How much do you know about the Shih Tzu? This small breed is well-known for its lively, happy personality and friendly disposition. With their flat faces and compact bodies, Shih Tzus are similar in appearance to the beloved Pekinese. Shih Tzu means “lion dog” in Chinese, but these dogs are anything but ferocious; they are social and gentle companion dogs that can fit into almost any family setting. If you’re interested in adding a Shih Tzu to your family, here are a few things you need to know.

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Where Does the Shih Tzu Come From?

People originally bred Shih Tzus in Tibet around the 7th century. Some theorize this breed came as a result of the smallest Lhasa Apsos. After visitors gifted these dogs to the emperors of China, the breed was further developed into what it is today. Some hypothesize that Shih Tzus were crossed with Pekingese dogs to achieve the short snout the breed has today. When the British visited the Chinese emperors, They brought the breed back with them to England and eventually to the United States. 

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What Does a Shih Tzu Look Like?

A Shih Tzu’s physical appearance is quite distinctive. They are characterized by a compact and solid body with a long, flowing double coat. Their coats can be any color but their nose, lips, and eye line should be black. This dog’s lower teeth protrude further than their upper teeth, giving this breed an adorable underbite. This breed weighs between 9 and 16 pounds and stands only 9 to 10.5 inches tall at the shoulder.

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What Is the Personality of a Shih Tzu?

Bred for centuries as lapdogs for emperors and nobility, a Shih Tzu’s sole job was to be the ultimate companion animal. This dog craves human interaction and vast amounts of attention from people of all ages. This breed gets along not only with all people but also with all other dogs and pets. These dogs are incredibly affectionate and devoted to their human families. This breed can become diggers and bark quite a bit, but they do not normally chew things.

How Hard Is It To Train a Shih Tzu?

Training and socialization are both vital for any dog. Shih Tzus are easy to train if you don’t give in to their adorable antics. Like any dog, this breed benefits from early training and socialization; exposure to many different situations, places, and people is key to a well-rounded companion animal. At a minimum, teach your dog commands such as sit, stay, and come. With patience and consistency, training your pup is an enjoyable pastime for you both.

In addition to keeping them safe, engaging their minds is vital to your dog’s health; mental exercise can be just as tiring as a physical workout.

Avoid harsh training methods such as shouting or punishment, as these will likely cause your pug to shut down during a training set. Instead, stick with positive reinforcement and keep training sessions short and fun. A great-tasting training treat doesn’t hurt either. If you begin to feel frustrated, end your training session as soon as possible and try again later.

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How Much Exercise Do They Need?

Shih Tzus love to play, so they require adequate exercise and engagement. Despite their small size, these dogs have plenty of energy. Thankfully, their small size means they don’t need a ton of room to burn all that energy, and they tire relatively quickly. 30 minutes of exercise each day, inside or outside, should be enough to keep your dog happy. Tiring out your pup will not only help you maintain their weight, but a tired dog is also a more well-behaved dog. 

It’s important to note that a Shih Tzu has what’s called a brachycephalic face, which is just a long word that describes the breed’s flat muzzle. This flat face can make intense exercise and play unsafe for your pup. Intense exercise can leave a Shih Tzu at risk of overheating or suffering from other respiratory issues.

Do They Have Health Problems?

Purebreeds can experience their fair share of health issues, and Shih Tzus are no exception. After centuries of genetically selecting these dogs for desired physical characteristics such as their small bodies and flat face, some health issues have arisen. Their long, heavy coats also contribute to their likelihood to overheat.

This breed is generally healthy, but they do experience their fair share of eye issues such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, dry eye, or retinal detachment.  

Smaller dogs often have longer life spans than larger dogs and Shih Tzus has an average life expectancy of between 10 and 18 years.

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How Do You Groom a Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzus have a heavy double coat the requires plenty of daily, thorough grooming, especially if they have long hair. Use a good quality wire brush and work through the coat in layers to seek out any mats.

Bathe your pup every 3 to 4 weeks to help keep the coat clean. Comb their mustache every day and clean the corners of their eyes gently with a damp washcloth. Keep the hair over the eyes pulled back or trimmed so their eyes do not become irritated. To avoid as much coat maintenance, consider having your Shih Tzu trimmed into a “puppy cut” by a professional groomer.

These dogs also require regular nail trimming. As companion animals, they spend most of their time in the house, and as a result, do not wear down their nails enough to avoid regular trimming. Cleaning the pug’s ears each time you bathe them is also recommended.

Does a Shih Tzu Make A Good Pet For a Family?

The gentle, affectionate companionship of the Shih Tzu makes a great addition to any family. As long as you are prepared for the grooming maintenance every Shih Tzu requires, this small dog will bring plenty of joy and silliness into your life and home.

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