The Shih Tzu is a small but sturdy dog classified as a toy breed. This dog has a bounty of hair with a thick undercoat and a long topcoat. It is the thick undercoat which provides the adult Shih Tzu the illusion of size and grace. With the upright carriage of the tail and head, this dog breed appears poised and self-assured.
The body of the Shih Tzu is solid yet compact, hidden under all that fur. It is slightly shorter than it is long. The head of the Shih Tzu is round and the dog appears as if it has a moustache and beard. The muzzle is rather boxy, hairy and short with the nose and hair on it appearing slightly upturned. With the abundance of hair, this dog resembles a little lion.
Their big, rounded eyes have a dark, friendly gaze that just glistens. The ears of the Shih Tzu are pendant shaped but blend in with the rest of the body due to the overabundance of hair growth. The tail is hairy and long and typically held high with a curl that suspends over the back. One of the cutest characteristics of this dog breed is its slight under bite.
Along with the long haired beauty of the Shih Tzu, there are several different colors to choose from. Some dogs appear tri-colored with white, black and shades of tan while others may be black and white, tan and white, or totally dark with shades of brown and black. The color white presenting itself on the tail's tip and the forehead is a desirable trait.
The good news about the long hair is that it is not that detrimental to those people who suffer allergies. In fact, Shih Tzu's shed little skin dander which makes them popular pets with those who have allergy issues.
Recent scientific studies with DNA obtained from skeletal remains of dogs excavated from 10,000 year old archeological sites have proved that the Shih Tzu is one of the oldest dog breeds on the planet. For sure, there has been documentation as well as painted representations of this dog breed dating back to the 1500s. Their lion-like coat is a dead giveaway.
It is thought that these dogs were mated in Peking crossing a Pekingese and a Lhasa Apso but this has not be totally substantiated. For sure, the Shih Tzu was revered in Tibet and then found their way to Imperial China, gracing the laps and quarters of emperors and other royalty. For many years, China did not share this dog breed with the world, refusing to sell or trade them with partners in the west. Not until the early 20th century did this dog breed find its way to England where one was presented as a gift to Queen Elizabeth. The Shih Tzu later made its debut in America where its popularity began to rise in the 1960s.
The Shih Tzu is quite content to be a lap dog, a forever faithful companion. However, there is more to them than devotion to their masters. This dog breed is delightful, by turns effervescent and gentle. Sweet natured, the Shih Tzu is fun-loving and spirited with a cheery disposition. They love to play, making them great for families.
This dog breed likes to be involved with their families. They are great watchdogs because they are attuned to changes in the environment, namely strangers or visitors approaching the home. While the Shih Tzu is typically congenial with everyone, a little supervision and guidance goes a long way for total acceptance. Be prepared to be charmed by these small but mighty dogs.
Because of their short snouts, the Shih Tzu does have a propensity toward snoring and wheezing as well as other respiratory health issues. Because of their short little legs and long backside, spinal disc conditions are not uncommon. Due to their long hair getting in their eyes, the Shih Tzu may develop eye infections from constant irritation but a simple hair trim in that area can greatly reduce the severity and even occurrence of the problem.
The Shih Tzu needs regular teeth brushing in order to avoid losing teeth to gum problems like periodontal disease. As they love to eat, this dog breed can become obese if not kept on a regulated diet. Some bloodlines may show evidence of hip dysplasia while others may be allergic to certain dyes in dog food. Because of their short snouts and long hair, the Shih Tzu is prone to heat exhaustion so precautions must be taken to avoid this.
The Shih Tzu is regal with its long flowing coat of hair rippling like that of a majestic lion. Grooming this dog breed takes commitment has its long hair must be brushed each day, at least 10-15 minutes daily. Brushing is necessary to prevent the formation of matting which is basically clumps of hair stuck together. A spray-on condition can help with the prevention of some of this matting as well as static electricity.
Some owners will clip the hair around the eyes so the dogs can see while others may use a ribbon or doggie hair clip to pin the hair away from the face and eyes. Daily wiping of the eye area with simple water and a clean cloth will help prevent infection as the area is very sensitive. The ears should be cleaned every other day to prevent infection and ear mites. Toe nails should be clipped periodically to prevent them from curling under into delicate areas.
Exercise is a great idea for the Shih Tzu as they love spending time outdoors with their masters. Plus, because they are content to lie around and be great companions to their humans, they need the physical activity to prevent excessive weight gain. Engaging the Shih Tzu in games is optimal as they love to strategize and stalk their "enemy" whether it is a rope tug bone, a Frisbee or even a large knotted up sock.
The Shih Tzu should begin obedience training as soon as it is weaned away from its mom and in a new home. They have a short span of attention, so training them should be accomplished in small time increments. Because of their intelligence and curiosity, these lessons can end up being enjoyable. For sure, if a patient and fun atmosphere is provided for the Shih Tzu, they will learn quickly. Of course, positive kudos and treats for a job well done are great facilitators as well.