The Shiba Inu and Akita Inu are closely related spitz dog breeds that are native to Japan.

And while there are quite a bit of similarities between the two – there are also big, even massive differences!

With DNA studies indicating that these two breeds are among the most ancient domesticated dogs, their Japanese history is fascinating.

Archaeologists have discovered 9,500-year-old skeletal dog remains in Japan, and evidence of their companionship and hunting activities with humans dates back as long as 12,000 years.

If you’re thinking about the possibility of owning either a Shiba or an Akita, read on to learn how these two cool canines stack up against each other.

Shiba Inu Vs. Akita – Size

large and impressive akita inu

The biggest difference between these two dogs is their size.

An Akita Inu is a massive dog that can weigh as much as a hundred pounds or more.

Now that’s a lot of dog to consider!

On the other hand, a standard Shiba Inu is usually 30 pounds or less.

This means that Akita Inus are only well suited to dog owners that understand how to care for such a large dog.

Large dogs need a lot of room and a whole lot of food.

Shiba Inus are small, medium, compact dogs that can do well in a variety of living environments including apartments

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Shiba and Akita were imported throughout the world.

The Shiba Inu is the national dog of Japan and remains popular in the Island nation.

The Akita Inu on the other hand is less common due to the Akita’s imposing size and space needs – something many Japanese residents lack.

Shiba Inu: Small but Mighty

Beautiful red Shiba Inu from Nippo Hauoli Shiba

Beautiful red Shiba Inu from Nippo Hauoli Shiba

The Shiba is a bright, active, bold little dog with a sturdy, compact size and impressive athletic ability.

Weighing up to about 25 pounds, these agile little dogs can easily fit on your lap and are a practical size for a smaller home or apartment.

However, they still require regular walks, space to run and human companionship / interactive playtime. 

Shibas have plush coats that are either red, black-and-tan, sesame, and cream.

Their historic prowess as hunters is clearly illustrated when chasing squirrels, cats or other small critters. Shibas can be a challenging companion pet as their inquisitive, independent nature may test the boundaries of your patience.

Brindle and red Akita INu

Brindle and Red Akita Inu

Akita Inu: Magnificent and Imposing

The Akita Inu shares many of the same appearance and personality characteristics with the Shiba Inu; however, they posess a much larger body.

Weighing in  between 70 and 130 pounds, these large, muscular dogs have an impressive appearance, and their thick hair coat in colors such as brindle, white and black makes them look even larger than they are.

Japanese akita inu dog lying down

Akitas are generally considered to be a confident, protective and aloof.

This urge to protect their families can sometimes translate to aggression. Akita Inus are not dogs for everyone as they need an experienced handler.

Their independent, aloof temperaments can mean they are wary of people, and their fearsome size can make growling and barking a frightening thing to witness.

Shiba Inu Vs. Akita – Temperament

In terms of temperament and personality, Shibas and Akitas share many similarities.

Both Shibas and Akitas are somewhat aloof dogs with a highly independent nature.

Wary of strangers, both Akitas and Shibas usually prefer the company of their family versus mingling with strangers at a dog park.

The Shiba Inu is the more headstrong of the two which is not surprising as Shibas are well known for their “Diva” like behavior.

smiling red shiba inu in the snow

Gorgeous red Shiba Inu in the snow

Akita Inus are the lazier of the two and prefer to live a life of relative relaxation and calm.
Shibas are much more energetic and curious which makes them great hiking buddies.

Both Shiba Inus and Akita Inus can sometimes exhibit aggressive behaviors. These aggressive behaviors are magnified with the Akita due to the Akita’s massive size.

This is the reason Akita Inus should only be owned by experienced owners who understand the breed well.

Many localities have laws banning Akita Inus due to this aggression risk.

Shiba Inu Vs. Akita – Looks

Aside from the large in difference in size – Shiba Inus and Akita Inu look very similar, face and body-wise.

In an AKC article on the differences between Akita and Shibas, past national club president of the national Shiba club in America Lori Pendergast describes Shibas and Akitas having the same body structure, profile, and coat type (double-coated with urajiro).

The large head of an Akita sometimes makes the Akita look a bit clownish or a bit like a goofier Shiba. This is not a criticism – just a fact – and besides, large goofy faces are quite adorable.

The difference in looks between Shiba and Akita also depends on whether the Akita is an American Akita or a Japanese Akita.

The Japanese Akita is typically red or white while American Akitas are usually brindle or have darker colors. This was caused when American Akitas were crossbred to “transitional large Akita-type dogs” in America.

Shiba Inus have notoriously good looks – with a foxy face and wry smile to capture anyone’s attention.

Shibas have a compact and balanced body structure and comes in a variety of coal colors including red, black and tan, sesame, and cream.

Shiba Inu Vs. Akita – Health and Longevity

In general the Shiba Inu is the healthier of two breeds and does have a longer life span.

Larger dogs like Akitas generally have shorter lifespans than their smaller canine counterparts.

Shiba Inus are a healthy breed in general and do not have many serious health issues aside from certain eye issues like glaucoma, and hip issues (hip dysplasia)

Akita Inus are at risk for more serious health issues such as:

  • Autoimmune hypothyroidism
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Uveodermatologic Syndrome
  • Acquired myasthenia gravis
  • Von Willebrand disease
  • Immune system skin disorders such as pemphigus foliaceous, zinc deficiencies, uveodermatologic syndrome/VKH and sebaceous adenitis
  • Bloat

Shiba Vs. Akita – Additional Similarities

Shiba Inu vs Akita

Japanese Akita Inu and Shiba Inu

The Akita and Shiba Inu are often described as “catlike.” – with the Shiba exhibiting this trait more.

They tend to think independently, separate themselves from social groups and groom themselves like a feline.

However, they both may not be the best companions for cats as their predatory instinct to hunt and chase small animals is very strong.

As family companions, both Shibas and Akitas are loyal and devoted family members.

However due to their aloof nature, they may not be the best at “showing” this devotion.

Both breeds are generally unreliable off leash, as their independent nature and interest in small prey makes them likely to wander off and ignore obedience cues.

Large American Akita Inu

In Summary

For first time dog owners, a Shiba Inu is already enough of a challenge.

Getting an Akita Inu would be quardruple the challenge!

As a huge dog, an Akita won’t fit on your lap, cannot be picked up during a walk and is more capable of causing injuries to people, other dogs or small animals.

Both breeds can be a challenge to own, but the Akita owner must be  vigilant and committed to molding his or her dog into a wonderful canine citizen.

Choosing excellent training resources / tools will help you to succeed with loose-leash walking and other training needs.

In addition:

• Choose a responsible breeder and a well-socialized puppy
• Invest in training, socialization and high-quality training tools to help your dog be an ambassador for the breed
• Ensure the safety of cats and other small pets
• Enjoy the challenge of owning a magnificent, independent Japanese spitz dog