How to Identify a Shiba Inu

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How to Identify a Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu is a Japanese breed that has been around since ancient times. A member of the non-sporting group of dogs, they are small in size, but lovable and confident. If you're aware of the breed's temperament and characteristics, you will be able to get a better idea of whether a dog is a Shiba Inu.

Knowing the Structure

Tips to Identify a Shiba Inu

1. Look at the size of the dog.

Shiba Inus are the smallest native Japanese dog breed, with a standard weight of about 23 pounds (10 kg) for males and 17 pounds (7.7 kg) for females. The Shiba Inu's breed standard states that the dogs stand from 13.5 to 16.5 inches (34 to 42 cm) tall.

2. See if the dog has pricked ears.

Shibas have small, perked up ears that resemble that of a wolf. The ears are triangular in shape and are angled forward atop the dog's head.

3. Notice a brushy and curly tail.

Most Shiba Inus have curled tails, but the dog may have a less common tail type called a sickle tail. Both tail types curl towards the dog's back, but the sickle tail is less curled.

  • Curled tails, or "ringed tails," are more commonly seen in purebred dogs such as the Shiba Inu. These tails are shaped as a small curl over the dog's back.
  • Sickle tails are similar to curled tails; however, sickle tails are less curled. Sickle tails are part of the AKC standard but are not as desirable as curled tails.

4. Pay attention to the dog's eye color.

The AKC standards list that the eyes of a Shiba Inu should be dark brown in color with black rims. They are described as being somewhat triangular.

5. Look at the muzzle of the dog.

A Shiba's muzzle should be round and firm with a black nose. The jawline is strong and gives the dog a powerful expression. The muzzle can take up approximately 40% of a Shiba Inu's face.

6. Notice the shape of the dog's paws.

Shibas have round paws. These circular paws are catlike in appearance. The pads at the bottom of the paws are thick.

7. See if the dog has a muscular build.

Though small, Shiba Inus have a well-muscled body. They have a sturdy build that compliments their smooth gait.

Taking a Close Look at the Coat

Tips to Identify a Shiba Inu

1. Analyze the texture of the dog's coat.

Shiba Inus have thick double coats. Their fur is moderately straight and short in length. The undercoat is soft, while the top coat is more coarse.

2. Recognize the dog's fur color.

Shiba Inus have four possible coat colors: red, black and tan, cream, and sesame.

  • Red is the most commonly seen coloring of a Shiba Inu. It is the preferred coat color of the AKC for this breed.
  • Black and tan Shiba Inus are also popular.
  • Cream Shiba Inus are frowned upon by the AKC and go against the breed standards.
  • Sesame Shiba Inus are the least commonly seen. Some Shibas resemble the sesame coat pattern but are actually more of a red with black tips.

3. Look for the

urajiro markings. This Japanese word refers to a Shiba Inu's white marks. These appear on places such as the face, neck, stomach, legs, and tail.

  • Because the urajiro markings can't appear on an already cream colored coat, the cream variant of this breed is not recognized by the AKC.

Assessing Temperament

Tips to Identify a Shiba Inu

1. Watch for confidence.

Shiba Inus are bold dogs full of confidence. They act independent in spirit. This can lead them to being difficult to train.

2. Notice an abundance of energy.

Shibas are very lively and energetic. They are swift runners and should be watched while off leash.

3. See if the dog is clever.

With their intelligence, Shiba Inus are prone to getting into trouble when left alone. Because of this, they work best in houses with large fences.

4. Look for a hunting instinct.

Being bred as hunting dogs, Shiba Inus will have a strong, natural hunting instinct. They may chase other animals, such as other dogs, cats, or birds.

5. Pay attention to the dog's attention level.

Shiba Inus are attentive and alert. See if the dog has the attentiveness to match the Shiba Inu's bold personality.


  • If you wish to know the breed of your dog, consider using a DNA test. Taking a DNA test will confirm your dog's breed.