Dog Health & More
The Shiba Inu dog breed was originally bred to flush birds and small game, and was occasionally used to hunt wild boar. He is one of Japan's six native breeds: Akita (large), Kishu, Hokkaido, Kai, Shikoku (medium), and Shiba (small). He is known for his spirited personality, small upright ears, and cat-like agility. Today he serves primarily as a companion dog in Japan and the United States.
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With his prick ears, squinty eyes, and curly tail, this breed from the Land of the Rising Sun looks like a fox, or perhaps a stuffed toy. He is neither. He is the Shiba Inu, the smallest — and possibly the most ancient — of six spitz dogs that originate in Japan.
The Shiba Inu is known for a bold, fiery personality. The Japanese have three words to describe the breed's mental traits: kaani-i (spirited boldness), ryosei (good nature), and soboku (alertness). Combined, these traits make up the interesting, intelligent, and strong-willed temperament of this breed.
The Shiba Inu is small (about 20 pounds) and athletic. Like a ninja warrior, the Shiba Inu moves quickly, nimbly, effortlessly. He is keen and alert.
And superior — or so he thinks, according to those who know and love this breed. The Shiba Inu approaches the world with a calm dignity that is uniquely his own, which is likely why he is also described as stubborn.
Because of his independence, the Shiba Inu is not the easiest breed to train. Socialization — the process by which puppies or adults dogs learn how to be friendly and get along with other dogs and people — and training should begin early to teach the Shiba Inu proper canine manners.
It is important to understand the freethinking nature of the Shiba Inu so you won't be frustrated. The Shiba Inu is highly intelligent, but he doesn't necessarily want to do what you want him to do. You may have to make him think obedience is his idea. For best results, it's important to work with a trainer who understands the breed's independence.
Another tendency of the breed is possessiveness. The Shiba Inu guards his stuff, including toys, food, or territory. Proper socialization helps minimize this characteristic, but it's wise to put away any of his favorite toys and treats when other dogs or children are around so he's not tempted to quarrel over them.
Despite all of this, the Shiba Inu is a good family dog — he is loyal and devoted — and does well with children as long as he is properly socialized and trained, and the children treat him kindly and respectfully.
The Shiba Inu has been known to show the fiery side of his personality with other dogs and animals. He can be dog-aggressive, especially intact males with intact males. Most Shibas cannot be trusted off leash because they are natural hunters and love the chase. There's a strong chance he will chase a squirrel, chipmunk, or cat. He is generally suspicious of strangers and is a good watchdog, alerting you to anything unusual.
Getting outside for some action is also important to a Shiba. He needs a good daily workout, whether it's a walk in the neighborhood or a jog alongside his bicycling owner. He is best suited to a home with a securely fenced yard (he has escape-artist tendencies) where he can romp. He should always be leashed when he's not at home because of his prey drive and potential for dog-aggression.
The Shiba Inu is a wonderful companion, though his strong-willed personality can be too much for some people. Others are charmed by his pluck and loyalty, which is why enthusiasts say that owning a Shiba isn't just owning a dog — it's a way of life.