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Shih Tzus: Characteristics of the breed and how to live with a Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu breed has a unique appearance and an unusual name! If you translate the name it means ‘little lion’. They are also sometimes known as the Chrysanthemum dog. The breed’s origin is not totally known, but it is though that it originated in Tibet and was then developed in China. They have been bred solely for companionship and continue to be popular in this role today.
Shih Tzus are a small breed, weighing a maximum of around 20 pounds. This helps them to be easy to accommodate in an owner’s home. They make ideal lap dogs for the elderly, or loving family companions.
This guide will tell you some of the key information you should know about the adorable Shih Tzu breed. This includes their normal physical characteristics, as well as the kind of personality you would expect of a Shih Tzu. It will be rounded off with some useful tips to help make your life with a Shih Tzu easy. If you do take the plunge then the information contained here will be useful for getting off to the best start.
Physical characteristics of a Shih Tzu
As a member of the Toy group, the Shih Tzu is a small dog. The maximum weight of around 20 pounds is combined with a maximum typical height of just 28cm. They are compact and sturdy dogs with a short muzzle and dark, wide eyes.
The coat of a Shih Tzu is beautiful. These dogs are often highly groomed by their owners, with pony tails, trailing beards and careful shaping. The coat can be a large variety of colours – including black, white and gold. The colours are sometimes mixed which creates some pleasing variations. The coat is low-shedding, though not classed as ‘hypoallergenic’.
Regular grooming is a must to keep the coat in its best condition. You will either need to brush daily, or have it regularly sheared. This is because of the ‘double coat’ that a Shih Tzu has – it has long hairs growing out, and a shorter layer of insulating fur that keeps the dog warm. The short hairs fall out as with all fur, and when they do they will often get trapped in the long hairs, so must be brushed out. Shearing looks adorable and will make your dog look like a puppy its whole life. Brushing and growing the hair long will give your dog the regal look they are famed for.
The Shih Tzu does have a high potential for weight gain, so should be kept to a strict diet. If this is not met, obesity will follow and this can impact upon your dog’s ability to run, play, and live a long life. Many owners like to spoil these adorable little dogs, but it won’t do them any favours in the long run.
To keep them in great physical shape they require some opportunity to let off some energy. A short walk or the opportunity to run around a yard every day should do it.
Personality of a Shih Tzu
Though its name may mean ‘little lion’, there isn’t much of a lion’s personality in the Shih Tzu! They are slightly regal in the way that they strut about, but they are certainly not born to be hunters.
What you can generally expect from a Shih Tzu is lively, friendly and affectionate companionship. This little dog will not allow anyone to ignore him, and will demand attention whenever he meets friends or family. However, they are less yappy and less temperamental than many toy breeds. To create a friendly dog it will be necessary to introduce them to a wide variety of situations from a young age.
The Shih Tzu will respond well to training so long as it is based on consistency, reward and praise. They can sometimes be stubborn, but this reluctance can be broken down over time. Many owners are now getting their Shih Tzus off the sofa and into obedience and agility competitions. They may never be the fastest of dogs, but they can be taught a good variety of behaviour, and both dog and owner should find this rewarding.
A bonus of the Shih Tzu being so used to companionship is that they are highly unlikely to have a strong wander lust. They will not make an effort to escape the boundaries of their home.
They can make good watchdogs as they are willing to stand up to anything. However, they may be too friendly for this duty in any serious capacity!
How to live with a Shih Tzu
The challenges that you encounter when living with a Shih Tzu should be relatively modest. Perhaps the most alarming is that they are sometimes difficult to housetrain. It will be necessary to plan a housetraining strategy carefully and the advice of a professional can be sought to help plan this out. This is the result of having a small bladder that takes a while to develop to the point where the Shih Tzu can effectively ‘hold it in’ for extended periods of time.
You should always consider your own circumstances when thinking about taking on a pet, and the Shih Tzu is no different. Though they are small dogs that need relatively little exercise, they do still need to be treated with respect. The biggest issue you may encounter is that they do not cope well with extremes of weather. If your apartment gets too hot and you don’t have air conditioning this will be a problem. If you live somewhere with regular snow fall this will also make it difficult to take your Shih Tzu outdoors. The Shih Tzu cannot pant vigorously enough to cool itself down in warm weather, so minimise exercise during these times.
Health issues are always a concern with short faced breeds. Their breathing is compromised, so you should avoid smoking near them or using chemical cleaning products. They should also be kept away from allergens such as the pollen resulting from freshly cut grass. A good way to avoid breathing problems when walking is to use a y-shaped harness that goes round your dog’s chest, rather than a traditional collar. Taking all these tips into mind should help keep your furry companion happy and healthy.
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