The Shihpoo is a cross between a Shih Tzu and a Toy or Miniature Poodle. He may have the curly coat of a Poodle or the long, straight coat of a Shih Tzu, but he always has a cute, alert expression and a sturdy body. Like his parent breeds, the Shihpoo can come in a multitude of solid colors or in a particolor pattern (a color plus white).
Dogs such as Shihpoos are known as hybrids, or cross-breeds. Sometimes they are called designer dogs to differentiate them from mixes of unknown heritage. It’s often assumed that a hybrid will combine the best of two or more breeds, but genetics doesn’t necessarily work that way. The way genes combine and express themselves is not always subject to a breeder’s control, even less so when two different breeds are crossed. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering adopting a Shihpoo.
Is the Shihpoo the Right Dog for You?
At their best, Shihpoos are playful, friendly and affectionate, always happy to sit in a lap and give a little love. They generally weigh 7 to 20 pounds, depending on the size of their parent breeds. For their size, they are courageous and make excellent watchdogs, but they can be on the yappy side.
Choose a Shihpoo if you have older children who understand how to handle a dog carefully. Toddlers can be clumsy and may hurt a Shihpoo unless you can always be there to supervise their interactions.
Shihpoos are smart but may be stubborn. To train them effectively, you’ll need to figure out how to motivate them. Often, this involves food rewards or somehow inspiring the dog to believe that what you want him to do is his own idea.
Shihpoos have a moderate activity level that is adaptable to their owner’s lifestyle. They will enjoy a walk or active indoor playtime each day. Some Shihpoos love being in the limelight, and they do well in such dog sports as agility, obedience and rally.
Poodles have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, meaning they can be tolerated by people who have allergies to dogs. Because they have the Poodle in their heritage, Shihpoos are sometimes promoted as being hypoallergenic. But allergies are caused not by a particular dog coat type but by dander, the dead skin cells that are shed by all dogs. There is no scientific evidence that any breed or cross breed is more or less allergenic than any other dog. Some people with allergies react less severely to particular dogs, but no reputable breeder will guarantee that her dogs are hypoallergenic.
Shihpoos can have different types of fur, ranging from curly to straight, depending on which genes they inherit, but most have a curly or wavy coat. A Shihpoo coat looks its best with professional grooming every four to six weeks, and it requires brushing or combing every couple of days to prevent mats or tangles as well as regular bathing in between appointments with the groomer.
Shihpoos are among the breeds that commonly develop reddish-brown tear stains beneath their eyes. Sometimes the stains are related to the dog’s diet, and changing foods can help. Your best bet, though, is to wash the face daily, carefully wiping beneath the eyes, to prevent stains from setting.
Your Shihpoo doesn’t need a bikini wax, but you do need to trim the genital area for cleanliness or have the groomer shave the lower belly area. This prevents urine from staining and stinking up the coat and feces from getting caught in the hair around the anus.
In addition, trim his nails at least monthly—more frequently if necessary—keep his ears clean and dry to prevent ear infections and brush his teeth as often as possible. Small dogs are especially prone to periodontal disease.
Shihpoos are companion dogs meant to live in the house. They may be sensitive to heat and should never be left outdoors in hot or humid weather.
Shihpoo puppies are adorable, and it’s one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Shihpoo a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. But there’s no need to pay big bucks for a Shihpoo. You can often find a wonderful example of this hybrid dog at your local shelter or through adoption organizations.
If you do choose to buy one, however, select a breeder who has done the health testing to ensure that her puppies won’t carry the genetic diseases common to both Shih Tzus and Poodles. And while there are no guarantees in life, it’s also a good way to minimize the possibility of big veterinary bills in the future.
5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Shihpoo Puppy
- Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Shihpoos aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Shihpoos can live 12 or more years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
- Puppy or adult, take your Shihpoo to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as for tips on dealing with tear staining.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Shihpoos
All hybrid dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as purebred dogs can and just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the Shihpoo is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the Shihpoo and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Shihpoos may develop health conditions common to both Shih Tzus and Poodles, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, and eye problems such as entropion, cataracts or progressive retinal atrophy.
Many toy breeds and small dogs have a condition known as luxating patellas, in which one or both knees are unstable and occasionally slip out of place. Depending on the level of severity (1 being mild and 4 being severe), luxating patellas can be a minor issue that cause the dog little problem or pain or serious enough to require surgical correction.
Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have OFA patella (knee) clearances as well as certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that their eyes are healthy. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Pet Insurance for Shihpoos
Pet insurance for Shihpoos costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Shihpoos are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Shihpoos are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Shihpoo is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.