Alaskan Klee Kai Vs Shiba Inu: What’s The Difference?

By helloBARK!
Updated on 20 September 2022

The Shiba Inu is perhaps one of the most popular dog breeds on the internet.

While Golden Retrievers and Labradors tend to be very common in day to day life, Shiba Inu have secured fame on social media.

These Japanese dogs have become an internet sensation following the emergence of photo-sharing apps such as Instagram.

Indeed, most helloBark! readers will have encountered a couple of Shiba Inu memes while browsing around the net.

Alaskan Klee Kai, on the other hand, are an emerging breed following their creation in Alaska in 1970s.

These dogs look like Mini Huskies but have different personalities to their sled dog relatives.

You won’t come across too many but their striking looks are helping them to build a following online.

But what is the difference between Shina Inu and Alaskan Klee Kai?

In answering the question, we’ll break this article into the following sections:


Alaskan Klee Kai come in a standard, miniature or toy size (Photo: lifewithkleekai/Instagram)

Alaskan Klee Kai come in a standard, miniature or toy size (Photo: lifewithkleekai/Instagram)

Shiba Inu are thought to have originated in 300 BC in Asia. They were used as hunting dogs thanks to their robust bodies. There are three primary types of the breed: Shinshu Shiba, the Sanin Shiba and the Mino Shiba (named after their place of origin). World War II almost resulted in the extinction of the breed. They managed to survive and these Spitz dogs started to appear in United States for the first time around 60 years ago. Naturally, the Shiba Inu is Japan’s most popular dog but they have proven a huge hit in the western world. They are the 45th most popular breed in the USA.

The Alaskan Klee Kai came to exist thanks to an American lady based in Alaska. Linda Spurlin used Alaskan Husky, Siberian Husky, American Eskimo Dog and Schipperke to create her Mini Huskies. Although Spurlin used these dogs to refine her original Klee Kai, nowadays you can only get an Alaskan Klee Kai by breeding two UKC-registered Klee Kai (so don’t fall for any scams online!). They were bred to be companion dogs and Alaskan Klee Kai are affectionate and loyal to their owners. There are thought to be around 13,500 Alaskan Klee Kai in United States.


A male Shina Inu can grow to be between 14–17 inches (35–43 cm) tall, while these Japanese dogs tend to weight between 18–24 lbs (8–11 kg). Female Shiba Inu are a little smaller, reaching a height between 13–16 inches (33–41 cm) and can weight between 15–20 lbs (6.8–9 kg).

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Alaskan Klee Kai come in three different sizes: standard, miniature and toy. The size of breed is dictated by their height, not their weight. The standard size are over 15 inches and up to 17 inches, miniature Alaskan Klee Kai are over 13 inches and up to 15 inches and the toy members of the breed are up to 13 inches. These Spitz dogs usually weigh between 15 and 20 pounds.


Shiba Inu originated in Japan (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Shiba Inu originated in Japan (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Shiba Inu tend to come in five different coat colors. Red coat is the most common variety of this breed, sporting a white underbelly to provide a beautiful contrast. A popular variation is the black and tan coat, which sees black, red and white combine together to produce these dark dogs. Some Shiba Inu have lighter-colored coats, described as cream. Their markings are similar to the red coat Shiba Inu but the colors are much softer. The white Shiba Inu can be confused for white Alaskan Klee Kai. However, they cannot be shown at shows as the United Kennel Club view white Shiba Inu as a flaw in the breed. Finally, sesame Shiba Inu have three sub categories: black sesame, red sesame and sesame.

Alaskan Klee Kai have three coat colors as set out by the UKC’s breed standard: black and white, gray and white, and red and white. Informally, you may encounter websites that break down the three chief colors into sub categories. Black and white Alaskan Klee Kai tend to be jet black/stark black and white or dilute black/salt and pepper black and white. Grey and white Alaskan Klee Kai sport either dark/wolf grey and white or light/silver and white. Red and white Klee Kai are dark red and white or a cinnamon red and white.

Personality And Temperament

Shiba Inu have earned a reputation for being extremely stubborn dogs. It is a fair assessment given these Japanese dogs tend to be headstrong. They make good watch dogs given Shiba Inu are very alert but quite shy around strangers. They will bark to alert their owners to any noises outside. The Spitz breed require quite a lot of exercise, which can help to temper their stubborn streak. Remember a tired dog is a happy dog! This Japanese breed cannot be trusted off the leash and can be expert escape artists.

Alaskan Klee Kai have this trait in common with the Shiba Inu. Some Alaskan dogs don’t have great recall, while they can be prey driven and could chase small animals if given the chance to do so. However, some AKK breeders and owner have successfully managed to train their dogs in recall. If you prefer to err on the side of caution, it’s vital an Alaskan Klee Kai owner secures their yard to ensure these little dogs don’t escape. They’re extremely intelligent and do well when it comes to agility and obedience training. Like Shiba Inu, the Klee Kai can be introverted so it is important they get the chance to socialise with humans and dogs throughout their lives.

Health Problems

Shiba Inu are susceptible to struggling with allergies. However, these dogs can still live happy lives despite an allergy with the appropriate treatment. helloBark! recommends consulting with your local veterinarian to discuss potential allergies. Other issues can include hip dysplasia, eye disorders, and patella luxation.

Similarly, Alaskan Klee Kai can also suffer with hip dysplasia and patella luxation. Alaskan Klee Kai Association of American president Alicia Beider told helloBARK! about the conditions breeders should test for:

Alaskan Klee Kai are currently enrolled in the CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) program. The following tests are necessary for an AKK to earn it’s CHIC certificate: Autoimmune thyroiditis, Patellar luxation, Cardiac Evaluation and Eye examination by a boarded ACVO ophthalmologist. We do encourage breeders to do a blood panel for this breed that includes CBC & Chemistries, which determine healthy numbers regarding the liver and kidney health of their dogs and a Thyroid profile. Due to patella luxation issues in the smaller breeds, this should also be part of the annual exam, as well as a cardiac exam.


Alaskan Klee Kai can suffer with separation anxiety (Photo: lifewithkleekai/Instagram)

Alaskan Klee Kai can suffer with separation anxiety (Photo: lifewithkleekai/Instagram)

Given their soaring popularity, it shouldn’t be a surprise Shiba Inu pups can cost quite a lot of money. The price can vary depending on their coat color and the breeder. Indeed, reputable breeders tend to charge between $1400 – $2200.

Alaskan Klee Kai are also quite expensive dogs. You should expect to pay between $1500 and $3000 for these dogs. If you find prices higher or lower than this range, we would recommend approaching with caution.

The AKKAOA’s website lists 50 breeders who have signed up to the organization’s code of ethics. If you’re thinking about getting an Alaskan Klee Kai puppy, one of these breeders is probably your best bet.

Anything Else To Consider?

We don’t recommend purchasing a Shiba Inu or Alaskan Klee Kai through a website, pet store or third party dealer.

You should ask to see your pup with it’s mother, as well as enquire about health and vet checks, as well as AKC or UKC paperwork for the parents.

In conclusion

So there you have it, we’ve taken an in depth look at Shina Inu and Alaskan Klee Kai.

They’re different purebred dogs with lots of differences and a couple of similarities.

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