A Practical Application of the Standard in Judging the Shiba Inu
The NSCA's Judge Study Guide
The Shiba Standard is fairly explicit in depicting the ideal for the breed, but, as in all breed standards, there is much room for interpretation. For that reason, the National Shiba Club of America has put together a Breed Seminar and this folder to help judges and fanciers better understand the breed.
Stop here and take a little quiz. See how many times the words moderate and moderately (combined) appear in the Shiba Standard. Answer at the end of the booklet.
The face and expression of the Shiba reflect the dogs soul. The gaze is calm and confident with strength, good nature, and a maybe a bit of mischief. It is preferred that a Shiba is given time to be stacked on the table before a judge begins the examination. Shibas would rather be chasing rabbits than standing in the show ring and they sometimes take the opportunity to embarrass their handlers, especially puppies. The patent Shiba Shake where the dog shows his distaste for collar and lead by tilting his head and shaking every few seconds is typical behavior. One must have a sense of humor when showing or judging the Shiba Inu
Discussions of the perfect Shiba eye can bring about a lively exchange. For awhile, there were too many Shibas with round, bulging eyes, and now, as a backlash, some eyes are too small. Remember, nothing is extreme, even the eye of the Shiba. Eye shape often goes with skull shape. A Shiba with a round, protruding eye will also have a short muzzle, wide skull with a bony eye socket and frequently too much loose skin around the head. The small, very oblique eye is usually found on the more narrow, lupine head with a longer muzzle and high set ears. The standard describes the eye quite well. Often confusion comes when a person expects the eye to be a definite triangle, rather than the somewhat triangular as stated in the Standard. Remember moderation.
A really good ear is not common. The shape and balance of the ear are a little more important than the size. Ears should be triangular with the base as wide, or nearly as wide, as the sides. The inside plane of the ear is straight, while the outside plane has a slight outward curve. Many ears are seen to be the other way around, with the curve on the inside and the straight line on the outside. This can interfere with the expression of the face. When the dog is alert, the ear has a forward tilt that curves with the arched neck. The ears do not have such an extreme forward pitch as to appear as awnings over the eyes, but look smooth and harmonious with the rest of the head. The ear leather is thick and well furred. The ears have good cupping and are well-rounded front to back. An ear that is too tall and upright usually will not have adequate cupping. In the show ring, free baiting, with the dog looking up at the handler and the ears extremely alert, will give the eyes a rounded appearance and the ears will seem too upright. On the opposite side, a dog that is strung up and made to look down will appear to have smaller eyes and more ear pitch, and a wider ear set than normal. A natural stance with the dog looking straight ahead will give the proper perception of the eye and ear shape.
The Forehead is flat and on a plane with the muzzle and the stop is moderate. Too much stop makes the head Toy-like. Currently this is more of a problem than the other extreme of a Collie-like head. The proportion of the muzzle to the base of the stop is 40% of the total head length. If there is any leaning toward a variation, it should be towards a longer rather than shorter muzzle. It is most important to have a full, rounded muzzle with a strong lower jaw and firm, black lips. Both lip lines are visible and there is no looseness of flue nor does the upper lip cover the lower lip. The head is said to resemble a badger more than a fox because of the full cheeks and rounded muzzle. Slackness or looseness of skin, especially on the head, is undesirable. There are no wrinkles on the forehead except the furrow between the eyes. The head is dry with no excessive skin around the mouth, under the chin or on the neck. Teeth are another subject of discussion among Shiba fanciers. The Standard allows for up to four missing teeth without serious penalty. Most breeders strive for full dentition and are very appreciative of judges who take the time to count teeth. Many people are not good at recognizing missing teeth and should take pains to learn how to count them.
The desired proportion for the frame is 10:11, with the length of back slightly longer than the height of the legs, with females being slightly longer than males. At a stand, the frame represents a rectangle, not a square. However, the height of the leg remains in proportion to the length of back. The topline is level and firm and the loin is approximately _ of the length of the back. The Shibas torso in cross-section is egg shaped. The wider portion of the egg represents the chest, while the narrower portion culminates in the tuck-up. All is firm and dry, without excess fat and loose rolling skin. Bone is moderate.
Movement is light, nimble and elastic. In this context, the term elastic utilizes Websters definition of having the property of immediately returning to its original size shape or position after being stretched, flexed, expanded, etc. At a trot the legs angle in towards a center line. The ideal movement combines reach and drive with nimble and graceful movement. Although some Shibas may appear to move a little close in the rear, most look fairly good going away and the weak rears are easily discernible by anyone experienced with canine movement. As in most breeds, fronts are more problematical. Poorly moving fronts take many forms with flipping, swinging and paddling being the most common. Often the fronts that look true coming in, are the ones with the shorter stride when observed from the side. Those that appear to have more reach may actually be overreaching and have a flipping or paddling front. A front that looks good both coming in towards you and from the side is to be appreciated in the Shiba as in any balanced breed.
The Tail of the Shiba has many nuances. The primary consideration is the vigor of the tail. It shows the inner feeling of the dog and does not appear weak or poorly set. The hair of the tail is thick and full, ideally forming a brush with the hair on the outside of the curve (ventral) longer than that on the inside (dorsal). Wispy hairs do not extend out beyond the outline of the tail so as to blow in the breeze. The fullness of the tail is not so lacking that the guard hairs come to a point and form a pronounced peak which breeders call praying hands or prayer tail. A tail may curl to either side of the dog, but it is preferable that the curl is loose enough and high enough that daylight can pass through it. Fanciers say that they should be able to place an egg inside this opening. An exception to this is the sickle or stick tail, which are among the preferred tail sets and the curve will not meet at the back forming the egg shape. A tail that snaps flat to the back or lays sideways on the back is not desirable. Whenthe standard says that the tail reaches nearly to the hock when extended, it means the tip of the hair, not the end of the tail itself.
As with many breeds, their coat is the Shibas crowning glory. It is a full double coat with the outer guard hairs being stiff and straight and the undercoat soft and thick. This undercoat is shed twice a year, and, without it the Shiba looses much of its look. The guard hairs are supported by the undercoat and stand off from the body at about a 45º angle. The coat on the ventral side of the tail is the longest and should be in an open brush. The skirts are longer than the body hair but usually not as long as the tail. Dogs with a longer tail hair usually have a slightly longer hair on the skirts. These dogs may or may not have a little longer coat on the body. Both styles are acceptable as long as the coat is not silky or wispy. Body guard hairs are longest on the neck ruff and on the withers. Guard hairs on the withers are about 1 1/2 to two inches long and should stand off from the back at about a 30° angle. The mid-dorsal coat on the back is not flat laying, slick and without undercoat. The mid-dorsal coat on the back is not flat laying, slick and without undercoat. The first complete adult coat a Shiba gets is the longest, thickest coat it will ever have (extreme weather conditions not withstanding.) This is why some Shibas look so good in the 6 9 mos. puppy classes and seem to fall apart after their first big shed, somewhere about a year of age. The coat was covering an immature body and it takes awhile for everything to come together again. Even though a Shiba may have a very full coat as a puppy, a long or woolly coat is a serious fault at any time. Any trimming of the coat must be severely penalized. The preferred colors are red, red sesame and black and tan with no favoritism given to any one. All colors are clear and intense with a cream, buff or gray undercoat. The cream undercoat is most common with the difference between cream and buff a matter of degrees and semantics. The undercoat of some black and tans and sesames may be somewhat tan, while the undercoat of some reds is almost white. The smoky gray undercoat is commonly found as an undercoat on the forehead, on the mid dorsal line of the back and tail, as a shading under the cream on the sides and neck and, occasionally, under the urajiro on the skirts and tail. Extensive gray undercoat, especially into the urajiro, is more common on younger dogs and may disappear after the dog sheds a couple times. This gray undercoat on the head is often partially responsible for the widows peak look on the forehead of a red that is shedding.
The word urajiro has already been mentioned a couple times without explanation. Since this is a term peculiar to the Shiba standard, it needs some definite explanation. It is a four-syllable word: u/ra/ji/ro. An adequate pronunciation would be: öö/rah/gee/roo. Loosely translated from the Japanese, urajiro means undersurface white, which is a pretty good description. All Shibas are required to have urajiro on the sides of the mouth and cheeks, on each undersection of the jaw, neck, chest and stomach and on the forechest, extending to the shoulder joint, but not onto the shoulder itself. Urajiro is also on the ventral side of the tail, insides of the legs and the inside of the ears.
Of the three allowed colors, red is most frequently seen and understood. The ideal red coat is a clear, intense, candle-flame orange. It is not an autumn-leaf red or a pale grocery-bag tan, but the color of your worst forest fire. Several things can detract from this color, but it should always be sought. Sometimes a lack of guard hairs will allow too much cream undercoat to show through, making the dog look pale. This is often topped by a much darker red coat on the mid-dorsal line. Dogs housed outdoors in extremely cold climates may develop such a thick undercoat as to appear too light on the sides. The Shiba coat has banded guard hairs that are red tipped with a white band in the middle and a lighter red (tan or gray in black and tan) band near the skin. If a substantial portion of the middle of the hair shaft is white, it can make the coat appear lighter, even though the tips may have good color. A coat that is shed out or about to shed may also appear dull and washed out. A scattering of dark hairs is acceptable on the back and on the dorsal side of the tail on a red dog.
Red Sesame is possibly the most misunderstood Shiba color, both by judges and fanciers. This is due to the fact that there are so few correctly colored sesames, both here and in Japan. The ideal red sesame has an even distribution of black tipped hairs on the body and head over a rich red background. This is highlighted by proper urajiro. A red sesame can be quite dark, but not over 50% black. There is no concentration of black anywhere on the body and the black hair should be down the sides to the top of the legs and on the head down to the muzzle. The correct sesame pattern is very similar to that of the black and tan because the black tipping appears in all of the same areas that the black appears in the black-and-tan Shiba. Exceptions are that the upper legs and bridge of the muzzle of the sesame are not always tipped. Occasionally the tipping ends on the forehead of the sesame in a widows peak rather than continuing down the bridge of the muzzle as in a black-and-tan Shiba. Often it takes a couple years for good urajiro to form on a red sesame Shiba.
The term sesame is used to differentiate the sesame pattern from the sable. The AKC Complete Dog Book defines a sable as: A coat color produced by black tipped hairs upon a background of silver, gold, gray fawn, or brown. According to the AKCs definition of a sable, all sesames are sables, but according to the Shiba Standard, not all sables are sesames. Many people, including Shiba breeders, incorrectly label sable Shibas as sesames. They are red dogs, frequently carrying the black and tan gene as a recessive, that have a scattering of black hairs on the back and down the sides, but not covering the entire torso and head (minus urajiro). The black tipping exists in varying degrees of density, unlike the evenly tipped true sesames, and extends only part way down the sides and is not present on the head. A sable with a small amount of black tipping is acceptable under the standard, but sable that takes the form of a black saddle, like a German Shepherd, is very undesirable. This black is in varying degrees and does not truly have a definition by the Japanese. They may call it red with black inserts and register it as a red, while the Americans call it an incorrect sesame and register it as a sesame The rich red background of the proper red sesame color is not always seen either. Many sesames are more fawn, tan or brown underneath, giving the whole a rather washed-out appearance. Once a red sesame with an excellent coat color is encountered, it is not soon forgotten.
Black with Tan Points and Urajiro
The ideal black-and-tan coat color is a three-colored coat, with black base coat, tan points and white urajiro areas. The individual hair shafts are tri-color as well, giving the dog a sooty or rusty black appearance. Each guard hair, if plucked from the back of a black-and-tan Shiba, holds some degree of all three colors as followsStarting at the base with white/cream, graduating slightly to reddish/buff before changing to the dull and sometimes rusty black, not shiny blue black, on the tip. The undercoat is reddish buff to light gray and the black tipped guard coat stands away from the body allowing the undercoat to show through when the dog is viewed from behind or when running your hand backwards against the grain of the coat. The graduation of color on the coat of a black and tan puppy can be somewhat darker then on an adult, especially on the facial features. It is not unusual for a black and tan puppy at birth to appear almost solid black with the gradual lightening of the urajiro taking place as the dogs matures to be an adult. The coat is black in most of the dorsal areas, with tan points and urajiro as described in the following paragraphs.
The back of the ears, skull, forehead, and bridge of the nose are black, and the inside of the ears is reddish-tan to white. The urajiro ranges from light cream to white. On the face it will appear on the cheeks and the upper lip, chin and throat. It must not extend over the bridge of the nose or up around the eyes. A few lighter hairs around the eyes are often seen, but the appearance of spectacles is not allowed. Urajiro can travel down the throat to connect with the triangular spots on the chest but should not extend to the left or right of the chest beyond the shoulder. It can continue onto the belly and is always on the inside of the thighs and around the anal area blending into the tail. The guard hair on the ventral side of the tail (part uppermost when curled over the back) is straight, bushy and white in color. There is some tan between the black dorsal side and where the white ventral meet.
Keeping in mind the progression of the three colors of black to tan to white, the tan points are seen on the face as two oval spots (about the size of a thumbprint) over each eye. They are never so large as to blend to the point of giving the impression of an eyebrow or half-moon over the eye. The tan eyespots may include white hairs, caused by urajiro or aging. Tan is also seen between the black on the bridge of the nose and the white of the upper lip. This tan starts at the nose leather and is more colorful along that point. It will gradually fade to a slight tan as it travels between the black under the eye and the white of the cheeks. On the outside of the forelegs, tan will be quite apparent from the carpus, or a little above, downward blending to the light white/cream urajiro on the toes. The same pattern is repeated on the outside of the hind legs, down the front of the stifle and broadening from the hock joint to the lighter cream/white urajiro on the toes. Black is permitted on the rear of the pasterns, the back of the hock and as a small amount of black penciling on the toes.
Although commonly termed black and tan, the black Shiba is always a tri-color. It is not a black and tan dog like Rottweiler or a Doberman, nor is it a black and white dog like a Boston Terrier, but in fact it is a gentle blend of white/cream, tan to reddish buff, and dull, rusty black.
To hear people talk, you would think the Shiba is twenty different breeds with twenty different personalities. Maybe it is, depending on the individual dog and an individual persons perception of that dog. Some think the Shiba is a calm, quiet dog, while others believe the breed is hyper and excitable. Some think it is a snotty breed, while others believe it to be sweet and congenial. People may say the Shiba is aloof and reserved, while others have only seen those that are boisterous and playful. It is all those things.