Choosing a Shiba Inu

The shiba inu is known as a fiery little fur ball that looks like a little fox. Bright and active, these dogs can be great family pets but may not enjoy the company of other dogs.

History and Origin

Shiba inus were developed in Japan and are the smallest and oldest of the spitz-type Japanese dogs. Originated in the mountains in Japan, this dog was used as a hunter of large and small game. Today, they are watchdogs and beloved companions of Japanese people in the country and city. The origin of the name is disputed but it is known that the dog was officially called the shiba inu starting in the 1920s. By the mid 1930s, the shiba inu was designated as a precious natural product of Japan.

By the end of World War II, the shiba inu was almost extinct due to bombing and an outbreak of distemper. Thankfully, three bloodlines survived and breeding programs began that saved the breed. In 1954, the first shiba inu arrived in the United States. Although the breed can be found throughout the world, it is still more popular in Japan than anywhere else.

In 1992, the shiba inu was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the non-sporting group.

Appearance and Size

The shiba inu is a compact furry dog. He has a pointed head with triangular ears that stand erect. The tail is thick and curls over the back. The coat of the shiba inu is double and thick. Any color is acceptable but most shiba inu's are red, red with black or black and tan. They usually have white or cream color on their face, chest and underside.

The adult shiba inu stands around 13 to 16 inches at the shoulder and weighs about 15 to 30 pounds.


The shiba inu is an active and courageous dog. Some can be a little standoffish but most are loving toward their families. The shiba inu has the reputation of being a big dog in a small dog's body and can be possessive of what he thinks is his (almost everything) and aggressive toward other dogs.

Home and Family Relations

The shiba inu is a devoted and loyal member of the family but tends to be aloof toward strangers and some may even be aggressive. They are excellent watchdogs and can do well with other family pets if raised with them but some will be aggressive toward other dogs, particularly those of the same sex. The shiba inu doesn't need much exercise and can do well in an apartment if taken on daily walks.


Shiba inu puppies must be socialized early in life to people and animals. This is to avoid their notorious disagreeable temperament toward strangers and other dogs. House training is relatively easy since the shiba inu is a fastidious dog. They can also be trained for obedience if firm consistent handling is used. The trainer should be prepared for a somewhat independent student but with positive reinforcement and patience, training can be accomplished.

Special Concerns

The shiba inu can be aggressive toward other dogs, especially if not raised with them. They should not be allowed off leash as they may chase other animals.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the shiba inu is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate, leading to blindness.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland does not function producing inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone.
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. You may see a cloudy, white color in the pupil, which is normally black. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Patellar luxation is a disorder affecting the dislocation of the kneecap.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint leading the pain and lameness.
  • Von Willebrand's disease is a disorder that results in the inability to clot blood. Affected animals will bleed extensively following trauma or surgery.

    Life Span

    The average life span of the shiba inu is approximately 12 to 14 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

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