If you haven’t seen one in the dog park, you’ve surely seen them on the internet. A muse for memes, cartoons, and cryptocurrency, the Shiba Inu is not your average pooch. Does your Shiba Inu need a Pet Minder who understands their quirks? With Mad Paws, you can find a Shiba-friendly Dog Sitter in Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, and everywhere in between. And if your Shiba has a more refined palate, sign them up to Mad Paws Dinner Bowl for the best raw dog food!
Quick Facts ✔
Height – 33 – 41cm
Weight – 6.5 – 11kg
Lifespan – 10 – 15 years
Country of origin – Japan
Breed type – Non-Sporting Group
- Experienced Dog Owners
- Dog Owners with plenty of time for training
- Owners who want an independent dog
Shiba Inu Breed History ♜
The Shiba Inu is very much a national treasure in Japan. In fact, it was declared as such in 1936. But how old is this breed, really? And where did it come from?
Some experts say that the Japanese have been developing the breed as long as they’ve been recording history, which is to say this little guy might have been around since 7,000 BCE (or even before.) Yeah, you read that right. We couldn’t believe it ourselves, but it’s true. There’s evidence in the form of ruins and primitive art that suggests that humans at the time were living alongside small Shiba Inu-like dogs.
Over time, these dogs were trained to help Japanese hunters take down deer and wild boar. They were also adept at hunting smaller prey, like rodents and birds, on their own, which made them great companions to have around.
Obviously, dog breed lineages are never straightforward, and the same is true for the Shiba Inu. So, here’s where things get a little bit complicated. Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense in just one paragraph (okay, maybe two.)
There are six native dog groups in Japan: the Shiba, Shikoku, Kishu, Kai, Hokkaido, and Akita. The Shiba category is the smallest and was at one time broken down further into three subgroups: Shiba Minu, Shiba Sanin, and Shiba Shinshu. These three dogs were bred in different prefectures in Japan and had slightly different qualities. The Shiba Sanin was known for their independent character, and the Shiba Minu for their red colour. The Shiba Shinshu, meanwhile, boasted a small frame and thick double coat.
By the 1920’s the native dogs in Japan, especially the Shiba group, were in bad shape. There weren’t enough dogs left to continue the three lines separately, so breeders merged them to create one dog. What they got was the small, compact, red, curly-tailed, independent, adorable doggo that we know today: the Shiba Inu.
With the help of some dedicated dog activists, Japan recognised the Shiba Inu as a national treasure in 1936. The extra attention and dedication meant that the Shiba Inu was saved from extinction, even in the turmoil of WWII.
As Japan rebuilt and started to prosper, the Shiba Inu gained popularity. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that the Shiba Inu quickly became the most popular dog in Japan. And by the 1950s, you could find breeding programs in the US as well. It took a bit longer for the Shiba Inu to reach other parts of the world, but nowadays, they’re all over.
The Shiba Inu has long since given up its past as a hunting dog. These days, you can find them as companion animals, show dogs, and internet sensations.
Special Aside: Shiba Inu Etymology
Okay, before we move on from Shiba Inu History, we know some of you are just itching for the etymology of this doggo’s name so here it is:
First of all, we know Inu means “dog” in Japanese. No mystery there. But the meaning of the word “Shiba” is something of a contested talking point. Does it mean simply “small dog?” Probably not.
The more accepted theory is that Shiba means “small brushwood dog” in the dialect from the Nagano prefecture where the Shiba Shinsho was raised. This may be because these little doggos were excellent at diving snout first into brushwood to surprise nesting birds and rodents.
Another theory is that the dog was named after the golden colour of the brushwood in fall. This may be true, although as we’ve mentioned, not all of these puppers had that bright reddish coat. But, it’s pretty poetic, so if you like that story, go with it.
There’s no real record of why these doggos are called Shiba, so it’s up to interpretation.
Shiba Inu Personality Traits ★
The Shiba Inu is not your average doggo. This little guy will not curl up on your lap. Isn’t as likely to rest their head on your foot. Hardly ever barks. This may lead you to ask: is this even a doggo at all? Obviously yes, but with a few quirks.
Shiba Inus have often been called the cat of dogs because of their independent nature. But just like not all cats are independent, we should also call this statement into question a little bit.
Yes, Shiba Inus are what you might consider standoffish. They don’t like to be held, cuddled, or even touched much of the time. But that doesn’t mean they’re not attached. Shiba Inus are very loyal to their Owners and will seek out affection and attention from the people they trust.
Some Shiba Inu Owners say that their doggo will follow them around from room to room, just to ensure everyone in the family is happy. You’ll also know that your Shiba Inu loves you because of how excited they get every time you come home. But if you’re looking for a dog that will curl up on the couch every night? Well, don’t get your hopes up.
Another thing you should know about Shiba Inus is that while they will warm to their family, strangers aren’t readily welcome. That doesn’t mean that your Shiba Inu will be aggressive with people they don’t know. Instead, they might just give your guests a suspicious glare until they feel comfortable. This can be off-putting to some people, especially if they’re accustomed to dogs who are immediately affectionate and welcoming.
But again, it’s not that Shiba Inus are aggressive towards strangers. They just want a little bit of space to figure out how they feel.
Along the same lines, you might notice that Shiba Inus are naturally more territorial than other dogs. This is a good tidbit of information to keep in mind when you’re thinking about services for your pup. Instead of relying on new people to walk your dog every week, it can be helpful to find the same trustworthy Dog Walker or Dog Sitter so that your Shiba Inu can build a relationship.
You can learn more about how to navigate warm up your Shiba Inu to newcomers by reading our article on Introducing your Dog to New Dogs & Humans.
The good news about all of this is that once you’ve won the affection of a Shiba Inu, you’ll cherish every minute of it. This is a dog that doesn’t throw their love around without a care. So if you’ve earned it, you can call yourself a successful Shiba Inu Owner.
Trainability and Training Tips
We’ll get right to the truth: training a Shiba Inu is hard work. These dogs have a mind of their own, and they won’t easily be swayed to change their ways. Unfortunately, many Shiba Inu Owners simply throw up their hands and forego training altogether. We, of course, are strongly against this. Because Shiba Inus are susceptible to possessiveness, territorial anxiety, and the drive to hunt, it’s important to start training them at a young age.
Stubbornness and independence don’t mean that Shiba Inus are impossible to train. It just means that you might have to be a bit more persistent and creative with your training sessions.
These dogs are going to need consistent, regular training with the people they love most in the world. Part of your job, then, is going to be to solidify your relationship with your Shiba Inu. Make sure they see you as the person with all the goodies and love and toys.
They’ll also respond more readily to positive reinforcement training instead of punitive methods. We say this because while your Shiba Inu might not look hurt when you reprimand them, they’ll likely respond to harsh treatment with even more indifference and avoidance. But with treats and positive praise, they’ll come around to training.
Once these dogs get onboard with the training exercises, they’ll learn quickly. Shiba Inus, like most hunting dogs, are intelligent and attentive. They’ll quickly master the basics and will be ready to take on more challenging tricks.
Shiba Inus are on the smaller side, so they fit in fairly well in all living spaces. But, with a complicated dog like the Shiba Inu, there are a few things to consider.
The first is the notorious Shiba Inu scream. These dogs don’t generally make noise, which you would think would make them ideal neighbours in an apartment setting. However, when they do bark, it’s usually accompanied by what’s known in the Shiba Inu Owner community as the Shibu scream. It’s part whine, part high-pitched wail, and all around very disruptive. Shiba Inu Owners have shared that their pup will sound the alarm whenever it’s bath time, or in the rare case that dinner was prepared behind schedule, or when the dog nail clippers come out.
Another caveat to Shiba Inu living conditions is the hunting drive. If you have a large outdoor space, it’s important to keep an eye on your dog to make sure they’re not wreaking havoc on natural wildlife or stirring up a fuss with your neighbour’s feline friend. With early socialisation, these doggos can learn to get along with cats and smaller animals, but these little guys were bred to be exterminators. So, best to keep them in check.
If you’re looking at living condition improvements to make your Shiba Inu happy, remember that as independent pups, they might appreciate an area that they can call their own. A crate might be appropriate for your Shiba Inu, as you might remember from our article on Crate Training that these den-like enclosures can be soothing for any doggo.
Now, how about exercise? They need about an hour of rigorous exercise daily, and more if you can give it to them. A nice long trip to the dog park is also a great way to tire out a Shiba Inu. And on the days that you can’t take out your Shiba Inu, call in a familiar Dog Walker to help stretch those puppy legs.
Shiba Inu Grooming ✄
That gorgeous coat may look hard to maintain, but a Shiba Inus grooming regimen is actually one of the easiest things about this breed. Their thick double coat repels most dirt and odour and tends to stay pretty shiny and soft on its own.
That said, this dog will shed a good amount throughout the year and a whole lot when the seasons change. It’s important to brush them a few times throughout the month, if not for their sake then for the sake of your home.
When it comes to bathing, less is also the way to go. Once every few months should be plenty.
Shiba Inu Health +
Shiba Inus are a generally healthy breed. But as with any dog, it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for:
- Hip dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
We also have to note that Shiba Inus are one of those dogs whose spike in popularity has put them at risk for overbreeding. It’s important to know that your Shiba Inu came from a responsible breeder so that you can avoid many genetic issues and unethical practices.
Fun Fact about the Shiba Inu ♥
Alright, no Shiba Inu article would be complete without Doge, the dog that graced the world with one of the best memes of all time.
Doge was so popular that a digital currency startup used the pup as their logo and namesake. Dogecoin’s home page clearly states that it’s the digital currency “favoured by Shiba Inus worldwide.” So if you’ve been thinking about cryptocurrency, then hey, at least there’s one that’s been approved by your new favourite dog breed.
In real life, the dog behind the meme is a sweet little girl named Kabosu. She was adopted to a kindergarten teacher in Japan in 2008 to begin a life of naps, chin scratches, and snacks of broccoli (her favourite). She might not know that she’s an internet star, but she does seem to be appreciative of her lovely new life. Unlike other Shiba Inus, she’s more than happy to be held by her family members and cuddle up for some love.
Final Thoughts on the Shiba Inu
What a dog, right? This quirky, squirmy, conditionally affectionate dog may not be what you expect from something that looks like an adorable teddy bear. But, the Shiba Inu has never been interested in fulfilling anyone’s expectations of them.
These dogs were bred to work independently and they’ve maintained a sense of aloofness over the years. But don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re not strongly bonded to their Owners. Indeed, Shiba Inus can be little shadow dogs with the humans they love.
This isn’t a dog for a novice Dog Owner. But if you’re looking for a pupper that will keep you on your toes and constantly surprise you, a Shiba Inu can make your life so much richer.