Raising a Shihpoo Puppy the Easy Way


9 Common Challenges Families Face with Shihpoo Puppies… and How to Help

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You probably already know that Shihpoo puppies are the cutest and sweetest dogs around. They are usually the offspring of a Shih Tzu and a Poodle, meaning they can inherit some of the great qualities (or the not-so-great qualities) of each parent. Most Shihpoos can be a breeze to raise, but all dog breeds have their own personalities, and Shihpoos have a few tendencies that their families should know about ahead of time in order to be prepared. 

The 9 Most Common Challenges Families Face when Raising a Shihpoo Puppy

While these figures are based on a series of Facebook group polls administered in late 2020 and not scientifically-based research, the 398 responses offer great insight into what the mixed breed’s personality and behavior can be like for their families during their first twelve months of life. Knowing ahead of time what you might have to deal with can help you prepare.

The Method and the Meaning

It is critical to understand the format of the polls’ question so as not to misunderstand the responses. The question asked the respondents to identify which of the behaviors from the list they had to deal with during their Shihpoo puppy’s first year. It did not ask them which was the most common or which one was the most difficult to deal with. It did not ask them to note only the major challenges.

Consequently, while a large percentage of respondents identified three or four of the most common behavioral challenges they faced during their Shihpoo’s first year, you should not assume that Shihpoo’s present major problems in these areas. Many respondents included free responses that noted that even though they identified one or two challenges, those challenges were so minimal that they hardly considered them a problem.

The research does not identify any level of severity of the noted challenges, just the percentage of Shihpoo families who dealt with such challenges in any degree during their puppy’s first year.

#1 – Potty Training (51%)

Courtesy of PetButler

Not surprisingly, the top challenge Shihpoo puppy families faced had to do with potty training. While just over half the responding Shihpoo families identified potty training as an issue, most prospective Shihpoo families would like to know how that compares to the families of other breeds and mixed breeds.

Unfortunately, some Shihpoo owners have used the term “stubborn” when referring to their puppies. Others, before getting one, have asked whether Shihpoos in general are stubborn. It would be easy to assume that since 51% of Shihpoo families responded that they had trouble potty training their puppies, Shihpoos must therefore be stubborn.

Such should not be the assumption. First of all, the success of potty training has more to do with the owners and the environment than the puppy. All dogs inherit the wolf tendency to keep their den relatively clean.

Just because a Shihpoo pees in your bedroom does not mean he or she isn’t potty trained. Shihpoos (and all dogs, really) need to learn what makes up their “den.” You start with their crate, move to a room in the house, and then introduce them to one room at a time, often taking days or weeks to let the dog get used to each room. By interacting with your Shihpoo in one room at a time, your puppy learns that the room is part of their family’s den.

When bringing a Shihpoo puppy into your home for the first time, prepare yourself ahead of time. Know what it takes to potty train a dog. Be ready to get up two or three times a night for the first couple of weeks to help the puppy make it through the night without an accident in the crate.

Look at the potty training from your dog’s perspective. If you want your dog to sleep on the bed, you might expect her or him not to have any accidents on the bed. In the dog’s mind, though, jumping down and defecating in the corner of the bedroom is their way of keeping their den clean.

Shihpoos, like other dogs, don’t carry grudges. They don’t seek revenge by pooping where you don’t want them to go. They will learn the potty training lessons you teach them. If you have not learned how to teach them before you bring them home, well, you’re both in for some frustrating learning experiences.

#2 – Separation Anxiety (19%)

One in five Shihpoo families reported having to deal with separation anxiety during their first year with their puppy. Separation anxiety can result from a number of possible issues. Before you bring a puppy into your home, consider how the following might affect his or her emotional security:

Too Young to Adopt

Although Shihpoos are the cutest and most adorable puppies ever (so say Shihpoo families), make sure you do not allow your own excitement to overwhelm your better judgment. Shihpoos, like all dogs, need to spend about two months with their mama and siblings to prevent separation anxiety. If you are working with a breeder who insists you must take possession of the dog before eight weeks, you should take that as a sign you are dealing with an inexperienced breeder or possibly even an unethical puppy mill. Please do yourself and your puppy a favor and leave the puppy with the mama and sibs for at least eight weeks.

Not Enough Bonding Time

If you bring a Shihpoo puppy into your home and expect to return to work full-time within a few days, leaving your puppy alone all day, you should not be surprised by the puppy’s separation anxiety. Young puppies know very little about life. They know they get milk from mama. They know they have playtime with their siblings. And they know that life smells like their mama’s den.

At seven weeks, most breeds wean the puppies onto good puppy food. We liked Iams ProActive for Puppies. Less than a week later, the new family takes the puppy away from its mama, siblings, familiar den, completely disorienting the dog. If you don’t take a week to bond with your puppy, interacting with him or her in the new home, and training her or him in the basics of going outside to potty, or eating from a bowl, and of playing together, you should not expect your puppy to be okay in your home alone without you.

Left Alone too Long

Our puppies have no problem spending three or four hours alone in their crates during the day. It actually builds on natural wolf instincts to sleep and stay much of the day in their dens.

However, the size of their bladders and the amount of energy they build up can make longer periods of time unbearable. If you must be gone all day for work, look into getting a sitter or walker to stop by for 30 minutes of playtime or exercise.

Shihpoos can make great apartment dogs, but every dog has physical and emotional needs met only by direct interaction with humans and other dogs.

Left too Exposed

Returning to the den instinct, many Shihpoos puppies actually appreciate close quarters. If you leave your puppy alone in a room or even in a large open pen, they don’t get the feeling of protection that a small pen or crate offers. They still have not learned that large hawks and other raptors don’t fly through your home looking for their next meal.

Give your Shihpoo a little peace of mind by offering them protection while you’re away. Give them a crate or other small enclosure to retreat to when they feel stressed. The Shihpoo’s crate is their baby’s blanket.

#3 – Chewing and Teething (15%)

The third most common challenging Shihpoo puppy behavior happens in nearly one in seven or one in eight Shihpoo households. As your puppy approaches adolescence, she or he may go through some very similar challenges to what human babies face. If you teach or visit any second-grade classroom anywhere in the world, you will notice a lot of missing teeth and hear kids singing, “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”

For Shihpoos, this typically starts to happen between the ages of four and six months and can extend for two to four months. We were picking baby Shihpoo teeth out of our carpet when our Shihpoo was ten or eleven months old.

As your puppy begins to teeth, be sure to have a variety of chews and toys for her or him to get through the process. Shihpoos experience sore and painful gums just like human children might. Consider getting a small chew with nubs to soothe the gums. Consider toys you can freeze and that will relieve some of the pain your Shihpoo might have before losing a tooth.

You can’t keep your Shihpoo from going through the teething process, but you can help your Shihpoo get through it with less discomfort and with less of a drive for chewing on your furniture, fingers, and other items of value.

#4 – Socializing (5%)

Just one in twenty Shihpoo families reporting experience socializing issues with their young puppies. If you plan to bring a Shihpoo into a home that already has other pets, be sure to read this Humane Society article that explains a clear method to doing so in order to minimize competition and disagreements between animals. It may take several days, but in the end, it will be worth it.

If you don’t have other animals in your home, you should also take care to socialize your Shihpoo with other dogs and even cats. Find a dog park near your home that you can go to once a week or so. Your puppy will benefit emotionally from interacting with other dogs.

However, avoid trying to socialize your dog with other dogs at home. Dogs are territorial creatures, and bringing another dog into the home, even for a short while, can threaten the security of the dog who lives there, triggering aggressive behavior in even the most docile dog.

If you don’t have a dog part in your town, make play dates with other dogs, but meet at local parks or other green spaces. Keep the setting neutral to minimize territoriality while maximizing playtime. Also, don’t bring your dog’s toys to share. Get “neutral” toys only used at neutral locations.

Still, with just 5% of families reporting the issue, most Shihpoos will get along great with other animals.

#5 (tie) – Training Commands/Health Issues (2.4%)

These two behaviors, like those that follow, are so minimal that it’s hard not to dismiss them as statistical anomalies.

Most Shihpoos inherit a fair degree of intelligence from their parents. Poodles, in particular, have a well-earned reputation for possessing above-average intelligence among dogs.

Like the potty training above, teaching your Shihpoo to obey basic commands will have more to do with you, your methods, and your persistence than with your puppy. Our two Shihpoos learned how to sit, come, and stay within a day. However, without persistent follow-up training, you won’t likely win “most obedient puppy” at the state fair.

As far as health issues go, Shihpoos might be susceptible to any issues a Shih Tzu or Poodle might face. Generally, though, most Shihpoos are healthy and happy dogs. As they age, they might have some hip or knee cap issues like other small dogs. However, with a healthy diet and regular exercise, your Shihpoo could live a long and happy life for over fifteen years.

We prefer rescuing a Shihpoo, but if you work with a breeder, find one that offers a health warranty, and not just an exchange policy. By the time you notice a health concern at six or eight months, you will be so attached to your puppy that you won’t be able to bring yourself to “returning” him or her.

#7 – Sleeping through the Night (1.8%)

You should expect your eight-week-old Shihpoo puppy to wake up in the night to go potty. Don’t be surprised if your ball of fur whines in his or her crate all night long for a few nights.

If you want your puppy to sleep with you, it might take a few nights. Otherwise, just exercise some patience as your Shihpoo adjusts to a new home. With our second Shihpoo, we had him sleep in his crate right next to our bed for the first two nights. When he whimpered every couple of hours, I would take him outside to go potty. He didn’t whimper after the first night. By the third night, he was sleeping for several hours at a time by himself in his crate in the bonus room. Within a week, he was sleeping through the night without whimpering and without accidents.

#8 (tie) – Crate Training/Other (1.2%)

Tied for eighth, crate training and other concerns don’t amount to much of a concern at all. Most Shihpoos obviously take to their traits without much trouble. Still, be sure to familiarize yourself and all other household members with the ins and outs (literally and figuratively) of crate training your Shihpoo.

Whether you choose to crate your dog or let her or him roam the home, your puppy will still appreciate having a crate to go to when things get stressful. Watch our video on how to choose the right crate for your puppy.

#10 – Diet/Eating (0.6%)

While an abundance of questions on Facebook Shihpoo groups revolves around food recommendations and getting your Shihpoo to eat properly, most families do not consider their puppy to have eating problems. Typically, though, when eating challenges arise, they do so around the onset of adolescence (five to seven months for most Shihpoos).

Like human teens, Shihpoo adolescents become much more aware of what they eat. Some might even become picky for a few weeks or months.

Generally, though, if you keep offering healthy food, don’t provide table scraps, and help them avoid spoiling their appetites with too many snacks (even healthy snacks), they will adjust to adult food around nine months to one year of age.

Related Questions

Are Shihpoos stubborn?

Most Shihpoo families would identify their Shihpoos as smart and clever, with some calling them too smart for their own good. With that intelligence, many learn to obey commands quickly. However, they also learn to find ways around subjective or unfair rules.

Do Shihpoos inherit any health problems from their parents?

While Shihpoos can inherit the same health problems that Shih Tzus and Poodles face, their risk of inheriting each is half of that of a purebred. Take your Shihpoo puppy to the veterinarian before or immediately after adoption for a general physical. Regular visits will help your puppy stay as healthy as possible.

Todd Christensen

Founder and lead blogger at ShihpooCentral.com, Todd loves his family's two Shih-poo puppies, Titus Rex and Stark Antonio (aka Sir Titus Whitus and Baron von Wigglebutt). He and his wife have four wonderful human children as well, and he doubles by day as a financial educator facilitating budgeting, credit building and debt elimination workshops.

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