Shiba Inu

AKC Non-Sporting Group


Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Shiba Inu is an ancient Asian breed whose ancestors were probably brought to Japan by early immigrants thousands of years ago. Six distinct breeds developed from these original dogs, including the Akita and the Shiba. The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the six (some of the other breeds are now extinct). Shiba Inus were originally bred to flush birds and hunt small game. The breed might have been named for the brushwood environment where the dog hunted, for the bright red color of the autumn brushwood leaves that matches the color of some Shibas’ coats, or perhaps just for his size, as the word “shiba” means both “brushwood” and “small.” World War II was a difficult time for many dog breeds worldwide, and the Shiba Inu was no exception. Though the breed almost became extinct, breeding programs were established after the war, using individuals from the countryside. The Shiba Inu is now the most popular breed in Japan and in recent years has been gaining popularity in the United States as well, primarily as a companion dog. The Shiba Inu is now in the AKC Non-Sporting Group.


The Shiba Inu is a small, compact, nimble, furry dog that looks somewhat like a miniature Akita, with small triangular prick ears. The broad, flat forehead is slightly furrowed in the middle. The eyes are small and dark, and the nose is black. The teeth should form a scissors bite. The high-set, Spitz-like tail curls over the back. Though all colors are acceptable, the plush double coat most often comes in red, sesame (black-tipped hairs on red), or black with tan markings. All colors should have urajiro (cream to white) markings on the cheeks, inside the ears, on the sides, and beneath the muzzle, throat, inside the legs, on the abdomen, and around the vent area. White is also permitted on the legs, tail tip, and in spots above the eyes.

Key Facts

  • Height:  14-1/2 to 16-1/2 in. (male); 13-1/2 to 15-1/2 in. (female)
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  Averages 23 lbs. (male); averages 17 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Might take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, watchdog, guarding, agility, and performing tricks


Easy to travel with. Be careful during hunting season as this dog looks like a fox and might be mistaken for one! Not usually a reliable off-leash dog. Clean. Although only a small proportion of Shibas have histories of hip dysplasia and PRA, buy only from stock with official hip-dysplasia clearance and current eye clearance as a precaution. Some lines are prone to patellar luxation (slipped kneecap).


Alert, lively, and bold. Independent but loving. Confident, fearless, and courageous. A big dog in a small dog’s body. Agile, fast, and playful. Charming and open. A good child’s companion. Socialize well as a puppy. Does well with other dogs and cats if raised with them from puppyhood, though they tend to be aggressive with members of the same sex. Don’t trust this dog around other small pets such as rodents and small birds. Big birds such as parrots might be OK.


  • Children:  Good with children
  • Friendliness:  Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability:  Slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Fairly independent
  • Dominance:  High
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other dogs; do not trust with non-canine pets
  • Combativeness:  Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Not a barker
  • Indoors:  Moderately active indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Very little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Plush coat
  • Shedding:  Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Shiba Inu Breed Standard

Shiba Inu Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu Gifts