International Standards

For The

Japanese Shiba Inu

United Kingdom KC Standard

General Appearance
Small, well balanced, sturdy dog of Spitz type. Very slightly longer than height at withers.

Lively and friendly.

Bright, active, keen and alert.

Head and Skull
Head appears as a blunt triangle when viewed from above. Broad flat skull, cheeks well developed. Definite stop with slight furrow. Muzzle straight, of good depth, tapering gradually. Lips tight. Black nose preferred but flesh coloured acceptable in white dogs.

Relatively small, almond, obliquely set well apart and dark brown.

Small, triangular, pricked and inclining slightly forward.

Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.

Slightly arched, medium length, thick and muscular.

Shoulders moderately sloping. Elbows set close to the body. Forechest well developed. Forearms straight. Pasterns slightly sloping.

Withers high and well developed. Short loin, level back. Deep chest. Moderate spring of rib. Belly moderate tuck up.

Long upper thigh; short, strong second thigh. Hocks strong and parallel when seen from rear, turning neither in nor out. Well developed. Slight but definite bend of stifle.

Cat-like with firm, tight, well knuckled toes. Pads firm and elastic. Dark nails preferred.

Set on high. Thick and carried curled or curved as a sickle.

Light, quick and energetic.

Hard, straight outer coat with soft dense undercoat. Hair on tail slightly longer.

Red: Intense, clear red. White markings restricted to eye spots, cheeks, under jaw, forechest, underparts and underside of tail and legs. No white above elbows or hock. Red Sesame: Red with an even overlay of black guard hairs; black to be not less than 25%, or more than 50% of normal red area. White markings in Red and Red Sesame restricted to eye spots, cheeks, under jaw, forechest, underparts, and underside of tail and legs. No white above elbows or hock. The white marking on the forechest resembling the shape of a bow-tie. Colour Eye spots in Red Sesame may be tan.
Black and Tan: Dull black with a bronze cast. Tan markings restricted to eye spots, cheeks, inside of ears, legs and tail. White markings as in Red and Red Sesame. Tan markings only occur between black and white areas.
White: White coat with red or grey tinges. White undercoat.

Height: dogs: 39.5 cms (151/2 ins); bitches: 36.5 cms (141/2 ins ) with allowance of 1.5 cms (3/4 in) either way.

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.

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

Last Updated - May 1999


I personally prefer the AKC standard as it is far closer to the Nippo.    I have yet to get an up to date translation but will publish it as soon as I do.   As you can see, the KC have no disqualifications. 

American KC Standard

Shiba Inu
Non-Sporting Group
Breed Standard
Provided by the AKC

General Appearance
The Shiba is the smallest of the Japanese native breeds of dog and was originally developed for hunting by sight and scent in the dense undergrowth of Japan's mountainous areas. Alert and agile with keen senses, he is also an excellent watchdog and companion. His frame is compact with well-developed muscles. Males and females are distinctly different in appearance: males are masculine without coarseness, females are feminine without weakness of structure.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Males 14 1/2 inches to16 1/2 inches at withers. Females 13 1/2 inches to 15 1/2 inches. The preferred size is the middle of the range for each sex. Average weight at preferred size is approximately 23 pounds for males, 17 pounds for females. Males have a height to length ration of 10 to 11, females slightly longer. Bone is moderate. Disqualification--Males over 16 1/2 inches in dogs and under 14 1/2 inches. Females over 15 1/2 inches and under 13 1/2 inches.

Expression is good natured with a strong and confident gaze. Eyes are somewhat triangular in shape, deep set, and upward slanting toward the outside base of the ear. Iris is dark brown. Eye rims are black. Ears are triangular in shape, firmly pricked and small, but in proportion to head and body size. Ears are set well apart and tilt directly forward with the slant of the back of the ear following the arch of the neck. Skull size is moderate and in proportion to the body. Forehead is broad and flat with a slight furrow. Stop is moderate. Muzzle is firm, full, and round with a stronger lower jaw projecting from full cheeks. The bridge of the muzzle is straight. Muzzle tapers slightly from stop to nose tip. Muzzle length is 40% of the total head length from occiput to nose tip. It is preferred that whiskers remain intact. Lips are tight and black. Nose is black. Bite is scissors, with a full complement of strong, substantial, evenly aligned teeth.

Serious Fault: Five or more missing teeth is a very serious fault and must be penalized.

Disqualification--Overshot or undershot bite.

Neck, Topline and Body
Neck is thick, sturdy, and of moderate length. Topline is straight and level to the base of the tail. Body is dry and well muscled without the appearance of sluggishness or coarseness. Forechest is well developed. Chest depth measured from the withers to the lowest point of the sternum is one-half or slightly less than the total height from withers to ground. Ribs are moderately sprung. Abdomen is firm and well tucked-up. Back is firm. Loins are strong. Tail is thick and powerful and is carried over the back in a sickle or curled position. A loose single curl or sickle tail pointing vigorously toward the neck and nearly parallel to the back is preferred. A double curl or sickle tail pointing upward is acceptable. In length the tail reaches nearly to the hock joint when extended. Tail is set high.

Shoulder blade and upper arm are moderately angulated and approximately equal in length. Elbows are set close to the body and turn neither in nor out. Forelegs and feet are moderately spaced, straight, and parallel. Pasterns are slightly inclined. Removal of front dewclaws is optional. Feet are catlike with well-arched toes fitting tightly together . Pads are thick.

The angulation of the hindquarters is moderate and in balance with the angulation of the forequarters. Hind legs are strong with a wide natural stance. The hock joint is strong, turning neither in nor out. Upper thighs are long and the second thighs short but well developed. No dewclaws. Feet as in forequarters.

Double coated with the outer coat being stiff and straight and the undercoat soft and thick. Fur is short and even on face, ears, and legs. Guard hairs stand off the body are about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length at the withers. Tail hair is slightly longer and stands open in a brush. It is preferred that the Shiba be presented in a natural state. Trimming of the coat must be severely penalized. Serious Fault--Long or woolly coat.

Coat color is as specified herein, with the three allowed colors given equal consideration. All colors are clear and intense. The undercoat is cream, buff or gray.

Urajiro (cream to white ventral color) is required in the following areas on all coat colors: on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, inside the ears, on the underjaw and upper throat inside of legs, on the abdomen, around the vent and the ventral side of the tail. On reds: commonly on the throat, forechest, and chest. On blacks and sesames: commonly as a triangular mark on both sides of the forechest. White spots above the eyes permitted on all colors but not required.

Bright orange-red with urajiro lending a foxlike appearance to dogs of this color. Clear red preferred but a very slight dash of black tipping is permitted on the back and tail.

Black with tan points and urajiro. Black hairs have a brownish cast, not blue. The undercoat is buff or gray. The borderline between black and tan areas is clearly defined. Tan points are located as follows: two oval spots over the eyes: on the sides of the muzzle between the black bridge of the muzzle and the white cheeks; on the outside of the forelegs from the carpus, or a little above, downward to the toes; on the outside of the hind legs down the front of the stifle broadening from hock joint to toes, but not completely eliminating black from rear of pasterns. Black penciling on toes permitted. Tan hairs may also be found on the inside of the ear and on the underside of the tail.

Sesame (black-tipped hairs on a rich red background) with urajiro. Tipping is light and even on the body and head with no concentration of black in any area. Sesame areas appear at least one-half red. Sesame may end in a widow's peak on the forehead, leaving the bridge and sides of the muzzle red. Eye spots and lower legs are also red.

Clearly delineated white markings are permitted but not required on the tip of the tail and in the form of socks on the forelegs to the elbow joint, hind legs to the knee joint. A patch of blaze is permitted on the throat, forechest, or chest in addition to urajiro.

Serious fault--Cream, white pinto, or any other color or marking not specified is a very serious fault and must be penalized.

Movement is nimble, light, and elastic. At the trot, the legs angle in towards a center line while the topline remains level and firm. forward reach and rear extension are moderate and efficient. In the show ring, the Shiba is gaited on a loose lead at a brisk trot.

A spirited boldness, a good nature, and an unaffected forthrightness, which together yield dignity and natural beauty. The Shiba has an independent nature and can be reserved toward strangers but is loyal and affectionate to those who earn his respect. At times aggressive toward other dogs, the Shiba is always under the control of his handler. Any aggression toward handler or judge or any overt shyness must be severely penalized.

The foregoing is a description of the ideal Shiba. Any deviation from the above standard is to be considered a fault and must be penalized. The severity of the fault is equal to the extent of the deviation. A harmonious balance of form, color, movement, and temperament is more critical than any one feature.

Males over 16 1/2 and under 14 1/2 inches.
Females over 15 1/2 and under 13 1/2 inches.
Overshot or undershot bite.

Approved February 7, 1997
Effective March 31, 1997


When reading the Nippo Standard please remember that this covers all six of the native Japanese breeds and just has separate resolutions for the individual breeds (eg Akita - large size dog,  Shiba.- small size dog).

The Japanese Dog Standard (Judging Standard) (partially revised August, 1977)

Medium Size Dog

1.      Essence And Its Expression. The dog has a spirited boldness with a good nature and a feeling of artlessness. It is alert and able to move quickly with nimble, elastic steps.

2.      General Physical Characteristics. Males and females are obviously distinct with proportioned bodies. The frame is compact with well-developed muscles. Males have a height to length ratio of 10 to 11, females slightly longer. The height for males is 52 cm, for females 49 cm. A range of 3 cm taller or shorter is allowed.

3.      Ears. Ears are the shape of a small triangle, leaning forward slightly and standing up firmly.

4.      Eyes. Eyes are somewhat triangular and slant upward toward the outside corner of the eye. The color of the iris is very dark brown.

5.      Muzzle. The bridge of the nose is straight, the sides of the mouth firm, the nose hard, and the lips do not have any slackness. Teeth are strong and occlude correctly.

6.      Head. The forehead is wide, the cheeks well-developed, the neck sturdy.

7.      Forelegs. The shoulder blade has moderate angulation and is well-developed. Forearms are straight with paws well-knuckled up.

8.      Hind legs. Hind legs are strong with a wide natural stance. The hock joint is strong and the paws well- knuckled up.

9.      Chest. The chest is deep, with ribs moderately sprung. The forechest is well-developed.

10.  Back and loin. The topline is straight, the loin strong. [Trans note: well-tucked up]

11.  Tail. The tail is thick and powerful. It can be either sickle or curled. In length (when straightened out) it reaches almost to the hock joint.

12.  Coat. Outer coat is stiff and straight, undercoat is soft and thick. Tail hair is slightly longer and stands open. Coat color is sesame, red, black, brindle, or white. The quality and color of the hair should express the characteristics typical of the Japanese dogs.

Demerit Marks

1.      Developmental defects and nutritional deficiency.

2.      Disharmony between the color of the body and the nose.

3.      Spots in the coat color.


1.      Lacking the quality of a Japanese dog.

2.      Overshot or undershot.

3.      Short tail caused by genetic defect.

Notice: Any deviations should be expunged as much as possible.

Large Size Dog (The following items differ from the standard of the medium size dog and should be substituted.)

1. Essence And Its Expression. The dog has a spirited boldness with a good nature and a feeling of artlessness, and conducts itself in a dignified way as well.

2. General Physical Characteristics. Males and females are obviously distinct with proportioned bodies. The frame is compact with well-developed muscles. Males have a height to length ration of 10 to 11, females slightly longer. The height for males is 67 cm, for females 61 cm. A range of 3 cm taller or shorter is allowed.

11. Tail. The tail must be curled, thick and strong. In length (when straightened out) it reaches almost to the hock joint.


4. Uncurled tail [Trans note: sickle tail is not allowed in the Akita]

Small Size Dog (The following items differ from the standard of the medium size dog and should be substituted.)

2. General Physical Characteristics. Males and females are obviously distinct with proportioned bodies. The frame is compact with well-developed muscles. Males have a height to length ratio of 10 to 11, females slightly longer. The height for males is 39.5 cm, for females 36.5 cm. A range of 1.5 cm taller or shorter is allowed.

Demerit Mark

4. Short tail caused by genetic defect.

Supplementary Provisions

1. Tail Types

·         sickle tail

·         curly tail (full curl, right curl, left curl, double curl)

2. Fur Color Types [Trans note: these colors cover all Nihon Ken breeds, see the Judging Resolutions for acceptable Shiba colors]

·         sesame (sesame, white sesame, red sesame, black sesame) [Trans note: The sesame or goma color has black-tipped guard hairs sprinkled throughout the coat. White sesame is a white dog with a light black overlay, red sesame is a red dog with a light black overlay, and black sesame is a dog with a heavy black overlay on a red or red-gray undercoat.]

·         red (red, pale red, crimson red)

·         black

·         brindle (brindle, red brindle, black brindle)

·         white


Judging Resolutions Concerning the Japanese Dog Standard


The premise of the Japanese dog is said to be definitely correct strong teeth, bite, and tooth number. The following method is used to try to correct missing teeth.

1. Missing teeth have the following deductions:

·         First premolars, one mark for each tooth

·         Second premolars, three marks for each tooth

·         Any teeth other than the above, five marks for each tooth

2. It will be enforced as given against missing teeth from the time of the Spring 1985 show.

·         The dog that has missing teeth is not awarded the “Excellent” evaluation. However, for the small size dog [Trans note: the Shiba] minus two marks is permitted for a while.

·         The large and medium size dogs can have up to three minus marks, and the small size dog up to four minus marks and still get the “Very Good” award. The dog having missing teeth exceeding this will rank below “Good”. [Trans note: this means that the highest ranked dogs can be missing no more than two first premolars. A dog having four missing first premolars or the combination of one first premolar and one second premolar missing is still acceptable although would not be top ranked. Any missing incisors, third premolars, molars or first and second premolar combinations exceeding one first and one second premolar would be effectively disqualified although these dogs would not be dismissed. It is now common for all 600-700 dogs at the Nippo National to have complete dentition and scissors bites.]

·         Missing teeth are treated the same whether inborn or acquired.

·         The limits for broken teeth, poor quality teeth, small weak teeth, or rotten teeth are up to the judge’s discretion.

·         If a tooth is located midway between the canine tooth and the third premolar, and it can not be determined whether it is a first premolar or second premolar by its shape, it should be considered a second premolar.

Level Bite and Irregular Incisors

About abnormal bites

  1. A dog with either a level bite or irregular incisors cannot be awarded “Excellent.”
  2. Overshot is treated the same way as undershot. [Trans note: the basic standard specifies both as disqualifications.]

Color of the Eyes

The iris of the eye has different colors according to the quantity of accumulated pigment: very dark brown, dark brown, brown, yellow, and ash gray appear. Very dark brown is the ideal, but it should not become a black color.

Judgment of the Color of the Eyes

  1. Very dark brown is the color specified in the standard, and the dark color is maintained when the iris is seen dark and as one color with the pupil of the eye.
  2. According to the color given in the standard, eyes that are a little light but that maintain the dark brown color can be awarded “Excellent.”
  3. According to the color given in the standard, remarkably light eyes, with the iris looking like a snake-eye pattern because of light brown or yellow color are a demerit mark.
  4. The iris of the eye showing a light yellow or ash gray color is a large demerit mark. [Trans note: a light iris that contrasts markedly with the pupil is not acceptable.]

What the Eyes of the Small Size Dog Should Be

  1. It is recognized that the shape of the triangle differs from the medium size dog.
  2. Along with the iris being a very dark brown, a strong gaze should be encouraged. [Trans note: the dog should maintain steady eye contact with the judge.]


Permissible limits of fur spots of the large size dog. [Trans note: the Akita. This subsection does not apply to the Shiba.]

Spots are permitted, except for extremely unsightly spots, and large spots in the fur of the trunk.

Note: Large spots in the fur on the trunk are what is called “peony spots.” Also, the extremely unsightly fur spots that are called patches (like the Holstein) are not like the Japanese dog. [Trans note: In the Akita only, small spots are acceptable, but pinto is not.]

About White Markings in the Coat Color

The white fur on the following parts of the dog are considered to be “white markings,” not fur spots. [Trans note: according to judge’s written commentaries, the Japanese Dog is required to have no. 1, 2, and 3, while the markings in 4 and 5 are optional.]

  1. The mouth sides and cheeks of the face (however the reverse mask is excluded). [Trans note: the reverse mask is white to the eyebrows covering the entire face, including white over the bridge of the muzzle. It is the reverse of a black mask.]
  2. Each under-section of the jaw, neck, chest, and stomach.
  3. The fore chest and extending as far as the shoulder joint, but not extending onto the shoulder itself.
  4. The forelegs to the elbow joint, the rear legs to the knee joint.
  5. The tip of the tail.

Note 1: White markings are a distinctive feature of the Japanese dog, but the guiding principle is that the area of white fur should not be expanded, even for white markings.

Note 2: Obvious spots (cotton print) [Trans note: freckling] in the white fur on the legs are a demerit mark.

Coat of Stained White

  1. What is stained white? It is the white fur color that has faded red on the upper part of the ears, neck, back, and hips, on the legs, and also the tail. This is not desirable but is acceptable for white coats.
  2. Stained white coats that have spots with distinct edges are not approved.

Coat of the Small Size Dog

White fur in the small size dog is not desirable and is a demerit mark.

Fur Color of the Medium and Small Size Dogs

  1. It is clear and intense. The guiding principle is that these deep colors be devoid of muddiness.
  2. What is the reverse mask? It is white fur spreading over both cheeks from the upper borders of the eyes and sides of the mouth. It is not desirable and is a demerit mark.
  3. As for fur color, the correct guiding principle is to endeavor to prevent faded color.

The Fur Colors Regarded as Ideal for the Small Size Dog

  1. They are red, sesame, and black. [Trans note: Nippo calls black and tan simply black.]
  2. The good sesame is that which has a reasonable mixture of black, red, and white all over. Those with a strong black predominance in areas are not desirable. [Trans note: a black saddle pattern on the back, black mask or a too heavy black overlay is not desirable. Nippo Chief Judge Higuchi states that the dog should appear not less than 50% red to be considered a red sesame. More black than this percentage would be defined as a black sesame and not desirable in the Shiba although perfectly acceptable in the middle sized Shikoku breed. It is important that the black overlay be present throughout the red coat as stated, rather than sprinkled on the back only. Nippo is currently working to improve this color.]
  3. Black should be rust color.

Note: Regarding the rust color, it should not be a shiny jet-black. It is said to be black with a touch of brown, like a hint of smudging or smoked color.

Black Fur [Trans note: black and tan]

All of the following things are undesirable and are demerit marks:

  1. That which mars the dignity of the face (the reverse mask).
  2. The spreading of the four eyes pattern [Trans note: meaning the tan spots over the eyes.]
  3. An excessive amount of tan on the head, neck, back, trunk, etc.
  4. Showing a gray-black color or an eggplant dark blue color on maturity.

Body Height

  1. Body height is measured a little behind the tip of the shoulder blade, pressing down the coat.
  2. As for body height, the mean is the ideal. The ranking order for body height is as given in the standard, with the maximum and minimum body heights ranked according to their deviation from the mean.
  3. Body height that is not within the range given in the standard for each size is a demerit mark.

What the Sides of the Mouth and the Stop Should Be

  1. The firm sides of the mouth project from the full cheeks.
  2. In addition to the sides of the mouth being firm, it is important that they be thick, full, and round.
  3. The stop is defined, and neither shallow nor deep. A particularly shallow stop is undesirable and is a demerit mark.
  4. An obvious bulge on the bridge of the nose is a demerit mark.

About the Ear

Thinness of the ears, narrow breadth of the ear root, ears set high, long ears, bending of the tip of the ear, incorrect ear lines, lack of forward tilt, etc., all strongly hereditary, are not desirable and are demerit marks.

About Nose Color

  1. Regarding the demerit item in the standard (nose color not corresponding to body color), this means a colored dog that has a red nose, and it is a demerit mark. Restricted to the white dog, the red nose is permitted.
  2. In a colored dog, an extremely light colored nose is considered to be faded color and is not a trait of the Japanese dog and is not desirable. This faded color is considered equivalent to a red nose in the colored dog and is a demerit mark. In the case of the faded nose, the stained white of the approved white dog should not be regarded in the same way as the colored dog.
  3. The pigment of the coat color, nose color, lips, anus, eye color, color of the skin, etc. are observed and the demerit stipulation is applied.

About Small Spots in the Nose Leather

This is the circumstance where a small spot or spots are on some part of the nose leather. In some cases, this is a temporary condition.

Of course, these are not desirable, but when the pigment generally is thought to be what it should be, then merely these small spots are not necessarily a demerit.

Tongue Spots

  1. Tongue spots are undesirable. However, if they are just trifling, this is permitted.
  2. Regarding these trifling tongue spots, when they are in a position where they can be seen, they should be no bigger than about the size of a fingertip. Consideration of how large a spot is allowed depends on the size of the dog.

About the Lower Jaw

A weak lower jaw (duck’s bill) is not desirable.The level of deficiency should determine the level of demerits.

About Slackness of the Lips

Slackness of the lips with the upper lip hanging down remarkably, is a demerit mark.

Chest Depth

A chest depth which is about half the body height is regarded as good. A shallow chest, though, which is less than 45% of the body height, is a demerit mark.

Definition of Straight Back

The general definition of the back is from the first thoracic vertebra to the thirteenth thoracic vertebra, this definition by itself does not connote the straight area. From anatomical studies we know that the straight back area applies to not only the thirteen thoracic vertebrae, but also the seven lumbar vertebrae, and one sacral bone (three sacral vertebrae). Looking at the dog, the back and hips [Trans note: the topline] from the root of the tail, are straight.

Joint Angles of the Four Legs and the Elbows

  1. The joint angles in the accompanying illustrations are regarded as the correct angles for the Japanese dog.
  2. A shallow angle of inclination of the shoulder blade, incorrect limb joint angles, poor development of the forechest, out-turned elbows, all of these are demerit marks.

Deformity or Abnormality of the Hip Joint or Pelvic Area

  1. Deformity or abnormality of the hip joint demands attention, and is a demerit mark.
  2. Weakness of the hip joint and pelvic area is a demerit mark.

About Tightly Grasping Feet

Very slackly grasping feet are undesirable and a demerit mark.

Acquired Damage

  1. Acquired damage that mars to a great extent the expression of the traits considered to be of the Japanese dog is a demerit mark.
  2. If this damage is of intended nature, this should be dealt with strictly.

Conduct of the Handler

  1. Lifting up the head in order to hide improper joint angles, or conceal turning out of the elbows, is prohibited.
  2. The handler is always situated behind the dog. As for the pose in the ring, the dog should stand in a natural way.

Reproductive Organs

  1. The dog with one testicle will get less than a “Good” evaluation.
  2. Both testicles missing is a disqualification.
  3. A confirmed polyp is a disqualification. However, if the dog is completely recovered, it is satisfactory.