Expert Dog Owner Tips on How to Care for Your Shih Tzu
Once treated like royalty in its native China, little has changed for the small but mighty Shih Tzu. Shih Tzus, whose name means ‘little lion’, love to be treated as the head of the family. This can make them demanding, but they are still loving members of any family if you choose to get one. They also make excellent companions due to their loving and trusting manner.
For anyone interested in adopting this pampered pooch, our in-depth care tips, including diet, care, and training advice, are detailed below.
One of the first things that Shih Tzu owners will tell you is that their dog’s proud demeanour means they walk around with their head held high. Originally bred for royalty, Shih Tzus often walk around as if little has changed. But once you’ve looked at this pooch’s beautiful coat – which is their most striking feature – it’s clear to see why they’re such proud creatures.
A Shih Tzu’s coat will often trail to their feet, as it is so full and dense. Shih Tzus are usually white mixed with other colours, meaning there are many different variations to choose from.
Shih Tzus are also brachycephalic, which means that their muzzle and nose is flat. Despite their eyes being wide and round, they do not bulge, which is unlike other brachycephalic breeds. Overall, their unique features give Shih Tzus a kind, warm expression.
Age and size
Shih Tzus are a breed known as ‘toy dogs’ due to their tiny size. The maximum height they reach is around 12 inches tall, and they usually weigh between 9-12 pounds. Because they are a toy dog, it only takes them around 10 months to grow to full size. This makes them the perfect companion for those living in flats or apartments.
A common issue with toy dogs is that they often forget about their size. This can sometimes lead to injury around the house when they jump from high places like the sofa.
The life span of a Shih Tzu is between 10 and 18 years, with the average being around 15 years. As a smaller breed of dog, they do tend to live longer than larger breeds. This is something to bear in mind if you’re looking for longevity.
Be sure to properly manage your pup’s food intake and exercise to ensure they’re healthy for as long as possible.
Food and diet
Shih Tzus have quite unusual eating habits – their appetite massively varies depending on the dog. Some are fussy-eaters, whereas others have appetites akin to bigger breeds. If your dog turns out to be the latter, don’t be tempted to overfeed. This is because as a smaller dog, Shih Tzus are prone to becoming obese if their food isn’t closely regulated. Like most dogs, it’s okay to feed them either a dry kibble or wet food diet, providing you choose a high-quality brand.
Another reason why Shih Tzus are prone to obesity is because they don’t need too much exercise. Originally bred as a companion dog, they do still require some form daily of exercise to keep them healthy. Try taking your Shih Tzu out for a 30-minute daily walk and stick to the schedule. If your dog eats a lot of food, adjust the length and head out for longer.
How much and often to feed
Like their exercise routine, ensure your Shih Tzu is kept to a strict feeding schedule. Don’t give them access to food outside these times. When your Shih Tzu is a puppy, feed them four small meals a day for the first 6 months. After this, switch feeding them twice a day with small snacks in-between meals. Anything between ½ a cup and a full cup should be plenty.
It is also vital that when choosing food for your pup, you avoid anything high in carbohydrates. Foods such as sweet potatoes, oats, rice and barley are a healthy alternative. Also, as Shih Tzus are brachycephalic, they can find it difficult to eat. Make sure they’re given food that is easy for them to chew and digest.
Despite being named after a lion, this dog could not be less lion-like. They are loving dogs and perfectly content to spend quality time with their favourite humans. Shih Tzus are also extroverted dogs, so expect your pup to make plenty of friends when you go out for your daily walk.
However, Shih Tzus can be stubborn dogs, meaning that training is usually more difficult than it is for other dog breeds. Shih Tzus can also be too trusting. This may cause some issues on walks if another dog, who might not be as friendly, approaches. Training your Shih Tzu to stay calm and alert will help reduce any risk.
Care and training
Once fully trained, Shih Tzus don’t require too much care when compared to other breeds. They’re generally satisfied being with their loved ones, provided they’re getting lots of attention. Always ensure that their long hair is combed daily as this can quite often become tangled and knotted. And despite their protests, Shih Tzus need to be bathed weekly to keep their coats looking their best.
Being a stubborn breed of dog, owners will need plenty of patience to train their Shih Tzu. Training your pup as early as possible is advantageous to get your dog into good habits early on. Housebreaking can, in particular, be an issue. Get your Shih Tzu used to going outside when it is a puppy, before it becomes too stubborn to change.
Common health problems
Being brachycephalic causes the most health problems for a Shih Tzu. They can be prone to ‘reverse sneezing’ if they eat their food too quickly, which can be unnerving to owners seeing this for the first time. Pinching their nostrils can help them recover if this does happen.
Having larger-than-average eyes can also cause issues. If you notice any irritation around the eyes, be sure to contact your vet immediately. However, in general, Shih Tzus are often considered to be a healthy breed, providing proper care is given and maintained.
It’s clear why Shih Tzus are a popular breed of dog. As long as you can handle having royalty in your family, you’ll find your Shih Tzu to be the perfect companion. Now that you’re armed with all the information and tips you need, you should have the tools you need to have a happy and healthy friendship.