The Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic breed (which means its face is squashed up - It literally means short skull). This means that to be a Shih Tzu owner, you may need to put up with some snoring.
They are susceptible to the breathing problems which affect all brachycephalic dogs.
They have been bred as companion dogs and make ideal pets.
They love being with people and are quite happy to follow their owner around the house.
Origins Of The Shih Tzu
There are various theories regarding the origins of the Shih Tzu.
The most commonly accepted theory is that the the Shih Tzu originated in Tibet where there are records of the dog going back as far as the seventh century. It is closely related to the Lhasa Apso and one theory is that it is descended from crosses between that breed and the Pekingese.
DNA analysis shows that the ancestors of the Shih Tzu were closely related to wolves.
They were given as gifts to the emperors of China and were highly prized. The name Shih Tzu can be translated as “lion dog”.
For many centuries the Chinese refused to trade them or give them away and the first dogs were not imported to England until 1930.
Later, some dogs were taken to the United States where they became quite popular. In 2013 they were the 15th most popular breed.
The Shih Tzu is a small dog standing no more than 10 and a half inches high. Their ideal weight is between 10 and 16 pounds. They have large dark eyes and a short muzzle. They have a double coat which is long and soft. They have an underbite which is part of the breed standard.
The Shih Tzu’s coat can be a variety of colors which include various shades of black, brown, white and gold.
The coat color changes as the dog gets older.
The Shih Tzu can be a bit stubborn. Training and socialization need to be started early. They are sometimes difficult to house-train. Patience and persistent is required.
They are loyal, affectionate and outgoing. They have a friendly nature and usually interact well with children and other pets. They can sometimes be jealous of their owners when other dogs are around.
They are alert and will certainly let you know when a stranger is approaching. However, when the stranger arrives, they are likely to show him affection.
Shih Tzu Health
Shih Tzus are long lived dogs. Most of them live to between 12 and 16 years.
The Shih Tzu Does suffer some health issues. These are mostly hereditary or because of the shape of his face.
These include hypothyroidism, invertible disk disease and eye issues,
Hypothyroidism is where a malfunctioning thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones to maintain normal body functions. It occurs in middle-aged dogs. Symptoms include hair loss, muscle loss, weight gain and lethargy. It can be treated by drugs. If you suspect your dog is suffering from this condition take him to the vet.
The Shih Tzu suffers from the same respiratory diseases as other dog breeds with short faces. Sometimes an obstruction in the airways leads to labored breathing.
Invertible disk disease occurs in certain toy breeds. It is where the cushioning between the vertebrae of the spinal column bulge or burst. These disks press on the nerves in the spinal column causing pain and even paralysis. The symptoms include acute back pain and loss of coordination.
Grooming And Care
Shih Tzus require regular grooming to avoid their hair becoming a tangled mess. The hair should be brushed daily. Their hair is quite long so start at the bottom and work you way up. Many owners keep the hair clipped short to avoid the constant brushing.
Shih Tzus are prone to tear stains. Keep the hair around the face clipped short and wipe the affected area daily with a moistened cotton ball.
All dog breeds need regular oral care and the Shih Tzu is no exception. The best option is to give your dog’s teeth a daily brush. Many dogs object to this, but it gets easier over time. Give your dog dental chews or meaty bones to gnaw. These will help keep your dog’s teeth clean and avoid gum disease.
Shih Tzus As Pets
Shih Tzus are great family pets. And although they can be a bit stubborn, they are friendly to people and other animals. If properly socialized they can do well in multi-dog homes.