Wow. Much Shiba dog. Many cute. Such cute. Very canine. So surprise! Wow.
With the doge meme, suddenly Japan’s most popular dog breed, the Shiba Inu, which had somehow flown beneath the radar outside of the island nation, went international. Much international. Doge speak was everywhere by 2013 and the internet had a new love in the form of a foxlike, expressive fluff of a dog: the Shiba Inu.
As someone who already had the pleasure of having a cute little Shiba in my life named Space, I can tell you his star suddenly rose in 2013. Everyone on the street suddenly wanted him to stop for pets and to say, “Wow! Much cute, many adorable!” Anecdotally, at the start of this decade I rarely ran across another Shiba on the street, but these days it’s not surprising to see a multitude doing their little Shiba struts down the sidewalk over the course of a dog walk.
Officially, the Shiba Inu breed was first introduced in the United States in the 1950s when American servicemen brought them home as pets after WWII. It wasn’t recognized by the AKC until 1992. But their history in Japan is much longer.
It’s believed that the first ancestors of the modern Shiba were brought to the island of Japan around 9,000 years ago. By the 7th century, records of Japanese dog breeds, including early breeds of the Shiba Inu, were being kept by the government to help preserve Japan’s cultural heritage.
The ravages of WWII—bombings and poor living conditions that left Shibas vulnerable to distemper—brought the Shiba Inu to the brink of extinction. However, breeding programs put in place by the Japanese government restocked the bloodlines and the modern Shiba Inu has gained in popularity ever since.
So what’s it like to be best friends with a Shiba Inu? Here are 15 facts that might surprise you about Shibas, unless, of course, you own one.
- Shiba dogs have seriously thick coats.
- They’re an ancient breed of spitz.
- Shiba Inus shed a copious amount.
- Shibas tend to be aloof and stubborn.
- They let you know when they don’t like something.
- Shibas come in a multitude of colors.
- They’re notorious escape artists!
- Shibas have a unique howling vocalization.
- Training Shibas is not for the faint of heart.
- They’re very neat.
- Shiba Inu puppies are very, very cute.
- Shibas love to play.
If you own a Shiba, then you know how often strangers on the street remark on the just how much your dog looks like a fox. Some people have even stopped me in awe because they thought I actually was walking a fox down the street.
Shiba Inus aren’t very big, measuring just around 15 inches on average at the shoulder and weighing between 17 and 23 pounds. They tend to be well-muscled, a bit barrel-chested and have a glossy overcoat and a thick undercoat that keeps them plenty warm even in cooler weather.
When a Shiba stares at you, it’s hard to not get the impression that she has a very old soul. Turns out, they actually are old—the breed, at least. I mentioned above the long history of the Shiba Inu in Japan.
They’re the smallest of six spitz breeds from Japan and, many canine historians believe, perhaps the most ancient. Spitz breed dogs are known for their wolf-like appearance with pointy ears, thick double coats that do well in cold climates, and their high intelligence.
The Shiba Inu is also considered a Basal breed of dog. That means the breed existed before many modern dog breeds and they have genetic ties that more closely link them to wolves and ancient dogs than breeds like the Labrador retriever or German shepherd.
Many dogs shed—that’s normal. But if you own a Shiba Inu it quickly becomes apparent that they’re determined to take shedding to a whole other level. So much so that they’re a popular choice for people who like to spin dog fur and use it to knit with!
Officially, Shiba Inus “blow their coat” (i.e. shed their undercoat) two times a year, but the amount of fur they shed, and the duration of the shedding season can make it feel like a lot longer. You can combat some of the shedding by giving your Shiba regular brush-outs when he’s blowing his coat. A good vacuum will come in handy as well.
Yes, a Shiba Inu is very much a breed of dog, but owning one can often make you feel more like you’re caring for a cat. Any Shiba lover will be quick to point out that you’re really just getting the best of both worlds.
So what makes these canines so darn feline? Some of it is personality. Shibas have quiet independence coupled with a bold personality.
Further, they tend to be stubborn and set in their ways, much like cats, and they also have a tendency to be a bit more aloof than other breeds their size. While some dogs can’t bear to be more than a few feet away from their owners, you can often find a Shiba Inu sleeping contentedly in another room on their own.
And, just like you’ll often find a cat stretched out in a sun pool, Shiba Inus can be quite prolific sunbathers. My own is always scratching at the deck door on sunny days in hopes of finding a sunny spot and taking a snooze.
I’ve been told by many a groomer and vet tech that they secretly cringe when they see a shiba come through the doorway.
Sure, Meryl Streep is undoubtedly one of the world’s most talented thespians, but once you’ve spent some time with a Shiba, you’ll see that this breed could give her a run for her money.
I’ve been told by many a groomer and vet tech that they secretly cringe when they see a Shiba come through the doorway. That’s because when a Shiba Inu doesn’t like how they’re being handled, they’re quick to rev up the drama and make everyone in the vicinity think there’s a federal emergency. There isn’t. It’s just a sweet little spitz dog letting the groomer know that she really doesn’t want her nails trimmed.
Which leads me to the next Shiba fact….
How do Shibas let you know when they’re unhappy? By belting out an otherworldly wail that seems outsized in regard to their diminutive dimensions. This, my friend, is what we affectionally call the “Shiba scream”. Occasionally you also hear it when they’re super happy, such as when they’re playing with other dogs.
Outside of the Shiba scream, however, Shiba Inus tend to be quieter than many other breeds and aren’t prone to yipping or excessive barking. My own tends to come across as silent, a bit broody, and stoic.
While we’re used to the deep red coat of the Shiba Inu, the breed actually has many color variations. These are black and tan, sesame, a mixture of red and white with black-tipped fur, and cream, which, while increasingly common, is considered a “fault” by some breeders and kennel organizations such as the American Kennel Club.
Additionally, some red-coated Shibas, like Doge, have a softer, orangier shading than the deeper coloring of the true red Shiba dogs.
Because unlike Usain Bolt, a Shiba Inu that gets a chance to run—out an open door or through a hole in a fence—isn’t going to stop at the finish line. Nope, they’ll keep on going, more like Forrest Gump. They’re runners in their souls and no matter how much training you give them, you can’t trust them to not run away if afforded an opportunity.
Shiba owners must, therefore, be hyper-vigilant in making certain that their dog is always on a leash and that doors and even screen-less windows aren’t left open for an unsupervised dog.
While Shiba Inus do tend to shed a lot, other than brushing, they don’t need a lot of grooming.
That’s because Shiba Inus are fastidiously clean and are pretty averse to getting stinky or dirty. They spend a lot of time self-grooming and rarely need to be bathed.
I’ve mentioned before that the Shiba Inu breed tends to be…well, to put it politely a bit stubborn. Nowhere is that more obvious than when you’re trying to train one.
The good news, however, is that Shibas are also highly intelligent, so if you start early on in your dog’s life, and stay consistent, it’s possible to teach this ancient dog breed new tricks. It just takes patience.
While it can be tough to teach a Shiba to come to his name or lie down on command, one area of training can be considerably easier than with other breeds. House training. That’s because Shiba Inus tend to be very averse to going potty where they sleep.
While still puppies, Shibas will often start preferring to go to the bathroom outside, well away from their home. Once their bladders are a bit more developed, they’ll often naturally prefer urinating outside as well without a lot of owner prompting.
This is where we get into the most fun facts about our beloved Shiba Inu. Perhaps my favorite breed tendency in Shibas is the way that many of them express pure joy. It’s the famous Shiba airplane ears!
While flattened ears can sometimes be a sign of fear or misgivings, Shibas often flatten their ears and don a goofy grin in what is simultaneously the nerdiest and most endearing sign of happiness.
There’s not a lot I need to say here—just look at how cute a Shiba puppy is. So cute. So cute. So cute.
Taking a Shiba Inu to the dog park can really highlight an often-overlooked aspect of their personalities. They’re just so dang fun! At the dog park, a Shiba Inu will often love exploring every square inch of the park while also racing around like a mad dog digging, vocalizing, chasing sticks and balls, and just generally making a spectacle that’s so much fun to watch.
Finally, the last aspect of a Shiba’s personality is that they can be fiercely loyal to their family. Coupled with their tendency to be a bit aloof and less needy of affection and attention than many other breeds, when a Shiba decides it’s time for a cuddle, well, it’s time for a cuddle. And that, my friend, is what life is all about. Shiba love and Shiba cuddles.
- Shiba Inu Puppies: The Ultimate Guide for New Dog Owners
- Adorably Impatient Shiba Insists That Every Moment Is Dinner Time
- This Shiba Inu Skyrocketed to Fame with Sweetly Hilarious Giraffe Stunt
Featured Image: Rebecca Bridge