Shiba Inu dog breed portrait

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The cute little Shiba Inu are among the world’s oldest dog breeds and one of the six native Japanese canines. The name Shiba Inu translates to ‘small dog’ in ancient Japanese language.

Originally bred to flush birds and small animals like rabbits, Shibas are currently one of the most favored loyal dogs for experienced owners.

Continue reading this Shiba Inu dog breed information guide to discover everything you need to know about this pretty breed.

Brief History of the Shiba Inu Dog Breed

It’s believed that the ancestors of the modern-day Shiba Inu arrived in Japan as far back as 7000 BC, accompanying the first wave of human migration to the islands.

Shibas (small size) are among the original six distinct breeds native to Japan namely The Akita (Largest), the Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and the Kai (medium size).

Excavations of ancient shell mounds left by the Jomonjin people have revealed evidence of small dogs that lived alongside them, measuring between 14.5 and 19.5 inches in height.

During the third century BC, another wave of immigrants arrived in Japan, bringing with them a new population of dogs that would contribute to the Shiba Inu’s lineage.

As these newer dogs interbred with the existing population descended from the Jomonjin dogs, a distinct type of canine emerged, characterized by pointed, erect ears and curly or sickle-shaped tails.

During the 7th century AD, the Yamato Court recognized the importance of native Japanese dog breeds and established a special office dedicated to their preservation.

Despite Japan’s isolationist policies during the 17th and 18th centuries, European dog breeds and the Chinese Chin found their way into the country.

These foreign dogs were crossed with the native Japanese dogs in more populated regions, adding to a diverse genetic makeup in the canine pool.

A Black Shiba Inu dog posing for a photo in front of lavender flowers
Image Credit: pocky.shiba From Instagram

Shiba Inu nearly became extinct during the Second World War. Many dogs were lost in bombing raids and those that survived were faced with the distemper epidemic.

After the war, Shiba Inu were gathered from rural areas to initiate breeding programs aimed at preserving the breed.

These breeding programs combined the surviving bloodlines, resulting in the modern Shiba Inu that we know and love today.

In 1954, an American service family brought the first Shiba Inu to the United States. However, records about the breed during this early period are limited, with little documentation available until the 1970s.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially acknowledged the Shiba Inu in 1992, initially placing them in the Miscellaneous Class.

A year later in 1993, the cute little breed received full recognition and was inducted into the Non-Sporting Group.

5 Interesting Facts About The Shiba Inu

1. Shibas are an ancient breed

Shiba Inu are a breed steeped in ancient history. Their lineage traces back thousands of years, making them one of the oldest dog breeds known to mankind.

2. Shibas almost went extinct

Shiba Inu were almost wiped out from the face of the earth during World War II. Most succumbed to war-related activities and others fell for the distemper virus.

Luckily, several breeding programs were set up after the war to help the breed bounce back and preserve them.

3. Shibas are the smallest of Japan’s Native Dogs

Among the six dog breeds considered as ‘Japanese Natives’, Shiba Inu are the smallest of all. The other five breeds are the Akita (largest), Kishu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and the Kai (medium-sized).

4. Shibas shed a lot

Shiba Inu have double-coated fur, meaning they can put off a lot of it during the major seasonal changes in a year.

Besides the two shedding seasons, Shibas are likely to shed significant amounts of fur throughout the year.

This breed’s shedding is so serious that they are often favored by people who collect dog fur and use it for knitting.

5. Shiba Inu have cat-like qualities

You may have adopted a dog breed known as Shiba Inu, but what you didn’t know is that you are getting a cat too in the same body.

Owning a Shiba Inu feels like having the best of both worlds. These dogs are independent, difficult to train, and spend much of their time self-grooming, much like a cat.

Shiba Inu Physical Characteristics

Size and Weight Ranges

As a small to medium dog breed, an adult Shiba male can have an average height of between 14.5 to 16.5 inches while a female’s height averages 13.5 to 15.5 inches.

In terms of weight, a fully grown Shiba Inu male can tip the scale to an average of 18 – 24 pounds whereas a female can weigh between 15 – 20 pounds.

Shiba Inu are medium-boned, relatively compact, and well-muscled canines with a generally Spitz-like appearance.

Coat Colors and Texture

Shiba Inu are double-coated with a soft dense inner coat and a stiffer outer coat similar to what you find in a Husky. This elaborate fur helps in extreme weather and keeps insects, dirt, and bacteria away.

The Shiba’s tail fur is slightly longer than that of the rest of the body, which is one of the breed’s distinctive characteristics.

The American Kennel Club officially recognizes purebred Shiba Inu in four distinct coat colors: sesame, cream, red, and black and tan.

Both the Japan Kennel Club and American Kennel Club consider the cream coat color in Shiba Inu to be undesirable and categorize it as a ‘major fault.’

Distinctive features

The thick and fluffy fur is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Shiba Inu dog breed. As part of the Spitz family, Shibas are also recognizable by their pointed nose, upright ears, and fox-like facial features.

A photo of a cute Shiba Inu dog looking up
Image Credit: harami_shiba From Instagram

Another top highlight of the Shiba Inu dog breed is their hairy curly tail, which coils upward and round toward their back.

Shiba Inu Temperament and Personality

Shiba Inu’s temperament can be described as alert, confident, affectionate, and independent, but they can also have a stubborn streak if training is ignored.

With a good-natured and playful attitude, your Shiba dog will most likely get involved in everything you do at home and they will form strong emotional connections to a loyal owner.

As mentioned before, Shibas can be quite stubborn due to their strong-willed nature and independent attitude. This temperament stems from their historical hunting roles.

Due to their strong prey drive, hunting instincts, and independent nature, Shiba Inu are best kept on a leash, especially in areas where they might encounter wildlife.

Shiba Inu are not necessarily loud barkers, but they can be quite vocal with some special forms of vocal communication.

These cute dogs tend to yodel when they want your attention. You can also hear them make a purring sound when being petted. An excited Shiba can make a high-pitched scream to express joy.

Shiba Inu are not the best breed for a first-time dog owner, because of their strong-willed attitude and independent nature.

A playful Shiba may also test the impatience of small children or other smaller pets in your house. Shibas can make a great house pet for experienced owners who desire a loyal companion.

Shiba Inu Intelligence

Shiba Inu are sharp in thinking and action, ranking among the most intelligent dog breeds. These little dogs are quick learners and can figure things out independently.

An elderly Shiba Inu dog wearing a big smile
Image Credit: Fido Foto From Instagram

The dog’s intelligence also contributes to their stubborn streak and strong-willed nature. This means your Shiba may understand your command but ignore it if they don’t see a point in responding.

Common Health Issues and Genetic Disorders

Shiba Inu are generally healthy dogs, but they can be susceptible to various health issues and genetic conditions including:

1. Hip Dysplasia

2. Allergies

3. Eye Problems

4. Skin Diseases

5. Dental Diseases

6. Patellar Luxation

7. Hypothyroidism

Preventative Measures for Good Health

Consistent proactive healthcare is recommended to ensure your Shiba Inu enjoys a healthier, happier, and longer life.

Book an appointment with your vet for regular wellness exams with your Shiba and discuss any concerning symptoms.

Your vet should recommend the core vaccines and booster shots to keep your Shiba inoculated against common communicable diseases.

Provide a high-quality canine-specific diet to your Shiba Inu dog according to their age, activity level, allergies, and specific health concerns.

While practicing portion control to avoid overfeeding, make sure to take your Shiba Inu out for regular walks and exercise to maintain a healthy body.

Shiba Inu Average Lifespan

Shiba Inu have an average lifespan of between 12 – 15 years. Proper care, nutrition, and exercise can increase the dog’s life expectancy to the higher side.

Shiba Inu Grooming Needs

Shibas love grooming themselves, but not enough to neglect brushing and keeping them tidy. With a dense double coat, Shibas need a weekly brush to keep their fur free from tangles.

An occasional bath at least once a month will rejuvenate your dog’s skin and coat. Be careful not to go overboard because too much bathing can strip off natural oils from the dog’s skin.

Shiba Inu dog taking a bath in a yellow tub
Image Credit: chiko_shiba_inu From Instagram

Teeth brushing should be consistent to prevent the dog from acquiring periodontal diseases. Oral hygiene also helps freshen the dog’s breath.

Monitor your dog’s ears regularly and clean them using a vet-approved ear cleanser to wipe off bacteria that could lead to painful infections.

Shiba Inu Exercise and Activity Levels

Plenty of exercise and outdoor activities are recommended for any Shiba Inu, and indeed all other dog breeds.

Keeping your dog active will drive away boredom and help maintain a healthy weight to avoid obesity and related complications.

An adult Shiba Inu dog will be content with about 40 – 60 minutes of daily exercise divided into manageable sessions.

A long walk, runs, hikes, swimming, and off-lead activities are enough to satisfy your Shiba’s needs for exertion.

With their hunting DNA, Shibas have an inquisitive nature, meaning they love engaging their brain in problem-solving activities.

Shibas were born to hunt and their inquisitive nature means they love problem-solving games that bring out their cunning side.

You can capitalize on this by adding a puzzle in their game diary and activities that involve finding high-value food rewards.

Importance of mental stimulation

Mental stimulation should always form part of your dog’s exercise regime. Brain-taxing games can help relieve your dog from boredom and induce inner satisfaction.

Interactive games that capitalize on the dog’s thinking capacity can help reduce behavioral problems such as excessive barking, separation anxiety, and chewing.

Taking part in mental activities together with your dog will help strengthen the bond, forming a stronger emotional connection.

Brain-intensive games help keep your dog’s cognitive abilities at their best, slowing the progression of dementia.

Shiba Inu Training and Socialization

Due to their potential stubbornness and strong-willed attitude, Shiba Inu should be trained right from a young age and all through their adult life.

The good news is that Shibas are food-motivates, meaning you can capitalize on positive reinforcement techniques for better training outcomes.

To ensure reliable results, make sure your entire household keeps up with the training rules of your Shiba, or else the dog will pick up cues from inactive members.

Potty training is pretty simple due to Shiba’s natural cleanliness. A Shiba Inu puppy will quickly understand not to pee in their sleeping area.

Brown Shiba Inu Dog
Image Credit: chiko_shiba_inu From Instagram

Intensive smart work is, however, needed when it comes to other aspects of canine training and socialization.

When you bring your Shiba Inu puppy home from the breeder or rescue center, it’s important to socialize them right away.

You can do this by exposing the young puppy to different people, places, and settings in a controlled way so they can learn how to behave appropriately in various situations.

Socialization also helps in tuning down the dog’s high prey drive, which is desirable especially if you have other smaller pets in your home.

Shiba Inu Living Conditions

Shiba Inu can live in an apartment so long as they receive enough opportunities to go out for regular exercise.

An apartment setting is also suitable for Shibas because of their meticulous hygienic nature and ease of housebreaking.

Shibas enjoy spending quality time indoors with their families. Their independent nature also means they will not ask you for what you don’t have.

These cute foxy dogs can be left alone for short periods, provided they get physically exerted or mentally stimulated before and after.

A standalone house with a spacious backyard garden is also ideal for a Shiba Inu dog. They will love chasing birds and discovering hidden treasures in the garden.

During the warmer months, you can add a garden water horse in your backyard to keep your Shiba busy playing with the water and keeping cool.

Shiba Inu Diet & Nutrition Needs

Speak to your vet about your Shiba’s nutritional plan and dietary needs. You should plan a well-balanced diet that’s appropriate for small but active dog breeds.

To thrive, Shibas require a balanced combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, along with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in their diet to support their overall health and well-being.

Shibas are known to be food-oriented, so make sure to practice proper portion control to prevent overfeeding and too much weight gain.

A balanced diet is never complete without access to water. Make sure to provide enough clean drinking water to your Shiba Inu through various points across your home.

Shiba Inu Pregnancy & Litter size

Shiba Inu has a gestation period of about 63 days. You can expect a litter size of about 1 – 5 puppies depending on the mother’s health and genetic factors.

If you’re planning to breed Shiba puppies, make sure to discuss the risk factors with your vet or a registered breeder to ensure a seamless pregnancy journey.


We hope this Shiba Inu dog breed information guide has been resourceful especially if you’re thinking about welcoming this dog into your home.

Shiba Inu dogs are loyal and lovely if paired with the right owner. These little champs form a strong bond with their favorite humans and love being part of everyday activities.

Shiba’s dense double coat is beautiful, but they shed fur all year round and blow out the coat in seasonal changes, so prepare for regular grooming.

Always choose a regulated breeder who prioritizes the well-being of their dogs to reduce the likelihood of genetic conditions on your new Shiba Inu.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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