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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve noticed that my Shiba girl “experiments with her barks/grumbles” when she’s not getting what she wants, do you ever notice Sephy doing that?
For example, if a regular bark doesn’t work, she’ll go “Rrrrr, bark!” That doesn’t work? Let’s try a longer growl-bark! “Rrrrrrrrr… Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… Bark!” Still not working? How about a noisy yawn! Nothing?! “Aroooooorooooo!” What, I’m still being ignored??? “Bark! ….Bark! ….Bark!” Maybe if I whine, they’ll notice me! 🙁
Typically she does this if, say, my dad locks her out of his room and she wants in, hahah. Although sometimes she’ll get noisy (again, usually at dad) when she’s not getting her fair share of food. Don’t worry, we’re careful what we feed her. Obviously no chocolate ice cream for her, but some pepperoni and cheese from a pizza or her own baked and cut-up chicken breast with no spices won’t hurt! I’m not sure why but ever since getting a Shiba, we’ve been really clumsy, constantly tripping and dropping cheese on the floor. 😛
Also, how does Sephy fare at the vet? I took my girl to the vet the other day and she was extremely stressed, like always. You wouldn’t understand, man, they stole her blood like a bunch of vampires (heartworm test), and injected her with some evil vet poisons that made her lethargic (vaccines), and stole her poop that she graciously left on the floor since she was so terrified (fecal test), and stuck a thermometer up her glorious floofy butt (to check her temperature), and her nails got chopped off (nail trim), and that evil vet poked and prodded her (general check-up)! And the worst part is that her own dog daddy *paid* them for such a wicked torture session! She hates her flea/heartworm treatment (Revolution) so I figured I’d wait a few days for her to relax before “mistreating” her some more, hahah. Do you know how hard it is to have a slightly wet spot on your back?????
Great article—and spot on! I enjoy your blog and writing style. I am a TV news writer with a 13 year old Shiba Inu. He can’t seem to figure out “doggie puzzles” (even ones with treats!!) and he loooves to snuggle, probably because when we got him cuz he was so cute and we loved petting and holding him!
Your Shiba is adorable and I hope you get to enjoy s long time with him. I dread the day Coda says goodbye
MICHELLE JAKWAY says
My Shiba-Poodle mix does the “head stand, booty up in air” move as well. One time he got so into it that he did a full on somersault!
OMG you have a shiba poodle mix would love to see a picture of your dog and how is the shedding? My dog is a full shiba and I love her but the shedding is terrible. I just left a post asking if any ever heard of a shib a poodle mix
Jenny Vanderford says
We have a Shiba Inu we found him running around tried finding his owners but never did. We had never even heard of the breed until he came into our lives. He has turned out to be my daughter’s dog. He’s very laid back, gets along with our other dogs, and yes it’s really hard keeping him in. He’s really good at running out the door. He looks for my daughter when she’s gone to work and we noticed when she’s visiting her dad that’s when he tries getting out the most. Anyway, my question is, I’ve noticed with soft things like blankets and bedding he doesn’t chew on them but kinda sucks on them, he doesn’t destroy anything. But was wondering if anyone had an idea why he does this?
This is a great website
I have a 6 month old Shiba and recently he seems to be getting very mouthy. However, it gets to the point where he will draw blood or actually uses force when biting down. He especially does it to my husband when he sits on the couch or in the mornings when I’m still in bed after he gets up. He bites anywhere he can, hands, face, hair.
Is this him being aggressive or just trying to communicate? How can we get him to stop biting with so much force?
My puppy used to be very mouthy bit less so now. For us if its play bite we would stop all play and leave every time no exceptions. Other times or situations we would time him out into his carrier every single time it happens. I was told anytime to correct unwanted behaviour is be consistent every single time. Do not let it go every odd time as they would think they can get away with it.
Where can you find a reputable breeder?
This list is a good starting place –
Does this Shiba need a lot of room? We would like a good guard/family dog in our 750 square foot RV. It is a very large RV, 42 feet long. We are a retired couple, so the dog will have our attention 24/7.
Hello, I am a new Shiba Inu owner and a first time dog owner. I am hoping you have an email that I can maybe email to get some help from you. You seem to have a lot of knowledge and I am stressed and it is day 3…I have tried researching, but nobody seems to know as much as you. Please let me know if there is an email I can ask you some questions.
Just lost my 16 yr. Old Saki. My Shiba was perfect and even spoke..I love you. Where can I adopt a male. I live in New Jersey.