Shi Tzu Temperament & Personality
Shih Tzu Characteristics
Shih Tzus have sturdy bodies and round heads. They also have short muzzles, but one of their distinct qualities is their undershot bite. When a Shih Tzu’s mouth is closed, its lower jaw is a little broader than the upper.
Shih Tzus are likewise known for their rich, long, flowing, and straight double coats with different color combinations, such as white and brown, white and gold, or black and white.
Since their long and silky coats grow fast, these tend to reach the floor. The Shih Tzu’s flabby ears and tails are also covered with long, straight fur.
Shih Tzu Size
The Shih Tzu is a popular breed that belongs to the toy group, a group of very small dogs. In fact, a Shih Tzu is typically just 9 to 10 inches tall. That is even less than one foot!
Moreover, a Shih Tzu weighs around 9 to 16 pounds. And unlike other breeds of dog, it matures quickly by reaching its adult size in just about 10 months, and its life span is about 10 to 16 years.
In general, Shih Tzus make great pets, which is why they are one of the most popular toy dogs in the United States and even in other countries.
When it comes to adaptability, a Shih Tzu can adapt well to apartment living. However, unlike other breeds that are highly energetic and active, it usually has low levels of energy, which is why it is quiet and fairly calm indoors.
Most of the time, it just follows people from one place to another, though there are times when it will simply stay in one place.
Exercise helps Shih Tzus grow healthy and active. Regular exercise will also help Shih Tzus avoid several health problems. Moreover, exercise allow for a daily release of energy, which will then prevent behavioral problems.
Some outside exercises that Shih Tzus can do include an everyday walk for around 20 to 25 minutes. It will be better if the Shih Tzu can have at least 2 sets of 20-minute walk per day.
You can take your Shih Tzu for a walk around the neighborhood or in the park, but he will likely want to walk at a pace that is considered a brisk for dogs.
Make sure that you bring water with you when taking your Shih Tzu out for a walk. This will help avoid dehydration. Moreover, don’t forget to take a break at the half point to help the dog rest and recover.
Aside from taking a walk, you can also be creative with outdoor exercises. For instance, you can play catch with your Shih Tzu, wherein you will throw, say, a tennis ball and have him fetch it.
These can be easier since Shih Tzus are an indoor type of dog (because historically, they were bred to live indoors).
A quick yet fun indoor game that will last for half an hour to forty-five minutes will be enough. There are lots of games that can be played with Shih Tzus to keep them moving around.
For example, you can play hide and seek. This game is something your canine companion will enjoy and look forward to. To do this, just use a special toy specifically for this game. Make sure that he’s paying attention.
Then, as soon as his attention is already at your hands, hide the toy in an easy area, such as behind or under the couch or table. Encourage him to find the toy. Pretend to look for the toy as well to encourage him further.
After he has found the toy, it is important to reward him with happy words and nice gestures. It will likewise be helpful to give him treats (those that are healthy, of course!) to reward him for a job well done.
Training Shih Tzus (or any other dog) makes it possible to live harmoniously as well as avoid any household accidents. And while it can be challenging to train Shih Tzus as puppies, it’s a must to train them while they’re still young.
Now, here are some of the things to do to train Shih Tzus:
- Create the rules – What are the things that the dog should be allowed to do? What are the things that are not allowed? These rules will help establish a good training plan.
- Give treats – Once the training has started, it is important to give dogs treats as praise so they will know what they have done right and, in turn, will repeat such actions.
- Housebreak – Since Shih Tzus have small bladders, they frequently need to eliminate. So, teach them to go outside by taking a trip outside with them daily.
- Use Timeouts – This can be an effective punishment when the dog has shown some serious disruptive behaviors.
- Teach basic tricks and orders – Teaching the dog how to sit, stay, and come, among others, will be necessary but will take a lot of patience and hard work.
- Limit Food Access – This will ensure that the Shih Tzu is at a healthy weight, which will make the training easier.
- Control the Noise – When the dog barks, command him to be quiet by saying words such as “stop” or “hush” so that he can associate these words with your desire for the barking to end.
- Stop the Jumping – Since Shih Tzus can be energetic at times, it might be necessary to teach them to avoid jumping. Once good way of doing this is when the dog jumps, leave him for a few seconds.
- Praise after Training – After each training session, spend a few minutes having fun with your Shih Tzu, and give him treats and praises. He must associate this time as a reward for the hard work.
A Shih Tzu has a Chinese name that literally translates to “Xi Shi dog,” which means “lion dog”.
There are several theories when it comes to the history of Shih Tzus.
Most theories state that this breed originated from a cross between the Lahsa Apso, a Tibetan dog given to Chinese emperors during the latter part of the 17th century, and Pekingese breeds. Bones of Shih Tzu dogs have also been dated to around 10,000 years.
Shih Tzus are also associated with Buddhism because during the early times, people in the Imperial courts believed that Buddha has left the Earth on the back of a lion.
This is why people back then had high regards for Shih Tzus and their lion-like features. In fact, Shih Tzus in Tibet were being bred to be small and holy replicas of a lion.
Shih Tzus used to be an exclusive property of the royal court during the Ming and Manchu Dynasties. They were used as bed warmers because of their thick coats and would be placed at the feet of emperors to create heat.
Because they were regarded as exclusive to the palace, Shih Tzus were hardly seen outside. And should anyone get caught owning a one, that person could be sentenced to death!
Centuries later, Shih Tzus were finally allowed to be exported to different parts of the world. Some were brought to England and Norway during the 1930s, and the first European standard for Shih Tzus were written in England in 1935.
Dogs, especially the older ones, are usually prone to having cancer, and Shih Tzus are no exception. Cancer is known to be one of the most common, if not the most, causes of death among older dogs.
Below are some of the symptoms that a Shih Tzu has cancer:
- Abnormal skin lesions (part of a skin with an abnormal appearance as compared to the skin surrounding it) that are not caused by any obvious injury. This can appear on any part of the dog’s body.
- Decreased appetite
- Abrupt loss of weight, especially if without any obvious reason
- Diarrhea and vomiting, especially if prolonged and without any apparent reason
- Bumps and lumps in any part of a Shih Tzu’s body. This can appear in or on the skin.
- Bloated belly
- Seizure, as it indicates that there is something wrong with the dog’s brain
These are not the only symptoms of cancer among Shih Tzus, but if you notice these signs, it is better to take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Seizures are involuntary convulsions wherein a dog loses muscle control because of a disruption in its normal brain function. Most of the time, seizures can make a Shih Tzu lose its consciousness.
Seizures can be as subtle as a twitch or a mild shaking of the dog’s body, or they can be as serious as losing muscle control completely.
Most of the time, seizures among dogs, including Shih Tzus, are caused by poisoning, major diseases (such as liver and kidney issues), cancer, head injury, anemia, hypertension, stroke, encephalitis, and epilepsy.
Here are some symptoms of seizures among Shih Tzus:
- Twitching or stiffening of the muscles
- Loss of consciousness
- Chewing of tongue
- Drooling (drool or blood)
- Foaming mouth
- Urination and defecation
- Walking in circles, disorientation, and wobbliness
- Temporary blindness
These symptoms can vary, though, based on the type of seizure that a Shih Tzu is having.
A Shih Tzu may experience having an upset stomach, and this can cause further health problems, such as weight loss and dehydration.
Digestive problems among Shih Tzus can be caused by eating spoiled or unclean scraps especially if the dog has gotten into the trash, chewing on grass, switching to a new food, and eating too fast.
Here are some signs that a Shih Tzu is suffering from digestive issues:
- Loud gurgling from its tummy
- Extreme and unwarranted gas
- Decreased appetite
- Vomiting and diarrhea (causes dehydration)
- Excessive thirst and burping
- Bad breath
- Sudden changes in behavior, such as disregard to the environment and depression
It is worth noting, though, that upset stomach and other digestive problems among Shih Tzus can be more severe, and they can reflect more serious health problems.
Taking care for Shih Tzus is very important. Providing basic care for Shih Tzus include the following:
- Ensuring proper nutrition (giving the right kinds and amounts of food)
- Taking note of signs of health issues
- Providing enough physical activity
- Providing consistent dental care
- Grooming regularly
- Prioritizing safety
Nutrition and Feeding
One of the most basic things that Shih Tzu owners should know is how to ensure that their dogs get the right nutrition they need.
Shih Tzus can have unpredictable eating habits, and as compared to other types of dog, they generally eat a huge amount of food despite their small size.
First things first, the kinds of food that you should give can depend on age, metabolism, activity level, and build. It is also important to note the difference in calories in the kinds of food being given to Shih Tzus.
Generally, veterinarians recommend that the daily amount of food that a Shih Tzu should take is half to one cup of high-quality dry food.
As mentioned earlier, however, Shih Tzus can eat a large amount of food, so they are very prone to obesity. That being said, it is essential to keep track of the amount of food that a Shih Tzu eats in a day.
It is recommended that a Shih Tzu is fed four times every day for its first six months. Then, beyond that, it should be given only two meals a day.
Also, look at the components of a quality Shih Tzu diet. For instance, Shih Tzus need carbohydrate. But, since Shih Tzus are susceptible to obesity, they should not be fed with lots of carbohydrates.
Moreover, Shih Tzus need a good amount of protein for them to grow healthily. Some food that are a good source of protein for Shih Tzus include chicken, eggs, turkey, and fish.
Shih Tzus must likewise be fed with a good amount of vegetables from time to time, so they will get the vitamins and minerals needed for proper growth.
Generally, the recommended food for Shih Tzus include fish, organs (such as liver and heart), lamb, white chicken meat, sweet peas, sweet potato, blueberries, green beans, cottage cheese, baby carrots, raspberries, whole yogurt, pasta, and plain white or brown rice.
On the other hand, there are foods must not be fed to Shih Tzus as these can cause serious health problems. These include chocolate, grapes and raisins, onions, tea or coffee, salt, soda, as well as fruit pits and seeds.
Coat Color and Grooming
Shih Tzus need proper grooming in order to be healthy. After all, some of the major health problems Shih Tzus experience are caused by bad hygiene. Moreover, proper grooming can heavily affect how the dog looks and how healthy its skin, nose, paws, and coat, along with other body parts, will be.
Listed below is the frequency at which grooming tasks must be done to keep a Shih Tzu clean and beautiful:
- Daily: Wiping of face and eyes
- 1 to 3 days: Brushing of the coat (this depends on how long the dog’s coat is)
- 3 weeks: Baths (if the Shih Tzu has disorders on its skin or its coat, it may need more frequent baths)
- 6 weeks: Grooming of nails (cleaning and cutting)
- As needed: Trimming of coat (this also depends on how long the coat is and the desired length), nose and paw care (this depends on the season), and wiping of the body
Grooming at Home
While it is way easier to just bring Shih Tzus to a professional groomer, there can be some reasons why that can’t be possible. For example, you might not have the time to drive your dog to a grooming salon. In some cases, money might also be an issue.
This is why it’s a must to have basic knowledge on grooming your dog. Know what the proper ways of grooming are, the reason why it must be done, the timing for each grooming task, as well as the products and tools to use.
First, you need to have the basic home grooming supplies kit. This kit should include the following tools:
- Brushes (one with flexible pins and a fine slicker one)
- Combs (one that is fine and another that’s coarse)
- Non-slip mat (used for bathing)
- Cotton swabs and cleaning solutions
- Rubber pet brush
- Hair dryer
After obtaining these tools, you can now proceed to the actual process of grooming a Shih Tzu, as summarized below:
- Bathing – This can be done in the sink or in the bath tub.
It is important to comb the Shih Tzu’s coat first before wetting since tangles can be unmanageable when the coat is wet.
After wetting the coat, the shampoo can now be applied, following the hair growth direction. Afterwards, the shampoo can be rinsed off, but make sure that the eyes, nose, and ears are protected from the product and water.
- Cleaning the ears – Once the Shih Tzu’s coat has been dried up, start cleaning his ears using a cleaning solution and a cotton swab. Try to remove any ear wax you might find.
- Brushing the teeth – You can use a rubber pet brush to clean the teeth of a Shih Tzu. Just make sure to use a toothpaste that is specifically made for pets.
- Nail clipping – A Shih Tzu’s nails must be cut short enough so they will not touch the floor.
Children and Other Pets
More often than not, Shih Tzus are not that great with very young children. They can get irritated easily, and they can snap all of a sudden when handled crudely, which is likely to happen when children get a hold of them.
When dealing with other dogs or other pets, though, Shih Tzus are generally well-behaved. However, there are times when they tend to be possessive around other dogs. This is why it is important that Shih Tzus are trained and exposed to proper socializing at an early age.
Shih Tzu lovers who are ready and prepared to have one but, cannot afford to buy, can look for shelters or rescue groups nearby. These rescue groups and shelters welcome responsible pet lovers who would like to be matched with dogs looking for their forever home.
On the other hand, if you have a Shih Tzu and you no longer find it possible to continue caring for him, you may get in touch with such groups. Even pounds and breeders work with rescue groups when overwhelmed with the number of dogs they have to care for.
New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue (Oak Creek, WI), Shih Tzu Rescue Inc. (Davie, FL), and Shih Tzus & Furbabies (Saint Mary’s, GA) are just a few examples of the more well-known rescue groups that specialize in Shih Tzus and similar breeds.
There are legitimate breed organizations that have trained breeders and can offer further advice on getting a Shih Tzu. Referrals may also be requested from these organizations.
The American Shih Tzu Club or ASTC, for example, is one of the oldest organizations that focus specifically on the said breed, having been established way back in 1963.
They have established and continuously maintain the Shih Tzu breed standard, and they also get involved in doing rescues (for homeless or abused dogs) and welfare programs.
More About This Breed
- Shih Tzus are not easy to housebreak. They need to be trained consistently in a confined area, like a crate.
- Shih Tzus are vulnerable to heat. They should be kept in a cool room during hot weather.
- They tend to snore and wheeze, and can be inclined to dental problems
- A young Shih Tzu, if not watched closely may be susceptible to developing the behavior of eating its own waste. Thus, be sure to clean your pup’s poop right away.
- Many celebrities have a soft spot for Shih Tzus. Mariah Carey and Bill Gates are just two examples of these pooch-loving stars. Even Queen Elizabeth II have owned a Shih Tzu.