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.

shiba inu contemplating on bed imageThey 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. 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 rougly

Not fighting, but playing Shiba Inu Style…

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.

regal adult shiba inu

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.

What It’s Like Living With a Shiba Inu?

Looking for an active and rambunctious dog that enjoys long play sessions of fetch?

You may want to keep looking.

Other than puppy hood, Shiba Inus are not the most playful of dog breeds, Of course with any breed, there are exceptions.

Shibas have a remarkably keen perception and can pick up your mood easily. These intelligent dogs will use this often to their own advantage.

Shibas always seem to know when they can or cannot get away with things.

shiba inu on couchThe Shiba Inu is a very intelligent and loyal dog.

Remember though – intelligence is not the same as obedience.

A Shiba Inu will be fiercely loyal to their owner and family – while wary of strangers and unfamiliar threats.

However another trait of the Shiba Inu dog is their stubborness.

Shiba Inus are not the easiest of dogs to obedience train or train to do amusing “tricks.”

shiba inu eating cake treatBeing that Shiba Inus are serious dog that feel no need to please their owners – they just don’t see the point.

Shiba Inus do love food though. They are quite the little gourmandes.

Shiba Inus react best to positive training with delicious treats. Never use aversive training methods as this will only cause your Shiba to shut down and not trust you.

Some describe Shiba Inus as aggressive and hard to handle.

While this is true in some cases, properly bred and reared Shiba Inus as a whole should never show excessive aggression.

That trait is a fault and likely due to an inexperienced and / or backyard breeder.

However, because Shiba Inus are a basal dog breed, they do have a predisposition to be more “wild” than more domesticated dogs.

shiba inu picture royaltyBasal dog breeds, that include Chow-Chow’s and Sharpeis retain more of their wild instincts than other dogs. For this reason, those experienced with these breeds do not recommend these types of dogs to new or inexperienced dog owners.

The personality and temperaments of Shiba Inus bred by reputable breeders will be very different from Shiba Inus bred by backyard type breeders or puppy mills.

Proper breeding and rearing should always produce a Shiba Inu of stable and refined character.

Improper Shiba Inu breeding and rearing could very well produce Shiba Inus that exhibit more of their wild ancestral traits like aggression and dominance.

Unfortunately, puppy mill bred Shiba Inus often suffer from serious aggression and anxiety issues. It’s due to this issue that Shiba Inus are sometimes labeled as aggressive or dangerous.

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 a Shiba Inu 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. The Shiba Inu 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 Shiba Inu 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 Shiba Inu traits that set that apart from the average “doge” :

The Infamous Shiba Scream

Shiba Inus 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 Shiba Inu letting you know that he or she is pretty upset.

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

Because Shiba Inus 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 Shiba Inus 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.

This happens when the Shiba Inu 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 Shiba Inu smile that can make you forget about any mischief that your Shiba Inu engaged in while you were gone!

The Stubborn Shiba Inu STOP AND FLOOF!

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

Often times, Shiba Inus 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 Inu 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 Inu 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 anaffectionate 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 Inu can vary a bit.

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

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

Some Shiba Inus 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 Shiba Inus, it’s important to teach the children the proper way to interact with dogs.

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

However, Shiba Inus 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.

Shiba Inus are not yappy dogs that bark for no reason.

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

Also, because Shiba Inus 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.

Most Shiba Inus 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 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 – 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 inu living in apartment

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

Believe it or not, Shiba Inus can be quite jolly and sweet

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?

A Shiba Inu is a non-sporting dog that does 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, Shiba Inus 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, Shiba Inus 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 Shiba Inu.

Although a lot of Shiba Inus are not fond of walking in city sessions, most Shiba Inus 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

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