Meet the Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu DogsThe Shih Tzu is a dog breed that tends to weight anywhere between 10 and 19 pounds when it is fully grown. The toy breed originally comes from Tibet, and today is one of the most popular breeds for those who need a small dog that’s general easy to handle.

The dog’s name literally translates to ‘little lion’, but names can be deceiving. This breed is loving, loyal, and bred entirely to be a human’s companion. Shih Tzus have never been used for hunting, and generally aren’t very good at it. The affectionate, loving breed has a tiny mouth, short legs and don’t weigh much – meaning they’re ideal as a house pet and won’t need to be kept in outdoor kennels.

Common Traits and Features

While the breed is loving and affectionate, it’s quite common for Shih Tzus to become unruly when not trained properly, and this is particularly true in puppies. It’s common for all puppies to become a little loud, and chew things they shouldn’t, but Shih Tzu pups are known for it. They might have little mouths but their teeth can hurt, so it’s important that owners train their puppy to chew on their toys from a young age.

Shih Tzus also have quite a lot of variety when it comes to their coat colors. The breed’s coat will usually have variations of red, white, brindle, liver, black and even gold. Some dogs also appear solid brown or black, meaning every dog really does look different.

When two dogs mate, the pups’ coats will still vary. Of course the puppies can inherit similar patterns as the sire or mother, but it’s equally likely that the pups will have a mix of the two or completely different colors altogether.

Pet owners with allergies can also rejoice in the fact that the breed’s coat is considered hypoallergenic. This is a result of the coat not shedding as much as other breeds, meaning you won’t find hair all over the home and struggle tremendously during the summer shedding process. Owners will, however, be at risk of experiencing allergic reactions from the dog’s saliva, meaning it’s important to wash your hands every time you play with your pet.

The History of the Breed

The Shih Tzu was long a breed favoured by the Chinese royals, and were originally not available for sale. That all changed, however, when the dogs started being imported to England and Norway in the early 1930s. The Kennel Club first classified the dogs as ‘Apsos’. The Shih Tzu Club was later founded and in 1935, the first European standard for the breed was written, and the modern Shih Tzu was born. Almost all of the Kennel Clubs in the English speaking world now recognizes the breed.

Common Health Problems

As with many other dog breeds, the Shih Tzu is prone to some health conditions. In particular, the toy breed has been known to experience hypothyroidism quite regularly. The condition stops the body from producing metabolic hormones, meaning the dogs can experience hair loss and weight gain, as well as general tiredness.

More seriously, Shih Tzus might also experience intervertebral disk disease, which is a disease characterized by back pain, confusion, a lack of coordination and even paresis. Eventually, the condition can cause the dog to stop feeling any pain sensations. The condition is found in lots of toy breeds, and it’s important that owners have their dog checked out by their vet on a regular basis. A blood disease known as immune-mediated haemolytic anemia is also occasionally found in the bleed, and early signs include yellowing skin and a loss of appetite.

Owners should also look out for breathing issues (brachycephalic syndrome is a common Shih Tzu problem), as well as eye irritation and discharge. Some of the health issues are easily treated and can be avoided with simple Shih Tzu care techniques, but other conditions can be more serious and will require urgent treatment.

Your Shih Tzu can live to a ripe old age and enjoy a healthy life as long as you understand your pet’s needs, common traits and possible health conditions. With good care, regular vet visits, quality food and plenty of exercise time, your Shih Tzu can live anywhere between 10 and 20 years – with most dogs living between 10 and 16 years.