Dog Training Smartest Dogs

Are Shiba Inus Smart? Here’s What Makes Shibas Highly Intelligent Dogs

Despite their rankings on Stanley Coren's intelligence test, Shiba Inus are actually highly intelligent dogs.

The Shiba Inu is the most iconic and popular Japanese dog breed today. They’re bold, lively, attentive and alert small dogs. But are Shiba Inus smart dogs? And, how smart are they?

Shiba Inus are “average” intelligent dogs. For working / obedience intelligence, they’re ranked the 93rd smartest dog breed out of 138 qualified breeds. However, Shibas are intelligent in other ways. For instance, they excel in adaptive and instinctive dog intelligence. 

No matter how they performed on intelligence tests, there’s no denying the cleverness of the Shiba Inu. But why did the Shiba perform so “poorly” compared to other dogs?

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Measuring a Shiba’s Intelligence

To understand how smart Shibas are, we must understand how we measure their intelligence.

Like we mentioned, the Shiba Inu is the 93rd most intelligent dog breed (out of 138 breeds). Though this may seem very low, we must first understand how we came up with this ranking. 

This list of smartest dogs was created by canine psychologist Stanley Coren. He conducted his research with the help of 199 obedience trial judges from both the American and Canadian Kennel Club. 

Based on his own criteria, Coren asked the judges to evaluate and rank as many dog breeds as they could. 

Stanley Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria:

  1. The number of repetitions necessary for a dog breed to learn a new command.
  2. The success rate (%) that a dog breed will obey a known command on the first try.

Although Stanley Coren had responses from hundreds of dog breeds, not all breeds made the cut for his final list. As a matter of fact, only dog breeds with at least 100 assessments were qualified for his rankings.

Additionally, only North America’s officially recognized dog breeds participated. 

How the Shiba Inu Performed

The Shiba Inus didn’t perform too poorly, but they didn’t perform well either. They were just, average. There’s nothing wrong with being average because all dogs are smart enough for most owners. 

Average meant that the Shiba Inu was able to learn a new command with just 25 to 40 repetitions. For reference, “below average” dogs needed 40 to 80 repetitions – nearly double what the Shiba needed!

On the other hand, the Shiba obeyed a known command on the first attempt with a 50% or greater success rate. Not bad at all!

Other popular dog breeds in the “average intelligent” dog category include the Australian Shepherd, Great Dane, Siberian Husky, Dachshund and Boxer. 

Shiba Inu vs. “Smartest” Dog Breeds

The smartest dog breeds in the world are in a class of their own. Conveniently, they’re the top 10 most intelligent dog breeds. But how do they compare to the Shiba Inu?

The most intelligent dogs were able to learn a new command with less than 5 repetitions. This is at least five times faster than the Shiba Inu. 

Even more impressive, these smart dogs will obey a known command on the first try with a 95% or higher success rate. They’re some of the most obedient pets in the world!

For reference, other dog breeds in the top 10 category are your German Shepherds, Poodles, Rottweilers, Australian Cattle Dogs and Golden Retrievers.

Owners: Is Your Shiba Inu Smart?

We asked Shiba Inu Inus whether they believed their dog was intelligent.

To gauge how intelligent Shibas really are, we asked real owners if they believed their dog was smart. By surveying the popular Shiba sub reddit forum, we were able to collect great responses from Shiba owners. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Tyrion_stark says [YES]: “He is a tad aloof at times, but he wants to know what we are doing (and involve himself when he deems necessary). He is incredibly intelligent, passed his STAR puppy and canine good citizen classes with ease.”

2. Gr8grafx says [YES]: “They are whip-smart but not necessarily trainable. Ours were obedient–knew how to sit, come and heel but wouldn’t necessarily do it unless they wanted to.”

3. _ap says [YES]: “So my Shiba is about 4 years old now, and she’s grown to be an extremely intelligent pup who knows how to get exactly what she wants.”

4. Tengufr says [YES]: “Ginko is a non neutered male, he’s as stubborn and intelligent as any other shiba. We educated him, with some aspects that could may be seen as carelessness by some dog owners.”

5. Rhombomere says [YES]: “Haru can be like this too at times. While training can help, I think that this is part of the price we pay for having intelligent, curious, and willful dogs.”

6. Hairofbrown says [MIXED]: “I have a smart shiba and a dumb shiba. The dumb one only cares about garbage, protecting his turf from other dogs and playing ball. He’s the only shiba I know who has no hunting instinct.”

7. Bazzer68 says [YES]: “I think Kali is pretty smart. She knows all her toys by name, though she doesn’t seem to interested in them as she gets older (11 y.o. tomorrow).”

8. J4yw4l says [YES]: “Shibas are very smart, they will often surprise you. We have had ours for about 2 years and she continues to surprise us.”

9. Sakurastardust says [YES]: “So, I’ve had my black/tan male puppy, Yusuke, for a little over a week. He’s definitely smart, and learned sit and down in about 2 days (even when outside with distractions!).”

10. Shadou_wolf says [YES]: “Shibas are pretty damn smart there is just so many words my dog knows without me ever teaching him.”

Shiba Owner Survey Recap

We’re aware that 10 owners is an extremely small sample size, but the general consensus is that Shibas are, in fact, smart dogs. Out of 10 owners, 9 believed Shiba Inus are intelligent dogs.

Only 1 owner experienced mixed results, where one Shiba he owned was intelligent while the other was not. 

Obviously, there may be some bias in these responses. But the overwhelming number of Shiba owners that think their dogs are smart cannot be ignored.

Why Shibas Ranked Low in Dog Intelligence

Shiba Inus rank low on dog IQ tests because they're too stubborn to obey commands.

It’s a little unfair to standardize a dog intelligence test using just obedience / working intelligence. Though we think there’s a correlation between dog IQ and how fast a breed learns commands, it doesn’t tell the whole story. 

Shiba Inus are some of the most stubborn dog breeds. In fact, Shibas tend to challenge their owners every chance they get. So, it makes sense these dogs don’t always obey commands on the first attempt.

Just because your Shiba Inu doesn’t obey your command doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t know what you’re saying. They understand, but they don’t necessarily care to obey in that moment of time. 

One Shiba owner explains,We have a 5 month old male Shiba. He is the most particular dog I’ve ever met. Stubborn, bull headed boy.. You could be in the middle of a great play and he’ll just switch off and walk away. You could have his favorite treat in your hand but if he doesn’t feel like coming he won’t.

Because of an intelligence test that relies so heavily on obedience, it’s no surprise that Shiba Inus performed so poorly. The biggest takeaway is that they’re not as average as the “experts” claim. 

What Makes Shiba Inus Smart

Here are the real reasons why Shiba Inus are intelligent dogs.

So far, we’ve made a pretty good argument for why these dog IQ tests don’t accurately measure the intelligence of the Shiba Inu. However, what exactly makes these dogs so smart?

Stubborn or Smart?

It’s been well documented that Shibas are incredibly strong-willed dogs that often go on their stubborn streaks. As such, they will often challenge their owners when they can. But they challenge their owners because they’re highly intelligent dogs and they know it.

In fact, many stubborn dogs are some of the most intelligent dogs in other areas of dog intelligence (instinctive and adaptive intelligence). It’s just that stubbornness and obedience don’t mix well together. 

Once you find the right motivators for your Shiba Inu, they’ll quickly and eager learn. Motivators can vary depending on dog. For example, your Shiba may react well to food (treats), while others react well to play (fetch). Be patient and take your time to figure this out.

Hunting Dogs of Japan

In addition to obedience intelligence, instinctive intelligence is another component of dog IQ. It refers to the instincts of the dog breed, or rather, what the dog was bred for.

For example, a Border Collie was bred for herding livestock. As a result, herding is the Border Collie’s instinctive intelligence.

Shiba Inus were bred for hunting small and large game. In fact, they’re exceptionally good at flushing out birds from bushes. They’ve been used as hunting dogs in the mountainous regions of Japan for thousands of years. 

Being able to quietly sneak up on birds and flush them out towards the hunters requires a certain level of intelligence. Because Shiba Inus are so good at it and have been doing this for so long, they’re regarded as a breed that has some of the highest instinctive intelligence.

Shiba’s Adaptive Intelligence

The last component of dog IQ is adaptive intelligence, which refers to the dog breed’s ability to learn from previous events. In other words, it’s a measure of what dogs can learn to do for themselves (solving problems, avoiding mistakes, etc.).

Adaptive intelligence can vary greatly by individual dogs. However, Shibas are known to have high adaptive intelligence in general

For instance, Shiba Inus are fantastic communicators. They’re one of the most vocal dogs in the dogdom and have more than one way of expressing to humans. The “shiba scream” is a real thing. It’s a high pitched, loud scream the Shiba produces when extremely distressed or excited

Shiba Inus are also some of the most clever and cunning dogs. They know exactly what they want and how to get what they want. Many owners have fallen victim to the “manipulation” of the Shiba Inu.

One owner describes obedience training with his Shiba:When we started training one of my puppers, he would stare at you until you had the appropriate amount of treats in your hand before doing a “command.” We literally had to keep adding one at a time until he found the amount acceptable.

Smart, But Good Dogs

Shiba Inus are some of the best companions if you can figure them out. In no way am I trying to scare you off from raising a Shiba Inu. I’ve personalized lived with one and they can be as affectionate as they are entertaining. 

But when deciding which dog breed to bring home, you shouldn’t be asking if Shiba Inus are smart enough for you. The truth is that all dogs are intelligent enough to provide most people with their needs.

Unless you need a dog for special tasks, such as police work, search and rescue or specialized hunting, any dog will fit the bill. Instead, you should be asking yourself if the Shiba Inu’s personality and temperament fits yours

So do you own a Shiba Inu? Leave a comment in the section below to tell us a moment when your Shiba outsmarted you! 

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  • I was repairing on the neighbours’ side fence with hammer blows. My Shiba, Mitsu, thought I was in trouble so he ran around to the opposite side of my house and barked to tell my wife to come to assist me. That’s thinking!!!
    Mitsu’s father was 5 times Canadian Grand Champion.

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