With a name that means “little lion” in Chinese, you might expect something more fierce. However, the Shih Tzu is more comfortable in your lap looking cute than outside prowling for prey. This adorable little dog was bred solely to be a companion and is ranked 20th out of 193 breeds by the American Kennel Club.
The Shih Tzu was developed centuries ago by imperial breeders for the Chinese Emperor. Well-suited for palace life, Shih Tzus spent most of their lives lounging and being pampered. However, they were also unknown to the outside world until the 1930s, when they were first brought outside of their palaces and breeding clubs started to form. Since then, the Shih Tzu has grown to become one of the most popular toy dog breeds in the U.S. and the U.K.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SHIH TZU
Here is some additional information about the appearance and temperament of the Shih Tzu.
Shih Tzus are classified as toy dogs: they stand roughly 10 inches tall and generally weigh between 9 and 16 pounds. They are small but much sturdier than you might expect. They have short legs and tire easily. Their flat faces make it breathing slightly more difficult, and it also makes them more susceptible to heat stroke. They do best when kept in a cool, air-conditioned environment.
Shih Tzus can come in a variety of colors, often mixed with white, such as gold, red, black, silver, and more. Their coats require a lot of upkeep – daily brushing is recommended. You will get what you put into it – a well-groomed Shih Tzu has a brilliant, gorgeous coat. It tends to mat easily, so take good care of it. Bathing them once a month or so is generally recommended to keep their coats clean. Additionally, their eyes can become irritated by their fur, so keep it in a topknot or trim it around their eyes, and periodically wipe them with a damp washcloth. Keep their coat dry by using a dog hair dryer.
Shih Tzus are a fun, playful breed who are eager to please their owner. They don’t require a ton of exercise – they are happy to follow you from room to room, burrowing in your lap when you take a seat. They are affectionate and excellent around kids and are a great choice for seniors as well. However, due to their small size, they may not be the best option around toddlers who can present danger. Their favorite activities seem to be watching TV and napping.
Shih Tzus are great with other dogs as well, though they can go either way on cats; if they are raised from an early age with cats they tend to do better. They can occasionally be mischievous, though – if you find that you’re missing a sock, odds are that your Shih Tzu has it. They are lively and alert, and they tend to bark when someone new enters the house. However, once they see and smell the person, they will make instant friends. Shih Tzus live long lives: often up to 18 years. They tend to do well on their own, so long as you come home and give them lots of attention.
CARING FOR A SHIH TZU
Shih Tzus are, besides their coat upkeep, a pretty low-maintenance breed, but they still have some needs. Here is some information about their nutrition, exercise, training, and health requirements.
Some people consider Shih Tzus to be picky eaters; this is mostly an owner-created issue. Give your Shih Tzu time to adjust and they will be fine. They do best with high-quality dog foods full of nutrients. How much they eat will be dependent on their age, size, and activity level. Since they are a more sedentary breed, your Shih Tzu won’t require as much food as other breeds. Be careful not to overfeed, as toy breeds, in particular, can be prone to getting overweight. Consult with your vet to figure out which food is best for your dog. Also, get an automatic dog feeder to ensure you’re giving the same amount of food every time.
Since the Shih Tzu was bred to be an in-house companion, they don’t require much exercise. Short daily walks are plenty, along with some indoor playtime. They don’t require big spaces or yards; for that reason, they make great apartment dogs. They are great at adapting to whatever living situation needed.
Shih Tzus are notorious for charming their owners into letting them have their way. As such, they can be fun, but frustrating, to train. However, training is very important for them, as it is with all dogs. Puppy and obedience classes should be started early on. As with many toy dogs, housebreaking can be difficult, so remain steadfast. Crate training is highly recommended. Avoid harsh corrections – stick to positive reinforcement and you will see better results.
Due to their thick, long coats, Shih Tzus do not like heat; air conditioning and cooling pads will be energetically welcomed by your companion. They also do not like swimming; many owners will get their Shih Tzu a raincoat for winter walks.
Shih Tzus, like most breeds, are generally healthy dogs. Be sure to work with a breeder who screens for the usual genetic diseases, such as hip dysplasia, eye diseases, and patellar luxation. Allergies can be a problem for Shih Tzus as well, so be sure to understand the symptoms.