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, and even boar through the mountains and brush in Japan. Because of their history has hunters most Shibas tend to have a high prey drive. This is one reason it’s discouraged 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 and stubborn nature it’s hard to get them to come back to you once they’re in pursuit. Many Shibas have been killed during one of these chases, crossing the road in traffic 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 and escaping from their owners.
Shibas love to be included in ‘adventures’ with their families, but they do have an off switch and will happily lounge on the couch with their owners, as long as they get plenty of exercise or mental stimulation throughout the day. 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 especially when in a comfortable area or with familar people. One of my favorite things to do is watch them do the Shiba 500, where they run like crazy at an amazing speed and with such agility around the backyard.
Shibas are also a clean breed – they often don’t care to play in the mud or the water, but they do like to dig. Thanks to their double coat you don’t have to bathe them very often. The harsh outer coat keeps dirt & mud from sticking to their fur or getting into their soft inner coat. Once the mud dries it will fall right off. Another characteristic of a double coat is that they do shed twice a year – during this time they need constant grooming to get rid of the old undercoat. I would suggest using an undercoat rake or a dog blow dryer to get rid of the dead coat.
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. Plus if there is ever an emergency where you evacuate your Shiba will be crate trained and not as likely to raise a fuss in a shelter (where pets must be caged) or if your Shiba needs crate rest due to a injury or surgery it won’t be as stressed or restless.
Shibas are generally a healthy breed. Good, reputable breeders screen for things such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and get an eye exam with the results registered with OFA. (It’s suggested the eye exam is done annually) The breed may have issues with glaucoma and mild to severe food intolerances. 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), and even aggression to people, 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 and nail clipping/grinding time). They are extremely loving and 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!