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Shih-poos are small and fluffy dogs with extra-friendly personalities. One parent breed, the shih tzu, is a loyal and attentive lap dog. The other, a toy poodle, is highly intelligent and loves to be the center of attention. The result is a shih-poo (or "shih poo"), a versatile and spunky pup packed with superb personality traits. Whether he's a family dog or a companion for seniors, he excels at his role.
While shih tzus and toy poodles are both popular dog breeds with ancient and regal history, shih-poos are a relatively new breed. They've only been around for a few decades but are beginning to make a name for themselves. Full-grown shih-poos can be teeny-tiny (as small as 7 pounds), or weigh up to 20 pounds. They can come with curly coats like their poodle parent or a more straight coat inherited from their shih tzu side of the family.
"Shih-poos are lively, active, and animated dogs with a sense of humor," says Liz Randall, CPDT-KA, owner and CEO of Dogs Abound. "They are intelligent and playful and are great companions for an active home that will include their dog at the center of much of their activities."
Shih-poos are adaptable to small living spaces (they're A-OK with apartment living) and, because they shed so little, they tend to be allergy-friendly dogs and are generally considered hypoallergenic. Shih-poo dogs do require a good deal of grooming, so make sure you have the time (and budget) for their beauty routines.
Because shih-poos are a cross breed, there's no breed standard that spells out what shih-poos should look like. But, in a word, they're adorable.
Shih-poo puppies, even from the same litter, may look completely different. With hybrid dogs such as these teddy bear shih-poos, it all comes down to which parent's traits dominate. For instance, some shih-poos may appear more poodle-like with a short and curly coat, while others might sport the silky, straight, and luxurious fur that's synonymous with shih tzus. Still, other shih-poos may don a coat that's quasi-curly and semi-silky.
The color of their coats can be a bit of a wild card, too. Some common colors are white, black, brown, brindle, gray, red, or apricot—and that's not even including all the possible color combinations.
Niccole Bruno, DVM, chief of staff with Companion Animal Hospital in Spring, Texas, has a shih-poo named Jimmy, a rescue who comes to work with her every day. (Shih-poos absolutely love to be your shadow!) While dogs can have their own personalities, generally speaking, shih-poos tend to be friendly, well-tempered dogs.
"Jimmy would probably greet a robber," Bruno says. His motto is: "If you give me some attention, I'm going to love you."
Shih-poos, in general, are versatile dogs and tend to be ideal for families, seniors, couples, or retirees, says Jen Jones, a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist who runs Your Dog Advisor.
"They are bred companion dogs that are mild-mannered, friendly, and sweet-natured," Jones says. She says these dogs will be happiest in homes with owners who are home often and spend a good deal of time with them.
Shih-poos are moderate- to high-energy pets, and they are above average in the intelligence department. Though they're affectionate, they're not exactly couch potatoes, Randall says. In short: These pups love to play.
"They will keep you laughing and want to be involved in all the daily goings on," Randall says.
Shih-poos tend to be diplomatic dogs. While every dog has an individual personality, these pups generally get along well with other household pets, including cats and other dogs. And while these family-friendly pets tend to be great with kids, you'll want to teach your children to be gentle around these pint-sized puppers. Shih-poos are also excellent companions for seniors.
These dogs are among those that can live happily in an apartment or a smaller home, as long as they get enough activity and interaction from their family. Though their little legs might not be conducive for hiking up a mountain, they're still spunky and playful. After they tire out, shih-poos will enjoy cuddling up on your lap for the rest of the evening.
This hybrid breed loves to be a constant companion and shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. He'll do best with an owner who's a homebody or who will take him along on errands and adventures.
Shih-poos are more adorable than athletic. While they aren't exactly running partners, they do enjoy daily walkies and playfully romping around in the yard or park.
Randall says shih-poo owners should plan on regular training sessions and daily exercise with their dogs. Like all breeds, shih-poos respond best to positive reinforcement training and receiving treats as rewards.
"They love human interaction and training, so keeping their brains busy and engaged is important," Randall says.
As with any poodle or poodle mix, Randall says, regular grooming is a necessity.
"Plan on being on a regular, consistent 6–8 week schedule with your groomer to avoid uncomfortable matting of their soft coat," Randall says. Regular brushing, preferably on a daily basis, is a must in-between grooming appointments.
As a part of their grooming, Bruno recommends shih-poos get regular "sanitary trims" underneath their tails, on their bellies, and in their armpits. Shih-poo haircuts can also be as diverse as your pup, with some owners preferring to keep their coats long and others opting for a shorter trim.
In addition to regular brushing his coat, Bruno recommends brushing your shih-poo's teeth regularly. Start at an early age to get your pup accustomed to his dental care routine, and brush his teeth at least a couple of times a week (bonus points if you can do it daily).
A shih-poo lifespan is lengthy—these small dogs can live 15 years or more.
In general, shih-poos are an easy dog to care for when you take them to the veterinarian regularly, brush their teeth, and stay on top of their grooming appointments, Bruno says. They aren't particularly subject to major illnesses or health conditions, but, like all small dogs, shih-poos can be prone to dental disease. So, regular teeth brushing can help keep your dog's oral hygiene in good standing, warding off inflamed gums and tartar, Bruno explains. Dental chews can help, too.
Shih-poos may also be prone to some orthopedic diseases that affect their bones, joints, or muscles. Some examples could be hip dysplasia, which occurs when the hip joint doesn't develop like it should. When this happens, dogs may limp after exercise or have difficulty jumping or climbing. Patellar luxation, or dislocated kneecap, can be another problem.
If your shih-poo inherited prominent eyes from a shih tzu parent, he could have some trouble with cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and corneal dryness—issues that should be addressed with your vet.
This hybrid breed probably emerged within the last 30 years when shih tzus were bred with toy poodles. While shih-poos are a relatively new breed, both of his cosmopolitan parents have well-established histories.
The shih tzu breed dates back at least 1,000 years, when they were kept in monasteries throughout Tibet. Some legends say these companion dogs were trained to turn the prayer wheels, according to the Shih Tzu Club, and fantastical illustrations depicted these dogs as little lions. Folklore says Buddha traveled with a little dog believed to be a shih tzu. The American Kennel Club recognized the shih tzu in 1969.
The "poo" in shih-poo comes from the poodle, the national dog of France. Despite the affinity for poodles in France, these dogs were developed and bred as duck hunters in Germany. In French, the poodle is known as the Caniche, which translates to "duck dog." Here in the U.S., the AKC gave recognition to the poodle in 1887.
- In the spirit of playfulness, shih-poos have some silly nicknames. You may also hear them referred to as “shoodles” or “pooshies.”
- Because shih-poos are a mixed breed dog, puppies—even from the same litter—can look different from one another and come with different coat colors and textures.
- Despite this hybrid's popular parent breeds, shih-poos aren’t recognized by the AKC.