The Shiba Inu: Japan’s Fox Like Dog Breed

The Shiba Inu is one of nine monument dog breeds native to Japan. Known for resembling a small fox, these dogs are known for their tenacious, independent nature.

Apr 3, 2024By Thalia Oosthuizen
the shiba inu japan fox like breed

Meet the Shiba Inu, a loyal and beloved dog breed that originated in Japan. They are super energetic and loyal dogs that will make your life a million times more enjoyable. If you’re thinking of bringing a Shiba Inu into your home, or you just want to find out more about this fantastic breed, then you’ve come to the right place. From their interesting origins to grooming and exercise tips, there’s plenty to learn about.

The Shiba Inu Is a Small, Recognizable Breed

Shiba Inu Sitting on Yellow Armchair
Image credit: Pexels

A Shiba Inu is a Japanese dog breed that, in the last 70 years, has become a worldwide favorite for dog owners. They are best known for their striking personality and impressive looks, as well as some pretty hilarious viral memes. Although they were originally bred for hunting, they quickly became great companion dogs.

Their beautifully thick fur gives them a toy-like appearance, making them perfect for dog lovers who love a good snuggle. With huge bundles of high energy, they’ll also need a lot of exercise to keep them busy.

The Origin of the Shiba Inu

Person Blowing Dandelion to Fluffy Shiba Inu
Image credit: Pexels

The Shiba Inu is an ancient Japanese dog breed, originally bred as hunting dogs over 2,000 years ago. They are one of the smallest Japanese breeds, which is what made them so good for sneaky hunting. Quite a few different breeds went into creating the beloved Shiba Inu, including the San'in Shiba, the Shinshu Shiba, and the San'in Shiba.

The name is suggested to translate to ‘brushwood dog’, possibly referring to the terrain of the same name where the breed is thought to have originated. It may also be compared to the way a Shiba Inu’s coat looks. Another suggestion of the name origin is that “shiba” is an old Japanese word for little, describing the small stature of this breed.

The Shiba Inu Appearance

Shiba Inu Dog on Walk in Winter Snow
Image credit: Pexels

This breed of dog is incredibly stunning, from those early puppy years all the way into their ripe adulthood. They get their impressive looks from years and years of completely natural breeding. The combination of authentic wildlife features and natural beauty is pretty unbeatable. If you’re looking for a gorgeous and authentic Shiba Inu, we recommend either adopting or buying from a reputable breeder.

Shiba Inu are often compared to sly foxes because they have similar features. They have long noses, pointy eyes, and even a similar body type. In fact, they’re a pretty similar size to foxes, too. As a fully grown adult, males are usually around 16.5 inches tall, and females are 13.5 inches tall. They generally weigh anywhere between 12 and 17 pounds, but females do tend to be on the smaller side.

They come in a few different colors. Of course, we most often see that light tan-colored coat in Shiba Inu, but there are a couple more variations. Their color palette spans between a pale white color to a dark black coat. With so many varieties, they are truly a diverse breed.

Shiba Inu Personality: Alert, Active, and Attentive

White and Brown Shiba Inu Dog Standing in Yard
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If you’re looking for a dog with a huge personality, Shiba Inu are the perfect breed for you. The Shiba Inu is an incredibly confident dog, and they quickly form close bonds with their owners. They’re awfully loyal and lively, constantly staying alert to keep you and themselves safe.

However, in the intelligence department, Shiba Inu are average. According to “the Intelligence of Dogs,” Shiba Inu ranked 93rd out of the 138 tested breeds. They’re not dumb by any means, but they’re stubborn when it comes to learning new commands.

In terms of troublesome temperaments, Shiba Inu can be prone to being territorial due to their hunting origins. On walks in wildlife, they’re best kept on leads, as they have a high prey drive. They require additional training as puppies so that you can keep on top of these instincts.

Shiba Inu can be good family dogs, but due to their high temperament, they can easily be provoked by young, hyperactive children. While in your training period, it’s best to keep an eye on them around children and warn your kids to be gentle with them.

How to Groom a Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu Dog Standing Outside in Garden
Image credit: Pexels

As many can clearly see, Shiba Inu have a thick coat and are prone to a lot of shedding and molting. Yep, you’ll get this pup's hair all over you and everything you own. Shiba Inu have two “shedding seasons” (fall and spring). In shedding season, you may want to give your pup occasional baths to help reduce shedding.

It’s only the long-coated Shiba Inu varieties that need extra care as their coats tend to get knotted and matted easily. You can do this yourself at home or head to a groomer to give your dog the full spa treatment. Your standard Shiba Inu should be just fine with occasional brushing. As double-coated dogs, you’ll want to get an undercoat raker and a slicker brush.

Shiba Inu Health: What to Know

Woman Holding the Paw of Shiba Inu
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Shiba Inu have lots of energy, so they need a lot of exercise to keep them happy. It’s recommended that you give them about an hour of exercise per day, whether that’s long walks or plenty of playtime. As dog lifespans go, Shiba Inu tend to live a relatively long life. On average, and in good health, they are expected to live between 13 to 16 years, so we hope you’re ready for a long-time best friend.

As With Most Dogs, They Are Health Concerns

dog shiba inu
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Shiba Inu have health concerns found in many smaller dog breeds. It’s common for them to have some environmental allergies, such as pollen or dust, but regular cleaning and baths should help you avoid any respiratory problems. Some Shiba Inu also struggle with separation anxiety and may require crating to avoid being destructive.

Shiba Inu may be prone to luxating patella, which is where the kneecaps may become unstable and can move out of their normal position. It can cause pain and discomfort but can be managed with either medications or surgery. Like other small breeds, Shiba Inu may develop dental diseases, such as gingivitis. You can keep on top of this by regularly brushing your dog's teeth from a young age.

Four Fun Facts About Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu with Collar on It_s Neck
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Here are some fun facts you may not know about the Shibu Inu.

  1. While it is suggested they originated over 2,000 years ago in Japan, they weren’t introduced in the United States until 1950 when American servicemen brought them back after World War II.
  2. On the topic of World War II, they almost became extinct during this time. The war nearly wiped out the dog breed completely, but breeding programs were able to bring them back.
  3. Shiba Inu are big howlers. Yes, despite their small stature, they can let out insane wolf-like howls. They tend to do this to get their owner’s attention when they want something.
  4. These dogs are heroes! In the 2004 Yamakoshi earthquake, a Shiba Inu named Mari first saved her puppies from their collapsed home and then saved her owner, who had been trapped underneath a cabinet. They even made a movie about this story, “the Tale of Mari and Three Puppies.”

Famous Shiba Inu Dogs

Shiba Inu Barking at Falling Leaves
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Just to prove how loved and popular Shiba Inu are, let’s talk about some famous ones. From viral memes to dog models, there are so many famous Shiba Inu that have influenced the rising popularity of this dog breed.


Image credit: Wikipedia

If you were chronically online in 2013, you may remember this dog’s face. A Shiba Inu named Kabosu shot to fame when a picture of him sitting cross-legged with a mysteriously judgy look on his face went viral. This meme was all about people expressing their internal, slightly judgmental, internal monologues. It certainly sits in the hall of fame as far as internet memes go.


Shiba Inu Dog Marutaro with Citrus on Head
Image credit: Pinterest

This Shiba Inu was one of the most famous dogs on Instagram, racking up an insane 2.4 million followers. Marutaro was so popular because he looked like he was constantly smiling. What a happy little pup!

His huge personality pays tribute to the incredible traits that Shiba Inu tend to have. Unfortunately, Marutaro passed away earlier this year, but his happy legacy will always live on.


bodhi male dog
Image credit: the New York Times

Bodhi is the most stylish dog on earth. Hey, he may even beat some humans. This Shiba Inu has shot to fame because his owners love dressing him up in human clothes. He’s now a huge name in menswear, previously working with big brands like COACH, ASOS, and Salvatore Ferragamo. Bodhi is always seen sporting new clothing on his Instagram and even has his own merch.

Shiba Inu Make Great Pets

Shiba Inu Resting on Pavement with Leash
Image credit: Pexels

To take the best care of your dog, it’s so important to understand them and continue to learn ways to give them the happiest life. Shiba Inu can make a great addition to your home, with huge bursts of personality and energy. If you’re ready to put a little extra love and care into training those temperaments out of your Shiba Inu, it’s so worth it. What’s not to love about these adorable dogs?

Thalia Oosthuizen
By Thalia Oosthuizen

Thalia has been a freelance writer for over a decade and a dog (and animal) lover for over 30 years. She grew up on a farm where, at one stage, she had 15 dogs. She currently has one dog, Avery - an adorable pavement special with an extra toe on each foot, and two rescue cats - Boris and Mango. In her spare time, Thalia enjoys running, cycling, swimming, and reading