Every pet I’ve been around has had different types of fur and needed their own special cleaning or grooming routines.
While I understood the basics and followed them I wanted to know if there were more specific steps I should be taking to keep Faith, my shiba inu, happy and healthy.
Shiba inus should be brushed bi-weekly during non-shedding season and once a week during “coat blowing” season. It’s best to use quality dog shampoo products to give them a bath once every 6 months to help with excess shedding. Nails should be trimmed once a month while ears and eyes checked weekly.
With that grooming baseline I also wanted to know if I needed different schedules for her puppy and adult years, thankfully not, and here is what I learned.
Properly Managing A Shiba Inu’s Bath Or Shower Time
Shiba inus are cat like in many ways, one of the biggest ones being their self care routine.
Cleaning, shiba inus obese over the way they look, feel, and smell. Taking large portions of their day to clean the fur, paws, tail, and so on whenever they get dirty.
Leading to them avoiding one of the major hygiene problems most dog have, that musky dirty dog smell.
Because shiba’s have such a consistent cleaning schedule, you don’t actually end up needing to give them a bath or shower as often as other dog breeds.
Where you may be giving other dogs a bath every 4 to 6 weeks, depending on your level of physical activity they may only need a bath every 2-6 months.
Another point in the shiba inus favor, helping keep them clean, is their double coat.
While their undercoat, the one that sheds constantly, is there to help keep them warm, their overcoat plays an entirely different role. A shiba inus overcoat helps keep them dry and clean. Thanks to the oils on their fur.
Frequent bathing strips their fur of the natural oils that help keep them dry and clean, which is why most owners very their bathing routine based on their pet’s health and physical activity. Let me explain.
Picking A Bathing Schedule That’s Right For You
Every person and pet has their own physical activity, medical issues, personal preferences, … so seeing how other pet owners handle this can help you narrow down and pick the right bathing schedule for your unique pet.
I was able to survey 48 different shiba inu owners for their specific bathing schedule, the results of which are:
|Monthly||7||Very active / Medical condition|
|Every 2 Months||6||Very active / Medical condition|
|Every 3 Months||9||To help with shedding|
|Every 4 Months||2||To help with shedding|
|Every 6 Months||15||To help with shedding|
|Every 12 Months||6||Only when they get really dirty|
|No Schedule / On Demand||3||Only when they get really dirty|
While each pet’s schedule varied their were 4 common factors that determine each pet owners schedule:
1) They got really dirty – Could be mud from a hike, river water, or a messy puddle they stepped in.
2) Medical reasons – Some shiba’s develop skin conditions due to allergies, resulting in the need for regular baths with special medical soap.
3) Based on their physical activity – Regular hikes, trips to the dog park, or trips to the beach each week / month.
4) Shedding season – Showers and baths help remove and loosen the excess fur they’re shedding during the spring and fall months.
Pets that were more active or had medical conditions got a bath ever 1-2 months. While pets that weren’t as active tended to get baths every 3-12 months, depending on 2 main factors.
1) Shedding season – Helps loosen and remove excess fur.
2) Overly dirty or sticky – mud, skunked, rolled around in pee, …
Those who we’re overly active, like weekly hikes or dog park visits, and whos shiba’s didn’t really play in mud or puddles were usually around the once a year mark.
Personally, I think it’s best to pick a schedule based on your activity level and medical needs so you don’t over or under wash your shiba inu. Let’s go over that.
Here Are A Few Sample Bathing Schedules To Pick From
|Month||Season||Active Life / Medical Condition||Shedding Help|
|January||Winter||Bath / Shower|
|Febuary||Winter||Bath / Shower|
|March||Spring||Bath / Shower|
|April||Spring||Bath / Shower||Bath / Shower|
|May||Spring||Bath / Shower|
|June||Summer||Bath / Shower|
|July||Summer||Bath / Shower|
|August||Summer||Bath / Shower|
|September||Fall||Bath / Shower|
|October||Fall||Bath / Shower||Bath / Shower|
|November||Fall||Bath / Shower|
|December||Winter||Bath / Shower|
While each pet’s medical condition varies, from what I’ve been able to see and hear from people, they’re usually asked to wash there pets with special medical soap once ever 2~6 weeks.
So I’ll mark down once a month for MEDICAL, but consult with and follow your vets recommendations. Feel free to tweak this schedule accordingly.
Regular daily walks won’t land you in this category but regular hikes, dog park, or beach visits on a weekly or bi-weekly bases lands you in this category.
Generally speaking, unless you are in a naturally muddy, smelly, or sticky environment a bath every 2 months would work best for you.
While every shiba inu sheds twice a year by blowing their undercoat, each owner has their own tolerance to the excess fur, and several have used bi-yearly baths as a way to help manage it.
If you aren’t “overly active” like the ACTIVE section above then this is a fantastic place to start.
While shiba inus are a fantastically clean breed, if they roll around in pee, mud, something sticky, or get skunked they’ll struggle to manage it on their own.
That’s where you’ll want to step in with an impromptu bath to help get them back to a level they can manage on their own.
Some Additional Notes On Bathing
While I stated above that “Frequent bathing strips their fur of the natural oils that help keep them dry and clean.” that isn’t the case 100% of the time.
Yes, bathing frequency does strip vital oils from your pets fur, there are two other factors most people overlook. Your pet’s unique fur/oils and the actual products you are using.
Stripped Oils From Bathing
Most shiba inu’s will replace the lost oils in a couple days to a week, while others may be significantly slower or faster. Be sure to pay attention to your shiba’s coat before and after washing them to see how their unique fur and oils respond.
Quality Products make a difference
Cheaper products are harsher on pet fur, stripping more oils away than necessary, leading to the “don’t over bath your shiba because x, y, z.” issue as a whole.
So going out of your way to grab something that’s higher quality, even if it cost more, is very beneficial and worthwhile for your pet.
Minor Messes And Dirt Can Be Handled With Pet Wet Wipes
While shiba inus are exceptionally clean there will be times they aren’t able to handle everything on their own. Even so, not every “dirty incident” warrants a full bath or shower.
Smaller patches of dirty and grim can easily be wiped off using pet wet wipes. Pet wet wipes instead of baby wipes due to pH differences for both their fur and skin.
One Final Point (Drying)
My final note on bathing as a whole is how to handle drying a shiba inu off the right way.
Most pet owners will do their best to hand dry their shiba with a towel, which is the right way to do it, but some reach for a hair drying, which is where most of their problems stem from.
Drying pet’s off with a hair dryer not only dries out and damages their fur but their skin as well. It also adds a lot of heat, leading to yeast infections and fungal growth.
Once you’ve washed and towel dried your shiba inu you need to give them a couple hours indoors to slowly air dry. This let’s them care for their coat, prevent medical issues, and protect their skin.
Shiba’s don’t like being handled as much as other breeds, so it’s best to start this when they are young.
Brushing And Managing Shiba Inu Shedding
Shiba inus shed seemingly year round even though they are suppose to have 2 heavy shedding seasons a year. The joke being “Shiba inus shed heavily twice a year, unfortunately each one is 6 months long.”.
So if shedding is going to be an ever present issue for shiba owners, how do you manage it?
The best way to manage your pets constant shedding is with a consistent brushing schedule. But that doesn’t mean you want to brush your shiba every single day.
Over brushing a shiba inu thins out their coat and ends up damaging their vital over coat, which doesn’t grow back correctly if at all.
Leading to owners asking why their shiba inu isn’t as fluffy as others they’ve seen.
Well, if over brushing a shiba inu is such problem then how often should I groom them? A good rule of thumb is to follow the schedule below:
|Non-shedding season||Bi-weekly brushes|
|Shedding season (coat blowing)||Weekly brushes|
But the brush you use is also plays a role in preserving a shiba’s vitals coats. There are many types of brushes for different types of fur, pet, and situation. You want to do your best to pick the best brush for your Shiba Inu. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Most pet brushes like FURminators or SleekEZ are considered “de-shedding brushes”. They typically have very fine, close together, sharp teeth that work best on single coat breeds.
The biggest problem with their sharp teeth. They rip, tear, and cut more hair than necessary, causing more harm then good. So it’s best to avoid them.
Combs & Undercoat Rakes
Both of these are very similar in style, typically have larger, longer, spaced out, and rounded metal teeth. The main difference being whether or not they have a handle, combs don’t while undercoat rakes normally do.
Both of which are fantastic for shiba inus. Since the teeth are larger, rounded, and spaced out they minimize any potential damage to their overcoats and don’t tug on their skin/fur as much as de-shedding brushes.
These are kind of a mix between “de-shedding” and “undercoat rakes”. With several dozen long, hooked, spaced out, thin metal teeth. These are also a fantastic choice for shiba inu owners because, just like combs and undercoat rakes, they minimize possible overcoat damage.
Another way you can tackle shedding, especially during peak “blowing” season, is with bathing. A quick shower or bath can help loosen up and remove a shiba’s undercoat. Helping reduce the excess fur kicking around your house or apartment.
Now, I know what you are thinking. “If shedding is such a massive thing for this breed, then why don’t I just shave them like other pet’s I’ve had?”. Do not shave a Shiba Inu.
Shiba inus, unlike most pets, have two coats. An over and an under coat.
Their undercoat is the one constantly shedding and “blowing out” twice a year while their overcoat goes absolutely nowhere.
While yes, some of their overcoat comes off while brushing them, shaving them bald is a completely story.
A shiba’s undercoat will grow back just fine while their overcoat won’t, I cover this topic in more detail in another article titled “Why You Should Avoid Shaving Your Shiba Inu“.
Shiba’s don’t like being handled as much as other breeds, so it’s best to start this when they are young.
How To Properly Maintain A Shiba Inu’s Nails
Dog’s nails are a bit different than ours, but just like us, need to be trimmed and maintained regularly.
Shiba inus, and other dog breeds, have partially hollow nails filled with what’s called a “quick”. It’s a blood vessel and nerve in their nails, kind of like what we have in our teeth.
And just like our teeth they can be extremely painful if they aren’t maintained regularly. Accidently cutting or grinding their nails to close to the quick will cause both a sharp throbbing pain and bleeding.
Nails that grow too long end up pushing heavily into not only dog beds, carpet, furniture, pavement, but other surfaces causing anywhere from minor to extreme amounts of pain depending on the length of their nails.
If left unchecked dogs will start “walking funny” causing an irregular gate, or stride. Which causes a lot of unnecessary stress on their joints. Leading to knee, hip, even ankle problems later down the line.
A simple and safe nail trimming schedule to follow starting out would be once a month.
Every pet’s nails grow back at varying rates, some are faster or even slower than others. Do your best to pay attention to when your shiba inu’s nails start to be a problem again, then adjust your personal schedule accordingly.
Consistent walks on harder surfaces, like sidewalks, are also great for rounding off and slowly managing the length of their nails in a natural way. But depending on their length and frequency you may still need a nail trimming here and there.
A Major Note On Nail Trimmings
Your shiba’s “quick” isn’t stuck in one place forever, it slowly expands and contracts to the size of their nails. Meaning you do have control over how long their nails can get, but you have to take it slow.
Quicks for dog nails typically take 7 days on average to recede.
Meaning you’ll want to wait just over a week between nail clippings to be safe. Especially if you are trying to work your shiba’s nails back to a manageable length.
Also, pet nails usually come in two colors: White/semi-clear and black. The former usually makes it easier to see their quick while the latter doesn’t.
The Differences Between Nail Clippers And Nail Grinders
Clippers and grinders tackle the same problem from two different angles. Both having their own pros, cons, instructions, benefits and issues.
Dog nail clippers are used to make a clean cut through a dog’s nails. They come in difference sizes and should be sized proportionally to your pet and their nails. Large clippers work best on large dog breeds while they get in the way and make it hard to see when trimming smaller pet’s nails.
They work best when you have a gently yet firm grip on their paw followed by a swift single clip. BUT YOU MUST AVOID THEIR QUICK.
Nail clippers generally leave sharper edges that lead to accidently scratching until you’ve walked them once or twice on a hard surface to round off the rough edges.
Pet nail grinders work a bit differently. Instead of making a clean one time cut they instead sand your shiba’s nails down, leaving a rounded edges and nails most of the time.
They work best when used in short bursts that are less than a second long. Because they work by sanding the nail down they generate a lot of friction, and heat. If done for over a second or two it’ll leave your dog with a burning sensation, usually causing some kind of panic and retaliation.
Some pet owner prefer them over regular clippers because they feel like they have more control, helping prevent damage to their quicks.
What To Do If You Are Worried About Hurting Your Pet
If you aren’t comfortable or confident enough to trim your shiba inu’s nails, it’s best to let a professional handle it and give you pointers.
Most vets offer nail trimming services and are more than happy going into detail on the do’s and don’ts for nail trimmings.
Professional pet groom are identical to vets in that regard, but there is one major difference. Some groomers may avoid servicing your shiba inu because the breed, as any owner knows, can be a real nightmare to handle.
To be safe, it’s best to call around and ask either your vet or local dog groomers before making the trip.
Shiba’s don’t like being handled as much as other breeds, so it’s best to start this when they are young.
How To Handle Dirty Paws
While pet’s paws on average are actually cleaner than the soles of our shoes, that doesn’t mean don’t get dirty too.
If you take your shiba inu on a walk and they end up stepping in mud, dirty water, or really anything else you don’t want on your carpet you may end up wanting to wipe down their paws, but what’s the best way to do that?
Pet’s paws aren’t as sensitive as their skin. But are hyper sensitive when cracked or damaged.
It is best to only wash a shiba inu’s paws when they are covered in dirt. Use lukewarm water to damp a washcloth, then gently rub and pad their paws until they are clean. You can use a rag or cloth to dry them off. It’s best to avoid using chemical cleaners to prevent your pet from ingesting them.
If you are worried about any kind of bacterial or allergies, you can use a little apple cider vinegar.
It’s safe and best to:
1) Use 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar per 1 cup of water.
2) Mix the two together.
3) Gently dip your pets paws into the mix.
4) Then pad their paws dry, it’s safe for them to lick their paws dry later.
The small amount of apple cider vinegar that’ll be on their paws will be safe for them to consume. That small amount is enough to not only remedy any paw issues but it’ll help with some allergy issues.
Most pet allergies kickstart after they ingest the thing they are sensitive to.
Why You Should Brush A Shiba’s Teeth
While shiba inus usually have great teeth it’s the one place they struggle maintaining on their own.
Low quality food is high in carbohydrates, leading to excessive plaque and tarter build up. Which leads to yellowing teeth, bad breath, gum infections, and other serious dental problems if left unchecked.
All of which I cover in more detail in this article titled: What a stinky mouth for a shiba means.
How To Maintain A Shiba’s Pristine Smile
Diet is a fantastic first step in tackling problematic plaque build up. Higher quality foods are healthier for their teeth as a whole.
Dental chews like DentaStix or Greenies once a day after dinner is a great way to minimize potential build up between brushes.
Teeth brushing sessions should be held once a week, preferably on the same day so both of you can build the habit together.
Since 2/3 of dog owners don’t brush their pet’s teeth most dogs won’t understand what you are doing, so here’s how to get started.
How To Introduce Your Shiba Inu To Their Toothbrush
While we understand the importance of cleaning our teeth, our pets don’t. The easiest way to tackle this new healthy habit is with the following steps:
1) Pick a calm, quiet, distraction free place.
2) Let your shiba sniff their new toothbrush and tooth paste to familiarize themselves with it.
3) Calmly touch their gums and teeth with their toothbrush. Praise them when they allow you to.
4) Slowly start making brushing motions without the paste, see how they respond.
5) Put a pea sized amount of toothpaste on their toothbrush.
6) Let them sniff it again, see how they respond.
7) Start slowly brushing their teeth, be sure to calm any potential stress or panic they begin to show.
8) Praise and reward them with a play session afterwards.
If your shiba inu starts to bite, growl, or run take a moment to get their attention, call them back, and give them some praise.
This will be a slow process at first, your first few sessions will be a bit of a struggle as you two get use to it. When starting out, don’t be afraid to do a short trial brush once every night to start building up their trust and confidence.
What A Shiba’s Eyes Say About Their Health
A pet’s eyes show you not only how they are feeling but how healthy they are. You always want your shiba’s eyes to be bright and clear, you don’t want to see any of the following:
- Excessive tearing
- Mucous / other discharge
A shiba inu’s weakest part is their eyes, medical conditions like cataracts or glaucoma unfortunately are common for the breed.
This list of potential eye conditions above are more often a sign of allergies, but check with a vet to be safe. As shiba’s age their eyes will start start to take a turn for the worse. Do your best to pay attention to them as time goes on for early warning signs.
As far as cleaning their eyes, I typically gently wipe any gunk away with my thumb. If It ends up begin something bigger than a quick clean I call my vet to get a professional opinion.
A Proper Ear Care Routine Matters
Every dog relies heavily on two senses, smell & hearing, and your shiba inu is no different.
You want your pet’s ears to be as clean and dry as possible, you can do this by checking them once a week using a dim light to see. You don’t want to see the following:
- Dark discharge
- Dark spotting
- Ear mites (lots of dark tiny specks)
- Hair loss
- Wax buildup
The above are signs of infection and should be handled immediately. Thankfully there are steps you can take at home to clean and manage minor issues.
1) Dip a cotton ball or gauzed in a safe cleaning solution (dog specific ear cleaner or apple cider vinegar)
2) Gently wipe the parts of their inner ear you can easily reach. DO NOT jam your finger in their ear.
3) Give it time to dry and check the next day.
A Things To Know About Cleaning Pet Ears
You never want to use Q-tips to clean a pets ears, it’s easy to accidently push them in too far. Causing additional ear damage.
On that same note, you don’t want to use water when cleaning their ears. Water does dry as quickly as apple cider vinegar or dog specific ear cleaners. Excess moisture makes it harder for them to hear and can lead to ear infections.
Finally, if it’s something too big for a simple at home cleaning or you aren’t comfortable cleaning your pet’s ears, take them to your vet. Your shiba’s health and safely comes first, their hearing being a massive part of that.