Sarah Mouton Dowdy
By Sarah Mouton Dowdy. Reviewed by Veronica Higgs, DVM on Aug. 21, 2023
brown shih-poo dog sitting and looking at the camera

In This Article

General Care

What do you get when you mix the lovable (and loving!) Shih Tzu with the curly-coated, clever Toy Poodle? A Shih-poo! That’s the most common name for this cutie, though you may also hear this mixed breed referred to as a “Shoodle.” 

The Shih-poo is a relatively new mix and is not yet recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club. Without a breed standard, it can be difficult to make absolute statements regarding the Shih-poo’s temperament and appearance. However, the two parent breeds are well established and serve as a helpful template for making predictions. 

According to the Shih Tzu breed standard, the “sole purpose” of the breed is to be a “companion and house pet.” Thus, a properly socialized Shih Tzu is “outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly, and trusting towards all.” The Toy Poodle, on the other hand, is described by the breed standard as “very active” and “intelligent” with an “air of distinction and dignity peculiar to himself.” When these temperaments combine, you can typically expect a Shih-poo dog that’s smart, friendly, and confident.

Caring for a Shih-Poo

Small in stature, low in shedding, high in intelligence, and with moderate energy and exercise requirements (around 30 minutes a day), Shih-poos can be a great choice for new pet parents and apartment dwellers.

Their friendly, outgoing demeanor means the breed can do well with family members of all ages (including children and older adults) and even with other dogs and cats. In return, Shih-poos need plenty of companionship, regular grooming, rewards-based training, and an indoor home.

As for their appearance, there are very few definites. Shih-poo coats can vary in length, can be straight or curly, and can come in a variety (and even combination) of colors, including white, black, and brown.

But there’s one characteristic you can count on: The Shih-poo size is small. Shih Tzus weigh 8–18 pounds, Toy Poodles range 4–6 pounds, and both breeds’ maximum height is around 10 inches. A Shih-poo, full grown, will stay around this tiny size.

Shih-Poo Health Issues

Both Shih Tzu and Toy Poodles are healthy breeds with life expectancies of 13–17 years and 10–18 years, respectively, and the Shih-poo’s lifespan is similar. Still, like all dogs, the two breeds are prone to various health conditions that can be passed on to their offspring.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to a loose joint and degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis). Both Shih Tzu and Toy Poodles are prone to this condition.

Mild cases are treated with interventions including physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs, but severe cases may require surgery.

Common signs of hip dysplasia include:

  • Limping

  • Reluctance to get up or jump

  • Shifting of weight to front legs

  • Loss of muscle mass in the back legs

  • Hip pain

Patellar Luxation

When the patella (kneecap) shifts outside its normal groove within the femur (thigh bone), it’s termed patellar luxation (dislocation). This condition is more prevalent in smaller breeds. While in some dogs a luxating patella doesn’t cause problems, severe cases may require surgery.

Signs of patellar luxation include:

  • Limping

  • Bunny-hopping

  • A popping or cracking noise from the knee joint

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease (or gum disease) is a progressive condition where bacteria accumulate in the mouth, leading to damage to the dog’s gums, bones, and other tissues. While the disease is common in all dogs, small and toy breeds are especially prone to the problem. 

Mild cases may simply require a professional dental cleaning, while severely affected teeth must be extracted. Frequent tooth brushing at home (at least three times a week) and regular professional cleanings are the best way to prevent periodontal disease. 

Eye Problems

Shih Tzu are prone to several eye conditions, including cataracts, dry eye syndrome, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Toy Poodles are also more susceptible to developing PRA. 

  • Cataracts: Normal, healthy lenses are clear and allow light to easily pass through to the retina. Cataracts cause the lens to become cloudy, obstructing light from reaching the retina and causing vision loss. If you notice cloudiness or signs of vision loss (like clumsiness) in your dog, notify your veterinarian. Cataracts are progressive but can be treated with surgery.

  • Dry eye syndrome: Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), occurs when a dog doesn’t produce enough tears to properly lubricate their eyes and protect them from infection and irritations. Signs of dry eye syndrome include red and inflamed eyes, pain, redness and swelling of the tissues around the eye, increased blinking, and a mucus-like discharge on the cornea. Most cases are treated with a medication that stimulates tear production. 

  • Progressive retinal atrophy: Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an umbrella term for a family of eye disorders in which the rods and cones of the retina either don’t develop properly in puppies (early-onset PRA) or begin deteriorating in adulthood (late-onset PRA). Signs of disease include reluctance to enter dark spaces, clumsiness, and cataracts. There is no cure for PRA and the condition eventually leads to blindness.

Von Willebrand Disease

Both parents of the Shih-poo are genetically predisposed to developing von Willebrand disease (vWD), a common bleeding disorder. It’s caused by a deficiency in von Willebrand Factor proteins, which decreases a dog’s ability to form a clot if they’re injured and bleeding. The condition can’t be cured, but it can be managed with blood transfusions.

Signs of vWD include:

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is a condition in which the head of the femur bone spontaneously deteriorates. This causes the hip joint to disintegrate, leading to bone and joint inflammation (osteoarthritis). While the exact cause is unknown, it most often affects toy, miniature, and small-breed dogs. Many affected dogs require surgery to remove part of the femur, followed by a rigorous exercise and physical therapy regimen. 

Signs of Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease include:

  • Gradual lameness

  • Lifting affected limb(s) when walking

  • Pain when moving the hip joint

  • Loss of thigh muscle on affected limb(s)

What To Feed a Shih-Poo

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” recommendation for feeding your Shih-poo. You’ll need to work with your veterinarian to develop a feeding plan that’s nutritionally complete and balanced for your pup’s age, weight, and health. Even the size of the kibble is important, as small teeth need small kibble. 

How To Feed a Shih-Poo

Shih-poo puppies need frequent meals—three or four a day—to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Adult dogs can be fed less frequently, typically two or three times a day. Your vet can help you determine the best schedule for your Shih-poo. 

How Much Should You Feed a Shih-Poo?

The nutrition label on your dog’s food bag includes a feeding guide that gives you a general idea of how much to feed your Shih-poo based on their weight. But for a more precise answer, ask your veterinarian. Your vet will tailor their recommendation to your dog’s weight, body condition score, lifestyle, and health needs. Be sure to factor any treats into your Shih-poo’s daily calories, too.

Nutritional Tips for Shih-Poos

If your Shih-poo is eating a complete and balanced diet of dog food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), they shouldn’t need anything extra.

However, nutritional supplements and even prescription diets are sometimes used to treat or prevent certain health conditions. Given the parent breeds’ predisposition for developing periodontal disease, your vet may recommend dental chews as a precaution—though they won’t replace regular brushing!

Talk to your veterinary team before adding anything new to your dog’s diet, including supplements.

Behavior and Training Tips for Shih-Poos

Shih-Poo Personality and Temperament

It’s convenient that Shih-poos are so compact and portable, because they would very much like to spend all day by your side. Going for a walk? They’re game. Running errands? That’s on their list, too. Watching television? You’re not going to do that alone. 

When properly socialized and trained, Shih-poos can become fast friends with humans and other animals alike.

Shih-Poo Behavior

Shih-poos need companionship. In addition to sharing everyday life with them, you’ll need to devote around 30 minutes a day to mental stimulation and physical exercise to satisfy their brain and body. Boredom can lead to unwanted behaviors like barking and chewing

Shih-Poo Training

All dogs go through a critical development period from birth to around 16 weeks of age. During this time, they learn how to interact with humans and other animals. Talk to your Shih-poo breeder about how they approach socialization. If done well, it can pay big dividends in adulthood.

Both Shih Tzu and Toy Poodles are quite trainable, in part because Shih Tzu are so eager to please and Poodles are so eager to show off their smarts. The Shih-poo combines both qualities, though their confidence can lead to a bit of willfulness at times.

Consistent positive reinforcement training that uses rewards instead of punishment is the best way to teach your pup while building the human-animal bond. Just remember that if you’re using treats as a reward, you need to factor them into your dog’s daily calorie count. Play, toys, and other things your dog enjoys can also be used as rewards.  

Fun Activities for Shih-Poos

Shih-Poo Grooming Guide

Medium. Long. Curly. Straight. Any of these adjectives could describe a Shih-poo’s coat. But, while the breed is low on shedding, that doesn’t mean they’re low-maintenance. It takes work to keep their luscious locks free from tangles.

Skin Care

Good coat care is the foundation of good skin care. Matting can trap moisture, debris, and other irritants next to your Shih-poo’s skin, so it’s essential to keep their hair free from problems. 

Ask your veterinarian how often you should bathe your Shih-poo. Keep in mind that bathing your pup too often can strip their skin of healthy oils and lead to dryness and itchiness. 

Coat Care

Expect your pup to require daily brushing and a trip to the groomer every one to two months. Shorter haircuts can make your brushing duties easier.

Eye Care

Because both parent breeds are prone to eye issues, closely monitor your Shih-poo’s eyes for signs of problems like cloudiness and inflammation. Keep the hair around their eyes trimmed to avoid irritation.

Shih Tzus and Toy Poodles can also be prone to tear staining. If you suddenly notice the characteristic reddish-brown stains on your dog’s face, contact your veterinarian, as this can sometimes indicate an underlying medical issue. That said, tear stains typically aren’t problematic and simply need to be cleaned with a dog-safe wipe.

Ear Care

Between the Shih Tzu’s floppy ears and the Toy Poodle’s long ear canals, Shih-poos are at risk of developing the same ear infections that can plague their parents. Ask your veterinarian how and how often you should clean your dog’s ears, and remember to keep ear hairs trimmed. If you see signs of infection (redness, odor, pain, itchiness), it’s time to visit the vet.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Here are some questions to consider before adding a Shih-poo to your family:

  1. Can I brush a dog’s coat at least once a day? 

  2. Am I financially prepared to provide professional grooming services every one to two months?

  3. Can I brush a dog’s teeth at least three times a week?

  4. Am I home enough to give a dog companionship? And am I OK with having a canine shadow follow me around the house?

  5. Do I have the time to provide a dog with mental and physical exercise every day? 

  6. Do I have the skills, patience, and dedication to train a dog using positive reinforcement?

  7. Am I financially prepared to provide veterinary care?  

  8. Can I provide a dog with a loving home for their lifetime, which could be 18 years or more?

If you can answer these questions with an enthusiastic “Yes!” you may be ready to parent a Shih-poo. 

Shih-Poo FAQs

What does a Shih-Poo look like?

There are white, cream, red, brown, and black Shih-poos—and some who are any color in between. Their coat can be straight or in tight curls. There is widespread variation in how they can look, thanks to their parent breeds.

Is a Shih-poo a good pet?

Absolutely. Is the Shih-poo a good pet for you? That’s tougher to answer! The breed tends to be highly adaptable and friendly with people of all ages (including older adults and young children) and with other pets. If you’re willing and able to provide an indoor home, close companionship, daily physical and mental stimulation, regular grooming to avoid matting, and consistent positive training, the Shih-poo may be a good fit for you.

Is a Shih-poo hypoallergenic?

Both of the Shih-poo’s parent breeds have long hair. But despite their furry features, they don’t shed very much. This can be helpful for people with allergies, though no dog is truly hypoallergenic. If you’re concerned about allergies, spend time with the breed before bringing a Shih-poo puppy home. 

How long do Shih-poos live?

The average Shih-poo lifespan is anywhere between 10 and 18 years.

Featured Image: iStock/Roon Z/Wirestock

Sarah Mouton Dowdy


Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Freelance Writer

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