- What is a Shih Tzu?
- Shih Tzu Personality
- Shih Tzu Appearance
- Shih Tzu History
- Shih Tzu Care Requirements
- Supplies for Your Shih Tzu
- Raising Your Shih Tzu
- Shih Tzu Health
- Life with a Shih Tzu
One of the most popular small dog breeds is the Shih Tzu. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the breed, including behaviors, appearance, and even health.
What is a Shih Tzu?
Shih Tzus are a small dog breed that are known to make great companion dogs. They are often either seen as loyal pets or fancy show dogs with hair that drags on the ground like a mop. Shih Tzus come with a variety of appearances and personalities, and they are often mixed with other breeds, but no matter what, most Shih Tzus have a loving nature.
You might want to read: Shih Tzu Poodle Mix – Basic Care, Training, and Health
Shih Tzu Personality
Every dog has its own unique personality, but Shih Tzus often have many things in common. Shih Tzus tend to bond with their owners very quickly, regardless of how old they are when you bring them home. They will likely always want to be by your side, or at least in a spot where they can see you.
Overall, they are fairly lazy dogs. They may enjoy going for walks and exploring outside, but when they get home, they’ll likely spend most of their time napping in a comfortable spot. Plus, they can be very stubborn. If they are set in their ways about something, it can be difficult to break their bad habits. It is important to give them the love and attention that they need, but don’t let them train you.
Shih Tzu Appearance
While some dog breeds may only come in one solid color, the coloring of a Shih Tzu can vary greatly. Most are a mixture of brown and white or black and white, but they can also come in solid colors, or with lesser-known Shih Tzu colors, such as gray or brindle.
Shih Tzus can be distinguished by their short snout, similar to a Pug or Pekingese. While other dogs have long snouts that stick out far from their face, Shih Tzus have a flatter face with a small nose. They also tend to have large eyes, and some even have an underbite, where there bottom teeth stick out too far. These characteristics are much different than a stereotypical dog breed, but they help add to their cute appearance.
Typically, Shih Tzus weigh anywhere from 9 to 16 pounds, but some may end up being a bit larger or smaller. They usually have short legs and a rounder body, so even if they are on the heavier end, they will usually still be shorter than most other small dogs.
Shih Tzu History
The Shih Tzu breed originated in Tibet, at least one thousand years ago. They were originally referred to as “the Lion Dog” because their hair was kept long and flowing to resemble a lion’s mane. They were also common in the Buddhist religion because lions were an important part of their culture, but there are no actual lions in China, which is why there was a breed of dogs made to resemble them.
Shih Tzus were bred primarily to be companion dogs, similar to now, but when they were first bred, they were there to warm the feet of royalty. They could be found lounging around the Emperor of China’s palace, guarding the palace from any unwanted visitors. While Shih Tzus are not only used for royalty today, they share the same comforting and loyal characteristics as they did when they were first bred.
Shih Tzu Care Requirements
While all dogs have the same basic needs, different dogs have slightly different requirements. Shih Tzus are generally very easygoing and do not require anything too out of the ordinary, but there are still some things to be mindful of.
Shih Tzu Housing Requirements
Since Shih Tzus are a small breed, their housing requirements are fairly basic. They can live in a large house or even a small apartment. If they are given a yard, they will enjoy the space to explore, but they do not require a large space to run around in. Just make sure that they have enough space to feel comfortable in and call home, which should include some items that are specifically designed for them.
Choosing Food for Your Shih Tzu
When choosing the right food for your Shih Tzu, a lot of it is based on your dog’s preferences, but there are still some things to be mindful of. First of all, since they are a small breed, you will want to choose a food that has small pieces that are easy for them to chew. It can upset your dog’s stomach if you change their food too often, so once you come across a food they enjoy that is easy for them to chew, then you should stick with that brand if possible.
Some dogs also have allergies to common ingredients in dog foods. One of those common allergies is grains. Therefore, if you see your dog having allergic reactions to a food with grain in it, you should switch their diet to a grain-free option. Most dog foods should clearly state on the packaging whether or not they include grain in them. Also, some dogs have reactions to chicken, so this is also something to keep an eye out for.
Supplies for Your Shih Tzu
Before bringing your Shih Tzu home, there are lots of supplies that you should have prepared ahead of time. Other than selecting some food for your pet, you should also have a collar and leash, a bed or crate, and anything else that you think would help to make your Shih Tzu feel at home. You likely will not know your Shih Tzu’s specific preferences ahead of time, so you may not want to buy a bunch of toys and treats just yet, but you should at least make sure that you have all the essentials before bringing your new dog home. The more stuff that they have to call their own, the easier it will be for them to adjust.
Raising Your Shih Tzu
Once everything is set up and prepared for your Shih Tzu, you will need to be patient as they get used to their new surroundings. It may take them time to adjust, so make sure you are understanding of this as you raise your new pet. Every Shih Tzu is different, so you will learn more about your pet as you go.
Shih Tzu Puppies vs. Adults
Just like any other dog breed, Shih Tzus can be adopted both as a young puppy or a full-grown adult. Many people like to lean toward a puppy because of how small and cute they are, but it is important to remember that puppies also come with a lot of extra work. An adult Shih Tzu will likely know some basic commands and manners, but a puppy will have a lot to learn. Even though Shih Tzus are known for their easy-going nature, a puppy will likely have much more energy than an adult. Therefore, if you want to get a Shih Tzu as a puppy, then you must be willing to put in the extra time and effort.
Training Your Shih Tzu
Regardless of how old your dog is, you will want to make sure they know some commands along with good behaviors. As mentioned earlier, Shih Tzus can be stubborn, so as they grow older, it may be difficult to train them to fix bad habits. However, to start, you should at least make sure that your Shih Tzu knows ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ and ‘come.’ These basic commands can help to teach your Shih Tzu to listen to you and it can also help to control them if they’re doing something that they shouldn’t be.
Another thing to work on with your Shih Tzu is teaching them not to bark. Most Shih Tzus love to bark, and unfortunately, they usually have a very high-pitched way of letting you know if there’s a dog or squirrel nearby. Therefore, if you want their barking to be limited, you should start getting them into the habit of not barking right away. Be consistent with the command you use to tell them to stop. ‘Quiet,’ is usually a good option to choose for a barking dog. Always make sure to be consistent and repetitive with any training techniques, especially barking.
Socializing Your Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus definitely love people, but they don’t always love other dogs. Usually, they will enjoy the company of one or two other dogs that they are familiar with, but oftentimes, new dogs with a lot of energy can be overwhelming for them. If a Shih Tzu feels threatened, they may try to nip at other dogs and be overprotective toward you. This usually happens when they are around dogs that are much larger than them.
To ensure that your Shih Tzu does not become too aggressive or territorial, you should try to start socializing them with other dogs at an early age if possible. Walk them around in public and allow them to hang out at the dog park. The more they are exposed to other dogs, the easier it will be for them to feel comfortable in these scenarios.
If you have more than one dog in your family, it is also important to make sure that the two get along. If you get a new dog that is aggressive or too playful around your Shih Tzu, this could frustrate them and cause them to dislike other dogs in order to protect themselves. Always make sure your two dogs will get along before suddenly bringing a new dog home.
Shih Tzu Health
Health is an important part of raising a dog, and each dog has different requirements when it comes to living a long, healthy life. Shih Tzus typically live between 10 and 16 years old, so it is important to do everything you can to keep your Shih Tzu in good health.
Grooming Your Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus have hair instead of fur, meaning that their hair continually grows like a human’s hair would instead of shedding. Because of this, you will need to get your Shih Tzu groomed often to help maintain their coat, even if you want to keep it longer. It is possible for you to learn how to groom your Shih Tzu yourself, but most people just find a groomer for their dog.
If you want to keep your Shih Tzu’s coat on the shorter side, then you should probably take them in to get groomed about every 4 to 6 weeks, or whenever it looks long to you. A grooming appointment will usually include the haircut, bath, nail trimming, and ear cleaning. However, if you want to keep your Shih Tzu’s hair longer, you don’t have to take them in as often, but you need to brush them as much as you can to make sure they don’t get matted. If your Shih Tzu has matted hair when you go to get them groomed, their hair might need to be shaved down to keep your pet’s coat healthy.
If you wait longer than a month to get your Shih Tzu groomed, then you should probably get their nails trimmed in between grooms. If a dog’s nails get too long, this could be unhealthy for your pet, so make sure to get their nails trimmed at least once a month, but more often if your groomer suggests it. Their nails should not be clicking on the floor when they walk, so if this happens even after their nails are trimmed, you will need to bring them in more often to get them to a healthy length.
Common Shih Tzu Health Problems
Since Shih Tzus have a flat face, they can get breathing problems more easily than other dogs. Therefore, it is important not to over-exercise them, especially if it’s hot outside. Make sure they always have plenty of water accessible to them if they are outside in the heat for long periods of time.
Due to their large eyes, they are also prone to lots of eye problems, which could cause them to not see as well as they get older. Stenotic nares, hip dysplasia, and collapsing tracheas are also things to be mindful of because Shih Tzus have been known to have these issues commonly as well.
Taking Your Shih Tzu to the Vet
To help ensure that your Shih Tzu stays healthy and does not develop any of the conditions above, you should take them to the vet at least once a year for a checkup. This can be an opportunity for your Shih Tzu to stay up to date on their vaccinations, and you can ask the vet about any questions or concerns you may have.
When your Shih Tzu is a puppy and once they become a senior, you should take them to the vet more often to ensure that they stay healthy since it is easier for dogs to get health problems at these ages. Also, if you notice something that is wrong with your pet, contact your vet right away to help avoid any serious issues.
As Your Shih Tzu Ages
Similar to any dog breed, as your Shih Tzu gets older they will slow down and sleep even more than usual. To help their joints, try to stop them from jumping onto things, such as a higher bed or couch. Instead, you can provide them with a step or small stairs to help them get onto those objects easier. Also, even though you can still take them for walks, you will want to be more careful and mindful of the fact that your Shih Tzu is older now and may need more time to do basic activities than they did before.
Life with a Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus are great companion dogs, and the more time you spend with them, the more you can learn about them. They each have a fun and unique personality, so while they may be stubborn from time to time, they are extremely lovable and loyal. They are the ideal dog for anyone looking to have a furry friend always by their side.