Shih Tzus may be the ultimate lap dogs. This small dog has a personality far bigger than its tiny body. While their name translates to “lion dog”, almost nothing about this breed is fierce or intimidating. Their sole purpose in life is to be sweet and loving companions, and they excel at it.
While originally bred to be gifts for royalty, Shih Tzus are adaptable little dogs who are at home in almost any family. They’re friendly and outgoing, and at the same time gentle and affectionate. Even novice dog owners will find it easy to live with these little bundles of sweetness.
TemperamentShih Tzus are generally lively, friendly, and playful. They get along well with almost everyone they meet. They can tell when you’re happy to see them, and will gladly clown around if it will make you laugh. However, they also have a penchant for causing mischief when your back is turned, and are experts in pulling off puppy-dog eyes to get out of trouble. Instead of going for long walks or outdoor exercise, most Shih Tzus prefer to snuggle up next to you while you try to watch TV. They love being close to humans and thrive in the presence of their family. Despite being companion dogs, Shih Tzus still need proper exercise, training, and socialization, as a spoiled Shih Tzu may develop negative behaviors. Due to their strong bond with their family, some Shih Tzus may struggle with separation anxiety. However, a properly trained and well-exercised Shih Tzu can be a gentle, affectionate, and loyal companion.
The Ultimate Guide to Shih Tzu
While the first known record of a Shih Tzu can be dated back a thousand years, experts believe that the breed’s origins are even older. Tibetan noblemen bred the Shih Tzu to be sent to Chinese royalty, serving as diplomatic gifts and companion animals. Sometimes the Shih Tzu even served as foot warmers for emperors, being placed in royal beds to generate heat. During the Ming and Manchu Dynasties, owning a Shih Tzu was considered a privilege reserved only for royalty. These dogs were so highly valued that anyone outside of the royal court caught with a Shih Tzu could be sentenced to death. Eventually, these royal Shih Tzus were bred with Pugs and Pekingese, resulting in the modern Shih Tzu we know today. The breed dwindled down almost to extinction in the first half of the 20th century, but luckily 14 Shih Tzus remained. These 14 Shih Tzus rebuilt the entire breed, and all modern Shih Tzus can be traced back to them. Shih Tzus eventually arrived in the United States in the 1960s, and they immediately became a popular choice for anyone looking for a sweet, easygoing, and kid-friendly family dog.
Key Characteristics of Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus are generally lively, friendly, and playful. They get along well with almost everyone they meet. They can tell when you’re happy to see them, and will gladly clown around if it will make you laugh. However, they also have a penchant for causing mischief when your back is turned, and are experts in pulling off puppy-dog eyes to get out of trouble.
Instead of going for long walks or outdoor exercise, most Shih Tzus prefer to snuggle up next to you while you try to watch TV. They love being close to humans and thrive in the presence of their family.
Despite being companion dogs, Shih Tzus still need proper exercise, training, and socialization, as a spoiled Shih Tzu may develop negative behaviors. Due to their strong bond with their family, some Shih Tzus may struggle with separation anxiety. However, a properly trained and well-exercised Shih Tzu can be a gentle, affectionate, and loyal companion.
Despite being bred to be companion animals, Shih Tzus still need regular exercise. Shih Tzus are surprisingly robust dogs underneath their long, flowing hair. They can do well with agility training and can pull strongly for their size and weight.
They’re moderately energetic and daily walks are necessary to keep them healthy. However, there are some considerations that must be made due to the structure of their mouths and noses. Brachycephalic dogs such as the Shih Tzu are not able to pant very well, and heatstroke is a risk when exercising for too long.
Around 45 minutes of walking per day is advisable, broken up into 20 to 30 minute sessions. If your Shih Tzu appears to be panting excessively, give them a break so they can cool down and recover. Be mindful of the heat when bringing your Shih Tzu outdoors.
Thankfully, Shih Tzus are also small enough that they can have their play sessions indoors. Mental and physical stimulation in the form of games and puzzles are a good idea for all Shih Tzus, even ones kept as family pets instead of sport competitors.
|Shih Tzu Grooming||
Grooming a Shih Tzu is likely the most challenging aspect of owning one, as their long double coat can easily get matted and tangled. There is the option of going to a professional groomer, but doing that on a regular basis can cost a significant amount.
Shih Tzus need daily brushing, or at the very least brushing three to four times per week. A slicker brush is best used to get through the long topcoat and reach the dense undercoat to remove shed hair and dander. A soft-bristled brush can then be used to smooth out the topcoat and the hair around the face.
It’s also important to do this brushing before giving your Shih Tzu a bath, as mats and tangles may set once the hair gets wet, and may be difficult to brush out once the dog has dried. Shih Tzus don’t smell as much as more active dogs, but their hair does tend to trap dirt and debris. Bathing your Shih Tzu can be done once a month, or as needed.
The area around a Shih Tzu’s eyes should be cleaned with a damp cloth daily to prevent tear stains from forming. Nail trimming can be done once every two weeks, and tooth brushing is ideally performed daily.
|Shih Tzu Training||
While Shih Tzus love to play and make their humans laugh, they can also be stubborn and wilful sometimes. Their high intelligence means they can often charm their way out of doing the right thing by sheer charisma. Letting this happen may result in a half-trained Shih Tzu with behavioral issues.
Early training is important so that your Shih Tzu learns while they are open-minded and receptive to training. They are completely capable of learning all sorts of commands and tricks, provided you approach training with patience and consistency.
Because they’re so people-oriented, positive reinforcement and rewards are the best way to get a Shih Tzu to do what you want.
Housetraining can be challenging for Shih Tzus due to their small size. The bladder is small and develops slowly, so be prepared with cleaning supplies.
|Shih Tzu Lifespan and Health Issues||
Shih Tzus are generally healthy and can live for up to 12 to 16 years. Shih Tzus may be prone to:
|Shih Tzu Size and Space Requirements||
Shih Tzus are a small breed dog, and will typically only weigh between 9 to 16 pounds. Their legs are short for the length of their body, and they stand between 9 to 10.5 inches at the shoulder.
Shih Tzus are very adaptable dogs that generally do well in any size of home. This is one of the key traits that make them a favorite choice of apartment owners and homeowners who don’t have a yard. They’re not hardy enough to live outdoors, and require indoor accommodations to be near their human family members.
They are generally small enough that their sleeping quarters can fit comfortably into most homes. It’s not advisable for Shih Tzus to have to go up and down stairs often, as it may cause joint problems as the dog gets older.
- There is almost no size and weight difference between male and female Shih Tzus.
- Because of their size, their stomachs can’t hold that much food at once. Feeding your Shih Tzu multiple smaller meals per day can help prevent stomach upsets and indigestion.
- Shih Tzus are also called “chrysanthemum-faced dogs” due to the hair that sprouts out from their nose. Keeping this hair brushed and out of the way of a Shih Tzu’s eyes can help prevent some eye problems later on in life.
How can I take good care of my Shih Tzu or Puppy?
Socializing your Shih Tzu puppy as soon as they are brought home can help prevent the development of bad habits and anxiety. Most registered dog breeders will release puppies at 8 weeks of age, which may be too early for obedience training but not for socialization. The period between 8 to 12 weeks is a critical time when your Shih Tzu will be especially receptive to new stimuli.
Because Shih Tzus are a small breed, it’s important to get them high-quality, premium dog food. Small breed specific dog food is usually a good choice for a Shih Tzu. Small meals 3 to 4 times a day is ideal for most Shih Tzu puppies, since their stomachs are small and cannot handle their entire daily food intake in one go. Your veterinarian may have more specific recommendations for your Shih Tzu depending on their health and activity level.
Upon bringing home your Shih Tzu puppy, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian and ask for their advice regarding when to bring the dog in for vaccinations. Shih Tzu puppies will have a couple of rounds of vaccinations in the first few weeks or months with you. Following the vaccine schedule your veterinarian gives you will ensure that your puppy is protected and resistant to common dog illnesses.
Most Asked Shih Tzu Questions
+How Much do Shih Tzu Puppies Cost
Most Shih Tzu puppies for sale will cost between $750 and $3000. It’s a wide range due to some Shih Tzus being bred to be show dogs. Even Shih Tzus on the lower end of this price range will have to go through a number of health checks before an ethical breeder releases the puppies to their new owners. Only get Shih Tzu puppies from responsible breeders to give your Shih Tzu the best chance of success in life.