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the search for a dog
Shiba inu lying on a blanket

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Non-Sporting Group (American Kennel Club), Northern Breed Group (United Kennel Club)
  • Height – 13 to 17 inches 
  • Weight – 18 to 22 pounds 
  • Coat length & texture – Stiff, straight, and thick 
  • Coat color – Red, bicolor (black and tan), sesame, and cream. Shiba inu dogs feature unique urajiro markings around their face, mouth, and neck. You can also see these white patches or on their chest and stomach. They may also appear with a black overlay or red or tan markings. 
  • Exercise needs – Moderate 
  • Intelligence – High 
  • Barking – When necessary
  • Life span – 12 to 15 years
  • Temperament – Affectionate, fearless, faithful, alert, and independent
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – Japan

👉 No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, but some are better than others for allergy sufferers.

Shiba inu fun facts

  • Shiba inu were originally bred as hunting dogs, and are very agile. They are skilled at hiking and enjoy adventuring in all-weather climates. 
  • The breed almost went extinct during the World War II era due to bouts of distemper and food shortages. Japan was able to launch breeding programs after WWII to support the shiba inu population, and states that they are national treasures. 
  • The shiba inu is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Historical depictions of the dog appear as early as the 3rd century B.C.
Shiba inu smiles at camera

Shiba inu temperament and characteristics

Shiba inu are known for their playful temperament, and they love to adventure and explore. They make great household pets, especially if you enjoy hiking, walks, or other outdoor activities. The shiba inu’s high intelligence makes it a prime candidate for advanced dog training and trick teaching. Their friendliness and loyalty make them an ideal breed to have around children, cats, or other animals. 

While your shiba inu may be wary of visitors, they’ll be sure to warm up after the first or second visit–accepting your friends and family as one of their own due to their naturally high retention capabilities.

Common shiba inu health problems

Shiba inu are generally very healthy, and are considered to be relatively low-maintenance. However, there are a few genetic health problems that you should be aware of if you’re considering getting a shiba inu from a breeder.

  • Hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia can affect breeds of all sizes, and occurs when the hip joint isn’t developed enough to fit the ball of the leg joint. It can grind rather than slide, causing discomfort or loss of function due to arthritis and related inflammation. 
  • Atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis occurs when inhalant allergens come into contact with open or vulnerable spots on the skin; causing itching, redness, and discomfort. Certain breeds are more prone to atopy than others.
  • Periodontal disease. Periodontal disease causes swelling around the gum tissues, often due to overgrowth of oral bacteria. It can spread to the bone and result in loss of teeth. This is especially common in older dogs.  
  • Patellar luxation. Patellar luxation can occur with smaller breeds, and is the medical term for joint dislocation–specifically in the leg or “knee” area (stifle joint) of your shiba inu.

Costs of caring for a shiba inu

While any pet medical problems can be expensive, shiba inu are relatively healthy dogs compared to other breeds, with lower-cost health risks and problems. The average cost of caring for a shiba inu can range between $2,000-$4,000 per year, which is average for small- and mid-size breeds. This cost covers toys, veterinary care, food, and other expenses for your pup. It also covers the grooming needed to properly maintain and care for your shiba inu’s thick double coat.

If you’re looking for ways to save, consider investing in pet health insurance. It’s a great way to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses, and can ensure that you and your furry friend have the help that you need in case of emergency. You can also consider a pet savings account, which sets aside a predetermined amount on a recurring basis to help you cover everything you need to care for your shiba inu.

History of the shiba inu

The shiba inu originated in Japan over 3,000 years ago. They were first bred as hunting companions for hunters hiking over mountainous terrain, according to the National Shiba Club of America. They were quickly identified as intelligent, agile, and lean, making them the perfect choice as a small game hunting dog,catching prey like birds and rabbits. Their “teddy-bear” coat provided shiba inus with the ability to survive and thrive in every type of weather, solidifying their place as the perfect adventurer and active companion. 

Their name, shiba, translates to “brushwood” in Japanese–which is often where they would hunt to catch their small game. They were also the color of the Japanese brushwood bushes, with coats in colors such as deep red and amber. Inu translates to “dog” in Japanese, which resulted in many naming these family-favorite pets the shiba inu; or the “brushwood dog.” 

After a brush with near-extinction in the post-World War II era, Japan launched initiatives and breeding programs to protect and preserve the breed’s lineage. Now, they are hailed as the most popular dogs in Japan, and are well-loved and appreciated in many countries around the world.

Black shiba inu playing with rope

Caring for your shiba inu

Caring for any new pup can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to help you start off strong. First, you’ll need to be sure to schedule your first vet trip for your shiba inu puppy, and get them their vaccinations. If you haven’t already, you should also consider puppy-proofing your home, and getting your furniture ready for the teething phase

Looking for more ways to care for your shiba inu? Here’s a few great places to start:

Exercise 

Shiba inu are incredibly resilient, and do well in nearly any type of loving home. Shiba inu have moderate energy levels, making them the perfect pet to consider if you have limited yard space or a smaller apartment. As long as they have room to fetch, play, and romp, they’ll be perfectly happy! Shibas don’t need high-intensity play. Instead, they’d rather engage their minds during playtime to satiate their high intelligence and cognitive ability. Try toys that engage them in both mental and physical ways, and challenge them with new opportunities to learn and thrive. 

Shiba inu bond quickly, and are very affectionate to their human counterparts. Between their loyalty and high intelligence, they can easily get bored if they’re left alone. They do need moderate to high amounts of attention, and will enjoy every second of affection that you can spare.

Shiba inu panting

Grooming 

Shiba inu have a “double coat,” which can require regular baths and brush sessions. Shiba inu do have rigorous self-grooming routines, but will still need help from their owners to maintain their thick coat.  Depending on how adventurous your shiba inu is, you may need to bathe them once per week to keep dirt and grime in check–and should plan on regular baths at least once every 2-6 weeks.

Shedding can be excessive for shiba inu due to their dense double coat. Consider bimonthly brushes to tame the hair and dander, and consider pairing with a treat or a toy to keep your pup busy during the process. 

Be sure to keep up with other regular grooming as well, such as nail trimming & oral care. This breed can be susceptible to periodontal disease, so investing in a doggie toothbrush is key to helping maintain your puppy’s mouth. Ear cleaning is important too, keeping your shiba’s ears clear of any excess wax or fur buildup.  

Diet and nutrition 

While shiba inu don’t have any specific nutritional requirements beyond that of a normal breed, your shiba will do best on a balanced diet consisting of quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy carbs. They enjoy lean proteins, rice, and veggies, and can do well on a balanced wet or dry food option with nutritional supplementation and veterinarian oversight. 

Shiba inu generally eat one and a half cups of dog food per day, but this may vary depending on size, weight, and activity levels. If you’re unsure how much your shiba should be eating at any point in their development, we encourage you to reach out to your local veterinarian. They’ll be able to help you find new ways to support your shiba inu’s nutrition and health.

Training your shiba inu

Shiba inu are incredibly smart, making them an excellent breed for training. They enjoy rising to the challenge, and are compliant–allowing you to teach and train them more quickly. Because of their intelligence, you can leverage treats and rewards for easy positive reinforcement. You can easily leash and potty train them with positive reinforcement and consistent commands.

They are also especially receptive and attached to their humans, so verbal affirmation will go a long way toward your shiba’s development and training experience. They also enjoy community and pet pals, so consider training events held outside or in a group session for an extra-special treat! Your shiba will love the hours of outside time.

Shiba inu listening to command

Breeds similar to the shiba inu

Not quite sure that a shiba inu is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Basenji. Basenjis are known as “barkless” dogs, offering just as much warmth and affection as a shiba with a vibrant, playful demeanor. They are smart, independent, and fantastic family dogs. 
  2. Akita. Akitas are like larger shiba inu, bringing the same playful demeanor at an even higher energy level. These furry friends are great for high-energy adventurous owners that have lots of space to run and play. 
  3. Siberian husky. Huskies are fluffy, adorable, and one of the friendliest dogs you’ll ever meet. They’re independent, affectionate, and thrive outdoors.

Frequently asked questions

Is a shiba a good family dog?

Shiba inu are great family pets, as they are loyal, affectionate, and low-maintenance. They are very open to their “pack,” and can welcome strangers after the initial introduction. They enjoy all kinds of play, making them ideal pets of choice for children of all ages. 

Do shiba inu bark much?

Shiba inu do not usually bark, unless they feel threatened or playful. These make shiba inu great “apartment dogs,” as they’re quieter than other dog breeds. 

What is the temperament of a shiba inu?

Shiba inu are alert, intelligent, and affectionate–having endless love to give for their owners and “pack-mates.” They also are fiercely independent and strong, making training a must in puppyhood. 

What is the shiba inu coin?

The shiba inu coin (otherwise known as SHIB coins or SHIB), was an open-source cryptocurrency meme coin that made a splash in the crypto scene. It was made from a viral meme, and was created in 2020 by an anonymous entity by the name of Ryoshi. It was built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, and was circulating supply rapidly via tokens (known as SHIB tokens) in a decentralized exchange system. It’s a smaller size altcoin now, and continues to be traded by fans of the internet meme, despite lacking high monetary value.