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Shiba Inu Temperament

Shiba Inu Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2012

People often find themselves drawn to the Shiba because he is conveniently sized, handsome and hardy, easy to groom, and clean and quiet indoors. However....these interested potential owners must explore this breed in more depth, else they might be making a big mistake.

The Shiba Inu, you see, is very challenging to raise and train. A bold, high-spirited "big dog in a small body," he must always be kept on-leash, for he has a high prey drive and quick reflexes and will pursue anything that moves. He can outrun and outdodge any human....and frequently does, for he has an independent spirit. Shibas are true runners.

Shiba Inu owners need secure fences. Indeed, if you plan of leaving your Shiba outdoors unsupervised, he really should have a covered run (as in chainlink all across the top) if you want to be sure of finding him in the yard where you left him. Otherwise, his ingenuity and agile jumping/climbing/digging skills may send him over or under an ordinary fence. And once he's loose, he's gone.

Dog aggression is a common breed trait. Cats are iffy around many Shibas, and small caged pets will be stalked and probably dispatched with.

You must stay one step ahead of the Shiba Inu, for he is both dominant and clever. He often tries to manipulate through intimidation and when displeased by something can emit a loud scream which may catch you (or your vet) totally unprepared.

With his marked stubborn streak and mischievous sense of humor, the Shiba Inu does best with owners who are firm, confident, and utterly consistent.

Shibas are possessive of their toys and food; it is said that if they could utter one word, it would be "Mine!"

If you want a dog who...

  • Is conveniently-sized, sturdy, and strong
  • Has a wolf-like (spitz) appearance, with prick ears, foxy face, thick coat, and curled tail
  • Is energetic, bold, and spirited -- not a lapdog
  • Is smart and clever
  • Moves swiftly with light-footed grace

A Shiba Inu may be right for you.

  • If you don't want to deal with...
  • Massive destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
  • Excessive suspiciousness when not socialized enough
  • Aggression toward other dogs and cats -- strong chasing instincts
  • Containment difficulties and preventing escape attempts
  • Running away, oblivious to your calls, when an interesting sight or scent catches his attention
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Heavy shedding

A Shiba Inu may not be right for you.

But you can avoid or minimize some negative traits by (1) carefully choosing the right puppy from the right breeder; (2) raising and training your puppy in all the right ways; (3) choosing an adult dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits. 

More traits and characteristics of the Shiba Inu

If I was considering a Shiba Inu, I would be most concerned about...
Keeping him busy enough. Shiba Inus are active go-getters who MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored -- which they usually express by destructive chewing. Bored Shibas are famous for chewing through drywall, ripping the stuffing out of sofas, and turning your yard into a moonscape of craters. This is not a dog you can simply leave alone for long periods of time.

Suspiciousness toward strangers. Standoffish by nature, Shiba Inus need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become suspiciousness, which is difficult to live with and could even lead to biting.

If you have small children, I do not recommend a Shiba Inu. This breed does not like to be grabbed or hugged or held tightly, and if pushed too far, may react defensively.

Animal aggression. The Shiba Inu was bred to hunt other animals. Many Shiba Inus are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex. Many have strong instincts to chase and seize small fleeing creatures. This can make for conflict if you own a cat. It may be much worse than that if you own a pet rabbit or hamster!

Shiba Inus cannot be trusted off-leash. They will take off -- oblivious to your frantic shouts -- after anything that runs.

Fence security. Many Shiba Inus are clever escape artists who will go over or under fences in search of adventure. To keep your Shiba Inu in, a 6- to 8-foot fence is recommended -- and it should NOT be chain link or anything else climbable. Some Shibas can go over anything and require a covered outdoor pen. You may also need to sink wire into the ground along the fence line to thwart digging. Gates should have the highest quality locks, not a flimsy latch.

The strong temperament. Shiba Inus are not Golden Retrievers. They have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and many are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.

To teach your Shiba to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Shiba Inu Training Page discusses the program you need.

Heavy shedding. Shibas shed a little throughout the year and a LOT for three weeks during the spring and three weeks during the fall. During these latter periods, you'll find hair and fur all over your clothing, upholstery, carpeting, etc. Just so you know.
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