The Shiba Inu is the smallest, and possibly most popular, of all the Nihon Ken breeds. Originally used for hunting small game, the Shiba Inu is the only Nihon Ken breed not from a specific area of Japan. It is now mostly kept as a pet, or as a form of pest control, to protect crops from monkeys. The breed became a National Treasure in 1936.

It is believed that the Shiba Inu name originated from the word ‘shiba’; meaning brushwood, and is thought to refer to their distinct red coat. It may also come from the old kanji word ‘shiba’ meaning ‘small’.

The Shiba Inu is recognized by the UK Kennel Club.


The Shiba Inu has a thick, double coat, and comes in red, black and tan, sesame, and cream. Cream is considered a major fault, but under the UK Kennel Club, is accepted. The tail should be either sickle, or curved. They are compact, well built dogs, capable of endurance and stamina. The Shiba is known to be an escape artist, and will require a large fence of at least 6ft around its perimeter to prevent escape, as this breed will scale 5ft fences with ease. They can be very well suited to apartment life with the right owner. The Shiba Inu stands 33cm-43cm at the withers, weighs between 8kg-11kg and lives between 12-15 years of age.


The Shiba Inu is very loyal to its family, but is also a very independent breed. They are very clean, and can often be seen licking and grooming themselves, much like cats. They are known to be wary of strangers and unknown dogs. The breeds still holds onto its high prey drive, and it is recommended that they are not let off lead in open spaces; however, they are known to get on well with cats if socialized at an early age. Continuous socialisation throughout life is key to preventing any unwanted behaviours.


The Shiba Inu is known to be quite a healthy breed, although they can suffer from glaucoma, skin allergies, luxating patella, bladder stones, and an enzyme storage disorder called Lysosomal Storage Disease.

For more information on the Shiba Inu, and in-depth information regarding health issues within the breed, please visit our sister site, the Nihon Ken Network.

If you have photos of your Shiba Inu that you would be happy for us to feature here, please send us an email with your photos:! Photos need to be of good quality, taken outdoors, preferably without people in them. We would love to feature your dogs!