (7000 b.C. to 300  b.C.), where archeological findings suggest the coexistence of dogs and men since the Stone Age.


Successive traces were found in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), an ancient historical document dating back to 720 A.D. and reporting the importation of dogs coming from the Asiatic Continent. The document also specifies that they were selected and used for hunting small animals and birds.


In 1571 the first western trading station was founded in Nagasaki, and the Japanese started trading with Europe. This way new unknown races of dogs were introduced to Japan, giving birth to crossings with indigenous breeds.

Later, under the Tokugawa domain, the Shogun declared the Sakoku (closed country) policy, restricting every foreign contact; with the exceptions of Nagasaki’s harbor and the Ryūkyū islands, the small number of foreign dogs had a very limited influence on Japanese native races.


Japan’s isolation policy started weakening when, in 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry lead an expedition to the Edo Bay under the U.S. President’s order to achieve the Country’s opening to trade.


After some years Japan had already signed several trade agreements with the great western Countries, thus giving the green light to intense trade with the rest of the world. Among different kinds of goods, a great number of foreign dog breeds were imported to Japan, and expecially those with a strong inclination towards the hunt, which were much appreciated by the Japanese. This meant native races were crossed with foreign ones more than ever before, making it more difficult to find pure Japanese dogs. The situation got worse by the last years of the Taisho period (1912-1926).


As an answer to this arduous situation, many Japanese dogs’ enthusiasts were forced to move to preserve the race. In 1932 the Japanese Ministry of Education created the NIHON KEN HOZONKAI (The Association for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog) aka. NIPPO, under the lead of Doc. Hiroyo Saito, who named “Shiba Inu” the small dog from different areas of the Country. In 1934 the official race standard was unified, and in 1937 the Japanese Government designated the Shiba Inu a natural monument. The Shiba Inu was officially born.


However, as Japan joined WWII in 1941, the Shiba Inu had to overcome the hardest challenge of its  already difficult history. The specimen that didn’t die under the bombing were severely weakened by hunger and disease during the postwar period, which took the Shiba and other native breeds on the brink of extinction.

Luckily though, it was for the help of many good-hearted people that the surviving specimen were

recovered from all over Japan and organised in breeding programs, which made the race flourish once again and prosper to our day.


The character

With its throbbing black nose, constantly in search of some ancient treasure to unearth, its magnetic and vigilant gaze, the small straight ears always rotating like radars, its proud tail wrapped on the back like a shark’s fin and a lunge worthy of the best one hundred meters runner, the Shiba Inu presents itself to the world conscious of being a superior entity.


Stalwart and corageous as a Samurai, fascinating and charming as a Geisha, and proud as a Shogun, the Shiba knows he’s an Emperor.


The Japanese call it “great dog in a small box”, and use three words to better decribe its nature:

  • Kan'i / strong spirit bravery and audacity combined with composure and mental strength

  • Ryosei  / good nature gentle nature, not shy nor aggressive, loyal and supportive to his owner, always independent

  • Soboku / not translatable pure beauty and refined elegance recalling its primitive origin


It is a shame the majority of us western people only scrape the surface of the Shiba’s complex character, which more than often is seen as a cute tender plush with a teddy bear muzzle, incarnation of the Trudi bear. Many forget it is a dynamic, stubborn and opportunist dog, and this sometimes leads to management mistakes resulting in unpleasant episodes. It is mandatory to be assisted by a competent dog trainer, expecially if it’s the first time engaging with a dog.


The little Emperor knows that and takes advantage of it, being sharp by nature, and lives by the motto “What’s mine is mine! What’s yours is mine too!”. Sharing happens only when it’s advantageous, because the Shiba always knows what it wants. At times the spontaineity Shibas show when causing trouble can be surprising, and if they don’t answer the owner’s call immediately it’s probably due to them having something better to do. The Shiba is narcissist, clean and often extremely fussy, so much that it purposely dodges puddles while having a walk, or asks to be taken outside to do its bodily needs. A myth tells Shibas like to tidy up their personal space, I don’t feel like busting it, so I’ll just clarify: let’s say they’ve got their own meaning of order. In fact it can happen they’re suddenly taken by the frenzy of surrounding themselves with plushes or shoes, or that they just carry a toy from one place to another right before taking a new one, or again that they move their bowls to their original location becouse someone had previously moved them without their consent.


That said, someone could ask me if this race actually has any pros. Well of course! It’s got lots and I’ll list some of them. If correctly fed it’s got no smell at all, it’s an unbeatable watchdog, always vigilant and only barking if there’s a reason and it doesn’t dirty home from the tender age. It gets very attached to the family, showing love and joy to whoever leaves even for minutes, and it always sticks with the group while having a walk outside, even waiting for who’s struggling keeping the pace. It is a robust resistant dog, very suitable for people who love trekking and Agilty competitions, it’s full of energy and always ready to play. Many Shibas are indifferent towards strangers and often don’t trust them (and that’s not a bad thing). Conversely to other races it’s no destructive dog, it gives and needs respect, it’s never invasive or clingy, never jealous to his owner. If educated from birth it’s extremely polite and can accompany the owner to restaurants and pubs without causing trouble.

All this is the Shiba and much more...

Therfore it is not just a dog, but a continuous surprise!

The standard

FCI STANDARD N° 257 / 09.02.2017






Hunting dog for birds and small animals


Group 5 Spitz and primitive type. Section 5 Asian Spitz and related breeds. Without working trial.



The Shiba has been a native breed to Japan since the primitive ages. The word « Shiba » originally refers to something « small », a « small dog ». The Shiba’s habitat was in the mountainous area facing the Sea of Japan and was used as a hunting dog for small animals and birds. There were slight differences in the breeds according to the areas where they were raised.


As dogs like English Setters and English Pointers were imported from England during the period of 1868-1912, hunting became a sport in Japan and crossbreeding of the Shiba with those English dogs became prevalent and a pure Shiba became rare so that by 1912-1926 pure Shibas confined to these areas became exceedingly scarce.


Hunters and other educated persons became concerned with the preservation of the pure Shibas from around 1928 and the preservation of the limited number of pure strains began seriously, and the breed standard was finally unified in 1934. In 1937 the Shiba was designated as a « natural monument » after which the breed was bred and improved to become the breed known today.



Small-sized dog, well balanced, well boned with well developed muscles. Constitution strong. Action quick, free and beautiful.


The ratio of height at withers to length of body is 10 : 11.


The temperament is faithful, with keenness in sense and high alertness.


Cranial region:

  • Skull: Forehead broad

  • Stop: Well defined with slight furrow


Facial region:

  • Nose: Black, nasal bridge straight

  • Muzzle: Moderately thick

  • Lips: Tight

  • Jaws/Theeth: Theeth strong with scissor bite

  • Cheeks: Well developed

  • Eyes: Triangular, not too small, and dark brown in colour, the outer corners of the eyes are slighty upturned

  • Ears: Relatively small, triangular, slighty inclinning forward and firmly pricked



Thick, strong and well balanced with the head and the body


  • Back: Straight and strong

  • Loin: Broad and muscular

  • Chest: Deep, ribs moderately sprung

  • Belly: Slighty tucked up


Set on high, thick, carried vigorously curled or curved as a sickle, the tip nearly reaching hocks when let down.




  • General appearance: Seen from the front, forelegs straight

  • Shoulder: Shoulder blade moderately sloping

  • Upper arm: Forming a moderate angle with shoulder blade

  • Elbow: Tight

  • Metacarpus (Pastern): Slightly oblique

  • Feet: Digits tightly closed and well arched, pads thick and elastic

  • Nails hard and dark in colour desirable



  • Upper thigh: Well developed

  • Lower thigh: Well developed

  • Hocks: Thick and tough

  • Feet: Digits tightly closed and well arched, pads thick and elastic

  • Nails hard and dark in colour desirable.



Light and brisk



Outer coat harsh and straight, undercoat soft and dense; hair on tail slightly long and standing off.




  • red

  • black and tan

  • sesame

  • black sesame

  • red sesame

Definition of the colour sesame:

  • Sesame: Good mixture of black, red and white hairs in whole.

  • Black sesame: More black than white hairs.

  • Red sesame: Ground colour of hair red, mixture with black hairs.

All the above mentioned colours must have « Urajiro ». 

« Urajiro » : Whitish coat on the sides of the muzzle and on the cheeks, on the underside of the jaw and neck, on the chest and stomach and the underside of the tail, and on the inside of the legs.



  • Height at withers: Males 39.5 cm, Females 36.5 cm

  • There is a tolerance of 1,5 cm smaller or taller


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

  • Lack of sexual dimorphism

  • Slightly overshot or undershot mouth

  • Numerous teeth missing

  • Shyness

  • Pinto colour


  • Ears not pricked

  • Hanging tail, short tail

N.B.: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.