Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Which Breed Is Right For You?

With both of these breeds being popular and so similar in appearance it’s no wonder so many people can confuse one for another.

red akita inu standing in a field

Akitas are 24 to 28 inches tall and weigh between 70 to 130 lbs. Shiba Inus are between 13 to 17 inches tall and weigh 15 to 23 lbs. With males being larger than females for both breeds. Both breeds are also intelligent yet stubborn and commonly struggle with aggression.

Though both of these breeds originate from Japan and are Spitz-type dogs there are a few critical differences that you should be aware of.

Key Similarities And Differences

  1. Akitas are significantly larger than Shiba Inus.
  2. Akitas drool heavily while Shiba Inus rarely drool at all.
  3. Akitas need a larger living space than Shiba Inus.
  4. Shiba Inus seek attention and affection more often than Akita Inus.
  5. Shiba Inus live longer than Akitas.
  6. Shiba Inus do shed less than Akitas.
  7. Both breeds have a fox-like appearance.
  8. Both breeds are popular, landing in the top 50 most popular dog breeds.
  9. Both breeds are smart, stubborn, and independent – making training difficult at best.

Breed Comparison Chart

BREEDAkita InuShiba Inu
Restricted Breed?YesNo
CoatDouble coatDouble coat
Grooming NeedsRegular brushing, occasional strippingRegular brushing, occasional hand stripping
Male Height26-28 inches17-19 inches
Male Weight75-120 pounds23-27 pounds
Female Height24-26 inches16-18 inches
Female Weight60-100 pounds20-24 pounds
TemperamentIndependent, loyal, protective, reservedIndependent, loyal, protective, reserved
Energy Level4/54/5
Exercise Needs4/53/5
Good For Novice Owners2/54/5
Amount Of Shedding5/54/5
Easy To Groom1/54/5
Prey Drive4/53/5
General Health4/53/5
Tolerates Being Alone1/55/5
Tolerates Cold Weather5/54/5
Affectionate With Family5/54/5
Dog Friendly1/53/5
Friendly Toward Strangers2/53/5
Tolerates Hot Weather2/53/5
Lifespan10 to 12 years12 to 16 years
Price$1,500 – $3,000$1,000 – 2,500

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Breed History

While both dogs share the same country, Japan, they have very different histories.

Akita Inus originated in the snowy rural lands of Odate, one of the mountainous regions of Japan. They’re famous for their popularity in Japan’s dog fighting scene in the 1600s but have since transitioned into hunting, guarding, and herding dogs.

This breed was primarily trained to hunt wild animals like elk, boar, and Ussuri brown bears. Akitas get their name from the Japanese prefecture, or district, they originated in. Before becoming widely known as “Akita Inus” they were simply referred to as “snow country dogs”.

Shiba Inus are a much older breed, from around 300 B.C., and are considered one of six basal breeds. Dog breeds predate more modern breeds from the 19th century. This medium-sized dog was primarily bred to hunt small game like wild rabbits and birds and is the smallest of the 6 native Japanese breeds. The word “Inu” means “dog” in Japanese but the reason these dogs are referred to as “Shiba” is clear, translating to “brushwood” in English.

This breed isn’t known for just their good looks. They’re intelligent, independent, and nearly went extinct during the 1940s, but have since been able to make a comeback. Becoming the most popular dog breed in Japan. Even to the point they were declared a national treasure.

Is Hachiko A Shiba Inu or Akita Inu?

Hachiko was a white Akita Inu who was born in 1923 and grew up walking with his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, to Shibuya Station before and after work. Unaware his owner had passed away, Hachiko waited at the station for 9 years before peacefully passing away.

In 1934 a bronze statue was erected at Shibuya Station in honor of Hachiko for his faithful loyalty to his owner. Which had to be re-made in 1948 after the war.

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Physical Traits

While Akita Inus are commonly seen as “large Shibas” at first glance, the differences in their physical appearance become more clear when they’re side-by-side.

Akita Inus are the largest native Japanese spitz breed, second in size only to the non-spitz Tosa Inu, a Japanese mastiff. These hearty dogs stand between 24 to 28 inches tall and weigh between 70 to 130 lbs. Due to the Akita’s large size, they require more space to run around, so they aren’t the best apartment dogs.

Shiba Inus are the smallest of the Japanese spitz breed. These muscular dogs stand between 13 to 17 inches tall and weigh between 15 to 23 lbs. Thanks to their compact size Shiba Inus can live comfortably in apartments, and make great apartment dogs if they get enough daily play and exercise.

What Is A Spitz Breed?

A Spitz is a group of northern dogs characterized by their dense coats, pointed ears, curved or curled tails that cover part of their body, and are known for their heavy seasonal shedding. Unfortunately, spitz breeds aren’t hypoallergenic and are a poor match for allergy sufferers.

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Coat And Appearance

Akita Inus and Shiba Inus look very similar, mainly because they’re both Japanese spitz-type dogs. But there are a few differences between the two breeds.

Akita Inus are a large-sized, double-coated, spitz that comes in six standard colors, including golden, red, and white along with black brindle, silver brindle, along with a mixed red and silver brindle. They’re known for their lion-like manes and commonly have bluff, cream, or gray undercoats.

Shiba Inus are a medium-sized, double-coated, spitz that comes in four standard colors, including red, cream, black and tan, along with red sesame (red fur with black tips). Their undercoats are commonly bluff, cream, or gray depending on their primary coat color.

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Temperament

Both breeds share some personality traits, like being intelligent and independent compared to other dog breeds. But there are a few subtle differences between these two Japanese breeds.

Akita Inus are calm, courageous, and loyal dogs that are protective of their family, making the great guard dogs. But they’re naturally wary of strangers, which can make them difficult to socialize. Even with that, Akitas are affectionate towards their owner and family, making them good family dogs.

But these large, powerful, and stubborn dogs aren’t for everyone. Akitas require a firm yet steady hand when it comes to raising and training them, or else they won’t listen to or respect their owner.

Shiba Inus are smart, quick to learn, and full of energy. They usually form one special bond with their person but are open and affectionate towards those they see as family, making them excellent family dogs. They are commonly described as having a bold spirit with a good nature.

While Shibas are smart, they’re equally stubborn. This breed can be a real chore to train unless you plan things out and stick to a regular schedule. More on that in a moment.

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Training

Both Akitas and Shiba Inus are independent and headstrong dogs that do best with a strong master/owner. If you are meek or mild-mannered around either of these breeds they’ll quickly learn to ignore you in favor of doing their own thing. Making training them much more difficult.

Even with both Akitas and Shiba Inus being independent dogs, one is actually easier to train than the other. Akitas are much easier to train than Shiba Inus if you show them proper respect and reward them fairly for their efforts.

Shiba Inus are notoriously hard to train, with many people struggling to get their Shiba Inu to even listen to their commands. Most Shibas struggle to focus on training because they aren’t getting adequate daily exercise, leaving them bored and full of excess energy. Making it even more difficult for them to focus on a single task, like learning a new trick or command.

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Health

Shiba Inus live longer slightly longer lives than Akitas, 13-16 years compared to 10-13 years, mostly due to their physical size. Small and medium-sized dogs, like Shibas, live longer on average than large or extra-large-sized dogs, like the Akita.

Both breeds also commonly suffer from hip dysplasia and various eye conditions. But there are a few health complications one breed is more susceptible to than the other.

Due to their large size, Akitas suffer from other health issues large and extra-large dogs face. Including.

  • Bloat
  • Gastric Dilation Volvulus
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Uveodermatologic syndrome
  • von Willebrand’s Disease

Shiba Inus commonly develop eye problems as they age, but those aren’t the only common health problems this breed can face. Some other potential health issues include.

  • Allergies like atopy
  • Eye disorders, such as glaucoma
  • GM1 Gangliosidosis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patella Luxation

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Grooming

With both of these breeds being spitz, Akitas and Shibas require a fair amount of brushing. Both breeds have a double coat with a dense undercoat that steadily sheds throughout the year and heavily twice a year during coat-blowing season. Which typically occurs in March for 2-3 weeks and again in September for another 2-3 weeks.

Both breeds should be brushed at least twice a month, bi-weekly, for most of the year. Due to the Akita’s larger size, they naturally have more fur, leading them to not only make a bigger mess than Shibas. But often Akitas need an extra brushing session or two to help remove any and all of their loose fur.

Do Spitz Dogs Shed A Lot?

The Japanese Spitz sheds their dense undercoat twice a year for around two weeks in preparation for upcoming seasonal changes. Those “coat-blowing” seasons occur once in the spring, to prepare for the hot summer, and once in the fall, in preparation for the cold winter.

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Price

While both Akita Inus and Shiba Inus are in the top 50 dog breeds, they’re still fairly uncommon so you may have to look around a bit. Akitas puppies typically cost between $1,500 – $3,000.

Shiba Inus are more popular than Akitas, leading them to be a bit pricier. Most Shiba Inu puppy prices fall between $1,000 – 2,500 depending on a variety of factors. Including their health and if they’re purebred or not.

But due to the Akita’s large size, you’ll spend more money feeding and medicating them than you would on a Shiba Inu. It’s not an immediate up-front cost, but it does add up over time and is something you should know if you are comparing these breeds.

Should I Get A Shiba Or An Akita?

Is an Akita Inu or Shiba Inu the right dog for you? Both breeds share more in common than they do differences. They’re both smart, loyal, stubborn, are not hypoallergenic, shed heavily, can make great family dogs, and are difficult to train.

The biggest differences between these two are the differences in their size and personality. Akitas are larger, eat more, and while they’re easier to train that doesn’t mean they’ll always listen. Akitas are a better fit for those looking for an active breed that can double as a guard dog and doesn’t mind their excessive shedding. Due to their fighting dog background, they can be aggressive toward other dogs, and smaller animals. You have to be stern yet respectful if you plan on getting an Akita.

Shiba Inus are easier to manage due to their smaller size, making them great apartment dogs. But they’re more likely to ignore you to do their own thing compared to Akitas. Shibas are commonly aloof or aggressive towards strangers and other pets if they aren’t socialized properly.

But thanks to their more affectionate and attention-seeking personality they tend to be easier to manage in the long run. Shibas thrive on habits and routines so use that to your favor when it comes to training and socializing them.

Other Dog Breed Comparisons

Large Breeds

Medium Breeds

Small Breeds

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Akitas Just Big Shibas?

While Akitas look like larger Shibas that isn’t exactly the case. Both breeds are very similar, both are intelligent, independent, and struggle with aggression towards strangers but there are a few differences. Akitas are less affectionate but easier to train than Shiba Inus.

Are Shibas As Loyal As Akitas?

Akitas and Shibas are incredibly loyal but due to their aloof nature, they aren’t always the best at showing it. Neither breed is more loyal than the other. Their affection and loyalty depend on how strong of a bond you forge with them.

Do Akitas Get Along With Shiba Inus?

Many Akitas and Shiba Inus aren’t fond of other animals, commonly turning to fussy or aggressive behaviors in hopes of becoming the dominant party. But that isn’t the case for all of them. Some Shibas and Akitas will get along with one another just fine, it depends on their personality.

Which Is Better Shiba Inu Or Akita Inu?

Shiba Inus are smaller and live longer than Akitas, they also tend to be more affectionate yet more likely to ignore their owners. Akitas on the other hand are large dogs that live shorter lives than Shibas but are great guard dogs. Both require regular brushing, exercise, training, and socializing.

What Is The Difference Between A Japanese Akita And An American Akita?

Japanese Akitas are the older of the two and are commonly red, black, or brindle. While American Akitas a more recent breed that’s comes in a wide variety of brown and tan patterns. Japanese Akitas also have a more fox-like head while the American version looks more like a bear.

Colby Adkins

I am a proud Shiba Inu owner who is just looking to share any tips, tricks, or advice I have to help others.

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