The name “Shih Tzu” means little lion in Mandarin, but there is nothing vicious about this dog breed. They were possibly named because of their association with the Tibetan God of Learning, Manjusri. According to legend, he travelled with a small lion which was said to represent the use of wisdom to tame the mind.
This adorable dog breed has always been bred with the sole purpose of being human companions, so they are highly affectionate, lively, bright, and loyal. As a result, they are one of the most endeared dog breeds in the United Kingdom and worldwide.
Shih Tzus are loving, cheerful, outgoing house dogs who adore nothing more than to follow their human companion from room to room. Since ancient times, Shih Tzus have made themselves content and relaxed on the laps of people from all walks of life, even people of royal blood. These charming dogs are also known for their longevity and adaptability. They are just as happy living in the city in a small apartment as they are in a large country home.
In recent years, pet parents have even started taking their Shih Tzus off their laps and into canine sports, such as obedience courses, and agility competitions. They make excellent family companions who get along well with children and even other animals.
The lovely shape of the Shih Tzu’s head is one of the most endearing physical traits of this breed, as well as the unique way the hair grows upwards on the bridge of the nose.
For many years, these charming little dogs have brought joy to the world with their sweet personalities and charming looks.
- Exercise Needed Daily: 30 minutes 2/10
- Training: Time Consuming 10/10
- Grooming: Twice a Week 6/10
- Shedding: Low 2/10
- Hypoallergenic: Intensive 10/10
- Watchdog Ability: Medium 6/10
- Barking Level: Intensive 10/10
- Environment: City & Countryside 6/10
- Type of home: Apartment 2/10
- Good with Children: Yes 10/10
- Good with Other Animals: Yes 10/10
- POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS: No 2/10
Originating in Tibet, Shih Tzu dogs are thought to be one of the 14 most ancient dog breeds in the world. Excavated dog bones prove that these canines existed in China as early as 8000BC. However, their exact origin is unknown.
Many experts believe these dogs were developed by Tibetan Monks and were given as gifts to Chinese Emperors. Others believe they first appeared in China by crossing Lhasa Apsos and Pekinese. Whatever their origin, it's clear that they were treasured companions. Various paintings, artworks, sculptures, and writings depicted dogs that looked very similar to the modern-day Shih Tzu. They were also mentioned in numerous legends. In Buddhist mythology, Buddha’s Shih Tzu companion saved him from a group of robbers by morphing into a ferocious lion.
During the late 1800s, Empress Tzu Hsi, who was a big admirer of the Shih Tzu, established a successful breeding program. This is why Shih Tzus are often believed to have originated in China rather than Tibet.
Before the start of the First World War, a few Shih Tzus arrived in Europe. In 1928, two of these charming dogs arrived in the UK when the wife of a Quarter Master General to China, Lady Brownrigg, brought them with her. These two dogs became the foundation of the many Shih Tzus we see today.
In 1933, the first Shih Tzus were shown in England, and they were first recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club in 1949. These dogs were first brought to America after World War Two and recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1969.
Today, Shih Tzus are a huge hit both at home and in the show ring, thanks to their adorable looks and sweet demeanours.
Shih Tzus may look delicate, but they are surprisingly robust and sturdy. They have a luxurious, long top coat that isn’t curled. However, a slight wave is permitted. Shih Tzus have a distinct face, known as a “chrysanthemum face” because the hairs on their muzzles grow in every direction. These dogs have round, broad heads with a lot of width between their eyes. They also boast a nice beard and full whiskers.
Their short, square muzzles are broad without any wrinkles. They have black noses; however, liver-coated Shih Tzus have liver coloured noses. Their stops are well-defined, and their noses have slightly tilted nostrils. Shih Tzu’s round eyes are large and dark in colour. Liver coated dogs have somewhat lighter coloured eyes, and this is allowed as a breed standard.
Their large ears boast long leathers and are carried drooping. Their mouths are often slightly undershot which is a trademark of this breed. However, it can be level too. They have well-proportioned necks that are carried well-arched. On the other hand, their shoulders are well laid-back, and their short front legs are well-muscled.
These dogs have compact bodies with deep chests. Their rounded feet are well-padded and covered in hair. Their extremely plumed tails are set high and carried over their backs.
Their coats can come in any colour and colour combination. The only colour that is not permitted is merle. Parti-coloured dogs have a white blaze on their foreheads and white tips on their tails.
The Shih Tzu’s personality is very appealing, and even the most unwilling dog observers will find it difficult to resist this dog breed. Shih Tzu dogs simply do not let anyone ignore them. They were bred to be sociable canine companions; they do not herd, hunt, or guard. They adore nothing more than greeting friends and even strangers. Expect your Shih Tzu to make friends wherever they go! These dogs are known to bark when strangers visit your home, but it doesn’t take them long to settle once they realise there’s no threat.
Shih Tzus are incredibly adaptable. They are well-suited to apartment dwellers in the city, as well as to life on a country farm. They are also ideal for first-time dog owners because they are always keen to please their human companions. These are lively, energetic dogs that need lots of mental, physical, and social stimulation to thrive. So, they are best suited to homes where someone is home for most of the day. They are also well suited to homes with children of all ages because they will revel in the attention they receive!
These dogs can be a little feisty at times, but they rarely ever show any signs of aggression.
Training your Shih Tzu can be both entertaining and exasperating! This dog breed is well known to have the ability to train their owners before their owners train them! However, this can cause problems in the long run so consistency is key. Because this dog breed is people-oriented, training methods that are based on rewards and praise work best.
Introduce selected new behaviours one at a time. Be firm, and never give in if your dog is being mischievous. If they snap or jump up on you, disregard it until they have settled down, then offer praise.
It’s worth mentioning that these dogs have a reputation for being difficult to housetrain because they have small bladders and are prone to anxiety. Be persistent but never scold your dog because this can make their anxiety worse.
Early and regular socialisation is of the highest importance to develop happy, content, and healthy Shih Tzus. Owners must gently expose their Shih Tzu puppy to different kinds of people, situations, and places as they grow. Take your dog to training classes and let all members of the family partake. Don’t accept inappropriate behaviour, and don’t hesitate to ask for the help of a qualified trainer or dog behaviourist if there’s an issue or problem that you can’t correct. These early efforts will reward you with a well-rounded Shih Tzu that will attract admiration wherever they go.
The Shih Tzu has a long coat that requires regular brushing. At least 2-3 times a week is ideal. Use a good-quality, vet-approved wire brush with flexible pins, and make sure to layer their hair to ensure you reach down to the skin. Bathe your Shih Tzu every three or four weeks to help keep their coat clean and looking its best. When grooming, make sure you comb their moustache and topknot, and gently clean the corner of their eyes with a damp cloth.
To shield their eyes from irritation, the hair on the top of their head must be trimmed short or tied up in a topknot. A regular “puppy trim” from a professional groomer is the simplest method if you’re not sure how to do this.
For their dental health, brush your dog’s teeth at least two times a week to remove bacteria and tartar buildup. Daily brushing is much better if you want to avoid tooth and gum disease and bad breath.
Trim their nails as needed. Shih Tzus don’t wear them down naturally so regular trimming is necessary to prevent painful tears and other health problems. It’s recommended that you ask a veterinarian or groomer for tips on how to properly trim a dog’s nails.
Their ears must be checked weekly for redness or a foul smell because these can be signs of an infection. When you check their ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a vet-approved, gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help stop ear infections. Never insert anything into their ear canal, especially cotton swabs.
As you groom your Shih Tzu, examine their body for rashes, sores, or signs of infection such as inflammation, redness, or tenderness on the skin, eyes, in their nose, mouth, and on their feet. Their eyes must be clear, with no discharge or redness. Your meticulous weekly exam will help you identify potential health problems early.
Shih Tzus are a relatively healthy dog breed. Their life expectancy is 11-16 years with proper care, exercise, and a high-quality diet. However, always make sure you purchase a Shih Tzu from a reputable breeder to ensure they are in good health. A good breeder will also be able to run tests to determine if any underlying health issues are present.
Some of the more common health conditions seen in Shih Tzus are:
- Canine Hip Dysplasia – This is an irregular formation of the hip socket that can lead to pain and lameness.
- Patellar Luxation – This is also known as "slipped stifles," which is a common problem with the kneecap in small dog breeds. It causes limping, or an abnormal step, kind of like a hop or a skip.
- Dry Eye – An eye condition where natural tear production is insufficient. Signs may include a blue haze or dry appearance to the eye. Your veterinarian can administer a test to determine if your Shih Tzu has dry eye. They can also prescribe medication to relieve the pain.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – This is a family of eye diseases that causes the eye retina's slow deterioration.
- Ear Infections – These are very common in Shih Tzus due to their floppy ears. You can avoid most ear infections by keeping their ears clean and dry. Ask your vet about the best ear care products and if an infection does happen, have your dog treated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Umbilical Hernias – This is a common health condition among Shih Tzus. It’s often caused by the delayed closure of the abdominal midline. If the hernia is small, it may close as the puppy ages. However, surgery is sometimes needed to correct the issue.
- Portosystemic Liver Shunt – A genetic abnormality in which blood vessels allow blood to bypass the liver. Surgery is generally the best treatment for this condition.
- Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome: Just like other brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, Shih Tzus can suffer from respiratory issues caused by narrow upper airways. Dogs with this condition can also struggle to regulate their body temperature so avoid walking them in high temperatures.
Shih Tzus can make wonderful family pets. They get along well with other dogs, cats, and small animals. Their calm and affectionate personalities also make them great canine companions for children.
Children must sit on the floor to play with a Shih Tzu puppy. This way, there is no risk of carrying them incorrectly and dropping them. Kids must also learn to keep their fingers away from the dog’s prominent eyes which can easily be injured.
Remember to always teach kids how to approach and care for dogs. Always supervise any interactions between them to avoid any biting, ear, or tail pulling that may cause a Shih Tzu to snap.
If you train your Shih Tzu puppy consistently and ensure they receive plenty of social, physical, and mental interaction, you are sure to have a loving companion for years to come.