The oldest Japanese dog

Shiba InuShiba inu

The oldest and smallest of Japan’s dogs, the Shiba Inu (pronounced SHEE-ba EE-nu) was originally bred to hunt small, wild game in the dense underbrush of mountainous areas. “Shiba” means brushwood and “Inu” means dog in Japanese.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the breed almost became extinct in Japan after World World II due to bombings and distemper, but bloodlines were combined after the war to create the breed as it is known today. The AKC recognized the Shiba Inu in 1992, and its popularity is growing. TV personality Ryan Seacrest recently put the breed at the top of this list for a new dog.


  • Bold, good-natured and forthright
  • Can be shy around strangers, but affectionate to those who earn their respect
  • May be aggressive toward other dogs


  • Small, compact and muscular
  • 17-23 pounds
  • 13½ to 16½ inches tall at the withers (shoulders)


  • Fine in apartments if given sufficient exercise
  • Does best with an average-sized backyard
  • Although their thick, waterproof coats allow them to live outside, they are much happier indoors
  • Needs stimulus; walks, fetch, agility training, obedience classes
  • Because of their independent nature, should be kept on leash whenever outside a secure, fenced area
  • Excellent watchdog
  • Superb hunting dog
  • Gets along with other pets, but keep them away from small animals due to their natural hunting instincts

Training & Exercise

  • Must be exercised regularly on a leash or in a secure area
  • Early obedience training is a must
  • Needs stimulation such as walks, playing fetch, agility training and obedience classes


  • Coat color may be black and tan, cream, red or red sesame
  • Double-coated, with a stiff and straight outer coat, and soft and thick undercoat
  • Seasonal heavy shedding
  • Requires regular brushing but otherwise easy to groom


  • Strong, healthy breed
  • Prone to hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy and patellar luxation


  • 12-15 years


  • To adopt a Shiba Inu, contact National Shiba Inu Rescue