Shiba Temperament

THE BAD: This is a high-strung, highly prey-driven breed with little patience for rough handling. They are not ideal toddler’s pets and do best with older, respectful children. They can be aggressive towards other pets unless socialized very early. They may never learn to accept animals outside of their pack after they become adults. They are extremely independent and, while learning obedience commands quickly, will never listen to a thing you say once they are running free. If left to their own devices, they will bark, dig, and chew.

THE GOOD: Shibas are very clean little dogs who are usually easy to housebreak. They are a small, compact size, but are still sturdy and able to hold their own with an active owner. They are adaptable to many different situations when socialized and obedience trained. They often make excellent watchdogs. They can be very good travellers, content to sit and watch the world go by until it’s time to stretch their legs again. They are engagingly playful and will keep you entertained for hours as they play with their toys or with you.

The Shiba philosophy for life is encompassed in four words: “I, me, my, mine.” This means that your running shoes are now MINE, your books are MINE (and very tasty!), the butter on the dining room table is MINE, that patch of grass that other dog is sniffing is MINE… and so on.

These dogs are very, very intelligent. They are smart enough enough to understand that a lead cannot control them unless a human is attached to the other end. They will figure out that leather and nylon are chewable and, thus, that the power of the lead is finite. They can and do understand the physics that govern the speed that a small dog needs to attain to whip through a closing door and out onto the street.

Unfortunately, Shibas do not possess the cognative ability to realize that car + Shiba = red smear on the road. Their independence and prey drive will put them in some extremely dangerous situations if they are allowed to run loose.

Dominance can be a significant part of the Shiba personality. Shibas will take over the household and try to tell their owners what to do and when to do it. Ongoing socialization and obedience training, as well as assertive corrections for dominant behaviour, are what will keep this in check, especially for Shiba males who think they’re all that and a bag of premium kibble.

Shibas can and do get along with all sorts of animals and small children. BUT… this will not come about without significant effort on the owner’s part, as well as constant supervision around strange pets and allchildren.

Socialization and training are extremely important to help encourage a Shiba to learn “ours” as an operative concept. With socialization and training, the fuck -you -I’m -God attitude can be mellowed into more of a fuck -you -but -only -if -I -can -get -away -with -it -and -I -think -I -can’t -right -now.

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  1. I smiled all through the article for it was describing the ruler of our house, DeeDee the Shiba.

  2. I had a shiba inu named Declan until recently. He was killed by a pit bull/lab mix last weekend. I read many of the traits above and they hit the nail on the head, but some just did not apply to Declan. First off, I’m a single adult male and I clearly showed my dominance when he misbehaved, punishment was very consistent. Squirt guns work very good! When he was a puppy, I cradled him in my arms quite a bit (I heard this helps them be more submissive). Reading up on shiba inu traits, it sounds like Declan turned out well. He was very attentive, stared and sniffed constantly. Loved to sniff shoes and anything else. He knew several commands and loved to prove that.. but bring him outside or around other pets… and your commands go out the window. He wouldn’t listen. He loved sleeping on the top of my couch. He had his “I want to be by myself” moments, but he was also a cuddle buddy. Sometimes he would stare at me about a foot away and when I didn’t give him attention, he’d gently lay his paw on my leg like “Hey, look at me!”. He was pretty difficult to kennel train but got good at not going in the house. He did what I call “poo-icides” when he had to use the bathroom. He’d sprint around me then go back and forth, sometimes 10 or 20 times before doing his business. He loved children, my 7 year old nephew played pretty rough with him.. would wrap his arms around him really hard and everything. He just sat there and chased him playfully when he walked off. He loved chewing on things and would throw toys across the room and chase after them. Sometimes he would throw a toy with his mouth all the way over my coffee table and onto my couch. Very entertaining. He was very good at doing the first part of “fetch” but he’d never return what you through. He was absolutely awful at being on a leash and walking so I ended up just walking him down a golf cart trail at night by my yard. He liked being petted similar to a cat. He’d make “pet loops”, immediately turning around after you petted him once and LOVED me to scratch his head. He rarely barked but I could get him easily riled up by walking real slowly towards him. If I did that, he’d pounce with his front paws, lower his head, then start wagging his tail really hard and would start barking. Sometimes he’d do what they call a “shiba sprint”. He wasn’t an escape artist per se. He didn’t seem overly interested in just trying to get away… but if something caught his attention that was it. He was very quick. Anyway, wanted to share my experience. I guess it’s also therapy for me. I think many dog traits are nurture, not nature. I believe if you clearly establish your dominance, maintain respect from your shiba, and show it firm love/affection, it will be a wonderful dog. I read nothing but “don’t get this dog if it’s your first pet”. Declan was my first pet as an adult and I have zero regrets. I will get a new shiba pup soon and start a new chapter.

  3. Hey everyone!
    My boyfriend and I are looking at a 4month old shiba inu which we found at a pet store near us. I had never really heard of the breed before seeing this one but we fell in love with her inquisitive and playful demeanor. Growing up I had a chow/German Shepard mix (Fozzy) and a boxer mix (Zoe), now I have a family dog that lives with my parents which is a beagle/German Shepard mix (Maggie) all of which I had a large part in raising/training. My boyfriend on the other hand has not had a dog before but is willing to put in the work to train her with me. We are very interested in this dog but the one thing I worry about is that I’ve read that they are not very “touchy feely” type dogs. I’m used to dogs that want to snuggle with you at night when you sit down will I be missing out on this affection with a shiba? Also this shiba is priced at $1900 but I’m told the price is negotiable. What is a fair offer for this puppy?

    • No. No. Nonononono. No Shibas from pet stores. There is no fair price for a pet store Shiba. Even if they give you her for free, it isn’t a fair price. Pet store pups are high risk for genetic problems and temperament problems. Pet store puppies are also likely to be produced from dogs in puppy mills, which are internment camps for dogs.

      A word about money. $1900? You could get a well bred pup for half that in my neck of the woods, with tested clear parents who have their hips, knees and eyes checked to ensure they don’t have genetic problems.

      You can easily spend twice $1900 fixing a dog with slipping kneecaps. If you’re in the States, check out If Canada,

      Those will give you a good head start in finding a healthy, happy dog.

  4. so I was thinking of getting a shiba inu mix. The mix is maltese and shiba inu. I’m very frightened of their aggressive behavior. Do you think that since it is mixed with maltese that it would be more calm?

    • I think that if you are afraid of aggressive behaviour, any kind of Shiba mix is not the dog for you. Indeed, I would rethink owning any dog if you are frightened by aggressive behaviour. Dealing with and channelling aggression is part of dog ownership. Every dog has aggression. Whether it becomes an issue depends largely on you.

      The good news is that there are many resources for people who are interested in modifying their dog’s behaviour. The most well-known are obedience classes, but more and more dog trainers are also offering classes geared to reactive dogs, dogs with specific fear issues and dogs with aggression issues. To channel your dog’s aggression appropriately, create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. Nothing in Life is Free is a good resource. Also check out the many Youtube resources on dog training, clicker training and positive behaviour modification.

  5. So I got myself a rescue dog. His mom was a full blooded Siberian Husky who was abandoned with the pups. But I’m pretty solidly sure that the dad was a Shiba. I’ve never looked into the breed. But was just looking around for what kind of dog he might be mixed with (since he looks nothing like his mom the husky) and ran across this page.

    I’ve only had him 2 days but I think the descriptions of shiba puppies sounds like a solid fit… and he’s got the look for it. Sounds like I’ve got a lot to look forward to if he’s actually is a Shiba/Husky mix.

  6. Hi I have a 12 week old male shiba who is mostly well behaved.
    However, he tends to bite most things, including me. When we play (or even when I lying on the couch) he will begin to mouth lightly on my hands, feet, head you name it, and when I pull away, sometimes he will bite down hard, sometimes drawing blood due to his sharp little teeth.
    I’ve tried many different types of discipline, including time-outs, water and vinegar sprays, yelling, screaming etc, but I either get a blank look or he barks back at me. What other types of discipline can I try?

    • Hi, James,

      Shibas do tend to be very mouthy when they’re young. I do think your shiba will outgrow the mouthiness – Tierce did – but you’re right that you don’t want him to think that this is acceptable. One method I tried is Bitter Apple, a spray you can find in most pet supply shops. As the name suggests, it’s bitter and most dogs don’t like it much. Coat your hands with it and see if you can’t set your puppy up to nibble on your hands. Other methods I used were the sprays, scruff shakes and a slightly gross method that can end up with you liberally bespattered with slobber and some punctures from puppy teeth.

      I would grab onto Tierce’s jaw and hold it – not hard, but keeping my hand in his mouth. (Don’t do this too harshly and don’t hold on to the puppy’s jaw. Just hold him and keep your hand in his mouth.) Sometimes I would vary this by sticking my finger down his throat (do not do this in fancy dress, unless it’s a hideous one your Aunt Thelma gave to you that you hate). The idea was “Go ahead, try to chew on me. No, really, I like my hand in your mouth. Keep it there. Oh, no, you can’t possibly want to spit my hand out that soon; keep it a while longer. No, really, we should do this more often. What? You don’t like my hand in your mouth? Well, okay then… you sure? Because I can do this all day… Okay, fine.” Usually this ended with Tierce charging right back to grab my hand, whereupon the whole process would start all over again. If you can pair this with Bitter Apple, it becomes extra fun.

      Buy your puppy a Kong and one of those three-foot-long dried beef chew sticks. Make sure that he gets plenty of exercise for those jaws. And start puppy classes really soon!

  7. I think if you’ve had a Sib you know some of what the breed is like, although Sibs aren’t quite as stubborn as Shibas. I have three, Saki and Basho 9, and Hiro, 3. All are males and all get along, well, they are Shibas so we have our momments, but I can leave them all loose in the house while I am gone and there is no blood on the floor when I get bak lol! It took about a month to get to that point but we’re there now, and all of mine are rescues so I really don’t know what their histories were. It helps if you have several food/water bowls scattered throughout the house as well as several dog beds. Although, like kids, the bowl or bed one is using is always the “best” bowl. Best of luck to you & sorry this is so long but I am passionate about the breed!
    Annette from St. Louis

  8. Margaret-

    The Shiba might be a good match for your family. You are already familiar w/ spitz type dogs, but a younger Shiba will be a different experience from an older Siberian Husky for your children.

    Some questions to ask yourself before getting the Shiba:

    Are the children responsible enough to handle a dog that might be higher energy with escape artist tendencies?

    Do we have a secure setup for the Shiba?

    How much time can we devote to training the new family member?

    How much time will be available for exercising the Shiba?

    Research carefully the source of your new Shiba. If possible, find a good breeder and work with the breeder to match the new dog with your family. Another option is to work with a Shiba Rescue to find your new family member. Again, the rescue will try to match your family with an appropriate Shiba.

    Good luck — and I hope this helps.

  9. We are thinking of getting a Shiba Inu – we have a 7 & 10 year old (kids not dogs) who grew up with a Siberian Husky (who is no longer with us after 16 years). Do you think this would be a good breed for us?

  10. Help, I quess I didn’t know enough about this breed. I currently have a tibetian spaniel/llahasa mix about 12lbs, female and 3 1/2yrs old. Will my new female Topaz Shiba be to rough for her? She currently has a very gentle spirit. She loves to snuggle and lays next to me whenever I sit down. She hates a leash but will not stay in the yard and is to fast if she runs. I can tell she wants her way all the time but will attempt to play with Tica but will respect her when she growls and will back off. Will she try to assert herself as she gets older?

    • Hi, Mary,

      Shibas can assert themselves as they get older, but don’t despair. Now is the time that you can take the steps to prevent violence in your household later on. You didn’t mention how old your Shiba is. If she is a puppy, it will make your job easier than if she’s older.

      Feed your older dog first – this reinforces her status above the puppy and reassures her of her position.

      Anyway, now is the time to get your Shiba into puppy classes and get her accustomed to fun obedience training. This will not only help your relationship with her, it will also help her relationship with your older dog and other dogs in general. Obedience classes based on positive reinforcement are a good thing for both of your dogs, helping strengthen their bond with you. This may not seem to have anything to do with preventing fighting, but if your dogs look to you first for leadership, they are less likely to give in to their own inclinations when you’ve repeatedly expressed your disapproval of aggression towards each other.

      Get your Shiba spayed when your veterinarian advises. Intact females have all the raging hormones of males and a biological reason to dominate other females for reprodutive privileges. Remove the uterus and fallopian tubes and you remove many reasons for aggression.

      I hope this helps; my female Shassi was raised with two older dogs and got on fine with them. However the female dog she was raised with was a large Collie who could smack her around when it was needed and that kept her humble. 🙂

  11. I have a 6 year old Shiba and this is dead on. The one thing it’s missing is how cat like they can be. He cleans himself all of the time and only wants pets and attention when he wants it.

  12. I think it is normal, for them to snort and have “allergy-like” attacks. My shiba is a male named Joker and snorts at least once a day and sneezes and gets “attacks” that almost sound like an asthma attack. He also burps after every meal and often likes to do it while sniffing your face. He farts too, it’s pretty funny because I don’t think he knows he’s the one doing it, when he does he quickly turns around and starts sniffing til he finds the source then will whip around and look at you with a look of “did you hear that?”

  13. Hello,

    I have a new shiba inu and love her very much. Her name is Ruby Iris Moonlight as she is a white/cream colored inu with red tips on her ears and tail.

    I have a concern, it is normal for inus to snort, or seem to have allergy attacks, at times during the day, sometimes brought on by her drinking water too quickly, or always when she wakes and gets up in the morning? is this something that is common to this breed……

    signed, wondering and concerned.


    • Both Shassi and Tierce occasionally have “the snorts” where it seems that something has gone down the wrong way. It has always passed without incident. If nothing else seems to be wrong, I would think that it is just a product of dust or water going where it ought not to be. Mention it to your vet when you take Ruby in and see what s/he says about it. If you want to be uber-keen, keep a log of when it happens and the circumstances. If you are worrying a lot about it, take Ruby to the vet anyway; the exam fee will be worth putting your mind to rest.

    • Snorting if it appears to be gasping for air/ asma. Attack. It’s due to collapsed trackea ( wind pipe) the snorting / wheezing is the dog trying to inflate it
      Small breeds get this often look it upon le surgerys an option but if u can avoid it’s much better. Better yet video tape it and post on a Shiba Inu group for opinions to see if it’s truely what I mentioned

    • My shiba snorts quite often. Sometimes she is excited (its usually this), sometimes bored, sometimes when she wakes up. She does have allergies, but the snorting does not seem to be related. I used to be concerned, but it has gone on for a couple years now with no ill effects so I think it is just something they do.

  14. This is a great website and a perfect description of the dog’s temprament. Bart is only 1/2 shiba (mixed with Shelty) and he got he Shiba side both in terms of personality and prey driven.

    Socialization is the key. I have taken him to doggie daycare on a regular basis for about 5 years and I think it socialized him with other animals, plus it gives him a 3 or 4 staff people to manage.

    Children are the tough one, patience and supervision are a must.

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