We have exclusively bred shiba inus for more than twenty-six years now. For us, it’s always been the shiba inu. We love everything about the breed, all its idiosyncrasies. Several years ago, we were fortunate to get a line of mini shibas. The mini, or mame, shiba has been bred in Japan for quite a while but hasn’t been bred in the U.S. much, so for us, finally getting a mini was quite exciting! We are now on our sixth generation of mini shibas and have fallen more and more in love with them. They have proven to be just as healthy and lovely as our standard shibas, but we’re surprised that there is still not much known about them here. It reminds of us of when we started breeding the shiba back when it had only recently been introduced to the U.S.
What are mini shibas? They are just like the standard shiba, just slightly smaller. These ARE NOT teacup dogs or small enough to carry around like an accessory; they are simply smaller than standard by a few pounds and inches. If you want a toy or teacup sized dog, then you need to look to a different breed. Mini shibas are not the runt of the litter. Runts are typically found in large litters where one puppy, the runt, is blocked from getting as much nursing time by its larger litter mates. Minis are simply smaller dogs. They are in smaller litters, two to three puppies, and therefore get ample nursing time. Just like there are tall people and short people, there are standard-size shibas and mini shibas. Some people think that a mini shiba requires less exercise than a standard shiba, but this has not been our experience, and we would not be comfortable selling someone a mini shiba who wanted one in order to avoid a dog that needs exercise. All shibas, mini and standard, are curious by nature; it’s part of what makes people love them. They need to be taken for walks not just to relieve themselves but also to explore the world around them! There are so many smells and interesting things that we humans are oblivious to but our shiba family members need to smell and see them all!
Why are mini shibas less common in the U.S.? Unfortunately, this comes down to economics. In the U.S., the size of the shiba inu is gradually getting larger and larger, with many breeders breeding shibas that are larger than the breed standard because the larger the mother, the more puppies she produces. We are regularly contacted by shiba owners who have a 30+ pound shiba. A standard-size shiba should not be that big, but you rarely hear people talking out about it because its in breeder’s best interest to not cause a fuss over shibas who are larger than the breed standard. A litter that is twice the size means twice the money. Even when we breed standard shibas we receive pushback from people saying they are too small because the common shiba has gotten to be bigger than the breed standard. A standard male is around 23 pounds and a standard female is around 17 pounds. Our standards are typically 21 or 22 pounds for males and 15 or 16 pounds for females. A 30 pound female is almost double the standard size, and even though many of the shibas being sold today are around that size, they are not advertised as being giant. There are fewer and fewer people raising standard-size shibas. We believe that honest, scrupulous breeders should be upfront about the actual size of their dogs and the size your puppy is expected to get. That’s why when we sell a mini, we guarantee its size. We have heard from too many wary people who bought what they thought was a mini only to have it end up being standard size. Granted, to a breeder who is breeding giant shibas for the larger litters, a standard-size puppy would look like a mini. We want to make sure you know what you’re getting, and we stand by our puppies. A standard-size puppy should grow into a standard-size shiba and a mini puppy should grow into a mini shiba.
So why do we breed mini shibas? We’ve fallen in love with the mini shiba look. While minis in general have the same temperament as standards, each dog is unique and it just so happens that our minis are more playful and energetic than our standards. The mini gene coincidentally appeared in a line with more playful, energetic dogs. Our standards tend to be more sedate about life and are less prone to play with toys. They prefer to play outside rather than inside. Our minis on the other hand love toys and usually have a favorite that they carry around for a week, proudly showing it off until they move on to a different one (usually because someone else slyly stole their favorite and they’re left looking for a new stuffed animal, lol). Before dinner each night we have a fun play session with the minis, wrestling, tickling, chasing toys, etc. while the standards look on, happy to wait for play time to be over. Then we eat dinner and cuddle up on the sofa for some after dinner TV time. They have the same intelligence and hardy health as our standards, we just prefer the look of the mini.
Whether you want a mini or standard is a matter of personal preference. Shibas are a popular breed for people living in apartments. To be clear, a standard shiba is still a great size for an apartment dweller. The one area where there is an actual benefit to the smaller size beyond personal preference is in traveling. Many of our minis have gone to owners who travel frequently by air and wanted a shiba they could bring along. A standard is slightly too tall to travel in the cabin with passengers on most airlines (without being a service animal and shibas are usually not temperamentally compatible with being service animals in most instances; they are too curious to keep all their attention on work they are doing for their companion). A mini, however, can usually travel in the cabin with you. Beyond that very specific instance though, it really just comes down to your personal preference and what you like!
The mame shiba inu has been part of the shiba inu gene pool for thousands of years, and was part of this magnificent breed before they were even domesticated by their humans that loved them. While standard size in their populations become more prominent, we believe that being able to appreciate and enjoy the little ones as part of the shiba inus great heritage is an honor and a new found pleasure, that will be appreciated by many fond of their endearing qualities.
Since we will not be breeding standard-size shibas for the foreseeable future, we do keep a list of scrupulous breeders we trust to send people to to get a standard shiba. You can contact us for a recommendation or referral in your area.