All About Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu dog with a burnt orange collar and silver tag resting on carpet

These good-natured Japanese dogs flew under the radar for years. It wasn’t until 2013, with the creation of the doge meme, that the Shiba Inu became more widely recognized. Today, Shiba are loved and recognized all around the world, and it’s no secret why.

About the Breed

The modern-day Shiba Inu dog is easily recognizable with their fox-like appearance. But, years ago, there used to be three different types of Shiba—the Shinshu Shiba from Nagano Prefecture, the Sanin Shiba from the northeast mainland, and the Mino Shiba from the Gifu Prefecture. Each of these names reflects the dog’s place of origin in Japan.

The Japanese name Shiba Inu translates to “brushwood dog.” Some say this translation refers to the physical areas where Shiba Inu would typically go hunting. Others believe that this name refers to the red brushwood color, which is a near-identical color to the red coat of the Shiba Inu dog.

Although their looks and names have changed throughout the years, a few things have remained the same for decades—their big personalities, the companionship they provide, and their undeniably adorable appearance.

Breed History

Shiba Inu are the smallest of the original six Spitz dog breeds that originated in Japan. They are an ancient breed that has been traced back to 300 b.c. Originally bred to be hunting dogs and to help flush out small game, such as rabbits and birds, these dogs are naturally agile, strong, energetic, and bold.

As a result of WWII, the Shiba Inu population decreased drastically, and the breed took another devastating blow in the 1950s, due to a bout of distemper. Between these two events, the Shiba Inu breed was nearly lost. Wanting to save the dog that the Japanese consider a “national treasure,” people began breeding together the three different types of Shiba.

Meanwhile, it was during the 1950s that the Shiba Inu was first introduced to the United States. While stationed abroad, a handful of U.S. service members fell in love with this breed and decided to bring these dogs back home to the States.

For about two decades, these dogs had a low profile, but Americans began breeding the Shiba by the end of the 1970s. Over time, this dog’s popularity steadily increased, and while they are now in the top 50 most popular dogs in the United States, they remain the number one choice of canine companion in Japan.

shiba dog resting with head between paws

Attributes

Most people recognize the Shiba Inu as a red-colored dog, but these pups can actually be found in three other colors. Besides the signature red, Shiba can have black and tan, cream, and sesame colored fur. They are muscular, with a compact body, they have dark-colored eyes and alert, pointed ears. Perhaps their most defining trait is their fluffy, curled tail.

Being such a unique and interesting dog, there is always more to learn about these little pups. Many pet parents have questions they want to be answered about this breed before adopting their own Shiba. Here are some of the most common.

How is the Shiba Inu personality unique?

Talk to any Shiba parent, and you are sure to hear all the reasons why this dog’s well-rounded personality makes them a perfect companion and family member. These dogs are intelligent, loyal, and most have a big personality. They adore their family and prefer to spend as much time as possible either playing, hiking, or cuddling with their loved ones.

Although trusting with their own family, Shiba may come off as shy or apprehensive when introduced to new people. With a little bit of time and some positive rewards, chances are your pup will be accepting of their new friends in no time.

What is the average Shiba Inu weight?

Even though they are a strong, muscular dog, Shiba are still small in stature and weight. Generally, these dogs can weigh between 17-23 pounds and stand around 13-17 inches in height.

What is the expected Shiba Inu life expectancy?

The typical lifespan of a Shiba Inu is around 12-15 years of age. While this is the average, a dog’s lifespan can be affected by many other factors, such as their living environment, diet, exercise, and if they have any pre-existing conditions.

Is a Shiba Inu hypoallergenic?

Shiba Inu are typically not hypoallergenic. In fact, if there were such a thing as being opposite of hypoallergenic, that would generally better describe these dogs. Shiba shed frequently, and twice a year when they blow coat (shedding of the undercoat), it may look like it’s snowing inside of your house. In short, if you have a dog allergy, Shiba are nearly guaranteed to cause an allergic reaction—so allergy bearers, be aware!

If you have ever been around a Shiba Inu, or perhaps if you have been doing some reading about the breed, chances are you have encountered something called the “Shiba scream.” Typically during a time of stress, like getting their nails trimmed, a Shiba may release a loud, high pitched wail. Some have even been known to let out a short cry when they are extremely happy or excited. Nonetheless, these outbursts of extreme expression have earned Shiba Inu the title of being a doggy drama queen.

Fun Fact

The signature curled Shiba Inu tail is used for more than just looks. During the cold winter weather, Shiba will sleep with their nose tucked into their tail, thus protecting them from the harsh temperatures.

Grooming

Much of a Shiba Inu’s grooming routine is low, regular maintenance. Their ears should be examined regularly for signs of redness or a bad odor, which are both signs of an infection. Their teeth should receive at least one brushing a week (preferably more), and their nails will need to be trimmed about every one to two months. You will know it is time to cut them when you can hear the nails click on the floor.

Shiba are actually quite hygienic, so they will often clean their paws and legs themselves and avoid muddy or dirty situations. For instance, if you come across a puddle on your walk, your Shiba will most likely steer clear of that mess. Because they are an overall clean dog, Shiba’s do not need baths as frequently as other dogs, so one bath every few months is adequate.

Despite the fact that these dogs sound like they are extremely easy to groom, there is something all possible Shiba Inu parents should be aware of—Shiba shed an immense amount. Due to their stiffer outer coat and thick, softer inner coat, which makes up their double coat, these fluffy pups will be shedding more often than not.

Be prepared for a low, steady stream of hair to fall out all year round and for your dog to blow coat around the spring and autumn seasons each year. Frequent brushings can help catch all of that loose hair and undercoat before it falls out onto your furniture, floors, or clothes. Besides catching extra hair, persistent brushings can additionally help keep your dog’s coat healthy.

It is recommended that as a dog parent, you begin good grooming habits as soon as you bring your dog home. Teaching your four-legged friend that baths and nail trimmings aren’t something to be scared of can help alleviate unnecessary stress for both you and your dog in the future. Don’t forget! Positive reinforcements can go a long way.

shiba dog with red collar black leash and silver tag standing outside

Care

Just like other dog breeds, Shiba Inu require a healthy diet and an appropriate amount of daily exercise in order to stay healthy. If you are unsure of what type of food or how much food your dog should be eating, talk to your veterinarian about recommendations.

Shiba Inu are fairly active dogs, and they oftentimes require more exercise than what some dog parents may initially realize. It is important to take your dog on either a few short or one longer walk or hike a day. Giving your Shiba time to run around in the backyard freely is also beneficial. However, you must have a fenced-in and secure space when you let your dog off leash. Shiba are notorious escape artists who sometimes try to dash out open doors or through little openings in fences. Due to their high energy level and natural prey drive, it is often quite difficult to get them back once a Shiba gets loose.

That being said, these dogs often do well with kids of all ages but make sure their interaction is supervised, and that older kids know to never let the dog outside without a leash. Besides kids, Shiba can also learn to get along with other dogs in the household, just be mindful of the first few interactions that the dogs have with one another.

Unfortunately, Shiba do not always get along well with smaller pets such as cats, rabbits, or guinea pigs. Remember, Shiba are hunting dogs at heart, so even if they are extremely well-trained, it is still likely that their natural instinct will take over.

Training

Equally as important as grooming, all dog parents should begin training their dog or puppy as soon as possible. Establishing good habits and training techniques early on is vital to having a manageable and well-behaved dog.

When it comes to teaching your dog, it is essential to realize that each dog will learn at their own pace and in their own way. For instance, Shiba Inu are notoriously difficult to train and thus are not the best choice for first-time dog parents or for people who do not have the time and dedication to put towards training.

Due in part to their independent and bold personality, Shiba have proven to be a little more challenging to train, but you can look at that as part of the challenge. Try making your training sessions a fun experience with food or toy rewards and feel free to get creative—your Shiba may respond better with a variety of training methods.

When it comes to Shiba Inu, training may seem like a daunting task. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or would like advice, look into dog obedience classes offered in your area. Classes such as these can be a great opportunity to socialize your dog, meet other Shiba parents, and speak with a professional dog trainer.

As tough as it is to train your Shiba with regular commands, it is nearly the exact opposite when it comes to housetraining. In fact, you are quite in luck! Being a dog that is concerned with their hygiene, most Shiba are not fans of using the restroom indoors, where they happen to sleep and play. It has been noted time and time again that after just a few quick reminders of where the door is and how to let someone know that they need to go out, Shiba become housetrained incredibly fast and rarely have accidents.

Although that these dogs can usually be trusted not to have accidents in the house, that does not excuse them from any other type of bad behavior, especially when they are left unattended. To avoid the issue of your dog destroying a pair of shoes or eating something they shouldn’t, it is always helpful to crate train your dog. Over time, most dogs will begin to associate their crates as a safe place where they can retreat to when they are tired, stressed, or scared. Crate training has many benefits, including preparing your dog to be in a smaller space in case they ever need to be boarded or stay at an animal hospital.

Common Health Issues

Although Shibu Inu are overall healthy dogs, they are still susceptible to a few health conditions. According to our claims data,* the following are the top health conditions that affect this breed.

Even when specific conditions are common among a certain type of dog, there is no guarantee that your dog will experience any or all of these issues. A dog’s health can be determined by many factors, including their diet and exercise, their living environment, and if they have any pre-existing health conditions.

In order to stay a step ahead of any major health problems, it is vital to schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. These appointments will allow your veterinarian to become familiar with your dog’s overall health and increase the chances of catching a health problem early on.

When you welcome a new dog into your home, it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the common conditions among your dog’s breed. For instance, German Shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia, and bloat afflicts Great Danes. By familiarizing yourself with the health conditions most likely to appear in your dog, you can help stay one step ahead and keep an eye out for any early and possible symptoms.

*Internal Claims Data, 2014-2019

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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