Shiba Inu: The Ninja Dog! Bred in ancient Japan, these dogs have cat-like agility, this dog is nimble, quick, and athletic. This breed was nearly wiped out after the bombings in Japan during World War II.
Now, this dog is thriving in popularity, ranking in the top 50 most popular dog breeds (as measured by AKC breed registry). This is impressive, considering the first recorded litter of U.S. pups wasn’t born until 1979.
Even though he’s got some feline qualities, he’s still a good-natured and spirited pup. In fact, he’s the most popular companion dog in his home country of Japan.
Maybe it was his good looks that made him popular. Or perhaps it was the breed’s high-pitched scream that first started turning heads.
Either way, he’s a keeper.
Shiba Inu are an ancient dog breed.
The origins of this breed can be traced as far back as 300 BCE. This makes them Japan’s oldest dog.
They are the smallest of Japan’s dog breeds.
Despite their size, they were originally used to hunt large game such as boar, bear, and deer.
Shiba Inu Name Origin and Translation
The origin of the Shiba Inu name is still a mystery. Here are two theories:
- Some believe the name Shiba Inu comes from the brushwood the breed hunted.
- Others think it is how their coat camouflaged them in that brushwood.
In Japanese, Shiba Inu is: しば いぬ
In English, Shiba Inu translates to: “For a long time”
After World War II, Shiba Inu from the rural areas of Japan became part of a breeding program to bring these dogs back from the brink of extinction.
Originally imported to the USA by a military family in 1954, this breed has exploded in popularity. Today, Shiba Inu are the #1 companion animal in Japan.
Despite their popularity, it took until 1992 for this breed to be officially listed as part of the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Categorically speaking, Shiba Inu belong to the AKC Non-Sporting Group.
Are Shiba Inu Good Family Dogs?
Yes. As a general rule, Shiba Inu are good family dogs.
But, there are a few things to consider when deciding if one is right for your family.
They tend to have a very strong-willed personality. Much like a cat, the Shiba Inu will generally do what it wants to do. Although they are very intelligent, they have selective hearing when given a command.
My own Shiba usually takes two or three times given the command for her to finally decide that Dad means business, I need to listen.
Shibas are often possessive of people, objects, and food. If you are looking to have one as a family pet, address these issues at a young age.
Make sure to properly socialize your dog as soon as you get him. This dog may not be good with young children, but with children who understand how to respect the dog, he can be wonderful.
Shiba Inu need plenty of exercise, discipline, and patience.
Yet, when cared for properly, Shibas are very low maintenance despite their energy.
Shiba Inu are a small breed dog that maxes out at 25 lbs…so they don’t need much dog food.
Since they don’t require large quantities, you should invest in a high-quality dog food. This is the best starting point for choosing the best dog food for your Inu.
Treats are nice and a great tool for training, but be careful not to give too many. Excessive amounts of treats can cause your Shiba to become overweight.
About a half cup of quality dog food will suffice for most Shiba Inu. Just like people, the more daily exercise, the more food they will need.
Shiba Inu require near constant brushing.
They go through two standard shedding cycles per year. Some individuals will have longer shed cycles than others.
Although they only go through two shed cycles, weekly brushing will help to maintain a healthy coat.
Long haired Shiba Inu may get mats if they are not brushed weekly.
Nail trimming can be a problem with this breed.
While your pup is young, play with his paws when resting. Also, make sure that you have treats on hand when you do cut his nails and reward him for being patient with trimming.
Despite a high energy level, Shiba Inu only needs moderate exercise.
This, plus their small size, makes them a great apartment dog.
Shiba Inu (like most Tinder dates) love to go for long walks along the beach. But they probably won’t cost you as much. :-)
Although they love going for walks, it will not be the end of the world if they miss a day or two.
Shiba Inu will surprise you from day one.
Since it is best to get puppies at 8 weeks or older, Shibas will have potty trained itself by the time you get it.
That’s right, no accidents in the house!
Because of their free-spirited nature, Shiba Inu are not good off leash. Of course, you can train them to be good off leash, but it’s not an innate trait.
They really do listen about as well as a cat.
(In fact, some cats actually listen better.)
This is in spite of the Shiba Inu being a highly intelligent breed.
Shiba Inu have a high prey drive.
If they perceive another animal as prey, they will give chase. This is another reason for keeping the dog on a leash when not fenced in.
If they end up having separation anxiety, this is one of a few breeds of dogs where crate training will help in the long run.
Shiba Inu Health Issues
Shiba Inu are among the healthiest dog breeds.
My last Shiba didn’t go over the rainbow bridge until 17 years old and rarely had any complications.
Shibas have a few health-related complications that are common to the breed. These include:
- Problems with the tendon that connects the knee to the leg.
- Cataracts. Cataracts can show up as early as one or two years of age and are distinctive from the cataracts of old age.
- Hip dysplasia.
Shiba Inu Fun Facts
1. The Number One Thing to Know: They Were Bred As Hunters
Shiba Inu are hunters. It is ingrained in their DNA.
As such they have an extremely high prey drive. If they see an animal or object that they perceive as prey they will chase it.
What this means for you as an owner is that it is important to socialize your Shiba early with animals they may encounter daily.
When your dog is five years old, don’t expect to bring home a new animal and not have problems.
2. Shiba Inu, the Cat Dog!
The Shiba is one of the cleanest dogs that you can own.
This is not because they don’t shed, because they do. Rather, much like a cat, they groom themselves…
Much like cats, Shiba Inu are aloof.
These pooches do not always listen to commands the first or even third time.
They often do not play fetch very well with anyone other than their bonded person. Due to their prey drive, they will chase a ball…but bringing it back is a whole different challenge.
3. Shiba Inu Are One Owner Dogs
Like many breeds, the Shiba Inu typically makes a strong connection with one particular member of the family.
They become fiercely loyal to “their person”. They are still great dogs for families, despite this connection.
My Shiba Inu was my girl, but she always looked out for my kids and wife.
4. They Don’t Bark Much
Unlike some dogs that bark at their own shadow, Shibas are generally quiet.
They may bark at inanimate objects that are out of place, strangers approaching your house, or the occasional squirrel.
Although not known for barking a lot, Shibas have a large vocal range. They have a sound that is uniquely Shiba which some people call the Shiba scream:
Although they do not bark much, they do use their wide range of vocals to express themselves.
5. They Are Drama Queens
Shiba Inu hate having baths and getting their nails done.
When it comes time for grooming, these dogs turn into drama queens. They will emit an almost human-sounding wail in protest.
When scared, hurt, or think something is wrong with them, Shibas will act as if the world is ending.
One Christmas, my dog Ziva got some tape stuck to her paw. The trill of the Shiba-scream as she ran around trying to get it off was a sight to behind. My neighbor actually knocked on the door to make sure that someone wasn’t dying in our apartment.
When not happy or not feeling well, Shibas will mope around and not act like themselves.
If you cannot pinpoint the cause of distress for the dog, such as wanting more attention. Then it would be a good day for a visit to the vet.
6. They are Territorial
This is one issue that we have to constantly address with my wife’s Shiba Anny. From day one, she was not happy with anyone taking away treats or food, even to refill it.
Now that she is 12, she will guard the food dishes, even if she has no intention of eating. When my dog walks by, the teeth come out and the growling starts.
This is a common issue with this breed if you are going to have more than one dog. The love their owners, but don’t care much for anyone else.
7. They are Not Lapdogs
If you are looking for a cuddle bug lapdog, the Shiba Inu is not it!
They are very independent and do not like people holding them, cuddled, and some don’t even care to have people pet them.
Your Shiba is sure to draw much admiration during your daily walk, but they generally don’t like strangers touching them.
If socialized early and often, they can tolerate strangers petting them.
It really would rather be by your side than in your lap.
8. They Think They are Smarter Than You
Just like that young punk at work, yeah you know the one, the one that is always talking about things he knows nothing about but thinks he knows it all…
Shiba Inu are “that guy”.
They are so engrossed in themselves and their motivation, that they don’t feel like listening to you.
Be patient, your dog actually loves you.
Just because he ignores you once, twice, or maybe even three times, don’t freak out. Stay the course and find a way to motivate him into listening.
Show him that you are smarter.
9. They are Escape Artists
Even in an enclosed space, Shibas can still manage to disappear.
Despite their small size, they can jump really high. They can easily jump four feet without a thought. Make sure that your fence is tall enough to keep them in.
Some Shibas have scaled chain-link fences in pursuit of prey. Make sure your fence is stable and works for Shibas.
They are really small!
They will find and travel through the same holes as a rabbit. Make sure that your fence is secure with no holes.
10. They Need You to Lead Them With Patience
You are the alpha in the house. Act like it!
Be patient with your Shiba Inu. He is going to do a lot of things that you would rather him not.
These dogs, as mentioned previously, are drama queens. He will throw a fit or temper tantrum. The best thing you can do to curb this behavior is to ignore the fit and go about your normal routine. If you acknowledge him during the tantrum, you will reinforce this behavior.
11. Don’t Forget the Leash
As smart as the Shiba Inu can be, they lack any sense of street smarts.
Once they lock onto a prey item they go from 0 to 100 in seconds flat. At that point, nothing else in the world matters other than the prey.
No shock collar will snap them out of the prey pursuit. Keep your dog on a leash at all times while not in a fully contained area!
12. They are Good Guard Dogs
Shiba Inu don’t bark a lot, but they will alert you if someone is approaching your house, or knocking on your door.
If something is out of place and doesn’t seem right to them, they will let you know.
They will protect your children from strangers and other animals that enter your yard.
If someone approaches you from behind during a walk, your Shiba may take exception to it and make it known.
13. Stubborn is an Understatement
Shibas just don’t like to listen.
Their independence is inherent to the very nature of their being. You cannot beat it out of them, so please don’t try.
Ever. With any dog.
These dogs are highly motivated by food or toys. Find a way to pique their interest and make them listen to you that way.
14. Small Animals = Food
Guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits, and cats are not suggested as additional house pets.
In fact, any animal your Shiba sees as prey, not a good pet idea.
Even well socialized Shibas will still pursue small animals around the house. When we visit my parent’s house, my wife’s Shiba requires a crate. Otherwise, the game of cat and
mouse Shiba is on!
15. Made for the Cold
Designed for mountainous terrain, the Shiba fur is perfect for cold weather.
They are great companions in colder territories. My dog Ziva loved the snow, and even on the coldest of days, it was hard to get her to come in from playing. She really enjoyed biting the snow and jumping into snow piles.
However, these dogs are not great in the heat. Their fur traps warmth and they need something to keep them cool on those hot summer’s days.
16. They Have Napoleon Syndrome
This shouldn’t be too surprising since they were originally bred to hunt bears, boars, and the like.
Shiba Inu will not stand down from a challenge and even tend to instigate problems with other dogs.
Socialization at a young age is absolutely key. This will help your dog learn how to act around other dogs and people.
17. More Shiba Fun Facts
- Scientific studies have determined that the Shiba Inu is likely the closest domesticated dog to wolves.
- In 1936, Japan declared the Shiba Inu a national treasure.
- The Shiba Inu is the National Dog of Japan.
- The record for oldest Shiba Inu was set in 2011 by a dog named Pusuke at the age of 26. This is ~10 years longer than the average Shiba Inu life expectancy.
- Shiba Inu like to chase their tails.