Shih Tzu Dog Breed

Shih Tzu Dog Breed is a little toy breed distinguished by its long, flowing coat, unique pushed-in face, and energetic, cheerful disposition. Since the breed has a regal past and appearance, the name “Shih Tzu” means “lion dog” in Mandarin. These canines usually weigh 9 to 16 pounds and stand 9 to 10.5 inches tall. Despite their small size, Shih Tzus are sturdy and well-balanced, with a distinctively proud carriage.

History of Shih Tzu Dog Breed

The Shih Tzu dog breed has a long and fascinating history, extending back over a thousand years. Originating in ancient China, the Shih Tzu is believed to have been developed by breeding small Tibetan breeds, such as the Lhasa Apso, with the Pekingese. These dogs were favored by Chinese royalty and were often given as gifts to the emperors.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Shih Tzus were highly prized and lived luxurious lives in the imperial palaces. Their name comes from the fact that they were bred to resemble the lion, which is a highly venerated Buddhist icon. These canines’ importance in the imperial court was demonstrated by their impeccable grooming and frequent representation in Chinese scriptures and art.

The breed remained relatively unknown outside China until the early 20th century when they began to be imported to Europe. The Shih Tzu became popular in the West, especially in the United States, where it was approved by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1969. Today, the Shih Tzu is a popular companion dog, recognized for its pleasant personality and exquisite appearance.

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Characteristics

Shih Tzus are easily recognizable due to their distinctive features and charming personality traits. Here are some key characteristics of the Shih Tzu dog breed:

  • Appearance: Shih Tzus have a unique look with a short muzzle, large dark eyes, and a rounded head. Their long, flowing double coat is one of their most striking features, often styled in various ways by their owners. Common coat colors include gold, white, black, liver, and combinations of these.
  • Size: As a toy breed, Shih Tzus are small and compact. They typically weigh between 9 to 16 pounds and stand 9 to 10.5 inches tall at the shoulder. Despite their small size, they are sturdy and well-proportioned.
  • Lifespan: Shih Tzus have a relatively long lifespan for a dog, typically living between 10 to 16 years. With proper care, some can live even longer.
  • Personality: Shih Tzus are known for their friendly and affectionate nature. They are often described as being alert, lively, and outgoing. They thrive on human companionship and enjoy being part of family activities.
  • Grooming Needs: Due to their long, luxurious coat, Shih Tzus require regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling. Many owners choose to keep their Shih Tzus in a “puppy cut” for easier maintenance. Regular brushing and professional grooming every few weeks are essential to keep their coat healthy and beautiful.

Care of the Shih Tzu Dog Breed

Caring for a Shih Tzu involves meeting their grooming, dietary, exercise, and general health needs. Here are some essential tips for Shih Tzu care:

Grooming

Shih Tzus have high grooming needs due to their long, dense coat. Regular brushing, ideally daily, is necessary to prevent tangles and mats. Many owners opt for professional grooming every 4 to 6 weeks. Bathing should be done every 3 to 4 weeks, and special attention should be paid to keeping their eyes and ears clean to prevent infections.

Diet

A balanced diet is crucial for the health of a Shih Tzu. High-quality commercial dog food or a well-prepared homemade diet that meets their nutritional needs is recommended. Shih Tzus are prone to obesity, so portion control and regular feeding schedules are essential. Freshwater should always be available.

Exercise

Although Shih Tzus are small, they still need regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. Daily walks and playtime are sufficient to meet their exercise needs. They enjoy indoor activities and games, making them well-suited to apartment living.

Dental Care

Shih Tzus are prone to dental problems, so regular brushing of their teeth is important. Dental chews and professional cleanings can help maintain their oral health.

Health Check-ups

Regular veterinary visits are essential to monitor the health of your Shih Tzu. Routine vaccinations, parasite control, and health screenings are necessary to detect and prevent potential health issues.

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Temperament 

The temperament of the Shih Tzu dog breed is one of its most endearing qualities. Shih Tzus are known for their friendly, affectionate, and outgoing nature. Here are some key aspects of their temperament:

  • Affectionate: Shih Tzus are incredibly loving and enjoy being close to their human companions. They thrive on attention and are known to form strong bonds with their families. They are often described as “lap dogs” because they love to cuddle and be petted.
  • Playful: Shih Tzus have a playful and lively personality. They enjoy interactive games and toys, making them fun companions for both children and adults. Their playful nature also helps them stay active and engaged.
  • Sociable: Shih Tzus are generally friendly and sociable dogs. They tend to get along well with other pets and are usually good with children. Early socialization is important to ensure they develop positive interactions with other animals and people.
  • Alert: Despite their small size, Shih Tzus are alert and can be good watchdogs. They are quick to alert their owners to any unusual sounds or strangers, though they are not typically aggressive.
  • Adaptable: Shih Tzus are adaptable dogs that can thrive in various living environments, from apartments to houses with yards. They are content as long as they are with their loved ones and receive adequate attention and care.

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Training 

Training a Shih Tzu requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. Here are some tips for effectively training a Shih Tzu:

  • Start Early: Begin training and socialization as early as possible. Puppies are more receptive to learning and can benefit from early exposure to different people, pets, and environments.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats, praise, and affection, to reward good behavior. Shih Tzus respond well to positive reinforcement and are more likely to repeat behaviors that earn them rewards.
  • Short Training Sessions: Keep training sessions short and engaging. Shih Tzus have a relatively short attention span, so brief, frequent training sessions are more effective than long, repetitive ones.
  • House Training: Consistency is key when house training a Shih Tzu. Establish a regular potty schedule and take your puppy outside frequently, especially after meals, playtime, and naps. Use positive reinforcement to reward successful potty trips.
  • Basic Commands: Teach basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” These commands are essential for safety and good behavior. Practice these commands regularly in different settings to reinforce learning.
  • Crate Training: Crate training can be helpful for house training and providing a safe, comfortable space for your Shih Tzu. Ensure the crate is appropriately sized and introduce it gradually with positive reinforcement.
  • Socialization: Expose your Shih Tzu to various people, animals, and environments to build their confidence and prevent fearfulness. Positive socialization experiences can lead to a well-adjusted and friendly adult dog.

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Health

While Shih Tzus are generally healthy dogs, they are prone to certain health issues due to their unique physical characteristics. Here are some common health concerns for the Shih Tzu dog breed:

1. Brachycephalic Syndrome

Shih Tzus have a short, flat muzzle, which can lead to breathing difficulties and other respiratory issues. Brachycephalic syndrome includes conditions such as elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and tracheal collapse. Regular check-ups and monitoring are essential to manage these conditions.

2. Dental Problems

Shih Tzus are prone to dental issues, including gum disease and tooth decay. Regular dental care, including brushing and professional cleanings, is crucial to maintain their oral health.

3. Eye Problems

The prominent eyes of Shih Tzus make them susceptible to various eye issues, such as corneal ulcers, dry eye, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Regular eye check-ups and keeping their face clean can help prevent some of these problems.

4. Hip Dysplasia

Although more common in larger breeds, Shih Tzus can also suffer from hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly. This can lead to pain and mobility issues. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition.

5. Allergies

Shih Tzus can be prone to skin allergies and sensitivities. Common allergens include certain foods, environmental factors, and grooming products. Identifying and avoiding allergens, along with proper grooming, can help manage skin issues.

6. Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

IVDD is a condition that affects the spine, leading to pain, nerve damage, and in severe cases, paralysis. Shih Tzus can be predisposed to this condition due to their body structure. Preventive measures include avoiding excessive jumping, maintaining a healthy weight, and providing supportive bedding.

7. Ear Infections

Shih Tzus have floppy ears that can trap moisture and debris, making them prone to ear infections. Regular ear cleaning and checking for signs of infection, such as redness or a foul odor, can help prevent these issues.

8. Hypothyroidism

This is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, leading to symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, and skin problems. Regular veterinary check-ups can help diagnose and manage hypothyroidism.

9. Renal Dysplasia

Shih Tzus can be prone to renal dysplasia, a congenital kidney disorder. It is essential to monitor their kidney function through regular vet visits, especially as they age.

Conclusion

The Shih Tzu dog breed is a delightful and affectionate companion, known for its charming personality and distinctive appearance. Their rich history, dating back to ancient Chinese royalty, adds to their allure. While they require regular grooming and care, their loving nature and adaptability make them well-suited to various living environments.