The Shiba Inu hails from Japan as one of Japan’s six native breeds. He is wildly popular in Japan and is quickly gaining that same status in the United States. The Shiba Inu is the smallest of Japan’s breeds but he has a famously large personality. Originally bred to flush out birds and other small game, he is intelligent and as agile as a cat. Nowadays, he mostly enjoys being part of a family and humoring his owner when asked to do something, interpreting their commands slightly different to what their owner meant.
Did You Know?
- Shiba Inus are very intelligent dogs and learn very quickly. They understand what they are being trained to do and they know how they are supposed to respond, whether they actually do it or not really depends on their attitude at the time. That being said, they are not advised for first-time dog owners or timid owners.
- He might be the smallest of the native breeds of Japan but he needs plenty of room to run and romp. A daily walk will help but he would prefer a fenced yard to play in for a few hours each day.
- The Shiba Inu is not known for being overly friendly towards other dogs nor does he like to share. He can be quite territorial over his food, his toys, and anything that he thinks is part of his turf.
- Remember he was bred to be a hunting dog and to help flush out small animals. This is part of his nature and, therefore, he might chase other smaller animals he perceives as prey, birds, cats, and smaller dogs.
- With the Shiba’s compact muscular body, wedge-shaped head, keen alert eyes, and red coat many people have thought he was a type of fox.
- Shiba’s have a beautiful, thick, full coat that appears to require a great deal of time to maintain but, surprisingly, it does not. He does shed heavily twice a year during the spring and fall but regular brushing between is all that is required to maintain his gorgeous coat.
Adapts Well to Apartment Living: 5/5
Good for Novice Owners: 4/5
Tolerates Being Alone: 5/5
All-Around Friendliness: 3/5
Affectionate with Family: 4/5
Friendly Toward Strangers: 3/5
Health Grooming: 4/5
Amount of Shedding: 4/5
Easy to Groom: 4/5
General Health: 3/5
Easy to Train: 2/5
Tendency to Bark or Howl: 4/5
Exercise Needs: 3.5/5
Energy Level: 4/5
Exercise Needs: 3/5
Potential for Playfulness: 3/5
The Shiba Inu is one of six native breeds of Japan. The Akita, Shikoku, Kai Dog, Hokkaido, and Kishu are all larger than the Shiba Inu but have similar characteristics. He was bred to be a hunting companion to help flush out small game as well as to chase wild boar. There are a few different opinions on how he received his name “Shiba.” One opinion is that he received his name because the archaic translation for Shiba is small, and he is the smallest of the native breeds of Japan. Another opinion comes from the current translation of Shiba which is brushwood, and since he was used to flush out prey from the brushwood he received that name. The last theory comes from his reddish coat and the color of the autumn brushwood which matches his beautiful coat, therefore giving him the name Shiba.
The Shiba Inu thrived in Japan for centuries until WWII. He nearly became extinct as a casualty of war, like many other breeds at this time. The few that survived the air raids and bombings succumbed to distemper following the war. The Shibas that survived both the war and the plague of distemper were found in the countryside and were gathered to establish a breeding program. These countryside Shibas had two different body structures: those with thicker bones and stockier build, and then those with a leggier, slim body structure. These two were both used in the breeding program and you can find both types of body structures in pups of the same litter these days.
That breeding program interbred the remaining Shibas and that is what developed the Shiba we have today. The Japanese Kennel Club was founded much later than the American Kennel Club and the United Kingdom Kennel Club, theirs was founded in 1948 at which time the standardized traits of the Shiba were instituted.
The documentation of the Shiba in the United States is fairly limited until 1970’s and the first litter of purebred Shibas was documented in 1979. The Shiba Inu didn’t receive full recognition from the AKC in the non-sporting group category until 1997.
Females can stand between 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh about 17 pounds. Males can stand between 14.5 to 16.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh about 23 pounds.
The Shiba Inu has a thick double coat that stands up, giving him a plush look. The outer coat is stiff and straight while the undercoat is soft and thick. His coat can come in an orange-red, cream, or sesame (black-tipped hairs against a rich red undercoat). The hair on his face and head is shorter than the rest of his body. His ears prick upwards adding to his keen, alert appearance. His feet are cat-like with arched toes that contribute to his agility. He is a very muscular and well-proportioned dog with a thicker neck. His tail curls up and over his body and can be lighter in color than the rest of his coat.
A Shiba Inu has a few distinct traits: bold, intelligent, alert, confident, and strong-willed. Their intelligence makes them capable of being easily trained, but their strong will can get in the way of that. He understands and knows what you are asking him to do, but if he doesn’t feel like it, he may or may not listen to you. Some describe this aspect of his personality as being a free thinker, he thinks and acts for himself and will follow commands when he decides to. Those that have trained a Shiba with this understanding find it easier to train him and accept his free thinking. Though he was bred to be a hunting dog he is naturally gentle and a good family dog. He makes an excellent watchdog as he is alert and tends to be more suspicious towards strangers. Shibas are territorial dogs, they don’t share well if at all. He is territorial over his food, his toys, his turf, and he will guard them aggressively if he feels the need to. Males are especially territorial if another intact male or female is present.
Children and Pets
Shiba Inus do well with children as long as children as respectful with him and play appropriately with him. They are loyal and affectionate dogs towards their family. Teach children how to properly play with and care for him and he will be a loving companion in return. The same cannot be said towards other pets. Early socialization is a must for him but that does not guarantee he will get along well with other pets, he is territorial after all. He can be aggressive towards other dogs. Remember he was bred to flush out prey, if he perceives another small animal as prey he will want to chase it.
Shibas are generally a fairly healthy breed but as with all breeds, there are some health conditions they are more prone to having. They do not have any major health problems but can be born with medical conditions or acquire conditions as they age. It is important to note that not all Shibas will have any or all of these conditions but it is good to be aware of possible health conditions they may have. If you have access to your dog’s parental health records, that would be a great place to do some research and see what he may be prone to having. You can obtain health clearances for both of the parents of your dog to make sure they’ve been tested and cleared from the following conditions. Health clearances can be confirmed by checking the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) website. Be sure to purchase from a responsible breeder that tests for health conditions in all the dogs they breed and provide vaccines and deworming prior to taking him home.
Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition passed down from parents in which the femur does not fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. This condition can exist without clinical signs so it is important to have X-ray screenings done. Dogs with this condition can be in pain and exhibit lameness in one or both rear legs. Ask the breeder for proof that the parents were tested and cleared for hip dysplasia.
Epilepsy: Another hereditary disorder, this causes seizures. It cannot be cured but it can be controlled with medication. Shibas that suffer from Epilepsy can live long, healthy lives with proper management.
Patellar Luxation: This is a common condition in smaller dogs. This occurs when the Patella (knee cap) does not line up properly with the Tibia and/or Femur. This causes the kneecap to slip in and out of place causing minor to severe pain. This is a condition that occurs at birth but the symptoms may not appear until much later in the life of a dog. The rubbing of the kneecap can lead to arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Minor luxation causes brief lameness in that leg while major luxation is when it can no longer be aligned manually and may require surgery to correct it.
Allergies: This is a common ailment in all dogs, they can have food allergies or contact allergies. Each is treated by eliminating whatever is causing the allergy from the dog’s diet or removing the contact item that’s giving the dog the allergy. Inhalant allergies can also affect dogs, some can be alleviated by medications. Ear infections are a common side effect of inhalant allergies.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don’t make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable Shiba Inu breeders have their dog’s eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is an abnormally low level of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Some signs of this condition can be as mild as infertility or as severe as obesity, mental dullness, drooping of the eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles. The dog’s fur becomes coarse and brittle and begins to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Luckily this is easily treated with daily medication. Dogs on thyroid medication can live long and healthy lives.
Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a condition in which pressure is placed on the eye, causing inadequate fluid drainage in the eye. If the condition becomes chronic or persists without treatment, it will eventually cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, resulting in blindness.
Cancer: Unfortunately, even our canines can be affected by cancer. Symptoms may include abnormal swelling of a bump or sores that do not heal. Unexplained bleeding from any body opening or difficulty with breathing. Treatment may include medications, chemotherapy, or surgery.
Chylothorax: This condition occurs when liquid accumulates in the chest cavity making it difficult for him to breath and eat, and he becomes lethargic. This can be caused by an underlying condition and should be seen by a vet for diagnosis. Treatments include removing the fluid, diet, and in some cases surgery.
Tail Chasing/Spinning: This is an unusual concern that goes beyond an occasional spin to catch their tail. When a dog chases his tail obsessively and loses interest in eating or drinking, and he’s chasing his tail for hours on end and any attempts to get him to stop fail, that’s how you know your dog may have this condition. This can be treated with phenobarbital either alone or in conjunction with other medications.
Shiba Inus are an active breed that needs a physical outlet for their energy. A good hour-long walk each day, plenty of playing fetch or frisbee, and just romping around the yard will be good outlets for him. His size makes him able to live in apartments but he really would do better in a home with a fenced yard. It is advisable that you never let him off his leash as he could chase a small animal or run off and may or may not listen to you when you call him; it is better to not take that chance. Speaking of leashes, most Shibas really dislike collars and leashes and they see it as a means of restraint. It will take time and patience to leash train them, but it’s a must.
Early socialization with people and other dogs will help him get along better with them. He will still be suspicious of strangers but socializing will help with their behavior. Early experiences with other dogs and plenty of them will help him be less aggressive towards other dogs.
Puppy kindergarten is highly recommended along with other training courses. He is very intelligent and capable of doing many things. Give him plenty of exercise, both mental and physical, to challenge him and you will see just how intelligent he is and why he is a free thinker. Providing the physical and mental stimulation he craves will help keep him happy, healthy, and a better companion all around.
As with any dog, purchase high quality, nutrient dense dog food. Ask your veterinarian what food blend would be best suited for your dog. Factors such as age, size, and activity level will make a difference on what kind of food he needs and how much. Typically, Shiba Inus will need 1 cup to 2 cups of dry food a day. It is recommended that that amount is divided into two separate meals, one in the morning and one at night.
His beautiful coat is surprisingly easy to groom. A weekly thorough brushing will help remove dead hair and distribute oils throughout his coat. He will “blow his coat” twice a year during spring and fall and require more brushing during those times to manage the shedding. The Shiba is a fairly clean and odorless breed. Bathing him once every other month is generally all he will require unless he gets dirty. Be sure to not bathe him too much as his skin can get dry and lead to dandruff problems.
His nails will need to be trimmed if he doesn’t wear them down on his own. Typically they will need to be trimmed once or twice a month. If you can hear them clack on the floor when he walks then they are too long. You can trim them or have a groomer trim them. Be aware that they do have blood vessels in their nails so if you trim them too short they will bleed and he won’t be so keen on getting them trimmed again.
To prevent dental problems, daily brushing their teeth will help your Shiba stay healthy. Ask your veterinarian what toothpaste would be best for your Shiba.
When you brush through his coat each week take a look in his ears and check for redness or odors which may be an indicator of an infection. Wipe his ears out with a clean cotton ball that has a pH balanced ear cleaning solution on it. Do not insert anything into his ear while cleaning it, no Q-tips etc.
Are Shiba Inu good pets? It will really depend on the owner and what the expectations are. If you are looking for a snuggly lap sitter, then no. If you are looking for an active, loyal, intelligent dog that you can take as a hiking or hunting companion, then yes Shiba Inus do make good pets. Keep in mind he does not naturally get along very well with other pets, he is more like an only child kind of dog.
How long do Shiba Inu dogs live? They live for about 12 to 15 years.
How much does it cost to have a Shiba Inu? This can be answered a couple of different ways. The initial cost of a purebred Shiba Inu from a reputable breeder can be between $1,400 to $3,500. Pricing difference can be determined by many factors, such as if they are fully registered with the AKC or partially registered, their parental background, their genetic health history, etc. That is the cost of the puppy generally with his first round of vaccinations and deworming. There will be follow-up vaccinations, puppy kindergarten, obedience school, food, grooming supplies, and toys. Those costs are variable depending on location. You can expect the first year to be the most expensive with consecutive years considerably cheaper.
Are Shiba Inu affectionate? What kind of affection are you wanting from a dog? If you want him to snuggle on your lap it won’t happen – he is a very independent breed. He will follow you everywhere and want to be with you but not on your lap. He will guard and protect his family and is loyal to those he cares about.
Do Shibas bark? The Shiba Inu is among the breeds that do not bark a lot, but that does not mean he is quiet. Shibas vocalize quite a bit but don’t bark much.
Unfortunately, not everyone that purchases a Shiba Inu fully understands everything that goes into raising and training a well-behaved Shiba Inu. There are many Shibas in need of a loving home, whether that be through adoption or fostering. Below is a list of rescue agencies that have Shiba Inu dogs. If you do not see a close-by rescue below you can contact a local or national Shiba Inu Breed Club and ask them.
- National Shiba Inu Rescue
- Shiba Inu Care | ShibaInuSavvy.com
- Shiba Inu Rescue ― ANIMALS FOR ADOPTION ― RescueMe.Org
- Shiba Inu Rescue of Texas
- savingshibas.com – Home
- Quality Shiba Inu breeders – National Shiba Club of America
- Shiba Inu Puppies For Sale – AKC PuppyFinder
Shiba Inu Adults For Sale
If you’re interested in purchasing Shiba Inu adults, click on the links below to find what you’re looking for.
Shiba Inu Puppies For Sale
If you’re interested in purchasing Shiba Inu puppies, below you will find different online marketplaces that have Shiba Inu puppies for sale.