Havanese vs. Shih-Poo: Which Breed to Get?

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Havanese vs. Shih-PooDebating between two breeds of dogs can be very frustrating. It is hard to decide which breed will best suit your home and your needs, especially based on other people’s preferences and observations! Luckily, most dog breeds have certain personality traits and characteristics that are common across the breed, allowing you to best determine whether you and the breed will be compatible.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the Havanese and Shih-Poo – a cross between a Shih Tzu and a Poodle. So, which one – if either – should you be getting?

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Havanese vs. Shih-Poo: A Detailed Comparison

Let’s start by looking at the two side-by-side.


Each breed of dog has its own unique history.

The Havanese, for example, originate from Cuba in the 1500s. They are presumed to have developed from the Tenerife dogs that had been taken over to the country by travelers, and the breed quickly became a favorite among those in cities like Havana. The dog’s size and nature suited them to city-living, and soon the Havanese became the national dog of Cuba.

The breed spread elsewhere in the world when French visitors to Cuba encountered the breed and fell in love with them, taking their own back to Europe as pets. The breed entered the US along with its owners in the 1970s when many people fled Cuba during Castro’s revolution. In 1996, the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.

It is one of the few different types of bichon breeds.

The Shih-Poo, on the other hand, has a very short history. As a designer breed, they were bred to create a hypoallergenic, small and intelligent pet. They are not yet registered as an official breed, and it isn’t clear exactly when their breeding began.

The parent breeds, however, have a long history. Shih-Tzus were common dogs of Chinese royalty possibly as long as 1,000 years ago. The Poodle was bred in Germany, with records tracing the breed back to the 15th century when they were used as hunting dogs.


Havanese are recognized as “toy dogs” due to their incredibly small size. They tend to measure in at between 8 and 12 inches tall, and weigh only 7 to 13 pounds, even when fully grown. They have recognizable dropped ears, and tails that curl back over their back, and their coat is wavy. Havanese can be black, white, tobacco, fawn, Havana brown, or mahogany.

Shih-Poos are also small, but with an average height of 8 to 13 inches, are slightly taller than the Havanese. They tend to weigh between 13 and 20 pounds and have relatively thick, medium-length wavy coats that can be black, grey, brown, or white.

Aging Profile

Both the Havanese and the Shih-Poo are prime examples of the fact that smaller dog breeds tend to outlive larger breeds. The average life expectancy of a Havanese is between 12 and 14 years, and for a Shih-Poo it is 12 to 15.

The Havanese will reach full size by one year old, and the Shih-Poo will be fully grown by the time they’re 7 to 12 months old.


The temperament of a dog breed is of course important when deciding which breed to bring into your home and your life. Luckily, both the Havanese and the Shih-Poo have great temperaments that make them incredible family dogs.

The Havanese are playful and affectionate dogs, but they are also incredibly sensitive and energetic. When looked after well, these personality traits balance themselves out, making the breed a very amicable one that will keep most owners happy and entertained.

Shih-Poos are also incredibly playful and affectionate and are generally very sociable with other dogs and people. They’re a gentle breed, but they are known to be quite noisy – especially if something is wrong.


A dog’s intelligence will determine how well they take to training. This can make or break a relationship with a dog, as poorly trained dogs can be incredibly hard to manage. Both the Havanese and the Shih-Poo, fortunately, are intelligent dog breeds.

For those looking to train the Havanese, they should ensure they have plenty of treats available for positive reinforcement. Whilst the dog breed is intelligent, they respond best to positive reinforcement and encouragement, and will not respond to discipline due to their sensitive nature.

Shih-Poos are much less sensitive, and due to their high intelligence, they require a fair among of mental stimulation on a daily basis. Owners may struggle to train them not because they aren’t smart, but simply because Shih-Poos are also known to be a little bit stubborn. But usually, the breed’s desire to please will eventually make the training that little bit easier.


Since both breeds have wavy coats, they do need to be groomed more often than some other breeds. The Havanese should be brushed every 2 to 3 weeks and bathed every other week. Owners should make sure that they only ever brush the Havanese coat when it is damp.

Likewise, the Shih-Poo requires daily brushing and will need the occasional bath. However, baths for this breed can be less frequent to help avoid any skin irritation and to maintain a healthy and glossy coat. They will also require regular eye and ear cleaning to help to avoid any complications.


Due to the nature of breeding, many breeds are susceptible to certain health conditions. The Havanese and Shih-Poo are no exception.

The Havanese are prone to Legg-Calves-Perthes disease, luxating patellas, distichiasis, deafness, hypothyroidism, eye conditions, and heart problems. Shih-Poos also have their own share of conditions, including eye problems, Addison’s disease, mitral valve disease, brachycephalic syndrome, urolithiasis, inverterbral disk disease, and sebaceous adenitis.

Most of the time, these conditions can be combatted with the right care and regular veterinary checks. Making sure that a dog stays within a healthy weight, gets enough exercise, and they are getting all of the nutrients they need will help to ensure that both breeds avoid as many of these conditions as possible.


Out of the two breeds, Shih-Poos are generally cheaper, despite being a designer breed. This is likely due to the lack of official registration for the breed. They sell on average for $500 to $1,000, as opposed to the Havanese which sell on average for $1,000 to $1,500.

Havanese vs. Shih-Poo: Which Should You Get as a Pet?

When debating between breeds, it is also important to consider living situations. For example, both the Havanese and the Shih-Poo have trouble with separation anxiety when left alone for any length of time. This includes during the day when you might leave the house to go to work.

Separation anxiety in dogs can manifest in a range of ways, including unlearning any toilet training and becoming less friendly. This means that both breeds are only really suited to a household where someone will usually be about, i.e in a work-from-home household, or with an older couple who has retired.

Due to their small size, both breeds are also incredibly well suited to apartment living. So long as they get enough regular exercise (around 30 minutes a day), they are unlikely to be destructive or over-energetic.

In terms of family pets, the Havanese breed is a great pet for older families with children who are in school or teenagers. However, the breed’s sensitivity makes them unsuitable for those with younger children, as the Havanese will be unhappy at receiving less attention. The Shih-Poo, alternatively, is a great family pet even for young children, so long as they are gentle.

One of the most attractive features of both breeds is their hypoallergenic nature. This means that both breeds are great options for households with allergies to dander.

There may still be some risk of allergy for particularly sensitive allergies, but this can be reduced by regular washing of dog beds and toys. The breeds’ coats are hypoallergenic, but their saliva may still cause allergies, so by washing their toys, etc. regularly owners can reduce the risk of allergy almost completely. Make sure to consult your doctor before getting one of them, though!


Both breeds are intelligent and playful, but for those looking for a sociable family pet, the Shih-Poo may be a better choice due to their ability to tolerate younger children. Potential owners should consider their noisy nature though, especially if they are living in terraced accommodation or an apartment.

The Havanese breed is ideal for older couples or families, as they require less mental stimulation day-to-day, and will be much quieter than the Shih-Poo. They’re lower maintenance in terms of grooming, too, which may be more ideal for older couples or people who are perhaps less able-bodied. The breed, like the Shih-Poo, is also well suited to smaller accommodations, meaning that even for elderly people in assisted living, they are a suitable pet.

Considering Other Breeds Too?

Make sure to read how the Havanese compares with other breeds too:

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