The Shiba Inu, also known as the Shiba Ken, originated from Japan. It is one of Japan’s most popular and oldest dog breeds. They were bred to hunt wild boar and small game using their keen sight and smell abilities in the rugged mountains of Japan.

Brief History

The Shiba Inu has had cultural significance in that this breed is considered a natural monument and very nearly became extinct during World War II. The first of this breed to enter the U.S was in 1954 with a military family. “Shiba” means brushwood and “ Inu” means dog. They are popular today in the U.S as companion dogs.

Physical Features

The Shiba Inu is a foxy, medium-sized dog with a compact, well-muscled body. They typically have broad heads with dark, slanting eyes and a black nose. Shibas also have small erect ears. This breed has a double coat with a thick outer coat that can range from red, to sesame (black-tipped hairs on a red background) to black with tan points. The undercoat is usually cream, buff or gray. Their fur is short throughout their entire bodies, including face, neck and legs. Their tails are thick and powerful, and are carried over the body in a curled position. Hind legs are strong with a wide stance, forelegs and feet are moderately spaced.

Average Height:

14.5 – 16.5 inches

Average Weight:

17-23 pounds

Life Expectancy:

12-15 years


The Shiba Inu is an independent and proud dog. This breed is alert, intelligent and curious. The Shiba loves to explore and has been known to wander. Although reserved with strangers, this breed is warm and affectionate to family members and close friends. It may be aggressive toward other dogs, and needs to be socialized early on in life.

The Shiba Inu does well with positive dog training classes early on during puppyhood.

This breed may be stubborn and shy, and needs to be around people and other dogs regularly. Shibas tend to be protective around family members and benefit from an experienced and attentive dog parent.

This breed enjoys playing around at the dog park, going for long walks and being part of family outings. They love to wander around and need a closed and secure backyard so as not to escape. Though they love the outdoors, Shibas need to live indoors and do not do well being alone all day.

Special Needs

The Shiba Inu needs to be supervised carefully when out and about in the backyard or garden. This breed wanders and escapes easily. This breed has special grooming needs, and is prone to separation anxiety.

Possible Health Concerns

This is generally a healthy dog breed, but is prone to a few health concerns:

  • Hip Dysplasia. This is a hereditary condition that affects the Shiba. HD is an abnormal development of the hip joint in medium and large dog breeds. It is generally characterized by a loose joint, and then degenerative joint disease.  Excessive growth, types of exercise, nutritional factors, and hereditary factors all come in to play with hip dysplasia. Consult with your veterinarian for expert advice. 
  • Elbow Dysplasia is an abnormal development of the elbow joint in young, large, rapidly-growing dogs. It involves abnormal bone growth, cartilage development, or joint stresses. Elbow dysplasia is considered to be one of the most common causes of osteoarthritis of the canine elbow.
  • Skin Allergies can result in severe itching and scabbing. Your veterinarian will also prescribe medications. Shibas usually don’t start having allergies until they reach 6 months of age. It’s important to visit your veterinarian at the first onset of scratching or itching since these skin irritations can lead to severe skin infections.


Since the Shiba needs moderate exercise, it’s important to keep them fit and active, so as to prevent bursts of energy or destructive behavior during the adolescent period.

The Shiba Inu needs positive training classes and fun activities like Frisbee or fetch. Canine sporting events like Canicross and sledding are also favorites to this breed. Keep your Shiba indoors during the hot summer months, and exercise during the early morning or late afternoon hours when it’s cooler. Hiking, biking or skijoring are also fun sports this dog loves.

Because this breed can be overly energetic, Shiba pet parents shouldn’t resort to long periods of crating.

A calm, long walk will usually suffice when this breed is feeling energetic. Adolescent Shibas need regular off-leash runs at the dog park or beach.


Some Shibas may be picky eaters. It’s always best to consult with your veterinarian on diet. Ask your vet about supplements and determine whether your Shiba has any vitamin deficiencies. 

There are numerous organic dry and wet commercial dog foods that contain a wide variety of healthy ingredients. These may cost slightly more, but are definitely worth it. BARF diets have been popular in the past. This includes bones and raw food, raw meat, and ground raw vegetables. That said, never feed your Shiba cooked bones because they will splinter and may cause choking or fatal internal injuries.

If your Shiba’s diet is well-balanced, they should have a shiny coat, high energy, healthy gums and teeth and be free of digestive problems.


This breed sheds a lot. Although it’s been said that Shibas shed twice a year, some pet parents have said that it lasts for 6 months at a time. If your Sheba has a long coat, you will need to be vigilant about matting and knots. Brushing and combing during shedding season helps prevent shedding throughout the home — and will remove dirt and loose hair. 

Shiba’s need regular nail trimming and ear cleaning. Brushing this dog’s teeth every day, and visiting your veterinarian twice yearly for dental cleanings is a priority in maintaining good canine health.

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