Shi-Mo (American Eskimo Shih-Tzu Mix)
Over the past several years, the term “designer dogs” has become well known as breeders seek to meet the demands of would be dog owners. Although the term is relatively new, the reality is that people have been breeding dogs for specific traits and purposes for centuries.
In the early stages of dog domestication, most breeds were developed for some type of work, whether that be for herding, hunting, or pulling a sled etc. Many of these early breeds no longer have the desired traits of the modern buyer.
Increasingly fewer people need working dogs, and more and more people are simply looking for an indoor companion. Working dogs require high energy and stamina to be able to perform their jobs well, whereas people looking for a household companion often prefer a calm and docile nature.
For this reason, many breeders are seeking to meet the needs of the modern dog owner by combining breeds and pairing the dam and sire based on temperament and traits. Along with the desire for a calmer pet, one of the most desirable traits for the modern consumer is that the dog be hypoallergenic and not shed, or shed less than their non-hypoallergenic counterparts.
This is one of the reasons poodle mixes (commonly known as doodles) have become so popular in recent years. A lesser known hybrid mix that accomplishes the same goals as the more well known “doodle” is that of the Shih-Tzu American Eskimo cross. This may seem like a strange mix, but the similar facial features, temperaments of the breeds, and fur/hair makes this an excellent breed, especially for allergy sufferers who would love to own an American Eskimo.
The American Eskimo originated in Germany and was known as the “German Spitz” which has since developed into several closely related breeds. The Spitz was originally bred as a watchdog, and the American Eskimo has a history of serving as watchdogs as well as circus performers.
This breed comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. Usually when being bred to a Shih-Tzu, the miniature and toy sizes are preferred. Though the American Eskimo breed was well known in America for decades prior, the American Kennel Club did not officially recognize the breed until 1995.
The Shih-Tzu was first bred in China, and they were highly prized as companions. The breed is so old that the origins are disputed, but most believe that the breed derived from the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. Since the Shih-Tzu was bred solely for companionship, they have remained a very popular breed over the years. Their size and traits make them a highly desirable companion. Although this breed has ancient roots, it was not officially recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club until 1969.
The Shih-Tzu and the American Eskimo are similar in size, and the two breeds share a similar build, structure, and facial features. This makes for a predictable outcome in the puppies. When two breeds with vastly different structures and features are bred, what the puppies will look like as adults is often wildly unpredictable.
Because the look and temperament of the Shih mo is largely consistent, this breed is more likely than other hybrids to gain recognition and stay around long term. Many people looking to add a dog to their family are looking for a specific size. The Shih-Mo is usually around 10-20 lbs full grown, and they generally stand 10-20 inches in height.
These small to medium sized dogs are perfect for people who do not want a dog that’s too large, but also don’t want a tiny “ankle-biter” type of dog. This is the perfect size for people with a small yard, or people with small children who are worried they may be plowed over by a larger breed.
One of the main reasons that people look for hybrid dogs is due to allergies. Someone who has fallen in love with the American Eskimo breed, but has allergies to pet dander, may opt for a Shih-mo. It’s important to note, however, that a first generation (referee to as F1) hybrid would likely still shed and have some pet dander.
For those with severe allergies, an F1b hybrid would be a better choice. This means the Breeder uses one parent that is an F1 Shih-Mo and one parent who is a purebred Shih-Tzu in order to further reduce the likelihood of dander and shedding in the offspring.
Whenever adopting a dog, it’s important to know the life expectancy and be able to commit to owning the dog for the duration of his life. Both the Shih-Tzu and the American Eskimo live 12 to 15 years.
Another reason a buyer may choose a Shih-Mo is temperament. Both of these breeds have high ratings for friendliness. They are both known to be very good with children. Families with young children are often looking for a pet with specific traits that both the American Eskimo and the Shih-Tzu possess.
It is important to remember that in any breed, there can be “bad apples” so it’s very important to look for a breeder who breeds carefully for temperament and health. When rescuing this breed, it’s equally important to assess the temperament of the dog before making the commitment, especially if there are children in the home. That being said, both the Shih-Tzu and the American Eskimo are known for being gentle and friendly so the mix is a good choice for allergy sufferers and/or families with young children.
Although both of these breeds are very friendly and gentle, they do have average to above average barking frequency. For those who live in apartment complexes or places with a high density population where homes are close together, this may not be the best breed as the barking could potentially become a nuisance to the neighbors.
When buyers are considering this breed, it is important to find out about the barking frequency of the parent dogs. If both dogs bark frequently, puppies from that litter will be best suited for someone with an acreage and no close neighbors who will be bothered with the barking.
If the parent dogs have low to moderate barking tendencies for the breed, then a buyer with nearby neighbors will probably be able to curb the barking with consistent training. Because of their tendency to bark, however, the Shih-Mo makes for a great watch dog. This mix would be perfect for a would be owner who is interested in having their dog alert them when someone is near their property.
Since the American Eskimo was originally bred in Germany as a watchdog, it makes sense that their descendents continue to have the tendency to bark at passersby. Some owners feel a sense of security with owning a watchdog, while others find the barking unbearable.
It is important for buyers to know exactly what they are looking for in a dog, and whether or not they want a dog with watch dog traits. While the American Eskimo was bred as a watchdog, the Shih-Tzu was bred solely for the purpose of companionship. Therefore, it is possible to adopt a Shih-Mo that takes on more of the Shih-Tzu traits and does not bark quite as often as the American Eskimo.
It is, of course, sometimes difficult to tell which puppies will take after which parent as far as barking tendencies go. If purchasing from a breeder, a buyer can gain some glimpse into the temperament of the puppies if the owner does a form of temperament testing.
One of the most popular tests is the Volhard’s Puppy Aptitude Test. This is often used when choosing a puppy for service or therapy purposes, but it is also beneficial for owners simply looking for a companion.
The test can often give clues as to which puppies will bark more, as well as which puppies are higher energy, and which ones are more calm and docile. When purchasing a hybrid, this test is particularly helpful since the two breeds will often have different traits and characteristics.
Possible Shih-Mo owners should also consider the fact that the Shih-Tzu in particular does not prefer to be left alone for long periods of time. Since both breeds are so affectionate and friendly, they would do best with a family where one parent stays home, or couples and individuals where someone works from home, or where schedules overlap in such a way that someone is often home with the dog.
People often opt for a hybrid dog to avoid health and genetic issues. But avoiding health issues isn’t as simple as going with a mixed breed. If both breeds tend toward some of the same genetic diseases, then there is still a good chance the offspring could have some of those same health concerns.
The Shih-Tzu and the American Eskimo both tend to have hip dysplasia and patellar luxation in their lines. When buying from a breeder, look for breeders who have the parent dogs certified with OFA for their hips and elbows.
Further genetic testing can be done through Embark or Pawprint genetics. Buyers of a Shih-Mo puppy should ask specifically for the parent dogs results for the Progressive Retinol Atrophy (PRA) test.
This genetic disease runs in both the Shih-Tzu and the American Eskimo breed. It is possible for both parents to look healthy and yet each be a carrier of PRA. When two carriers are accidentally paired to each other, half the litter of puppies will end up to have the disease, which causes early blindness. It’s best to look for a breeder who has CHIP numbers for their parent dogs.
Once a dog has been screened and certified in all of the genetic and health issues that its specific breed is prone to, it is issues a CHIP number. This helps buyers to be reassured that the breeder has done everything possible to ensure against producing puppies with these diseases. While it may be tempting to purchase a less expensive puppy from a breeders who does not health test, it’s important for buyers to remember that even greater costs are associated with treating diseases that could have been prevented.
Not to mention, buying from a breeder who does no health testing is only promoting and keeping in business someone who is carelessly producing dogs that will needlessly suffer from diseases that easily could have been prevented by doing a few simple tests. When looking at rescues and shelters, the parentage and health testing is often unknown, but the buyer can still determine some things about health by watching the dog and evaluating the structure. Some buyers are in a position to be able to provide a good life for a rescue even if the dog has health and genetic concerns. It’s important for buyers to examine their budget and decide if they are financially able to make a long term commitment to a rescue with health concerns.
Finding a Shih-Mo
Finding a well bred Shih-Mo may very well be the biggest obstacle for would be owners. While it’s easy to do a simple google search for available puppies, many of those results are often puppy brokers or mills.
Such breeders do not usually health or temperament test, and their puppies are often not well socialized, and their breeding stock is often subpar. A buyer is unlikely to find a well bred puppy there. There are some social media groups dedicated to ethical breeders, and people within those groups may be able to direct buyers in the right direction.
Rescues and shelters are unlikely to know the genetic and health testing is the parent dogs, but rescuing is very rewarding for those who are able to provide a loving home despite possible health risks. It may be difficult to find a Shi-Mo at a local shelter. However, many rescues are designated to specific breeds.
And those rescues often will accept mixed breeds as well. A Shih-Tzu or an American Eskimo rescue might have a Shih-Mo available for adoption. And even though a future owner will not be able to have a full record of health and genetic testing on a rescue, he or she will have the satisfaction of saving a dog’s life and gaining a loving and affectionate companion in the process.
Caring for a Shih-Mo
Once an owner has located a Shih-Mo, he or she will need to know how to care for the dog. This includes understanding grooming, diet, and exercise needs.
Grooming is one of the most important aspects of dog ownership, especially when the dog is low to no dander and has hair instead of fur.
Since this is the case in the Shih-Tzu breed, it is highly likely that the Shih-Mo will be high maintenance as far as grooming goes. Most owners will find a trusted groomer in their area, but some may put opt to learn to groom themselves. If so, they will need a high quality pair of clippers, and some training in safe grooming. Grooming can take quite a bit more time and energy than one would think, so it’s important to know the requirements.
Along with grooming, exercise is also an important factor of Shi-Mo ownership. The American Eskimo tends to have more energy and stamina than the Shih-Tzu, so the amount of exercise your Shih-Mo will need largely depends upon which traits it inherited from its parents. Puppies that have a temperament more like the American Eskimo will need more exercise than the puppies who take after the Shih-Tzu parent. However, it is important for all dogs to have adequate exercise. Taking your dog for a walk every day or to the dog park once or twice throughout the week will give him adequate space and opportunity for exercise and expending energy.
Diet is one of the most important factors of dog ownership. Finding the right food for the Shih-Mo will give him the opportunity for a longer, happier life. Some owners opt for raw feeding, while others prefer a dry kibble. Whatever choice the owner makes, it is important to read the ingredient and make sure that the diet is higher in protein than in carbs and fat. A vet can help narrow down the right food for the Shih-Mo breed’s specific needs.
Making the Final Decision
When someone has all of the necessary information about this breed, they can make the final decision about if this is the right breed for them. The Shih-Mo breed specifically requires budgeting for monthly grooming or for grooming equipment, high quality dog food and vet care.
If finances are in order to adopt or buy this breed, the owner must then consider the health, temperament, size, and life expectancy. If all of the traits of this breed are compatible with the would be owner’s lifestyle, then it is time for the final decision to buy or adopt a Shih-Mo. This breed makes for a loving and affectionate pet that is great with children and can offer friendly companionship for the right owner for years to come.