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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).
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 crossbreed is more or less allergenic than any other dog.
The Shihpoo is a crossbreed. Opening your heart and home to a crossbreed is like opening a beautifully wrapped package on your birthday: you never know what’s going to be inside. It’s often assumed that a crossbreed will combine the best of two or more breeds, but genetics doesn’t always 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. That’s something to keep in mind before you lay down lots of money for a dog that you have been assured will be hypoallergenic or healthier than a purebred.
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.
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.
People have been crossing types of dogs for millennia in the attempt to achieve a certain look, temperament or working ability. That’s how many well-known purebreds, including the Affenpinscher, Australian Shepherd, Black Russian Terrier, Brussels Griffon, Doberman Pinscher, German Wirehaired Pointer, Leonberger and more, originally got their start.
But crossing two breeds over and over does not a breed make. A breed is a group of animals related by descent from common ancestors and visibly similar in most characteristics. To achieve consistency in appearance, size and temperament, breeders must select the puppies with the traits they want and breed them over several generations for the traits to become set.
Crossbreeds such as the Shihpoos here have become popular over the past 10 or 20 years as people seek out dogs that are different from the everyday Yorkie or Poodle or that they think will have certain appealing characteristics. For instance, it’s often claimed (falsely, by the way) that crossbreeds are hypoallergenic or have fewer health problems or will carry the best traits of each breed.
Unfortunately, genes aren’t quite that malleable. Genetic traits sort out randomly in each dog, so without selecting for certain characteristics over many generations, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the best of each breed. And no matter what his breed or mix, an individual dog may be more or less allergenic or intelligent or healthy.
Whatever his breed, cross, or mix, love your dog for what he is: a unique, special and loving companion.
Temperament is affected partly by inheritance and partly by environment, so it can be variable. A Shihpoo’s temperament depends on several things including the temperaments of his parents, especially the mother, who is more likely to influence a puppy’s behavior; the amount of socialization he receives; and the particular genes he inherits. Both Shih Tzu and Poodles tend to be friendly and outgoing, but how your puppy turns out depends on the genetic luck of the draw, what he learns from his mother and littermates, and the amount of socialization he gets before and after he goes to his new home. Puppies should not be shy or aggressive. Say no thanks if a puppy’s parents won’t let you approach them, run away from you, or growl at you, or if puppies do any of those things.
Train your Shihpoo with positive reinforcement techniques, showing him what you like by rewarding him with praise, play and treats. He will enjoy learning if you can show what’s in it for him.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Shihpoo, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs, whether purebreds, crossbreeds, or mixes, have the potential to develop genetic health problems, 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 mixed breed 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 mixed breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. Shihpoos may be susceptible to the health problems of both the Shih Tzu and Toy Poodle, but there’s also a chance that the genetic diversity introduced by mixing two breeds may lower the chances of developing certain inherited diseases. The very nature of genetic variation makes this difficult to predict for a mixed breed dog. Please refer to the breed guides on Shih Tzus and Toy Poodles for an overview of some of the inherited diseases reported in these two breeds.
Not all inherited conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for genetic defects and deemed healthy for breeding. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of the puppy’s parents have the appropriate certifications from health registries like the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Canine Eye Registry Foundation, etc.
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.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Shihpoo at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
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. Your best bet 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 helps prevent urine from staining and stinking up the coat and feces from getting caught in the hair around the anus.
In addition, trim his nails every week or two, keep his ears clean and dry, and brush his teeth regularly -- daily if you can,with a vet-approved pet toothpaste. Small dogs are especially prone to periodontal disease. Start grooming your Shihpoo while he is a puppy so he learns to accept it willingly.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
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 choose to purchase a Shihpoo, select a breeder who has done the health testing to ensure that her puppies won’t carry the genetic diseases common to Shih Tzu and Poodles. If you are going to pay several hundred dollars or even $1,000 or more for a dog, you should get your money’s worth. Buying from a breeder who is smart and caring enough to do health certifications, even for a crossbreed, is the best way to do that. 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.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the crossbreed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Shihpoo puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale and whether he has obtained health clearances on the pup’s parents. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Shihpoo might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com can have you searching for a Shihpoo in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Shihpoos available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Shihpoo. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Shihpoo, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Shihpoo to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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