Shiba Inu – Facts about Japan’s Most Popular Dog Breed

Shiba Inu is the most famous Japanese dog breed. Inu is the Japanese word for “dog”. Shiba dogs are a popular wolf-like dog breed. And they shed – a lot. Their most common coat color is red. But there are black Shiba Inu as well. Other Shiba dog colors are white/ cream, tan and the rare sesame.

They are small to medium sized dogs. But there are mini Shiba Inu too. Mini Shibas are smaller versions who have bred with the sole intention to have smaller Shibas. The Shiba dog is the most popular dog breed in Japan.

Other native and well-known dog breeds from Japan are the large Akita Inu and the medium-sized Shikoku Inu, Kai Ken, Kishu (also called Kishu Ken/ Kishu Inu) and the Hokkaido Inu (Ainu-Ken, Seta, Ainu). The shedding Chihuahua and Poodle are also popular non-native dog breeds in Japan.

The original Shiba dog was bred for hunting birds and small animals. These included waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) and rabbits. Packs of Shiba dogs were occasionally used to hunt bigger game such as the Inoshishi – Japanese wild boar. The Shiba is a clean and energetic dog breed.

Shiba Inu – Facts about Japan’s Most Popular Dog Breed

Shiba Inu
A Shiba Inu

Here are 10+ top facts about the most famous Japanese dog breed.

  1. It is a Spitz dog breed – the Spitz have a wolf-like appearance, with pointed muzzles, thick fur and pointed ears. Other Spitz dogs include the Akita Inu, Pomeranian, Alaskan malamute, American Eskimo Dog, the Chow Chow from China, Samoyed and the courageous Norwegian Elkhound.
  2. Shiba Inus shed – This dog breed has a double coat. The outer protective coat is coarse while the soft undercoat keeps the dog warm during winter. But the dog sheds a lot of the undercoat at a single time. This shedding process is commonly referred to as Shiba blowing the coat.
  3. A Shiba is an expensive dog – Shiba Inu price in the West can go as high as $2,000. This is because the famous dog breed is usually in high demand, and parts of the world are experiencing a “pet boom” – including China.
  4. Shiba dogs became famous in the U.S. in 2013 – this was the result of the famous Shiba doge, an internet meme that went viral.
  5. Shiba Inu puppies are very clean – But the puppies are also hard to train. They are loyal and love human companionship. Shiba dogs, like cats, spend a lot of time cleaning and grooming themselves
  6. The dog breed comes in many colors – the red Shiba dog coat is the most famous. But there are cream, black, sesame and tan coated Shiba dogs.
  7. Shibas have a great temperament They are alert and attentive but also playful and energetic. The dog is now mostly an energetic companion dog who loves going for walks and running.
  8. There are Shiba Inu mixes – these are hybrid dogs for those who desire to have extra qualities beyond those of a pure-bred dog. They are obtained by mixing a pure-bred Shiba dog with another pure-bred dog breed such as the Poodle.
  9. Shiba dog breed almost became extinct during World War II – this was the result of food shortages, frequent bombing raids as well as the canine distemper disease that spread after the war – in the 1950’s. Luckily, the Japanese government started breeding programs that re-populated Shiba dogs and other native Japanese dog breeds.
  10. It is an ancient dog breed – records of Shiba dogs go back as far as 300 B.C. The first Shiba Inu is believed to have been brought to the U.S in 1954 by a returning soldier.
  11. Shiba Inu have several health challenges – This dog breed, like any other dog, needs enough exercise and a healthy diet to thrive. Their ancient lineage has also helped keep the dog free from many genetic diseases seen in designer dogs. However, Shiba dogs can suffer from skin conditions (including atopic dermatitis caused by fleas and allergens), eye cataracts and hip dysplasia.

Shiba Dog Mixes

Shiba dog mixes include:

  • Corgi Inu: A mix between a Shiba Inu and a Welsh Corgi
  • Shairn Inu – a mix between the Cairn Terrier and a Shiba dog
  • Shibos – obtained by mating a Shiba with a Boston Terrier
  • Shibadox – a hybrid obtained by mixing a Dachshund with a purebred Shiba dog
  • Shiba Chi: A designer dog obtained by mixing a Shiba Inu and the tiny, bossy and shedding Chihuahua
  • Shi-Pom/ Pom-Shi – Pomeranian and Shiba Inu mix
  • Shocker: A mix between a Shiba and the Cocker Spaniels
  • Schnu: A mix between a Shiba dog and the Miniature Schnauzer
  • Poo-Shi: A hypoallergenic Poodle and the Shiba mix
  • Husky Inu – a medium size dog breed that is a hybrid between the large Siberian Husky and the Shiba dog

Shiba Inu Temperament

A Shiba dog’s temperament can be described in three words: alert, brave, good-natured. They are gentle despite their hunting genes. Shiba dogs are, however, very possessive. Some of this breed can even guard their “possessions” aggressively – especially when children and other pets are present.

Physical Characteristics – Shiba Dog Urajiro

Urajiro Shiba Inu
Urajiro markings on a Shiba dog

The Shiba dog is small in size but well-muscled. It is agile and quick, like most hunting dogs. A male Shiba weighs about 23 pounds while the female is smaller at about 16 pounds.

A Shiba dog’s height at the withers (highest point on its shoulders) is between 14.5 to 16.5 inches (for males) and 13.5 to 15.5 inches for females.

The dog breed has a lifespan of 13 to 16 years. Adult male Shiba dogs can weigh as much as 25 pounds. The preferred Shiba Inu colors are red, black and tan.

A purebred Shiba dog should have “Urajiro” – the white/ cream color on the dog’s throat and tummy, under the jaw, inside the ears, on the sides of the muzzle, cheeks and on the underside of the tail.

But urajiro may be hard to notice on a white Shiba Inu. A Shiba can live indoors comfortably as well as outdoors. They make good companion and guard dogs.

Shiba Inu for Sale – Where to Buy a Shiba Dog

The National Shiba Club of America (NSCA) is the national organization for Shiba dogs in the U.S. It has a huge Shiba Inu breeder directory. You can get good Shiba Inu puppies from the breeders on the American kennel Club website. One can also adopt a dog from the many Shiba dog rescues that include Shiba Inu Rescue Association (SIRA), the New England Shiba Rescue and Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue (MSIR).