Introduction to the Shiba Inu

Kelly Roper

A member of the AKC Non-Sporting Group, the Shiba Inu is a very old Japanese breed, a smaller cousin to the Japanese Akita. Like it's cousin, the Shiba looks similar to the many Spitz type breeds, with a somewhat fox-like appearance and a tail curled up over the back. While this breed narrowly escape extinction during the WWII era, a few of its other cousins are now extinct. This dog is best known for its reddish gold color, but the breed also comes in a cream and a black/tan variety. Shiba Inu is Japanese for "small dog".

The breed stands sixteen inches tall on average, with females ranging slightly smaller. Most specimens weigh in around twenty-five pounds, although there is some variance. Their sturdy build and small size make them one of the better breeds for families with children who want a smaller pet. They also do well in apartments. While they are highly energetic, they are also masters for the Shiba 500 and can turn something as small as a path around a coffee table into a full-speed racetrack.

The Shiba Temperament

Shiba Inu are fearless characters, affectionate to their owners, but somewhat aloof with strangers. They seem to be unaware of their size in the scheme of things and can be a little territorial and possessive by nature.

The typical Shiba Inu cherishes its independence, leading some owners to compare its personality with that of a cat. This breed loves to play and is very quick and agile, making them excellent climbers. They actually seem to have a touch of mountain goat in them. If you are looking for a dog who can be affectionate, but independent, this breed may just be a good fit for you.


The Shiba Inu excels in intelligence, likely believing it is a bit wiser than its owners, so it is important to put in the necessary time training them while still young. This dog was originally bred for hunting, so training them for this activity should come naturally, but there is a problem. Because of its size and coloration, they may be mistaken for a red fox out in the field and is at risk of being shot by hunters.

Because this breed has so much energy, agility training is a perfect way to put their talents to the test. This breed is also perfectly capable of obedience training if you start them out at six months of age.

Housebreaking comes with ease for this breed too, as these dogs are fastidiously clean and are loath to soil their own nest; in other words, your home.

Grooming Tips

These are fantastically clean dogs, so grooming needs will likely be at a minimum for most individuals. A Shiba Inu coat is short, coarse and naturally waterproof, so there is little need for regular bathing. However, there is one one drawback - shedding, also known as blowing coat. They have a thick undercoat that can protect them from temperatures well below freezing. Shedding is heaviest during the seasonal change, but brushing should be performed on a daily basis whenever possible.

During the shedding season, which some owners swear is from January to December, it is highly recommended to use a comb to remove as much dead hair as possible. There are also doggie brush and vacuum combos that suck up the loose hair as you brush, very convenient if you can get one.

Health Concerns

The good news is Shibas are a hardy breed as a whole, and most will enjoy relatively undisturbed good health for the length of their lives, which can frequently be as long as fifteen years. However, there are a few conditions that have crept into the breed, though incidences remain low. These include:

  • Canine Hip Dysplasia, a degenerative malformation of the hip joints.
  • Luxating Patellas, aka slipping knee caps.
  • PRA, a degenerative disease of the eyes.

Not for Everyone

While the Shiba Inu breed is a magnificent animal to behold, they are not for everyone. They love to explore and to observe everything around them. It is not unusual for an off-leash Shiba to wander off and forget its way home. They can also be quite strong-willed, to the point you will swear they only understand their native Japanese language. On the other hand, they can also be gentle and tolerant toward children and often make great parents to family cats. And, just like cats, when they want to play, they are a blast, but when they want time to themselves, there is little you can do to make them sociable.

External Links

Was this page useful?
Introduction to the Shiba Inu