The Shih-Poo: A Shih Tzu Poodle Mix
What Is a Shih-Poo and Where Can I Find One?
Ball of fluff. Cotton ball. Fluffy puppy. All of these could describe my Leo, as a puppy. While the ethics of intentionally breeding mixed dogs may often be questionable, almost everyone will agree that the results are adorable. Whether you get your poodle-mix puppy from a breeder, a rescue organization, or the pound, these dogs are happy, friendly little dogs that are sure to steal your heart.
Poodle-mix dogs have become quite popular, recently, and this fad has resulted in a number of companion and toy dogs being crossed with a purebred toy or miniature poodles. Like it or not, the resulting puppies are often given portmanteaus, a name created from the combination of the parent’s breeds. The shih-poo is a cross-breed of shih tzu and poodle. Since these dogs are a mixed breed, one has to look at the heritage of both sides for clues about his coat, size, appearance, and personality.
The Coat and Grooming Requirements
The poodle mix coat can have a lot of variety, but with these dogs there is one thing you can count on, they will have lots of fast growing fur! When the dog is a puppy, the fur tends to be very soft and fluffy with some wave. The coat may be either single coated (from the poodle side) or double coated (from the shih tzu side). The amount of curl varies, but it generally is not extreme. However, what the coat will look like when the puppy is grown can be very difficult to determine until their adult coat comes in.
Yes, your puppy will lose that fluffy baby fur, so don’t count on keeping the super sweet softness. Somewhere between 8 months to a year, the adult coat will start to come in, and the puppy fur will fall out. During this time they are very prone to matting. This occurs because the older fur falls out and gets tangled in the coat. If the owner is not careful, the pup can quickly become a tangled mess. If the owner wishes to keep the long coat, the puppy will need to be brushed daily. However, many people opt to go ahead and have the puppy’s fur trimmed short to cut down on the maintenance of the coat.
The adult coat can have a lot of variety, and it is impossible to accurately predict it by how the puppy coat looks and feels, although some breeders may try to give a buyer a general idea of what to expect. The fur can be soft and silky with a slight wave, very poodle-like with a dense, curly coat, or be somewhere in between. Some dogs may even have a slight mix, with very curly in some areas and somewhat straighter fur in other places.
Grooming and Maintenance Requirements
Due to the long-growing coat, the grooming is rather high maintenance. Bathing them can be tricky, and they need to be brushed frequently, or the fur needs to be kept trimmed short. Since I keep my shih-poo’s hair long, he needs to be brushed daily to keep his coat looking nice. Due to my schedule, there are times he simply has to go a day looking more like a ragamuffin than a dog. But even during busy times, he must be brushed several times a week to keep his fur from matting. A short coat would drastically reduce the time needed for bathing and brushing.
A word of caution: some people have been led to believe that all poodle mixes are completely hypoallergenic and this is not the case. The truth is, a poodle mix might tend to shed less and cause a lower allergic reaction, but there is no guarantee. If it is extremely important to you to have a dog that will not cause an allergic reaction, consider fostering an adult and testing whether or not you have a reaction before committing to any one dog.
The size of these dogs have some variation but will usually fall into the toy range. Since a dog’s size depends on the genes it inherits from the parents, you can generally figure the puppies will be somewhere between the parent’s sizes. The toy poodle is normally used for breeding these puppies, but the miniature poodle may also be used and those puppies are a bit larger. The chart below shows the averages of each dog breed and the average weight of the mixes.
How do you predict what your puppy’s adult size will be? If you are able to meet both the parents, you can roughly estimate the size of the puppy will be somewhere between the two. If, on the other hand, you get a puppy without seeing the parents, you will just have to guess based on the two breeds. You do need to be warned—if you are buying a puppy and can’t view both parents, you will have to place a lot of trust in the accuracy of the information you are given. While the ethics of designer dog breeding is beyond the scope of this article, you do need to know that puppy mills and backyard breeders are notorious for being dishonest about the parentage of puppies.
Up to 17 lbs
Avg. Weight of Mix
The General Appearance
One of the major advantages these dogs have over its shih tzu parent is the shape of his face. Purebred shih tzus have an extremely flat face. In fact, many owners use water bottles, like the kind one finds in a rabbit’s cage, for their dogs, to avoid them placing their whole face in the water when they try to drink from a bowl. They also often have to wash the dog’s face after every meal, because the fur can become coated with food.
The poodle, on the other hand, has a longer muzzle. Usually, the mix's face falls between the two, much the same as its overall size. This can result in a rounder, flatter face than a poodle, but a longer muzzle than a shih tzu. This longer muzzle also reduces breathing issues that are common with shih tzus.
Shih tzus typically have an underbite, which is sometimes passed down to the offspring. Unlike the coat qualities, this trait is apparent from the time the dog is a small puppy. Some people find this trait to be absolutely adorable, while others could take it or leave it.
The shih-poo coat can come in a wide range of colors and patterns, due to the diversity of the colors common in both of the parent breeds. One common issue owners have is with dogs that have a light colored coat. Frequently, these dogs end up with unsightly, reddish stains around their eyes. While these stains are not a problem for the dog, some owners do not care for the appearance. Fortunately, this is not a health issue and is something an owner is just stuck with.
The personality of these little dogs can vary, as with any other group of dogs; however, some generalities can be made. They tend to be intelligent, a common trait of poodles, and they are often more easily house trained than a purebred shih tzu. This does depend a great deal on the method used for house-training, as well as the dog. Please note that I said they are often more easy to train, not always. My Leo, for example, took several months before he was reliable about not having accidents in the house.
Both parent breeds are people-oriented, and the offspring tend to have their parent’s personality traits. They love to please and live for love, attention, and affection. They do not do well if they are expected to be alone for most of the day, and it is imperative that if you or another human cannot be home much of the day that your dog has another companion. To guarantee they get along with small children, your dog should be well socialized with children as a young puppy. Some small dogs can become snappish with small children, usually as a defensive manner, if they are not raised around kids. However, if they are accustomed to children, they can be the best of playmates, ready for any game any time.
The shih-poo tends to be active and energetic but not excessively so. They are happy to go for a ride or a walk, but due to their short, little legs, they do not do very well as a jogging companion. They don’t require constant exercise and will get most of their exercise needs met with a few games around the house or yard or a leashed walk around the block.
You also need to know that some can inherit a tendency to be rather vocal. However, they learn quickly and can be trained not to bark excessively.
These dogs make wonderful pets. In general, they are playful, lively, intelligent, and extremely happy. Just as you would with any other dog, do your research into what dog breed is best for you before you fall in love with that adorable face. Make sure the dog is suited to your family and lifestyle, and as always, consider adopting a rescue.