Shiba Inu Personality –
Good, Bad, & Quirky

The Shiba Inu is a beautiful Spitz dog. You will get many compliments and turn many heads, while walking next to a Shiba.

A Shiba can get you a lot of attention, and open doors to many social encounters. Get used to hearing, “He looks just like a fox!”.

In fact, it is this foxy look that often gets Shibas into trouble.

Many people fall in love with the ‘Shiba look’, but are not equipped to handle his larger than life personality.

If you like the Spitz look, there are many other breeds that fall into this group, that may better suit your lifestyle.

The Good

1. A dog that is more like a cat

A Shiba Inu is independent and very clean.

My Shiba Sephy, spends a fair amount of time not just grooming himself, but also helping to groom my Siberian Husky.

Their inborn cleanliness make them generally easy to potty train.

Sephy only had potty mistakes on the first day that we brought him home (10 weeks old). After that, he has always let me know when he needs to go outside. In fact, he naturally dislikes soiling his living space, and even prefers not to go in our backyard.

Shiba Inus like having their humans around, in the general vicinity. However, they are aloof like cats, and do not need or want human affection, much of the time.

2. A good watch dog

A Shiba Inu is not a noisy dog. However, when there are strange people or strange noises around the house, Sephy will bark to alert me. Once I go and check things out, he stops barking.

Sephy also has a great memory, and will alert me if anything is out of place around the house, or in a familiar neighborhood. One day, he started barking at the fence, because somebody had put a piece of wood on top of it – amazing!

3. Graceful, agile, and high energy

A Shiba Inu is graceful and agile.

He can leap tall fences in a single bound, and can scale walls like Spiderman. If properly directed, his super powers can be used for good. However, when left on his own, the Shiba will likely turn towards the Dark Side.

Sephy is a great hiking buddy, and is always up for a new challenge. He can easily learn and conquer an agility course, but he will only do it, if I make it worth his while.

A Shiba running is a sight to behold, and a Shiba at play is poetry in motion.

4. A doggy Einstein

A Shiba Inu can learn many dog obedience commands, and he can learn them very quickly. He also thinks that he is much smarter than you, and will only obey you when it suits him.

Sephy can quickly solve complex interactive dog toys and puzzles. I am always trying out new ways to deploy his food in toys, because he figures things out so quickly.

A Shiba will challenge us and keep us sharp and on our toes!

5. A larger than life personality

No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.
~~[ Aristotle ]

A Shiba Inu may be small in body, but he has a ginormous personality. If a Shiba were a person, he would either be an extremely successful egomaniac or in prison!

Sephy always surprises me and makes me laugh; at least when he is not making me cry.

He has this one move, where he puts his head down on the ground, with his butt sticking up in the air – it is just too precious.

The Bad

1. Bold, strong willed, and stubborn

A Shiba Inu has a “Never give up, Never surrender” attitude.

He will not back down from a challenge, and will often fight back when he perceives a threat. Because of this, many Shiba owners face aggression issues with their dog, including food aggression, dog to dog aggression, and people aggression.

To successfully live with a Shiba, we must be extremely patient, and have a good sense of humor.

Turn a Shiba’s annoying habits against him.

For example, a Shiba gets bored easily. If we ignore him and give him nothing to react to, he will quickly lose interest, and move on to something else.

Sephy can also be very competitive. If he sees another dog getting praise and rewards, he will want to strut his stuff and show that he is better.

Work with a Shiba’s innate personality, and use it motivate him in the right direction. Passive resistance and reward obedience training, work best with my Shiba.

A Shiba will hand you many lemons, which is good if you like lemonade. Otherwise, just cut one up and squirt it on his muzzle.
~~[ just kidding! ShibaShake ]

2. A sly, rougish intelligence

A Shiba Inu is super intelligent. He will most often use his brain power to “push your buttons“, and get what he wants.

Sephy is always trying to figure out how he can outsmart me, and all the humans around him. A trainer once told me that Sephy was spending the weekends, “Devising new strategies to defeat her”.

In another life, my Shiba was probably a Catholic priest. He can guilt me into doing almost anything for him.

Beware the Shiba look – it is one of his most powerful weapons, and he will use it to great effect, if he senses any weakness in you. Before you know it, your Shiba will have gotten you trained to fetch, stay, and rub tummy.

  • Remember that a Shiba will do whatever he wants, if he can get away with it.
  • If he cannot get away with it, he will figure out another way to get what he wants.
  • When he gets caught with his nose in the cookie jar, he will give you the innocent, “What did I do?” look, and then come over to lick your hand.

As soon as you turn away, he is back in the cookie jar!

3. Like the evil, black Spiderman

A Shiba Inu is capable of great feats of agility. However, if left untrained, he will use his powers to destroy and cause great havoc in the household.

If bored and lonely, he will escape by jumping over or burrowing under your fence. He can squeeze through small holes, bite through leashes, and achieve amazing great escapes, that will make Houdini proud.

If not properly supervised, Sephy will pull down items from counters, and shred them to pieces. He may even eat some of those pieces. Once, I left him unsupervised for about 10 minutes. In that time, he pulled down a phone headset, dismantled it into little pieces, and arranged them in a strategic pattern all over the floor. Luckily, he did not swallow anything.

A young Shiba Inu has a lot of energy.

It takes a lot to keep him occupied, and away from trouble. Supervised play sessions with friendly dogs can help. Another alternative is to put him in dog daycare, or to employ the services of a dog walker.

4. A Drama Queen

My Shiba will whine, mope, and act like it is the end of the world, when he is unhappy about something (e.g. wearing a harness).

Woe be to you if your Shiba gets hurt, or even just thinks that he is hurt.

Sephy acts like he is close to death’s door, even for small things like getting grass stuck between his teeth.

Woe be to you, woe be to your vet, and woe be to anyone who tries to help.

Shibas are extremely touchy when in this state, and may snap or bite at anyone who comes near them.

In addition, Sephy is extremely sensitive to the energy of the people and dogs around him. If I am scared or stressed-out, he picks up on that immediately, and gets that way too – except with a thousand times more gusto!

5. An accomplished singer

A Shiba Inu does not bark much, but he has a wide range of vocal stylings.

The most well known is the Shiba-scream, which is a high pitched, loud scream, that will make your blood curdle. Your neighbors will think you are torturing your poor little ball of fur.

A Shiba will quickly learn to use his Shiba-scream against you, if you let him.

Do not get embarrassed, and do not give him a reaction during a Shiba-scream. I just ignore Sephy and go about my business. He quickly learned that screaming is not very effective at getting him what he wants, and he stopped doing it. Remember that a Shiba can see your outward appearance, as well as sense your inner energy.

6. Dog royalty

A Shiba Inu does not like being touched or handled.

Cutting nails, bathing, or a vet examination, is never fun for any breed of dog. However, with a Shiba, it can be total hell.

After a lot of desensitization work and management, Sephy still protests to some of these activities. He sometimes throws a fit when I pick him up, and he only likes human contact when the mood suits him.

A Shiba is like dog royalty. He wants his subjects close enough to serve him, but not too close as to sully his royal person.

7. Pretends not to understand ‘Obedience’

Obedience? What’s that?

Shibas Inus think that you should be obedient to them and not the other way around. If you want a Shiba to do something for you, you had better make him a good offer. Sometimes, Sephy bargains with me. He will sit there and wait until I have the acceptable number of dog treats in my hand, before going into his crate.

A Shiba can be a good citizen at home, but he must be properly managed.

Shibas are strong willed, independent, and bred to hunt. Aversive training does not work well on them. Shiba owners need to be creative and flexible when interacting with their dog.

A Shiba is not to be trusted off-leash, unless in a fully enclosed area.

8. Nasty, wicked teeth

For a small dog, a Shiba Inu has very large teeth, and he is not afraid to use them.

Shibas can be very mouthy; more so than many other dog breeds. When I first got Sephy at 10 weeks old, his mouth was all over me. Now, it is in control, but his instinct is still to bite.

Shibas are a primitive breed, and they lose control more easily than other more domesticated dog breeds.

The Quirky

A grass connoisseur

Sephy likes grazing, but he is picky about what grass he will eat. Dogs may sometimes graze when their stomachs are upset, to clear their digestive systems. However, my Shiba just enjoys eating grass, provided it is the right kind of grass.

I recently found an article suggesting that there might be something to this grass connoisseur business after all.

“We at Green Foods believe that dogs and many other carnivores, including cats and bears, eat cereal grasses because cereal grasses contain nutrients not found in meat that are essential for the animals’ good health.”
~~[ Green Foods web site ]

Thanks to all the posters at Shibatalk and ShibaInuInfo for their many humorous Shiba stories that inspired this article.

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  1. Anonymous says

    We bought a Shiba 6 yrs. ago from a breeder. She was two at the time. I just love her but she is not typical of the Shiba breed….she LOOKS like the one pictured but does not act like any other Shiba I’ve read about. It fools people into thinking that the breed is very mellow & gentle. Kids come up to her in the store & pet her, people comment on her gentle nature, & she looks absolutely stunning…BUT I always tell them she is the exception. She is very laid back–I have to get her up & moving otherwise she would spend the day napping!! She is great w/ cats & other dogs, & just wants to snuggle w/ her humans. The breeder said this dog needed a special home because she was very sensitive. She is easily upset by noises which results in quivering & burrowing under my arms so I will hold her. I love her personality but know that there would probably not be another one like her.

  2. James says

    We have had a sheba for nearly 14 years. We have a runtish female (SHEBA). They are independent dogs and don’t require a lot of attention. She loves to lay out on the back deck and “keep watch”. I’m also the only one who can pick her up but, I do it carefully. She grew up along side a poodle/jack russel terrier mix(Chester). …that dog has since passed on…and sheba waited a good 3 months on the deck waiting for Chester to come home. Kinda sad. Those 2 dogs got along pretty well….and Sheba also gets along with our current 4 year old poodle named Charlie. Those 2 like to play together…and Sheba also gets along great with our cat MEOW-MEOW. We got meow meow as a stray kitten and her and Sheba were instant buds…..Sheba would act like her mother and the 2 would curl up together….my sheeba does pretty well with other animals. She also knows from early on that we would not tolerate aggressive behavior for no reason…..and the dog caught on quick. The older these dogs get…the better they get…..and to you’re surprise the most excited when picked up from the kennel. The do love their owners but are shy about showing it…..sometimes I have to go over and rub her belly…to let her know. Shebas are great dogs and I hope mine stays around for as long as possible…I love my SHEEEEEB!

  3. Kelly says

    Thank you for the excellent advice about Shiba Inus! Your advice about putting a Shiba in time out has been very important and helpful in training our female Shiba puppy. They CANNOT be dominated/made submissive like other dogs, including my Airedale Terriers who are clearly way more domesticated! Your advice about making it worth her while to go outside has helped- she’s fully housetrained, but meh, it’s easier to do it in the room farthest from where she sleeps. My great big Airedale is an excellent alpha- gentle, ultra playful and ready to snap her back in line when needed. The airedale found an injured bird and sniffed it- the Shiba charged in and killed it immediately. These are not lightweights.

  4. Carol says

    Hmmm…I found this website because I searched “shiba inu aggression.” In my neighbourhood, there are at least 4 of these dogs. One is sort of okay, for now–but she’s young and might change. Another would’ve killed my Havanese at the dog park, if I hadn’t interceded. A third wanted to attack my previous dog, when she was dying. This dog’s owner was embarrassed by her dog’s violence. A fourth didn’t like me walking on the road in front of his house. His owner made excuses (I had my walking poles, which I don’t use around any dog, and which I hold down so they don’t look like weapons).

    This blog does show me why an owner might want to keep her shibu inu rather than euthanize it. But for me to write this–and I’m a dog lover–shows to what extent I’ve become leery of these animals.

    I urge any owner to keep her dog muzzled if necessary, and always on a leash. This dog doesn’t belong in a dog park with smaller dogs. Nor does this dog belong unchained in its front yard.

    Cuteness doesn’t count in a court case.

    • Kelly says

      I think Shibas can really surprise people- so very cute, so very intense. Most people are prepared to understand that a Pittie requires excellent training to be the sweetheart they can be- its a big, tough looking dog. Many people who would get a Shiba would never get a Pittie- so as you say, they are surprised when their untrained little ball of fluff has a serious aggressive streak.

    • James says

      Correct Carol. These dogs must be leashed at all times…..unless you have a very tall fence….and not the chainlink type. I show my Sheeba affection everyday and always have. My Sheeba is also a VERY good walker and loves to go for walks with her brother Charlie (poodle). Charlie is the trouble maker on the walks and barks at most other dogs…..Sheeba seems to sophisticated to do any of that. Sheeba has 1 toy that she plays with…a small moose head…Charlie has 10 toys he plays with. Sheeba is the mellow one…lol Charlie sleeps under the covers with us….and Sheeba is alond side the bed on the floor……Charlie is actually the better watchdog……and barks way more. sheebas only bark when necessary.

    • Richele says

      I do agree with your comment only, don’t let those other Shibas scare you away from the breed. Shibas need to be trained right and most owners are lazy and don’t take enough time to train them. A Shiba is a great dog after it is properly trained. (By the way I do own a Shiba so I’m not just randomly writing this)

  5. RainyRamone says

    ShibaShake, thank you for such an entertaining and informative post! When you mentioned that your dog enjoys grass as a snack, it made me think of how my mom’s Shiba used to mirthfully eat an amazing variety of non-food items (miraculously, never making him sick!). At five years old, he’s doing it less frequently. But it makes me wonder, are Shibas prone to pica disorder? Thanks!

    • Anonymous says

      Thank you for the informative article, ShibaShake. It says that boredom can contribute to pica. Exactly… My mom plays with her dog, but I can see that he should ideally be getting more exercise than he does. I think she should hire a walker (or a runner, lol). Hana, I agree that cucumber leaves are a weird choice to munch on; they’re like sandpaper – blech! Maybe edible, but not very palatable.

  6. JMK says

    I have a 16 year old shiba that acts like a puppy. She was given to me when she was four yrs. old. I didn’t know she was not socialize until I got her home. She was wild and wanted nothing to do with people. I put her in a 60′ x 160′ pen and she loved it. Also she made a good watch dog. After ten yrs. she will let me pet her some, but only on her terms. I would never recommend this breed for a family pet.

    • Hana says

      Actually, my parents raised two shibas from puppies and they made excellent companions for kids. I’d come home from college for the winter holidays missing the family shiba and be like, “hey , where’s Kuro?” only to find out that Kuro the shiba had been invited to a playdate with the seven year olds across the street. Or that my mom’s friends family had asked to borrow Kuro for the day.

      But I can’t stress enough the importance of early socialization with kids and dogs. A four year old shiba is hard to train.

  7. BECKY says

    I have always loved Shiba Inu’s and wanted to own one for years! because I work an 8 hour day + commute time I fear it would be grossly unfair to leave it alone in the house all day. I was thinking maybe I could pay for a dog walker ? and just spend all weekend with it but I worry it is just not fair if there is nobody at home with it unless of course I do use a dog minder?

    Advice welcome please

  8. Irene says

    I don’t understand the mentally of some people why adopting a dog if all his/her needs are not going to be taken care of it is inhuman and not acceptable if you are not going to treat your dog like a family member don’t get one especially rescued dogs they have been through a lot they need special treatment… it breaks my heart the some people are towards animals.

  9. Felicia says

    I own my little girl Shiba for 14 years. She was the mos sweet natured dog, very catlike but so funny. I own a Canaan Dog and she spent her time dominating him. She never bit him, but it was not unusual to see his foot or tail in her mouth. He would take it for so long, then he would stand over her with HER head in his mouth. She had a look that said, “Oh, I forgot you were bigger.” I loved her dearly and someday I will get another Shiba girl.

  10. Nicole says

    I’d like ao.e advice on my young Shibas behavior. He’s only agressive towards one of my dogs and just randomly goes up to him and attacks him
    We first thought the problem was because it was near his room. But he just attacked him outside as well.. I don’t know if it’s because before I let him outside he was barking at something andy other boy was there.. i have been bitten trying to get him off the other dog.. please help! Any advice would be helpful

    • shibashake says

      How many dogs do you have? What kind, what ages, and what temperament? How is the dog that gets attacked different? Is he older? Is he neutered? Is he nervous? How old is the Shiba? How long have you had him? When did this behavior start? What training has he had?

      Dog behavior is very context dependent so the temperaments, routine, past experiences, training, and more of the dogs will all play a role. When there are multiple dogs involved, things become even more complex. Therefore, especially in cases of aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer. When I was having troubles with my Shiba, I visited with several trainers, and I also read up a lot on dog behavior.

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules, and I supervise them to make sure that everybody is following the rules. As soon as I notice the start of any undesirable behavior, I call and redirect my dog. For my in-training dog, I put a flat collar and light leash on her (only under supervision and absolutely no aversive collars). In this way, I can easily control my dog if need be, and I stop things before they escalate. Prevention is best.

      With rules, routine, and supervision, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and conflicts.

      I try to manage my dog’s environment so that I always set her up for success. Calm, supervised, and successful experiences with each other, help my dogs to build confidence, trust, and positive associations. Similarly, negative experiences or reactive events will undermine that trust, set back my training, create negative associations, and result in more stress and conflicts down the road.

      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      I do not leave my dogs alone unsupervised until I am very very sure that there will be absolutely no issues. If I am unable to supervise, then I keep my in-training dog separated. I use leashes, gates, enclosures, and other equipment to keep everyone safe. Given what you describe, I would contact a good trainer as soon as possible.

  11. LP says

    I agree with SQ that it is uncaring and harmful to care for a dog that you know needs surgery that you refuse to provide out of fear of some future costs related to aggression. I have a five year old Shiba female and while she always shows aggression on leash, and won’t back down from a fight, she is the smartest, most soulful and most loyal of all my dogs (others being Goldens and yellow labs). Please consider the bounty of joy this dog will bring to your life and be patient.

  12. Mariann says

    I rescued a 3 year-old Shiba and he attacks me and my other dog. I thought at first he was protecting his chew toys, but the other night I went to pet him and he started growling without a chew toy. I thought my other dog was walking into the room. Thankfully I pulled away in time before he got me. He needs both rear knees operated on (luxing) and I just don’t see putting that much money into the surgery if I’m going to get sued later on by someone else for his aggression or spending a lot of time in the Vet ER because he hurt my other dog. When he is good he is fantastic but this all of the sudden no reason of attacks has me freaked out.

    • shibashake says

      When he is good he is fantastic but this all of the sudden no reason of attacks has me freaked out.

      How long have you had him? What was his previous environment? When did the aggressive behavior start? When did his knees start having issues? Pain and physical issues can cause a dog to feel more vulnerable, and cause changes in behavior, including aggression.

      My Shiba is also very sensitive to the energy of the dogs and people around him. If I am stressed, frustrated, or fearful, he will pick up on my energy, get more stressed himself, and his behavior will worsen. I need to control my own energy first, before I can help my dog control his.

      With my dog, I always take care of physical issues first. After the physical issues are resolved, then I can focus on retraining. I have a three legged Husky, and when there are physical issues, I keep her separated from my other dogs. In this way, she can rest, my other dogs do not bother her, and she can feel safe. I also use leashes, gates, basket muzzle, and other management equipment, as necessary, to keep everyone safe and calm.

      For retraining my Shiba Inu, I consulted with several professional trainers to identify the source of his reactive behavior, and together, we developed an appropriate plan for rehabilitation.

    • SQ says

      why would you rescue a dog who needed surgery and then be unwilling to provide it? If you are not going to provide for the dog you need to give it back to a rescue. I have no experience with shibas but ANY animal becomes cranky and will start acting out when they are in pain. It’s often the first sign something is wrong!!

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