10 MORE Things to Know About the Shiba Inu Breed

It was about one year ago that I wrote my most popular post ever, innocently titled ten things you should probably know about Shiba Inus. I made a few Shiba owners angry, I had a lot of breeders write me messages thanking me and wanting to share with their pet clients, and I had even more people laugh along with me who own a dog just like mine. I also received a lot of emails from prospective owners wondering if I was exaggerating and if the Shiba Inu breed really might not be for them.

Now over a year later, I still get a lot of questions, so I thought it might be time to write 10 MORE things I think you should know about the Shiba Inu breed! Of course, not every Shiba is just like Rigby. Just like the humans that own them, each dog is a special snowflake with its own set of quirks, likes, and dislikes. However, at their core, Shibas tend to be pretty similar in that they are typically 1. aloof, 2. independent, and 3. irritatingly smart. These are the other things that I think you should definitely know before you consider getting a Shiba Inu for your family.

10 More Things You Should Know about the Shiba Inu Breed // Shiba Inu Temperament & Personality Traits // Hello Rigby Seattle Shiba Inu Blog

10 MORE Things to Know About the Shiba Inu Breed

The comparison to cats is real.

As much as I try to deny it, Rigby is really quite cat-like. He prefers to be high up, surveying his kingdom as often as possible. You’ll often find him sitting on top of his crate, on the back of my parent’s couch when we visit, or peeking out the window. He’ll rub your legs to get noticed in the kitchen, clean himself after each of his meals, and let you know when he’s had enough of your petting too, just like his feline counterpart.

Pouring rain? Blizzarding? Your dog will make you walk for 2 miles to find a decent spot to do their business.

I kind of wish I was kidding, but this has happened on multiple occasions. Shibas are dramatic and like to keep their area clean, including whatever they believe is part of their home. That means when we have inclement weather; it takes Rigby even longer to do his business, much to my dismay.

The escape artist description is not a joke.

I touched on this a bit in the last post. However, I do want to warn you that the “escape artist” descriptor you may have heard is very real. We almost had an escape happen accidentally not too long ago, and it honestly scared the you know what out of me.

One of Dave’s friends (who happens to not be a pet owner) opened the front door right as Dave was grabbing Rigby’s leash to take him outside. Rigby, thinking this was about to be a fun time, took off out the door and up the stairs, feet from a parking lot and very close to a busy road. Luckily, Rigby is whistle recall trained, so I blew my whistle, and he came running. Always, always, always practice recall training early and often with your dog, regardless of breed. Rigby doesn’t usually go out the front door, but with an unfamiliar guest, he thought it was okay. You just never know!

Shiba Inu Personality Characteristics & Temperament // Hello Rigby Seattle Shiba Inu Blog

Loyalty, to the point of embarrassment.

I’m not sure if it is loyalty or if my dog is just broken, but Rigby gets very alarmed about certain situations. While not unique, the UPS driver, for instance, is cause for sounding the alarm. He also thinks it is very bizarre and uncool if a man walks too close behind me that is not someone we know. No matter how much we have worked on this, he’s relentless. Perhaps he is protective and loyal to me in the way that he knows best, or maybe he is just special. The world will never know.

High prey drive: it will strike at the most inopportune times.

I’d always heard that some Shibas have a high prey drive, while others do not. I figured out early on that Rigby was one with a high drive and boy can it be annoying. The worst is his obsession with hunting things at my parent’s house. And by hunting things, I mean him trying to dig out the cat toys he’s not supposed to have from under the couch or in drawers. We also had a small rodent incident when he was a puppy that completely freaked my mom out. Yuck.

Constant need for stimulation, as puppies and young adults anyway.

I never realized how busy you need to keep an intelligent dog like a Shiba in their youth. I can recall working from home, expecting to get work done, and having a cute fluffy puppy barking at me, trying to get me to play every couple of minutes. I learned very quickly that games that challenged the mind were good for tuckering out the little pup.

Shiba Inu Puppy Enjoying Best Bully Sticks Bison Jerky // Hello Rigby Seattle Shiba inu Blog

Another thing I never went without were a variety of chews. One of my favorite places to purchase safe chews is from Best Bully Sticks, which was the first place I ever bought bully sticks after a fellow Shiba owner recommended them to me. They were kind enough to send Rigby a few types of treats recently to try, and of course, he’s enjoyed them all. My favorite, for him of course, has to be the 6″ odor-free bully sticks and curly bully sticks. These high-quality chews are good for their teeth, high in protein, and best of all, keep the energetic ones occupied for long enough to get at least one thing done around the house. They’ve also got you covered for training treats. I love the ease of tearing these Bison Jerky Strips into small pieces for training and treating, and the pack lasts for a long time for a small to medium-sized dog. If you want to check out Best Bully Sticks, they’ve offered my readers 10% off natural dog treats with code HELLORIGBY through July 31st, 2016. (Not an affiliate code.) If you’re new to Best Bully Sticks, they also offer grab bags where you can try more than one type of treat for your pup at a discounted rate!

They’re a huge time and monetary investment.

Speaking of buying things, have I mentioned how expensive dog ownership is? It’s not just the purchase or adoption fee you pay, but all of the supplies you’ll need to get right away, the food costs over the lifetime of the dog, any training you do with them, and all of their potential medical costs.

One thing that I recommend is looking into pet insurance before you get your puppy. It may not make sense for your family, but I like the piece of mind it provides me. (And, knock on wood, we haven’t had to use it for anything more than some prescriptions from a minor injury.)

The time it takes to raise a dog is also not for the faint of heart. From puppy classes to training to exercising them daily, dogs are basically like toddlers for the first couple of years. That means you may not be able to stay out late, sleep over at a friend’s when you get too tired to drive home, or take an impromptu vacation. Sure you can crate your dog for a couple of hours, but they’ll still need to be fed and let out within a reasonable amount of time. It’s more than worth it, but it’s an important consideration depending on how much support you’ll have and where you’re at in life.

Not big on barking, but prepare for plenty of other racket.

The good news about Shibas is that they are not a dog that barks and barks all day when you leave them home. Rigby is pretty much silent unless someone knocks on the door.

On the other hand, while he may not be a barker, he has a vocabulary all his own. He howls, he yodels, he screams, growls, and cries. Try and clip his nails or touch his feet too much and he sounds like The Exorcist. (I wish I was kidding.) If you follow me on Snapchat (I’m hellorigby, by the way. Yes, shameless plug!), you’ll also know he gets wound up and does the Shiba 500 fairly regularly which involves all sorts of noise from barks to yips to who knows what.

They’re unique, and not for everyone.

The first question I ask anyone who emails me or asks me about the breed is, “have you met a Shiba yet?” Please, please, please, whatever dog breed you are interested in, go to a meetup and meet the breed! Meeting several will give you a good idea of the overall temperament and personality of that particular breed, as well as how they interact with other dogs and people. I’d always been fascinated by the Shiba Inu breed, and when I was able to watch them interact with each other and humans at a local Shiba meetup before we ever met Rigby, it cemented the fact that yes, this was the breed I wanted.

Shiba Inu Temperament & Personality // Hello Rigby Seattle Shiba Inu Blog

Be sure you’re prepared.

My best advice to those interested in the Shiba Inu breed is be prepared for the unexpected. You can read 5024937 books and honestly still never be able to know it all. I read and read and read before I ever even met Rigby and I still was absolutely floored by some of his behavior. Not to mention, you’ll think you’re getting the hang of something, or he’s growing out of some weird phase, and next thing you know he’ll throw a new weird behavior curveball at you.

Now keep in mind, I don’t write any of these things to scare you, only so that you don’t run out and pick up a puppy without really thinking about it. Dogs are a commitment for life and owning one should not be taken lightly. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the hardest.

Are you a fellow Shiba owner? What is one thing you think all prospective Shiba owners should know about the breed? If you own a different breed of dog, I’d love to hear some of the unique qualities your pup possesses too! :)

21 thoughts on “10 MORE Things to Know About the Shiba Inu Breed

  1. Audrey

    Rigby is SO stinkin’ adorable. I think it’s awesome that you layout the good, the bad, and the ugly on this breed! I have two dogs, both mixes, and I see so many qualities from others dogs in them. My older girl has a lot of shiba inu traits, but she’s also exhibits husky behaviors and boxer behaviors. Our little guy behaves like a whippet. (We think he’s also mixed with a small herding breed, too.) Dogs are AWESOME and I think it’s says so much when their humans make an effort to understand and communicate with them!

    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw thanks Audrey! So glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, absolutely! There are so many who want to change the breed behavior but I just embrace it and learn to work with the quirks. ;)

    1. Jenn Post author

      Haha! Glad you agree with it, Chelsea! It’s always interesting to hear how different and similar other Shibas are from Rigby!

  2. Chelsie

    It’s so interesting reading all about Shiba quirks! Rosie is such a unique mix of breeds (golden and GSH) but she has very distinct traits from each breed. She’s very easy going in the house (golden retriever) but will point any small creature/bird and take off after it without a second thought (GSH) She’s also insanely fast, she can keep up with her friend who is a whippet, and she gets that from the GSH of her as well. It’s been fun to discover her different personality quirks over the last couple of years!

    1. Jenn Post author

      I bet! It’s always interesting to see how much dogs change as they age as well. Rigby is so much different in personality now versus when he was 6-8 months. I see people saying how “perfect” their dogs are at that age and I just have to laugh because they change so much as they age! (Sometimes for the better, sometimes not, haha!)

  3. Shannon

    I love both of these posts (this one and the last one) so much, Jenn! Whenever anyone meets Amaya they immediately want to get a shiba, because obviously she’s adorable and most of the time so sweet to strangers. But I always warn them to do their research! Also, so many of these are spot on… Amaya will never do her business in the afternoon/evening unless I take her on a walk, which is great until it’s freezing or pouring haha. And YES so much to the loyalty to the point of embarrassment. She doesn’t trust old people at all and goes absolutely nuts at them, even my grandparents. So embarrassing. I’m going to have to look into recall training now that you’ve mentioned it… we haven’t done any of that and she is a little escape artist.

    1. Jenn Post author

      Thanks so much Shannon! That’s exactly what happens with Rigby which is why I find writing these posts to be so useful so I can share it with them, haha! Rigby doesn’t like elderly people much either, now that you mention it! Too funny. For recall training, I highly recommend Really Reliable Recall: https://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=dtb810p It’s a little expensive but I ended renting the DVD from my library! You might be able to find it online somewhere too. ;)

  4. Rachel

    Rigby is so cute! It’s so important for people to know about the breeds of dogs they get, especially if they have kids or other pets. My pup is an escape artist too! Whistle training sounds really helpful! How old was Rigby when you tried it?

    1. Jenn Post author

      Aw thanks Rachel! Whistle training is amazing. He still remembers it at 3 even though we haven’t practiced it in a long time. We started playing the “recall game” where he would go from person to person to get a cookie inside the house when he was about 4 months old. We added whistle training in at about 6 months or so after a second trainer recommended having an additional emergency system!

  5. Alanna @ Alanna & Company

    So cute! There’s a Shiba that just moved into my building. She’s the black/tan fur though. Did I tell you how Starla escaped her leash a little while ago? I had a new harness for her and the way that it pulls, it hit the latch on her leash and unbuckled her. I panicked (bad move) and went to grab her and she thought I was just playing and ran across the street thinking I wanted to chase her. So bad. She knows recall but I just lost my mind and kept chasing her. So scary. She was fine and thought we had a great time. But now I know what to do in another situation like that.

    1. Jenn Post author

      No! How scary! Of course she would think that, oh my goodness. That would have freaked me out too and so glad you both were okay! And yay for a new Shiba neighbor. Does she get along with Starla?

  6. Ingrid M.

    My husband and I own a Shiba, same color as Rigby. Her name is Yoshi (named after Yoshi from Mario Bros. as we are big video gamers). We love her to death. If I had to give advice to another possible pet parent to be, I would say Shiba’s shouldn’t be your fist dog to own. Shiba’s have there own unique personality, as puppies they will bite everything they can unless you put the time and effort in training them not to, as you have mentioned escape artist is no joke about his breed, and also female Shiba’s are more attached to male person and male Shiba’s to female person. We are considering getting a second one (boy, name in in debate perhaps Dante..) because we see that our Shiba loves being around dogs, loved to be chased but not be the chasee. They like companionship only when they seek it. They gain weight very easily if not properly exercised. Speaking out of experience because Yoshi had to have a FOB surgery on her hip. During the first 3 months was a painful time for her therapy walks. Although she loves going on walks and run outside, inside she doesn’t have the same energy anymore since her surgery and gained weight during those months of rehab.

  7. Cristina

    Lol all very true! My 12 year old Shiva is still just as stubborn and clever as ever. He can be a real pain in the butt sometimes, but he always gives me a laugh and sure is beautiful. I feel bad for my other revue dog I have who is also very cute as my Shiba gets comments on how beautiful he is every time we leave the house. And boy can he scream when he gets a bath!!! Sounds like a dinosaur and people come to see what’s wrong. lol I didn’t see you mention the Shiba shed as they sure do shed a lot! I think I lucked out though as Toby is off leash trained, knows not to bolt at an open door and listens well off-leash. Their ability to learn is their strongpoint for sure as Toby picks up every trick I’ve ever tried from the basics, to obstacle courses to boogie boarding in the pool…now getting him to do them every time I want is another Ahiba story. Lol

  8. Chaz Soracco

    Your blogs are wonderful and they really do hit the nail right on the head about Shibas. My boy just turned 7, his name is Lobo and is red sesame. I discovered the shiba breed by accident but I have never regretted it! They are unique and have such bold personalities!!!! My life would be so bleak without Lobo’s entertainment. Keep writing the wonderful blogs, I love them :) I feel so much better knowing that my shiba isn’t the only one who likes to test me lol

  9. Debbie Vaughn

    I enjoyed reading your posts. It does make you feel better to know that you are not the only one experiencing some of the things you mentioned. I have two Shibas, one is 13 (male) and the other is two (female). My male, Rio unfortunately had every single defect possible for Shibas and that is why we refer to him as our $6 million dollar dog. Due to having both patellas requiring surgery before he was 3 yrs old he now has arthritis and doesn’t walk on his own, kinda drags himself around and we carry him out to go potty. Someone mentioned boy dogs bond to females and girls bond to males and I can attest to that. My female, Kiwi, is totally a daddy’s girl and she will mind my grown son and husband but will be snarkie with me. Rio is momma’s boy, and even though old, he still pushes my buttons to get his way. I couldn’t love them more. My girl is trying as you stated, she hates for me to do crafts or read and will nip at my heels if I don’t pay attention to her. She too screams like a banshee when we have attempted to cut her nails so we have them done at a groomers and she just takes it. We cannot do Rio’s either, he has always hated his feet touched (by us):) We have a wonderful breeder and will only leave Kiwi with her if we need to be out of town. Kiwi is raw fed and Rio is fed whatever I can get him to eat, he is very finicky, and it changes daily. I too love the breed and wouldn’t want any other.

  10. Kari

    We’ve had a Shiba for almost 9 years and my parents have had one for 14 years. They are the coolest dogs! Mine is so loyal and protective, it’s crazy. He is worlds biggest sweetheart unless he’s getting shots at the vet.

  11. Toya Dover

    Your post deeply touched my heart, as we recently lost our beloved ( of 16 years)Judah , to natural causes. I’ve had many other breeds in my lifetime, but can honestly and unabashedly admit that I have never loved a dog so unapologetically deeply as I did Judah.
    I agree with all of your sentiments about this breed and they evoked the sweetest and funniest memories of my beloved.
    I’m still grieving and don’t think I could ever love nor appreciate another dog with as much intensity. I used to joke that Judah was the only one in the world who “got me” (understood me)!”
    Thank you so much for the most thorough, funny and insightful post. I love Rigby!


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