Do you know Hachiko, the famous loyal dog from Japan? It is a real tear-jerker story that will tug the hearts of many especially dog lovers! It even has a monument in Japan near Shibuya Station.
But did you also know that there is another similar Japanese breed of dog which looks almost like Akita Inu (the breed of Hachiko) but only smaller? Yes, it is called the Shiba Inu and also one of Japan’s six native breeds.
Unsurprisingly, that standard breed of American Kennel Club (AKC)’s 44th most popular dog even comes in a mini version. That is because small dogs are really a fad these days.
But what does it take for a normal Shiba Inu to be bred smaller than usual? Is it recommended to get a miniature Shiba Inu? Let’s find out!
What is a Mini Shiba Inu?
It does not need a lot of guessing, a mini Shiba Inu is a miniature version of this Japanese dog intentionally bred to be that way. Mini Shiba Inu is also aptly called “Mame Shiba”, pronounced as “ma-may” and not “maim”.
In Japanese, “mame” means “beans” so a Mame Shiba means a bean-sized dog.
If the Shiba Inu already captured the hearts of many with its adorable appearance, how much more a miniature version? But did you know that experienced Shiba Inu breeders loathe the practice of breeding smaller ones because of potential health risks?
Due to this situation, most of those who breed the mini versions are backyard breeders. This is definitely something that you should consider if you are really keen on homing one.
History of the Mini Shiba Inu
Before we tackle that, let’s get to know the history of the Mini Shiba Inu first. Undeniably, and with general consensus, the mini version hailed from the country of origin of its normal size, which is Japan.
In recent years, many small dogs like Chihuahuas and Poodles have become hot in the market because of their adorable sizes! Perfect for small Japanese spaces, indeed!
Unfortunately, this led to the market of money hungry dog breeders caring only for money and breeding the Shiba Inu smaller. Worse, some of them are intentionally starved just to weigh smaller!
It is reported that many dog preservation societies even in Japan adamantly refuse to recognize Mame Shiba as a separate breed; likewise NIPPO dog organization will not allow the registration of a miniature version.
While that is the case, the standard Shiba Inu has a great and long history.
It is one of Japan’s six native breeds which are registered and protected: Akita (large), Kishu, Hokkaido, Kai, Shikoku (medium) and Shiba (small). They were bred as watchdogs and hunting dogs for small game and wild boar in the rugged mountains of Japan.
The breed has been around since the ancient times, roughly 300 B.C.! It is even considered as the oldest apart from being the smallest Japanese breed.
Why is it called “Shiba”? Because it means “brushwood” which can imply the brushwood bushes in which they hunted. Others think that it is simply reminiscent of the fiery red, autumn color of the brushwood leaves of which they sport. While the third theory is that the word shiba has an archaic meaning of small.
Whatever you go with, they surely all fit the Shiba Inu! Speaking of “Inu”, it translates to dog!
Another interesting anecdote for Shiba Inu was their survival during World War II. Those who did not perish from the bombings succumbed to distemper brought about by the trauma during the post-war years. After the war, breeding programs were established and interbreeding also occurred to produce the Shiba that we know today.
In 1948, Japanese Kennel Club (JKC) was founded and the standard for Shiba Inu was spearheaded by Nihon Ken Hozonkai, adopted by both the JKC and the Federation Cynologique Internationale.
Shiba Inu first landed in the US in 1954 but it was not well documented until the 1970s. It was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1992 as its 136th breed.
Why Are Mini Shiba Inu Smaller?
What makes the Mini Shiba Inu problematic for the others? Basically, it is because the methods undertaken to achieve its miniature size.
There are three ways a shrunken Shiba is achieved:
Breeding from the runt
The runt typically refers to the smallest puppy in the litter of the Shiba Inu; they are the smallest and the weakest.
While some of the runts grow healthy, the problem is, breeders intentionally mix two runts to achieve a smaller size. More often than not, these runts are prone to ailments and have an underlying congenital abnormality.
Some of the common issues in runts are parasites, liver shunts and infections.
Mame Shibas from Dwarfism
There are some cases when the dwarfism gene, shared by two parents, is passed along the litter. This does not sound easy, too! Much so that like breeding the runts, dwarfism is also connected to an array of health problems.
Most of these dogs have misshapen bones, very short legs, oversized head, misaligned teeth, enlarged esophagus and even spinal problems.
For sure, this will produce a tiny Mame Shiba, but the structural deformities are just heart-wrenching! These health conditions are also life threatening!
Cross-breeding from small dogs
This last chunk is the most humane although the downside is, it does not guarantee that your pup will look like a small Shiba Inu.
Yes, the last way is to breed Shiba Inu with a smaller sized or toy breed. Some of the most common crosses are:
- Pom Shi- or Pomeranian and Shiba Inu
- Poo Shi- miniature Poodle with Shiba Inu
- Shiba Chi- Shiba Inu with Chihuahua
With other genes in play, it is not only the appearance at a wild card game but also their temperament. Also, some breeds are predisposed to certain types of health issues and so doing research is very vital.
Some breeders are also honest advertising it as a hybrid but others may simply conceal it especially if it looks a lot like Shiba Inu. The best way to get to the bottom of the mystery is to get a DNA kit and have it checked.
How Does a Mini Shiba Inu Look Like?
What makes the Shiba Inu really adorable is its fox-like appearance. It sports a small, upright ears, long snout, and cat-like agility with a curly tail.
Sometimes, when you look at it, it even looks like it has a cunning grin!
What makes it look all the more like a fox is its red and white markings. It is also a sturdy breed and muscular that does not only show in the physical but also through their bold personality.
There are four coat colors for the Mini Shiba Inu: black, red, white and cream (or urajiro) and sesame or black-tipped hairs on a rich red background.
Strikingly, it very much resembles its cousin, the Akita Inu— the breed of the popular dog, Hachiko. The only visible difference between the two is probably their size!
Of course, it is also much smaller than the standard breed at 35 to 50%. The standard male Shiba Inu is 14.5 to 16.5 inches tall and weighs about 23 pounds; while the females stand 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall and weigh about 17 pounds.
The Mame Shiba will only be 11 inches in height and weigh 10 to 14 pounds at most.
Though again, this description only applies if your Mini Shiba Inu is not a cross-breed from other miniatures.
Grooming a Mini Shiba Inu
The fox-like and teddy bear appearance of Mame Shiba is definitely striking and cute! Thanks to that stiff and straight outer coat with an undercoat of soft and thick.
With this healthy coat, expect moderate shedding throughout the year while prepare for a heavy tornado twice yearly. It is also great to invest in a furminator and vacuum if you have a Mini Shiba Inu.
Even so, a Mini Shiba Inu is fairly easy to groom with once a week brushing. It is also naturally clean and odor-free so bathing is only needed three to four months.
Brush your Mame Shiba’s teeth at least twice or thrice weekly also to remove tartar build-up. Of course, daily brushing is still the best.
In terms of nail care, trim it once to twice a month unless they wear them down with their activities. One good indicator of long nails is when it is clicking on the floor already.
Another area to always check is its ears. Check for redness and odor which is a telltale sign of infection. To clean it, just wipe it out with a cotton ball with a drop of pH-balanced ear cleaner.
Temperament of a Mini Shiba Inu
Alert, active and attentive, that is how AKC describes the Shiba Inu. Just like its fiery colors, it also has a bold personality. The Japanese way of describing this unique breed can be encapsulated in three words: kaani-i (spirited boldness), ryosei (good nature), and soboku (alertness).
A smaller Shiba Inu will probably exhibit the same personality: interesting, intelligent, strong-willed, playful and loving.
Just like the Akita Inu Hachiko, Mame Shiba is also very loyal to their masters. But when it comes to strangers, they can be very cold and even hostile before showing their soft-side; this is called “tsundere”. Having this personality, they can be a great watchdog.
Because they have hunting blood, they also have a wild spirit. Many also would attest that owning a Shiba Inu is like having a cat! They love to chase off animals it considers its prey and it has a stubborn streak! In fact, one thing that you should learn caring for a Mini Shiba Inu is never to leave it off-leash or they will definitely run away!
With this blood running through their veins, expect also a highly energetic dog that needs to run, play and even chew.
They are very independent and self-reliant. In the mountains, they can withstand the cold and they persevere enough to have food for their stomachs. They are strong-willed that sometimes can take the form of aggressiveness. Sometimes too, they are reported for having a biting tendency. Training is really important for this breed to tame this disposition.
A Mini Shiba Inu is also often described as a samurai with their cool exterior but can read the mood of the situation and can even be stubborn.
It is important to note though that the temperament or personality of any dog breed will also be greatly influenced by how they are nurtured. Gene also comes into play especially when the Mini Shiba Inu is a mix breed.
Exercise Needs of a Mini Shiba Inu
Getting outside, being at the action, walking, running and playing are all important to the Mini Shiba Inu. The rigors of exercise should also be done daily as this is an energetic breed.
The Mini Shiba Inu also has the reputation of being an escape artist. Yes, they do so off the leash and sometimes, they also do it out a fence. So a securely fenced yard is a consideration when taking care of this breed.
Always securing the Mini Shiba Inu in a leash is also a wise idea.
It is also to note that a Mini Shiba Inu can suffer separation anxiety that can bring it to be destructive when lonely.
Training a Mini Shiba Inu
A Mini Shiba Inu has an average working obedience or intelligence. This Japanese breed is on the 49th spot, understanding new commands in 25 to 40 repetitions. They can also obey common commands 50% of the time or better.
A Mini Shiba Inu is an intelligent breed, it is just that, it has a freethinking attitude which you can also call independence. It will follow commands only when it feels like it.
Combined with high prey drive and innate alertness, it almost seems like a huge task to train a Mini Shiba Inu! Especially not for first time owners! It is always best to work with a trainer that understands its sense of independence.
Just like all dogs, socialization is important for the Mini Shiba Inu. They need to be exposed in different people, places, animals, even sounds and experiences. Socialization will ensure that your Mini Shiba Inu will grow up to be not aggressive and well-rounded.
It is also important to note that a Mini Shiba Inu is quite possessive and will guard its stuff, toys, food and even mark its territory. Socialization should be able to help your dog be less hostile in these situations.
Another thing that a Mini Shiba Inu doesn’t like is being strained; however, leash training is a must for this breed. It is not a reliable breed to be left off a leash as for sure, an open gate is all it needs to be gone forever.
Puppy obedience class is also recommended and do not get disheartened when its strong-will shows off. Take it as a challenge, instead.
You will be happy to hear though that housebreaking is an easy feat for your Mame Shiba. They are even described as “born housebroken” since at 4 weeks of age, the puppy is already trying to be far away from its sleeping area.
But, crate training is essential for your Mame Shiba to protect it from accidents and to soothe it when you are away.
With all the training, it is best to start your Mame Shiba at puppyhood.
Mini Shiba Inu Care Requirements
A Mini Shiba Inu’s food intake is dependent on its size, activity level and age. When unsure, consult your vet for its recommended feeding requirements.
Nevertheless, it is always a must to feed your Mini Shiba Inu with high quality kibbles that will match its burst of energy!
In choosing treats also for your dog, make sure to limit it at 10% only of its daily intake while considering a low calorie, low sugar, low carb option such as dog-approved fruits and vegetables.
Common Health Issues of the Mini Shiba Inu
Because a Mini Shiba Inu is a popular target for backyard breeding and puppy mills with substandard breeding practices, this smaller version is prone to the following health issues:
- Allergies like food allergies, contact allergies and inhalant allergies
- Atopic dermatitis
- Chylothorax or the condition that causes an accumulation of a fluid in the chest cavity.
- Hip Dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Canine GM1 gangliosidosis, a fatal disease that affects the brain and several systemic organs.
Good thing, genetic testing can pinpoint if the dog carries these deadly diseases. Meanwhile, your Mini Shiba Inu should also have health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF).
Average Lifespan of the Mini Shiba Inu
When taken care properly, given proper nutrition, good grooming, regular visit to the vet and ensuring that the dog is free from genetic problems, its average lifespan is anywhere between 13 to 16 years.
How Much is the Mini Shiba Inu?
For a cute, fox-like teddy such as the Mini Shiba Inu, expect to pay around USD 800 to USD 1,500 for the puppies.
Instead of buying, it is also recommended to rescue a Shiba Inu or just purchase a standard Shiba Inu that has been bred by a reputable breeder.
Yes, they are cute but supporting the substandard practices to give birth to Mini Shiba Inu just fuels the puppy mills to go on. These dogs do not deserve to suffer just so these humans can earn more.
Or, if you want a small dog, go for a Pomeranian or a Chihuahua.
Is the Mini Shiba Inu a Good Family Dog?
The Mini Shiba Inu may not be suited for a first time owner or even for a family with kids or other pets, but when they are trained properly, they can prove to be a loyal and devoted dog.
If with children at home, it is also important to train the kids how to properly approach or touch dogs. And never leave them unsupervised! Ear or tail pulling is definitely a no-no!
Conclusion: Is the Mini Shiba Inu For You?
A Mini Shiba Inu while small is not for the couch potato. If you are willing to give this breed the best that you can in terms of exercise and other needs, it is one point checked.
Then again, with the health issues concerning a Mini Shiba Inu, you should also be prepared for what is at stake. If you can choose between how the Mini Shiba Inu was bred into a smaller version, go for a hybrid also.
While you may not be 100% sure that it is just a mini version of the Shiba Inu, it is not out of an off-standard breeding practice. Although, check also the health concerns pertaining to the other parent’s gene.
Research and do a cross check always, when possible because taking care of a Mini Shiba Inu, or any breed for that matter is a lifelong commitment.