Shiba Inu Temperament and Personality


Shiba Inu Temperament And Personality

The Shiba Inu is a keen dog with quite the personality.

Complex, dignified, and hard-to-please.

An indelible personality trait of the Shiba Inu is their aloofness.

Shiba Inus are not usually friendly to strangers. In fact, Shiba Inus are not particularly affectionate with their owners either.

gorgeous red shiba inuThey will of course, be excited and happy to see you when you get home – but after a while they tend to let you know that “had enough” of your presence.

Shiba Inus do have a charming side as well. They seem to be aware of their unrivaled beauty and aren’t afraid to use it to their advantage.

Shibas are not really fond of other dogs – especially of the same sex. 

Some Shiba Inus may display aggression to other dogs and humans – especially if the Shiba Inu was bred irresponsibly by a puppy mill or backyard breeder.

However, a properly bred Shiba Inu that conforms to breed standards should not be aggressive.

cute black and tan shiba inu puppyMoody, yes. Aggressive. No.

Many Shiba Inu owners observe that their Shibas tend to get along better with their own breed.

The aloofness of Shiba Inus is an endearing trait to Shiba Inu owners.

Many have described their personality as similar to a cat which is true in many ways.

Like cats, Shiba Inus are fastidious, proud, and independent.

two shiba inus playing roughly

This serious and independent nature can be a good fit for some dog owners who prefer dogs that are not so clingy and dependent.

Shiba Inu behavior is different from friendly / clingy dogs such as Labs, Poodles, and Pomeranians.

black and tan shiba inuOriginally used as small game hunting dogs in their native Japan, Shiba Inus also had to adapt to long and cold winters in relative solitude.

The Shiba Ken as the Japanese refer to them, have retained this ability to be content and calm without the need of much excitement.

Shiba Inus do not need nor crave excessive attention or coddling like other “friendlier” breeds such as Labs.


As Julia Cadwell, a noted Shiba Inu expert, states: “The characters of these dogs suggest ancient Japanese people–austere, valiant, faithful, good-natured and gentle, highly affectionate and sensitive to the kindness of their masters.

shiba inu japanese illustration


How The Japanese Describe The Shiba Inu Dog Breed

In Japan, the NIPPO, or Japanese kennel club, have a very unique way of describing the Shiba Inu temperament with three words: kan-i, ryosei, and sobuku.

Kan-i: This describes the Shiba Inu’s confidence, bravery, and boldness that is subsequently balanced with composure and mental fortitude. Shiba Inu’s therefore may be fierce and fearless without being unnecessarily reckless and violent.

Ryosei: Ryosei, which is the opposite of Kan-i means good natured, loyal, and charming. Shiba Inus should have total trust and attachment to it’s owner. The bond between dog and it’s owner is a very special partnership that will last for the Shiba’s lifetime. Many have said that Shiba Inus will only take one master in his or her lifetime.

Sobuku: The final element of a Shiba Inus essence, sobuku, means simplicity with an open and modest spirit. She is an elegant dog that has no need to be flashy or loud. A Shiba Inus physical beauty combined with its refined character allows the essence of this magnificent dog to shine through.

shiba inu in japanese samurai design


Unique and Quirky Shiba Inu Characteristics

The Shiba Inu is quite the character indeed.

Here are a few traits that set that apart from the average “doge” :

The Infamous Shiba Scream

These musically inclined dogs are known to be vocal when they want to be.

Very vocal.

A Shiba scream is a loud, high-pitched cry usually accompanied by howling and whimpering.

It’s basically a way of your “doge” letting you know that he or she is pretty upset.

Shiba screams are commonly heard when you subject your “pupper” to things they are known to detest – like bathing or nail clipping.

Because Shibas are a basal dog breed which are more related to wolves than domesticated dog breeds, the Shiba scream / howl is a likely a trait passed down from their wolves ancestors.

And because Shibas are less domesticated than most other dog breeds, their DNA is not quite hardwired to excessive handling and grooming rituals.

Read more about the Shiba Inu scream here.

Shiba Inu Airplane Ears

Certain “friendlier” Shiba Inus will produce a Shiba Inu phenomenon coined “airplane ears.”

And it’s the cutest thing.

飛行機 😄 + ✈️ Be an airplane “Have a happy presence” (ProudSHIBA:)/#proudshibas #shibainu #puppy #puppylove

— Inglorious Dogs (@IngloriousDogs) May 20, 2016

This happens when the “Shibe” is happy to see you and wants to show you it’s undying devotion to you.

These airplane ears are always accompanied by the squinty, dorky smile that can make you forget about any mischief that your “Sheeb” engaged in while you were gone!

The Stubborn STOP AND FLOOF!

Shiba Inu owners are all accustomed to the uniquely Shiba Stop and Floof.

Often times, these sometimes precocious pooches simply decide that they won’t walk any further.

stubborn shiba inu

So immediately, their Shiba brakes engage and their entire bodies halt to a complete stop – regardless where they may be.

Typically, in the most inconvenient of places such as the middle of a busy crosswalk.

When this happens, their immediate stop causes all of their cheek fur poof out like a lion’s mane and it’s simply the cutest thing.

Perhaps not to their owners, but onlookers for sure.

Frequently Asked Shiba Inu Temperament and Personality Questions:


Are Shiba Inus Aggressive?

growl_kitsu copyIn terms of both human and dog aggression, a well-bred and reared Shiba Ken is generally not overtly aggressive.

Just as with all dog breeds, the manner in which the pup was reared can influence aggression levels greatly.

However, being that a Shiba is a basal dog breed, the puppy rearing factor weighs in more heavily with Shibas than other, more domesticated breeds.

To make this easier to understand if one were to compare two puppies (Shiba Puppy, Golden Retriever Puppy)  that had minimal social interaction, training and affection during the first 6 months of puppyhood, it’s more than likely that the Golden will still be a loving and affectionate dog.

On the other hand, the Shiba puppy will likely display wilder characteristics like aggression and mistrust.

So depending on hereditary factors and upbringing, the temperament of a Shiba can vary a bit.

However, quality breeders will always aim to breed Shiba Inus that are calm and confident – but never aggressive.excited shiba inu barking

Do Shiba Inus Bark?

Yes, Shiba Inus definitely do bark.

Some people inadvertently mistake Shiba Inus for Basenji’s which is a true barkless dog.

Shiba Inus are not excessive barkers and they choose to bark mainly to warn or alert you of something amiss.

Many Shiba Inus also howl like Huskies and other more primitive and wild dog breeds.

Read more about Shiba Inu barking here.

Are Shiba Inus Good With Children?

Depends on the children.

And yes, the individual Shiba Inu.

Most Shibas will tolerate well – behaved children that don’t produce too much excited energy.

Some Shibas have a lot less patience than others – and will not tolerate excessive prodding and petting from younger children.

shiba inu with young child in winter

When introducing children to Shibas, it’s important to teach the children the proper way to interact with dogs.

Shiba  puppies usually have no problems with small children and actually enjoy all of the extra energy and attention.

However, they will not appreciate overly hyper or loud children.

Do Shiba Inus Make Good Watch Dogs?

Shiba Inus are very alert dogs that do great as watch dogs.

They are not yappy dogs that bark for no reason.

Because of this, when they do bark, it’s likely that they heard something out of the ordinary that should be checked.

Also, because they are naturally wary of strangers and faithful to their owners, they will do whatever they can to warn you of anyone coming near to your home.

They possess stellar intuition as well.

Trust your Shiba Inu and be aware of his or her’s reaction to strangers.

In many cases, your Shiba’s judgement of strangers will be better than yours.

Are Shiba Inus Like Small Akitas?

Yes, both the Shiba Inu and Akita are basal dog breeds from Japan.

And yes, Shibas do indeed look like mini me-sized Akitas.

But no, Shibas and Akitas don’t have the exact same temperaments and personalities.

While Shibas and Akitas tend to be aloof and independent dogs – the Akita can be even “more” aloof, calm and independent.

Shiba Inus have higher energy levels and ‘spunk’ compared to the seriousness of a typical Akita.

When improperly provoked, a Shiba Inu may have more bark while an Akita may have more ‘bite’. (A reason why Akitas are on certain “dangerous dogs” lists across the country).

Nevertheless, Akitas are wonderful, loyal dogs that just need the right type of owner.

Read more about the difference between a Shiba Inu and a Akita here. 


Are Shiba Inus Fearless Dogs?

While Shiba Inus are confident dogs, they shouldn’t be labeled as “fearless” dogs.

And here’s why.

Fearless can sometimes connote carelessness and lack of reasoning – traits that Shiba Inus do not possess.

Shiba Inus instead, are intelligent, grounded and reasonable dogs that usually “think” before reacting.

Shiba Inu and keeshond meetingWould it be wise for a Shiba Inu to prove fearlessness by confronting a 110-pound Rottweiler?

Probably not. And Shiba Inus know that also.

Bold, courageous and faithful are probably better adjectives to describe the Shiba Inu.

Are Shiba Inus Good First Dogs?

Shiba Inus are likely not the best first dogs for many people due to the following three reasons –

Primitiveness – A Shiba Inu is basal breed that is a bit more primitive than other breeds. With primitive dog breeds, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed by experienced dog owners.

Aggression, especially dog to dog aggression can be an issue with Shiba Inus – especially those coming from puppy mills or backyard breeders.

Another issue related to their primitive nature is their tendency to enjoy “running free”.

shiba dog grinning

Unfortunately this running usually does not always guarantee a return. Many Shiba Inu have been correctly labeled as escape artists and will not do well with recall when off leash.

Stubbornness – New dog owners will likely find Shiba Inus a challenge due to it’s stubborn nature. Shiba Inus need an experienced and confident owner to assert leadership and train the Shiba to be an obedient and well-balanced pet.

Without the proper training and guidance, Shiba Inus can be difficult dogs to handle which unfortunately leads to abandonment at times.

Affection – Are Shiba Inus affectionate?

Some are, but most of them aren’t.

Most new dog owners envision getting a new dog for companionship, affection, and fun.

However, since Shiba Inus have a personality more like a cat – the new owner may be disappointed that their Shiba is not as cuddly as they might have thought.

Are Shiba Inus Good Apartment Dogs?

Shiba Inus are actually great apartment dogs.

Their calm aloofness is an asset in apartments where multiple dogs and people need cohabitate in peace.

Adult Shiba Inus do not have extensive exercise requirements so an apartment setting will do well for their energy levels.

Shiba Inus are very clean dogs which is a big plus for apartment living.

Even as little Shiba Inu puppies, Shibas are easy to housebreak.

And although most Shiba Inus don’t openly express their love for their human in the way dogs normally do, they still prefer to be close to their human “pact” at all times.

Are Shiba Inus Mean?

Properly bred Shiba Inus should not be “mean,” as meanness is a form of aggression.

happy shiba inu smiling

Shiba Inus from reputable and ethical breeders rarely have serious aggression issues.

The problem is that there are way more unethical breeders than ethical ones.

Due to popularity of Shiba Inus, many unsuspecting new Shiba owners purchase their Shiba Inu puppies from puppy mills or backyard breeders.

Shiba Inu puppies forced to be raised in the cruel conditions of puppy mills often suffer from issues including aggression, anxiety, and fearfulness.

So no, a properly conformed Shiba Inu should not be mean. They can definitely be aloof, moody and have no interest in schmoozing with you, but they should not be mean.

Now in terms of dog-to-dog “meanness”, some Shiba Inus may display aggression to other dogs. This usually occurs with unaltered Shiba Inus of the same sex.

How Much Exercise Does A Shiba Inu Need?

Shibas are non-sporting dogs that do not have the same energy level as a Border Collie or a Jack Russell terrier.

However, exercise and sunshine is vital component of good health for both Shibas and their owners.

Additionally, they are a dog breed known to have weight issues later on in life that should be managed. The issue with weight is usually due to the owners lack of controlling either food portions or food quality.

If living in an apartment setting, they should get at least one extended walk session (45 minutes) per day. This is especially important for Shibas that are on a weight control regimen.

shiba inu exercisingFor both the Shiba and the human to benefit the most from the walk, try to make the walk as brisk as possible. Adding some hills to the walk is also great for both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where there are pristine hiking trails, hikes are also a great way to have fun and exercise with your active pooch.

Although a lot of Shiba Inus are not fond of walking in city sessions, most will love to get a chance to expend their energy in nature.

Just be sure to choose a safe hike and not over exert your Shiba Inu.

Be especially mindful about the temperature and your Shiba’s hydration levels during the hike. Early morning or late afternoon hikes are safer that mid-day hikes.

nice lighting for shiba inu photograph

What’s All About This Shiba Inu Doge Thing?

If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet this past decade, you probably heard the phrase “doge” going around.

A doge is basically a comically inclined dog that is featured in viral memes that range from funny / silly to silly / absurd.

And guess which dog breed is used in doge memes?

You guessed it. Shiba Inus.

shiba inu doge meme

The origins of birth of doge is not crystal clear. Most believe it spawned from some Internet forum sites that rapidly caught on in the mainstream. Read more about doge memes here.

But whatever, the reason is at least when you someone call your Shiba a doge, you can smile and confirm that yes, indeed, your Shiba is a doge…

shiba inu dogecoin

Shiba Inu Puppies

Ok, so after all this information overload on Shiba Inus – you still want one?

Of course you do.

With Shibes being the cutest things on the planet – Shiba Inu puppers are the cutest things in the galaxy.

Just a whole nother stratosphere of cute.

Hold up though.

Finding a properly, and more importantly – responsibly bred pup is not easy.

Terrible things exist such as puppy mills and byb’s or ‘backyard breeders’.

Unfortunately, most first time purchasers of pure bred dogs commonly get their pups from these ‘terrible’ places.

You can do better.

Finding a properly and responsibly bred pup is going to take a lot of research and a lot of patience – and most likely a lot of money.

how much do shiba inus cost

How Much Do Responsibly Bred Shiba Inu Puppies Cost?

To answer this question with a single rough figure – the answer would be around $1,800 in the U.S.

Reputable breeders spend a lot of money ensuring that their puppies are healthy and happy.

Vet bills. Medicines. Food bills. Genetic tests. Dog show costs.

The costs to produce a healthy and happy pup is high.

However, the high costs and care ensures that the puppy has the best chance of leading a healthy life.

Puppies from puppy mills or byb’s will have a lower cost initially – because the unscrupulous breeder will not spend a penny on anything other than keeping their dogs alive – and sometimes…. just barely.

Shiba Inu puppies from puppy mills and byb’s are also physically inferior to properly bred puppies.

Gaunt faces instead of full wide cheeks.

Long, gawky, and disproportionate body sizes instead of the perfectly symmetrical Shiba Inu body shape.

Strange coat colors full of mismarkings.

Puppies from puppy mills are often inbred or even “mixed” bred resulting in Shiba Inus that don’t “really look” like Shiba Inus .

shiba inu puppy mill comparisonSo what comes after that initial low cost puppy price?

Usually, thousands of dollars of veterinarian bills or unfortunately broken hearts due to the inability of save a sick puppy mill Shiba Inu.

So therefore –

You will not. And should not. And of course not – find a puppy on Craigslist or a local “pet shop”.

Start by researching quality breeders that regularly show dogs and are listed on the Shiba Inu Club of America’s website.

You can also search our Shiba Inu breeder database that only lists vetted breeders that breed for quality not profits.

To further your search, check out local dog shows and inquire about Shiba Inu breeders there.

Most reputable Shiba Inu breeders only have one or two litters a year, so the wait time can be long if you are not able to travel out of state.

The wait time is worth it knowing that you are not contributing to dog abuse by supporting puppy mills and byb’s.

If you don’t have either the patience of the funds for a responsibly bred puppy, consider rescuing a Shiba Inu.


Shiba Inu Body Language

All dogs communicate via body language. Sometimes, the postures may be distinct while other times subtle.

Because of the popularity of these “doggos” , many strangers will unknowingly approach a Shiba without first evaluating the dogs mood.

Just because they are cute and cuddly does in no way mean that like affection and attention from strangers.

As either a owner or a admirer, it’s important to understand basic Shiba Inu body language signals to ensure that the dog is comfortable and free from stress.shiba inu body language graphic

Learn all about Shiba Inu body language here.

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