Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu is one of Japan’s native breeds. This small dog breed looks like a fox or a stuffed toy with his thick coat, curly tail and small erect ears. Charming and devoted, this strong-willed dog is a good family dog. 


Along with breeds like the Akita, Shikoku, Kai Dog, Kishu and Hokkaido, the Shiba Inu was developed in Japan where he was used by hunters to flush out birds and small game.

The breed’s name could be from the brushwood bushes where the dogs hunted or from the fiery red color of the brushwood leaves in autumn or from its small size. 

Many Shiba Inu dogs were killed during the bombing raids in World War II and many of those that survived died later from distemper. Breeding programs were established in the countryside to produce the present-day Shiba.

The breed was officially registered by the Japanese Kennel Club and the Federation Cynologique Internationale. The first Shiba was introduced to the United States in 1954 and received recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1993. 

Physical Characteristics

This beautiful breed has a face like a fox with squinty eyes, prick ears and a curly tail. He is the smallest of the Japanese spitz dogs. He has a compact body with well-developed muscles. 

The double-coated Shiba Inu looks like a teddy bear because of his thick fur. His undercoat is soft and thick while his outer coat is stiff and straight.  

Coat colors include red, black and tan, cream to white (urajiro) and sesame (rich red coat with black-tipped hairs). Sometimes the tail and legs have white markings.


A fully grown Shiba Inu measures 13 to 17 inches (33 to 43cm) at the shoulder and weighs 17 to 23 pounds (8 to 10kg).

Character & abilities

The Japanese used three words to describe the Shiba Inu:

  • Kaani-I means spirited boldness
  • Ryosei means his good nature
  • Soboku meaning alertness

The Shiba is affectionate, loyal and devoted. When well-bred and socialized, he gets along well with children, especially those that treat him with respect and kindness.

He is alert and suspicious of strangers. This makes him a good watchdog because he will notify when something unusual is happening. He usually lets out a loud high-pitched scream that distinguishes this breed. 

This confident small dog usually has his ideas of how things should go and has been known to frustrate novice dog owners. He has a calm demeanor and has a somewhat superiority complex that manifests as a stubborn nature. 

This small dog breed is possessive and protective of his food and territory. He can be aggressive towards other dogs and he will chase small animals that he deems as prey. 

The Shiba naturally maintains himself and often licks his paws and legs like a cat.  

Trainability & Intelligence

The Shiba is highly intelligent. He learns quickly and benefits from puppy and obedience classes. He needs a gentle hand, time and patience.

Because of his strong-willed and freethinking nature, he will not necessarily do what is asked of him. Training the Shiba Inu is best with a dog trainer who knows how to make the Shiba think that obedience is his idea.

Interestingly, the Shiba is easy to housebreak. He is smart enough to understand where he needs to go and will use that space whenever he needs to.

Leash training is important for this breed, even though he does not like being restrained. For his safety, he should never be walked off the leash to make sure he doesn’t chase into oncoming traffic and manage his interactions with other dogs. 

Exercise Needs & Nutrition

This small dog is nimble and athletic. Keen and alert, he moves quickly and effortlessly like a ninja. He is active and needs space to play and roam.  

The Shiba Inu loves taking walks and is a good jogging companion. He needs daily workouts and is best suited for an active household. 

Dogs’ nutritional needs depend on their size, age, rate of metabolism and level of activity. To keep an adult Shiba in shape, he should be fed two meals a day of high-quality dog food. 


The Shiba’s thick double coat sheds heavily twice a year and moderately throughout the year. Even though this dog is naturally clean and odor free, he needs regular brushing to reduce shedding.

Baths should be given only when necessary to avoid drying out the dog’s skin and coat. 

To prevent gum disease and bad breath, Shiba’s teeth should be brushed daily with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. His outer ears can be cleaned with a damp cotton ball to prevent infections. 

The Shiba’s nails will not naturally wear down and trimming is necessary once or twice a month. 

During grooming, the dog should be examined to check for any signs of infection like sores, rashes, redness, tenderness or inflammation. 

Living Conditions & Adaptability

It might not be easy to integrate a Shiba Inu into a multi-pet household. This small dog does not share well and can be hostile, even after training and socialization. 

The Shiba should be allowed to run around in a fenced yard. He has a prey drive and will chase cats or squirrels. The yard should be regularly checked for gaps because he has escape-artist tendencies. 

The dog’s thick undercoat protects him from cold temperatures but he shouldn’t be left to live outdoors. 


Overall, this small dog breed is healthy. Some conditions are known to affect him including:

  • Food, contact and inhalant allergies
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Entropion
  • Luxating patella
  • Cancer
  • Chylothorax
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Spinning 

The Shiba Inu has a life expectancy of 12 to 16 years. 


The spirited Shiba Inu is a wonderful small dog breed. He is small and agile with an independent nature. Not ideal for apartment living or inexperienced dog owners, he is charming and spends his years devoted to his family. 

It is important to understand what goes into owning a dog before bringing him home. Our team at All The Small Dog Breeds has provided detailed small dog breed descriptions to help you find your four-legged companion.


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Energy Level

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Good with kids

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