How To Know If A Shiba Inu Is Right For You (Explained)


Shiba Inus are amazing pets when given the proper care, structure, and time investment they need to truly thrive.

Shiba Inus are a strong-willed independent dog breed that thrives on long walks and social interactions. Failing to properly socialize and exercise this breed brings out the worst in them. Aggression, destructive chewing, and anti-social behaviors are all potential risks for unprepared owners.

shiba inu looking at a person

If what was stated above hasn’t scared you off, or you are just curious, continue reading to see what I mean in detail.

Shiba Inus Aren’t The Cuddly Attention Seeking Type

Commonly referred to as a “cat in a dog’s body” Shiba Inus are perfectly content laying around or doing their own thing most of the time. Although Shiba Inus are more independent and less likely to seek attention when compared to a golden retrievers, that doesn’t mean they don’t want attention either. Much like a cat, Shibas will let you know when they are ready for love and affection.

It’s good to know they are independent and won’t want to cuddle much, but why is that? Shiba Inus are naturally independent because of what they were born and bred to do in ancient times, hunt wild game with little to no input from their hunter.

That self-sufficient do-it-yourself attitude has left this breed with a naturally stubborn and aloof style of living and doing things.

As old-timey hunters, they were born and bred to flush out wild game all on their own. Leading to them being acutely alert, cautious, and quick to react. All of the above are traits you’ll have to learn how to manage as the owner.

While at first glance these qualities seem fine and harmless they can quickly become a nightmare for the unprepared. Shiba Inus are the bossy do-it-yourself type, so you’ll have to make socializing them a focus from a young age to reduce the odds of them becoming aggressive as they grow up. (More on that in detail later)

With that being said, if you are looking for a cuddly lap dog, this breed isn’t for you. Regular training, exercise, and social experience are needed for these dogs to be both happy and on their best behavior. Let’s dive into what I mean by that.

Understanding A Shiba Inus Play And Exercise Needs

Although small Shiba Inus have an alarming amount of energy, even when compared to other breeds. A big factor, and one that catches most first-time owners off guard, is how much daily play and exercise they need. And yes, I said need, failing to meet their exercise needs both stresses them out and results in boredom.

Boredom is one of the major problems underprepared owners run into. A lack of entertainment and proper exercise leads Shiba Inus to find their own, almost always resulting in destructive chewing. And since Shiba Inus are creatures of habit they are more and more likely to destroy the things around them with each instance of boredom.

That’s why properly preparing before getting a Shiba is crucial. You’ll not only want a variety of toys, preferably enough to have a weekly rotation, but also an exercise schedule.

While failing to meet their workout needs sounds scary and easy to do, the opposite is also true. Having a proper schedule limits the risk to your belongings it also keeps Shiba Inus happy. Thankfully there’s a simple rule you can follow.

Every month a Shiba Inu grows they need an additional 5 minutes added to their play or exercise sessions. Past a year old their exercise needs are roughly the same.

AgeTimeDaily Needs
1 Month Old5 MinutesTwice Daily
2 Months Old10 MinutesTwice Daily
3 Months Old15 MinutesTwice Daily
4 Months Old20 MinutesTwice Daily
5 Months Old25 MinutesTwice Daily
6 Months Old30 MinutesTwice Daily
7 Months Old35 MinutesOnce Daily
8 Months Old40 MinutesOnce Daily
9 Months Old45 MinutesOnce Daily
10 Months Old50 MinutesOnce Daily
11 Months Old55 MinutesOnce Daily
12+ Months Old60 MinutesOnce Daily

Most people will tell you that Shiba Inu do best when they spend between 45 and 60 minutes a day playing or exercisingOpens in a new tab., which is spot on for a dog that’s 1+ years old but not a growing puppy. That’s good advice but it fails to take their age into account. Different ages have different playtime needs, especially when they are transitioning from a puppy to an adult.

I recommend doing your best to follow the table above’s recommended daily needs for your Shiba Inu’s age as a minimum. It’s perfectly fine to go above it but keep an eye on them for signs of exhaustion and be sure to have clean drinking water nearby.

Properly Socializing A Shiba Inu Makes A Massive Difference

Shiba Inus are a Basel dog breed, meaning they have closer ties to wolfs and ancient dogs when compared to modern breeds like Labradors or German shepherds. This long-lived history leads them to have more primitive behaviors, making socializing a necessity.

Shiba Inus are naturally alert and cautious of the people, animals, and sounds around them. Getting a Shiba used to as many new sights, smells, people, and other pets from as young of an age as possible is a determining factor in how friendly and outgoing they’ll be as they grow up.

Failing to make socializing a priority leads to standoffish aggressive behavior not only towards other pets but people too. Shiba Inus are also more likely to bark, scream, nip, bite, and lash out when in uncomfortable situations due to their closed-minded approach to others.

While all of those sound off-putting to people who have only taken a surface-level interest in this breed, they are and should be.

This isn’t a breed you can pick up on a whim one day, take them home, and expect things to be easy with little effort. Just like with a job or any relationship there will be some work involved and that needs to be clear from the start.

Failing to properly understand how critical both socializing and proper exercise are for Shiba Inus leads many unprepared owners to be abandoned them at shelters due to expensive repair costs or aggression.

Shiba Inus Learn Quick But Training Is A Life-Time Endeavor

As independent hunting companions, Shiba Inus are remarkably smart and self-sufficient in many ways. But due to that independent nature, they are naturally stubborn and even selfish at times.

It’s not uncommon for Shibas to learn a new command in a matter of minutes or even be reasonably consistent in one day. What is common is how little interest they have in what you want them to do. A Shiba Inu’s naturally stubborn personality means they’ll only do something if they see a benefit in it.

While a command like “sit” may not be that bad other commands like “stay” and “come” or “here” will be a real struggle. After all, how would you feel if someone commanded you to stay where you are or come on command?

Those same thoughts and feelings you have after thinking about the over situation are running laps around a Shiba’s head.

If you are looking for a dog that will flawlessly rush over to you when called or for a companion that can hike with you off-leash, the Shiba Inu is not the breed for you. Shibas regularly ignore commands when they aren’t interested and, due to their high prey drive, can not be trusted off-leash.

You will regularly need to have remedial lessons with this breed as they age.

Grooming Is Straight Forward For This Cat Like Breed

Shiba Inus are natural clean freaks and rarely get that musky dog smell. They are perfectly happy spending large portions of their day cleaning their paws and fur. Thanks to that grooming their grooming needs are fairly easy.

Shiba Inus have a double-coat, an overcoat, and an undercoat:

  • A Shiba’s overcoat is coarse, is their outermost layer of fur, helps repel things dirt and water, and puts their color palette on full display. Do note this coat doesn’t shed or grow back, so it’s extremely important you don’t shave them unless in a medical emergency. A Shiba Inus overcoat is with them for life, when it’s gone it may grow back some but it will never be the same.
  • Shiba Inus also have an undercoat. This layer of fur stays close to the skin resting under their overcoat. Shibas are notorious for “shedding season” which happens heavily twice a year, with mild to moderate shedding year-round. This coat constantly grows back and is what you are endlessly brushing off.

With the important details out of the way, brushing them isn’t as difficult as it may sound. Here is a simple system you can follow:

SeasonFrequency
Non-shedding seasonBi-weekly brushes
Shedding season (coat blowing)Weekly brushes

After brushing the next common thing you’ll need to do is trim their nails. Personally I let my vet do it but that’s because I’ve had difficulty getting Faith, my Shiba Inu, to let me as she was growing up.


Pro tip – Get your Shiba Inu used to being touched and handled.


I did a good job getting my female Shiba used to being picked up along with having her ears, tail, and face played with but failed to regularly interact with her paws. Yes, I play with and pet her all the time but I completely blanked on making a regular effort to grab and mess with her paws specifically.

Due to that, she was overly defensive and even aggressive when I would go to grab her paws to look at her nails. That’s completely on me for not getting her use to it and I take full responsibility for that. Thankfully with a bit of time, some treats, and consistent effort she isn’t bothered by people touching her paws and continues to get better and better each time.

But my Shiba Inu isn’t the only one that has been on edge about getting her nails trimmed, countless other owners have had the same issue. It’s a bit annoying and even frustrating at times but it’s a common enough problem that it should be known before jumping to get your own.

It’s possible to work it out with time, but nail trimming is stressful for all pets at first. If you would like a detailed guide on grooming a Shiba InuOpens in a new tab. check out my article here.

How Shiba Inus Act Around Other People And Pets

While Shiba Inus may be too much to handle for most owners that don’t mean the extra work and help they need aren’t worth it. A properly trained and socialized Shiba Inu is a lifelong loyal partner that will watch your back.

But that’s for you, the owner, when it comes to other pets and people things are a bit different. Let’s start with people.

Shiba Inus have no problem with friends or family they’ve been around often. For some, they may even get excited and want their attention. At other times a Shiba may just sit back, watch, or even leave the room and find a quiet spot to relax.

People that haven’t built a relationship with a Shiba Inu, strangers, are generally seen as unnecessary or even someone to be cautious of. Due to their standoffish nature, Shiba Inus are naturally suspicious of new people. But that isn’t the case for all of them, you may run into a few, like mine, who loves meeting new people and making friends. All of which is courtesy of making sure she was properly socialized. I’m a bit lucky with her unique personality, but she wasn’t always like this at first.

Kids are in a weird middle ground. Shiba Inus are capable of being kid-friendly but three things need to happen beforehand:
1) Any kid near a dog should always be supervised.
2) Your Shiba Inu should have experience socializing with other people and pets.
3) The kid needs to understand how to treat, interact, and play with a dog to reduce the odds of something happening.

Other pets and animals can be a bit of a gamble. Shiba Inus are naturally bossy, so other “boss” type dogs, especially those of the same gender, aren’t seen as friend material by them. Along with that. size also makes a difference here.

Shiba Inus will play with other dogs, but how that playing goes is when size kicks in. Larger dogs won’t have much of a problem, but small dogs will. Smaller faster-moving dogs may be seen as prey by a Shiba Inu kicking in their hunting instincts.

It’s best to take things slow and gradually introduce a new Shiba Inu to friends, family, and pets and their own pace. Doing so reduces the odds of them becoming stressed and possibly aggressively lashing out.

The same warning for small dogs is applicable for cats but to a higher degree. It’s possible a Shiba Inu and cat can get along, especially if they met and grew up together, but not every dog will get along with a cat. Be sure any cat or kitten you have has plenty of ways to safely escape along with being supervised.

There’s always a chance a Shiba Inu will refuse to get along with another pet. Socializing helps but it isn’t a guarantee, if things aren’t working out after several attempts they may never work out. Just like how some people never seem to get along, pets can run into the same situation, it’s good to be aware of this possibility but I can say from my experience and research it’s rare.

Getting A Shiba Inu As A First-Time Owner

I’ve been around several friends and family pets my whole life and have played a role in their day-to-day needs. I had also spent an extended amount of time researching this breed before getting my first dog.

Is a Shiba Inu a good dog for a first-time owner?

No, at least not for most. And that’s because of 5 things:

  • People don’t realize Shibas aren’t cuddly lap dogs.
  • People underestimate how stubborn they can be, making training a nightmare at times.
  • A lot of people aren’t properly exercising their Shiba Inus, leading to destructive chewing and bad habits.
  • Busy people don’t make a point to spend time socializing their Shiba Inus, leading to potentially lifelong aggression.
  • Shiba Inus are bossy, and if you aren’t the type to put your foot down, they will quickly take control and rule your life.

If any of the above is you, you should steer clear of this breed. You are not prepared for the time and effort needed to properly train and live with this kind of dog. You are better off with an easier-to-train more modern dog breed that actively seeks to please its owners, like a lab.

If you have made it through this article and both properly understand both the risks and what it takes to raise this kind of dog, then my answer is different.

If you are the type of person who is willing to put in the time to train, socialize, walk, play, and genuinely get to know your unique Shiba Inu then I would say go for it. I say “genuinely get to know” because each Shiba Inu really is different.

Some love being outside, others love laying on the couch all day. Mine loves meeting new people and making friends while most could care less. Just like with meeting a new person and making a new friend this is a relationship that will take time to build.

If you fully understand the work this will take, I would say continue doing research for just a little longer before pulling the trigger to make sure this is the kind of life you are ready for.

Colby Adkins

I am a proud Shiba Inu owner who is just looking to share any tips, tricks, or advice I have to help others.

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