Breed review: Shih Tzu
This toy dog is a friendly and gentle lap dog, and a playful companion. Find out why the Shih Tzu could be the right breed for you.
What is a Shih Tzu?
This breed was developed for the sole purpose of being a companion: this makes them extremely affectionate and loyal house dogs. They originated in China and the name Shih Tzu is Chinese for ‘Lion Dog’, although to look at it is unclear why; they are small and glamorous looking and not hunting dogs.
They were first imported into Europe in the 1930’s and were then categorised as ‘Apsos’, before they were known as Shih Tzus in 1935.
What is the appearance of a Shih Tzu?
With long flowing hair, dark eyes and a short stature, these dogs are pretty and delicate. They are usually just over 10 inches tall and are usually slightly longer than their height.
Noticeable characteristics of the breed are their under-bite and drop ears. They also have a furry tail curled over at the back. Their hair usually reaches the floor and is well groomed on show dogs. They are often seen with a bow tied above their face.
Their colours vary from dog to dog, although it is common to see a flash of white on the forehead and tail.
The Temperament of a Shih Tzu
A real family pet, the Shih Tzu is gentle and tolerant with children and mild mannered. They are playful and fun but can just as easily calm down to lie on a lap. Don’t be surprised if they follow you around the house; they are sociable and trusting.
Unlike other breeds they were never bred to hunt or guard, dictating their people-loving persona today.
Maintenance and health of a Shih Tzu
That luscious long hair may be beautiful, but it means a lot of maintenance for the owner. You will need to groom a Shih Tzu daily to brush out the matted hair and tangles that they will develop. Some people who don’t plan on showing the dog will cut the hair to a more manageable ‘teddy bear’ length, which will not need such frequent attention.
A daily walk or run through the park is enough for these little dogs. You can even play ball with them indoors if the weather is bad outside and they will be happy.
One problem with the breed is their difficulty with house training; you must be consistent and vigilant to be successful with them and wait until they are fully trained before leaving them unsupervised.
Unfortunately, the Shih Tzu is especially prone to eating other animal faeces. You should try to clear any up in your garden before they let this become a habit for them.
As with all breeds there are certain ailments that they are more likely to encounter, but they still have an average lifespan of 11-16 years.