Inu is the Japanese word for dog, but the origin of the prefix “Shiba” is less clear. The word shiba means “brushwood” in Japanese, and refers to a type of tree or shrub whose leaves turn red in the fall. This leads some to believe that the Shiba was named with this in mind, either because the dogs were used to hunt in wild shrubs, or because the most common color of the Shiba Inu is a red color similar to that of the shrubs. However, in an old Nagano dialect, the word shiba also had the meaning of “small”, thus this might be a reference to the dog’s diminutive stature. Therefore, the Shiba Inu is sometimes translated as “Little Brushwood Dog”.
A spirited boldness, a good nature, and an unaffected forthrightness, which together yield dignity and natural beauty. The Shiba has an independent nature and can be reserved toward strangers but is loyal and affectionate to those who earn his respect.
The terms “spirited boldness” (悍威 kan’i), “good nature” (良性 ryōsei), and “artlessness” (素朴 soboku) have subtle interpretations that have been the subject of much commentary.
The Shiba is a relatively fastidious breed and feels the need to maintain itself in a clean state. They can often be seen licking their paws and legs, much like a cat. They generally go out of their way to keep their coats clean. Because of their fastidious and proud nature, Shiba puppies are easy to housebreak and in many cases will housebreak themselves. Having their owner simply place them outside after meal times and naps is generally enough to teach the Shiba the appropriate method of toileting.