Shiba Inu

Breed Group: Non-Sporting

Temperament and Behavior

One of the few Japanese breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Japanese use three words to describe the Shiba Inu (SHEE-ba E-nu) temperament. The first, “kan-I,” means bravery and boldness combined with composure and mental strength. The opposite of “kan-i” is “ryosei,” which means gentle disposition and loyal and obedient nature. The third word is “sobuku,” referring to the natural beauty of the soul, meaning that a Shiba should be “spontaneous, unaffected, and cheerful.” Many in the West describe him as highly intelligent, bold, independent, and headstrong. Hardy and always ready for adventure, his lively disposition makes the Shiba Inu a great playmate for older well-behaved children. With their alertness, territorial nature, sharp bark, and reservation with strangers, they make a great watchdog- but only an average guard dog. They enjoy chasing small animals, whether pets or wildlife and are usually aggressive toward other dogs. If multiple dogs are to be kept in the household, all should be altered. Active dogs, a Shiba Inu needs vigorous physical exercise on a daily basis. Many become destructive if left alone either frequently or for long periods of time. The Shiba Inu does best dividing its time between outdoors and indoors and is calm inside if his exercise needs are met. Many are escape artists. They will find a way to jump or climb over or dig under fences so yards need to be very secure. An enclosed pen is suggested. Many bark more than average; some bark excessively. Similar in nature to a cat, the Shiba Inu is a fastidious breed that keeps itself clean. As a result, they are easy to housebreak, often completing the task themselves.

Physical Characteristics

A small or medium size dog at best, males stand from 14 to 16 inches tall, with females ranging from 13 to 15 inches. Males weigh 20-30 pounds while females weigh 18-28 pounds. Their coats are colored red, red sesame and black and tan. They have triangular prick ears, a Spitz-like tail that curls over their back, and a dense, weather-proof coat similar to a Husky. To reduce their above average shedding, their coat needs brushing at least once or twice a week, more frequently during their heavy seasonal shed. With its heavy coat, the breed does best in cooler temperatures.

Trainer's Notes

A Shiba Inu needs a great deal of socialization starting early in puppyhood including an introduction to different people, sights, and sounds so their natural caution does not turn into suspicion and defensiveness. Training needs to be firm and consistent starting at an early age. Although intelligent, they can be manipulative and are well known as willful and obstinate. They challenge authority in their attempt to exert their dominance. As a result, they need a trainer who is assertive and able to show the Shibu who is “alpha.” But leadership must be by the dog’s consent. Any attempt to manhandle them will be met by steadfast refusal at best, retaliation at worst. A Shiba Inu is too much of a challenge for a typical first-time dog owner.

Photo by Takashiba available from the Public Donain
Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu


The Shiba Inu is a healthy, hardy breed with no major health concerns. But a number of conditions occur fairly infrequently. Between seven and eight percent of the breed suffers from patellar luxation. Six percent are affected by Hip Dysplasia with another 3% affected by Elbow Dysplasia. Rarely seen problems with their eyes include Ectopic Cilia, Distichiasis, and Ectropion. PRA is a more serious eye condition that results in blindness. They are also affected by the blood clotting disease Von Willebrand’s Disease. The average lifespan of a Shiba Inu is 12-15 years.


The Shiba Inu ranks 66th in popularity among the dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. Between 2,000 and 3,000 dogs are currently registered per year with a clear upward trend.

Breed History

The Shiba Inu is smallest and, most experts believe, the oldest of the dogs native to Japan. It has a spitz heritage and may have been used as a hunting dog in central Japan as early as 300 B.C. The breed was nearly lost as a result of World War II. Many of those that survived the war died of distemper before an effort was launched to save the breed. The first Shiba Inu was brought to the United States in 1954, and it was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club 39 years later, in 1993.

Additional Information

The National (US) Breed Club is the National Shiba Club of America.

Is A Shiba Inu THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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