Emerging in popularity, these small hybrid dogs can be a perfect fit for a number of households as doting companions for seniors or eager-to-play pets for families with children. Shichons don't shed much, either, so they may be an ideal pet for allergy sufferers. Because of their gentle nature, they could be great for first-time pet owners, too. However, shichons do require a good deal of grooming to keep their curly coats from matting, and they are a breed that likes to spend oodles of time with their humans.
"The shichon is a cross between the loyal shih tzu and the confident bichon frise," says Linda Simon, MVB, MRCVS, consulting veterinarian at FiveBarks. "They epitomize what is the best of both breeds and have a unique, teddy-bear like appearance."
These small dogs weigh between 9–15 pounds, which is a bit smaller than the breed standard for the bichon frise but bigger than most shih tzus. Full-grown, a shichon is just 9–12 inches in height. These pups often have a medium-length tail on one end and brown or black button eyes on the other.
As a mixed breed dog, shichon puppies—even those from the same litter—can look totally different. One pup may strut their stuff with the cocky gait of a shih tzu. Other shichons could be peppy little powder puffs with plumed tails like the bichon frise. Or shichons could inherit both parents' signature traits. Regardless, a double dose of cuteness is definitely in these dogs' DNA.
Some may inherit a curly snow white coat from the bichon frise side of the family, while others could don silky coats credited to the shih tzu parent. Others may have a mix of both. This hybrid breed's coat can come in a number of colors, including brown, red, gold, cream, black, white, silver, and more. Some shichons may have solid coats while others may wear a mix of colors, like a black and white shichon or a cream-colored dog with red and gray accents on her ears and near her eyes. The cute combinations are endless!
While no dog is entirely hypoallergenic, shichons don't shed much and their teddy-bear fur could be ideal for people who tend to sniffle around dogs.
"Owners particularly like how people-driven the sociable shichon is," Simon says. "As both parent breeds are companion dogs, they are well adapted to living closely with their family and will form close bonds with them."
As playful, people-loving pups, shichons fit perfectly into family life and adore the energy children bring to each day, says Corinne Wigfall, DVM, BVS, BVM, and consulting veterinarian with SpiritDog Training. Of course, always supervise kiddos when they're playing with any dog and teach your children how to properly play with small animals, respecting their boundaries and being mindful of their size.
Both of the shichons parents are companion dogs, so expect this little guy to want to spend a lot of time with you. Whether it's playing games, training, exercising, or lazing on the couch, the shichon's love language is most definitely "quality time"—and they just can't get enough of it with their humans.
Because of their close bonds with their people, shichons do best with a family that's home quite a bit. (They'll keep your lap warm and your spirits high during those work-from-home Zoom calls.) While shichons can be a family dog, they can also be an ideal pet for older adults because of their relatively low exercise needs, Wigfall says.
The shichon can do well in an apartment thanks to their small size and relatively low exercise needs, Simon says. Though, he'll also enjoy romping around in a fenced backyard. And while he's naturally curious and playful, a shichon can also happily lay down and relax when you're having some down time, Simon says.
Shichon owners, be prepared: Your pup has quite the beauty routine, and it's important you stick to it to keep his coat in tip-top shape.
Owners need to brush their shichon's coat daily, paying special attention to her ears and undercarriage to prevent her coat from becoming matted, Simon says. The shichon also needs regular grooming appointments with a professional. He may look great in a traditional shih tzu hair cut, like the classic short puppy cut or a medium-length shichon teddy bear cut.
"They have a zest for life and will readily accept any opportunity to go out, sniff, and explore," Simon says.
But shichons can burn a lot of their calories from playing inside, too, Simon says. For most, a 30–45 minute walk every day is plenty, she says.
As far as training goes, shichons are fast learners who will eagerly look forward to training sessions—because it's an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with you! Bring lots of treats, make it fun, be generous with the head pats and praise, and keep the training sessions short and productive. As with all breeds, exercise patience and use positive reinforcement during training.
On the shih tzu side, some other treatable, albeit common, issues include patellar luxation (a slipped kneecap) and umbilical hernias. They can also have some eye health problems such as cataracts. Bichon frises are generally healthy dogs but may be prone to hypothyroidism and von Willebrand's disease, a bleeding disorder.
But those who are looking to bring a hybrid pup in their home need to do some important research. The shichon is a relatively new "designer" hybrid breed—and these cute dogs are in high demand, which can mean some shichon breeders are operating without the dogs' health in mind. To make sure you're working with an ethical shichon breeder and that you're bringing home a healthy dog, be aware of these common puppy mill red flags:
- A breeder offers to ship a puppy.
- A kennel produces multiple breeds of dogs.
- It's difficult to find contact information on a breeder's website.
- The breeder will not let you meet the puppy's parents or siblings.
While the shichon is a relatively new breed whose origins aren't quite known or detailed by historians, both of his parents are among some of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, each with their own long histories that are rich with royal ties (and a little bit of folklore, too).
Shih tzus originated roughly 1,000 years ago, according to the Shih Tzu Club, and it's believed they were first bred in Tibet, possibly by Tibetan monks. These small dogs were status symbols, sent to Chinese emperors as gifts. In the 1940s and 1950s, American soldiers who were stationed in Europe brought these "little lion dogs" to the United States, according to the American Kennel Club.
The shichon's other parent, the bichon frise, are merry dogs from the Mediterranean that historians say have been around since the 13th century, according to the Bichon Frise Club of America. These fluffy, white dogs enjoyed a life of luxury as the pets of European nobles; legend has it that even Cleopatra fancied bichon frises.
But don't underestimate bichon frises as just some pampered pooches; they've got an entrepreneurial spirit. During the French Revolution of the 1700s, royals lost their power and the bichon was left to fend for himself on the streets. So, the ever-so-intelligent bichon frise turned to show business and began performing tricks with street performers and circus acts. These sweet dogs made it to the United States in the 1950s and the BFCA was founded in San Diego in 1964. The dogs were accepted into the AKC in 1971.
- Just like the shichon himself, the breed has some adorable pseudonyms. He also goes by "zuchon" and "tzu frise."
- Because of their gentle and intuitive dispositions, shichons are popular therapy dogs and emotional support animals.
- Shichons haven't been around for long, but one adorable pup enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame after a play match with an inflatable minion became an internet sensation.