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How Smart Is a Shiba Inu? Facts & FAQ

Written by: Grant Piper

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

shiba inu dog standing in the grass

How Smart Is a Shiba Inu? Facts & FAQ

Shiba Inus are an iconic dog breed that hails from Japan. From their adorable faces to stocky frames, it is not hard to see why this dog is one of the most popular breeds in their home nation. Since Shiba Inus were imported from Japan beginning about 70 years ago following the end of World War II, they have become popular in the West as well. Shiba Inus have a variable reputation, but one of the most enduring myths is that Shiba Inus are smart dogs. Is that true? How smart is a Shiba Inu? How do they stack up against other dogs?

Shiba Inu are generally considered to be very intelligent, but that description does come with some caveats. Here is everything you need to know about the intelligence of a Shiba Inu.


Shiba Inus Are Intelligent

Shiba Inus are considered to be highly intelligent dogs. They are rarely in the conversation for the smartest dog in the world, but they are definitely above average. Shiba Inus show multiple levels of intelligence. They have the ability to learn and interpret commands. They also have the intelligence to manipulate people and ignore orders when they don’t feel like doing something. Shiba Inus also have a sizable well of emotional intelligence, which helps them bond with their direct owner. All of these things together make Shiba Inus highly intelligent.

But just how intelligent are Shiba Inus? There are multiple layers to that question. In some ways, Shibas are smarter than many other dogs, but in other ways, they can be stubborn and frustrating.

shiba inu sitting in the grass with his owner
Image Credit: MENG-KONGSAK, Shutterstock

High Emotional IQ

Shiba Inus are considered to be extremely loyal. They form strong bonds with their humans. That is due, in part, to the fact that Shiba Inus have high levels of emotional intelligence. Shiba Inus know when a person is happy, upset, scared, or wary. Many Shiba Inus will react accordingly, especially for their primary person. Shibas typically form an extremely strong bond with one person, and that is the person that they can read the best. Shiba Inus are hypervigilant, and they will keep a strong eye and fang out for anyone or anything that could potentially disturb their owners. If you are out in public and you start acting scared or anxious, your Shiba Inu is likely to go on high alert and could even turn aggressive. This makes some people feel safe, but it can also lead to some uncomfortable public outings.

Shiba being pet
Image Credit: Elena Shvetsova, Shutterstock

Are Shiba Inus Trainable?

Yes. Shiba Inus are trainable but training them does not come easily. While Shiba Inus are very smart, they are also very stubborn. Shibas are capable of learning a host of commands, but sometimes they simply choose not to follow them. It is not that Shiba Inus do not know what you are asking of them; they do – they just can make the conscious decision to disobey.

It takes a strong hand to train a Shiba Inu properly. The good news is that since Shiba Inu are very loyal and attached to their families and since they have emotional intelligence, they often know when you want them to listen. That means that Shiba Inus are often very good for their owner or favorite person and terrible for everyone else.

One thing that Shiba Inus cannot be trained to do is be off leash in an open space. Some dogs can walk alongside their owners off leash while hiking or biking. Not Shiba Inus. The American Kennel Club puts it in no uncertain terms, writing:

“The one thing every Shiba owner must know is that a Shiba can never, ever be considered reliable off lead unless in a confined area. No amount of obedience training will ever change that. Letting a Shiba off lead, or any dog, for that matter, is playing Russian roulette with its life.”

So, while Shiba Inus are loyal and smart, they can never be trusted off leash while out in public. That is important to remember.

shiba inu dog walking with his owner
Image Credit: ikate25, Shutterstock

Shiba Inu Intelligence Compared to Other Dogs

Shiba Inus are universally considered to be above average when it comes to smarts. However, the Shiba Inu rarely ranks near the top of any intelligence list. Most lists that cover the top ten or fifteen most intelligent dog breeds leave the Shiba Inu conspicuously absent. This means that the Shiba Inu is more intelligent than your average dog, including mutt dogs, but not as intelligent as some of the heavy hitters such as Poodles, Border Collies, and Aussies.

Top 5 Smartest Dogs

  • Poodle
  • Border Collie
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher
White poodle getting training
Image Credit: Erik Mclean, Pexels

Intelligence Can Be a Double-Edged Sword

While many people prize dogs for their perceived levels of intelligence, smart dogs can be a double-edged sword. While Shiba Inus regularly exhibit above average levels of intelligence, this can also be a thorn in your side given that Shiba Inus are also prone to being stubborn. Shiba Inus can use their smarts to examine a situation and decide if they want to participate in a particular activity or not. One of the only ways to coax a Shiba into doing what you want is with food.

Less intelligent dogs are driven more by affection or blind loyalty than smarts which makes them more malleable. Shiba Inus rarely do anything they don’t expressly want to do, and since they are smart and opinionated, they tend to have a long list of things that they do not want to do.



Shiba Inus are considered to be smart dogs. They are above average in almost every category. Shiba Inus are emotionally intelligent, but they are also smart enough to put their own wants and needs before yours, which can make them hard to train and hard to handle in public. Shibas are rarely in conversation for the smartest dog breed in the world, but they are always considered to be intelligent overall.


Featured Image Credit: TOM KAROLA, Shutterstock

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