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.
This article really made me laugh.
It made me laugh because its so true. My shiba has all of these traits except for the scream.. I’ve never heard her do that before.
Thanks for this fun read though.
Very insightful website & posts- I would like to pick the brains of all you great Shiba owners. I’m thinking about adopting a 2 yr old female Shiba from a rescue shelter. They don’t know why she’s there and say she’s docile. I’ve never owned a dog before (rescue mgr says that this dog shold be no problem for 1st time owner). There are no kids or other animals here and no yard (but have a great dog park nearby). I’m concerned about my furniture & if I could leave her (she’s crate trained) for at most 6 hrs? What other concerns should I have and what should I ask the rescue shelter? Thanks for your input!
Being in a shelter can be very stressful for dogs. Most dogs tend to be more reserved in such situations, and slowly get back to their normal self after about 2 weeks (or more depending on the dog) in a home. The people at my SPCA used to call this the honeymoon period – because that 2 weeks can be very useful for teaching the dog house rules and getting off onto a good start with a fixed routine.
I think you already have a great environment for a Shiba because she will have the place to herself and does not have to deal with other animals. When I started out with Sephy I had a very similar situation – no other pets, and also no yard. I must say the no yard was very difficult for a Shiba puppy. Sephy was very energetic and not having any off-leash time was very difficult. Luckily our SPCA had a fenced compound and they let us use it to exercise Sephy.
After about 1.5 years, Sephy calmed down a lot and did not need as much exercise. Now he is over 3 and he is very relaxed and lazy most of the time. He usually only needs his 1-1.5 hour morning walk and he is good for the rest of the day. Since the female Shiba is 2 years old, she may already be more calm.
How does the female Shiba deal with other dogs? If she has lived for long on her own, she may be wary of other dogs, or certain types of dogs. I would also ask about how comfortable she is with food, whether she protects her food/toys from people or from other dogs.
I was also a 1st time owner when I got Sephy – and he was very challenging for me. After about one year things got a lot better and Sephy taught me a lot about dog training. The two things that are probably most challenging about Sephy and many Shibas –
Their stubbornness can be out of this World 🙂
They are very independent and mischievous.
Sephy is a lot better now but he will still test his boundaries and conduct scientific experiments on the people around him to see exactly what he can or cannot do.
The other important thing is to not to go too quickly with a rescue dog. Let the dog come to you and don’t overwhelm her with too much attention. Shibas tend to be more on the aloof side anyway, and like keeping their own company. Below is a very useful guide for what to do and not to do on the first days –
It is not a Shiba guide specifically, but it has good information that applies to all dogs.
Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes and what you decide.
Hi Colleen, Our shiba never shows his teeth either. You hit it spot on when you mentioned “nip”. That’s what my little one does (he’s 1 year and 5 months). You are right in it must be a shiba trait.
My Shiba, he’s 10 mos, also loves to “talk” while playing with other dogs. He also nudges and “nips” (never bites or makes teeth on leg contact with) at other dogs knees to try to get them to play if they are ignoring him. I’ve found that in small groups or 1:1 play sessions, it’s easier to comfort the other dog owner(s) that it is how your Shiba plays and it is not aggressive.
I’ve never corrected my Shiba for nudging other dogs legs or “talking” while playing as it seems to be part of his play style but my Shiba also does not enjoy dog parks so we don’t have to worry so much about that.
I thought it was just my Shiba that did those things. Glad to learn the talking, or monkey noises as I call it, and the play biting at the legs to play may be part of a Shiba trait after all….
Hi everyone! I have 2 male shibas that are 6 months apart. They absolutely love to play with other dogs at the dog park. There are some dog owners who fear that our shibas are being aggressive toward their dogs when in fact they are just playing. They love to “talk” to other dogs and when running after other dogs, our shibas try to play bite the other dog’s back or hind leg to stop them. By no means is it aggressive but of course other owners may think different. Is this common with everyone? Or is this something that we should correct so other owners are not afraid?
Yeah Sephy does this as well! I call them his Shiba warcries 😀
One thing that Sephy really liked to do while at dog parks is chase after other dog’s balls, steal them, and then start a chasing game. He loves playing catch me if you can games. However, some dogs may not like this kind of behavior, and it may ultimately lead to other things. What usually happened was that as soon as the other dog tries to correct Sephy with a growl, they get alpha rolled by their owners.
As you say, sometimes the other owners get fearful, excited, etc – and this gets picked up by Sephy which amps up his behavior even more. Shibas, I think are very sensitive to the energy of the people around them. I have also met some people who will correct other people’s dogs with physical techniques – and that is extremely dangerous for everyone.
Like Colleen, I have stopped bringing Sephy to dog parks because the situation there is just too uncontrolled and Sephy is a mischievous little thing. Also, not all the dogs there have bite inhibition – and their correction may ultimately cause physical damage. I also did not want them to get alpha rolled – when it was Sephy who started the whole thing.
Here is an article I wrote about my experiences with Sephy and dog parks –
I am pleased you enjoyed it.
Thanks for the tips.
Quick question, is it ok to switch from wet food to dry food? When we first got dusty she was on dry, she didn’t eat it so we went for the wet stuff, she has been fine on this for the last 7 months but has been on hunger strike for the last 48 hours, we went and got some dry food and she cleared the bowl in seconds (normally she eats like such a lady and then burps after haha)
Thanks for the pictures and word file Brendan. Dusty’s instructions are hilarious! You should definitely publish it, I think Shiba owners everywhere would enjoy it very much.
Sephy also sometimes goes on a hunger strike for no discernible reason. I think he has a very sensitive digestive system so sometimes he just wants to clear it out. It could also be that the food company changed some ingredients in the wet food.
In general when switching food it is best to go slowly and do it in quarters. 1/4 new food, 3/4 old food for 3-4 days. If everything is ok, then go 1/2 and 1/2 and so on. When I first got Sephy, he was on Eukanuba (what the breeder gave him) and we would practically have to jump through hoops to get him to eat the stuff. After I switched to Innova EVO things got a lot better.
Sephy is exactly the same way! He also eats like a lady and burps at the end LOL. In contrast my Siberian girl eats like a man, drinks like a man, and snores like a sailor! She is pretty awesome! 😀
my little shiba Moksha is at it again. He has recently decided that everything in the house is his and has been stealing everything. I can hardly leave a room without him getting into something…and of course he then looks at me with his big brown eyes almost as if to say “it wasn’t me mom, I didn’t do it” Any suggestions on what I should do with my thieving shiba?
Thanks for those pictures of Moksha.
Some possibilities –
1. Have him attached to you at all times with a long lead so that he doesn’t get a chance to steal.
2. Brush up on his Leave-It training, and set up training scenarios where you are ready to catch him in the act. If he keeps trying to steal but fails and gets a bad response for it, he will likely stop.
3. Make sure not to chase him around after he steals because that is usually a big reward for a dog especially a Shiba. If Sephy steals something and nobody shows any interest, he will quickly lose interest in it as well 😀
4. Remove all dangerous objects from Shiba steal radius.
5. Keep him engaged with sanctioned chase games at home.
Shibas love to keep testing their boundaries. They remind me of that Verizon guy except they say – “Can I do this now? What about now?” – LOL. Many hugs to Prince Moksha.
I recently Left Dusty with my focks for 5 nights and she was no trouble at all (although she did get them to do things for her that i would never do, lift her in and out of the car ect)
We took her round there a couple of times the week before we left and she was fine. think it helped that my parents have 2 black labs which dusty loves and uses as her body guard when she wants to go and sniff out trouble.
we did get the happiest and loudest noises when we went to pick her back up and she took a night or two to settle back in at ours but it worked really well.
p.s i will get some pics to you guys soon, she is a big girl now, all 10.2kg of her
Hahaha – Dusty is such a super Shiba!
Yeah I think what you describe is a great boarding solution. I believe that Shibas, in general, like being with people they know and in a place that they are fairly familiar with. In this way, they are also a very loyal breed.
O-O Can’t Wait! I love seeing Dusty. I always show her pictures to Sephy in the hopes that some of her awesomeness will rub off on him. 😀
concerned traverler says
Did you ever board Sephy while on vacation?
My dog (recently adopted as a young adult) has food aggression problems and dominance issues that we are working through, but im starting to worry about our upcoming vacation.
I’m not sure if a boarding facility could handle him. he’s been kicked out of daycare once for…well, pretty much being a bratty shiba!
I’m worried that if he is boarded he will snap at feeding time or throw a fit.
he has bit me a few times in the past.
I did look into several options for doing that but they didn’t really work out for Sephy. The daycare people couldn’t really handle him and neither could the dog walker who also did home boarding. With the daycare he would either whine throughout the day or get into trouble during play-sessions. With the dog walker he did Shiba screaming, alligator rolls, and many of his other Shiba moves.
The dog walker wanted to start using choke chains on Sephy and do extreme corrections, which I wasn’t comfortable with so it ended there. According to the dog walker, they have a Shiba boarding with them and he was ok, but only after they did some heavy duty physical stuff to him. I wasn’t willing to risk that with Sephy.
I think the issue with boarding Shibas is that it takes time for them to trust a person and to feel comfortable the person. Short term boarding is usually a challenge because the people there do not have enough time to spend with a Shiba.
Some alternatives that may work –
Getting a neightbor/relative to house-sit. Shibas may be more comfortable with someone they already know and have spent time with.
Have a pet sitter come over numerous times before vacation so that Shiba can get familiar with him/her before the real deal.
I would definitely be interested in hearing what works out for you. I think many Shiba owners including me are in the same boat on this one.