General Characteristics of a Japanese Shiba Inu

Breed History

This ancient Japanese breed was first introduced to the UK in 1985 by Gerald and Kath Mitchell of Kiskas Kennels, closely followed by Mr Roy Mulligan of Makoto Kennels, and the late Anne Shimwell's Wellshim Kennels. These 3 kennels are the main founders of all stock that currently resides in the UK.

The Shiba-inu is the smallest of the "Nippo" style of dogs native to Japan. Nippo dogs start at the massive Akita and go down through seven sizes to the little Shiba. They all have the same shape and colouring, with a few special exceptions, which make each breed different. Things such as Height, Temperament and a few colours individual to each breed, but they are essentially the same style of dog.

The name Shiba-Inu literally means "small dog", but whilst they have always been known as Shiba-Inu, they have also been known as the "Brushwood dog". This was because they were red in colour, and were most often seen scurrying through brushwood hunting small game.

The Shiba-Inu are a tough little breed, which were used for hunting small game such as birds, rats and rabbits in the mountainous regions of Japan. Courageous little dogs full of spirit, they have lots of cat like tendencies and make wonderful family pets. However, they retain a very strong instinct for hunting, and this can lead to them going off on their own if not correctly controlled.

Shibas became very popular in Japan as a family pet, and once recognised, they gained the status of a precious natural resource. This then led to the dog being recognised by the FCI (world canine body) and the dog then went on to be shown by fanciers all around the world.


Shibas are inquisitive, alert, and playful, and are a little bit aloof with strangers. They have their individual traits, which make each one special and endearing. Some like to drape across the tops of chairs like cats and look out of the window. Others prefer to sit and be cuddled and petted all day. Either way, they are hunters to the bitter end, loving to chase rats and mice and catch the birds. They are not one to be safe off the lead, tending to suddenly go "deaf" and race off on their hunt.

It is easy to see a small dog, but the Shiba is very much a big dog in a small manageable package. They love to rough and tumble and often take up the top spot in households with large dogs. Rottweillers, Akitas, any large dog is just right for a Shiba as they can play those roughest of games that the Shiba loves. In the case of smaller dogs it has been known for a Shiba to be just that little bit too rough for them.  They do not tend to get on with same sex companions either.

For the size and extreme games they play, they can be a gentle dog, not often prone to violence or aggression. Yes they can stand their ground when challenged, but they do not actively go out looking for trouble. Many small dogs can have a reputation for uncertain temperament, especially with children, however, there are no nasty hidden tendencies in a Shiba, and that makes them ideal for the family. Children can play safely, but as with all dogs, supervision and training of both young children and dogs is simply common sense.

Where the personality is concerned, it is easy to see why they are often seen as cats that think they are dogs or visa versa. Scrupulously clean about the house and fastidious in their own hygiene, washing and preening themselves; The Shiba seems almost cat like. Their mannerisms often betray the cat tendencies, rubbing themselves up you for attention, almost purring when being petted, hunting mice and birds with cat like movements. Even the way they greet you, reaching out to touch with a paw, rather than sniffing seems strange. Strange behavior indeed for a dog? Yet suddenly when you are convinced they are a cat, they start acting dog like. Fetching balls, barking, coming to call (just to be awkward for once), even walking happily on a lead. Shibas have more levels to them than at first imagined.

Training can be fun, if not altogether one sided. Lead training is another thing entirely for the pup. The first thing you will notice is.. THEY SCREAM! A blood curdling "child being murdered horribly" type scream which makes you cringe in terror and wonder what the neighbors will think you are up to. Don't panic, all you did was put a collar on! This is the famous Shiba alarm, one thing you soon learn to get used to. Once the lead training is done, it is very rare to hear this “scream”.

The Shiba is primarily a spitz type dog, but unlike most spitz that are famous for the noise they can make, the Shiba is remarkably quiet. Very rarely will you hear a word uttered. If they feel someone strange is in the neighborhood they will give a warning, but they are not prone to barking for longer than is absolutely necessary. In actual fact the bark isn't really a bark, more a "HWUF WOOOOWOOO", or yodel but they do try.

As a spitz breed, they are double coated which means that once a year they do moult their undercoat. It tends to come out quite quickly [over about a week or so] but they are not for the faint hearted with hair. However, in saying that, they are very low maintenances with grooming and exercise as they tend to keep themselves very clean and active.

They are very clever, and very easy to house train

To date, they are a very healthy breed, with no inbred problems, hence the fact that most reputable breeders will put breeding and export restrictions on them. This is purely to protect the breed from puppy farmers and also to protect our breeding lines. The average age for a Shiba is about 12-14 with many living to 16+

They are very loyal and very loving, and very, very addictive …..


Acceptable Colours

Red & White


Red Sesame


Black & Tan




  • Do Shibas get on with Cats ?

A Shiba should be fine with a cat as long as it is introduced as a puppy - you will struggle to introduce an older Shiba
to a cat as a Shiba is a hunting breed

  • Can I let my Shiba off the Lead ?

Most people with Shibas do not let them off the lead purely for the fact that they are still a relatively new breed and possibly a target for thieves. Ours are never let off the lead in public as they are show dogs, but they do have the run of a 5 acre field that’s fenced in. with the world as it is now, I wouldn’t advise anyone to let their dog off of the lead in public places.

  • Can you recommend any good books ?


The Complete Shiba Inu - Maureen Atkinson
Japanese Shiba - Andrew De Priscoand  
Shiba Inus (A complete pet owner's guide) - Laura Payton

  • What are Restrictions/Endorsements ?

A BREEDING RESTRICTION means that you have been requested by the breeder NOT to breed with this male/female. If you do so, it means that you cannot then go on to register any puppies with the Kennel Club. This is done to protect the breed from the puppy farmers.
An EXPORT restriction means that you cannot sell this dog abroad or move abroad with it. You can travel with your pet on a pet passport. If you do want to emigrate and take the dog with you, you will need permission from the breeder to lift the endorsement so you can take the dog/bitch with you.
There are no guarantees that either restriction will be lifted at any time, and on purchase of a puppy, you will be required to sign a form to say that you fully understand what these restrictions mean and that they are in place.

NB All information supplied above is purely an opinion expressed by myself as a breeder of Shibas since their introduction into the United Kingdom in approx 1985. No responsibility is accepted for a Shiba that does not display any of these traits, and that is not purchased from Linsea or Evilicious kennels.




copyright 2007