Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Nine Main Differences Explained

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Updated: March 19, 2022
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Though both Akita Inus and Shiba Inus originated in Japan, and people do notice the similarity between them, there are notable differences between the two. By the way, Akita Inu means “the dog of Akita,’ with Akita being the name of a prefecture and its capital city. Shiba Inu just means “little dog” or “brushwood dog.” The Akita is of a much bigger size than the Shiba. The Shiba was bred to hunt small game such as rabbits, while the Akita was bred to hunt brown bears and elk.

Shiba Inus are also more popular than the Akita as a pet, though the Akita is Japan’s national dog. No longer mostly used as a hunting dog, the Shiba is kept as an affectionate pet in Japan and other places. It is also a much older breed than the Akita, which is still prized as a hunting and tracking dog as well as a companion. Read on to learn some of the main differences between these amazing dogs.

Comparing Akita Inu vs Shiba Inus

Here’s a table with some of the differences between an Akita and a Shiba.

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Akita Inu Shiba Inu
Height 24 to 28 inch 13 to 17 inches
Weight 70 to 130 pounds 18 to 22 pounds
Origin The 1600s 1000 BC
Popularity Popular Very popular
ColorsRed, Fawn, White, Brown, BlackRed, Tan, Cream, Sesame, Black
Health Some health issues including bloat, hypothyroidism, PRA Hardy
TemperamentFriendly, Independent, ProtectiveAlert, Fearless, Faithful, Smart
TrainabilityHigher than AverageLower than Average
Life expectancy 10 years 12 to 15 years
Modern uses Several As a pet
Price Between $600 and $2000 $2000 – $3500

The Nine Key Differences Between Akita Inus vs Shiba Inus

The most significant difference between Akitas and Shiba Inus is their size, with Akitas growing past 100 pounds and Shibas rarely reaching more than 22 pounds. As such, the Akita was used to hunt huge game like deer and wild boar, while the Shiba Inu was bred and trained to hunt small animals like rabbits and cats. Their coats are likewise diverse, with a wide spectrum of hues between them. Let’s dive deeper…

1. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Size and Weight

Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Akita and Shiba
Akita Inus (left) are much larger than Shiba Inus (right)

FunFamilyRu/Shutterstock.com

The Akita is a considerably larger dog than the Shiba. Females stand around 34 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 75 and 110 pounds, while males are a bit bigger. The Shiba stands only 13 to 17 inches at the shoulder and only weighs between 18 and 22 pounds, with males again being a little larger than females.

2. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Coat Type

The Akita has a double coat, with a dense and plush undercoat and a short topcoat. Grooming the Akita isn’t difficult in general; however, the Akita sheds a lot. The Shiba Inu is also double-coated, however, the undercoat is softer and thicker than the Akita’s. The Shiba Inu’s outer coat is hard and straight. On the head and legs, the fur is short and even, with long guard hairs standing off the body.

3. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Colors

Akita Inu in Leaves
Akita Inus are amazingly loyal dogs

Rita_Kochmarjova/Shutterstock.com

Shiba Inu’s coat colors come in five different shades: red, black, tan, sesame, and cream. The red coat is the most popular of the four colors. There are many different hues and color combinations available for the Akita Inu. Black, white, brown, red, or fawn are some of their color variations.

4. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Profile

Though there’s a similarity in looks between the Shiba and the Akita, the Shiba Inu has a more foxy look about it. It has a tapering muzzle, small, erect, triangular ears, and dark triangle-shaped eyes with black rims. The Akita’s muzzle is strong and broad, though it has a soft mouth that is good for retrieving waterfowl. It also has triangular, erect ears but they are positioned over the dog’s eyes and in line with the nape of its neck. The Akita looks much like the bear it was bred to hunt.

5. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Health Problems

The Shiba is a hardy dog though it can be prone to slipped kneecaps and hip dysplasia. The Akita is at risk for several disorders, some of which only strike the breed. The Akita tends to be sensitive to drugs and insecticides and a condition called pseudohyperkalemia. This happens when the dog’s blood is drawn, and its red blood cells leak too much potassium. However, there’s really nothing wrong with the animal, as dogs with origins in east Asia have more potassium in their red blood cell count than other types of dogs.

Akitas are also prone to autoimmune diseases, diabetes, hypothyroidism, bloat, dysplasia of the hip and elbows and Cushing’s syndrome among others.

6. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Temperament

Oldest Dog: Pusuke the Shiba Inu Mix
Shiba Inus have a playful temperament.

Trybex/Shutterstock.com

The Shiba’s temperament is playful and active, and it’s good with children and the larger pets of the family. However, it shouldn’t be left alone with smaller pets such as mice or rabbits. It was used to hunt these animals and might retain an ancestral memory! The temperament of an Akita is fearless and amazingly loyal. They make excellent guard dogs. They may not take immediately to strangers, especially strange children, and need to be supervised when introduced to new people or pets. Akitas are also a bit territorial and have trouble tolerating dogs of the same sex. Dog fanciers claim that Akitas should not be a person’s “starter” dog.

7. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Trainability

Shiba Inus are independent thinkers who are quite smart, yet stubborn and aren’t famous for their trainability. Akita Inus are bright dogs who are much easier to train if you show them respect and reward them.

8. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Popularity

Akitas are popular dogs, and they seem more popular with Americans than with the Japanese, even though they are Japan’s national dog. They became very popular with returning American servicemen after World War II, and Helen Keller had not one but two Akitas.

9. Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu: Life Expectancy

The Shiba Inu has a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, which is significantly longer than the Akita. These numbers are based on data when the dog is in the correct setting, with both dogs being healthy. The Akita Inu has a shorter life expectancy, averaging 10-12 years.

Wrapping Up Akita Inu vs Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu on a white background
The Shiba Inu lives an average of 10 to 12 years.

Irina Vaneeva/Shutterstock.com

In comparison, both breeds tend to guard the people and things they care about. In contrast, there is little in common between the temperament and training of the Shiba and Akita breeds. Training both dog breeds is possible, but one is easier than the other. Both dogs have double coats, but the fur on each one is distinctively different. Both breeds originate from Japan and do look similar enough they could pass for siblings from a distance. However, upon further exploration, it is much easier to see that these are two distinct dog breeds.

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the difference between an Akita vs Shiba?

Though they look alike, the Akita is a much bigger dog. It’s less playful than the Shiba and more territorial, though it makes up for this with its faithfulness. The price you’d pay for a purebred Shiba Inu is more than the price of a purebred Akita. A Shiba can cost as much as $3500, while the most expensive Akita costs about $2000.

If the dog is going to be shown, there’s more of a range of colors allowed for the Akita than for the Shiba. The colors of an Akita’s coat can be white, sesame, red, fawn, or brindle, while the colors of a Shibu’s coat are restricted to red with some black, black, and tan, sesame with some red with a paler undercoat.

Is Akita same as Shiba?

Though their similarity is evident, Akitas are not the same dog as Shibas. Shibas have been around since antiquity, while Akitas were first bred by Japanese noblemen in the mountains of Akita prefecture in the 17th century.

Are Shibas as loyal as Akitas?

Shibas are loyal dogs, but nothing can beat the loyalty of an Akita. The most famous of these dogs, Hachikō, would wait at the train station for his master to return. When his master died suddenly, the dog, not understanding that his master would not return, continued to sit and wait for the train every day until his own death. He did this for nine years.

Do Shiba Inus and Akitas get along?

Shiba Inus and Akitas can get along if they are carefully introduced to each other and supervised until the owner is convinced they can get along. The owner should also make sure that the Shiba is not the same sex as the Akita since Akitas have a reputation for not tolerating other dogs of the sex.

Akita vs Shiba - Who is more obedient?

Given the reputation of a dog like Hachikō, it might be said that Akitas are more obedient. But there’s no reason that a well-trained and well-cared-for Shibu can’t be just as obedient.