Everything you need to know about Shih Tzus

With their affectionate personality and big puppy dog eyes, these cute little companions have been charming their owners for more than 1000 years.

If you’re thinking of getting one of your own, this handy guide has all the Shih Tzu facts, information and advice you need. From common health problems to training and temperament, you’ll know how to take care of a Shih Tzu puppy or dog in no time.

Quick facts

Lifespan over 10 years
Price £300–1300
Size 27cm
Weight 4.5–8kg
Colours most colours and patterns are seen
Grooming regular grooming is essential
Temperament affectionate and cuddly
Exercise regular, daily exercise



Different types and breeds

This popular purebred dog originally came from the autonomous Chinese region of Tibet. And their history goes back more than 1000 years, when it’s believed the dogs were gifted by Tibet to the Chinese royalty.

This royal little companion was actually known as the 'Lhasa Lion' dog. And when Shih Tzus first arrived here in the UK, they were classed as Lhasa Apsos before becoming their own separate breed.

Smaller varieties of the breed are sometimes known as teacup or imperial Shih Tzus – but these are not standalone breeds. Over the years though, the Shih Tzu has been successfully mixed with various other dogs to create popular crossbreeds.

These include the Shinese (a cross with a Pekingese), the Shorkie (a cross with a Yorkshire Terrier) and a Shih-poo (a cross with a poodle).

How to care for a Shih Tzu

Feeding, grooming, socialising and exercising are all important things to consider when caring for any dog. Giving your pet lots of love and attention will ensure they live a long, happy and healthy life.

You'll need to feed your puppy 3 or 4 times a day for the first 6 months. As your puppy grows, you can reduce the number of times you feed it. As an adult, you’ll only need to feed them once or twice a day. It's usually best to continue feeding your puppy the same food as the breeder until they're settled. Then you can look to change it but, remember to do this gradually to avoid a poorly tummy.

It can be confusing to know which dog food is best for your dog, so speak to your vet if you are unsure. They’ll be able to recommend the best diet for your Shih Tzu.

Shih Tzus have a long, dense coat with a short, dense undercoat and longer topcoat. This is often called a ‘double’ coat and requires regular grooming. If you have a puppy, start grooming them at an early age so they get used to it quickly.

If your dog has a particularly long coat, you’ll need to groom it every day to prevent the hair from matting. A matted coat can be very unpleasant for your dog. If you’re not sure how to groom your Shih Tzu, it can be easier to visit a dog groomer. They can give them a haircut, trim their face and tackle their claws at the same time. This makes grooming much easier for you and less stressful for your dog.

Bathing your Shih Tzu is also an important part of keeping your pet’s coat clean and their skin healthy. Generally, a quick bath every few weeks should do the trick.

They’re a lively breed and will need plenty of exercise each day to keep them active and healthy. They’re only small, but a Shih Tzu will still need exercising for 30 minutes, twice a day.

They’re also known for being very agile, so you could set up some simple obstacles in your garden. This will ensure your dog gets the exercise they need while having fun in the process.

Shih Tzus can be a bit of a handful to train and are known for their stubbornness. However, they’re intelligent and enjoy learning, so stick at it.

House training a Shih Tzu puppy can also take a little longer than other breeds. Puppies need to go to the toilet every couple of hours. Take your puppy outside when they wake up and after eating or drinking – this will help them learn where to go to the toilet.

Puppy pads are a great way of encouraging your puppy to go to the toilet in a specific place. Once they learn to use the pad in the house, you can then gradually move it outside and, eventually, remove the pad completely.



Temperament and behaviour

Shih Tzus are intelligent dogs with lively, sassy personalities. They’re affectionate, loyal and make great companions. These characteristics mean they’re a great breed to have around the family.

As with some small breed dogs, they can be a bit ‘yappy’ without proper training. If you want to learn how to get a Shih Tzu to stop barking, getting advice from a specialist dog trainer might help. A top tip is to distract your dog with its favourite toy when it becomes vocal and reward them when they’re quiet.

Common health problems

Shih Tzus are known to suffer from several health problems. You may have heard of ‘Imperial’ or ‘Teacup’ Shih Tzus. These are smaller than the Kennel Club’s Breed Standard. They’re unnaturally small and unfortunately, tend to have lots of health problems.

Here are some of the more common health problems that might affect Shih Tzus:

BAOS is a condition only found in brachycephalic breeds. These are breeds that have particularly short noses, making breathing difficult. It’s a congenital condition which means dogs are born with it.

The condition also results in noisy breathing and sometimes loud snoring when they’re asleep. In severe cases, dogs can suffer from a lack of oxygen which means they struggle to even do gentle exercise.

Surgery is possible, but your vet will be able to advise you of the best treatment for your dog.

Shih Tzus have short jaws which means their teeth can become overcrowded. This can cause problems with their teeth and gums.

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is common in this breed. This will eventually lead to tooth loss if it’s not treated.

You can help prevent dental disease by cleaning your dog’s teeth from an early age. However, if your dog does have dental disease, your vet might need to remove some of your dog’s teeth.

GPRA is an inherited condition of the eyes. If your dog develops GPRA, you might notice them struggling to see properly in poor light or the dark. This can make your dog nervous about going outside when it's dark. You might also notice your dog’s eyes going grey and looking cloudy.

Kidney (renal) dysplasia is an inherited condition where the kidneys don’t develop properly. Unfortunately, this condition can’t be treated. Dogs with this condition might drink excessively and go to the toilet more often than usual. Other signs might include weight loss or poor growth in younger dogs.

When you buy a puppy, it’s important to find out if the puppy’s parents have had their kidneys checked out to make sure they’re normal. This will lessen the chances of your puppy inheriting the condition.



So, is a Shih Tzu right for you?

Shih Tzus are a small breed of dog and love nothing more than sitting on your lap for a cuddle. They’re intelligent and love company which makes them a great family pet. However, they can take longer to train than other dog breeds and can be quite yappy.

Do Shih Tzus shed their hair?

All dog breeds shed their hair to a certain degree, and Shih Tzus are no exception. But, they do have a ‘double’ coat which means most of their shed hairs get caught in the coat and not much falls out on the floor. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean they’re hypoallergenic, so if you suffer from a dog allergy, bear this in mind if you’re thinking of getting one.

How much does a Shih Tzu cost?

A puppy can cost around £300-1300; a young adult dog with some basic training could cost even more. If you’re buying a puppy, it’s advisable to buy one from a registered breeder. Reputable breeders will have ensured the puppy’s parents have had all the relevant health checks.

How big do Shih Tzus get?

They’re usually fully grown when they reach about 10-12 months old. When they’re fully grown, they’re around 27cm tall. Imperial Shih Tzus, also known as Toy or Mini Shih Tzus are usually under 4.5kg and size can vary.

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Content provided from Vetstream’s Vetlexicon

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