Shiba Resources

Basic Shiba Inu Information


The Shiba Inu is an attractive breed but do not be deceived by that adorable teddy bear looking face. This breed can be quite a challenge to train, leaving many dog owners frazzled if they are not prepared to deal with its independence, spirit & energy.

Shibas were bred to hunt and flush prey from bushes & under brush. As such they are hardy & independent with a tendency to roam if allowed off leash. They can become bored easily if not given an outlet to exercise & play daily.

Given their nature it is important to socialize & train this breed in a firm but gentle manner. It is HIGHLY recommended that positive training & socialization begin soon once a Shiba enters your home.

Home Maintenance

Shiba tend to be tidy & do not typically have “doggie odor.” They do shed heavily at least twice a year, so a heavy duty vacuum will be your cleaning buddy. If you are allergic to other pets such as cats you may be allergic to a Shiba as well.


Like humans, each Shiba has its own character & peculiarities. Some dogs are sensitive, some are bold & some are extroverts. The degree of independence & sociability varies between individual dogs. In the case of independent dogs they may be aloof & in different to people or other animals, dislike being snuggled & cuddled, & resent extended grooming or bathing.

Generally independent dogs can “take us or leave us”. This does not mean they do not love us, just that they have an agenda of their own. In general Shiba tend to be “busy bees” seeking out new activities on their own if you do not provide interesting diversions & lots of toys.

If raised with pets, some Shiba will get along with other animals but some will not care for other pets in the same house hold. Given their hunting instincts some Shiba will chase & hunt small animals & no matter what you do, you may not be able to extinguish this behavior.

Energy Requirements & Parenting

Shiba have a natural athletic ability & tend to perch, climb, jump & “zoom” about. Some love to dig as well. They cannot be left off leash in unsecured areas. If you let go of the leash or they get loose they’ll keep running leaving you calling their name in the wind. Even with extensive training, a Shiba in an open area will be unreliable off lead!

Most Shiba like new challenges so they generally take well to many outdoor activities with their humans. However, for off-leash play & exercise owners need to have a fully fenced enclosure that is high & secure enough to be escape proof.

If living in an apartment, a large fenced park area for them to run around & play in for daily exercise is ideal. They can be tricky, fleet-footed escape artists & this is how many Shiba end up in rescue.


Shiba aren’t for everyone. If you want a dog who clings to you & is emotionally dependent on you, who you can walk off-leash, who always comes when called, forget the Shiba. They’re independent, headstrong, creative & extremely inquisitive! However, they do make wonderful companions for those who understand their nature, are willing to patiently train them, socialize them properly & keep them on leash when out & about.

This intro to the Shiba was originally written by Patrice Grossman for Mid Atlantic Shiba Rescue. Used by permission.

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Adopting A Shiba

Shiba are not recommended for first time dog owners, or the faint of heart. They can be aloof, challenging, unreliable, unpredictable & driven by a need to control situations. At the same time, they are intelligent, independent, bold, alert to their surroundings, & with obedience training, socialization & a committed owner willing to meet their needs, they can & do become devoted, loyal companions.

They learn quickly, responding best to positive reinforcement & motivation, but quickly become bored with repetition. They don’t work for free, with most expecting treat rewards, some prefer a toy, but all thrive on praise for their accomplishments & a job well done.

Shiba puppies are irresistible little balls of fur, always ready to learn & explore the world around them. Positive interaction with humans, both adults & children, & socialization with dogs of all ages should begin early & continue throughout their life. Shiba are fastidious, so house training usually isn’t an issue. Because of their inquisitive nature, crate training is a must for their safety, especially when left home alone. Puppies can be very mouthy & need to be reminded from the start what is acceptable & what is not acceptable.

Biting, nipping & chewing on anything other than their toys or chew bones is not acceptable. By redirecting the behavior to what is acceptable, they will learn what’s expected from them. Bitter apple sprayed on furniture & rugs will also discourage chewing & destructive behavior.

Around the age of six months, Shibas start to mature & their cute puppy behavior can give way to testing & challenging. Spaying/neutering at this time is recommended, not only to reduce accidental breedings, but it also has health & behavioral benefits. Altering helps protect females against breast cancer (especially if they are spayed before their first heat), & males against enlarged prostate & testicular cancer. Neutering males also lessens aggression towards other male dogs, roaming & marking territory indoors.

Also, between the age of six months and a year, Shibas can exhibit behavior consistent with toddlers known as “Terrible Twos.” It’s their time to test rules & challenge owners. Commands they may have readily responded to previously are ignored.

Their new mission in life becomes one of controlling situations. Mouthiness can take on a whole new meaning during this time, and it needs to be addressed as quickly as it starts. If allowed to continue, snapping, nipping, snipping, or pinching can lead to biting & aggressive behavior, becoming a liability for an owner & creating safety issues for everyone coming in contact with the Shiba. During this time, obedience training & socialization is mandatory to establish leadership & reinforce rules. A strong, confident leader must be in control of all situations, but also must be patient & fair with expectations, while meeting the needs of a maturing Shiba. Positive reinforcement & motivation, along with training & socialization will build a relationship of trust & respect.

By remaining consistent with expectations & demands, meeting the physical & mental needs of a Shiba this age, an owner will begin to experience the joys of sharing life with their companion. Some Shibas, most often those with a more dominant personality, can go through another period of testing & challenging between the age of 18 months to two or even three years.

Sometimes referred to as “TroubledTeens,” they can become full of themselves, testing & challenging everything again, trying to rewrite the rules. A few refresher courses, repeating classes in obedience, together with patience & consistency will help guide them in the right direction. Many times it’s this behavior, at this age, when rescue is contacted for a Shiba needing to be surrendered. Owners feel overwhelmed and unable to work with the out-of-control Shiba. The behavior doesn’t happen overnight, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t addressed immediately. If it had been, it could have been corrected. Most problems are fixable if an owner is willing to put the time & effort into making it right.

Once a Shiba reaches three years of age, an owner will begin to see more positive changes. Some mellowing, less testing & a Shiba more focused on living life to the fullest. This is a great age, and it gets better with every year that follows. The life span for Shibas is approximately 16 years. Unlike some of the larger breeds, Shibas don’thit their prime until about 6-7 yrs of age, but remain quite active well into their senior years. Because of the breed’s versatility, exploring activities such as agility, tracking, flyball, carting & lure coursing, can give new direction to any relationship. Shibas have the ability to accomplish just about anything when given the opportunity to learn & train. All they need is an owner willing to work & train with them. Some Shiba prefer nothing more than being couch potatoes, or guarding their home & yard. Those are also very noble activities & should be respected as such. All Shibas love adventures, especially spending time sniffing & marking the great outdoors. It’s not the quantity of time, but the quality of time spent with a Shiba that forms an everlasting bond with a loyal companion.

One big downside of owning a Shiba many people have a problem understanding or accepting is, “A Shiba Must Always Be Leashed” outside a secure area. Shiba were originally bred to hunt &  track & this trait is still very strong in most Shiba. Given an opening, whether a door, gate, window, etc., most Shiba will follow their instincts to run with the wind. Some Shibas can be real escape artists, climbing over or digging under fences & even squeezing through very small openings. Invisible/inground fences are not recommended for this breed because Shibas will take the jolt when they want to leave & it doesn’t keep other dogs out of a Shiba’s territory. Another dog coming into a Shiba’s yard, uninvited, could cause the Shiba to become aggressive. Age or amount of training doesn’t seem to make a difference with Shiba running & most often they don’t respond to being called, can’t be chase, & very seldom return on their own. Too often a Shiba pays with its life & some are never seen again.

Two very important questions need to be answered before committing to a Shiba; “Is A Shiba Right for Me,” & “Am I Right for A Shiba?” They aren’t for everyone. Education is the Key. There’s more to a Shiba than size, color & look. A potential owner must be prepared & committed to meeting all of the challenges of a Shiba & dedicated to do whatever it takes throughout the life of their companion. Shiba require a committed owner who is willing to put time & effort into the relationship & realize life with a Shiba is always a “work in progress.” It also helps to have a sense of humor & understand you will be humbled by your Shiba more than once. Sharing life with these wonderful, entertaining creatures is priceless. When your Shiba talks to you with its dark, penetrating eyes & you understand what it’s saying, then you’ve earned your way into the heart of your Shiba. When you’ve reached that point, your Shiba has already stolen your heart & you’re completely hooked on this amazing breed!

Caution: Shibas are addictive, it’s hard to stop at just one!

“Is a Shiba Right For Me” was originally written by Carolyn Sanfordfor Northeast Shiba Rescue Association. Used by written permission.

Training & Living With Your Shiba

Inside every Shiba lives a “Free Spirit” waiting for an opportunity to satisfy its need. These wonderfully, enchanting furry creatures all share an urge to “run free and explore”. If this behavior is not addressed, it has the potential to determine a Shiba’s future. There’s a lot more than “what you see is what you get” with this breed. Education is key, but understanding Shiba are unreliable, unpredictable, and “Must Always Be Leashed” outside a secure area
doesn’t begin to address their ability to escape from those secure areas when their “Free Spirit” controls the situation.


Shiba are not only fastidious like cats, they can also climb & jump like cats. They are quite agile, accomplishing great leaps, effortlessly, in the blink of an eye. Given time & opportunity, a determined Shiba will figure out a way to jump, or climb out of just about any enclosure. Chain link fences and trees aren’t seen as barriers to a determined Shiba, they’re a challenge to be conquered. Stockade fences aren’t even a deterrent for some determined climbers. Boredom, many times, will trigger the urge to escape othertimes it’s the chance to chase or hunt that drives the behavior. Invisible/in ground fences are never recommended for this breed. There’s always the possibility a Shiba will ignore the jolt & cross, then will be either unable or unwilling to return. It also doesn’t keep other dogs out of a Shiba’s yard.


If escaping by climbing isn’t a possibility, digging is always an option & the “Free Spirit” urge motivates record time excavation. In a matter of minutes, a determined, unsupervised Shiba can tunnel out. Of course, if there are any opportunities to take advantage of openings under the fence, or around the gate, they will find a way to down size their Shiba selves & squeeze through.


Also, their jumping abilities need to be taken into consideration. Shiba can jump quite high from a stand, no need for a running start with this breed. Even though a 4′ fence looks adequate for their size, with a determined Shiba a 6′ fence “might” be a better option, but that’s not even a given. Any object close to a fence can be used as a spring board, or launching pad, that includes decks, roofs of dog houses, swing sets & tree limbs hanging close to, or over the fence. A Shiba’s inquisitive cat-like nature drives that “Free Spirit” to explore & stay active. Leaving a Shiba unsupervised for long periods of time, even in a secure fenced yard, it not recommended, especially with a high energy Shiba. Frequent yard & fence inspections, plus supervision, will insure any escape routes & roaming tendencies are caught early.

Door Bolting:

Always a major concern with Shibas, door bolting needs addressing & correcting immediately. Training is crucial, & requires cooperation from all members of the household. Rules regarding open doors “must” be implemented & consistency regarding those rules is required. Before any door leading to a non-secure area is opened, a Shiba “must” be secured. Relatives, friends & visitors “must” be informed of the open door rules & be willingto follow through. Any lapse in those rules leaves an opening for a Shiba to escape. A Shiba “will” take advantage of an opening, even after training supervision & reminders of what’s expected of them is often needed. Besides open doors, windows with no screens, or poorly fitting screens, can become escape routes for Shibas. The “FreeSpirit” never loses its urge to run, no matter the age, so keeping a Shiba safe & secure “is” a lifetime commitment.
To insure the safety of any & all Shibas, vigilance, supervision & crated indoors when left alone, is always the best choice. Training is a must for all Shibas, but for an escape artist, it could mean the difference between life & death. A Shiba needs an educated, dedicated owner committed to working through any & all behavior, especially behavior that threatens their future. Shiba are intelligent, independent, inquisitive, comical & most of all, very resourceful. They require an attentive owner, who encourages positive behavior while redirecting negative behavior. All breed traits, characteristics, abilities & possibilities need to be considered before making an “all important” lifetime commitment. Even though Shibas make wonderful, loyal companions, they aren’t for everyone & time taken to research the breed completely & totally is time well spent for anyone considering adding a Shiba to their life.

“Shiba Escapes” was originally written by Laura Paquette for NortheastShiba Rescue Association. Used by permission.