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In-Depth Guide to Shiba Inu vs Golden Retriever [Read BEFORE Buying a Pup!]

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Everybody loves Golden Retrievers. But what about Shiba Inu, Akita Inu, Hokkaido Inu, Kishu Inu, Shikoku Inu… Do you notice a recurring theme here?

Yes, you are right, they are Japanese breeds. Inu means dog in Japanese. But there is more to this than just the word “dog”.

All of these “Inus” are cousins. (Frankly, it SHOWS when you look at them.) But the Shiba Inu is the smallest of the cousins.

Despite its smaller size, you can expect a regal, dignified smaller dog with a BIG personality.

In this post, we are comparing this little guy with a much bigger dog, the Golden Retriever. A popular breed that loves to hang around their human friends, but still retains its astute hunting and protective skills.

Read on to find out what each breed brings to the table.

This guide will not only teach you which one is better for you, but also whether YOU are cut out to be the owner of any of them!

Shiba InuGolden Retriever
shiba inu quick factsgolden retriever quick facts
Size and appearanceSmall size dog weighing up to 23 pounds. The general height is up to 17 inches only.Medium to large dog between 55-75 pounds. The general height is up to 24 inches.
AppearanceSmall compact body with a thick, double coat in various colors. The ears are perky and erect and it has white markings around the face and underbelly. Has dark eyes.Has stoic body which can be lanky or broad depending on the type. The ears are droopy falling nearly halfway on the face length. Had dark to light brown eyes and coat from cream to – you got it – golden.
TemperamentIntelligent but can be stubborn. They are adventurous, love challenges and mental stimulation. They may be aloof but very loyal.Intelligent, friendly and playful. They have an eager to please personality and love attention.
Health issuesThey get glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, allergies and other diseases. Lifespan up to 15 years!Prone to bone cancer, cataracts, elbow and hip dysplasia and torsion among other conditions. Average lifespan 10-12 years.
Feeding habitsThrives on natural, organic foods with healthy lean protein. Allergies may prevent them from grains and artificial preservatives.Scavengers so they tend to eat everything they find. But they have terrible allergies that are exacerbated by this habit. They are not finicky feeders.
GroomingHas moderate grooming needsHas moderate grooming needs
TrainabilityThey can be challenging to train when they are grown. But they learn quickly and it is best to train while younger.Trainable at any age without much trouble. They love to obey and follow instructions.
Shiba Inu vs Golden Retriver: Comparison Table

What to Expect with Each Breed

golden retriever vs shiba inu

Shiba may be smallish, but they are tough! If they should ever feel a threat to you, they’ll show fierce loyalty and protective nature hiding behind the small package.

That’s right – you can even expect aggression, should a need arise! And sometimes, you’ll have to curb it.

The Japanese use three words to describe this breed’s temperament: Kani – I (spritual boldness), Ryosei (good nature), and Soboku (alertness).

On the other hand, your average Golden Retriever is a veritable sweetheart. Loyal to the depth of their golden soul, they will guard and protect, bark and keep watch, but they won’t be aggressive unless absolutely necessary.

Before getting either pup, however, you need to opt for one of the multiple varieties.

In fact, both Shiba Inu and Golden Retriever come in three types each:

Types of Shiba Inu

  • Mino Shina. Deep mahogany color from tip to tail; rectangular eyes. Its tail is fluffy and curls up almost into itself, forming a sort of sickle shape. It doesn’t have ANY white sections (Urajiro) across the body.
  • Shinshu Shiba. Small body covered in a solid undercoat which has dense guard hairs. Distinctly rounder eyes than Mino. Its tail is also sickle-shaped but, unlike its two cousins, it’s bushy and not curled. They have a reddish color with white patches on the chest, throat, and forecast.
  • San’in Shiba. Larger than the previous two. But a more distinctive trait is its color – black with white patches!

Types of Golden Retrievers

  • English. Stockier, more solid in build than the other two, but a bit smaller in height. Long and feathery coats, cream more than golden in color. Larger, darker eyes that are on the same level as ears; muzzle a bit wider than its cousins’.
  • Canadian. Shorter, thinner coat of darker color with all shades of gold, from mahogany to brown gold. Their ears sit further back on their heads. Taller than their cousins by two inches. Less feathering on the legs.
  • American. Lankier, much less muscle power than their cousins. The AKC standard only accepts richer gold colors (not too pale or too dark). Heavy feathering around the chest, tail, neck, thighs. Lighter eyes.

1. Appearance

A Shiba Inu is a smaller dog compared to the Golden retriever which Is a medium to large breed.

shiba inu vs golden retriever
Males vs Females: Shiba Inu and Golden Retriever Weight and Height

While the Shiba Inu is nimble and light-footed because of its small size, the Golden Retriever is NOT clumsy as you would expect from its size.

It is agile and athletic with the potential of reaching 35 miles per hour in short bursts of speed. In long distances, it can keep up with you if you are running at 12 mph or even more.

Eyes

Both breeds typically have brown eyes.

However, the Shiba Inu always has dark eyes that may be round, almond, or triangular shaped or rectangular depending on the bloodline of your Shiba.

Golden Retrievers, on the other hand, tend to have round dark eyes but you may find some with light brown eyes.

Purebreds from both breeds do not get heterochromia. You know, one eye blue and the other brown. 

But when you mix them with different breeds that are prone to heterochromia like the Siberian Husky, you are likely to get a mixed pup with the trait. Check out this guide comparing the Siberian Husky versus Golden Retriever to see the difference in their eyes.

The good news is that heterochromia is not a health issue. Your pooch sees just fine!

Coat

Both dogs have double coats but the Shiba Inu coat is much denser and thicker than that of the Golden Retriever.

Remember that the Shiba Inu is a Northern Dog breed found in the mountains of Chubu in Japan.

The Shibu Inu is the ultimate teddy bear dog because of its double coat.

But you can expect that it will have blow coats twice a year.

Think of it as a snowstorm, but with fur covering EVERY inch of your space.

Shiba Inu comes in delightful colors ranging from red and mahogany to cream and sesame. The cream is usually a combination of cream and white ventral while the sesame is red hairs that feature black tips.

On the other hand, the word “golden” in the Golden Retriever is a dead giveaway of the coat color for this breed. 

They may range from brown to cream but the underlying trait in all these coats is the golden tinge to the hairs.

Have you ever seen a Golden Retriever running?

Golden Retriever running

It is poetry in motion.

From the ripple of muscle to the glisten of the golden coat, you will be spellbound.

Their double coat features longer hairs on the topcoat and a fuzzy undercoat. You can expect straight hairs on a Golden Retriever puppy. But by the time they start teething and weaning off their mother’s milk, they begin to settle into their adult coat.

The coat will move from straight to wavy and then form curls on the adult dog.

Both breeds will benefit from brushing their coats at least once or twice a week. But more on that later!

Ears

The Shiba Inu has erect ears with an ever so slight tilt forward. Its ears are small with a bit of fur inside which is usually white. It makes it easy to know when the dog’s ears are dirty and need a clean.

Their upright appearance shows the alert nature of the dog, which the Japanese call Soboku.

While the Shiba Inu is a puppy, they have floppy ears. But as they grow and the cartilage and bones in their ears harden, the ears begin to rise and take on the upright look.

The Golden Retriever has flop ears which make it look even cuter and disarming. Their ears will always be floppy from puppyhood.

The anatomy of the ears remains the same in all dogs: A long and narrow ear canal that has an L-shaped internal end.

Musculature

The Golden Retriever is a large dog with powerful muscles that allow it to lead a very active lifestyle. Their natural pastimes include running games like playing fetch and swimming.

Their floppy ears are helpful in swimming. No water coming into those ear canals!

The thick muscles of the Golden Retriever lend it a stocky look from the front which belies their height.

The Shiba Inu, on the other hand, might be smaller in stature but it is also a well-built highly athletic dog.

(Especially in the Big Doge – Small Doge endless meme series, hehe.)

Remember they are also hunting dogs that have been used to hunt different game. They are swift and fast on their feet and that is because of excellent muscle structure.

2. Grooming

Golden Retriever bathing

Grooming is relatively simple for both breeds despite their being double-coated dogs.

But grooming the Shiba Inu is very similar to grooming the Akita Inu. Check out our comparison guide to Akita Inu versus the Shiba Inu and see how they compare in grooming.

Brushing – How Often & What to Use

Both breeds have topcoat and undercoat.

Shiba, however, has a dense and stiff topcoat that needs to be completely dry before you start brushing. Run a slicker or bristle brush from tip to tail first, then a pin brush to detangle longer hairs (if the dog has them), then brush the undercoat with a de-shedding tool.

Unlike Shibas, Goldies have long, feathery hairs on their topcoat, so it will need some more maintenance and detangling. Use a curved rake to detangle the long hairs of the topcoat and reach further into the undercoat without hurting the dog. Make sure to brush your Golden Retriever at least once a week!

Both breeds will benefit from a wide-tooth comb for face, ears, upper throat.

Bubble Time! When & How to Bathe Your Shiba or Goldie

Good news for all Shiba owners out there! Your doggo is a self-cleaning breed that doesn’t get the dreaded doggie smell.

Bathe them once every two to six months and dry completely – the coat must not remain damp!

On the other hand, a Goldie has an oily skin and will need frequent baths (at least once every 6 weeks, ideally every second week).

Alas, Golden Retrievers have notoriously sensitive skin, so you’ll want to make sure to only use the premium quality shampoos and conditioners that won’t irritate or burn them.

Cleaning Ears

With puppies of either breed, once a month will suffice.

But adult Shibas and Retrievers will need ear cleaning at least twice a month.

Goldie parents will need to pay special attention to those floppy ears. Trapped moisture and dirt often cause ear infections in Goldies! So make it a habit to sniff out the ears from time to time.

Even Golden Retriever and Shiba have different ear types, both need a well-balanced ear-cleaning solution. Pour it in and let it swirl inside the canal for 30 seconds. The pooch will then shake its head, getting rid of the dirt, wax and debris that were trapped inside.

Wipe off the excess solution and voila! Clean and healthy ears that smell of roses (almost)!

Do NOT trim the hairs inside the Shiba Inus ears.

Oh-oh! There comes the nail clipper…

Shiba Inu Nail Clipping

Clipping your doggo’s nails has gotta be one of the most stressful activities, no matter the breed!

The good news for Shibaholics is that these fox-like doggies typically have light-colored nails so you can see where the quick begins. Less chance to hurt the pup! After trimming, make sure that you sand the nails gently to smoothen the jagged edges of the nails.

With Golden Retrievers, the situation is a bit more complicated. Their nails grow insanely fast, but then again, they are very active dogs that wear out their nails naturally, by walking and running on hard surfaces.

But you still need to keep an eye out to intervene if nature doesn’t take its course. Especially the dew claw (doggie thumb) that doesn’t touch the surface! It tends to curl up and hurt the dog.

Because Golden Retrievers are obedient, you may have less fuss during the nail cutting or grinding process.

To be on the safe side with both breeds, train them while still a puppy so that they can get used to the feeling by the time they grow up!

What About the Tail?

Shiba Inu’s tail is bushy, but it doesn’t need any special treatment. Brushing it along with the rest of the body is more than adequate.

However, remember one thing: do not straighten the tail. Just run the brush along the curve of the tail to effectively brush it.

Golden Retriever’s tail can either be turned upwards or it can be level with the back. Their tails are feathery and require adequate brushing as you brush the rest of the body.

The tail of this breed is part of its charm. It is cheerful and can be used to effectively decode the dog’s body language. A quick brushing will untangle the feathery fur and leave it fluffy as it should be.

Paws Need Grooming Too!

Most dog owners don’t pay much attention to the paws (beyond the fact that they are uber cute).

But imagine for a second that you were a dog. You constantly walk or run on different surfaces with bare feet. The soles of your feet will surely take a beating.

Same thing with a dog’s paws.

So, apply some petroleum jelly on your Shiba Inu’s paws from time to time to keep them healthy and functioning.

Golden Retrievers’ paws, on the other hand, need some more attention. They can get SUPER hairy and feathery and you need to trim the hairs around the paw pads to help them maintain fraction while walking.

Teeth

Both Shiba Inu and Golden Retriever have straight muzzles and they drool very little. That is good news if you are disgusted by dog drool.

Using a finger toothbrush and special dog toothpaste like Petsmile Professional Dog Toothpaste will be effective in cleaning their teeth. When the dog is used to the idea, it will take less than ONE MINUTE.

But Shiba Inus can be stubborn, so have some dental chews or food supplements handy in case the dog just refuses to open wide.

Food supplements that support oral health and clean teeth can be put in the dog’s food or water.

3. Trainability

training a shiba inu vs golden retriever

Golden Retrievers are natural sweethearts that actually enjoy training and take it as a form of entertainment.

Or shall we say ENTERTRAINMENT?

Shiba Inus, however, have a stubborn streak, so you can expect some trouble and rebellion, especially if you start late. They need an extra nudge to become obedient, so you’ll need to start very early with both training and socializing with other pets and people.

However, the basic training steps are pretty straightforward for both pooches.

  • Settle for a very familiar environment like your backyard. It’s supposed to be space with little to NO distraction. (If you take them to a park before they are ready, these natural hunters may take off after a squirrel or a rabbit.)
  • Introduce one very basic command (for example, sit, stay, or come). You will work with this one command for at least two weeks before moving on to the next one.
  • When the dog obeys, give a treat. But with time you need to withhold the treat more and more, even when it obeys. You are teaching it to obey regardless of whether there is a treat or not.
  • As you progress, you have to keep going back to the top and remind the dog of the basic commands.
  • Since Shiba Inu can be a stubborn breed, expect some level of pushback from the dog. You call “come” and they ignore you. DO NOT reprimand or hit the dog. Instead, entice it and once it comes give it a nice rub or treat.
  • A Goldie may have slip-ups here and there, but it will generally obey much more often than not. Treats and praise work especially well with them.
  • You will begin to see a difference within a few weeks with a Shiba, and even earlier with a Goldie. Within two months, your doggo of either breed should be well trained.

4. Exercise and Health

Golden Retriever swimming and hunting

Both the Golden Retriever and Shiba Inu are active hunting dogs. Their exercise needs are high so one hour of exercise per day is a mandatory minimum.

They can benefit from running around in a dog gym or enroll them in a dog training program. These sessions will instill discipline and also allow you to identify the dog’s problem areas from the perspective of an expert.

For example, you may think that your Shiba Inu is stubborn and disobedient when in fact, it is just not motivated to obey because of your approach.

But with adequate and expert mental and physical stimulation, your Shiba could become a completely different dog.

A Shiba Inu needs purposeful activity like fetching, backyard agility games, mobile dog toys, scavenger hunts, puzzle toys, nose, and scenting games, and learning games.

Without this, they become bored, difficult, and destructive.

Golden Retrievers also need mental stimulation because they are a highly intelligent breed. All of the above games and toys can be applied to the Golden retriever as well.

But you also need to let them enjoy a swim once in a while and let them chase the odd squirrel here and there in the park or woods.

Health Conditions Affecting Shiba Inus vs Golden Retrievers

Shiba Inu health conditions

EVERY dog breed has its weak spots and health issues that appear more often than in other breeds.

Still, Shiba Inu is a relatively healthy doggo with a long lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

This breed’s Achilles heel are the kneecaps (especially on hind legs), where the joints may slide in and out of place. The condition is called Patellar Luxation and is very painful. If it happens to your Shiba, make sure to treat it or the dog may become permanently lame!

Shibas are also prone to eye issues such as progressive retinal atrophy or glaucoma, both of which may lead to complete blindness.

Golden Retrievers are, unfortunately, very prone to different forms of cancer. One of the most prevalent cancers in this breed is Osteosarcoma – the bone cancer, which is usually very aggressive and can quickly lead to death. However, if you catch it early, you’ll likely be able to manage it successfully.

Don’t let this put you off from this wonderful breed though! Apart from checking your dog’s health regularly, there are things you can do to prevent cancer in your dog.

Hip dysplasia is known to affect both Golden Retrievers and Shiba Inus. It’s where the hip joint does not enter the socket. As a result, it grinds on the top of the socket. Ouchie!

This condition can get even worse if the dog is obese, to which both these voracious breeds are prone to. That’s why you should avoid overfeeding, no matter all the begging and sad looks they give you!

Both breeds are also prone to different forms of allergies. Goldies especially! So you should feed them as naturally as possible.

5. Price Comparison – Shiba Inu Puppy vs Golden Retriever Puppy

Shiba Inu Puppy vs Golden Retriever Puppy

You can get a Golden Retriever pup at $500 to $3000 from a reputable breeder depending on the age. However, you DO NOT have to dish out so much cash. Visit your local shelter and pay a much lower price, often around or below $100.

A Shiba Inu Puppy, on the other hand, will set you back, with $1200 to $2500.

The red coat Shiba Inu is the most expensive and the cream-colored variety is the least expensive. But the price of both breeds will depend on many factors, including their lineage, health screening, but also current popularity of the breed.

Before their surge in popularity, a Shiba Inu would have cost you less than $1000. But with the dog memes and their penchant for flair, these dogs are not just pets, they are show dogs in their own right.

6. Shiba Inu vs Golden Retriever: History & Fun Facts

shiba inu in snow

One Japanese, the other Scottish. The former a very “local” dog breed until some two decades ago, the other a true global pooch for over a full century already! It seems these two breeds could hardly get any different, even from the get go.

But BOTH are originally creatures of the mountain, avid hunters, and both had rubbed shoulders with aristocrats. You may hear bagpipes anytime your Golden Retriever goes by you! That’s the sound of mountains in her veins.

Today, Shiba Inu is the 43th most popular dog breed in the United States. Can you guess where the Goldie’s at? A whopping 4th place, preceded only by their cousins Labradoodles, as well as Frenchies and German Shepherds!

But let’s take a dive into history.

Much like the Akitas (both American and Japanese), Shiba Inu is an ancient breed from Japan’s mountainous regions.

It is the smallest among the six native Japanese dogs known locally as the “Nihon-ken.” Breeders have taken a fancy to this breed and are developing even smaller, apartment-friendly Shiba Inus known as the bean-sized Shiba. To behold these little fellas is to behold the epitome of cuteness!

Truth be told, Shibas weren’t globally popular until 2013, when they gained international attention thanks to a dog meme!

And so a particularly handsome, finely boned Shiba Inu became the viral master of the side glance.

Shiba Inu Wow GIF by Feliks Tomasz Konczakowski - Find & Share on GIPHY
The never-ending appeal of Doge, the Shiba Inu meme

Everyone loves Goldies. But for Shiba Inu lovers, there’s a special name: Shibaholics.

At the end of this article, you will know if you are joining the ranks of Shibaholics or not.

Long before the Shiba Inu became an online sensation, they were and remain excellent hunters. Another common trait with the Golden Retriever!

They were used during hunts of small game and even boars and deer! Samurais favored these dogs as companions and hunting buddies.

But the Golden Retriever is an unsurpassed hunter, and one thing that shows it is its gentle mouth.

Yup, you heard that right.

The Golden Retriever has a gentle mouth DESPITE its powerful body and astute hunting skills. That’s why it was favored for hunting because it retrieves game without crushing it.

Modern Goldie owners can also take advantage of this unique capability. (For what it’s worth, you can have it bring you an egg without making a single crack!)

It should come as no surprise that they earned the name retriever because of this trait.

Back to times of yore! History has it that the Shiba breed found itself in dire straits between 1912 and 1926. The great Meiji Restoration had seen a massive influx of western dogs (Golden Retrievers too!) into the Chubu region which is the native home of the Shiba Inu. Many people found it interesting to mix the western breeds and native dogs. That put the numbers of purebred Shiba Inus at risk.

During those 14 years, there was NO purebred Shiba left. (The Goldie had ALMOST beaten Shiba at its own game.)

This mixing of breeds combined with the food shortage of the Second World War, post-war depression AND a breakout of distemper made the situation even worse.

But with concerted efforts, the Shiba breed recovered and survived. Just like the Akita Inu, American servicemen going home from Japan after the second world war came back to the United States with these dogs. In 1979, the first Shiba Inu litter was born in the US.

Take that, Goldie!

Despite their popularity from the get-go, Shibas were only recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1992.

As for Golden Retrievers, they also had a turbulent history. Once upon a time, their golden color was seen as a sign of weakness.

golden retriever lying in grass

So much so that gold-coat retrievers were to be KILLED while those with darker coats were kept alive because they were fashionable. And they were considered better at hunting.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

This was the state of affairs when an aristocrat by the name Marjoribanks came across one Golden Retriever in the hands of a cobbler. He bought the fine-looking animal and took it home. 

He mixed his new find, a dog named Nous, with a Tweed Water Spaniel called Belle.

Nous was yellow-colored with a wavy coat although his original litter was black coated with wavy hairs. Marjoribanks began the breeding in 1865. And his first litter had four puppies which became the bloodlines of the sandy-colored Bloodhound, the Irish Setter, two wavy-coated black retrievers, and Newfoundland St. John’s Waterdog.

Did you know that the first three dogs to EVER get awarded the American Kennel Club Obedience Champion title were all Golden Retrievers?

That goes to show that this breed is highly trainable and obeys commands without a fuss. Unlike the much more headstrong Shiba.

I’ll discuss training at length below, but one thing is worth knowing: Shiba emits a distinct scream known as the “Shiba Scream” when it is manhandled.

Those little foxies just DON’T like taming!

When Golden retrievers were first accepted by The Kennel Club (The UK’s largest dog organization) in 1903, they were known as Flat Coats – Golden. Their hair lay flat like the typical flat-coat retriever but their coat was golden.

The typical flat-coat retriever has a black coat and a longer head.

But with time the organization also began to accept the double-coat Golden retriever which has a distinctly smaller head.

The flat-coat retriever was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1915 while the Golden Retriever made it into the registry in 1925.

The Golden Retriever is 3rd in popularity in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Shiba Inus bite?

In some cases, when the dog is very bored and full of energy, it MAY bite. To curb this behavior, give them plenty of exercise and introduce games like tug of war to give them something to bite.

You can also buy them chew toys or interactive toys to help reduce this behavior.

Are Shiba dogs aggressive?

The breed has been known to show a ferocious side to other animals, especially same-sex dogs of the same breed, as well as smaller animals such as cats.

To prevent this aggression, socialize your Shiba Inu earlier in life to be around other animals and human beings. 

Final Thoughts – Which Breed is Right for You?

Both Golden Retrievers and Shiba Inus are excellent pets.

However, that doesn’t mean that they are good for YOU and your individual circumstances.

For a single pet household, the Shiba Inu fits in like a glove while the Golden Retriever thrives in the company of children and fellow pets.

Of course, you can get a Shiba as a second pet too. But in that case, you’ll likely have some trouble during the training stage, until they get used to the idea of sharing. They just need a more experienced and assertive owner.

That’s why Golden Retrievers should be your first choice if you’ve never had a dog before.

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