The Shih-poo: Shih Tzu/Poodle Mix
Leo, the Shih-poo
Ball of fluff. Cotton-ball. Fluffy-puppy. All of these could describe my Shih Tzu/poodle mix, or Shih-poo, Leo, as a puppy. While the ethics of intentionally breeding mixed dogs may often come into question, almost everyone will agree that the resulting dogs are adorable. So it is with the Shih-poo. Whether you get your poodle-mix puppy from a breeder, a rescue organization, or the pound, the Shih-poo is a happy, friendly little dog that is 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 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 the Shih-poo is a mix, one has to look at the heritage of both sides for clues about his coat, size, appearance, and personality.
The Shih-poo Coat:
The poodle mix coat can have a lot of variety, but with a Shih Tzu/poodle cross, there is one thing you can count on: since both parents have long hair, he 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 the 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 and a year, the adult coat will start to come in and the puppy fur will fall out. During this time, the Shih-poo, as any other poodle or poodle mix, is very, 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 at this time; 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 from the puppy coat, although some breeders may try to give a buyer a general idea of what to expect. The fur can be soft and silky with slight wave, very poodle-like with a dense curly coat, or be anywhere in between. Some dogs may even have a slight mix, with very curly in some areas and somewhat straighter fur in other places.
Due to the long-growing coat, the Shih-poo grooming is rather high maintenance. Bathing them can be tricky, and they need to be brushed frequently or the fur kept trimmed short. Since I keep my shih poo’s hair long, he needs to be brushed daily to keep his coat looking nice, although there are times he simply has to go a day looking more like a ragamuffin than a dog, due to my schedule. But even during these times, he must be brushed several times a week to keep 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 far from the case. The truth is, a poodle mix might have at tendency to shed less and cause a lower allergic reaction, but there is no guarantee. While the Shih-poo is often hypoallergenic, if it is extremely important to you to have a dog that will not cause an allergic reaction, consider adopting an adult and testing whether or not you have a reaction before committing to any one dog.
The size of the Shih-poo has 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 Shih Tzu generally weighs 8 to 16 pounds. The toy poodle, which is normally used for breeding shih-poo puppies, is under 10 inches and weighs anywhere from 6 to 9 pounds. The miniature poodle, which may also be used, is 10 to 15 inches and weighs up to 17 pounds. Since the Shih-poo can fall anywhere between two parents in size, puppies can end up weighing from 6 to 16 pounds if they had a toy poodle parent or 8 to 17 pounds if they had a miniature poodle parent. Usually, however, the poodle parent is a toy and the vast majority of Shih-poos will end up weighing in the 8 to 16 pound range.
How do you predict your Shih-poo puppy’s size? If you are able to meet both the parents, you can roughly estimate the puppy will be somewhere between the two in size. If, on the other hand, you get a puppy without seeing the parents, you will just have to guess given he 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 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.
One of the major advantages the Shih-poo has over its Shih Tzu parent is the shape of his face; the Shih Tzu has an extremely flat face. In fact, many Shih Tzu 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 Shih-poo has a face that falls between the two, as with its overall size. This can result in a rounder, flatter face than the poodle, but a longer muzzle than the Shih-Tzu, compliments of the poodle parent. This longer muzzle also reduces the breathing issues that are common with the Shih Tzu.
The Shih Tzu has an under bite, and this trait is sometimes passed on 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 the parent breeds. One common issue Shih-poo owners have is with dogs that have a light colored coat. Frequently, these dogs end up with unsightly, reddish stains around the eyes. While these stains are not a problem for the dog, the owners often do not care for the appearance. Fortunately, this is not an issue an owner is just stuck with. The next article in this series will focus on several tricks an owner can try to remedy this problem. (Note: I will update this article when I publish the next. If you are having trouble with your Shih-poo’s eyes staining, feel free to follow or check back for the update later this week.)
The personality of the Shih-poo can vary, as with any other group of dogs; however, some generalities can be made. Shih-poos tend to be intelligent, a heritage from the poodle parent, and they are often more easily house trained than the Shih Tzu, although this depends a good deal on the method used for training, as well as the dog. Please note that I said often, and not always. My Leo, for example, took several months before he was reliable about not having accidents in the house.
Both the poodle and the Shih-Tzu are people oriented, and the Shih-poo is no exception to their parent’s tendencies. 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 have another companion. To guarantee that they get along with small children, the Shih-poo should be well socialized as a young puppy. Some poodles and Shih-Tzu’s 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, 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. They are quick to learn, however, if they are trained not to bark excessively.
The Shih-poo (Shih-Tzu/Poodle Mix) makes a wonderful pet. In general, they are playful, lively, intelligent, and extremely happy. Just as you would with any other dog, do your research into what dog is best for you before falling in love with that adorable face to make sure it is suited to your family and life-style, and as always, consider adopting a rescue.
You may also wish to read "Bringing a New Puppy Home: Supplies Needed for Your New Dog."