Get to know the Shih Tzu
All you need to know about the breed
With their illustrious canine heritage, the Shih Tzu has always held a certain exoticism. Originating in the imperial palace of Chinese emperors, where the breed lived exclusively for several centuries, they were considered by many people to be sacred. As such, there has always been a kind of reverence around them.
Certainly, this sprightly breed does have a special sort of charm. With a temperament that is loyal, affectionate and gentle, the Shih Tzu also has a natural intelligence. Then there are those gorgeous lion-like looks.
Famed for their long silky tresses, it’s true that the Shih Tzu’s coat requires a fair amount of grooming. But it’s all part of the pleasure that comes with having this breed. Also, as they require minimal exercise compared to many dogs, they are lower maintenance in other ways. With a top weight of 8kg (17.5lb), the compact size of the Shih Tzu means they will fit into most home set-ups, too.
They do know their own minds, so training the Shih Tzu can be a little challenging at first. But with a bit of gentle persuasion, and plenty of encouragement along the way, they grow into well-mannered adults. The Shih Tzu also has a good lifespan, too, with a top age of 20.
Given all this, it’s perhaps no surprise that they also seem to be popular with the celebrity community. Among the many well-known names to have owned a Shih Tzu are Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Colin Farrell, Bill Gates and even Queen Elizabeth II. In summary then, this is a very rewarding breed of little dog – and one that is, indeed, fit for an emperor.
2 facts about Shih Tzus
Things to look out for
From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Shih Tzu
Keep a close check for any eye problems
While their bright brown eyes are one of their distinguishing features, Shih Tzus can suffer from a few potential issues in this area. These include cataracts, retinal detachment, corneal dryness, general inflammation and a degenerative condition called progressive retinal atrophy. Also, because of their protruding shape, their eyes can be easily scratched or injured. The best advice? Check daily for anything out of the ordinary and, on the first sign of anything unusual, contact your vet. It’s important to keep their hair out of their eyes by tying it up in a topknot or keeping it cut short.
They can be prone to respiratory issues
Because of the way their heads, faces and airways are shaped, the Shih Tzu is known as a ‘brachycephalic’ breed. This means they can be susceptible to breathing difficulties – and, in some cases, fainting spells. For this reason, over-exercising Shih Tzus should always be avoided. It also means they have a poor ability to tolerate heat. Coupled with their thick coat, the Shih Tzu simply doesn’t cope well in hot weather. As a result, walks in the summer should be taken either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day when the temperature is cooler. To ensure you have the healthiest dog possible, always seek out a responsible and trusted breeder, and seek counsel from your vet if needed.
And watch out for any allergies in your dog
One other thing to be aware of is that the Shih Tzu is among the breeds predisposed to atopic dermatitis: a hypersensitivity to environmental allergens such as pollen and dust mites etc. Also, the itch (pruritus) induced can then be complicated by secondary infections. It is recommended, therefore, to keep a close eye on your Shih Tzu’s skin health. Licking the paws, rubbing the face and recurring ear infections are the most common signs of allergies. If they display any of these signs, it’s best to consult your vet. Unfortunately, dealing with an allergic dog is not easy, but medicated shampoos, a bespoke diet or specific treatments can help to improve the situation.