Shiba Inu: Breed Information, Characteristics, and Facts

Shiba Inu: Breed Information, Characteristics, and Facts

The Shiba Inu is a stunning Japanese dog breed with an adorable round face and a feisty attitude. This is a breed with a long and dramatic history containing near extinction not once, but twice! Fluffy, and adorable as they may be, Shibas were historically used as hunting dogs and so they’re not only playful but also aloof, bold, and unperturbed when it comes to the rules. So anyone looking to adopt or purchase a Siba Inu puppy should be prepared for a battle of the wills – at least to begin with.

Once you’ve built a bond with your Shiba, it’s practically unbreakable, and you will have yourself a fiercely loyal canine companion. So if this sounds like the kind of dog for you, then read on for information on the breed’s history, personality, grooming requirements, health, and much more to help you come to an informed decision.

Dog breed red Shiba.

Breed Overview

Dog Breed GroupNon-Sporting Group
Height17.5-21.5 inches
Weight15-24 pounds
Life Expectancy12-15 years
Energy LevelHigh

History of the Shiba Inu

The name Shiba Inu translates to “Brushwood dog” and refers to the dog’s historic use as a hunter in the mountains of Japan. The Shiba Inu is a Japanese been that was first documented in the United States in 1954 when a Shiba Inu dog was imported by a military family. However, they are believed to have been around since as early as 300B.C., making the breed over 2,000 years old.

The Shiba Inu breed was originally bred to flush and hunt small game such as rabbits and birds and resided in the mountainous region of Chūbu. During the Meiji Restoration period of 1868, many Shiba Inus were bred with imported western dog breeds which led to the endangerment of the breed between 1912-1926.

Were it not for renewed interest in the original breed from intellectuals and hunters in 1928, the pure breed would not have survived. Though despite their efforts, the Shiba Inu was critically endangered and nearing extinction by the end of World War II. This was due both to the post-war distemper epidemic and a severe food shortage, meaning the feeding of humans was prioritized over the feeding of animals and pets.

In order to restore the Siba Inu breed, selective breeding took place using the three remaining Shiba bloodlines – the Mino Shiba from the south of present-day Gifu Prefecture, the San’in Shiba from Tottori, and the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano Prefecture.

The first official standard of the Shiba Inu breed was published in 1934 and named the Nippo Standard. The Shiba Inu was then recognized through the Cultural Properties Act as a Natural Monument of Japan in 1936. This was largely thanks to the determination and perseverance of the Association for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog, and Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo).

The first recorded litter of Shiba Inu born in the United States after its initial importation was in 1979. Shortly thereafter, in 1992, the Shiba Inu was officially recognized by American Kennel Club (AKC), who added the breed to the Non-Sporting Group a year later.

The Shiba Inu is currently known as the number one companion breed in Japan, whilst the breed continues to rise in the AKC ranks. Shibas have moved from 50th position in 2012, on the AKC Registration Statistics, to 43rd position by 2020.

Breed Highlights

  • Shiba Inus are not a hypoallergenic breed.
  • The Shiba Inu breed generally has a tendency to vocalize a lot, especially when excited.
  • Shiba Inu dogs have a very high prey drive owing to their history as hunting dogs.
  • Shibas are highly energetic dogs that require a lot of exercise and can become destructive when bored.
  • Shiba Inus are high-maintained when it comes to grooming as they have exceptionally thick fur and they shed constantly.

Breed Appearance

This short, regal, Japanese breed is adored for its round, friendly face, short round snout, and especially curly tail that is seen on only a few dog breeds. The fun appearance of the Shiba Inu makes it look approachable, however, they are much more independent than their kind faces make them seem and are more likely to ignore you than come to you for a fuss. Additionally, the dense layer of thick fur over a Shiba’s body actually hides a muscular, agile, and powerful body.


The Shiba Inu dog breed is a smaller dog than you might expect after looking at pictures of one. That being said, they have big personalities to offset their small, fluffy appearance. Their size is the reason they worked so well as small game hunters and flushers, as they are capable of squeezing through relatively small gaps. Shibas can also have a bit of a napoleon complex, thinking they’re bigger than they are, especially in the presence of other dogs.

Height (to top of head)17.5-21.5 inches
Withers Height13.5-16.5 inches
Length23-28 inches
Weight 15-24 pounds


The semi-short fluffy fur of shivas makes it difficult for them to snag on their surroundings whilst hunting (unlike cocker spaniels with their long floppy ears and especially long fur on their ears and tails). They’re best known for their distinctive red coloration, though there are other colors as well, including black and tan, black and sesame, and even all-white albinos. Additionally, Shiba Inus have a round fluffy face that is quite unique to this breed

Feature Description
ColorRed; black and sesame; black and tan; sesame; all-white
TextureCoarse outer and soft under, thick, and dense
PatternWhite piebald markings, darker areas covering most of the body.

Fun Shiba Inu Facts

  • Shiba Inu dogs are an ancient Japanese breed believed to go as far back as 2,300 years.
  • It is not entirely known whether the name “Shiba Inu” refers to the dog’s history as a hunting dog in the mountains or the red hue of its coat (which is reminiscent of the color of autumn leaves).
  •  In the village of Yamakoshi, in Japan, a Shiba Inu companion dog saved her three puppies and elderly owner following the house collapsing. She survived two weeks alone with her puppies after her owner was evacuated before being found again upon his return.
  •  Shiba Inus are extremely clean dogs and spend a lot of time grooming themselves.
  •  Shibas have a unique way of vocalizing known as the “Shiba scream”, which can be likened to that of a fox, or even a seagull.
  •  Shibas are among the most popular dog breeds in all of Japan.

The Shiba Inu Personality

This adorably fluffy dog may look soft and cuddly on the outside, but the Shiba Inu can be a cool, aloof, stubborn, hard-headed, and sometimes hyperactive dog, which for inexperienced owners could prove to be a handful. However, they can also be patient, gentle, affectionate, and especially loyal to their families once a bond has been formed. It simply takes patience, understanding, and


Over their 12-15 year life span, Japanese Shibas do become more comfortable with their owners and soften over time. Though it’s worth noting that the Shiba Inu is not a cruel breed, in fact, it is fiercely loyal and will instinctually protect its owner in any dangerous situation. Though this defensiveness can come across as aggressive, depending on the situation – hence many people view Shibas as dangerous.

Shiba Inu dogs can be extremely playful in their young, energetic years, which can be a lot to keep up with. They’re also hyper-alert, and protective, so you may find that your Shiba can be quite defensive with unfamiliar people or animals. You should encourage new people to exercise caution upon first meeting your Shiba in order to get on its good side. It should be said these characteristics are not true of every Shiba Inu but they are commonly-seen traits throughout the breed.


Shibas enjoy being entertained by their families with playtime and general interaction, though it would be well worth getting a Shiba Inu puppy into obedience training whilst they are still young. This is because their independent nature tends to mean they’re not up to being told what to do. As an adult dog, a Shiba Inu is capable of learning new obedience commands, though its stubborn nature can make this a more difficult task – something that Shiba Inu adopters often find with rescued Shibas. A few additional things we would recommend to keep a Shiba Inu entertained include:

  • Puzzle Toys
  • Training Sessions
  • Socializing (from a young age and gradually)

They are highly intelligent and need to be engaged. If a Shiba becomes bored there is a chance it could become destructive or antisocial out of frustration.

Around Children

When a Shiba Inu is familiar with the child in question it can be gentle, playful, and patient. However, they may be warier of unfamiliar children, especially if said children are not gentle upon meeting them. Especially young children should never be left unattended with a Shiba Inu as it is a powerful breed that is not quite as patient as

It is also extremely important that all children should be aware of how to properly approach and handle a dog – familiar or unfamiliar. Dogs, like humans, will defend themselves if they feel threatened or mistreated. Children have a tendency to be heavy-handed or over-enthusiastic when it comes to dogs. As a result, the dog may become stressed or uncomfortable. It is not uncommon for a stressed dog to lash out of it feel trapped (this could be a bark, snarl, snap, or bite).

Around Other Animals

Shiba Inus have been known to experience dog aggression, particularly with unfamiliar dogs or intact males. This is thought to be a result of their heightened defensive and protective instinct as well as their independent personality. As a result, we wouldn’t recommend getting a Shiba for a house that already has pets unless you bring this Shiba in as a puppy, giving them the chance to adapt, learn, and socialize.

A Shiba Inu should not be trusted off the leash in open spaces as they do have a tendency to chase smaller animals or become aggressive toward them. Once a Shiba becomes fixed on a creature it wants to chase, it is very difficult to break its focus owing to its strong prey drive being the driving force behind said behavior. Socialization is vital with a breed like the Shiba to avoid that natural aggression from becoming a problem.

Beautiful Young Red Shiba Inu Puppy Dog Standing Outdoor In Meadow During Sunset.

Quick Shiba Personality Facts

  • Obedience classes are recommended for Shiba Inu puppy owners, as they are naturally stubborn and independent dogs.
  • Shiba Inus can be very excitable and high maintenance meaning they require a lot of care and attention.
  • The Shiba breed’s high-strung nature means separation anxiety is a common problem.
  •  Shibas are sociable dogs that do well in a busy household with plenty of playmates.
  • Shiba Inus can be aloof and hard-headed when the mood strikes them, making them difficult to train if they’re not in the mood.
  • Shibas are highly intelligent dogs that require plenty of mental stimulation outside of playtime and training sessions.

Shiba Inu Care

It’s no secret that Shiba Inus are a relatively high-maintenance breed to care for. Not because they are particularly attention-seeking, but because the training and grooming of a Siba Inu is no small task. But if you think you’re up to it, then here are some key bits of information that should hopefully help you to prepare for your time as a Shiba dog owner.


As we’ve established previously, Shibas have a reputation for stubbornness or selective hearing. They are intelligent enough to understand the command you’re giving them, they just have a habit of deciding whether or not it’s something they feel like doing. This can make them quite a distracted breed to train.

It’s best to begin training a Shiba Inu as early as possible to get them into the rhythm of responding to you. The best approach when training a Shiba is to remain firm and utilize positive reinforcement. You may have to repeat your commands several times before they respond, but with the right amount of reward, repetition, determination, and patience, you can get them to respond well.

Obedience Training

Shibas are smart dogs and will try their best to manipulate you into rewarding them on their terms. However, if you’re savvy and keep at it you can flip that technique on them. Additionally, we would recommend puppy or adult dog obedience classes to harness the experience of a professional trainer who may be able to help you perfect your technique and find the way that works best for you and your pup. Training one of these Japanese national treasures might just help you to harness an inner strength you never knew you had.


Try and keep your Shiba Inu socialized, either with trips to the dog park, doggy play dates, or training classes. Shibas are known to be both defensive and possessive. By having your dog surrounded by other dogs as often as possible, you will teach them to be more accepting of those around them and more willing to share. Especially given that dogs will just help themselves to one another’s belongings if given the chance – much like human toddlers!


Because Shibas are active, powerful dogs, they require a solid protein-filled diet to help them maintain the appropriate body mass and energy levels needed to fuel their day. Some Shiba breeders do recommend raw feeding your pup if possible. However, raw feeding does have its pitfalls. To help you decide on the best course of action, we’ve put together a little breakdown of the pros and cons of each type of dog food below.

Raw Dog Food

Raw food is always going to be the closest to a natural diet that you can get. It’s excellent for dogs with food allergies as it allows you to carefully monitor what your dog is eating and caters well to your dog’s natural hunting instinct. Raw food is also lean and excellent for muscle development and bone strength.

For hunter dogs, this is recommended, though some do find that it can trigger the prey drive in some dogs and cause them to be possessive of their food. Additionally, raw feed required extremely strict hygiene so as not to allow bad bacteria to develop and cause sickness. Last but not least, raw food is the most expensive option of the three and often requires dedicated equipment such as a separate freezer for storage.

Biscuits / Dry Kibble

Dry food is better for monitoring your dog’s weight if you have a breed that had a tendency towards unwanted weight gain. Furthermore, the selection of dry dog food on the market is limitless, with grain-free, gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, and limited ingredient diets available. This is especially helpful for owners on a budget that have dogs with difficult digestive tracts, as dry kibble is by far the cheapest option and suits a perfectly modest budget.

However, dry food can be difficult with particularly fussy eaters, as some dogs just don’t take the taste or texture of dry food and may require meal toppers to encourage them to eat. Furthermore, some brands use unnecessary fillers with no nutritional value meaning research is definitely required in order for you to find the right one for your pup.

Wet Dog Food

Wet dog food is always delicious and often favored by many dog owners for the flavor and the fact that picky dogs generally respond well to wet food. Additionally, wet dog food is hydrating and often has a less complex array of ingredients (including fewer fillers).

However, wet dog food can also be expensive, though it’s not as expensive as raw. Canned food can also contain sugar which could have a negative impact on a dog’s dental health if their teeth aren’t brushed regularly. This can also have an impact on dogs that gain weight easily if not monitored closely, as wet dog food is usually higher in fat, so just be careful to check the portioning advice before proceeding.


Shiba Inus have extremely dense coats owing to their ancestors being based in the Japanese mountains. They are naturally designed for survival in cold climates, which does mean that owning a Shiba in hot climates can make them more in need of care to help them cope.

Warm Climate Care

A Shiba Inu should be brushed daily during shedding season and biweekly in between shedding. However, if you own a Shiba in a warm environment, you will need to take into account the fact that these dogs will shed more frequently to cope better with the heat. Some hot climate Shiba owners will choose to take their dogs to the groomers and have them shaved significantly shorter so that their skin is able to breath more easily – helping them to regulate their temperature. We also recommend keeping a cold pool available so that they can quickly cool off if needs be.

Cold Climate Care

If you live in a cold climate, your dog will have a more natural shedding rotation, meaning they will blow their coat twice a year. During this time you will need to maintain a regular (preferably daily) brushing routine to avoid matting. Brushing your Shiba Inu also helps to remove trapped debris that is likely to cause skin irritations. Additionally, you should try to bathe your Shiba once every couple of months as part of its general care, though fortunately, Shibas don’t generally have a strong odor.

Other Grooming Requirements

You should try to maintain your dog’s dental health by brushing its teeth 2-3 times a week – this will remove built-up tartar and plaque and significantly reduce the risk of dental disease in later life.

A Shiba’s claws also grow continuously, which means if your dog spends a lot of time indoors or on soft surfaces, they won’t be wearing them down properly. Therefore, if you hear your Shiba’s claws clicking on the ground, the will be too long and require trimming. Nail trimming is important in order to remove the risk of painful tears and infection.


Like all dog breeds, Shibas have certain health problems that they are genetically predisposed to developing. Though fortunately they are generally thought of as quite a healthy breed. Before getting a Shiba Inu puppy you should try to familiarise yourself with any illness or diseases its parents may have had, if possible. Many breeders will have this information available, but rescue Shibas don’t tend to have family history available.

If you would like to familiarise yourself with the most common health issues Shiba Inus face,, we’ve listed the most common ones below:

  • Hypothyroidism: A disorder of the thyroid gland which can lead to several symptoms such as hair loss, lethargy, epilepsy, obesity, and multiple skin conditions. This can be treated with the use of a carefully designed diet or medication.
  • Hip Dysplasia: A condition that causes lameness and pain in either one or both hind legs as a result of the thigh bone not fitting the hip joint properly. This is a hereditary condition, meaning a dog with hip dysplasia should not be bred to avoid passing down the condition. If you are purchasing a Shiba Inu from a breeder, ask for proof of the parents having been tested and cleared of this condition.
  • Patellar Luxation: The ability to develop patellar luxation is hereditary, however, this does not guarantee that a dog’s offspring will develop the condition. It is often triggered by trauma to the knees causing the knee joint to slip out of place. This can cause pain and discomfort. It is possible for patellar luxation to cripple a dog if it is severe enough. There are treatments to lessen the symptoms, but the condition can’t be cured.
  • Chylothorax: This is a condition that causes a build-up of fluid in the chest cavity, which results in difficulty breathing lethargy, coughing, and a decreased appetite. Chylothorax can be caused by an underlying problem that may need investigation. This condition can be treated with a minor procedure and careful dieting, though in some cases surgery may be needed.
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma increased the pressure inside the eye leading the vision loss. This is commonly seen in both dogs and humans, especially with old age, and can be treated with eye drops, or surgery in more extreme cases.


Shibas are highly intelligent, spirited dogs with a drive for energetic activities due to their history has hunting dogs. Therefore you may want to enroll your Shiba in a couple of dog sports such as agility training to help work out some of that excess energy. Though if you’re looking for something a little different to help your Shiba that the exercise it needs, here is a few ideas to get you involved too:

Exercising your dog properly will reduce the risk of them becoming bored, depressed, anxious, and destructive. Shiba Inu dogs have a high energy level and require plenty of exercise, so be sure that you have the time to get them out and about before committing to getting one.

Adopt Don’t Shop

The rate of abandonment with both dogs and cats over recent years has been exponentially increasing, with more and more pets being euthanized due to a lack of space in shelters. Dogs like Shiba Inus are often misunderstood and are abandoned because the owner did not know what to expect when purchasing the Shiba puppy.

If you understand the temperament of a Shiba and have the time and patience to invest in training one, we implore that you consider adopting one of these beautiful dogs to give it a new and loving forever home.

Shiba Inu Rescues

Because Shiba Inus are not easy dogs to care for and require patience, hard work, dedication, and adequate knowledge of the breed, they are sadly one of the most frequently abandoned breeds. Typically, stubborn dog breeds are abandoned or surrendered as a result of how difficult they can be to train in the wrong hands. Resultantly, there is a wide selection of Siba Inu rescues for you to choose from throughout the United States, should you wish to give one (or more) a forever home.

Here are just a few of the many Shiba rescues that can be found around the US:

  1. National Shiba Club of America (NSCA)
  2. Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue
  3. Shiba Inu Rescue of Texas (SIRTx)
  4. Colorado Shiba Inu Rescue (CSIR)
  5. Northern Nevada Shiba Rescue
  6. NYC Shiba Rescue
  7. Tri-State Shiba Inu Rescue
  8. Saving Shibas Inc
  9. SHIBAINU – Shiba Rescue of New Jersey
  10. Shiba Inu Rescue of Florida (SIRF)
  11. DC Shiba Inu Rescue
  12. Shiba Inu Rescue Assosiation (SIRA)
  13. America’s Basenji and Siba Inu Rescue

Reputable Breeders

Reputable Shiba Inu breeders can be difficult to come by when the market is flooded with unprofessional, or potentially cruel dog breeders as well. Our best recommendation for purchasing a Shiba Inu puppy would be to check out the American Kennel Club Marketplace.

All puppies on the AKC Marketplace are AKC registered, with a traceable lineage. Furthermore, the American Kennel Club performs regular inspections and walk-ins with the breeders to ensure top-notch quality of care and healthy breeding conditions. Furthermore, AKC breeders are provided with educational resources to keep them up to date with the latest breeding practices as well as help them to understand advanced canine health.

shiba inu dog in winter snow fairy tale forest

Dog Breed Price

Shiba Inus are not cheap dogs, and anyone looking to breed the Shiba Inu will certainly make a pretty penny from it. If you’re thinking of purchasing one of these adorable Japanese pups, You should be prepared to spend between $1,400-2,200 if purchasing from a reputable breeder. Only willing to sell a Shiba Inu pup for less than $1,000 should be approached with caution, as scamming people out of money for a puppy has become more and more frequent over recent years.

Additional Expenses

Before completely committing to getting any dog, you should always think of the additional costs that come with owning one. Dogs are for life, not just a day and so you need to be prepared to care for them to the best of your abilities. The following list includes most of the additional costs that come with a dog that you might also want to calculate:

  • Toys and training equipment
  • Medical care
  • A dog collar and ID tag
  • Microchipping
  • Monthly food cost
  • A crate (if wanted)
  • Food and water bowls
  • Pet health insurance
  • Treats
  • Grooming accessories


  1. A Brief History of the Shiba Inu, National Shiba Club of America
  2. Shiba Inu, Dimensions


Not especially. Shiba Inu puppies might be more affectionate in their early months as they get used to their new home and begin to develop a parent-like bond with their owners. However, Shibas are naturally stubborn, detached dogs once they reach maturity and are therefore unlikely to be overly cuddly. Though every dog is different and you might just get a cuddly pup of your own!

If a Shiba is familiar with the children then they will be perfectly gentle, playful, and charming, though they might not show a tremendous amount of enthusiasm towards the child as they are naturally aloof. However, if the child is a stranger they may exercise some caution until they're able to get to know the new child. It is also worth noting that young children should not be left alone with a Shiba Inu unless the child is well versed in how to appropriately handle a dog.

Generally speaking, Shiba Inus are not overly vocal dogs. However, if they get particularly excited or stressed they are known to "scream" as well as bark. The Shiba Inu scream can be likened to the sound of a fox, eagle, or seagull and can be concerning to new Shiba Inu owners who might mistake the sound as pain upon first hearing it.

Eloise Hands

Eloise is the owner of a Malamute/Akita cross, a first-time mum, and an animal enthusiast from England. She comes from a family which has never gone a day without a pet (or 3!), and over the years has learned all the best tips and tricks to raising a difficult pet. A knowledge that she has put to good use, to help others navigate the limitless world of pet care.

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