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The Versatile Shiba

The Versatile Shiba


Shibas are very versatile dogs—more so than we often give them credit for being. Their intelligence has long been recognized but not necessarily fully utilized. Shibas earn AKC titles in Conformation, Obedience, Rally, and Agility, but this only scratches the surface of what they are capable of doing. Shibas can be found competing in just about every dog sport.

Here are just some examples of Shibas expanding the breed’s horizons.


The Versatile Shiba – Therapy Dogs

Shibas are described as aloof dogs; however, for some Shibas nothing could be further from the truth. Today, there are a handful of Shibas that spend time volunteering to visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools, libraries, and courthouses. They enrich lives, console those in pain, and help children learn to read. Therapy work can be an extremely rewarding experience for the right dog and owner.

If you are interested in getting involved, contact Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Therapy Dogs International, or other local therapy dog certification organizations. Working therapy dog teams can earn the AKC Therapy Dog title.


Versatile Shiba


The Versatile Shiba – Lure Coursing

Does your Shiba embrace its ancestral instinct to chase and hunt? Then Lure Coursing may be a great sport for you and your dog. Lure Coursing is a sport where 2-3 white bags are tied to a string that runs the length of a 300-600-yard course. The bags fly along the course, triggering the dogs’ chase instinct. Shibas generally take to the sport quite easily and they have a blast chasing the bags.

The sport of Lure Coursing was traditionally only open to sighthound breeds, but the AKC has opened up a version of the sport to all breeds. This event is called a Coursing Ability Test or “CAT.” During a CAT, your dog must chase the lure around a course within a time limit. The distance and time are based upon the size of the dog: 300 yards in 1-1/2 minutes for dogs under 12 inches; 600 yards in 2 minutes for dogs over 12 inches. Dogs that participate can qualify to earn titles. Dogs run off lead, so it is highly recommended that your dog have a good recall.

A newer version is Fast CAT, where dogs chase the lure for 100 yards in a straight line with time measured in seconds. The average speed for Shibas participating in this sport is a little over 21 mph.

It is quite an amazing and enjoyable sight to see a Shiba embrace its instincts. So, give it a try and watch your Shiba fly!


The Versatile Shiba – Tracking, Scent Work & Barn Hunt

Shibas have very strong hunting instincts, and sometimes this is displayed in their ability to “scent.” Scenting is smelling the ground or the air for a specific scent. There are three sports that embrace the skill and, if your Shiba has a good sniffer, you should check them out.

Tracking is an AKC sport where dogs follow the trail of a scent on the ground. The scent is left by a person, and the dog must follow that scent and, at the end, find an article dropped by that person.

Versatile Shiba

Scent Work is a sport based on the training of scent detection dogs. Levels include dogs scenting boxes, trying to find the one containing a specific scent, plus indoor and outdoor searches. Dogs are scenting for the odor of either birch, anise, or clove.

Barn Hunt is a sport that simulates dogs finding rats in a barn-type environment. The rats are safely protected in well-ventilated tubes that are hidden among bales of straw.


Versatile Shiba


Tracking, Scent Work, and Barn Hunt are also great sports for dogs that do not like the traditional competition environment. Tests are held in quiet locations, except for Barn Hunt, and in the case of Scent Work, only one dog is let out at a time, on lead, allowing for dogs with behavioral challenges to participate.



The Versatile Shiba – Flyball

Dogs love balls, so it is quite possible that your Shiba does too. If your Shiba loves balls, or you are simply looking for a high energy sport, Flyball may be for you.

Flyball is a fast-paced relay race where each dog jumps over hurdles toward a box which, upon contact, pops out a ball. The dog must then catch the ball and return over the hurdles to their waiting owner. Once the dog returns, the next dog on the team goes. The team with the fastest time wins.

This is just a sampling of what your Shiba can do. Shibas have long been labeled as impossible to train and a non-traditional competition breed. These labels are slowly changing. Shiba Inus will always be independent and challenging, but this is only because they are just too smart. They are a highly adaptable and creative breed that loves to be challenged mentally and physically. So, don’t let the labels discourage you. Don’t miss out on all the fun. Get out there and give some of these sports a try!


The sky is the limit when it comes to sports and activities to try with your Shiba. Here is a sampling of those aforementioned as well as others to look into:

Versatile Shiba


  • Therapy Dogs
  • Lure Coursing
  • Fast CAT
  • Tracking
  • Scent Work
  • Flyball
  • Backpacking
  • Treiball
  • Barn Hunt
  • Canine Freestyle
  • Disc Dog
  • Joring
  • Carting
  • Herding
  • Dock Diving
  • Trick Dog
  • Agility
  • Obedience
  • Rally
  • And so much more!

Now, get those Shibas off the couch and challenge their minds and bodies. You could be rewarded with ribbons and titles, but the greatest reward will be the bond and lasting memories you share!


The Versatile Shiba
Doing More with Shibas than Anyone Could Ever Imagine!
By The National Shiba Club of America