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Shiba Inu

Nicole Cosgrove

Shiba Inu
Image Credit: Petra Göschel, Pixabay

The Shiba Inu is a small to medium purebred who was designed originally to help hunt small game and to flush out birds. It is a spirited dog now kept mostly as a companion with talents in fields that include tracking, hunting, agility and guarding. It is one of 6 breeds native to Japan, the others being the Kai, Hokkaiso, Akita, Kishu and Shikoku. It is sometimes mistaken for a Hokkaiso or Akita Inu but while its appearance is similar it is a completely different breed.

Here is the Shiba Inu at a Glance
Name Shiba Inu
Other Names Brushwood Dog, Japanese Small-Size Dog, Japanese Shiba Inu, Shiba Ken,
Nicknames Shiba
Origin Japan
Average size Small to medium
Average weight 17 to 23 pounds
Average height 13 to 17 inches
Life span 12 to 16 years
Coat type Double, thick and soft under, straight and stiff outer
Hypoallergenic No
Color Tan, white, red and black
Popularity Quite popular – ranked 45 by the AKC
Intelligence Very good – a smart dog
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle warm weather not not too hot
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle cold climates
Shedding Frequent/constant and seasonal
Drooling Low – not a dog prone to it
Obesity Moderate – not especially prone to it
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush daily
Barking Low to moderate – does not bark a lot but does have a ‘scream’!
Exercise needs Fairly active
Trainability Moderately hard
Friendliness Good – with socialization is approachable
Good first dog Very good – new owners would be fine for this dog but prepare for training to be harder than some
Good family pet Very good – can get along with everyone
Good with children Good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization
Good with strangers Good with socialization
Good apartment dog Excellent – good size and does not require a yard
Handles alone time well Excellent – can be left alone and will still be happy
Health issues Good but some issues such as allergies, eye problems, patellar luxation and cancer
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for treats and dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $215 a year for license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $820 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1500
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 3 Maimings: 1 Child victims: 1 Deaths: 1

The Shiba Inu’s Beginnings

The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the Japanese breeds and was bred to be a hunting dog, one who could flush out birds and small game for hunters. Its name has two meanings, brushwood and small and Inu means dog. Perhaps they were named after the bushes they flushed game from or because their coat looked like the brushwood in the autumn.

While its age is not known precisely, blood testing has shown that it predates modern breeds, meaning its origins happened before the 1800s. Efforts were made in Japan to protect the breed and the first breed standard came in 1934. In December 1936 the Association for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog recognized the Shiba as a Natural Monument of Japan. But it still nearly became extinct during World War II due to various reasons including bombing, a lack of food and a distemper epidemic that swept Japan just after the war.

New Lease on Life

After the war when breeders saw the peril the dog was in those that were left were bred with those that could be found after scouring the remote countryside of Japan. Breeding programs were created. In 1948 the Japanese Kennel Club formed and a breeding standard for the Shiba Inu was drawn up and adopted. Today it is one of Japan’s most popular dogs where it is now mostly just a companion dog.

The first one came to the US in 1954 when an American service family imported it in. Not much happened in the US after, that was documented, but then in 1979 the first litter born in the US came. It was recognized by the AKC first as miscellaneous class in 1993 and then in 1997 with full status in the Non sporting group. Today it is ranked 45th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Shiba Inu is a small to medium sized dog weighing 17 to 23 pounds and standing 13 to 17 inches tall. It has a double coat which is thick and adds to its cute teddy bear appearance. The outer is straight and stiff and the under is thick and soft. Common colors are black, tan, white and red.

It is a compact and well proportioned dog. It has a round muzzle, black nose, eyes rimmed in black that that triangular and dark and triangular erect ears. It has a fox like face. Its tail curls, is held over its back and is set high.

The Inner Shiba Inu


A Shiba who has been raised well, socialized and trained is strong-willed still and confident but is good natured, affectionate, outgoing and very loyal. If not well raised it can be hard to control, overly suspicious of strangers which can become aggressive and too territorial. It can be a very good watchdog as it is alert and will let you know by barking if there is an intruder. It also has some protective instincts so may act to defend you.

New owners should be fine with a Shiba as long as you either use a training school or pick up some good training techniques. It tends to bond very closely with its owner and is bold and brave. It will try to test you and manipulate you to get its own way, it is a clever dog and will try to be the dominant one. This is something you will have to be ready to deal with.

Something to be ready for with this dog is its ‘scream’. When it is displeased or excited it can let out a high pitched and loud scream. It does have a bit of a mischievous sense of humor so can get up to some things you might not want it to. It is also very possessive of its belongings, its food, its toys are not things it is willing to share.

Living with a Shiba Inu

What will training look like?

The Shiba Inu is moderately hard to train and will really need someone able to be firm, consistent and patient. Results are going to be slow as it is a stubborn and strong-willed dog and it will try to trick you or manipulate you into letting it be the boss. While it is smart it does not appreciate being told what it can and cannot do! Make sure your approach uses positive techniques and be prepared for anything!

Thankfully while it may be harder to give basic obedience training, it is easier to housebreak. It is a clean dog and will be happy to takes its business outside. Part of its training should include leash training. It does not like to be on a leash so you will need to be firm about this. It is not a dog you can take out without a leash and trust it to remain at your side.

Early socialization is also a vital part of its early training. Make sure it is exposed to different places, people, animals and situations so you can control how it reacts and be more confident when taking it out. If training or socialization is a problem there are schools and professional trainers you can turn to.

How active is the Shiba Inu ?

The Shiba is fairly active and while it is of a size where it is fine to live in an apartment it will still need a couple of walks a day to keep it happy and healthy. If there is a yard that is a bonus but make sure it is well fenced as it is agile and a great jumper, and also has great digging skills so could go over or under! When out walking it will need to be kept leashed, which it will need training to accept, as it has a high prey drive and will run off if you do not have a hold on it.

It will want some off leash run time as well as play time with you too. A dog park is a good place to do this and also affords it an opportunity to socialize. It can also join you for a jog if that is something you do as it does have a lot of endurance.

Caring for the Shiba Inu

Grooming needs

The Shiba Inu is a clean dog, almost cat like in it desire to be clean and tidy. Therefore it will help out when it comes to its grooming and maintenance needs. It does shed a lot and will also have seasonal blow outs too. This means daily brushing to keep up with loose hair and regular vacuuming around the home to deal with hair there. It is likely you will have hair on your clothing. It is not a smelly dog though, and since it will do its best to avoid dirt, puddles and the like, bathing is going to be an occasional thing just when it really needs it – every few months. Make sure you use a dog shampoo only to protect its natural skin oils.

It will also need its teeth brushing at least two to three times a week, daily if possible though. It will also need its nails trimmed if they get too long. You can do this yourself if you know about dog nails, or have a groomer do it for you. Its ears should be checked and cleaned once a week too for infection.

Feeding Time

It will need to be fed somewhere between ½ to 1 1/1 cups a day of a good quality dry dog food. This should be divided up though into at least two meals for your dog’s health. How big your dog is, its metabolism, activity level and age are all factors that will determine how much food it will need.

The Shiba Inu with children and other animals

It is important to remember that a Shiba not well raised can be snappy and aggressive and may therefore not get on well with children, other dogs and other animals. However with socialization and training and when raised with the children it can do better. Just make sure they know it does not like its toys or food being messed with. Smaller children should be supervised.

Non-neutered male Shiba do not get on well with each other due to dominance and territorial issues and can be aggressive. It also has a high prey drive so is not good with smaller pets that it considers prey to chase. It is best in a home with no small children and no other pets.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

It can live for 12 to 16 years and while its health is generally fairly good there are issues that it can be prone to. They include allergies, Chylothorax, eye problems, Cancer, Epilepsy, Hypothyroidism, Patellar Luxation, Hip dysplasia and tail chasing.

Biting Statistics

Any dog can be aggressive and snap given certain situations or when not raised well. Just because a dog is small, like the Shiba Inu does not mean it cannot cause injury. When looking at reports covering serious attacks against people over the last 34 years in Canada and the US, the Shiba Inu has been linked to 3 attacks that did bodily harm. 1 of those attacks was a maiming, the victim was left with permanent scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement. 1 of those victims died and 1 was a child. Over a periods of 34 years this averages to 1 attack every 10 years which means while careful socialization and training should be undertaken this is not a dog to fear in terms of attacks.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The cost of a pet quality Shiba Inu puppy from a good breeder is about $1500 though that could go up to $2200. For a show dog from a show breeder you are going to see that go up to between $2000 and $3500. A rescue Shiba willl be a lot less in terms of cost plus some of the medical procedures it needs like shots and tests will be taken care of. But while they are more affordable at $50 to $300 they will more likely be an adult dog. Backyard breeders or puppy mills may also be more affordable but with them you do not know anything about the dogs background or how they treat their animals.

Along with a new puppy comes some medical needs to be taken care of like deworming, blood tests, vaccinations, a physical exam, micro chipping and spaying or neutering. There will also be some equipment needed like a carrier, crate, bowls, collar and leash. All of these initial costs come to about $500.

There are several annual costs when you own a dog. It will need feeding, treats and a good quality dry dog food come to about $145 a year. Basic medical care like shots, check ups and flea and tick prevention along with pet insurance is going to cost about $460 a year. Then other costs that come under miscellaneous like basic training, license and toys for another $215 a year. This gives an annual cost that starts at $820.


Looking for a Shiba Inu Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Shiba Inu is a fairly easy dog to care for as it likes to be clean but it does shed a lot. It is smart but training can be challenging if you are not prepared to be firm. Also keep in mind it can be aggressive when not well trained and socialized. Buying from a good breeder is one way to make sure you get one from a good line.

Popular Shiba Inu Mixes

Shiba Inu, American Eskimo Dog Mix
General Information
Size Medium
Height Up to 20 inches
Weight 20 to 40 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Eager to please



Shiba Inu and Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Medium to Large
Height 13 to 20 inches
Weight 15 to 60 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Occasional to frequent
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits

Great companion


Can be

Featured Image Credit: Petra Göschel, Pixabay
Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.