What Kind of Dog Is the Smiling Japanese Dog?

The shiba inu's roots are in rugged environments.
Shunsuke Yamamoto Photography/Photodisc/Getty Images

In the beginning of 2010, a cheery looking canine by the name of "Chii" became an instant viral Internet phenomenon after his owner uploaded a brief video clip of his infectious smile to the Internet. The Okayama-based smiling dog was of the shiba inu breed, which originally comes from Japan.


Shiba inus go all the way back to ancient times. The dogs of this breed have an extensive working history in their homeland -- hunting everything from bears to wild boars. Their major duties also included flushing birds. Their moniker literally translates to "brushwood dog," a nod to the dogs' typical hunting settings. Shiba inus are closely related to a handful of other Japanese breeds, which include both ainu dogs and akitas.


Beginning at their shoulders, shiba inus usually achieve heights of between 13.5 and 16.5 inches. Weight-wise, the smallish pooches are typically somewhere between 17 and 23 pounds. Their dense fur appears in a handful of different colors, such as beige, black and red. They possess sturdy, sinewy physiques and strong, substantial tails. Visually, they are reminiscent of foxes, with prominent ears that are shaped like triangles.


These self-assured dogs are much loved in Japan and are seen as pets in households all over the nation. They are extremely devoted to their owners and generally enjoy being in their company at all times. Shiba inus are frequently associated with descriptive words such as vigilance, devotion, bravery and intelligence. Although members of the breed are tender around people they're familiar with, they tend to be somewhat cool and distant with newbies.


Shiba inus often are capable of adjusting readily to various environments, whether rural, urban or suburban. No matter where they live, however, they require frequent and daily fitness regimens -- think brisk daily strolls. They are full of stamina and enjoy lengthy walks. When they receive enough exercise, shiba inus are generally well-behaved, content and peaceful animals.


Shiba inus possess double coats. The fur on top has a coarser texture, while the fur below is denser and smoother. They require brushing sessions once or twice each week. When they're shedding, extra brushing is a must. Fur trimming is unnecessary.


Shiba inus, on average, live anywhere from 12 to 15 years, although there are exceptions in both directions. As a breed, they aren't susceptible to any severe medical issues, although patellar luxation, a condition that involves kneecap disturbance, is a somewhat common issue.