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Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu - Breed Information

Tan Colored Shiba Inu in a Field

The Shiba Inu is one of the earliest and smallest canine breeds to have originated from Japan. They are known to be highly active pets and able to perform many tricks for their owner's delight. If you are interested in getting one for a pet though, then you would do well to learn a few things about them first and what to expect when raising and caring for one.


The triangular, dark eyes are a quickly identifiable feature of the Shiba Inu. As one of the smallest dogs in Japan, they grow up to 16 inches in height and weight up to 23 pounds.

The nose and lips of a Shiba Inu are both dark in color, and the head is accentuated with erect triangle-shaped ears. These dogs also have thick tails that are curled and set high from the back.

Like most native dogs in Japan, the Shiba Inu sports a double coat - soft undercoat and a straight outer fur.  Colors can vary from red, black and tan. The inner coat is often cream or gray.


Shiba Inus were initially used to hunt small game, boars and bears in the mountains. In 1936, the type was established as canine species native to Japan.

Shiba Inus ran the risk of extinction after World War II, as numerous other breeds did. Fortunately, an extensive breeding program was successful in replenishing their numbers.

In 1954, the first Shiba Inu was exported in 1954. The American Kennel Club (AKC) added the dog breed to their registry in 1992 as a toy dog. This was later changed to the non-sporting group.

Shiba Inu Dogs Lying Infront of House Entrance


Shiba Inus are active, alert and independent canines with cat-like dexterity. They are faithful and affectionate and bond deeply with their owners. They adapt well to new situations but may be reserved with strangers, so socializing them from an early age is highly recommended.

One unusual behavior of the Shiba Inu is that they generally like to keep themselves clean.  As a result, owners will often witness a Shiba Inu purposely avoiding contact with mud which can be quite amusing.

Shiba Inus do not bark a lot, and they are great with children, canines and other pets inside the house as long as they are not too small. To avoid stress and separation anxiety, Shiba Inus should not be kennelled or left alone for a long time.

Potential Health Problems

Despite their long lifespan, Shiba Inus are unfortunately susceptible to a long list of health problems typical to the breed. Such issues include the following:

  • Corneal dystrophy
  • Consistent pupillary membrane (tissue strands in the eyes)
  • Flea allergy
  • Food and inhalant allergic reactions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Luxated patella (displaced kneecap)
  • Cataracts
  • Entropion (inward eyelid)
  • Distichiasis (eyelash problem)
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Autoimmune conditions

With access to health care and regular grooming, a Shiba Inu can live for up to 15 years and sometimes longer.

Care and Grooming

Despite their small size, Shiba Inus can be incredibly agile and require daily exercise to keep healthy. This makes them excellent canine companions for people that live an active lifestyle. While outdoors, they need to be leashed or kept in an enclosed area to keep them from chasing after small animals that they might mistake for prey.

Shiba Inus are likewise active inside the house and don't bark much so they can do well in apartments or a condo setup. These dogs can be kept outdoors but do best when held close to their owners.

Concerning grooming, daily brushing is recommended due to their double coat. A Shiba Inu's fur is naturally waterproof so owners should avoid bathing them too often. Doing so will strip the protective oil on their double coat which can lead to irritation. Shedding can be substantial as the season's change.

Just like any other dog, the nails of a Shiba Inu need to be trimmed regularly. Likewise, the ears and teeth must be frequently checked and cleaned as well to maintain good health.

Check out store for a Shiba Inu calendar which can be given as a gift to any dog lover.