Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu are an independent, confident, and faithful breed. The Shiba Inu originated in ancient Japan and is considered an official Japanese national treasure. While they are affectionate with their family, Shiba aren't often cuddly lap dogs. They're always excited to play and show off their athleticism. Energetic and goofy Shiba Inu are a delight—but their stubbornness can make the breed a challenging one. The bold personality of the spirited breed may be too much for a first-time dog owner to handle, but many Shiba owners would choose the breed over any other.


The dog from the popular 'Doge' meme is a Shiba Inu named Kabosu.


Other Names

Shiba Inu are also known as Japanese Shiba Inu, Shiba Ken, Shiba, and Inu. Shiba Inu, Shiba, and Inu are the plural forms of the name.

Physical Description

Coat

The Shiba Inu is a double-coated breed. The undercoat is soft and thick with a stiff overcoat. The hair on the face, ears, and legs is shorter, and the hair on the tail is longer and slightly bushy. The coat is waterproof. White markings are present on a red, sesame, or black and tan-colored coat, creating a fox-like appearance.


Height

Average Height: 13-17 inches


Weight

Male: 18-24 pounds

Female: 15-20 pounds

Breed Standard & History

The spirited Shiba Inu should appear alert and agile. They are good-natured with keen senses. Shiba Inu males should appear masculine and females, feminine. The triangle-shaped eyes should be well-placed and evoke a sense of confidence. Wide-set triangular ears should stand erect atop the head. The nose and lips are black. The body is sturdy, yet balanced, with a moderate tuck up. A thick tail curls upward and is carried across the back. The coat may be red, black and tan, or sesame. The undercoat should be buff, cream, or grey, with white markings required on the muzzle, cheeks, inside the ears, at the throat, and on the legs, body, and tail. The Shiba’s movement is nimble. Shiba Inu are affectionate and loyal to family, independent, yet good-natured. The breed may be reserved with strangers, and while occasionally aggressive with other dogs should always accept the control of its handler. – AKC Breed Standards


The Shiba Inu is the oldest Japanese breed and was originally used to hunt small game. Inu is the Japanese word for dog, and Shiba means brushwood, possibly a reference to the coat color, which resembles Japanese trees—but also translates to small, which could be a nod to the smallest Japanese dog breed. They are said to have been used to flush birds, hunt small game, and even hunt wild boar in small packs. Rumors often circulate that the breed was used to hunt bear, though there seems to be little proof.


The breed nearly went extinct due to food shortages in World War II and a distemper outbreak shortly after, but was reestablished using the three surviving bloodlines, now combined into one breed standard.


The Japanese breed standard was written in 1934. The first Shiba Inu was registered in the United States in 1954, but the first recorded litter wasn't born on American soil until 1979. The American Kennel Club recognized the Shiba Inu in 1992.


AKC Breed Category

Non-Sporting Group

Personality

General Temperament

Shiba Inu are intelligent and good-natured with family, but tend to be reserved or standoffish with strangers. They are always alert and often protective. While affectionate, they aren't a cuddly dog who needs constant attention. They have a big attitude to contend with—Shiba Inu require consistent training without giving an inch, as they can be willful and manipulative. They are described as spirited, with a fierce independent streak. Shiba Inu may be challenging to train and require persistence in socialization—they are not ideal for first-time dog owners. They may be dominant with other animals, and are often possessive over food and toys. With proper socialization and enough activity they are wonderful companion animals, but without the mental and physical stimulation they require they may become destructive or difficult to manage.


Family Life

Are Shiba Inu Good with Kids? Shiba Inu often do best in a home without small children as they do not tolerate rough handling and can be protective of food and toys. They may do well if raised in a home with children—but consistent training and socialization is necessary, and children and Shiba Inu should not be left without supervision. People of any age should not be allowed to tease sensitive Shiba Inu.


Are Shiba Inu Good with Other Pets? Their history as a hunter of small game has stuck with the Shiba Inu and they are often more comfortable in a home without cats or small animals, as they may chase or injure them. They may be aggressive with other dogs without early socialization. With proper training and socialization from an early age, or if they are raised with other animals, they may coexist peacefully—but their dominant nature often makes living with other pets a challenge. Separate feeding areas may be necessary to prevent food guarding behaviors.


Protective

Shiba Inu are alert and loyal to their family. They are not generally 'barky' but will offer an alert bark if something is amiss. They are cautious by nature, and are often distrustful of new people. Socialization should be a priority so Shiba Inu know how to differentiate between a new person and a threatening person.


Energy Levels

High-energy Shiba Inu are agile and quick, with plenty of energy to spare. Without interesting activities and exercise daily, they may become destructive.


Specific Concerns:

  • Recommended for experienced dog owners, not an ideal first-time pet
  • Known escape artists that can scale fences and dig out of enclosures
  • Can be aggressive with other animals
  • May be untrustworthy off-leash
  • Known to chew, especially when bored

Requirements

Indoor 

While energetic, Shiba Inu also know how to relax. Shiba Inu love to be clean, and because of this they tend to be easy to housetrain. If given enough physical exercise and mental stimulation, Shiba Inu may do well in an apartment—but if they're bored, they may become destructive. Shiba Inu are known for using their voices—barking, 'talking,' yipping, and the infamous Shiba scream may irritate neighbors.


Outdoor 

Time outside is important for Shiba Inu as they have plenty of energy to burn—but they can't be trusted outdoors alone. Off-leash walks aren't recommended for Shiba Inu unless they have a solid recall and aren't likely to take off. If playing off leash, a high fence is important—Shiba can scale a fence easily. Not only can they climb or jump fences, they may dig under them. If loose, they're quick and can dodge potential captors easily. Though they are built to handle hot and cold weather alike, they shouldn't be expected to live outdoors.


Exercise 

Shiba Inu require at least an hour of exercise each day—more is better. Without enough exercise, they may be destructive or barky. Shiba Inu should be socialized with people and other dogs and well-behaved off leash before they are given free reign outdoors. Shiba Inu love to run, hike, play fetch, and learn agility.


Endurance 

Many Shiba Inu owners say they tire out before their dog. The athletic breed has enough stamina to go for hours. They tend to have the endurance for a long walk or jog, followed by a few sprints around the house before they settle in for a snooze. While they rarely tire while on the go, they are often ready to rest after the activity is done.


Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: Shiba Inu prefer sprinting to long-distance running, but well-conditioned Shiba Inu over one year of age may be able to run for three to five miles.
  • Hiking Miles: The adventurous, energetic Shiba Inu may be able to hike up to 10 miles. The breed can be wary of strangers or dominant with other animals, so proper socialization is important before taking Shiba Inu on the trail. They're also notorious for their poor behavior off leash and should be leashed unless they are sure to behave when recalled.


Food 

The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food (based on average weight and activity level) to feed a Shiba Inu is 1 to 1½ cups per day given in two meals. Making a Shiba Inu work for her food can help provide the mental stimulation necessary for a happy dog. Before treats and meals, require she perform a behavior. Feeding meals in a food-dispensing brain game can provide mental exercise for a Shiba.


Food guarding behaviors may be present in Shiba Inu, so early training to mitigate this behavior is important. Children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.


Alone Time 

While Shiba Inu are independent dogs who don't require constant attention, they need plenty of exercise if they will be left alone during the day. Shiba Inu may be left home alone for eight hours at a time. Crate training may be necessary for the dog's safety as bored Shiba Inu may chew dangerous items. Brain game toys can help entertain Shiba Inu while they are home alone.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

12-15 years


Grooming

The Shiba Inu's double coat goes through two seasonal heavy-shedding periods, and they shed moderately during the rest of the year. Frequent brushing during seasonal sheds, and weekly or bi-weekly brushing otherwise is ideal. Occasional baths may be necessary, but Shiba Inu are fastidious groomers who keep themselves clean. Their coat is naturally waterproof. Shiba Inu coats don't need to be shaved or cut.


Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or a broken nail. Shiba Inu tend to be difficult for nail trimming—early exposure to handling a Shiba Inu's feet and nail trimming is important to prevent snappiness or difficult behaviors in an adult dog.


Common Health Issues

Though the Shiba Inu is a relatively healthy breed, they can be prone to breed-specific health concerns, such as:


  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Cataracts
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Allergies
  • Obesity

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Shiba Inu by purchasing her from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.

Trainability

Basics

The intelligent Shiba Inu can learn basic obedience with ease—but the breed can be finicky and headstrong. They are not as eager to please as other breeds may be thanks to their tenacious nature. Early training with consistent methods is important to encourage good behavior. In addition to teaching polite behavior, begin training Shiba to allow grooming, and discourage early food or resource guarding behaviors. Socialization with people and other animals should begin right away to prevent fearful or dominant behaviors.


Advanced Training

Intelligent Shiba Inu can learn advanced training with ease if they're motivated to do so. The extra mental exercise can help wear them out for a happy, well-behaved dog. They are athletic and do well with agility. Many Shiba can learn impressive tricks. Some owners take advantage of the multitudes of Shiba Inu vocalizations and teach their dog to whisper, make specific noises, or even repeat human speech. The more training a Shiba gets, the better behaved they are—but they may often choose to end training sessions before you're ready. Independence is a trait Shiba Inu display with pride.


Sporting Dog Training

Energetic, hardy Shiba Inu were originally bred to hunt small game in the mountains and brush of Japan. They possess a strong prey drive and have energy that doesn't seem to quit. They may be trained to flush birds or hunt small game, but they may show aggression towards other animals if not properly socialized from early puppyhood. They vocalize regularly and may bark or howl at inopportune times. Shiba Inu may be prone to wandering while off leash, and they are quick and hard to catch if they've gotten loose. With plenty of consistent training, they may do well as a hunting dog.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Shiba Inus.

Explore Other Breeds

Shiba Inu owners refer to the ‘Shiba 500’ as the Shiba’s tendency to run laps around the yard or inside the house as if it were a racetrack. A high-energy, seemingly unprovoked episode of running laps is seen in most breeds, especially during puppyhood—animal behaviorists call it a "frenetic random activity period" or FRAP, while many non-Shiba owners call it the "zoomies." Shiba Inu owners say the breed's Shiba 500 rivals even the most energetic dog's zoomies.


The activity is a way for a Shiba Inu to release pent-up energy. More exercise and activity may lessen the occurrence of these Shiba laps, but it's not a behavior that should be punished as it is a way for them to burn excess energy. Some Shiba 500s are triggered in response to specific activities such as vacuuming the floor, the doorbell, getting out of the bath, or other stimulation.


If the behavior seems related to anxiety rather than for fun, minimizing stressful situations that cause the Shiba 500 can help. Some Shiba Inu may jump and nip during their '500'—any nipping behaviors should be discouraged.

Videos of clever Shiba Inu talking are all over the internet. Shiba Inu are vocal by nature and will yodel, howl, yip, groan, and more to show their excitement, boredom, or displeasure. Many Shiba owners have harnessed the Shiba's natural howling and barking behaviors by teaching them how to mimic words. Stories often recount the time someone's Shiba Inu approached them and mimicked a word they had heard regularly, such as 'walk,' without any training to do so. One of the benefits of teaching a dog to speak—or talk, in this case—is that it may lessen the undesirable barking or howling that happens without the command. Though, with a breed that loves their own voice as much as a Shiba, there's never a guarantee.


One of the most talked about Shiba Inu vocalizations is the 'Shiba scream,' a surprising shriek in response to something undesirable—nail trimming, a trip to the veterinarian, or other anxiety. Shiba Inu aren't fond of handling, especially by strangers. Minimizing anxiety, desensitizing Shiba to handling for nail trimming and grooming, and providing early socialization may help reduce the stress-induced behavior.

Shiba Inu are born with floppy triangular ears, but between the ages of 6 and 10 weeks their ears begin to stand up. Purebred Shiba Inu ears will stand up by a few months of age unless there is a health concern such as an ear infection.


Shiba Inu ears often reveal the many moods of a Shiba—'airplane ears' laying flat like airplane wings display pure joy, perked-up ears exhibit alertness, while ears held straight back may be a sign of an impending Shiba 500.