1. Key Breed Facts
2. Breed Characteristics
7. Intelligence / Trainability
8. Children and Other Pets
10. Caring for a Shih Tzu
14. Average Cost to keep/care for a Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is often mistaken for a Lhasa Apso because they are similar looking little dogs. However, the two breeds are quite different when it comes to their temperaments and conformation. One of the most endearing physical features of the Shih Tzu is the charming shape of their head and the way the hair on their faces grows upwards on the bridge their nose. For centuries, these little dogs have been delighting the world with their delightfully charming looks and endearing personalities.
The Shih Tzu is a lively little dog that was first bred in China where they were highly prized by Emperors. Today, they are classed as Utility dogs with The Kennel Club and have earned themselves a place in the hearts and homes of people all over the world. They are also very popular in the showring both with people and judges alike.
Although the Shih Tzu originates from Tibet, the breed was actually developed in China where they were highly prized by rulers and Emperors. These little dogs lived in imperial palaces all to themselves. They were crossed with the Pekingese to produce the dogs we see today. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century, when China became a republic that Shih Tzus first appeared in the West, although the first official record of the breed arriving here in the UK was a few years later in the thirties.
In 1949, the Shih Tzu was recognised as a breed in its own right by The Kennel Club and over the years, these charming little dogs have been a huge hit both in the show ring and the home environment thanks to their adorable looks and sweet, albeit lively and often mischievous natures.
Height at the withers: Males 20 - 28 cm, Females 20 - 28 cm
Average weight: Males 4 - 7.25 kg, Females 4 - 7.25 kg
The Shih Tzu is a sturdy little dog that boasts a silky, luxurious long coat. They are known to have a bit of an arrogant look about them which often makes these little dogs even more endearing. They have a "chrysanthemum face", their heads are broad and round with a lot of width between their eyes. They also have a nice beard and full whiskers with the hair growing upright on their muzzles, hence their "chrysanthemum" look.
Their muzzle is square, short and wide without any wrinkles and dogs have black noses although in liver coated dogs, their nose matches the colour of their coat. Stops are well defined and noses are level or slightly tilted with nostrils being nice and wide. Eyes are round and large, being dark in colour with dogs boasting a warm look about them. Dogs with liver coats can have slightly lighter coloured eyes which is allowable as a breed standard.
Ears are nice and large boasting long leathers which dogs carry drooping down. Their mouth is slightly undershot although it can be level too. Necks are nicely proportioned which dogs carry well arched adding to their proud and arrogant look. Their shoulders are well laid back with front legs being short and well-muscled showing lots of bone.
A Shih Tzu has a compact body with a broad, deep chest and a firm, level back. Hindquarters are muscular with a dog's back legs being short and well-muscled with well-rounded and powerful thighs. Feet are firm, round and nicely padded being covered in hair. Tails are extremely plumed and set high which dogs carry over their backs gaily.
When it comes to their coat, the Shih Tzu has a long outer coat and a moderate undercoat. Any colour is acceptable as a breed standard with white blazes on a dog's forehead and a white tip to their tails being very desirable in dogs that have parti-coloured coats.
The Shih Tzu is known to be a lively, confident, outgoing little dog that boasts a really extrovert side to their characters. There is nothing they like more than to be part of a family and just love being involved in everything that goes on in a household which is why they have consistently been a popular choice as family pets and companion dogs.
They are a great choice for first time owners because they are intelligent and are always willing and eager to please. They thrive on being around people and do not do well when left on their own for any long periods of time. However, they are quite high maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats looking good which is always something new owners have to keep in mind.
Shih Tzus can be a little wary and suspicious of strangers although they would rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards people they have never met before, preferring to just keep their distance until they get to know someone.
Shih Tzus are intelligent, but they do boast a bit of an independent side to their characters which means their training and socialisation has to start as early as possible. They can also be a little stubborn at times and often give owners the impression that it is beneath them to do certain things asked of them. With this is mind, a lot of patience and consistency are needed when training and educating a Shih Tzu to be obedient, although they do tend to always have a mind of their own.
Although an affectionate and friendly dog by nature, the Shih Tzu is not the best choice for families with young children because they can get a bit nippy if they feel threatened in any way. With this said, if a Shih Tzu has grown up with the kids and they were well socialised from a young age, they can be very loving around the kids. However, any interaction between children and dogs should be supervised by an adult to make sure things don't get too boisterous.
If a Shih Tzu has grown up with other pets in the home, they will generally tolerate having them around. Care has to be taken when they are around any small animals though, just in case. If these little dogs are well socialised when they were young, they do get on with other dogs, but care always has to be taken when they meet a dog they don't know.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Shih Tzu is between 10 and 16 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Shih Tzu is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active, attractive little dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Shih Tzus need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Shih Tzus are quite high maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats looking sleek and their skin in good condition. Their coats are long, luxurious and silky and if not regularly trimmed, their hair grows right down to the ground. With this said, daily grooming sessions are a must to keep a Shih Tzu's coat tangle-free. As such it's essential for puppies to be groomed from a young age so they get used to all the tools and having their ears, paws and other parts of their bodies touched. It’s important for the experience to be good right from the start so a dog looks forward to a grooming session rather than be afraid of being brushed.
The hair on the bridge of a Shih Tzu's nose grows upwards which owners often tie up in a knot top adding a lot of appeal to their already cute looks. They also need to have their faces washed every day because food often gets lodged in the hair around their mouths which not only gets smelly, but it can cause a skin irritation which can be really hard to clear up.
Shih Tzus really need to be professionally groomed on a regular basis which means their coats can be trimmed to the right shape which makes it that much easier to keep on top of things between visits to a parlour. These little dogs tend to shed more in the Spring and then in the Autumn, much like other breeds which means more frequent brushing at these times of the year are necessary.
Shih Tzus love going out for walks, but they are not high energy dogs which means 30 to 40 minutes would be fine to keep them happy which is why they have always been such a popular choice with people who lead quieter more stay at home lives. A short walk in the morning and then a longer, more interesting one in the afternoon, would keep these little dogs happy, fit and healthy.
Because they are so playful by nature, Shih Tzus love getting involved in lots of interactive games and really do benefit from being given as much stimulation as possible to prevent boredom from setting in. If a dog gets bored, being so intelligent they will look for other ways to amuse themselves which results in dogs developing some unwanted behaviours around the home and this includes excessive barking as well as separation anxiety.
Young Shih Tzu puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. Puppies should not be allowed to jump up and down off the furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs as both of these things put a lot of strain on their growing bones.
If you get a Shih Tzu puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Shih Tzu, you would need to pay anything from £400 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Shih Tzu in northern England would be £18.24 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £39.16 a month (quote as of April 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Shih Tzu and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £800 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Shih Tzu would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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