There are three words that the Japanese use to describe the Shiba Inu’s temperament:
Kan-i is bravery and boldness combined with composure and strength. Ryosei is good nature with a gentle disposition. Kan-i & Ryosei are opposites; one cannot exist without the other. The last word to describe the Shiba Inu is Soboku which is artlessness with a refined & open spirit. All three of these characteristics combined make the Shiba Inu a Shiba Inu.
Shiba Inus are the smallest of the native dog breeds from Japan. They were bred to hunt birds, rabbits & even boar through the mountains & brush in Japan. As a general rule most Shibas have a high prey drive. This is one reason it’s never a good idea to let your Shiba off leash, not only will they take off after a bird, squirrel, cat, or plastic bag without a second thought, but due to their independent & stubborn nature it’s hard to get them to come back to you once they’re in pursuit. Many Shibas have met their end during one of these chases, crossing the road to catch whatever has their attention. Two issues that contribute to runaway Shibas are; a non secured fence, broken slats or chain link fences as Shibas are climbers/diggers, and the collar type. I do NOT recommend a flat buckle collar. A martingale, correctly used choke chain, or even a harness should prevent a Shiba from backing out & escaping from their collars.
Shibas love to be included in ‘adventures’ with their families, but they do have an off switch & will happily lounge on the couch with their owners,as long as they get plenty of exercise of course. I found that Shibas have a quiet, regal air about them with a hint of snottiness in public, but they do have a silly, energetic side – aka the Shiba 500, where they run like crazy at an amazing speed and with such agility.
They are also a clean breed – they often don’t care to play in the mud or the water – but they do like to dig – which means you don’t have to bathe them very often. The harsh double coat keeps dirt & mud from sticking to their fur. Once the mud dries it will fall right off. But they do shed twice a year – during this time they need constant grooming to get rid of the old undercoat. Also because of their clean nature, as puppies they’re very easy to housebreak – they don’t like to soil their living areas, which makes crate training a breeze. I fully recommend crate training your Shiba! Puppies can be naughty & it’ll keep them safe when they aren’t supervised.
Shibas are generally a healthy breed. Good, reputable breeders screen for things such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and get an annual eye exam with the results registered with OFA. The breed may have issues with glaucoma and mild to severe food allergies. A good, reputable breeder will be upfront & honest with any issues that their line may potentially have. Here’s a list of the minimum health testing a Shiba should receive before being bred : OFA Shiba Inu requirements
Being a primitive breed, Shibas are more suited for an experienced dog owner. Although first time owners can do well as long as they’re firm and set boundaries. Shibas are a smart breed but they need proper motivation in order to get them to listen to what you want. As a headstrong breed, they do what they want unless there’s something good in it for them, which can make them a bit of a challenge to train at times. If allowed to, Shibas will happily take the dominant role in the household which can lead to behaviors such as food/resource guarding, dog aggression (they’re notorious for being same sex aggressive), & even people aggressive, BUT this doesn’t have to be the case. With proper training & socialization, in addition to a good genetic background, your Shiba will be the best adventure partner you can ask for!
It’s highly recommended you take your pup to puppy kindergarten classes & socialize them with older, well behaved, balanced dogs.
Some of the best things about Shibas their convenient size, willingness to accompany you anywhere, and that they usually make very little noise (except that dreaded Shiba scream – beware of that during bath & nail clipping/grinding time). They are extremely loving & loyal to their family. Nothing is cuter than a squinty eyed Shiba making airplane ears, with a happy smile with their whole back end wagging when you come home from work..This is a special reaction reserved for owners/family members and highly esteemed friends. If that isn’t special I don’t know what is!
While Shiba Inus aren’t the dog for everyone – if you decide to make the commitment I know you won’t be disappointed!