Shiba Inu

Breed At A Glance


Courageous, playful and affectionate

Life Expectancy
12-15 years

Average Height
Males 14-16 inches; Females 13-15 inches

Average Weight
Males 18-25 lbs; Females 15-20 lbs

Coat Color
Most often red, red with black overlay, or black with tan markings, all with white markings

Coat Length/Texture
Dense and plush double-coat

Shedding Propensity
Seasonally heavy

Also known as Shiba, Japanese Shiba Inu, Japanese Small Size Dog, Shiba Ken

General Temperament

Agile, active and confident, the Shiba Inu is a loyal and affectionate friend. This is a charming and playful breed possessed with incredible endurance and stamina. Shibas can walk for hours and make excellent jogging companions. They are very intelligent and proud, but at the same time good natured and gentle. The Shiba inu is a very protective breed with a distinctive howl sometimes called the “Shiba scream,” which they use when provoked or unhappy, but also when they are unusually happy (such as when their owner arrives home after an extended absence).

Socialization makes a big difference in a Shiba’s temperament. They are generally good companions for children, but can be reserved with strangers. They can be very possessive of their belongings, such as toys and food, and young children should be taught to be aware of this personality characteristic. They will get along well with other dogs, and even cats, if raised with them from puppyhood. But without such early introduction, this breed can be quite dog aggressive, especially males with other males. And due to their natural hunting instincts, Shibas should never be trusted with smaller housepets such as rabbits, hamsters or birds.

Training a Shiba Inu can be a difficult process, as they are an independent-minded breed. Start training early in puppyhood and be sure to show the dog who is boss. Once respect for their owner is earned, the dog will be much more likely to fall in line. The hunting instinct is quite strong in this breed, however, and even the best trained Shibas may give chase after perceived prey and ignore their owner. It is best to keep this breed on a leash in unsecured areas. Conversely, they are very easy to housebreak. Many owners find that simply putting the dog outside during appropriate times, such as after meals and naps, is all that is needed to teach the dog proper potty etiquette.

Although they can be happy living in an apartment if given proper activity, the Shiba Inu functions best in a home with a yard. They are adaptable to warm and cold climates alike, and although capable of living outdoors, they will be much happier living inside with their human family.

Breed History

The Shiba Inu was developed in the 3rd century BC as a descendent of the Spitz family of dogs and is considered to be one of the oldest dog breeds (based on recent DNA analysis). They were bred as a hunting dog, used to flush birds and hunt small game in the Japanese brushwood, but also functioned as effective watchdogs. Despite it’s ancient history, the breed was not known by it’s formal name until 1920. Now considered a national monument in it’s home country of Japan, the Shiba Inu is the most popular breed in that country. Like many pure breeds, they were nearly extinct by the end of World War II, but dedicated breeders revived the Shiba Inu from just three remaining bloodlines. This breed first arrived in the United States in 1954.

The Shiba Inu was given full breed recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1993.

Body Structure and Composition

The Shiba Inu is a well-proportioned dog, only slightly longer than it is tall. The head is similarly proportioned, with the muzzle being only slightly less than half of the total length of the head. Their confident expression is accented by dark-rimmed eyes and triangular prick ears. The ears are angled forward, following the line of the back of the head and neck. This breed’s thick, strong neck leads down to a level topline and a curled tail that is carried over the back. The forelegs and hindlegs are strong and well-angulated. Shibas have cat-like toes with thick pads. This breed’s gait is nimble and light.

Medical Information

The Shiba Inu is a relatively healthy breed, though not completely free of the influence of hereditary diseases. They are slightly prone to some eye maladies such as cataracts, glaucoma and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA causes a degeneration of the retina leading eventually to blindness.

Patellar Luxation (also known as “slipped stifle” or “trick knee”) occurs with relative frequency in Shiba Inu lines. This condition occurs when the kneecap slips out of place, sometimes requiring surgery to correct. There is also a minimal incidence of Hip Dysplasia, which is characterized by a degeneration of the hip bone to the extent that it no longer fits into the cup provided by the socket, causing lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Hypothyroidism is also know to occur in a small number of Shiba Inus, characterized by an underactivity of the thyroid gland. Symptoms of this disease include decreased appetite or weight gain, hair loss, recurring skin infections, and lethargy. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) provides certification of breeding stock to help prevent the spread of these diseases, among others.

The short and stiff outer coat of the Shiba Inu is easy to groom, requiring only an occasional brushing. Be sure to bathe this breed only when absolutely necessary. Shibas likes to keep themselves clean, often licking their paws and legs like a cat, and even avoiding puddles and dirt when outdoors. This breed is prone to allergies, particularly flea allergies, so be sure to use preventative medications year-round.

Anecdotal Information

The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the six Japanese Spitz breeds, and is one of the 9 canine national monuments in that country.

The Shiba Inu has been featured in multiple video games, including “Labrador and Friends” and “Silent Hill 2.”

Shibas have also found roles in animated series such as Kappa Mikey and Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin (and its sequel Ginga Densetsu Weed).

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