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What is a Shiba

a red shiba inu
A Shiba Inu is a dog breed that originated in Japan. Shibas have been a very popular pet in Japan for centuries and are gaining popularity in the US recently. The breed was only recognized by the AKC in 1992.

With the increase in popularity for this pet due to the movie, Hachiko, as well as the Shiba Inu Puppy Cam, the breed has become a highly desired pet. However, these dogs are not your standard pet and their behaviors and quirks should be fully understood before deciding to buy one.


The Shiba is a dog breed different in temperament than your typical pet dog. Shibas are an extremely independent and free thinking dog so it takes time to earn their loyalty. However, once earned, Shibas are incredibly loyal and protective pets. As displayed in the popular movie Hachiko, a Dog's Tale, Shibas, like the featured Akita, grow strong attachments to their owner's and rarely to anyone else. Although some pet owners admire this trait, others see it as a fault as they typically only bond to one to two owners.

Shibas are also constantly referred to as being cat-like for their independent nature along with some of their other quirks which include some of the sounds they make as well as being neat freaks. For more about the similarities between the this dog breed and cats read my article Shiba Inu vs. Cats.

Due to their independent nature, Shibas can be difficult to train and it is not recommended as a first dog for anyone who has little experience training and caring for dogs. Although they are quick to learn and are incredibly intelligent, they do not easily become obedient. It takes much more time, patience, and training skills to raise a Shiba than it does for most pets. Shibas also have a tendency of showing dog aggression if not well socialized.

Here is a quote from the National Shiba Club of America:

"A spirited boldness, a good nature, and an unaffected forthrightness, which together yield dignity and natural beauty. The Shiba has an independent nature and can be reserved toward strangers but is loyal and affectionate to those who earn his respect. At times aggressive toward other dogs, the Shiba is always under the control of his handler. Any aggression toward handler or judge or any overt shyness must be severely penalized."

With proper training and care Shibas can be an amazing pet that is affectionate, playful, loyal, and has a unique and wonderful personality.

The History of the Shiba Inu

Their strong will and independence of this pet come from the breed's close relationship to the ancestor of all dog breeds, the gray wolf. Recent DNA analysis confirms that the Shiba Inu is one of the oldest dog breeds, dating back to the 3rd century BC, and is genetically one of the closest domesticated dog breed to the gray wolf.

The title 'Shiba Inu' is often shorted to just 'Shiba.' In Japanese the word Shiba means "brushwood." In old Nagano dialect however "shiba" means "small." The word inu means dog. There is some debate over whether the breed was named after it's size as "small dog" or named "brushwood dog" for it's fur color, or possibly for it being a dog that hunts in the brushwood.

Shibas are often considered a medium dog breed ranging from an average of 17 to 23 pounds full grown but they are the smallest of the Japanese dog breeds. As pets you can sometimes see their hunting nature show as they love to chase pets and will sometimes flatten themselves on the ground when another animal approaches, preparing to pounce. Good training is required if a Shiba is to be around smaller pets.

Shiba Inu Fur Colors

The Shiba's fur can be one of four different colorations: red, sesame, black and tan, or cream.

The "red" shiba is the most common coloration. Red is the standard title for this color but as you can see it is more of an orange coloration with some cream on the cheeks, muzzle, ears, jaw, throat, and abdomen. They sometimes have cream dots above the eyes but not always.

a sesame shiba inu

A sesame has an even mix of red and black fur, with a red undercoat and a black top coat. Sesames also have some white in similar locations as the reds.

Black and Tan
The black and tans are mostly black and often have tan or red "boots" and there is often white triangular mark on both sides of the forechest and sometimes a white strip on the underside of the tail and often the cream or tan dots above the eyes.

The cream Shiba Inu is usually an off white color all the way through with orange around the ears. This is the rarest color and considered a major fault by AKC guidelines. To learn more about why read my article about The Elusive White Shiba Inu.


The Shiba is a small to medium sized dog breed. Standard males are about 14 1/2 inches to 16 1/2 inches tall at the shoulder. Females are 13 1/2 inches to 15 1/2 inches. The preferred size is the middle of the range for each sex. Average weight at the AKC preferred size is approximately 23 pounds for males and 17 pounds for females.


Shiba Inus keep very clean so little bathing is required. Despite being a short haired dog breed they shed a lot due to having a thick undercoat that is blown during shedding season at least twice a year. Daily brushing is often seen as a necessity. It is recommended that owners never shave or cut a Shiba's fur because it is needed to protect them from both cold and hot temperatures.


Health conditions that are known to affect the breed are allergies, glaucoma, cataracts, hip displasia, entropion, and luxating patella. Overall this dog breed has great genetics and is less prone to genetic defects than most dog breeds. It is recommended that owners do joint examinations throughout life however defects are usually spotted early in life and after the first 2 years if no defects have been spotted your Shiba should be free of any joint problems. Eye tests however should definitely be performed yearly since eye problems can develop over time.

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