The Shih Tzu is one of the most sociable and playful company dogs. That coupled with its beautiful coat and sweet appearance explains why it is one of the most preferred breeds today. These dogs are affectionate and intelligent, and need constant attention from their owners. It is not recommended that they are left alone for too long or live outside of their homes.
If you want to know more about this lovely dog. In this AnimalWised breed file we will tell you everything you need to know the: physical characteristics, origin, character, care, health and education of a shih tzu dog.
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Origin of the Shih Tzu
The history of the shih tzu is very similar to that of the Pekingese. Like the Pekignese, the Shih Tzu originates from Buddhist monasteries, where it was considered a sacred dog. It was also an exclusive dog of Chinese nobility, where they were regarded as a sacred dogs and provided with dignified royal care.
When the first shih tzu’s arrived in England, in the the '30s, they were often confused with the Lhasa apso. So much so, that at one time both dogs were considered as one breed. However, in the same decade it was decided to separate both breeds as we know them today.
Nowadays, shih tzu’s are dogs appreciated both for company and for exhibition. Their magnificent coats and small statures have made them stars on the tracks of dog shows, while their sweet characters have made them one of the most popular pets of our time.
Physical characteristics of shih tzu
According to the FCI standard of the breed, the height at the withers must not exceed 26.7 centimeters, be it a male or female. The ideal weight of this dog ranges between 4.5 and 7.3 kilograms. This is a small dog with a body longer than it’s height. Their entire body is densely covered with hair. Their back is straight and their chests are broad and deep.
Their heads are wide and rounded. It is covered with disheveled hair that falls over the eyes and that forms beard and whiskers at the snout. A feature of Shih Tzu’s is that the hair of their noses grow upward, giving the face a chrysanthemum shape. Its snout is short, square and broad. Their eyes, with an affectionate expression, are well separated from each other, large, round and dark. Their ears are large, hanging and covered with very dense fur. The tail of this dog is of high insertion and is completely covered with fur.
Hair is one of the most notorious characteristics of this breed. It is long, dense and has a good layer of internal fur. It is not curly and is usually straight, although a slight undulation is common. According to the breed standard published by the International Cynological Federation (FCI), shih tzu hair can be of any color.
Character of a Shih Tzu
These dogs are very intelligent, sociable, cheerful and they love being with people. They are also playful and active when they are kept in shape. It is easier to socialize a Shih Tzu than other dog breeds, since these furry little ones are usually very friendly and sociable by nature. When they have received proper socialization, they usually get along well with people, dogs and other animals. However, it is important to carry out the socialization of dogs at an early age to achieve that friendly character when they are adults.
These dogs are excellent pets for single people, couples and families with children of different ages. They usually get along very well with children as long as the child knows how to respect dogs and do not mistreat it. They are also excellent pets for novice owners. However, they are not good pets for families and people who spend most of the day away from home, unless they can take their dogs to work.
Caring for a Shih Tzu
Shih Tzu’s hair tends to get tangled easily and it is necessary to brush and comb it daily. Although they do not require a canine hairdresser, many owners of these dogs prefer to keep them with shorter hair to facilitate their care.
Shih tzu require a good dose of physical exercise, but because of their small size they can exercise indoors. Even so, it is important to give them at least one daily walk and play time to exercise and socialize. These dogs tend to gain weight easily, so it is good to give them enough exercise to keep them in shape. Of course, you have to take into account its size and do not abuse them with excessive exercise. Also, do not force them to exercise in hot and humid climates, since their short snouts make breathing difficult in these environments.
The Shih Tzu’s company-needs are very high. These dogs are not suited to living in a garden or in a yard. They need to spend most of their time accompanied and must live inside the house with their family. They adapt very well to life in populated cities and to living in small apartments.
Educating a Shih Tzu
In regards to dog training, Shih Tzu’s are a joy for their trainers. These dogs learn easily and quickly, so it is easy to teach them many different things. However, this is only true when positive training is carried out, since Shih Tzu’s do not respond well to traditional training, based on dominance. It must be taken into account that these dogs are easily distracted , so it is better to train them in short but fun sessions.
In general, Shih Tzu’s do not present major behavioral problems when they have been properly socialized, have received sufficient exercise and companionship. However, when they are left alone for prolonged periods or do not get enough exercise, they can become destructive and barking dogs. They may even develop separation anxiety if they stay alone for a long time each day.
Health of a Shih Tzu
This breed does not have alarming incidences of dog diseases, but they can be prone to:
- cortical hypoplasia of the kidneys
- progressive retinal atrophy
- hip dysplasia
- otitis externa
- inguinal hernias.
It is also a breed prone to ear and eye infections, so it is worth doing periodic veterinary checkups.