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A shiba inu wearing a collar standing in a garden

This strong-willed, intelligent breed has a variety of unique characteristics that set it apart from other breeds.

From its independent ways to its high-energy play sessions, there’s so much to love about the Shiba Inu dog breed. But to raise a happy and healthy one, it’s important to know whether your household would be a match for this loyal breed.

Discover everything you need to know about the Shiba in this comprehensive article before deciding if one would be right for you.

What are the basics of the Shiba Inu breed? 

Brief history

According to the American Kennel Club, Shiba Inus originated around 300 B.C. and lived in Japan’s mountainous regions for years as small game and bird hunters. Some believe that their name came from the brushwood that they hunted in (“Shiba” meaning “brushwood,” and “Inu” meaning “dog”).

In the early 1900s, Japan declared the Shiba Inu a national treasure. However, they nearly went extinct during World War II. Fortunately, breeding programs began shortly after to bring the Shiba Inus back, and the breed became the most popular companion animal in Japan.

The first Shiba Inus arrived in the United States in the 1950s and the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1992.

General information

The Shiba Inu’s appearance is one of the many qualities that make this breed unique. The red variety resembles a fox with its color, small size, and pointed ears. However, not all Shibas are red — they can come in black and tan, cream, or red sesame. And most of them also have a distinct curled tail.

A small black and tan shiba inu puppy sitting on the floor with a toy rag

All Shiba Inus have “urajiro”, the Japanese word for unique markings on this breed.

According to the Official Standard of the Shiba Inu, urajiro is a cream-to-white marking located on the sides of the muzzle, on the cheeks, inside the ears, under the jaw, on the upper throat, inside of the legs, on the abdomen, around the vent, and on the ventral side of the tail. A Shiba may have other markings, too, but urajiro is required to meet the breed standard.

There are also size differences between male and female Shiba Inus. Though all members of this breed are small, most females are smaller than males. Males tend to stand 16.5 inches tall, whereas females typically stand 13.5 inches tall. When it comes to weight, males are also slightly larger at 23 pounds versus the average female weight of 17 pounds.

Both male and female Shibas typically live between 13 and 16 years.

Basic care needs

To provide a happy and healthy home for a Shiba Inu, pet parents need to consider this breed’s grooming, exercise, and nutritional needs.


Shibas have a double coat that offers an extra insulation layer for temperature extremes. The outer coat is stiff, repelling dirt and water. The undercoat, on the other hand, is soft and sheds during warmer weather. It then regrows in preparation for the cold months.

While Shibas typically only shed heavily when they blow their coats, you can expect moderate shedding throughout the rest of the year. You should brush and groom your pup often to help combat excess shedding. Some Shiba Inu parents even vacuum their dogs to remove loose fur if they’re able to do so.

Keep in mind that a Shiba’s outer coat doesn’t regrow like normal fur, and attempting to trim or shave it won’t combat the shedding. In fact, doing so is detrimental, as it reduces the dog’s ability to repel dirt and water.

Also as a warning, most Shibas strongly dislike nail trims. Unless you’ve trained your pet to tolerate trims, it’s typically best to leave this task to a professional groomer or your vet.


As a hunting and working breed, the Shiba Inu’s energy level is high and it needs a lot of daily exercise. As a Shiba Inu grows, they’ll need more and more exercise and mental stimulation (such as games) to expend the energy they build up.

A Shiba Inu that hasn’t had enough exercise can become destructive, so you’ll need to go on lots of walks, play games like tug-of-war and fetch, and mentally stimulate your pet through puzzle toys or obedience training.


Like other dogs, Shibas need protein-rich, high-quality food. Typically, adult Shiba Inus should eat twice per day and consume around 600 calories (roughly 1.5 daily). However, the specific amount your pet needs will depend on its size, age, and activity level.

Obesity is a common health problem for this breed, so check with your vet about the proper food and quantity to feed your pup.

What makes the Shiba Inu temperament quirky?

Before jumping into the Shiba Inu’s quirky temperament, it’s important to differentiate temperament from personality.

A dog’s temperament is something that they are born with. A dog’s personality, on the other hand, is a blend of that temperament with factors such as the dog’s environment and human relationships. Training and experience can change — subtly or not so subtly — their overall personality and how a dog reacts to a given situation.

Because of this, studies have shown that a breed’s temperament doesn’t necessarily apply to all dogs of that breed.

Independent and strong-willed

If you’re looking for a cuddly pet that’ll always want to be near you, the Shiba Inu probably won’t be for you.

Often, Shibas are compared to cats — proud and not clingy. Though your Shiba Inu will still want your attention and love, they’ll want it when they want it. Also, much like a cat, Shibas often have a stubborn nature and enjoy their independence.

A woman cuddling a shiba inu by a brick fireplace

Because Shiba Inus aren’t a pack breed, they consider themselves to be in control and are very self-confident. If you, as the pet parent, don’t start your pup’s training early on and establish a strong relationship, it’s easy for Shibas to do things their own way and ignore their owner’s wishes.


Shiba Inus tend to be territorial.

For instance, you might notice that yours will become protective of their food, toys, and space. That being said, Shiba Inus aren’t naturally aggressive — but they are hunters, so if they feel threatened, they’ll react. You can minimize this behavior with proper socialization and positive reinforcement.

Despite the Shiba Inu’s territorial nature, they love their families, including children. This makes them great guard dogs — even though they’re not specifically bred for guarding.


Teach your children to positively interact with your Shiba Inu during playtime to improve their relationship development. It’s wise to watch your children and your Shiba Inu until everyone becomes accustomed to each other’s needs and behaviors.


Other dogs of the same sex, especially larger dogs, can also trigger territorial tendencies in the Shiba Inu. And, because of their high prey drive, small animals (both inside and outside of the house) should be kept at bay. Be mindful of this part of the Shiba Inu temperament when socializing your dog.


Shibas are energetic and love to play. Due to their hunting instinct and independent nature, they should be kept on a leash whenever they’re not in a properly fenced yard.

They also tend to be escape artists, as they love to explore and wander and don’t like being restrained. So if they can find a way to escape, they will. And once a Shiba Inu is loose, it can be difficult to get them back.


The Shiba Inu’s dramatic moods are another trait that they share with cats. While they make loyal and friendly pets, they can also be easily irritated and want to be left alone. This is another reason to make sure that your children — if you have them — understand your Shiba’s needs and personal space bubble.

A woman on a yoga mat trying to take a ball from a shiba inu

And maybe you’ve heard of another Shiba Inu quirk: the “Shiba scream.”

While other dogs tend to whine when scared or nervous, Shiba Inus often emit a loud, screeching sound. You might notice this happening most often during nail trims.

What are some common health issues for Shiba Inus?

Shiba Inus are a generally healthy breed.

However, allergies are a common health issue. Much like humans, Shibas can be sensitive to dust, mold, and other airborne allergens. Typically, an allergic reaction will show up as dry, itchy skin. If you notice your Shiba Inu suddenly scratching their paws, belly, or folds in the skin, talk to your vet. This could be a sign of environmental allergies or even flea bites.

Obesity is another common health issue due to overeating and/or lack of exercise. Try to avoid rewarding your Shiba with too many extra treats. Though it’s tempting to spoil your pet, obesity can lead to other health issues.

Other health conditions that can arise in Shiba Inus include hip dysplasia, patella luxation (kneecap drifting), cataracts, and glaucoma. Make sure you visit your vet regularly for checkups to keep your Shiba Inu as healthy and happy as possible.

Are there training tips for helping a Shiba Inu develop a good personality?

Knowing your Shiba Inu’s temperament and personality will play a huge part in the dog’s training. It’ll be important to start training your Shiba Inu early so they can find security in consistency.

Training might be a bit of a challenge, though, depending on how independent or stubborn your Shiba might be.

When it comes to training a Shiba Inu, though, there’s at least one bonus: they’re typically easy to housebreak! Shibas enjoy being very clean. As such, you might notice that your dog will avoid mud when outside — also leading to a cleaner house for you! This makes potty training this breed fairly simple.

A shiba sitting by a couch obediently while a woman reads on it

Other types of training tend to be a little more difficult, so it’s important to start early and be consistent. Your Shiba will likely challenge you along the way. The key to training will be discovering the rewards that they respond to best. When in doubt, it’s always helpful to seek advice from a professional trainer or behaviorist.

Socialization will also be an important part of your training sessions. Considering how territorial the Shiba Inu can be, you’ll want to make sure that they have opportunities during puppyhood and throughout their life to interact with other people and other dogs appropriately.

Remember, you’ll want to set up boundaries for your Shiba Inu thanks to their aloof nature. Promote positive interactions and try to quell aggression as soon as you see signs of it.

You should also provide your pet with plenty of mental and physical stimulation if you plan to leave your house for an extended period. It might be wise to train your Shiba Inu to stay in a crate during these times.

Is the Shiba Inu temperament right for your lifestyle?

Shiba Inus are a loyal, energetic, and intelligent breed. Their quirky nature can bring joy and laughter to those who understand their temperament and personality. And a positive Shiba Inu personality can be delightful, much like the energetic shih tzu.

This popular breed might be a perfect fit for your family and lifestyle.

As you make your decision, keep in mind the amount of space you’ll have for a Shiba Inu as well as any other pets in your household — because all the comfort and happiness of all your pets are important.

Still unsure which pet is perfect for your family? Head over to for more resources from vets and pet experts.