What is it Like to Own a Shiba Inu?

I originally published this article in response to a question on Quora.com, but since everyone who finds out that I share my life with a shiba inu asks me, “What are shiba inus like as pets?” I thought I would blog my response here, too. I should note that, despite the search-engine-friendly title, one does not own a shiba inu or any dog. We share our lives with them, care for them, and love them, and in return they give us their unwavering affection and loyalty. 


I’ve lived with dogs all my life, from lovable mutts (I still think of you all the time, Ladybug) to everyday Labs and golden retrievers, to more exotic breeds like Pulik. (Little Hungarian Rastafarians.) I’ve trained handled and raised dogs for the conformation show ring (primarily American cocker spaniels). I worked in administration and marketing for an all breed dog grooming school, and edited their grooming guidelines and textbook. I’ve known a lot of dogs.

But nothing compares to my shiba inu. My family rescued Toshi five years ago, when he was 10 weeks old, and he has owned our hearts ever since.

The Unique Little Brushwood Dog

shiba inu puppy

This is little Toshi at 10 weeks old when he first joined our family as a rescue. How can you resist that foxy face?

I first met shibas when I was working at the dog grooming school. Occasionally, to give the students work on breeds that require heavy brushing, a local show breeder would bring in her pack of four or five shibas. When they arrived in the reception area, they would be happily wagging their plumed tails, but also tussling with each other and “talking” in their strange little voices. I knew immediately that one day, when the time was right, I’d share my home and heart with a shiba inu.

Shiba Inu translates to “brushwood dog” (or perhaps “little brushwood dog”) in Japanese. They’re compact in size — about 13-17″, with males being bigger. They have a dense double coat with a coarse outer layer and a soft thick undercoat. That undercoat sheds twice annually in a crazy vacuum-clogging shedpocalypse. I call my area rugs “hair traffic controllers” because they’re the only thing stopping great balls of hair from rolling across my hardwood floors like tumbleweeds across a prairie.

What’s most unique about the shiba is his personality. They are: Continue reading

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