Shiba Inus and Children

Shibas are not the ideal child’s pet. They are not a toy and will not tolerate being treated that way. Shibas do not, as a rule, attack and kill toddlers on sight. They will, however, resent fingers pushed into their eyes, tail-pulling or any other abuses that small children tend to inflict on animals. A Shiba treated this way may snap or bite. And rightfully so.

Whether you have children or not, it is imperative to expose your Shiba to as many positive experiences with small children as possible. Haunt playgrounds, schools, children’s centres… everywhere where there are kids, go there and encourage them to pet the puppy and feed it treats.

If your Shiba ends up thinking that all kids are free hotdog stands, then you’ve done your job.

If you want a Shiba and have, or plan to have, kids, you will have to train both the dog and the children to respect each other. Do not let the dog use Junior as a chew toy and, conversely, do not let Junior grab at the dog or chase it. Teach your kids non-aggressive games to play with the dog, like fetching or chasing a ball.

Babies and toddlers should be kept strictly separate from the dog except for closely supervised interactions. Make every exposure to the baby something exceptionally positive for your Shiba. Keep a store of treats your dog especially loves to give him while encouraging quiet, positive behaviour towards the baby. Include the baby in normal routines, like obedience training and walks as soon as possible.

It is the height of ignorance to look fondly on while children use your dog as a jungle gym. Children of all ages should be strictly forbidden from teasing the dog, grabbing body parts, or jumping/climbing on the dog. Your dog is not a toy and is not a babysitter.

Once your child is old enough to understand how to give commands, get them involved in your Shiba’s training. Get the dog used to obeying commands from the children and teach the child how to properly give commands and follow through with praise/rewards. This is an excellent way to spend time with your kids, your dog, and reinforce the proper hierarchy.

Always remember that your dog is a domesticated predator that needs to be taught that children are not prey, that they are members of the pack and, most importantly, above the dog in the social hierarchy. This is done through ongoing socialization and controlled, positive encounters with children of all ages.

Never, ever, ever leave a dog alone with a child who is not strong enough, mature enough and/or knowledgeable enough to control it.

The majority of reported attacks on children by family dogs that I have read of in the news happened because the adult was not supervising the dog and child properly. An uncontrolled dog is a danger to everyone, but especially children. Children can hurt or startle dogs without meaning to, but their intentions don’t really matter when they are maimed or dead.

Yes, that’s right. Dead. A dog the size of a Shiba is theoretically capable of killing a small child and permanently disfiguring a child of any age. Are they likely to? No. Do you want to test that theory? No, you don’t.

And, just because I love red font and big letters,

Only you can determine if your children are mature enough to be trusted with the dog. If your children have been taught from toddlerhood to behave appropriately towards the dog, it is highly unlikely that you will ever have to worry once they are old enough to be able to control the dog to some degree. Until then, play it safe.


  1. I completely agree that you should never leave you child alone with a dog. No matter the interpreted temperament.
    I just wanted to share my happy experience. Our shiba inu ‘Kuma’ has loved our daughter since the day we brought her home from the hospital (he was 1.5 years old) and they are great friends. She’s a little rough with him from time to time (she’s 16 months old now) but he has safe areas in the house that she can’t get to and if he wants to be left alone he goes to those places to sleep or hang out for awhile. Normally she chants what she’s been taught ‘nice touch… nice touch…’ as she pets him and he loves when she throws balls to him or puts blankets on him he can wrestle with.

    Kuma has a very sweet and gentle personality and Chloe loves to take food from the kitchen (where kuma knows he’s not allowed) and run into the living room to feed it to him. They have an understanding (so yes, he thinks all children are hotdog stands) and We’re very lucky with the love he dishes out to her and to us.

    Thanks for this great website! always makes us chuckle.

  2. We heard about this tragic incident. The police report stated that the dogs appeared to have played with the baby, causing her death. This is a sad example of ‘Never leave a dog alone with a baby’. If you’re sleeping, the dog is, in effect, alone with the baby.

  3. My husband and I are proud owners of two shiba’s. We also have a three year old daughter. Our dogs were three and two when we brought her home. We were worried because our dogs had only been socialized with adults previously. So, when we found out a baby was on the way I began walking them with the stroller and leaving the car seat and other baby items in the living room. I taught them what they could and could not play with. They basically got ten months of training before we ever brought our bundle of joy home. We had only a few problems with our daughter being too rough with them, and the dogs not wanting to share their favorite toys. We taught our daughter to leave them alone in their safe zones so they could get away when needed. With lots of supervision and establishment of who the pack leaders were we now have a happy family. Our shiba’s love to play and get snacks from our daughter. She even feeds them and gets them to do tricks. They have accepted her as part of the family.

    I can tell anyone from our experience that shiba’s really can be the most rewarding dogs, but you have to be willing to be a dedicated owner. They are not for someone that doesn’t have the time to train them.

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