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Zuchon

The Zuchon is one of the smaller designer crossbreeds, but despite their diminutive stature they are full of energy and personality. While more common in the US, it is slowly growing in popularity around the world due to their affectionate nature that makes them a great companion for both young and old. The breeds that make up the Zuchon are the Shih Tzu and the Bichon Frise.

The Zuchon can be a first cross (with one Shih Tzu and one Bichon parent), they can be bred back to one of the original breeds or be two Zuchons bred together. This means that there are varieties in size, shape, colours and coat types, but in all cases this is a small companion dog.

  • Dog suitable for non-experienced owners
  • Basic training required
  • Enjoys gentle walks
  • Enjoys walking an hour a day
  • Little toy dog
  • Minimum drool
  • Requires grooming daily
  • Non hypoallergenic breed
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Not a guard dog
  • May require training to live with other pets
  • May require training to live with kids

Key Facts

Height: The usual height of a Zuchon is between 24-29cms.
Shih Tzu - not exceeding 27cms
Bichon Frise - 23-28cms
Colours: The colours of a Zuchon can be any mixtures of their parents’ colours with white markings.
Shih Tzu: All colours permissible apart from merle. White blaze on forehead and white tip highly desirable in particolours.
Bichon Frise: White
UK Kennel Club Groups: Toy and Utility

Ratings

Family-friendly: 5/5
Exercise needs: 3/5
Easy to train: 3/5
Tolerates being alone: 1/5
Likes other pets: 4/5
Energy level: 4/5
Grooming needs: 4/5
Shedding: 1/5
small dog standing on grass

Personality

Like most crossbreeds, the personality of a Zuchon depends on the parents and how they have been bred and reared.

The Shih Tzu is an extraverted, confident, affectionate dog who can be quite independent and aloof with strangers. They are, but will often think of training as a chore they would rather not participate in.

The Bichon Frise is an extroverted, lively, playful, friendly little dog. They bond very closely to their owners and will want to accompany them everywhere.

The Zuchon is a small companion dog who will enjoy games and being part of everything their owner does.

The personality of a Zuchon seems to be more consistent when they are first crosses (F1). As a line is successively bred, they can be either bred back to one of the original breeds (and so strengthen either the Shih Tzu or the Bichon personalities) or else be bred to another Zuchon - in which case there is less predictability in temperament (and in-breeding becomes more of a potential issue).

Responsible breeders should be prioritising behaviour as highly as health and so it is important to find a good breeder. A well-bred Zuchon should be outgoing and confident and not nervous, shy or fearful.

small dog portrait

History and Origins

Like many of the designer crossbreeds, the Zuchon originated in the United States in a quest to find a small companion dog that didn’t shed and that would fit into any family’s lifestyle no matter how small their home and garden.

To understand more about the origin of the breed requires an understanding of the two breeds that go into the formation of the Zuchon

Shih Tzu

Country of Origin: China

The Shih Tzu we know and love today is itself an ancient crossbreed having been created within the walls of the Forbidden City in the 17th century from crossing the Lhasa Apso from the monasteries of Tibet with an early form of the Pekinese.

The resulting dogs, called Lhasa Lion Dogs, remained hidden away from the eyes of the West until the 20th century when the Peking Kennel Club was formed and the Lhasa Lion Dogs were shown for the first time alongside the Lhasa Apso.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that these dogs found their way to England and once again they were shown alongside the Lhasa Apso but it was clear they were quite different, and so the types that had the rounder skull and short muzzle became known as the Shih Tzu and a breed in their own right.

Bichon Frise

Country of Origin: Spain

This is a fairly old breed who by the 16th century had found popularity in the Spanish courts. They originated on the island of Tenerife, where they were known originally as the Barbichon which means Little Barbet. The Barbet was a local water spaniel and it is thought that the Bichon Frise was a cross between these working dogs and smaller Spanish lapdogs of the time.

The Bichon Frise (then called the Bichon Tenerife) remained popular in the Spanish courts right through to the 19th century and even captivated the hearts of the French nobility as well. For some reason however they fell out of favour and they went from being dogs of nobility to being largely circus performers. Thankfully their appealing looks and their trainability meant that they excelled, finding a performing niche for themselves until French and Belgian breeders took an interest in them and worked to re-establish the breed and renamed them Bichon à Poil Frisé which means the bichon with the curly coat.

The Zuchon can have any combination of the two breeds in their appearance, behaviour and temperament.

Health and Common Issues

Crossbreeds are used to dilute or eliminate any inherited health issues that may exist within one or other of the breeds. This dilution or elimination is likely if only one parent is the carrier of any particular condition, and where this is a first cross (F1). As this can’t always be guaranteed, all parents should be health tested prior to breeding:

Shih Tzu - they can be prone to luxating patellas, and are prone to dental problems and eye conditions. They also are a brachycephalic breed and so can have the health problems and breathing difficulties associated with a shortened skull and flattened face.

Bichon Frise - a generally healthy dog but eye testing should be carried out.

Information on health tests for both breeds can be found on the Kennel Club’s website or find out more about brachycephalic breeds here.

Exercise Needs

The Zuchon will be happy with half an hour to an hour walking each day, plus plenty of games and owner interaction.

Space Requirements

This is a small dog who can happily live in a flat or a smaller property. As long as they have access to the outdoors for toileting and walks, they’ll be ready to call it home.

Nutrition and Feeding

The fast metabolism of toy dogs is present in the Zuchon as well. This means they must eat little and often. Small-breed foods are specifically designed with appropriate levels of key nutrients and smaller kibble sizes to suit smaller mouths. This also encourages chewing and improves digestion.

It’s important to make sure their diet includes the right balance of all the main nutrient groups. Make sure you conduct regular body condition scores to check that your dog is in shape and remember to feed them at least twice daily and in accordance with the feeding guidelines of his particular food.

Grooming Zuchon Dogs

The Zuchon coat can be quite high maintenance depending what coat type they inherit. They may or may not shed. If they do, it is likely to be in clumps of hair rather than lots of short ones! They may also mat.

Find a good local groomer who can either look after your Zuchon’s coat or teach you how to do it yourself as their coat develops.

Training the Zuchon

The Zuchon is a clever dog who will enjoy learning tricks and should be trained to walk on a lead and harness, as well as come back when called. If the Bichon trainability is inherited, this cross can be surprisingly trainable.

Family Friendly Dog Breeds

The Zuchon makes a fun companion but as they are small and rather delicate, especially as puppies. They suit families with older sensible children. They can happily live with cats and other small dogs.

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