Shiba Inu Canada

the National Breed Club

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The Nippo Standard

Nihon Ken Hozonkai Standard
for the six native Japanese breeds

Background: The Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo) is the authority in Japan for all six native Japanese breeds, similar to a breed club here, but with much more authority. Nippo registered Shiba Inu are considered to be the quality lines and form the basis of Shiba kennels worldwide. Nippo members rarely show at the all-breed shows, and concentrate on the Nippo shows and standards, considered far more demanding. The Annual Nippo Show will have hundreds of dogs entered, and a win at this show is the highest honour for a Shiba Inu breeder.  They do not deal with foreign clubs, nor issue pedigrees accepted by foreign clubs.

Japan Kennel Club is the all-breed organization, similar to CKC; recognized by other all-breeds clubs (AKC, CKC, The Kennel Club, FCI, etc).  When importing Japanese breeds from Japan, it is necessary to submit the Nippo pedigree to JKC, and have them provide an International pedigree to import into Canada, US, etc.


The following is a translation by Susan Houser and Shigekazu Kuribayashi in 1987 for the Shiba Ken Club. It was updated in 1993 for the Shiba Journal by Mitsuko Williams to include corrections and changes made for the 1992 Nippo revision.

This standard is the Nihon Ken Hozonkai Standard for the six native Japanese breeds, titled Resolutions Concerning The Japanese Dog Standard and Judges. It is written in the traditional Japanese style, from the general to the specific.

The Japanese Dog Standard (the basic standard) is an outline for ALL the Japanese breeds and was used by the Japan Kennel Club (JKC) as a base to write their Shiba standard. JKC provided their standard to FCI for international use, not including the Judging Resolutions section. This has led to most of the controversy about the breed that exists in the west today.

Judging Resolutions Concerning the Japanese Dog give specific details as to what colors are correct, how many missing teeth are acceptable, and details of type that do not appear in the basic standard. Here we find that the only acceptable colors for the Shiba are red, red sesame and black and tan. We also can see just how critical dentition is to Japanese breeders.

Nippo considers the Nihon Ken (the Japanese Dog) to be one breed with several varieties. When you study the translation of this standard, keep in mind that the Shiba is referred to as the small sized dog, the Akita as the large sized dog, and the medium sized dog refers to the Kishu, Shikoku. Kai, etc. Comments noted as [Trans note:] that appear in brackets have been added by the translators as clarification for readers not familiar with the Nihon Ken breeds or the Japanese style of writing.

The Japanese Dog Standard (Basic Judging Standard for the Small Size Dog)
(partially revised August, 1977)

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

The tail is thick and powerful. In length (when straightened out) it reaches almost to the hock joint. Tail Types: sickle tail, curly tail (full curl, right curl, left curl, double curl)

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.

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

Demerit Marks
Developmental defects and nutritional deficiency.
Disharmony between the color of the body and the nose.
Spots in the coat color.
Short tail caused by genetic defect.

Lacking the quality of a Japanese dog.
Overshot or undershot.
Short tail caused by genetic defect.
Notice: Any deviations should be expunged as much as possible.

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.

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

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: A dog with either a level bite or irregular incisors cannot be awarded "Excellent."
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
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.
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."
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.
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
It is recognized that the shape of the triangle differs from the medium size dog. 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.]

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
It is clear and intense. The guiding principle is that these deep colors be devoid of muddiness.
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.
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
They are red, sesame, and black. [Trans note: Nippo calls black and tan simply black.]
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.]
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:
That which mars the dignity of the face (the reverse mask).
The spreading of the four eyes pattern [Trans note: meaning the tan spots over the eyes.]
An excessive amount of tan on the head, neck, back, trunk, etc.
Showing a gray-black color or an eggplant dark blue color on maturity.

Body Height
All of the following things are undesirable and are demerit marks:
Body height is measured a little behind the tip of the shoulder blade, pressing down the coat.
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.
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
The firm sides of the mouth project from the full cheeks. In addition to the sides of the mouth being firm, it is important that they be thick, full, and round. The stop is defined, and neither shallow nor deep. A particularly shallow stop is undesirable and is a demerit mark. 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
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.
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.
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
Tongue spots are undesirable. However, if they are just trifling, this is permitted. 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
The joint angles in the accompanying illustrations are regarded as the correct angles for the Japanese dog. 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
Deformity or abnormality of the hip joint demands attention, and is a demerit mark.
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
Acquired damage that mars to a great extent the expression of the traits considered to be of the Japanese dog is a demerit mark. If this damage is of intended nature, this should be dealt with strictly.

Conduct of the Handler
Lifting up the head in order to hide improper joint angles, or conceal turning out of the elbows, is prohibited. 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
The dog with one testicle will get less than a "Good" evaluation. Both testicles missing is a disqualification. A confirmed polyp is a disqualification. However, if the dog is completely recovered, it is satisfactory.

Reformatted and reprinted by permission of Lynda Birmantas, USA