Shiba Inu – The Ultimate Guide

Shiba Inu History- Where they come from?

Originated from Japan, Shiba Inus belong to the spitz family of dogs. They are the smallest native Japanese dogs that are recognizable for their fluffy coats, foxy body structure, and curled tails. Shiba Inu dog is also called Japanese Brushwood Dog, Japanese Small Dog, Japanese Turf Dog, and Shiba Ken.

The ancestors of this breed accompanied the earliest immigrants to Japan way back in 7000 B.C. It was bred to hunt small and medium game, so that’s why hunters started to show a big interest in this breed.
Shiba Inus are often mistaken for Akita Inus. However, these pooches are much smaller and can come in different coat color varieties.

One of Japanese primitive breeds

It’s important to mention that Shiba Kens lived in the mountainous areas of the Chūbu region. Even admirers of this breed tried to save pure-bred pooches from extinction and they almost disappeared during World War II. Luckily, three subsequent dogs have survived (San’in Shiba, Mino Shiba, and Shinshu Shiba), and they were crossbred into one main breed, Shiba Inus.
The first standard of Shiba Inus has been established in 1934, in Japan. Almost 3 decades later, in 1954, Shiba Inus were brought to the USA.

When was the first litter born?

The first litter of puppies was born in 1979, and the breed was finally recognized by the AKC in 1992. Shiba Inus belong to a non-sporting group of dogs, and they’re primarily kept as lovely pets.

Even though these pooches are not ranked in the 10 most popular dog breeds in the world, their popularity grows year by year. Shiba Kens are agile, cheerful, and can grow into wonderful companions and watchdogs. However, they won’t be a good choice for first-time dog owners who don’t have experience in dog training.

Shibas require plenty of mental stimulation and training lessons because they were bred to hunt. It’s in their genes to hunt prey, so you shouldn’t be surprised if one day, your lovely pet brings you a bird or some other critter as a trophy.

Shiba Inu Breed Standard

As we already mentioned above, Shibas are the smallest of Japanese native dogs. Males usually weigh up to 10 kg, while females weigh up to 8kg. Shibas possess a large percentage of muscle mass, especially males. Females have a slightly feminine appearance but also with powerful structure.
Shiba’s head should have a good nature expression with deep-set eyes. Ears should have a triangular shape, must be pointed and small. Its neck should be sturdy, thick, while the abdomen is well tucked-up and firm.
The coat of Shiba Inus is straight and stiff. It’s double-layered and soft in touch. The fur should be short even on the eyes, face, and ears. Tail hair is slightly longer and stands open in a brush.

shiba inu
Coat colors of Shiba Inus

Shiba Inu’s coat comes in three colors, and the undercoat can be buff, gray, or cream. According to the AKC, these are the only accepted color coat variations on Shiba Inus.

Cream color

The cream color is considered a “major fault” by both the Japan Kennel Club and American Kennel Club.


Urajiro– Cream to white ventral color. This coat color of Shiba Inus should be visible on the sides of the muzzle, cheeks, inside the ears, upper throat inside of the legs, on the abdomen, and ventral side of the tail. The word ‘urajiro’ literally means ‘white underside’. Since this color is not visible, Shiba Inus should never be intentionally bred as show dogs.

Red Shiba Inu

In red Shiba Inus, urajiro should be visible on the throat, forechest, and chest. It is one of the most desirable coat colors, especially in award shows. Red Shibas resemble foxes, and the urajiro does not have sharply defined edges. Instead, it is slightly blurred.

Sesame and black Shiba Inu

In sesame and black Shiba Inus, urajiro is common as a triangular mark on both sides of the forechest.
Black with tan points Shiba Inus have a brownish appearance. Their undercoat can be grey or buff, and the borderline between black and tan areas is clearly defined.

Black and tan Shiba Inu

Black and tan Shiba Inus have a tricolors coat (a white base, followed by a reddish tan middle, and a black tip).

Sesame Shiba Inu

Sesame coat in Shiba Inus have black-tipped hairs on arich red background with urajiro. This is one of the most expensive coat colors in this breed and the most difficult to produce too.

The Shiba Inu’s coat requires to be groomed at least once per week. Since these dogs have undercoat, they shed quite a lot throughout the year. You don’t need to give your Shiba a haircut, because hair trimming ruins their skin and coat appearance. Your vet should be the only one who should recommend hair trimming. It is advisable in case of allergies and if a dog developed hairless patches.

Double-coated dogs such as Shibas defend themselves from harsh weather conditions. Their undercoat is actually a protection that serves to regulate their temperature in cold weather.

Do Shiba Inus change coat color?

Yes, Shibas can change their coat colors until they get final coats. Therefore, you shouldn’t be worried about your Shiba puppy’s coat because it may take a few years until it completely develops the genetically inherited color.

Shiba Inu Temperament and Personality

Strong hunting instinct

Shibas are known as companion dogs with strong hunting instincts. They love to explore and investigate their environment. That’s why owners of these foxy creatures should invest plenty of energy and time in their training.
Even small in size, Shiba Inus are dogs with big personalities. They’re true runners of independent spirits, so it’s advisable to always carry them on a leash when going outside. A cheerful Shiba Ken has a quick reflex, so you should be very careful to calm his hunting instinct.

They want to be leaders

Since Shiba Inus are very dominant, they want to be the main leaders in the house. That’s why you should pay special attention during training lessons and teach your dog from the beginning who is the pack leader.

Training lessons might be challenging

A foxy Shiba Inu will always try to do something in its own way. Therefore, be smart and choose a good motivational tool for training lessons. For example, it could be a toy, snack, or some other item that your Shiba would love to get as a reward.

Shiba Inus are clean dogs

If you’re the owner of this dog, then you’ve probably noticed that he likes to lick paws and other body parts. Just like cats, Shibas love to clean themselves, so you should become worried only if your pooch starts to do it excessively.

Shiba Inus don’t need a human attention

Although they belong to companion dogs, Shibas are very independent and don’t need human affection all the time. Therefore, this breed would a perfect choice for active and sports types of persons.

They’re quite easy to potty train

Shiba Inus are good at learning housebreaking rules. Due to their inborn cleanliness, they will naturally want to keep their living area clean and tidy. It’s advisable to start with potty training lessons as early as possible.

Great watchdogs

Shiba Inus are reserved toward strangers, so they’ll bark to notify you that someone is hanging around the house. Once you check him and see what’s happening, your lovely Shiba will stop barking.

Shiba Inus are very smart

Shiba Inus are very intelligent, and they can quickly learn commands and tricks. However, as we already mentioned, it’s highly important to choose a good motivational tool. Otherwise, your lovely pooch will think he’s smarter than you.

Always ready for outdoor adventures

A lovely Shiba will always be in a mood to go hiking, running, and swimming. He will be the happiest dog on Earth with an active owner who would love to spend plenty of time outdoors.

Bad sides of Shiba Inu’s personality

Just like any other breed, Shiba Inus also have a few bad characteristics. They can get bored very quickly, so their owners should think about how to keep them occupied and entertained when they’re left home alone. Otherwise, they’ll whine, howl, and start to chew on home items to find themselves a job.
These pooches can also behave quite stubbornly, so you always have to motivate them in the right direction.

Shiba Inu Lifespan

Shiba Inu lives between 12 to 16 years. If we provide them with good care and nutrition, they’ll be able to live even longer. Long walks and exercise are two routines that will keep your pooch healthy. A foxy Shiba is meant to always be in a ‘hurry’ and tend to explore the environment. The longest living Shiba Inu lived for 26 years. Named Pusuke, this dog died in December 2011 and lived three years less than the world record for the longest living dog.

Shiba Inu Health Issues

Although this breed is generally healthy, you should stay aware of certain health issues and notice any change on time. As a responsible owner, it’s normal to want your dog to stay with you for many years to come.


Shiba Inus may suffer from environmental allergies during the season of blooming. Typical symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and clogged nasal discharge. Allergies more commonly occur during warmer months, and can also be triggered by food.

Therefore, it’s recommended to visit your vet if you notice any strange occurence in your pet. Food allergies are followed by skin itchines, runny poop, and many other symptoms too.


From all organs and body parts on Shiba Inus’ bodies, their eyes are the most sensitive. Glaucoma slowly ruins the optic nerve in the eye and if you leave it untreated, it may end up with blindness. This condition occurs with severe and sudden eye pressure, and redness. Prolonged increases of pressure within the eye can result in enlargement of the eyeball, displacement of the lens, and breaks in a membrane of the cornea.
Using different eye drops can draw fluid out of the eye and decrease the pressure, while surgical treatments are required in severe cases.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia often occurs in large breeds, however, it can also happen in smaller dogs too. We can describe it as a condition where one or both hip joints develop abnormally. Since it’s followed by a dog’s inability to climb the stairs, bunny hopping, and swaying walk, it often needs to be solved with surgery. Including chondroitin, Omega-3, and Omega-6 supplements can help in easing pains, but they can’t heal the deformity.


When the thyroid doesn’t develop properly, a Shiba Inu can develop hypothyroidism. Dogs who suffer from this illness will be lethargic, prone to obesity, and develop hairless patches on the skin. Luckily, this condition can also be kept under control by taking the prescribed therapy.

Dental diseases

Since Shiba Inu’s teeth and jaw are predisposed to hunt, these pooches should be allowed to chew durable toys made of rubber. They help in preventing tartar and plaque on their teeth.


Pyometra occurs only in unspayed females during the heat cycle. It is a sort of bacterial infection that happens when the growth of cells in the uterus is at its highest production rate. It commonly occurs on Shibas, so that’s why females need to get spayed.

Shiba Inu Maintenance

We all know that every dedicated dog owner wants to provide his pet with the best care and nutrition. From the moment you’ve chosen a Shiba Inu for a pet, you have to be prepared for a lot of brushing and house cleaning. These little foxes shed a lot, so your house will never be a completely hairless place.

Shiba Inu Grooming

Due to their rich coats, Shiba Inus should be brushed at least once a week. It’s preferred to use brushes with metal needles that feature silicone, protective coating on top. They have double coats which are prone to collect dirt, debris, and allergens.

Therefore, by performing regular brushing, your dog will not only get rid of dead hair but will also stay clean.
Shiba Inu’s coat can get matted if they don’t get regular brushing but pure specimens usually don’t have such issues.

The shedding season lasts during the spring and fall. During the spring, Shiba Kens get rid of old hair so they can feel more pleasant during warmer months.
On the other hand, the second shedding cycle serves to prepare the coat for the winter season. Their undercoats become thicker so they can feel warm in low temperatures.

How to easier deal with Shiba Inu’s shedding?

Besides performing regular combing with a needle brush, you can also use a pet-friendly vacuum cleaner and grooming glove.

Grooming gloves usually feature soft silicone pins, so your little fox will also get a pleasant massage during the routine. Since some pooches get afraid of the sound of vacuum cleaners, you can try feeding your Shiba with snacks and trying with smaller and low-sound vacuum cleaners.

The grooming procedure knows to be very messy, so it would be best to choose a yard, bathroom, or some other place that would be easy to clean.

Shiba Inu Bathing

Just like any other dog, a Shiba Inu will get dirty when going on outdoor adventures. Even though these pooches are known for their cleanliness, they’ll need frequent baths during the shedding season.

By bathing your Shiba’s coat, you’ll help it to stay smooth, silky, and healthy. And…we all have to admit that the coat is the first thing we spot on dogs. It reveals a lot about the dog’s health and care.
Depending on your dog’s habits and lifestyle, you should be able to determine the number of baths your pet will need. Speaking generally, once or twice a month would be enough to rinse all the dirt from the dog’s coat. It’s also important to mention that choosing the right shampoo is of great importance.
Since they can suffer from allergies, our recommendation is to buy dog shampoos that are free of parabens and that contain only natural ingredients. Olive oil, Coconut Oil, and Aloe Vera are widely used in dog cosmetics. Therefore, try to find products with one of them.

Using baby and human shampoos is strictly forbidden. Shiba Inu’s skin is more alkaline than human skin, with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.2 (5,6). An increase in cutaneous alkalinity may lead to canine seborrheic dermatitis, which is not only painful but also difficult to heal. Even though you think that baby shampoos might sound like the best choice, believe us, they’re not. Dog shampoos are milder than the mildest baby shampoo!

To properly bathe your Shiba Inu, you should first soak their fur with water well. Add a small amount on a shampoo on the back and gently smear the foam throughout the body. You have to pay special attention on armpits and place around the tail. Avoid cleaning the area around the eyes and mouth with shampoo and don’t let the water enter the ears. Your dog’s paw pads and place between toes should also be cleaned and checked for debris and stuck plant pieces.

After you finish the process of bathing, rinse the coat well. Use a towel to absorb the water from the dog’s fur and use a dog-friendly hairdryer.
To help your pet to get used to baths, it’s important to start with this routine from an early age.

How to get rid of a smelly odor from your Shiba Inu coat?

We all have to admit that lovely cat-like Shibas possess that well-known doggy odor. Their coats can hide debris, dirt, and dander that make them ‘smell wonderful’.
And…while there are still owners who think that frequent baths will harm their dog’s skin…believe us- they won’t. With so many quality shampoos available, your dog’s skin can only become better and your dog will smell wonderful.

In the meanwhile, you can also use dry-cleaning foams with herbal ingredients that will not only leave a pleasant scent but will make the coat smooth and shiny.

Wet baby wipes can also help in removing dust and allergens from the coat. They don’t contain alcohol and are often rich in oils.

Shiba Inu Tail

A marvelous Shiba Inu’s tail represents the curling crown of confidence. We also call them ring tails, because of a recognizable shape. A Shiba Inu’s tail help retain body heat and keeps the dog warm during the harsh winters. So far, you’re probably noticed that your Shiba loves to sleep in a curled position. During the winter months, these pooches put their tails over their heads to warm up sensitive body parts such as the nose.

Even though Shiba Inu’s tail is strong and covered with a long coat, we advise you to be very careful during brushing. Shiba Inus don’t like harsh coat brushing, so try to be as gentle as possible while grooming their tail.

Besides a so-called ‘ring tail’, these dogs can also have a sickle-shaped tail. It also curls towards the back but doesn’t completely make the ‘ring’ shape. This type of tail was commonly found in Shiba Minus that were older cousins of Shiba Inus. Therefore, this fact can reveal a lot about your dog’s roots. A sickle tail is a phenotypical characteristic that clearly separates dogs from wolves.

The tail on a Shiba Inu serves to give balance, mobility, and grace when on the move. A weak tail is not desirable since it reveals bad genes and improper breeding.

Shiba Inu Ears

A pointy Shiba Inu’s ears make them wonderful watchdogs and guards. They may take a few months to stand up, so you don’t have to be worried if your puppy’s ears still didn’t become erect.

The ears should get their final shape by the 12th week. Therefore, if they don’t start to stand up after that period, then your pooch is probably not purebred or he suffers from a certain health issue.
Since Shiba Kens have wide opened ears, it’s essential to daily check them for stuck pebbles and dirt.

Using a hypoallergenic Ear-Cleaning solution is also advisable because it will help in maintaining these tiny body parts healthy.
Squeeze a vet-approved ear-cleaning solution into the ear and gently massage the base for about 30 sec. When you hear a squishing sound, it’s the sign that the solution ‘broke’ the debris.

Allow your pooch to shake the head and use a towel to protect yourself and to clean his face. To finish the cleaning process, use gauze or cotton balls for removing the debris from the outer ear.

When performing ear cleaning, it’s essential to make your dog comfortable and pleasant. You certainly don’t want him to feel frightened of this routine and make permanent traumas. Therefore, start to teach your pet to get used to this routine from an early age. Use snacks, toys, and all those items he likes to play with. They’ll help in distracting your dog from the cleaning process.

Shiba Inu Teeth

Shiba Inus are born hunters, so their teeth are sharp and jaws very powerful. They’re always in the mood to chew on something and keep their muzzles occupied, so that’s why it we need to help them to spend their pent-up energy.
Every dog starts to develop teeth approximately 20 days after birth. They’re called milk teeth, while permanent teeth grow after 100 days of birth.
The teething period is very uncomfortable and painful for all dogs, so that’s why it’s important to help your Shiba Inu to easier deal with this stage.

Tooth brushing and chew toys

Dental health is an important part of your dog’s life and it includes regular tooth brushing and allowing a pet to play with chew toys. Chew toys for dogs that are made of rubber will help in preventing tartar and plaque which is the main cause of periodontitis.
On the other hand, tooth brushing is the most effective way to prevent dental disease and tooth decay. Most puppies will need to gradually go into the process because it represents an odd sensation for them.

Using toothpaste for humans is not allowed since it features toxic ingredients for our pets. Dog-specific toothpaste is made with safe ingredients, and it won’t harm the dog’s digestive system in case of swallowing. It would be best to brush your dog’s teeth daily, however, even twice a week will significantly help in keeping their teeth healthy.

Dental treats

Dental treats are specifically created to clean the dog’s teeth from plaque and tartar. They feature breath-refreshing ingredients as well, so besides clean teeth, your Shiba Inu will also have an odor-free mouth scent.
Dental snacks can be a very practical solution to improve dental health because they often feature bacon, meat, or cheese flavor.

Shiba Inu Nails

Another routine that will help your Shiba Inu to stay healthy and well-cared is nail trimming. It can be an anxiety task for many pooches, so that’s why it’s essential to perform it gradually. No dog should feel frightened about this routine because it’s very important for keeping their paws healthy.
Ingrown nails can be very painful and cause even mobility issues. A good rule of thumb is to trim your Shiba’s nails when they start touching the ground. Much like human nails, they can curls up and grown inward which will be the worst case. That’s why it’s essential to perform the procedure on time.
To make your pooch more comfortable during this routine, you can let him lick the spoon of peanut butter while you handle the nails. Start slowly because it’s crucial for making your pet relaxed and comfortable.
Your Shiba Inu’s nails consist of two parts. Those are the living pink quick and the hard outer material called the shell. To successfully perform the trimming, pay attention not to hurt the quick. It’s filled with blood and can cause pain in case of damage.

Shiba Inus and kids– How do they get along?

If you have kids, then you certainly want to choose a kid-friendly dog that will behave gently toward them. Just like kids, Shiba Inus possess witty and playful personalities that search for interaction.

Shiba Inus and kids can build a very nice relationship if both sides are learned how to behave. A dog should be well-trained and socialized on time. That’s how you’ll prevent him from behavioral issues such as aggressiveness and jealousy. Note that even the friendliest breeds in the world can show bad behavior toward kids if they haven’t been properly socialized.

Therefore, start teaching your dog from the start who is the pack leader and what are his boundaries. Shiba Inus can be excellent family dogs as long as the family knows what to expect and if it’s dedicated to proper training lessons.

On the other hand, kids should also know their limits and treat dogs with respect. Tail and ear pulling can really make any dog angry. Therefore, small children should never be left unattended with dogs.
We also need to mention the Shiba’s great guard abilities. So, if there’s something going on with your kids, be sure that your Shiba will alert you. They will always impress you with their quick learning and ability to figure things out as well.

Be careful with your Shiba Inu’s toys

Toys represent your Shiba’s holy items. They are highly possessive of their food and toys, so that’s why we don’t advise you to interrupt them during play and meals. Make sure you always hide your Shiba’s toys whenever small kids are in his vicinity. He can become very angry if something is taken away from him.

Shiba Inus and dogs- Is the second dog in the house recommended?

Shiba Inus love to be the kings in their kingdom. Due to their dominant personalities, they won’t get along well with another dog with the same nature. Shibas would find kind, friendly, and calm breeds as their perfect playmates. Two Shibas can also be a good match but only if they’re of the opposite sex.

This breed possesses excellent hunting abilities, so they should never be released from the leash. A curious Shiba will always tend to escape to find prey. It’s something in their blood and we will never deter them from such behavior.

Shiba Inus and cats- Are they a good match?

The reality about the relationship between Shiba Inus and cats is that some will do well with cats while some won’t. Like we already mentioned, Shibas are quite dominant and they belong to primitive breeds. At the same time, cats also behave on the same social level, so Shibas and felines can get along, but they also know their place in the house.
It would be best to introduce a kitten and a Shiba Inu from their early age. If they grow up together, they can make an unbreakable relationship and kind cooperation. In case you want to bring a kitten into your family with an adult Shiba, it’s essential to perform the steps gradually.

Keep the cat in the cage so your dog can get used to her scent. After a few minutes, you should put your Shiba on a leash and have someone hold him while you open the cage door and pick up the kitten.

Slowly place the cat on a safe place, such as your lap and reward your Shiba with treats and praise words such as ‘Good boy!’
Make sure you monitor your dog’s behavior all the time during the meeting with a new family member. If your dog shows aggression, growls, and barks, then we recommend you take a step back and repeat this procedure daily.

Shiba Inu Heat Tolerance

Thanks to their impressive hunting genes, Shiba Inus are very tolerant of different weather conditions. This breed is actually made to be outdoors and withstand an all-weather climate.

However, by going through decades, these pooches got used to indoor living conditions. People love to keep them as loyal pets and brave guards, so today’s Shibas can’t sustain spending so much time in the hot sun.

The good thing is that their double coat serves as a protection and sort of ventilation. Aside from this feature, every dog should be constantly monitored while spending time in the sun. Our advice is to always search for shady spots and choose cooler parts of the day for a walk. In that way, you’ll save your pooch from dehydration and will make him more comfortable to walk on different pavements.

Your Shiba Inu’s paws are the only spot on their bodies where they can sweat. Therefore, you also have to think about how to keep his paw pads safe from burns and blisters while walking on hot concrete or sand. If there’s a possibility, always choose to walk on the grass and under trees. 

In that way, you help your dog to feel more pleasant and comfortable during strolls and prevent him from overheating.

How do you know if your Shiba became overheated?

Besides feeling weak and lethargic (which is not common for Shiba Inus), overheating can be followed by these symptoms:
– Elevated body temperature
– Increased pulse and heartbeat
– Excessive thirst
– Excessive panting and short of breath
– Excessive drooling
– Changes in gum color or tongue (bright or dark red)
– Disorientation, stumbling, or weakness
– Vomiting

In case of a heat stroke, your dog will require immediate help such as giving him water, placing him in a cool place, and gently placing cold and wet cloths on his head, neck and belly. You can also put his paw in water because these spots are in charge of temperature regulation.

Shiba Inu Cold Tolerance- Can they live outside?

Since this ancient breed has been braving the harsh winters of the Japanese mountains for centuries, Shibas endure the cold very well. Therefore, if you’re a lover of winter sports, Shiba Inus will be the best choice for you.
They welcome winter with joy and happiness and are ready to spend hours and hours playing in the snow. On the other hand, being left with wet fur for hours isn’t a good idea for any dog breed.

Just because they have a double coat, it’s doesn’t mean that we should leave them to sleep or rest outside in the winter. Shiba Inus can suffer from hypothermia too. Getting used to cold and freezy weather takes some time. If your Shiba is still a puppy, dressing him in clothes will be a good idea. Even though Shiba Inus have thick coats, putting a waterproof jacket on their bodies will save you from drying their fur when you get back from a walk.

Paw protection is especially important because sharp and icy terrains covered with street salt can cause burns. Your Shiba’s paws are left to fend for themselves to speak. Therefore, use thick and waterproof socks or dog boots to cover these tiny body parts and protect them from harmful elements.

Washing the paws with warm water will also be a good solution for increasing blood circulation and rinsing the street salt off in case your dog walked barefoot.
If you’ve spent a few hours outside in the winter, then it’s highly advisable to monitor your Shiba Inu’s body language. That’s how you’ll be able to spot if your pooch developed signs of hypothermia.

These are the most common symptoms of hypothermia in dogs:
– Shivering
– Shaking, trembling
– Slow heart rate
– Pale or gray gums
– Stumbling or lack of coordination
– Leg lifting
– Muscle stiffness

Wrapping up

We all know that every human wants to find a dog that will be obedient, loyal, and friendly. Although this might sound like an impossible mission, it’s actually easily achievable by investing your time and energy in training lessons. Our dogs are our mirrors. They pick up our emotions and behavior, so you can’t expect to see a nervous human living with a calm-tempered dog. Therefore, we can claim that you’re the only one responsible for your dog’s obedience and behavior. You’re his/her parent and the only pack leader he/she can trust.

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