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Shih Tzu vs. Poodle: Which One is Right for Me?

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

Shih Tzu vs Poodle

If you’re looking for an intelligent, lovable, affectionate, and relatively small dog, the Shih Tzu and the Poodle are excellent choices. If you’re not experienced with either breed, however, you might not have all the information you need to determine the best dog for you and your family. Are Shih Tzus good with children, and do poodles need much grooming? To learn the answer to these questions and many more, read on. We have the details you’re searching for below so that you can make the perfect choice and get the pet that fits your family best.

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Visual Differences

Shih Tzu vs Poodle

At a Glance

Shih Tzu
  • Average height (adult): 9.5–10.5 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 9–16 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–18 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate to high
  • Family-friendly: Very much so
  • Other pet-friendly: Very much so
  • Trainability: Quite high as they’re eager to please
  • Average height (adult): 15 to 18 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 50–70 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–18 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate to high
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Sometimes
  • Trainability: Very high as they’re extremely intelligent

Shih Tzu Overview

female Shih Tzu standing on an ice
Image Credit: Tatiana Gasich, Shutterstock

Personality / Character

Shih Tzus have very perky, friendly, and energetic personalities. These sweet, affectionate dogs get along well with most people and pets and are seldom snippy or aggressive. Shih Tzus don’t have the highest energy level and don’t need much exercise. They don’t tend to bark too often or need a lot in the way of mental stimulation, either.


Shih Tzus are the epitome of eager-to-please dogs, which makes training them relatively easy. Yes, you’ll need time, diligence, and patience, but the average Shih Tzu is so happy to make you proud that they make training much easier than many other breeds.

white shih tzu dog playing and running outside in the green grass
Image Credit: JayneKlein, Shutterstock

Health & Care

One thing you must note about Shih Tzus is that these aren’t the type of dogs you take to the park to play frisbee. They’re a brachycephalic breed and often have difficulty breathing because of their pushed-in faces. Shih Tzus don’t swim well and have problems with hip dysplasia and eye conditions, so choosing a caring breeder is critical. If you don’t, you might end up with a Shih Tzu that needs substantial veterinary attention throughout its life.

Social Skills

Socializing a Shih Tzu is relatively easy because they are a sweet, lovable, and affectionate dog that gets along with almost everyone, including other dogs and pets. Their friendly and eager-to-please demeanor makes socializing a breeze and means you’ll have a pet you can take almost anywhere without fear they will be aggressive or nippy. In fact, Shih Tzus are well-known as excellent therapy dogs.

Cute Shih Tzu and hairdresser in barbershop isolated on white
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Suitable for:

A Shih Tzu would be a wonderful pet for an older, single person who needs a companion. They would also be a great choice as a first-time dog because they’re easy to train and have a sweet nature. A Shih Tzu might not be a great choice for households with small children as they are small and rather fragile dogs that don’t handle horseplay well. However, a Shih Tzu would make a fantastic family pet if you have older children.

  • Cute and cuddly
  • Small
  • Doesn’t require much exercise
  • Fantastic lap dogs and therapy dogs
  • Very affectionate with children
  • Get along well with other pets
  • Need almost daily grooming
  • Must be fed high-quality food to stay healthy
  • Have several health issues due to brachycephalic nature
  • Are not overly athletic or active

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Poodle Overview

standard poodle at the beach
Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

Personality / Character

Poodles are highly intelligent dogs that bond quickly and firmly with their new families. Some of the best words to describe poodles are loyal, instinctual, and active, and they can be shy (but usually not aggressive) around strangers. They are energetic dogs that will be eager to go for a walk in the park and play. Poodles also tend to take harsh words badly and thrive on positivity. They may seem fragile, primarily due to their fancy haircuts, but poodles are fun, energetic, and outgoing dogs that love nothing more than to romp and play with their family and other dogs.


Being highly intelligent makes training a poodle much easier. They genuinely want to learn and love spending time training with their owners. As intelligent dogs, poodles are often stubborn, so you need patience and persistence when training them. Mostly, however, they will be more than willing to listen and learn if you’re ready to take the time. Poodles also excel in agility competitions and learning tricks.

red poodle standing on red background
Image Credit: Savicic, Shutterstock

Health & Care

Poodles have been bred for hundreds of years, and most breeders are responsible and dedicated people who do their best to ensure they don’t breed weak or sick puppies. Poodles have a handful of health issues, including some eye disorders and one or two physical problems like luxating patella. However, they are a very healthy breed and live long healthy lives.

Social Skills

A poodle must be socialized as a puppy since it is an intelligent and intuitive dog with strong emotions. They need as much human contact and positive reinforcement as possible so that, as adults, they don’t have any fear or anxiety problems. If socialized correctly, you’ll get a dog that’s happy, fun, eager, excited, and ready to play at a moment’s notice.

black toy poodle running
Image Credit: dpw50, Pixabay

Suitable for:

Poodles make excellent family dogs for any size or type of family, including those with smaller children. They need constant attention and aren’t a great choice if nobody is home during the day. Poodles get along very well with children and tolerate heavy and rough play, but they also love to curl up at your feet and relax when the day’s fun is over. They need a lot of mental and physical exercise, and a poodle might not be the best for a single, sedentary person who stays indoors most of the time.

  • Highly intelligent
  • Easy to train
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Long-lived
  • Great for families with children
  • Highly energetic and loves to play
  • Need a lot of mental and physical stimulation
  • Requires frequent grooming
  • Can be expensive to purchase
  • Can be overly sensitive to harsh words

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Poodle vs. Shih Tzu: Barking

If you cannot tolerate excessive barking, the Shih Tzu might be a better choice than the poodle. Poodles tend to bark quite a bit and bark at almost anything. On the other hand, Shih Tzus bark when it’s necessary, like when someone comes to the front door. As for squirrels in the yard, they couldn’t care less.

Poodle vs. Shih Tzu: Shedding

Both poodles and Shih Tzus are low-shedding, hypoallergenic dogs, which is terrific news for allergy sufferers. Neither breed produces much dander because they both have hair instead of fur. Yes, both need grooming, but they won’t cause most people any allergy problems.

Poodle vs. Shih Tzu: Living Arrangements

Because of their size and energy level, poodles typically need a bigger home with a big yard to be happy and healthy. Shih Tzus, however, can easily live in a small apartment with no yard. A poodle in an apartment might go stir-crazy and will need plenty of walks to get rid of all their energy. A Shih Tzu in a large home will do just fine, although it will likely stay in one part of the house most of the day.

Poodle vs. Shih Tzu: Separation Anxiety

Although the breeds are quite different in several ways, both Poodles and Shih Tzus need to be around their owners all the time. If not, separation anxiety can be problematic for both species. In other words, you should expect to spend a lot of time with either breed for them to stay happy and cause fewer problems.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

There are several significant differences between the Shih Tzu and Poodle. For example, the Shih Tzu is a small dog that doesn’t need much exercise and isn’t made for heavy play and roughhousing. On the other hand, the poodle is a dog made to play and can handle an afternoon of running, swimming, and rolling around on the grass with children and adults.

A Shih Tzu will be a great choice if you’re looking for a companion to sit with you while you watch your favorite TV shows or go to the store. The same can be said for families with older children mature enough to know the Shih Tzus’ boundaries. For younger families with small kids or people who are into outdoor activities, a poodle will be fantastic. Poodles love to play, run, jump, and learn tricks, and they have a high energy level.

The Shih Tzu and the Poodle are affectionate, loyal, and intelligent dog breeds, and both have higher-than-average grooming needs. For seniors, the Shih Tzu would be a better choice. For young families, a poodle would be practically perfect. Either way, you’ll be getting a dog that you can count on to be your best buddy.

See also: 

Featured Image Credit: (L) Nynke van Holten, Shutterstock | (R) Eric Isselee, Shutterstock

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