Nothing beats the alert, crafty features of a Shiba Inu. The soft, fluffy orange coats combined with a foxy face endear them to everyone they meet.
So, it’s no surprise this native Japanese breed comes with descriptions of “spirited boldness,” “good nature,” and “alertness.” But if you sniffle around dog fur, you might hesitate to hug one of these adorable pups. Are Shiba Inus hypoallergenic? Or are you in for a sneeze-fest?
Unfortunately, with a plushy double coat, Shiba Inus don’t pass the “allergy-proof” test. Not only do they regularly shed, leaving fluff on every surface they encounter, but they “blow their coat” twice a year.
This uber-shed event means allergy sufferers will need to reach for double or triple doses of their go-to medications.
What Does “Hypoallergenic” Mean?
Three out of every ten people in the United States cope with allergic reactions to cats and dogs. So you wonder what that “hypoallergenic” term means.
How do you decide whether a dog breed, such as Shiba Inus, qualifies or not? Is it based on the length of the dog’s hair? How thick the coat is? Or is it about the amount of fur they shed?
For people that endure sneezing, watery eyes, or worse, the answer’s a combination of all of the above. Hypoallergenic dog breeds possess hair rather than fur.
The structure is similar to OUR hair, so it sheds less often. Without a plushy fur coat, the dogs don’t create as much dander (one of the major culprits behind allergies).
Favorite breeds in this group include:
- Bichon frises
- Yorkshire terriers
The Real Hypoallergenic Breeds
However, that isn’t the entire story. The unhappy truth for that 30% of allergy sufferers? There’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog breed. In 2011, the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy performed a study on dogs.
They looked at the number of allergens produced by average breeds and those breeds categorized as “hypoallergenic.” The result? No difference. Since allergens appear in saliva AND dander, even hairless dog breeds can trigger an allergic reaction. (Sad but true)
That doesn’t mean pet lovers are out of luck. It simply means looking at the coat type and shedding habits of your breed and deciding if you can cope. (Or having a frank conversation with your allergist regarding your therapy)
Shiba Inu Fluff
Shiba Inus fail the hypoallergenic test due to their double coat. Two layers of fur give them that plush fox appearance everyone loves so much.
A thick undercoat provides warmth in cold weather and acts as a cooling layer when it’s warm. The outer layer features stiff straight hairs that act as protection against the sun, water, and dirt.
Shibas served as mountain hunting dogs in Japan. So they needed that double coat to keep them safe in the rough terrain. And while all of that fur looks adorable, it also gets EVERYWHERE.
Whether you have a long-coated or traditional Shiba, you’ll find copper-colored hair on the furniture, floor, and clothes. (Not the best if you suffer from dog allergies)
The Big Blow-Out
Double-coated dog breeds “blow their coat” twice a year. This massive shed releases the undercoat as the weather changes.
It gets rid of dead skin cells and dander, leaving the dog cool, comfortable, and ready for the summer. The amount of hair that drops staggers the mind – especially if you haven’t witnessed a “blow-out.”
Your Shiba may produce enough fur to create a new dog! That’s NOT something you expect from a hypoallergenic dog. Plenty of fluffy dog breeds have double coats.
And they all experience this blowing of their coat. Experienced owners recognize the tell-tale signs the shed is approaching and break out necessary grooming tools.
A shedding comb is your friend. It helps remove the bulk of loose hair from the undercoat.
Your Shiba Inu may look bedraggled when the blowout season starts. They’ll sleek out again once that excess hair gets out of the way.
Other breeds with double coats include:
Does Grooming Help Shiba Inus Shed Less?
Who can resist those foxy faces? Shiba Inus garner fans wherever they go. And you know routine grooming habits can lessen the loose fur dancing around the air in your house.
So can you increase the trips to the doggie salon to ease the allergen burden? Not really.
You should reach for a slicker brush once or twice a month. This WILL prevent a blanket of copper fur from spreading on – well, everything. And if your Shiba happens to have long hair? You’ll need to break out the brush more often.
Matting can quickly turn into a problem if you don’t. It won’t make your attentive little “fox” more hypoallergenic, though.
All of that hair will continue to shed. But at least your house won’t turn into a fur explosion.
Shibas and Baths
Shiba Inus and cats share a few common traits:
- They’re aloof with strangers
- They have independent natures
- They groom themselves
That’s right – Shibas take time out for baths! As such, you won’t notice “doggie odor” in the house.
However, it means the protein in dog saliva that prompts allergies presents a problem. (And pulls them further from that hypoallergenic category)
On average, Shiba Inus only need a bath from you every 3-4 months. More frequently, and you can dry out their skin.
All dogs produce natural oils that keep their fur looking sleek and healthy. With too many trips to the tub, those oils get stripped away.
Without them, your Shiba develops brittle hair and itchy skin. That’s uncomfortable for ANY dog, but Shibas are prone to allergies. (Ironic, right?) So allowing your pup to handle the bath situation works best.
Shiba Inu Allergies
While you’re contemplating your allergies, it’s possible your Shiba Inu could struggle with the same problem. You won’t see sneezing or watery eyes, though.
Instead, Shibas develop a skin allergy known as atopy. Their feet, belly, and ears become UNBEARABLE. How to spot the warning signs?
- Licking and chewing the feet
- Rubbing their face
- Making frequent trips to the vet for ear infections
Shiba Inu allergies usually appear when the pups are youngsters (around 1-3 years of age). The symptoms get worse every year – until you start treatment.
And (good news!) it’s easy to diagnose atopy with allergy testing. You can also treat it with medication, diet changes, and allergy shots (for severe cases).
Shiba Inus: Not Hypoallergenic, But Hard to Resist
With two layers of plushy fur prone to shedding, Shiba Inus won’t show up on the hypoallergenic dog breed list. And when you look at the twice-yearly blowout? Yeah, too much fur to cope with.
But they’re adorable pups. Not to mention they handle most of the grooming tasks themselves. You can’t say that about too many dogs out there! (And how do you say no to a foxy grin?)
Should You Give Your Shiba Inu a Haircut?
Dogs with double coats need special care in warmer climates. And you might consider shaving or cutting your Shiba Inu’s hair (especially if they have a long coat).
But this isn’t necessary. Dogs with double coats receive body temperature regulation from that thick undercoat. (It sounds strange, but it works) The insulation applies to cold AND hot weather.
As Dr. Jerry Klein, the AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, states: “Shaving that coat to reduce shedding or supposedly keep the dog cool also eliminates that insulating layer of fur, making the dog susceptible to heatstroke. A dog’s fur coat protects him from sunburn and decreases his risk of developing skin cancer.”
If you shave or cut a Shiba’s hair, you can cause a flare of atopy. Undercoats also grow SLOWER than top coats.
So that means your Shiba will end up looking patchy while the hair regrows. (Not to mention feeling strange) Shibas don’t need you to keep grooming clippers on hand.
Do Shiba Inus Cuddle?
With all of that plushy fur, Shiba Inus resemble a stuffed toy fox. Plenty of people see them and anticipate long evenings cuddled close on the couch.
But that independent feline streak? Yeah, it applies here, too. Shibas aren’t big on that kind of attention.
While they enjoy hanging around you, they want personal space. That means you stay on the couch, and they’ll hang on their dog bed.
Shibas aren’t cuddly dogs. If you want a lap dog, you’ll need to look at a different breed.
Are Shiba Inus Territorial?
They are certainly territorial. And once a Shiba decides you’re their person, they’ll defend you and their home. That means they’ll bark and put on an aggressive display toward strangers.
Only at home, though. Out in public, all people will notice is the calm demeanor that makes them so enchanting. It’s a show that pulls everyone in and fools them into thinking these clever foxes want a cuddle!z
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Most of the writers on our site are vets with 10+ years of clinical experience, ranging from small practice, to equine practice, academia, and surgery. Our goal is to help every pet owner get the information they seek about their dear companions.