One of Japan's six native breeds, the Shiba Inu is a smaller version of the Akita breed and was originally bred as a hunting dog. One of the "Spitz" breeds of active working dogs, Shibas are also related to large, powerful breeds like Siberian Huskies, as well as smaller breeds like Pomeranians.
Shibas are a spirited and good-natured breed. They’re extremely loyal and alert, and a popular choice among experienced owners.
The first documented Shiba Inu in the US was brought over by a military family in 1954. But it wasn’t until 1979 that a litter of Shiba Inu puppies was actually born on American soil.
The American Kennel Club finally recognized the breed in 1992, then named it to the Non-Sporting Group in 1997.
Despite their relative novelty in the US, Shibas are the oldest existing dog breed from Japan. They likely date back to about 300 B.C. But you probably know them from something more recent.
Starting in 2013, the Shiba Inu gained viral fame from the “Doge” meme, where a wide-eyed Shiba — more specifically, a Japanese rescue named Kabosu — let loose a nonsensical inner monologue in broken English. It popped up in GIFs, auto-text reactions, and even the cryptocurrency “Dogecoin”— the world’s first “meme coin,” which began as satire only to achieve a multi-billion-dollar market cap.
But enough about the meme. Find out everything there is to know about real Shiba Inus in our in-depth guide.
Shiba Inu Costs
How Much Does a Shiba Inu Cost to Buy?
If you’re set on buying a Shiba Inu, prepare to be patient. Since Shibas produce small litters, there’s usually a long waiting list for these dogs. As a result, a Shiba puppy can range from around $1,400-$2,200 in the US. Full registration Shibas — those puppies destined for breeding or dog shows — can cost as much as $3,500.
Just make sure you’re buying from a responsible breeder who tests for common health conditions.
How Much Does Shiba Inu Insurance Cost?
In 2022, the average cost to insure a Shiba Inu with ManyPets was $36 per month. That’s slightly less than our average dog insurance price across all breeds and ages, which was $37.
This price is a good sign that Shibas are a healthy breed, especially compared to other purebred dogs.
Shiba Inu Popularity
Shiba Inus are fairly common in the US. The American Kennel Club’s latest rankings found them to be the 42nd-most popular dog breed, and they’re the fifth-most popular breed in the non-sporting group.
Shibas have earned a well-loved status in states that boast a lot of outdoor enthusiasts, including — as ManyPets has found — California and Washington State.
Why is the breed so popular in outdoorsy states — not to mention states like New York and Illinois, which can reach extremely low temperatures? Thanks to their ancient history as outdoor working dogs — remember, Akitas and Huskies are their cousins — Shibas are adaptable to a range of climates. They’re more tolerant of cold weather than many other dogs their size, though hot weather can be a challenge due to their double coat. (Diligent grooming helps!)
In general, Shibas feel most comfortable in cool, dry, invigorating climates. But be aware, Shibas are speedy and can run away; you’d be wise to keep them on a leash outdoors, except in enclosed areas like dog parks.
Shiba Inu Training
Are Shiba Inus Hard to Train?
Shibas are a stubborn breed, and you may find that they’ll only take part in activities if they really want to. Training a Shiba requires a good deal of patience, especially compared to many other dog breeds.
As a notoriously strong-willed breed, Shibas like to play by their own rule book. If you tug the leash in an attempt to seize or direct them, you're unlikely to get the result you’re looking for. Besides this, you’ll also be threatening the trust and relationship that you’re building with your pooch.
Shibas may defend themselves if they feel threatened, but like most dogs, this is something that can be trained out of them.
Breed Bad Habits
Although Shiba Inus are extremely loyal and make great watchdogs, they can also be a little possessive over their toys, food, and territory, and will often try to protect themselves when they perceive a person or situation as a threat. This guarded behavior is one of the most common issues that Shiba owners face.
Unless provoked, Shiba Inus are a relatively quiet breed. However, they can experience something known as the “Shiba-Scream.” This loud scream is just a form of communication, and they’ll usually only do it when they’re experiencing fear, anxiety, or general displeasure.
“Shiba Inus are a healthy breed who love to do things their own way,” says veterinarian Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS. “If they’re forced into things like nail cutting, ear cleaning, or handling from the vet, then it’s possible they’ll consider making a scene.”
Shiba Inu Gender Differences
Female Shiba Inus are generally more aloof and cautious compared to their male counterparts. They’re also a lot cleaner — and easier to keep clean — since females are more inclined to avoid muddy surfaces and wet puddles.
Females tend to be a bit more food-driven and are quite the intellectuals: Compared to males, it’s easier to train them to do amazing things (if you use the right methods).
Female size information
Height: 12-16 inches
Weight: 14-20 pounds
Length: 22-27 inches
Playful and smart, male Shiba Inus are friendlier to other dogs and humans compared to females. A male Shiba's testosterone levels can play a role in how active and lively they are, with male puppies usually being more open to different training methods. However, these heightened activity levels can also translate to more destruction in the house if they aren’t stimulated enough.
Male Shibas must be properly socialized during their formative years; otherwise they might display serious aggression and territory issues later in life. All breeds and genders should be well-socialized as puppies, of course — but with male Shibas it’s a particularly urgent matter.
Male size information
Height: 13-17 inches
Weight: 18-24 pounds
Length: 22-27 inches
Shiba Inu Breed Health
The Shiba is a relatively healthy dog breed. However, there are certain genetic issues that can be problematic as they grow older. Allergies can also be an issue with the breed, particularly inhalant allergies, which can cause constant itching.
A healthy Shiba Inu can be expected to live 13-16 years.
Common Health Problems
Overall, the Shiba is a healthy dog, but their genetic problems can emerge once they’re older. Some of their most common health problems are:
Atopy: Otherwise known as inhalant allergies, atopy is when a dog's immune system becomes overactive after it’s exposed to an airborne inhaled allergen. These can be anything from dust to molds or pollen. While the condition can’t necessarily be prevented, Shibas can be prescribed certain medications to help deal with the symptoms. Frequent baths can also aid in reducing the triggering allergens.
ManyPets saw a number of allergy claims for Shiba Inus in 2022, including claims as high as about $190.
Hip Dysplasia: If your Shiba is struggling to put weight on either one or both of their hind legs, it’s possible they could be struggling with something known as hip dysplasia. This common skeletal condition occurs when a dog’s hip joints don’t align properly with the socket; it can then become extremely painful and difficult for them to get around. This condition can be corrected with surgery, or managed by giving your Shiba joint supplements and pain medication.
In 2022, ManyPets saw Shiba Inu claims for hip dysplasia that ranged as high as about $200. But this doesn’t capture the full story: When medication and supplements aren’t effective enough, certain dysplasia surgeries cost as much as $3,500 per hip.
It’s recommended for Shibas to undergo hip dysplasia testing, which can be performed through an Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) evaluation or a PennHIP evaluation.
Cataracts: Shibas are susceptible to developing cataracts, a condition where the eye develops a cloudy film that blocks the lens. The condition can either be inherited or a result of diabetes. When left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness in dogs. Depending on their severity, some cataracts can be removed via surgery.
Shiba’s are also susceptible to other eye issues like glaucoma. It’s recommended for Shibas to have an eye examination performed by a specialist who’s board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO).
Hypothyroidism: This condition is when a dog’s thyroid gland is underproductive, which causes issues like fatigue, changes in appetite or thirst, and even fur loss. It’s usually diagnosed through blood testing and, unfortunately, can’t be cured.
It can, however, be treated. To stay balanced, Shibas with hypothyroidism will have to take a regular replacement hormone. In 2022, ManyPets saw Shiba Inu claims for hypothyroidism that ran as high as about $420.
Patellar Luxation (AKA Luxating Patella): A genetic disorder, patellar luxation is when the surface of the femur on which the kneecap sits is too shallow, so the kneecap (AKA patella) slides in and out of place, causing lameness and pain. This can make it difficult for your Shiba to walk and put weight on the affected leg(s).
It’s highly recommended for Shibas to undergo a patellar luxation exam conducted by a professional veterinary specialist recognized by The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
Patellar luxation can usually be treated through exercise limitations, weight management, and medication for pain and inflammation. But surgical intervention can be necessary in advanced cases. Surgery for patellar luxation can cost anywhere from $1,500 - $5,000 per knee.
Epilepsy and Seizures — Shibas are predisposed to epilepsy, often an inherited trait. Epilepsy in dogs can cause seizures, which can range from mild to severe. Signs of oncoming seizures include muscle twitching or stiffening, loss of consciousness, and collapsing.
There’s no cure for canine epilepsy, but certain medications can significantly reduce the frequency of seizures.
“Obesity is also a big risk for Shibas, so it’s important to make sure they’re leading an active lifestyle and being taken for regular exercise daily," adds Dr. Ronngren.
Shiba Inu Colors and Variants
Colors available: Cream, Red, Red Sesame, Black & Tan
Markings: White markings
Breed Variants: Before World War II, there were three Shiba variants: The Sanin, the Mino, and the Shinshu. Due to bombing, food shortages, and a postwar distemper pandemic, the breed was nearly wiped out. Shibas rebounded thanks to postwar breeding programs, but with no variants. Today’s Shiba bears the most resemblance to the Shinshu.
Caring for Shiba Inus
Shibas are a good-natured and inquisitive breed who love being involved with their owners (though they also love time to themselves). As Shibas are quite dominant, their nature can
quickly become a problem if left unaddressed. Owners should take on an unaggressive alpha role so their pet knows who’s in charge. (Emphasis on unaggressive!)
Shibas are a fairly energetic breed. They can even become hyperactive if they don’t get all the daily exercise that they need. Typically, Shibas will need around an hour of walking per day. Despite their small stature, they can reach speeds of up to 25 mph when sprinting, so be careful when letting them off the leash.
As we mentioned, Shibas can thrive in colder weather thanks to their thick double coat. They’ll remain undaunted in the face of brisk outdoor walks and exercise, even in states that regularly experience temperatures between 30 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re looking to move to Minnesota or Alaska, your Shiba can handle it.
However, just like any dog, they can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia if they’re left out in the cold for too long. In temperatures of 20 degrees or lower, Shibas can experience hypothermia or frostbite after just a brief time outdoors.
And be careful when walking or exercising your dog in warmer weather. Shibas have a thick double coat, which can leave them at risk of heatstroke in temperatures of 68 degrees or higher. Early-morning and late-evening walks are safest in warmer months. Regularly grooming your Shiba’s coat will also help keep them cooler.
The right amount of food to feed your Shiba will depend on your furry friend’s specific needs, but it’s important that they get a balanced diet. Shibas should eat a wide range of foods including meats, vegetables, fruits, and grains. It’s best to consult with your vet to make sure that they’re on the right diet for them, and that they’re not over- or undereating.
It’s especially crucial to choose the appropriate food for your Shiba when they’re still a puppy. If you’re unsure, your vet can help you decide what type of diet they should be on as they grow, and what type of foods they can and can’t eat. It’s often difficult for owners to create a balanced diet on their own.
Shiba Inu puppies need about 18 to 20 hours of sleep per day for proper mental and physical development. Adult Shibas spend around 75% of the daytime either sleeping or lounging around — as much as 10 to 12 hours per day.
“Keeping your Shiba healthy is vital for their development,” says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS. “A combination of the right food, exercise, and sleep will make for a happy dog — and a happy owner, too!”
Shiba Inu Temperament
Loyal, alert and lively, Shibas tend to form extremely close relationships with their owners. They’re not the best breed for first-time owners or families who have young children. But if you’re an experienced dog owner — and you’re confident you can train a strong-willed pup and meet their lifelong exercise needs — a Shiba is a great and loyal companion to have by your side.
Are Shiba Inus Good With Children?
Although Shibas are loyal dogs, they can feel easily provoked by children. A Shiba might not be the best fit for families with babies, small children, or toddlers, as they can lack the patience that’s needed when dealing with young kids.
For families with older children or teenagers, well-trained or older Shibas could be a good fit, so long as the children have been taught how to properly behave around a dog.
How Affectionate Are Shiba Inus?
Shibas typically aren’t very friendly with strangers. They do show affection to their owners in their own ways, though usually more subtly than other breeds.
Shiba’s will be happy to see you when you return home, but they’ll usually signal to you once they’ve had enough of your presence. Again, Shibas won’t thrive as well in homes with small children as they will in homes with just adults: They like having their own space and are much more content if they can get some alone time whenever they want it.
How Territorial Are Shiba Inus?
Although Shibas may not be overly affectionate with their owners, they can be territorial over them. They’re a protective breed and are naturally possessive over their food, toys, territory and caretakers. In this way, they take a large range of their traits from wild dogs.
How Friendly Are They With Other Dogs?
As with most dogs, it’s best to keep a Shiba on a leash when they’re being taken for a walk. Shibas are dominant with other dogs, and don’t usually get along well with dogs of the opposite sex. However, Shibas will get along just fine with dogs who let them be the boss.
How Much Do Shiba Inus Tolerate Other Pets?
Due to their dominance, Shibas often don’t do as well in multi-pet households. However, they can be trained to get along well with cats as long as they’re introduced properly and from an early age.
How Much Attention Do Shiba Inus Need?
Shibas are extremely independent dogs who don’t require constant attention, so they can be left alone for up to 8 hours at a time. However, it’s best to crate-train them when they’re young to prevent them from destroying the house out of boredom.
Shiba Inu Coat and Grooming
The Shiba is a relatively clean dog with a double coat, and is known to shed heavily twice a year. A single shed can last for a period of weeks, but it’s completely manageable with the right tools and equipment.
Coat Type: Short coat
Shedding Levels: — [In Data]
How Often to Groom: When your Shiba isn’t shedding, they should be groomed or brushed at least twice a month. When the spring and autumn shedding seasons come around, a weekly or twice-weekly groom will be best. During higher humidity, Shibas lose fur to stay cool and comfortable. For warmer states like California and Texas, you may need to groom your Shiba more regularly to help remove their coat and allow for better circulation. Since Shibas are well-acclimatized to colder temperatures, you can still groom them twice a month even in colder states.
Hypoallergenic or Not?: No, Shibas are not hypoallergenic due to their two-layer coat. Although all dogs produce dander, Shibas’ thick coat means they shed a lot, allowing dander to spread throughout the home and furniture.
Shiba Inu Barking Habits
Shibas are relatively quiet dogs and only tend to bark when it’s necessary or when they’re in a happy, playful mood.
The bark of a Shiba Inu is sharp and clear, with a more abrupt alert in comparison to the bark of an even smaller dog. Aside from their more playful barks, Shibas will usually only bark when spurred by unfamiliar movement, such as a stranger walking on the sidewalk. The Shiba Inu can also be quite the vocal artist — as we mentioned, they’re known to “yodel” or “scream” when they want attention or become excited.
Shiba Inu popularity
Frequently asked questions about Shiba Inus
Are Shiba Inus Good Family Dogs?
While they’re loyal, Shibas do have an impatient side and they may quickly become irritated and feel provoked by children. As a result, they’re not the best family dog. However, they’re great for experienced owners.
Are Shibas High-Maintenance Dogs?
Shiba Inus shed heavily and require a good deal of training and exercise. Nonetheless, they don’t require a huge amount of care. They’re extremely independent and can be left alone for fairly long periods. And grooming-wise, all you need to do is brush their coat weekly or biweekly (more during seasonal shedding periods).
Can Shibas Be Cuddly?
Shibas are extremely independent dogs. If you’re looking for a dog that loves to cuddle and will seek plenty of affection, then a Shiba is likely not your best bet.