Shih Tzu pets

by PetBond Veterinary Surgeon

Shih Tzu Breed Features

Totally people orientated
Great first-time dog for novice owners
Gets on well with children of all ages
Social by nature
They make wonderful companions because they are so kind natured
Factors to Consider

High maintenance on the grooming front
Hate being left on their own and suffer from separation anxiety
Can bark excessively when left alone
Can be a little stubborn and wilful at times
Known to suffer from quite a few hereditary and congenital health issues

Background to Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are energetic, lively little dogs that thrive on human company and for decades they have been among the most popular family pets and companions throughout the world and in Ireland for good reason. Bright, alert, smart and loyal to their owners, sharing a home with a Shih Tzu is a real pleasure. Known for their boldness and longevity, these little dogs are also highly adaptable by nature being just as happy living in an apartment as they are in a house.

The Shih Tzu is often mistaken for a Lhasa Apso because they are similar looking, but the two breeds are quite different when it comes to their temperaments and conformation. One of the most endearing physical features of the Shih Tzu is the charming shape of their head and the way the hair on their faces grows upwards on the bridge their nose. For centuries, these little dogs have been delighting the world with their delightfully charming looks and endearing personalities.

The Shih Tzu is a lively little dog that was first bred in China where they were highly prized by Emperors. Today, they are classed as Utility dogs with The Kennel Club and have earned themselves a place in the hearts and homes of people all over the world. They are also very popular in the showring both with spectators and judges alike.

History of Shih Tzus

The Shih Tzu originates from Tibet where they were highly prized for thousands of years by Tibetan monks. They were kept in monasteries because they were known to be loyal and trustworthy companions as well as extremely good watchdogs. From time to time, these little dogs called Tibetan Lion Dogs were sent as gifts to Chinese Emperors where they were kept in the Imperial Palace. Ove time, they were to become firm favourites with Manchu Emperors. There are those who believe that these little dogs may have been crossed with short faced Chinese breeds which includes the Pekinese and the Chinese Pug. These crossings is why the Shih Tzu has their unique look making them that much different in appearance to the Tibetan Lion Dogs which today are known as the Lhasa Apso.

One of the breeds biggest fans at the time was the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi who set about establishing a successful breeding programme and which is why the breed is recognised as originating in China rather than Tibet. Their name Shih Tzu translated to English from Mandarin means “Little Lion” and they remained firm favourites with Chinese Emperors and Empresses for centuries because they were such loyal and affectionate companions.

A few dogs did arrive in Europe before the advent of the First World War and they also arrived on UK shores in 1928 when Lady Brownrigg, wife of a Quarter Master General to China bought two Shih Tzus back with her. The names of the dogs were Hibou and Shu-ssa and both had black and white coats with the female, Shu-ssa, closely resembling Shih Tzu puppies we see today. The two dogs were mated and a few years later in 1933, Shu-ssa was put to another Shih Tzu named Lung-fu-ssa, a dog that belonged to Mrs. Hutchins and these dogs were to become the foundation dogs for many of the Shih Tzus we see today.

One of the breed’s biggest fans back in the thirties was Gay Garforth-bles who was to become one of the main people to develop and promote Shih Tzus not only throughout the land, but around the world too. In 1949, the Shih Tzu was recognised as a breed in its own right by The Kennel Club and over the years, these charming little dogs have been a huge hit both in the show ring and the home environment thanks to their adorable looks and sweet, albeit lively and often mischievous natures.

Did You Know……

Are Shih Tzus a vulnerable breed? No, they are one of the most popular breeds both in the UK and in other countries of the world
The breed actually originates from Tibet, but many dogs were sent as gifts to Chinese Emperors who continued to develop these dogs to become the dogs we see today as such the Kennel Club recognises the breed as being native to China
Shih Tzus are a brachycephalic breed
Shih Tzus were a favourite companion of the Dowager Empress of China
They used to live in the Imperial Palace and had their own quarters
Shih Tzus were waited on by their own servants
Their name means Little Lion in Mandarin

What should my Shih Tzu look like?

Height at the withers: Males 20 – 28 cm, Females 20 – 28 cm

Average weight: Males 4.0 – 7.25 kg, Females 4.0 – 7.25 kg

The Shih Tzu is a sturdy little dog that boasts a silky, luxurious long coat. They are known to have a bit of an arrogant look about them which often makes these little dogs even more endearing. They have a “chrysanthemum face”, their heads are broad and round with a lot of width between their eyes. They also have a nice beard and full whiskers with the hair growing upright on their muzzles, hence their “chrysanthemum” appearance.

Their muzzle is square, short and wide without any wrinkles and dogs have black noses although in liver coated dogs, their nose matches the colour of their coat. Stops are well defined and noses are level or slightly tilted with nostrils being nice and wide. Eyes are round and large, being dark in colour with dogs boasting a warm look about them. Dogs with liver coats can have slightly lighter coloured eyes which is allowable as a breed standard.

Ears are nice and large boasting long leathers which dogs carry drooping down. Their mouth is slightly undershot although it can be level too. Necks are nicely proportioned which dogs carry well arched adding to their proud and arrogant look. Their shoulders are well laid back with front legs being short and well-muscled showing lots of bone.

A Shih Tzu has a compact body with a broad, deep chest and a firm, level back. Hindquarters are muscular with a dog’s back legs being short and well-muscled with well-rounded and powerful thighs. Feet are firm, round and nicely padded being covered in hair. Tails are extremely plumed and set high which dogs carry over their backs gaily.

When it comes to their coat, the Shih Tzu has a long, dense outer coat and a moderate undercoat that should never be woolly in texture. Some dogs have a slight wave in their coats which is permitted under the KC breed standard. It is worth noting that the length of a Shih Tzu’s coat should never be that long that it interferes with their movement nor should affect a dog’s vision either which is it is common practice for Shih Tzus to have a top knot. They come in just about any colour and colour combination with parti-coloured Shih Tzus having a white blaze on their foreheads and white tips to their tails.

Any colour is acceptable in their breed standard with white blazes on a dog’s forehead and a white tip to their tails being very desirable in dogs that have parti-coloured coats. The only colour which is not allowed in the Shih Tzu is “merle”.

How Should a Shih Tzu Move?

Shih Tzus are confident, outgoing in characters, they are confident and arrogant in their movements too. They move smoothly with their front legs having a good reach forward and a strong hind quarter action.

What does the Kennel club look for?

Male Shih Tzus should have two normal testicles fully descended into their scrotums and if they are not, this is considered a fault.

The sizes given in their Kennel Club breed standard are a guide only as to how tall and how heavy a Shih Tzu should be. As such, some dogs can be shorter or taller and they can be lighter or heavier than stated in their KC breed standard.

Does a Shih Tzu Have a Good Temperament?

The Shih Tzu is known to be a lively, confident, outgoing little dog and a character that boasts a really extrovert side to their natures. There is nothing they like more than to be part of a family and just love being involved in everything that goes on in a household which is why they have consistently been a popular choice as family pets and companion dogs. They thrive on human contact and are never happier than when they are around the people they love.

They are a great choice for first time owners because they are intelligent and are always willing and eager to please. There is a downside is that they do not do well when left on their own for any long periods of time. They are quite high maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats looking good which is always something new owners should keep in mind.

Shih Tzus can be a little wary and suspicious of strangers although they would rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards people they have never met before, preferring to just keep their distance until they get to know someone.

Are they a good choice for first time owners?

The Shih Tzu is the perfect first-time pet for novice dog owners because they are always so eager to please and being so people-oriented, they are not only easy to train, but incredibly loyal too.

What about prey drive?

Shih Tzus are social little dogs by nature more especially if they have been well socialised when they were still with their mothers and litter mates. With this said, they do have a bit of mischievous streak in them and would happily chase a smaller animal or pet just for the fun of it.

Is a Shih Tzu playful?

Shih Tzus are known to be the real clowns of the dog world loving nothing more than to entertain and be entertained. Being so intelligent, these little dogs can learn new things extremely fast which includes interactive games. They adore being the centre of attention.

What about adaptability?

The Shih Tzu has always been a highly adaptable small dog even centuries ago when they were taken from the colder environment of Tibet to a much warmer climate in China. They are just as happy living in an apartment as they are living in a house in the country, providing they are given the right amount of mental stimulation and daily exercise.

Will a Shih Tzu demonstrate separation anxiety?

These little dogs thrive on human contact and are never happy when left on their own for any length of time. As such they are better suited to households where at least one person is around when everyone else is out of the house so they always have company. Another solution is to get another dog or a cat so they can keep each other company when people are out.

Will a Shih Tzu bark too much?

Unfortunately, if not checked early enough Shih Tzus are known to like the sound of their own voices. It’s a trait that is deeply embedded in a dog’s psyche, but all is not lost because Shih Tzus are intelligent and they can be gently taught not to bark unless really necessary which needs to be instilled in them when they are still puppies and before their barking turns into a real problem.

Do Shih Tzus like swimming?

Shih Tzus are not very good swimmers and although they do like to play along a beach, they are not particularly fond of being in water. Care should always be taken when a Shih Tzu goes into water because they have such short muzzles and could easily inhale some which could lead to all sorts of problems. The other thing to bear in mind is that these little dogs have long, dense coats which could easily weigh them down when they are swimming.

Are Shih Tzus good watchdogs?

Shih Tzus are always quick to let their owners know when something is happening in their environment that they don’t particularly like. They are just as fast to bark when there are strangers about or when they hear someone coming to the front door.

Is a Shih Tzu easy to train?

Shih Tzus are intelligent, but they do boast a bit of an independent side to their characters which means their training and socialisation must start as early as possible. They can also be a little stubborn at times and often give owners the impression that it is beneath them to do certain things asked of them. With this is mind, a lot of patience and consistency are needed when training and educating a Shih Tzu to be obedient, although they do tend to always have a mind of their own and will often choose to ignore a command because they think they know better.

Teaching a Shih Tzu the basic commands from the word go does pay dividends always bearing in mind that these little dogs are known to be quite independent by nature and they do have a bit of a stubborn streak when it suits them. The commands a Shih Tzu puppy should be taught are as follows:

Sit
Stay
Come
Wait
Leave
Quiet
Bed

Is a Shih Tzu Safe for Children and Other Pets

Although an affectionate and friendly dog by nature, the Shih Tzu is not the best choice for families with very young children because they can be a bit nippy if they feel threatened in any way. With this said, if a Shih Tzu has grown up with the kids and they were well socialised from a young age, they can be very loving, more especially if the children have been taught how to respect and behave around their pet. However, any interaction between children and dogs should be supervised by an adult to make sure things don’t get too boisterous.

If a Shih Tzu has grown up with other pets in the home, they will generally tolerate having them around because they are social by nature. Care should be taken when they are around any small animals though, just in case. If these little dogs are well socialised when they were young, they do get on with other dogs, but care always must be taken when they meet a dog they don’t know because a Shih Tzu can be feisty when the mood takes them.