Shiba Inu

"The Cat-Dog"

Photo of Shiba Inu


The history of this diminutive dog – whose name means, literally, “small dog” in Japanese – goes back thousands of years to the Land of the Rising Sun. They were originally used to hunt game in the mountainous areas of Japan, many of which were nearly inaccessible to human beings. As time went on, the Shiba's value as a household companion became clear. In 1936, the Shiba was designated a precious natural product under Japanese law. However, the Shiba Inu nearly became extinct during World War II. After the war, the Japanese Kennel Club was founded to establish standards for native breeds. In 1954, the first Shiba came to the United States, courtesy of an American military family that had been stationed in Japan. The National Shiba Club formed in the United States in the early 1980s, and the breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1993. In 2006, the Shiba Inu ranked 65th among the 154 breeds registered to the AKC.


The Shiba may be cute to look at, but his temperament belies his looks. This dog is a highly patrician individual. Devotees of the breed acknowledge that their Shibas are benevolent despots. These dogs don't take kindly to sharing their possessions – a characteristic that must be factored into account when dealing with Shibas and small children – and are likely to engage in dog-on-dog aggression. That said, the Shiba is devoted to his people and sensitive to the moods of his human companions.


The Shiba Inu is on the large side of small (or the small side of medium), ranging from 13.5 to 16.5 inches high at the shoulder, and ranging in weight from 18 to 25 pounds. The short fur can be red, sesame, black and tan, or brindle in color, and some Shibas have white markings. Their small ears point upward – much like a cat's – and their tails curl over their backs. The dog is compact and proportionate with a Spitz-like appearance.


These strong, independent little dogs benefit greatly from early socialization, neutering, and training. Owners should make it clear that they are in control, but should also respect the Shiba's innate dignity. Housetraining comes quite easily to these naturally fastidious dogs, but reliable recall runs counter to the Shiba's naturally independent nature. Devotees of the breed suggest agility training as an ideal activity, and discourage attempting the repetitious exercises of competitive obedience.

Grooming & Care

Most of the time, the Shiba Inu is a low-maintenance dog. However, once or twice during the year a Shiba's human should expect to see copious amount of shed Shiba hair around the house. Weekly brushing – and more frequent brushing during the seasonal shed – will keep the Shiba's coat looking good. Periodic baths and weekly ear cleanings and nail trims (start these ministrations early in life, so that the Shiba can become accustomed to them) will keep this dog looking his best.

Health Concerns

Like all purebred dogs, the Shiba Inu has a few genetic health issues. The most common are hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap), and hypothyroidism. Dogs intended for breeding should receive OFA screenings before embarking on pooch parenthood.

Famous Shiba Inu

Maru Taro a Shiba Inu living in Japan, has over 50,000 followers on Instagram.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 3
Schedule 5
Home 9
Children 48
Experience 51
Quick Facts
Grooming 13
Exercise 61
Challenges Care must be taken off leash as this breed has wanderlust.
Height 13.5 to 16.5 inches
Weight 18 to 25 pounds
Life 12 to 15 years
Home Alone 84
With Kids 114
With Strangers 105
Availability 23

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.