An 'Imperial' breed with a beautiful coat and fit for apartment dwellers
Shih Tzu Spotlight
- One of the oldest dog breeds
- Part of the toy group
- Medium energy level
- Bred for companionship
- Great breed for apartment dwellers
- Shih Tzu is all royalty!
Much remains unknown about the Shih Tzu’s exact history, but many experts believe the breed originated from Tibet and was then further developed in China. Shih Tzus are thought to be one of the most ancient dog breeds. Dogs similar in size and appearance were depicted in drawings and artwork dating as far back as China’s Shang Dynasty era.
The breed is referred to as the Shih-tzu Kou in traditional Chinese, which literally translates to “lion dog” and is based on the breed’s appearance. They have a royal history and are often associated with Empress Tzu Hsi who ruled China for much of the second half of the 1800s and was gifted a pair of excellent breeding Shih Tzus by the Dalai Lama. Tzu Hsi was an animal lover herself and she used these dogs to create a wonderfully pure line of Shih Tzus. Dogs from this line were bred and raised within the palace and were not permitted to be owned by anyone outside of the royal court.
Shih Tzus belong to the toy group and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969. The breed’s popularity has decreased slightly over the past decade but it still remains a popular breed overall and is currently ranked the 20th most popular dog breed by the AKC.
Personality & Temperament
Shih Tzus were bred for companionship rather than for working or hunting, and this very apparent in their personalities. Seeing as their ancestors spent most of their time lounging around inside royal palaces, these dogs prefer to spend most of their time indoors and do just fine in apartment settings. They are affectionate toward their family members and will behave similarly around strangers if properly socialized.
These loyal dogs will likely follow you from room to room and will want to be curled up next to you when you are relaxing on the couch or sleeping at night. They can be rather feisty, especially at a young age, and love to play with their toys and their owners.
Shih Tzus make keen watch dogs and will always alert their owners if someone approaches their home. They will be tempted to bark excessively but this unwanted habit can be controlled through early training and positive reinforcement.They are typically gentle toward people and other animals and will not display aggression if they have been properly socialized.
Like other breeds of this size, Shih Tzus can be difficult to train and are susceptible to developing small dog syndrome if their owners fail to make it clear that they are the boss. Shih Tzu owners should be firm and confident during training sessions, as well as when the dog misbehaves, as these dogs can be stubborn and like to have things done their way.
Appearance & Grooming
The body is sturdy, compact and low-set, with the chest dipping just below the elbows. The dog’s length is greater than the dog’s height, but not by much.The long, elegant coat comes in fourteen different colors and is very dense due to the fact that the Shih-Tzu is double-coated. The most frequently observed colors include white, tan, brown and black.
The maximum shoulder height is eleven inches according to the breed standard, and full grown Shih-Tzus can range anywhere from ten to twenty pounds in weight. The coat is categorized as hypoallergenic due to its relatively low shedding amount. The tail curves forward over the top of the dog’s back.
Shih Tzus used to live in royal palaces, so they’re no strangers to being pampered. Grooming can be a positive bonding experience if the dog is trained to enjoy being handled at a young age. Their long, thick double coats should be brushed every day to prevent matting and remove any excess hair. Many owners prefer to tie the dog’s hair back with some sort of clip to keep it off of the dog’s face, but this is not a requirement.
Their eyes should be regularly cleaned to prevent infections or other health issues. Their teeth should be brushed a minimum of once per week and their nails should be trimmed once or twice per month depending on how quickly they grow.
HealthShih Tzus are an overall healthy breed, but some individual dogs can development certain health issues at various stages. Those health issues include:
- Hypothyroidism is commonly observed in Shih Tzus. It’s a condition that results in the thyroid’s insufficient production of the T3 and T4 hormones. Symptoms include increased shedding, weakness, exhaustion, lack of interest in physical activity and weight gain. It typically appears when a dog has reached middle age and is more prevalent in male and female dogs that have been fixed.
- Respiratory issues are common in Shih Tzus as they are brachycephalic or short-headed which is a direct result of extensive efforts to breed them to have a certain appearance. Shih Tzus also have shortened airways, and the combination of these two characteristics makes them prone to breathing problems.
Exercise & Care
Although they have a medium energy level, Shih Tzus require fairly little exercise. Shih Tzus that live in homes with enclosed yards will enjoy the occasional off-leash adventure, but those that live in apartments or homes without enclosed yards will be satisfied with a leisurely walk once per day and will be less likely to develop behavioral issues. Shih Tzus enjoy exercising their minds as well and like to play indoors when they feel energetic or excited.
Other than the occasional time they spend exercising outdoors under their owner’s supervision, Shih Tzus prefer a clean, comfortable indoor environment and should never be expected to sleep or live outdoors. They are also sensitive to extreme weather, especially warm weather, and should always have access to a cool indoor environment to prevent them from overheating. Each individual dog will have varying nutritional needs so be sure to work closely with your breeder and veterinarian to determine a feeding routine and a type of food that works best for your dog. Beware of overfeeding Shih Tzus as their low activity levels make them susceptible to excess weight gain.