Shih Tzu

LittleDog

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Shih tzu or lion dog is an affectionate dog and a very attached breed, as it needs a lot of attention from the owners. This is the only way to feel safe and happy. It is a homey and playful little dog, a great companion, faithful and cuddly. This breed was considered a sacred breed and was the pet of the Dalai Lama himself.

Height: 8.5-10.6 inches
Weight: 9-17 Pounds
Fur: Long length
Life expectancy: 10-16 years
Activity Level: Low
Country of origin: China (Tibet)
Orientative Price: 1100-1600 $

Physical Appearance

  • Weight and Size: The Shih Tzu is a small breed, rarely exceeding 10.6 inches in height, and their weight typically ranges from 9 to 17 pounds.
  • Coat and Colors: The Shih Tzu boasts a thick, long, and silky coat, with some allowance for slight waviness according to breed standards. Their abundant coat envelops them, resembling an adorable furry ball. Despite their profuse hair, this breed is considered hypoallergenic because they do not shed.
  • General Build: Shih Tzus are characterized by their short, flat noses and large, round, typically dark eyes. They are also known for their large, drooping ears, a fluffy curled tail on their back, and a somewhat “arrogant” gait.
  • Their round face often resembles a chrysanthemum due to the abundance of hair that grows upwards on their muzzle.
  • Their nose is usually black or dark, and they have a broad, short muzzle. Additionally, their eyes are large and round, in dark shades.
  • Shih Tzus have large, drooping ears, and their tail is feathered, curled over their back.
  • Their bodies are sturdy with a broad and deep chest, and their limbs are short and muscular.
  • Colors: Shih Tzus come in a wide range of colors, including:
    • White and brown.
    • White and black.
    • Various shades of gold.
    • Gold with a black mask.
    • Solid black.
    • Liver.
    • Liver and white.
    • Brindle.
    • White with gray.
    • White and cinnamon.
    • Cream shades.
    • Solid blue (although uncommon).
  • It’s common for multicolored individuals to have a white tuft on their forehead and at the tip of the tail.

Temperament

The Shih Tzu is an affectionate, playful, and sociable dog with a loyal temperament.

They are friendly with strangers and often display affection. As such, they are not suited for guard duties. While they may alert their owners to any anomalies in their environment, they do not serve as protectors.

Their favorite pastime is being with their owners and spending time with them.

They are great for children, as they are cheerful and enjoy playtime. However, it’s important to teach children to handle them with care, as their small size can make them susceptible to injury in rough play.

Shih Tzus are also well-suited for seniors because their exercise needs are moderate. They typically require two 20-minute walks a day and enjoy spending time at home with their owners.

It’s worth noting that female Shih Tzus may display a stronger temperament during their heat cycle.

In general, Shih Tzus have good temperaments but can sometimes be a bit stubborn and disobedient. To learn more about potential negative characteristics, refer to our specialized article on their less favorable traits.

Characteristics

Life Expectancy: The average life expectancy of a Shih Tzu is between 10 and 16 years. According to a survey conducted by the Kennel Club in the UK, the breed’s median lifespan is 13 years and 2 months. Many factors can affect a dog’s lifespan, so these figures are simple averages and may vary.

Growth: Shih Tzus typically reach their full adult size at around 10 months of age.

Training: Shih Tzus are known for being quite stubborn and may try to have their way, sometimes adopting a haughty and disobedient attitude. Therefore, it’s essential to start their training from puppyhood to establish house rules. Use gentle and firm commands to make the training effective. Positive reinforcement training, which involves rewarding good behavior, is often the best approach. If you want to potty train a Shih Tzu or teach them to go in a specific place, patience and setting boundaries are key. They should know where and when to urinate, and positive reinforcement can help reinforce this behavior.

Relationship with Other Pets: Shih Tzus generally get along well with other pets and are known to be one of the breeds that coexist harmoniously with cats. They are not typically aggressive.

Alert but Not Alarming: Shih Tzus are alert to sounds and their surroundings, but they may not always get involved. While they are very affectionate, they can also be independent.

Playtime: Shih Tzus are creative with their free time and are amusing to watch when they prepare for one of their invented games. It’s important to provide them with playtime and walks, as this prevents them from becoming overweight, a tendency they have.

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Care

Coat: There are two options when it comes to Shih Tzu’s coats:

  1. Long Mane: If you choose to maintain their long, silky mane, you must be prepared for regular care, including frequent brushing, a bath with dog shampoo every three weeks, and weekly application of an oil to keep the coat tangle-free.
  2. Short Coat: A Shih Tzu with a short coat requires minimal grooming, such as occasional brushing and bathing every 3 weeks to 1 month. Some find this breed even more adorable with a short coat, whether it’s a male or female. In some competitions, the breed standard requires a natural long coat with only trims around the paws and the anal area. If you want to know the ideal cut patterns for your Shih Tzu, we explain them in detail in this article on the types of cuts.

Climate Considerations: Shih Tzus have a short nose and a flat face, which is known as brachycephalia. Due to this characteristic, the air entering their lungs doesn’t cool down sufficiently, making them sensitive to heat. Exposing them to high temperatures can lead to heat stroke. You should avoid exercising them in extremely hot weather and provide them with access to water during warmer seasons.

Eye Care: Cleaning a Shih Tzu’s eyes is essential because their large, prominent eyes are prone to exposure. It’s recommended to clean their eyes at least twice a week, and keeping their bangs trimmed is crucial.

Dental Care: Shih Tzus have 42 teeth, like other dogs, but their small jaw can result in teeth that are somewhat crowded, leading to more plaque buildup. Frequent dental care is advisable, including regular teeth cleaning with dog toothpaste or providing dental chews.

Note: Some dental chews are specifically designed for adult dogs. Check with your veterinarian.

Coprophagia: Some Shih Tzus may exhibit coprophagia, the habit of eating their own or other animals’ feces. To prevent this behavior, it’s essential to clean up their waste promptly.

Feeding: The Shih Tzu’s stomach is small and delicate, much like many small breeds. They are advised to eat smaller, frequent meals. They typically tolerate dry food better than wet food. There are various types of dog kibble, so choose a size suitable for their bite and the one appropriate for their age: puppy, adult, or senior. If you prefer to feed them homemade food, consult your veterinarian for guidance on providing a balanced diet that their stomach can handle.

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Pros and Cons

Advantages of Shih Tzus:

  • They make great companions for seniors due to their calm and affectionate nature.
  • They require minimal exercise but should have daily walks.
  • They have a high likelihood of getting along with other pets, including cats.
  • They are good playmates for children.

Disadvantages of Shih Tzus:

  • Shih Tzus can be stubborn and disobedient, requiring early training.
  • They need protection from hot weather, as they can overheat.
  • Regular coat maintenance is necessary, including eye care.
  • They don’t do well when left alone for extended periods.
  • Their brachycephalic features can lead to snoring.
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Health

Shih Tzus are generally robust and healthy dogs, but there are specific health conditions that can affect the breed:

  • Renal Dysplasia: A genetic kidney defect that usually affects young dogs, leading to excessive thirst, frequent urination, and sometimes vomiting.
  • Eye Problems:
    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: A hereditary disease that causes progressive deterioration of the retina.
    • Dry Eye: A condition characterized by low tear production, leading to dryness of the cornea.
  • Nasal Stenosis: Respiratory obstruction due to narrowed nasal openings, primarily caused by their brachycephalic features.
  • Hip Dysplasia: An abnormal formation of the hip socket, potentially causing pain and lameness, especially when combined with obesity.
  • Allergies: Shih Tzus can develop allergies to food or environmental factors, similar to people.
  • Hypothyroidism: A thyroid gland malfunction that requires lifelong medication to regulate metabolism.
  • Renal Cortical Hypoplasia: A hereditary kidney disorder.

This breed may also experience underbite or prognathism, where the lower jaw slightly protrudes outward compared to the upper jaw.

History and Origin

The name “Shih Tzu” originates from a Chinese term meaning “Lion Dog.”

This breed has its roots in both Tibet and China, with some ambiguity about its exact origin. It is descended from the Lhasa Apso, a Tibetan breed dating back to 800 B.C. In the 17th century, the Dalai Lama gifted several Shih Tzus to the Emperor. The Empress was an admirer of the breed and maintained a royal kennel with expert care for these dogs. Shih Tzus, like the Lhasa Apso, were considered sacred.

However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the breed became popular among Chinese families.

In 1934, two significant events occurred: the creation of the Peking Kennel Club, which registered the Shih Tzu, and the breed’s extinction in China due to the Japanese invasion.

Travelers who visited the Far East introduced the breed to Europe, where they replaced the Lhasa Apso as the preferred breed of the wealthy and nobility.

By around 1955, their popularity extended to the United States.

Genetically, Shih Tzus are believed to have resulted from up to seven crosses between various breeds, including the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) officially recognized the breed in December 1957 and published the latest breed standard in August 2017, classifying them in Group 4: Companion and Toy Dogs, Section 5: Tibetan breeds.