The Shiba Inu is one of the most famous Japanese dog breeds, along with the Akita Inu and the Tosa Inu. Much smaller than its counterparts, the Shiba Inu is a hunting dog, originally developed to hunt small game birds. Now mostly kept as a family pet, the Shiba is especially popular in Japan where it is considered the number 1 companion dog.

A Brief History

In Japanese, the word inu means "dog", while the word shiba can mean either "brushwood" or "small". Sources diverge, but the breed is believed to have been named for one of three things: the terrain where it hunted; the colour of its coat; or its size. Nonetheless, all agree that the Shiba Inu originated in the mountainous areas of central Japan, where it was originally bred for hunting small game, such as birds and rabbits.

In the late 19th century, Western dog breeds such as Pointers and Setters were imported to Japan and crossed with the Shiba Inu. For a time, almost no pure Shiba remained. However, in 1928 a survival programme was developed to preserve the breed by Japanese breeders, who were worried about losing the original Shiba Inu type.

The first Japanese breed standard was established in 1934. In 1936, the Shiba Inu was recognised as a "Natural Monument of Japan" by the Japanese authorities. The breed was definitively recognised by the World Canine Organisation (FCI) in 1964.

Physical Characteristics

The physical appearance of the Shiba Inu is very similar to that of the Akita Inu, just smaller.

Body: The Shiba Inu has a solid body with a level back. Overall, this dog breed is well-proportioned with a robust constitution.

Head: The skull is broad and flat with a definite stop. The muzzle is straight, of good depth, and slightly tapered. A black nose is preferred, but a flesh-coloured nose is accepted in white dogs.

Ears: The ears are erect, quite small, and triangular. The tips are rounded and the ears tilt slightly forward.

Eyes: The eyes are small and set well apart. They are triangular and dark brown.

Tail: The tail is thick and carried curled over the back or curved like a sickle. The tip of the tail touches the hock.

Coat: The outer coat is hard, straight, and short, with a soft, dense undercoat.

Colour: The Kennel Club breed standard accepts four colours: Red; Red Sesame; Black and Tan; and White. The Shiba Inu is known for its urajiro markings, which constitutes a white patch on the muzzle and chest.

Shiba Inu Temperament

The temperament of the Shiba Inu is spirited and independent, traits characteristic to primitive dog breeds. These doggies don't trust just anyone and can be particularly suspicious of strangers. The Shiba Inu is sometimes compared to a sly fox due to both its appearance and intelligent nature. This dog breed can be stubborn and tends to run away, but the Shiba also shows great loyalty once the bond with its master has been well established. Despite the breed's small size, these dogs are lively and energetic and need to exercise every day.

Does the Shiba Inu Get Along Well with Others?

The Shiba Inu needs to be socialised correctly and from an early age to get along well with its peers. Originally bred as a hunting dog, it can prove difficult for the Shiba to cohabit with other pets, such as cats or exotic pets. Create lots of positive experiences to ensure that your pup does not develop a sense of fear towards their environment.

Is a Shiba Inu the Right Dog for Me?

The Shiba Inu is not for everyone, far from it. Although this small dog breed is increasingly popular around the world, it does require a master with a good knowledge of dog training and a solid understanding of the breed. Primitive dogs are not the same as other dog breeds that have been modified by humans over the centuries. These independent doggies are not for everyone, so you should be aware of what to expect before proceeding with an adoption. Additionally, the Shiba is very energetic and requires an athletic owner who won't hesitate to take it out running or hiking.

Shiba Inu Health Issues

The Shiba Inu is known for its robust health. Little affected by crossbreeding, the breed does not present with significant health issues, compared to other breeds. The average life expectancy of a Shiba Inu is between 12 and 15 years, and it's not uncommon to see a Shiba live beyond that. However, no breed is not completely immune. This small Japanese dog experiences eye problems, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and progressive retinal atrophy, all of which can eventually lead to blindness. The Shiba Inu is also subject to a rare disease, gangliosidosis, which causes neurological disorders and, unfortunately, for which there is no cure.

Ideal Living Conditions of a Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu, like many dog breeds, is adaptable and can be quite happy living in an apartment. The amount of time you have to spend with your pup is much more important to the happiness of this dog breed than the surface area of available space. For the Shiba Inu to be perfectly happy in an apartment, make sure to take your pooch out for exercise every day and spend lots of time with them. Of course, your Shiba will also enjoy living in a big house with a garden, but said garden should never be used as an excuse not to take your dog out.

Shiba Inu Training

A Shiba Inu is not the easiest dog breed to train. These dogs need a firm hand and a soft touch. You will need to be very patient with your Shiba, while also asserting a natural authority to show who's in charge. Never use violence against your dog, either physically or verbally. You would run the risk of destroying your relationship with them for good. Training a Shiba Inu requires good knowledge of the breed, as well as a solid foundation in dog training. If you have any doubts, call on the services of a professional dog trainer or behaviourist. Bad habits are difficult to unlearn!


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Diet: What to Feed Your Shiba Inu

Pay close attention to your Shiba Inu's diet and choose their dog food carefully. Food plays a vital role in your dog’s health and, as such, must be able to meet all their nutritional requirements and energy needs. A poor-quality diet will inevitably have repercussions on a dog’s health in the long term. If you can, avoid the industrial dog food found in supermarkets. This type of dog food, despite being attractive price-wise, tends to be very low in quality and made using primarily plant protein, which is incapable of meeting your dog's basic nutritional needs. It's better to opt for dog food that's a little more expensive but has a much higher quality composition. Remember that your Shiba is an opportunistic carnivore who needs animal protein to be fully healthy.

Learn how to decipher product labels to understand exactly what you're feeding your dog, and be sure to choose a healthy composition that contains at least 25 to 28% animal protein. Be wary of added preservatives and other sweeteners. Remember that your Shiba Inu's dietary needs are likely to change throughout their life. Dog food should be adapted to your dog's health condition, as well as their age. The same goes for the quantity: if your dog is very active, it will eat more than a less energetic animal.

If you want to make sure that your dog's food is perfectly adapted to their needs, opt for a tailor-made service like Hector Kitchen. Or, if you have the time, you can try feeding them homemade dog food or a BARF diet. Homemade dog food involves preparing your dog's meals yourself from cooked meat and vegetables. For a BARF diet, on the other hand, you use raw meat, raw eggs, and cooked vegetables. However, you should always seek the advice of your vet before implementing a new diet, to avoid causing any damage to your dog's health.

Shiba Inu Care and Maintenance

  • Vaccines: between £30 to £60 for the first injection series, plus annual boosters

  • Dog food: from around £50 per month for high-quality dog food

  • Monthly budget: minimum £70 per month

Grooming your Shiba Inu won't take you a lot of time nor cost a lot of money. You only need to brush these dogs once or twice a week to maintain their coat during normal periods. However, during periods of moulting (shedding) in spring and autumn, the Shiba Inu loses a lot of hair. You'll need to brush your dog almost every day using a suitable brush. In addition to regular brushing, bath your Shiba Inu once or twice a year. You also need to supplement this basic care with additional maintenance, such as cleaning your dog's eyes and ears and brushing their teeth to prevent tartar build-up. Also, don't forget to trim your dog's nails when they get too long. Finally, keep your Shiba's vaccines up to date, and take them for regular deworming and antiparasitic treatments against ticks and fleas.

Shiba Inu Price

The Shiba Inu is a pretty expensive dog breed. The current average price of a Shiba Inu puppy is between £2400 and £5500. This price can vary according to several criteria. Some breeders may ask for a higher price if the dog is intended for exhibition or reproduction. Puppies may also be expensive if they come from an exceptional line. Demand for the breed can influence the price as well. The Shiba is an increasingly popular breed, so oftentimes there are fewer puppies available for adoption, which allows breeders to charge more.  Although it can be tempting to resort to unregistered or black market breeders on the Internet, we urge you not to buy a puppy this way. If you're not set on adopting a puppy, it's also quite possible to find an adult Shiba in a shelter or rescue centre. This type of adoption will cost you much less and, after all, adult dogs deserve love and affection too!

Shiba Inu Sleep

Choosing the right dog bed for you Shiba Inu is important to help ensure that they enjoy good, quality sleep every night. Opt for a dog bed or cushion perfectly adapted to your dog's size; neither too big nor too small, so that your pooch feels safe and surrounded. Also, take your Shiba's personal preferences into account: some dogs like a bed with a raised edge and others prefer a flat pillow or cushion. Place your Shiba's dog bed in a quiet corner, somewhere out of the way. We don't recommend allowing your dog to sleep in your bedroom, as this can lead to over-attachment and separation anxiety. The Shiba Inu can also sleep outside, provided it has a suitable dog kennel available. Shibas are good alert dogs, who will bark at intruders, but don't make great guard or defence dogs. This is largely due to their small, unimposing size. However, if you do plan to put your Shiba Inu out in the garden to sleep, make sure your land is properly and securely fenced because this dog breed has a tendency to run away.

Games and Physical Activities for Your Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu is a lively and energetic dog breed. Your Shiba needs to stretch their legs for at least an hour and a half each day, in addition to regular shorter outings to relieve themselves. Despite their small size, Shibas are perfectly suited to accompany their owners on physical excursions, such as jogging, cycling, or hiking. They will also be happy to participate in canine activities, such as agility, musical canine freestyle, canicross, or tracking.

Additionally, make sure to buy lots of toys and puzzles to occupy your Shiba Inu while you're out. As an intelligent dog breed, the Shiba needs intellectual stimulation to feel well balanced. Dog toys help prevent your pooch from feeling lonely and bored and, thus, developing problematic behaviours such as property destruction and compulsive barking.

Pet Insurance: Protecting Your Shiba Inu

In the UK, there is no legal requirement to have pet insurance for your Shiba Inu. However, as the dog's owner, you would be held responsible for any damage caused to a third party by an accident, be it material damage or bodily harm. The Shiba Inu has a lively, energetic temperament and accidents do happen. This is where pet insurance comes in. Most home insurance policies offer the option to include animal liability insurance. Additionally, there are four main types of pet insurance available in the UK, which cover your pet in the event of accident or illness: Accident-Only, Time-Limited, Maximum Benefit, and Lifetime. 

Although the Shiba Inu is a pretty robust dog breed, it is susceptible to various hereditary eye diseases. Getting your dog insured from an early age guarantees them the necessary care they need at every point throughout their life. Health insurance for your pooch works the same way as for humans: you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and, in return, they reimburse you for any veterinary expenses. Veterinary costs can be very high and are not standardised in the UK, which means they can vary substantially. Consequently, sometimes the cheapest solution for a sick dog is, unfortunately, euthanasia. So don't wait for your Shiba to get sick or old before taking out pet insurance. You may risk them not being properly taken care of. We always recommend getting your dog insured from an early age.

In any case, before deciding on a contract, take the time to shop around for quotes and assess the terms and conditions that best suit your circumstance. In terms of price, the average cost for pet insurance in the UK in 2020 was £436 per year. This works out to just over £36 per month. Certain criteria, such as your dog's age and breed, may cause prices to vary. Lifetime dog insurance is the most comprehensive and expensive type of cover. You can expect lifetime dog insurance to cost closer to £80 per month. However, you will have much greater peace of mind with this type of insurance.

Shiba Inu Size and Weight

The Shiba Inu is a small breed dog. There is a slight difference in the size of male and female Shibas. An adult male Shiba Inu measures between 38 and 41cm and weighs between 8 and 11kg. Females measure between 35 and 38cm and weigh between 6 and 9kg.

The Kennel Club classifies the Shiba Inu in The Utility Breed Group, which consists of miscellaneous dog breeds, mainly of non-sporting origin.