Picture of a Shiba Inu running through a flower field

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If you're looking for a small- to medium-sized dog with a fox-like appearance and cat-like personality, you'll love the Shiba Inu. The Shiba Inu is one of the most popular Japanese dog breeds because of their unique appearance. However, they're highly independent and often difficult to train, requiring an experienced dog owner.

Shiba Inus are known for their unique personalities, low-maintenance coats, and handsome appearance. However, before you adopt a Shiba Inu, you should learn as much as possible about their personality and how to care for them to ensure they're the right pet for your household. This article will discuss everything you need to know about Shiba Inus. 

The Shiba Inu is Japan’s oldest and smallest dog breed

History & Origin Of Shiba Inus

Shiba Inus entered the United States in 1954 when they were imported by a military family.1 However, it's an ancient breed, dating back to around 300 BC. Shiba Inus, Shibas for short, are named after their hunting history in the mountains of Japan. The word "Shiba" means brushwood.1 Unfortunately, the origin of the name is a mystery. Shibas may have been named for the terrain or their coat color.2 

Shibas almost became extinct during World War II as most died from distemper after the war.2 However, breeding programs helped the breed survive, and now they're the most popular breed in Japan and the US. 

Average size and life expectancy of the Shiba Inu

Physical Attributes Of Shiba Inus

  • Height: 13.5 -16.5 inches
  • Weight: 17-23 pounds
  • Lifespan: 13-16 years

The Shiba Inu lifespan ranges from 13 to 16 years, and they're considered a small breed because they only weigh up to 23 pounds. Shiba Inu size varies by sex, but females can weigh up to 17 pounds, and males can reach up to 16.5 inches in height.1 

They're most known for their fox-like appearance with upright ears, triangular eyes, red, ginger, tan, or light black coats, and bushy tails.3 Shiba Inus were built for cold, winter weather with a short yet thick double coat.1

Behavioral characteristics of Shiba Inus

Behavioral Characteristics Of Shiba Inus

Shiba Inus are best for experienced pet parents who can invest in training early on. However, they're highly affectionate with their family. Shiba Inus are relatively good with children, but you should supervise them because they can misbehave. In addition, they do well with other dogs when properly introduced and socialized, but you might not want to take them to the dog park because they're not as friendly as other breeds.1

Generally, Shiba Inu dogs have a watchdog and protective nature, so they're not as friendly to strangers as other dogs like Golden Retrievers. However, they're not normally prone to aggression. Instead, they may simply ignore strangers and other pets. Therefore, Shiba Inu puppies should be socialized and trained to behave in certain situations, like meeting new people or other pets. 

Shiba Inus are willful and stubborn; they're not eager to please like other breeds, even though they're highly intelligent. Instead, teaching your independent Shiba obedience will take a lot of work.1 

Luckily, they're not a high-energy breed. Instead, they need a balance between play and relaxation to keep them happy. However, since they're one of the smartest dog breeds, they require lots of mental stimulation, so you'll need to find them activities to do every day, like training, puzzles, and treat-dispensing toys. 

Additionally, you shouldn't let your Shiba Inu off a leash unless they're in an enclosed area because they're so independent they may decide to run off if they catch a scent. Originally bred for hunting, they have a strong prey drive, so any squirrel could make them try to escape the yard. 

Caring For A Shiba Inu

Shiba Inus are fairly low-maintenance dogs, but they need tons of training. Luckily, they're not high-energy dogs, so they don't need tons of exercise or adventures. Instead, they're relatively happy spending their time lounging in the sun after a walk. 

Caring for a Shiba Inu is a lot like caring for another dog. However, there are a few aspects that set them apart. Here are some tips and recommendations for caring for your Shiba Inu:


As we've mentioned, Shiba Inus have a short, double coat. They tend to shed a lot, especially as the seasons change. However, your Shiba Inu dog doesn't require extensive grooming like other breeds. Instead, they should get brushed during periods of heavy shedding to reduce the amount of fur you'll find around the house and on your clothes.1

In addition, you can brush your dog every week to remove loose fur. Another consideration is their temperature regulation. Shiba Inus are designed for colder weather, so they won't tolerate extreme heat well. Removing loose fur by brushing them regularly during the warmer months can prevent them from overheating. 

In addition to regular brushing, your Shiba Inu requires baths. However, these dogs are known to be very clean and love grooming themselves, so they may not require a monthly bath. Instead, you can bathe your Shiba Inu every month or two to remove loose fur, dirt, and oils. 

Shiba Inus also need their teeth brushed and their ears cleaned regularly. It's always best to brush your dog's teeth daily with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar that can contribute to periodontal disease. 

And finally, your Shiba Inu will need their nails clipped regularly. As a general rule, if you can hear their nails clicking on the hardwood floor or pavement outside, they're too long. How often you need to trim your dog's nails will depend on various factors. Some dogs can naturally wear their nails down by going on frequent walks on the sidewalk, while others will need more frequent nail trims. 


Like all dogs, Shiba Inus benefit from a high-quality, balanced commercial diet. However, it's usually best to avoid the raw diet for dogs because it can pose many health threats, including nutritional deficiencies and exposure to pathogens.

Your dog's food should always be age-appropriate to ensure they get the proper balance of nutrients. Luckily, most Shibas don't have special food needs, and your vet can help you find the best option based on their age, weight, and overall health. 

Exercise & Enrichment

Shiba Inu dogs are energetic, but they're not a high-energy breed.1 Instead, they'll be happy going for walks instead of long runs. Luckily, they're not usually destructive when left alone.1 Exercise can help reduce separation anxiety and keep them at a healthy weight. However, Shibas are generally independent and not considered an anxious dog breed

In addition to physical exercise, your Shiba Inu dog will need mental stimulation. Shiba Inus are incredibly intelligent and can get bored easily. Therefore, you should let your Shiba Inu play with puzzles or treat-dispensing toys regularly. 

Training can also be a mentally-stimulating activity that helps them learn how to behave in certain situations. Still, you should never let your dog off-leash unless they're in an enclosed area because they won't always listen to your commands. 


Shiba Inus are known for their independent thinking, which some pet parents might call stubbornness. These dogs are not reliable off-leash unless in an enclosed area like a fenced-in yard.1 They have a strong prey drive and are very independent, so they don't always listen, no matter how much you've invested in obedience training. 

Unfortunately, Shiba Inu dogs are notoriously difficult to train and socialize, so you should invest in both as soon as possible. Even then, an experienced trainer may be necessary to help you get your dog to listen to your commands. 

This difficulty in training is one reason why Shiba Inus require an experienced pet parent; training requires hard work, and experienced pet parents have already trained at least a few dogs and can work diligently with their Shiba Inu to help them learn basic obedience. 

Health Of A Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu lifespan ranges from 13- 16 years, and they're a relatively healthy breed. Shiba Inus are prone to allergies, which can cause extreme itching.1 Unfortunately, you won't always know if the Shiba you get has allergies until they start scratching. Luckily, allergies are fairly easy to treat with the help of a vet. Other potential health issues you should be aware of include the following:

  • Glaucoma
  • Obesity
  • Hip Dysplasia

Picture of a Shiba Inu in a garden

Shiba Inu FAQs

Is a Shiba Inu a good pet?

Shiba Inu dogs can be good family pets, but you should invest in training as soon as possible, especially if there are kids in the household. Shiba Inus need socialization from an early age because they have independent personalities. That said, since they have a low-maintenance coat, they usually make good pets for individuals with a fenced-in yard or apartment dwellers willing to ensure their dog gets enough exercise every day. Shiba Inus can be good apartment dogs because they're clean and don't mind being alone. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Shiba Inus are difficult to train, and even when trained, it can be difficult to master commands. Therefore, you shouldn't expect them to obey you like other dogs.

Additionally, Shiba Inus aren't lap dogs. Instead, they may prefer to spend their time a few feet away instead of snuggling up next to you. They can also be territorial and may be prone to resource guarding. 

Are Shiba Inus smart?

Shiba Inus are incredibly smart and require tons of mental stimulation to prevent boredom. Unfortunately, their intelligence doesn't make them eager to please like some other breeds. Instead, they're stubborn and may be prone to aggression if you try to prevent them from doing what they want to do.4

Why are Shiba Inus so special?

Shiba Inus are loyal, intelligent, and independent. Even though they're difficult to train, many pet parents adore them because of their unique personalities and handsome appearances. Remember, every Shiba Inu is different, and their behavior largely depends on their upbringing. Therefore, taking the time to train your dog is essential to ensure they know how to act in certain situations. 

Final Notes

Shiba Inu prices vary depending on whether they're purebred or a hybrid. However, since they're one of the most popular dog breeds, you can expect it to be difficult to find them at your local animal shelters. Nevertheless, this breed is highly sought after for its intelligence and unique appearance. Being a pet parent to one is a rewarding experience, especially if you can manage to train them. 

Like all dog breeds, Shiba Inus require vaccinations and wellness vet visits to ensure their health. And you need a vet you can trust. Try Dutch pet telemedicine today to get care for your dog from the comfort of your home.


  1. Kriss, Randa. "Shiba Inu Dog Breed Information." American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/shiba-inu/

  2. Reisen, Jan. "8 Things You Didn't Know about the Shiba Inu." American Kennel Club, 14 May 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/8-shiba-inu-facts/.

  3. “Shiba Inu.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/animal/shiba-inu

  4. Takeuchi, Yukari, and Yuji Mori. "A comparison of the behavioral profiles of purebred dogs in Japan to profiles of those in the United States and the United Kingdom." Journal of Veterinary Medical Science 68.8 (2006): 789-796.

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Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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