The Shiba Inu is known for their its pointy ears, which stand erect on the head. The breed comes in four different color variants: red, cream, black and tan, and sesame.
The Shiba Inu is highly recognizable with its squinty eyes and curly tails. Native to Japan, they have been around for thousands of years; only in the past few decades, however, have they gained popularity in North America. After World War II, the dog breed was nearly extinct in Japan. Originally bred for hunting, they have huge amounts of pent-up energy. Considering this, it’s not surprising to know that they thrive on physical activity. When properly trained, these dogs can make great family dogs.
With that said, there are a few hurdles with owning a Shiba Inu dog (this is especially true for first-time owners). As loyal and intelligent as they are, the Shiba Inu can be strong-willed and stubborn. Not only that but the Shiba Inu has a tendency of being aloof.
Thinking of bringing a Shiba home? If so, it’s probably worthwhile to read up on the breed first!
Want to learn more about the Shiba Inu? We will be highlighting 11 different facts on the breed below.
The Shiba Inu has a High Prey Drive
Shibas have a very high prey drive due to their hunting instincts. If kept with small pets, there is a risk that they can be attacked.
Given the fact that they were bred for hunting, it’s not surprising to know that they have a very high prey drive. Often in alert mode, they will chase small animals such as squirrels and rabbits without hesitation—even if it means jumping the fence. Considering this, you probably don’t want to keep them with small pets such as birds, rats, or guinea pigs. Depending on the individual dog, they may or may not be compatible with cats. Remember, even if they appear to get along, there is always a risk of predatory drift (a phenomenon in which something “clicks” that puts them into predatory mode).
Shiba Inus are Cats of the Dog World
If cats turned into dogs, they would be the Shiba Inu. Known for being independent, they are—for the most parts—perfectly happy with being alone. While they enjoy human attention, they don’t necessarily crave it as much as other breeds such as golden retrievers. Incredibly clean, they also groom themselves by licking their front paws—like a cat. As if that wasn’t convincing enough, they like to nap and perch in high places, bat with their paws and pounce on their toys.
The Shiba Inu Can be Reactive
Shibas are prone to reactivity. Depending on the individual dog’s personality, they may or may not get along with other canines.
Reactivity can be a problem with a Shiba Inu. While many are friendly, some may be aggressive towards other dogs, especially if they feel that their personal space has been invaded. In addition to their iffy relationship with other canines, they can also be prone to resource guarding. Fortunately, this behavior can be minimized with proper Shiba Inu puppy training. If you want a dog that will be able to get along with other humans and animals, the best thing you can do as an owner is to socialize, socialize, and socialize starting as a Shiba Inu puppy (more on that later).
The Shiba Inu Can be Aloof
Shibas are generally aloof and reserved—especially towards strangers. Instead of befriending everyone in the neighborhood, they’d much rather just do their own thing. Even at home, it’s not uncommon for them to be affectionate on their own terms. If anything, the only surefire way to get their attention is to carry cheese or bacon. While some may tolerate cuddles, their affection level will never compare to that of say, a golden retriever’s. It’s not that they don’t like you, they just like their own company a little bit more.
The Shiba Inu Can be Stubborn
Shibas are smart and know how to push your buttons. Training may be challenging, especially for novice owners as they can be fairly stubborn.
Shibas are notoriously stubborn. For instance, many will only listen if bribed with treats. If there’s nothing in it for them, forget it. It’s not that they don’t understand what is expected of them, they’re just smart enough to choose when exactly they want to obey. Essentially, everything is on their terms. If you want your Shiba to come when called, you better have a piece of chicken ready in one hand!
They are Known for Their “Shiba Scream”
Most owners would agree that Shibas tend to be drama queens. In a way though, they really are. Unlike regular dogs that would bark or whine when provoked, they scream. That’s right, there’s a thing called the “Shiba Scream.” Loud and high-pitched, it is often enough to make your blood curdle. Don’t worry though, as shrill as it is, they are usually perfectly fine—they’re just letting you know just unhappy they are about the situation.
The Shiba Inu Should Not be Let Off Leash
Shibas should not be let off leash as they have a tendency to chase after small size critters such as squirrels.
Only in a secure, fenced-in area such as a dog park, should the Shiba Inu be allowed free run.
The Shiba Inu should never be let off leash. Given their high prey drive, there is a real possibility that they will run off chasing a squirrel. Before you know it, they’ll be a few blocks away and impossible to call back (their lack of recall definitely doesn’t help). Not only can they get lost, but there’s a chance of them being hit by a car. Even in a fenced-in backyard, you should always keep an eye on them to make sure that they’re not getting into trouble.
The “Shiba 500” is a Thing
There’s no doubt that they’re energetic, but did you know that they’re capable of something called the Shiba 500? A whole new level of fast, they typically do it when they’re incredibly excited or happy. For those who’ve never witnessed it before, imagine an animal sprinting at full speed around the house, jumping onto sofas and around tables. For some owners, this means redecorating the place to just to prevent crashes!
Socialization is Important for the Shiba Inu
Socialization is key to a well behaved Shiba Inu. Exposing them to a variety of situations at a young age will help them to become confident as adults.
As you probably already know by now, the Shiba Inu is not the friendliest by nature. While this may be true, their disposition can be improved through socialization and they can be good natured. Vital for social development, it means exposing your dog to as many scenarios as you can—ideally when they’re still puppies. Hopefully, by the end of it, they’ll be able to feel more comfortable around other animals and people. While it doesn’t “fix” their aloofness per se, it definitely helps.
The Shiba Inu is Clean
Like cats, they are extremely clean. In fact, they will spend a ridiculous amount of time grooming themselves every day. Some owners even claim that their Shibas are more fastidious about personal hygiene than themselves! Thanks to this trait of theirs though, they are generally easy to potty train as puppies.
Shibas Are Professional Shedders
Be prepared for lots of shedding with your Shiba Inu. Regular brushing helps to minimize the amount of loose fur that comes out when they are blowing their outer coat.
Seeing as how they’re double-coated, it’s only natural that they shed—a lot. The undercoat is soft and thick, while the overcoat is stiff and straight. In fact, you might even think that you have a second dog when they’re blowing their coats. Sure, it only happens twice a year, but don’t forget—there’s also regular everyday shedding. As a Shiba owner, it’s perfectly normal to have your belongings covered in a thin layer of dog fur. While it will be an uphill battle, you can minimize the amount of loose hair with occasional brushing (whether or not they will like it, however, is an entirely different question).
Shiba Inu Breed Information
Shiba, Shiba Ken, 柴犬, Little Brushwood Dog
Red, Black and Tan, Cream, Red Sesame and Sesame
One of the oldest breeds in the world, the Shiba Inu has roots that can be traced back to 300 B.C. Originally a hunting dog breed, they were used to flush small game such as birds and rabbits in the mountain regions of Japan. Their name “Shiba Inu” means “brushwood dog” in Japanese.
Dog Breed Group
Females: 13.5 to 15.5 inches
Males: 14.5 to 16.5 inches
Females: Around 17 Pounds
Males: Around 23 Pounds
13 to 16 Years
Recognized By the American Kennel Club, National Shiba Club of America and Japan Kennel Club
Temperament: While they are affectionate towards family, they can be aloof with strangers. Without proper socialization, they tend not to get along with other dogs.
Adaptability: They are adaptable to different environments. While they enjoy a fenced yard, they can also do well in an apartment setting, given that they receive adequate exercise.
Barking Tendencies: The Shiba Inu is generally quiet—that is, unless they have something to say.
Apartment Friendly: Given adequate exercise, they can do well in apartments.
Cat Friendly: They are generally not cat friendly, although it depends on the individual dog.
Dog Friendly: If properly socialized, they can get along with other dogs. For some, however, aggression may be an issue.
Child Friendly: Shibas may not tolerate young children.
Shiba Inu Care
The Shiba Inu should be fed a well-balanced diet that is appropriate for their age (e.g., puppy, adult, senior). While some can be picky eaters, others will gladly scarf down anything in sight.
Shiba Inu Grooming
A double-coated breed, they require high levels of grooming. In addition to shedding year round, they also blow their undercoats twice a year; during that period, brushing or combing will help to limit the amount of loose fur in the house.
Shiba Inu Shedding Level
Shiba Inu Exercise Level
Positive reinforcement training tends to work well with Shibas.
While the Shiba Inu is highly intelligent, they can be strong-willed and stubborn when it comes to training. Patience will be needed when teaching new tricks.
Shiba Inu Health Issues
Like most breeds, the Shiba Inu is prone to a few health problems—these include for the Shiba Inu dog breed: patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, and hereditary eye defects (e.g., cataracts, retinal atrophy). While not as debilitating as the above conditions, flea allergy dermatitis is also prevalent.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.