Breed Group:
Companion Dogs

Middle Age: 6 years

Senior Age: 9 years

Geriatric Age: 12 years

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Shiba Inu Breed Information & Background:

  • The spitz family is mostly associated with Northern cultures. Nobody knows how the Shiba’s ancestors came to Japan, but it’s thought the breed existed as long ago as 300 B.C. The Shiba is the smallest of the six spitz breeds associated with Japan.
  • They were initially used to flush birds and small game, but occasionally they were used with tougher prey such as wild boar.
  • Three main types, each named after its area of origin once existed. However, the breed became almost extinct after World War II, and then again in 1952 following a severe distemper outbreak. Two of the three types were extremely decimated, and those that remained were interbred with the third type as the only way to have sufficient numbers to save the breed. The types had varied in bone substance, among other things. There’s still some variation in bone substance today within the breed, but not as much as there had been between the three subtypes.
  • Shibas came to America in 1954 and were AKC recognized in 1993. They have grown steadily in popularity, with a recent boost due to Internet exposure featuring several popular Shibas on memes.
  • Family: The AKC places the Shiba Inu in the Non-Sporting group, a sort of catch-all group that was initially home for dogs that weren’t Sporting dogs. They are really members of the spitz family, a large ancient family that have in common erect ears, bushy coat, curled tail and square proportions.


  • The Shiba Inu has a typical spitz build, with small erect ears, curled tail and stand-off coat, although the coat is shorter than in most other spitz breeds. The small ears avoided frost bite and the coat kept the dog warm.
  • The outer coat is surprisingly stiff , repelling snow and water, while the undercoat is soft and dense, providing insulation. Touching a Shiba’s coat is a unique experience, as it is unusually bouncy to the touch.

Shiba Inu Temperament & Personality:

  • True to their spitz heritage, Shibas are headstrong and independent.
  • They are bold and confident and very alert. They make excellent watchdogs.
  • They tend to be fairly quiet.
  • They are not particularly outgoing to strange dogs, pets or people. They may chase small animals, and may not be trustworthy around small household pets unless raised with them.
  • They are fun-loving but may be too independent to be an ideal child’s companion.
  • They are fairly challenging to train.


  • The coat needs brushing all the way to the skin once or twice a week—more when shedding. Use a pin brush and slicker brush.  No trimming is necessary.
  • Shedding is high.
  • They can be escape artists so a secure fence is a necessity.


  • Shibas have a moderate to high activity level. They can be destructive if they don’t get a release for their energy. They need a daily workout, either a long walk or jog or vigorous off lead games.
  • They tend to run off if they get the urge so a secure exercise area is essential.
  • They make excellent hiking and jogging companions.
  • They can swim but generally don’t love it.
  • They may or may not be good dog park dogs, as some are fine but others are overly domineering to other dogs.
  • They are not generally seen as great obedience or agility competition dogs, although many enjoy learning agility.

Training a Shiba Inu:

  • Shiba Inus need extensive socialization as puppies so that they relate well to strange dogs and people.
  • This is not a breed who learns tricks because he loves you. He does love you, but not in a fawning manner! But he will work for food.
  • Use reward-based training but also a firm hand, as they can test you to see what they can get away with.

Shiba Inu Health Problems and Longevity:

Typical Shiba Inu lifespan is 12 to 15 years.

There are very few health problems reported in Shibas, either because they are very healthy or because they have not been that popular until lately, thus fewer dogs have been available for reports.

  • Shibas do have a much higher incidence of glaucoma compared to other dogs, with 33% of those in one Japanese report having the condition.
  • Patellar luxation, primarily a disease of small dogs in which the knee cap slides in and out of its groove, occurs in 7% of Shibas.
  • Hip dysplasia is reported in 6% of Shiba Inus.
  • Elbow dysplasia is reported in 4% of Shiba Inus.
  • Allergic dermatitis is reported as a problem, although how its frequency compares with that of other breeds is unknown.
  • An unusual hereditary disease found in some Shibas is GM1-glangliosidosis. It is very uncommon, with 3% of Shibas in a Japanese report found to be carriers. It is inherited as a simple recessive. A DNA test is available.
  • Shibas often have two benign findings in their blood sample. First, they may have unusually small red blood cells. Second, they may have high red blood cell potassium levels. Neither condition affects their health. Owners should be aware if the conditions are flagged in bloodwork as abnormal.

The National Shiba Club of America suggests the following tests:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation
  • Eye exam

Related Links:

National Shiba Inu Breed Club

Shiba Inu Health Information

Shiba Inu Rescue