Raising and caring for a healthy and happy Shihpoo is more than just providing healthy food and taking him or her for a daily walk. It involves healthy interactions with people and other dogs as well as offering challenges dogs find naturally interesting. Nor is it overly zen, avoiding consumer products and services.
What can you do to raise a happy and healthy Shihpoo dog?
Dogs have needs that, if fulfilled, will lead them to physical, mental and emotional well-being, starting with the fulfillment of their biological needs, followed by their emotional, social, developmental and intentional needs.
Having spent nearly two decades in the nonprofit community, I learned years ago about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory asserting that happiness and satisfaction are achieved in a step-by-step process. First, your physiological needs must be met. Next, you must have safety and security. Then comes your need for belonging (relationships and love), followed by your need for self-respect and recognition. Finally, the pinnacle of this hierarchy, often portrayed as the top of a pyramid, is your self-actualization, or your ability to create, explore your morality, solve problems, and accept reality.
There are huge assumptions here, but many believe dogs, including your Shihpoo puppy, can achieve a state of happiness by following a similar theory of need fulfillment. Here is one such adaptation of Maslow’s pyramid:
Using this pyramid as the basis for meeting your Shihpoo’s needs and helping him or her achieve happiness and health, the following list of activities, products, and other ideas provides a path you can take to fulfill your puppy’s needs.
It is difficult to concern yourself with your emotional and social fulfillment when you struggle to feel safe, warm, and fed. This argument easily transfers to the dog world as well.
1. Provide sufficient and nutritional food for your puppy. Puppies have specific nutritional needs for their fast-growing bodies. Choose a puppy food whose first ingredient is meat (not meat byproducts or meal made from meat) followed by whole grains. See our recommendations here.
2. Provide your adult Shihpoo with proper nutrition. As your Shihpoo reaches adulthood (around 9-12 months), choose a daily adult food that offers him or her the protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals required for overall good health.
3. Offer your senior Shihpoo appropriate nutrition for his or her aging body Older Shihpoos should not eat the same food as younger puppies because their bodies will not process it the same. It might lead to weight gain, kidney trouble, or other issues. Starting around 8 to 10 years of age, switch your Shihpoo to a food recommended for her or his specific needs.
4. Apportion the right amount of food for your Shihpoo. Obviously, as descendants of wolves, dogs are pack animals and look to their Alpha dog for leadership and cues. When it comes to table manners, the Alpha dog eats first. Of course, they all want to become alpha dogs, so if you allow your Shihpoo to eat just before you (or you leave the food bowl near the dinner table), your tiny canine will quickly feel he or she has become the Alpha dog. Consider crating your puppy just before and for the duration of family meals. Or, you may consider getting a dog food bowl on a timer so your puppy learns to eat on a routine. Find a recommendation at the bottom of our food and treats page.
5. Slow down your speed-eating Shihpoo. Many dogs will eat when they are hungry and then stop when they are full. However, some dogs, like many humans, will continue to eat even after they are full. Our youngest Shihpoo ate so fast as a puppy that he would promptly throw up what he had just eaten. We also worried that he would choke on his food. That’s when we discovered the amazing slow feeders. These dog food dishes are designed to slow the process of eating by as much as 10 times (90%). Plus, you can get them in a variety of colors. See the bottom of our Food and Treats recommendations page for a link.
6. Keep your Shihpoo hydrated. Whether you choose a standard water bowl or an automatic water dispenser, make sure it is either smooth stainless steel or ceramic to minimize the growth of any unhealthy biofilm. We use bowls with a rubber rim to keep it from slipping.
7. Automatic water dispenser. If you are concerned about forgetting to fill your dog’s water dish, should consider an automatic water dispenser. Be sure to choose one with a smooth steel or ceramic bowl.
8. Hydrate your Shihpoo when out and about. Dogs need water when out for a walk, hike or a jog. There are bottles made specifically for such activities that make it easy for your puppy to lap up some water when away from home.
Safety and Security
9. Crate. As descendants of wolves, the vast majority of dogs not only tolerate being placed in crates but thrive. To your Shihpoo, a small or medium crate harkens back to the dens of their ancestors. Your Shihpoo’s crate, with or without a door, represents protection from danger and security for sleeping and resting.
10. Bedding. Be sure to provide your Shihpoo with a comfortable bed. When our first puppy was young, he chewed up and destroyed every pillow and bed we put in his crate. After spending nearly $100 for what turned out to be piles of stuffing, we just threw in two old, fluffy towels until he outgrew the chewing phase.
When choosing a bed, consider the fabric inside and covering the cushion. A nylon cover frayed immediately after a bite or two from our puppy. We also worried about cushions with stuffing that could choke a small dog.
11. Fences, Barriers, and Gates. Safety and security involve the principle of protection. Fences and gates may feel like restrictions but they also serve the purpose of protection. Be sure your back yard has a fence that will not permit your Shihpoo to sneak through, dig under, or jump over. The fence should also keep out intruders and other dangers.
Our back yard fence has four dogs on the other side, and our puppies want to meet and play with each of them. At times, it has led to digging from both sides. As you can imagine, with small puppies, it would not take much of a hole under the fence to have guests (welcomed or not).
Whether you use a dig fence or add privacy netting to the bottom of your fencing, be sure your back yard is a safe place for your puppy.
12. Protection from the Elements. Shihpoos are only distantly related to Huskies, American Eskimos, Malamutes and other breeds sporting heavy winter coats. Your Shihpoo has only minimal protection against the cold. While she or he will be fine heading outside for a few minutes to take care of some potty business, do not leave your puppy in snow or extreme cold temperatures for long periods of time.
Additionally, he or she does not have the body and the regulatory system meant for long periods of exposure to intense summer temperatures. Your Shihpoo’s ancestors were bred to be indoor companions. If you would like your puppy to be healthy and happy, keep him or her inside where temperatures range between 60° and 80°.
13. Microchipped. While your Shihpoo may not appreciate the insertion of a microchip in her or his lower back, you will greatly appreciate it if your puppy ever bolts from fear, excitement, or some other natural instinct. While Lost-Dog Posters can be just as effective early on at finding your runaway, a microchip is a critical tool in recovering lost dogs.
Dogs who are on the run are rarely happy and usually scared. Otherwise sweet, sociable, and obedient dogs often become unruly and skittish when lost, reverting to survival instincts of a lone animal. Have your Shihpoo microchipped to give him or her the best chance of being found and returned home in case of becoming lost.
Health and Comfort
14. Immunize your Shihpoo. There should be no debate as to the benefits of immunizing your puppy. Before you even bring him or her home, choose a veterinarian and schedule your first visit. Some vaccines are required (typically rabies) while most are highly recommended. From parainfluenza to canine distemper, from kennel cough to Lyme disease and coronavirus, you should get your puppy the recommended vaccinations on schedule. When you meet with your veterinarian, be sure to ask about proper dosing for your tiny dog. See the AKC’s recommended puppy vaccination schedule here.
15. Groom your Shihpoo. Brushing out your Shihpoo’s hair and keeping it trimmed is not just for looks and style. Grooming is a health-promoting habit that keeps your Shihpoo’s hair from matting. Matted hair can lead to a plethora of problems, from soars and bleeding skin patches to breeding grounds for fleas and parasites, to bruising and even pain for your puppy. If your puppy has matted hair, see our de-matting tool recommendations at the bottom of our grooming page.
16. Bathe your Shihpoo. Some dogs need baths more frequently than others. While some recommend bathing your dog every one to four weeks, I appreciate these two pieces of advice when it comes to knowing if your Shihpoo needs washing: 1) if you smell your puppy when she or he enters the room, it is time for a bath, and 2) if your puppy is muddy or covered in filth, it is bath time. Just be sure to avoid using human shampoos or shampoos that are too harsh on your puppy’s skin.
17. Minimize Poop in the Yard: If your Shihpoo poops in the back yard, you should pick up the poop about once a week. You should notice that your puppy poops in one or two parts of the yard, typically where she or he does not play or run. If you struggle to clear the area weekly, consider hiring a neighborhood girl or boy to do so for you. You might pay a kid from about fourth grade on (8 or 9 years old) around half the hourly minimum page in your area to pick up your yard (this assumes it will take 30 minutes, which might be the case for younger kids).
Getting some physical exercise daily will promote your Shihpoo’s general health. Although your Shihpoo needs minimal exercise, you should still provide opportunities for her or him to run and get her or his heart rate up for a 10 to 15 minutes a day.
18. Take your Shihpoo on lots of walks. Most Shihpoo love going for walks. They love the walking. They love looking out for other dogs in the neighborhood. They love the sites and sounds and smells. Plus, they need the exercise. Take your Shihpoo on at least one walk a day of one-half to one mile.
19. Let your Shihpoo enjoy nearby hikes. If you live near open space, walking trails, foothills, or mountain paths, take your Shihpoo with you next time you head into the great outdoors. If you make it part of your routine, your Shihpoo may enjoy it more than any other activity.
20. Go for a jog with your Shihpoo. Despite their short legs, Shihpoos can very much enjoy a nice job around the neighborhood. Read about our puppy’s jogging here. You may need to keep your jogging to around a mile once or twice a day, but many Shihpoos will have no trouble running a 15-minute mile.
21. Have some playtime in the park. Where there is grass, there is a chance for your Shihpoo to have some fun. From getting a whiff of other dogs who have been there to chasing after a ball or Frisbee, your Shihpoo will experience the joy of novelty and freedom at the park. Be sure to observe leash laws and to minimize chances for your puppy to run off.
While promoting your Shihpoo’s health, you can also focus on his or her emotional needs. Dogs experience many of the same emotions as people do, from joy and love to anger and disgust. While it appears they do not experience higher-level emotions such as guilt, shame, and pride, developing and expressing their basic emotions is healthy and is critical to their long-term well-being.
Relationships with People
We often associate just two or three emotions with our Shihpoo: love, happiness, and joy. However, we should be aware of the variety of emotions our Shihpoo experiences in order to help her or him both cope and thrive.
22. Praise your Shihpoo. Love is the easy emotion to satisfy. How could you not want to do anything and everything to keep your puppy safe, healthy and content? Love, though, is not giving your puppy everything you can think of. It is providing for your puppy’s physical, emotional, social, and developmental needs. You can overindulge a puppy just as you can spoil a child, although entitlement may be a human emotion.
A fascinating experiment discussed in this National Geographic article showed that most dogs are equally motivated by both treats (food) and by praise from their owner. Yay! Your Shihpoo’s love is not just about the food. Be sure to praise your puppy regularly, sincerely, and frequently.
23. Calm your puppy’s fear. Fear is a basic emotion all mammals experience. Fear helps humans and dogs alike to avoid danger. You may not be able to, or even want to, eliminate fear from your Shihpoo’s life, but when fear happens, you can offer comfort and confidence.
24. Offer your Shihpoo joy. From taking your puppy on a walk to sharing a treat on the couch, you can and should provide opportunities each day for your puppy to experience joy. Your Shihpoo may experience joy differently than our Shihpoos. Pay attention to what your Shihpoo enjoys. Our Shihpoos find joy in playing fetch and in relaxing on our laps. Going for a walk is another source of joy and excitement.
25. Calm your Shihpoo’s anger. When you notice your puppy yawning a lot or shaking like s/he’s trying to get water off her or his back, that may be a sign your dog is irritated or upset. If you are doing something or talking in a way that might be the source of this irritation, stop and, instead, give your puppy a closed smile (no teeth). Your puppy loves your smiles.
Additionally, if you or someone else is holding your puppy and he or she will not stop licking his or her lips, that is likely a sign of irritation. Set your puppy down.
As descendants from wolves, dogs thrive in packs or groups. You can help your Shihpoo feel part of a pack by involving her or him in social settings with other dogs. The other dogs need not be Shihpoos, Shih Tzus, Poodles, or even, though preferably, the same size.
26. Consider an animal sibling. Our first Shihpoo followed us around for hours on end with pleading eyes. He seemed to be saying, “I’m so bored! Please play with me!” It did not matter if we were in the kitchen or getting out of the shower. You might think, as we did, that getting another dog would solve the problem of your puppy’s boredom. Be careful not to rush into such a situation. It is not without a lot of work. Whether you decide to get a dog or a cat, having another pet can provide your puppy with a play companion. However, you must introduce them properly, taking a couple of days to keep them in separate rooms while they adjust.
27. Have regular playdates with your Shihpoo’s best friend. Dogs may be man’s (or woman’s) best friend, but your puppy is also allowed to have a best friend. Whether you meet on a walk or at a park, find another pet family that you can set up “play dates” with at the park. Do not do the play dates at each other’s homes since territoriality can cause problems. When taking toys to the park to share, do not use a toy that belongs to one dog or the other. Have balls or toys that are used only when the two dogs are together.
28. Let your Shihpoo stop and smell the, well, pee. Like most of you, we have found that our Shihpoos love the chance to leave their pee everywhere and explore new scents and odors while on walks around the neighborhood. Instead of seeing your puppy’s passion for peeing on everything tree, bush and post they pass as territory marking, think of it instead as participation in the neighborhood’s canine social media. Smelling spots other dogs have urinated or pooped can tell your Shihpoo how many dogs have been in the area, which ones (if he or she has met them before), how long ago the other dogs were there, what their gender is, and even what they have been eating.
The red fire hydrant is like Facebook for dogs. Everyone posts what they had for dinner and when. Who knows, they may even be leaving their favorite cat jokes somehow.
Besides meeting a favorite dog friend or two on a regular basis, give your puppy plenty of opportunities to meet unfamiliar dogs and be comfortable around them.
29. Visit dog parks. These are great places for social interactions. Obviously, you will not take your young Shihpoo until your veterinarian instructs you it is safe to go to such places. But, dog parks are fun for your puppy, whether this is one other dog there or fifty. Just pay attention to your Shihpoo, and watch for signs he or she is getting overwhelmed with the constant social interactions. You may need to pick up your puppy and take a break.
30. Take social walks. Not all walks with your dog are the same or serve the same purpose. Most walks are meant to get your puppy some fresh air and improve her or his physical help. Every week or so, though, you might consider taking your Shihpoo on a social walk around the neighborhood. You might even call it a wander rather than a walk. Be ready and willing to stop to visit with other people walking their dogs, and let your puppy meet and get to know the other dogs.
Establishing a secure and stable home gives your Shihpoo the confidence to explore his or her world, develop skills, and follow individual interests without the fear of unexpected negative consequences.
Like people, dogs actually thrive when there are rules and the rules are respected. A responsible Shihpoo owner and family will set reasonable rules and stay consistent in enforcing and respecting them. Do so provides your Shihpoo a sense of stability that goes beyond physical safety while also helping her or him to avoid confusing and conflicting signals from you.
Be sure that all members of your household understand the rules and teach them and respond to them uniformly for your puppy’s benefit.
31. Set limits. If you have pieces of furniture and/or rooms that are off-limits for your Shihpoo, make sure that everyone in the household KNOWS about the limits and that everyone ENFORCES the limitations. With consistency, your puppy will learn to be comfortable finding an acceptable place to lay down.
32. Barking. Shihpoos are not major barkers and are certainly not little yippers (the constant high-pitched barks of breeds like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians). Still, you should train your puppy early to understand the “speak” and the “quiet” commands. By knowing when and when not to bark, you can help your puppy avoid the anxiety that comes with displeasing you.
33. Potty place. Make sure your Shihpoo has a place for taking care of her or his business. Hopefully, you have a back yard your puppy can use. Some pet families have just their apartments and no yard, so a potty pad or an indoor artificial turf pad may be the only option. Consistency is the key.
Dogs do not feel limited by routines but thrive within them. Consistency leads to expectations which allow your Shihpoo to anticipate and grow his or her excitement. Routines are just traditions in micro-versions. Who doesn’t love traditions? Here are a few routines to put into place in your Shihpoo home:
34. Bedtime. Although children (and many adults) do all they can to stay up late to suck as much living time out of the day as possible, your Shihpoo will appreciate a regular bedtime and a routine to go with it. Our Shihpoos’ evening routine involves just three things: 1) letting them outside for potty, indicated with the word, “outside,” 2) brushing their teeth in the laundry room sink, indicated with the word, “teeth,” and 3) heading to the crates for the night with the word, “bed.” At this point, they know what is coming and are so excited they start jumping in circles. Once they are in their crates with the doors shut, they get a Dentastix treat and we turn out the lights. It is the only routine they get so animated over.
35. Mealtime. Early on, we used to put our first Shihpoo (when he was our only Shihpoo) in his crate before we all sat down for a meal. After dinner, we would let him out and he would run to his bowl for dinner. There was no whining, no scratching at our legs, and no begging for table scraps. The challenge is just consistency.
36. Potty breaks. Especially when potty training your young puppy, be sure to practice a routine. We used the potty bell on the back door (see our training video here). The routine involved paying attention to when the puppy ate or drank. Five to ten minutes later, we would take him over to the back door, use his front paw to ring the bell, and then let him out to the back yard. Initially, we would even carry him out to the law to set him down and then give him a training treat as soon as he peed.
37. Playtime. When I walk in the door at the end of the day, it’s playtime with our Shihpoos. After saying hello, they bring me a ball and we play for five minutes or so.
38. Walking time. Make walking time part of your routine. Whether it is right before or after breakfast, in the middle of the day, or just before sundown, take your Shihpoo on a walk at the same time every day. Be sure to say “Walk” before heading to the door for the harness and leash. Our dogs get so excited for their walk they can hardly sit still for the harness.
Like humans, dogs love the challenge of games. Even their wolf cousins play games as pups. Games are a way for us to learn skills, sharpen our minds, and stay interested in many parts of life. Here are a few of our Shihpoos’ favorites:
39. Fetch. Nothing beats a good game of fetch with your Shihpoo. You can get down on the floor or stay in your seat. Your puppy will bring the ball or toy back to you. Whether he or she drops it or lets it go is another matter, but playing fetch is a great mood enhancer that meets your puppy’s developmental needs. She or he learns something about how the toy bounces or slides every time you through it.
40. Tug of War. Games of fetch with our Shihpoos usually end in a game of tug of war with whatever toy or ball we were just tossing. Our younger puppy is great at dropping the ball, but our older puppy prefers tug of war to fetch and would spend an hour pulling and yanking and shaking the toy or ball if we let him. For puppies, tug of war is almost like a game of chess. They try to surprise you with a yank on the toy, hoping to catch you off guard. It’s great for the Shihpoo’s developmental needs.
41. Tag / Chase. Playing tag with your Shihpoo can help meet his or her developmental needs by challenging the puppy to consider and reconsider strategies to catch you. Tag may seem like a mindless game, but it meets some of your puppy’s basic needs to develop skills and hone instincts.
This is the part of the pyramid that gets a big fuzzy and speculative. While scientific studies have clearly shown that dogs experience many basic emotions, it has not shown anything in dogs akin to higher thinking, reasoning, or complex emotions.
Still, your puppy can find joy and satisfaction when participating in more difficult activities and games.
42. Hide ‘n’ Seek. Hide ‘n’ Seek in particular can fulfill your puppy’s drive to develop complex skills. Give her or him the Sit and Stay commands before showing her or him a favorite toy. Then, go into another room, repeating “Stay” as needed. Finally, give the “Seek” command (or “Come” if need be). Start with easy hiding places, such as next to bookshelves or in a room corner before trying more difficult hiding spots like behind hanging clothing or under a bed.
Plus, when she or he finds you, you give your puppy a big ol’ “Good dog!” praise, and now your meeting two needs at once (see #22 above).
Achievement and Performance
43. Find and build on your Shihpoo’s strengths. Search and rescue dog handlers already know that some dogs thrive on free, open range searches (nose in the air) while others appear much more intent on grid searches (nose to the ground), regardless of what the ultimate find is.
If your dog excels at obedience and performance, you might consider training him or her for shows. Although you cannot enter your Shihpoo into most American Kennel Club, the Club introduced more than a decade ago agility, rally, and obedience competitions for mixed breed dogs. See more here.
How can you tell if your Shihpoo is sad? Watch for signs of anxiety and stress in your Shihpoo. These include your dog licking his or her lips when held, avoiding eye contact, shaking his or her whole body (as if shaking off water), and seeking isolation.
How can you cheer up a Shihpoo? Your Shihpoo will generally appreciate a snack (although you should minimize this method to avoid weight gain), a game of fetch, playing tug of war, and going for a walk.