What to Know About Shiba Inus


In this Article

  • Shiba Inu Traits
  • Caring for Shiba Inus
  • Shiba Inu Health
  • Special Considerations for Shiba Inus
  • Shiba Inu History

Shiba Inus are small, well-muscled dogs with an ancient Japanese history. They were once used as hunters, and they’re now a popular companion in Japan. 

Shiba Inus are bold, confident dogs with foxlike mannerisms. They have distinct tan, black, or red coats with white markings. 

They’ve earned notoriety as the face of memes online and cryptocurrency, but there’s so much more to this meme-able dog. 

If you’re interested in owning a Shiba, you’ll soon find everything you need to know about these reserved yet goofy dogs. 

Shiba Inu Traits

Shiba Inus are the smallest of native Japanese breeds. They were bred to hunt in dense undergrowth using their keen sense of scent and sight. They’re alert, agile dogs that make great outdoor companions and indoor watchdogs. 

Shiba’s are serious, noble dogs with a playful side that comes out if they want it to. They’re headstrong, and you won’t be able to make them do something they don’t want to do.

Shiba Inu dog size. Shiba’s are a small breed. They fit into the small herding group. However, they’re not herders anymore. Male Shibas are larger with a coarser coat. Female Shibas are smaller but have a similar physical structure. 

Males grow between 14.5 and 16.5 inches tall, and females measure between 13.5 and 15.5 inches tall. Males are a few pounds heavier, weighing in at around 23 pounds. A healthy weight for females is around 17 pounds. 

Shiba Inu life expectancy. A healthy Shiba Inu can live for up to 16 years. 

Shiba Inu personality. The Shiba Inu temperament is bold, good-natured, and direct. They appear dignified and naturally beautiful. Shibas are independent dogs, loyal and affectionate to the ones they respect but reserved towards others.

Shiba Inus are intelligent and proud dogs. They’re active yet adaptable. They love getting attention from their owners and prefer to be around their people. 

Caring for Shiba Inus

Shiba Inus are great at keeping themselves clean. They will clean themselves and others like cats. They don’t have a strong dog odor and do well with brushing and an occasional bath. 

Shibas are big shedders. They have two main shedding seasons each year. Brushing or combing them during their shedding period will help reduce how much hair is floating around the house. 

Another way to manage their hair is by blowing them with a strong blowdryer or shop vacuum in reverse. This helps remove loose hair, dirt, and dandruff. Make sure neither gets too hot. It may take a few times for them to get used to it. 

Shiba Inus need frequent nail trimmings and teeth brushing but can be adverse to these. Starting early with them can help them get used to it, but you may also need a professional to take care of it. 

Shibas love going for walks. They’re not overly hyper, but they do need daily exercise. Shiba Inus aren’t typically destructive breeds if left alone, but some can suffer separation anxiety. Crate training helps give them a space to spend time in when their owners are gone. 

Shiba Inu Health

Shiba Inus are relatively healthy dogs. Responsible breeders will screen their dogs for conditions like: 

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye disorders
  • Patella luxation

One health condition that’s very common in Shiba Inus is allergies. Signs of allergies include skin irritation and itching. Usually, allergies won’t occur until six months of age.

Shibas have some other hereditary conditions that you’ll need to watch for. 

Patellar luxation. This is a common condition where the kneecap becomes displaced. This condition ranges from grade one to grade four. Grade four is severe and can cause bowed legs. Most Shibas have grade one patellar luxation. 

Hip dysplasia. Though they’re a small breed, this is a common condition in Shibas. 

Flea allergy dermatitis. This condition occurs when your Shiba is allergic to flea bites. In warm, moist areas where fleas can never be eradicated, your dog may scratch and chew at their skin. A single flea bite can cause severe itching, which your dog will lick and chew until they get a hotspot. 

Hereditary eye defects. The most common eye condition in Shiba Inus is cataracts. If left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness in Shibas.

Special Considerations for Shiba Inus

The main consideration you should know before owning a Shiba is that they can’t be trusted off their leashes. Even the most well-trained Shibas aren’t trustworthy. In a moment, your Shiba can escape and run away. An open door, unlocked gate, or slip of the leash leaves an opening for your Shiba to bolt. Shibas can be off-leash in confined outdoor areas, though, as long as you keep an eye on them.

An upside to Shibas is that they’re easily house-trained. They try to use the bathroom far from their sleeping area at four weeks old. Because they’re so clean, they don’t like making messes in their homes. At five weeks old, Shiba Inus start holding their waste and wait until the morning to relieve themselves.

Shibas are more like cats than they are like dogs. If you want a dog that has a mind of their own, can be stubborn, and spends a lot of time grooming themselves, then a Shiba Inu is perfect for you.   

Shiba Inus are dominant dogs and can have problems getting along with other dominant dogs. As long as their dominance is established among other animals, though, they will get along with other dogs and cats.

Shiba Inus can be selfish. Not only do they like to be in charge, but they want things to go their way, and when they don’t get their way, they can sound like a husky. They’re not big barkers, but they do scream or yodel. They’re vocal if they feel like you’re violating them. This could occur during:

  • Nail trimming
  • Bathing
  • Leash training

If Shiba Inus are raised with children, they’re typically good with them. However, you’ll need to teach your children how to act with your Shiba. Don’t let children tease or torment them, or they could react aggressively.

Shiba Inu History

Shiba Inus are considered an ancient breed. Their ancestors date back to 7000 b.c. They’re one of six Japanese spitz breeds. Shiba Inus made their way to Japan by 300 b.c. 

Shibas were bred to hunt in the mountains of Japan. In Japanese, “Shiba” means brushwood, like the brush in the mountains or their reddish color that looks like autumn brushwood, and “Inu” means dog.

They were used for hunting large and small game. Their small size made them great at flushing out small game and birds from the mountain brush. Thousands of years in the mountainous parts of Japan made them sturdy and rugged. 

Of the six Japanese spitz breed dogs, Shiba Inus are the smallest. They were bred to handle mountainous terrain. They’re one of the few ancient dog breeds remaining in the world.  

The Akita is a large breed that comes from the original Japanese native dogs. The medium-sized dogs are the Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoki, and Kai. Shibas are the smallest breed. 

There were once three types of Shiba Inus before WWII. Modern-day Shiba Inus closely represent the Shinshu. These kinds were named after the regions they originated from: 

  • The Mino
  • The Sanin
  • The Shinshu

During WWII, Shiba Inus almost became extinct. Many died in bombing raids during the war. However, a large number died from canine distemper, a highly contagious viral infection among dogs.

The first Shiba Inu to come to the U.S. came by way of a military family in 1954. Since then, their popularity has grown in the country. However, they’re not as popular in the U.S. as they are in Japan. 

One famous Shiba in 2004 saved her family from their collapsed home during an earthquake. The Shiba Inu, Mari, quickly moved her puppies to safety, then went back and woke up her elderly owner. The Shiba’s owner had been trapped under a fallen cabinet. 

After she woke him up, he was able to free himself and get help. He had to leave Mari and her puppies behind, but they were all safe and sound when he returned two weeks later. 

Shiba Inus are quite fascinating dogs. They have a long, rich history and a quirky personality. If you think you can handle adding a Shiba to your family, you’ll be adding a great companion. Shiba Inus’ cat-like qualities make up for the fact that they shed tremendously. However, that also means you’ll be getting a dog that doesn’t need you to fuss over them too much.

They’re surprisingly self-sufficient, just don’t give them a chance to escape. Even though they love you, they’ll use any opportunity you give them to run. A well-trained, well-adapted Shiba Inu makes a quirky pet and a hilarious housemate. Whether they’re sassing you with their vocals or playing games to keep both of you entertained, they’re sure to add joy to your household. 

Just make sure you and your household are prepared for all that comes with owning a Shiba Inu.

Show Sources

Photo Credits:

1. Amax Photo / Getty Images


AKC: “8 Things You Didn’t Know About the Shiba Inu,” “Official Standard of the Shiba Inu,” “Shiba Inu.”

EUROPETNET: “Shiba Inu.”

Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue: “Adoption: Is a shiba right for you?.”

National Shiba Club of America: “AN OVERVIEW OF HEALTH PROBLEMS IN THE SHIBA INU,” “Breed History.”

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