With their beautiful flowing hair and upturned nose, Shih Tzus wear the air of snobbish royalty. Reality, however, is far from appearance: Chinese lion dog are amongst the most affectionate, playful, devoted dogs that ever existed. Even the most sceptical canine observer cannot ignore this breed’s charms for long. They love nothing more than to adore their family and make new friends wherever they go. They also easily adapt to most places, being equally comfortable in a small apartment and a big house with a yard. While originally bred to be companion animals to Chinese royalty, Shih Tzus quickly won the hearts of everyone they met and today, continue to be amongst the most popular breeds for families.History
Recent studies have revealed that the Shih Tzu is likely to be amongst the 14 oldest dog breeds in the world. It is believed that Shih Tzus were bred by Tibetan monks to later be given to Chinese royalty as gifts. Another theory attributes the existence of the Shih Tzu to the Chinese practice of crossing Lhasa Apsos and Pekingese. In the 13th century, Marco Polo reported that Kubla Khan, the Mongolian Emperor, kept several Shih Tzu-like dogs that were used to keep hunting lions calm. Regardless, it is clear that the breed was always meant to be a companion dog, and this is something they continue to be, to this day. In the 1860s, Shih Tzus became popular when a royal concubine became the Empress of China. Under her order, anyone caught harming the palace dogs was to be put to death. Empress T’zu Hsi loved animals and, when the Dalai Lama gave her a pair of Shih Tzus, her love for the breed began. She proceeded to carry out extensive breeding programmes and, after her death in the early 1900s, many royal families continued to compete to breed Shih Tzus with the finest characteristics. In 1928, the first Shih Tzus made their way to England and they formed the beginning of the England Shih Tzu kennel.Unique Aspects
Shih Tzus are known to be amongst the purest breeds in the world. During the British invasion of China, the breed almost went extinct. Thanks to a handful of dogs and responsible, if competitive, breeding practices, the breed today is a very healthy one. In spite of their long beautiful hair, Shih Tzus are known to shed very little. They make great companions for people with allergies who love animals and can’t live with several of the shedding breeds. The flat nose of this breed makes them susceptible to heat stroke, so plenty of care should be taken in the summer months and warmer climes. Families that live with Shih Tzus must ensure adequate cool spots and air-conditioned rooms, for the unbearably warm months. Because of the shape of their noses, Shih Tzus also wheeze and snore a lot. While most dog breeds are prone to coprophagia (the habit of eating their own faeces or that of other animals), Shih Tzus are especially drawn towards this. The best way to handle this is to nip it in the bud and train the habit out of the dog at a young age.
Legend has it that the Buddha travelled with a tiny dog that fits the description of a Shih Tzu. One day, a band of thieves accosted the Buddha. The little dog transformed into a ferocious lion and scared the thieves away, thus saving the Buddha’s life. The lion immediately transformed into the tiny dog again. The Buddha picked up the dog and kissed him on his head, leaving a white mark that several Shih Tzus possess to this day.
Shih Tzus are truly one of Nature’s works of art, what with the beautiful coat and a matching personality. While they are not at all prolific shedders, it’s safe to say that a lot of your me-time will have to be sacrificed in favour of grooming the dog. Daily brushing and combing is necessary, to prevent tangles and mats. Several people prefer to have a professional groomer on their speed dial, who will need to be called in to groom the dog once every few weeks. Shih Tzu coats are also often buzzed short, especially in warm places, where a short coat keeps the dog comfortable in the heat and frees up a bit of your time.When Shih Tzus are about a year old, the coat changes from soft puppy fluff to the silken adult coat. Grooming might be even more challenging at this time, because the matting will increase. This is, however, a temporary period and once the adult coat has grown in fully, you’ll find your grooming hours are shorter. If you choose to groom your Shih Tzu yourself, the best way to do it would be to make it a fun experience for both yourself and your dog. Think of it as precious bonding time. Prepare your Shih Tzu for the long run by beginning grooming and handling him or her at a very young age.
Shih Tzus are generally a healthy breed but you have to remember when getting a puppy home that almost all breeds are prone to both generic and genetic conditions. Shih Tzus are famously prone to allergies that can be induced by a variety of reasons including food, bedding, shampoos, pollen and mildew. These can be easily treated with the help of medication and dietary changes. The other common issues witnessed in Shih Tzus, is juvenile renal dysplasia, a genetic disorder in which the kidney does not develop normally. Excessive thirst, frequent urination, loss of weight and vomiting are the most common symptoms. The existence of the condition can only be confirmed through a wide-wedge biopsy which is risky and very invasive.
Shih Tzus can also be prone to hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, bladder infections, ear infections, umbilical hernias, and reverse sneezing.
Eye problems are generally common in Shih Tzus, because of their large bulging eyes. Here is a list of common eye conditions that a Shih Tzu may get:
Keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea that can lead to corneal ulcers and blindness.
Proptosis, where the eyeball is dislodged from the eye socket and the eyelids clamp behind the eyeball
Distichiasis, an abnormal growth of eyelashes on the margin of the eye, resulting in the eyelashes rubbing against the eye Ectopia cilia, a condition similar to distichiasis
Progressive retinal atrophy, a degenerative disease of the retinal visual cells that ultimately ends in blindness
Dry eye, which involves dryness of the cornea and the conjunctiva
Shih Tzus are greatly loved for their overall sunny disposition. Bred to be companion animals, they are good-natured, friendly, and highly adaptable. They are very well-suited for apartment living and love to please their human family. Their small size, however, puts them at a disadvantage whilst playing with very young children or much larger dogs, so all play between your Shih Tzu and very little children or several other animals needs to be monitored. Shih Tzus are alert and lively, with a bark that can often be constant. They make great watch dogs, but if you’re looking for a guard dog, look elsewhere: the Shih Tzu is too small and non-threatening to guard a family! If you’d like a quiet life with your Shih Tzu, teach him or her bark inhibition at an early age. They get along very well with other animals and adequate socialisation at an early age only makes them more welcoming of other animals. Their overall happy-go-lucky nature makes them excellent therapy dogs.Environment
Shih Tzus are perfect apartment dogs. They do not require much space and can be accommodated anywhere with ease. Further, they don’t require as much exercise or space as other, larger dogs. Two to three small walks a day in a safe area will more than suffice. Shih Tzus have flat faces, which makes them very susceptible to heat stroke. This happens because the air which goes into the lungs is not cooled fast enough, as in the case of dogs with longer snouts. Hence, the breed does much better in cooler places, although adequate air conditioning and supervising in summer months can keep them quite comfortable in warmer places. Shih Tzus have a mildly alarming habit of jumping quite fearlessly from high places. Be sure to watch out for this behaviour and minimise risk as much as possible, but building high walls, especially if you live in an apartment on a higher floor and have balconies.Training & Intelligence
Shih Tzus may be very people-friendly, but training them isn’t a walk in the park. They can be stubborn whilst learning, so be extra patient and innovative with this breed. Shih Tzus are big foodies, so positive reinforcement training methods using food and treats as rewards will work very well. Training needs to be consistent and repetitive, for the Shih Tzu to retain information and slowly learn right from wrong. Shih Tzus also have Small Dog Syndrome, which means they will try to take on dogs much larger than themselves, if they aren’t socialised early in their lives.
Shih Tzus are generally a healthy and there aren’t many complications attached to their breeding. As always, the thing to be most concerned about is having enough families lined up to adopt the puppies, so that they don’t fall into the wrong hands or get ill-treated by careless families. Shih Tzus attain sexual maturity anywhere between six to nine months of age, though they will be too young to breed at this point. Breeding, if at all, is recommended after the dog reaches two years of age. The average litter size is about two to four puppies. If you’re mating your dogs for the first time, it’s recommended that you take the help of a veterinarian.Puppies
Shih Tzu puppies are perfect family pets and excellent with children. The puppies are naughty and adorable. While they are easy to socialise, especially at a young age, be sure to housebreak them as early as you can. They may not be quick learners, but food and positive reinforcement are the best ways to get a Shih Tzu’s attention.
Shih Tzus are prized for their long gorgeous coats that come in several colours: black, black & white, gray & white, or red & white. A white-tipped tail and the white mark on the forehead, fabled to be the mark of the Buddha’s kiss, are also widely praised. The hair on top of the head is usually tied into a top knot, for that extra-regal look. The length of a Shih Tzu’s body exceeds the height. The back is level, the chest is broad and the shoulders are firm. The head is broad and the muzzle is short and square. The legs are short and muscular, with an abundance of hair. The feet are round and appear large because of the large quantity of hair between the pads and on the feet. The tail is set high, curved, carried over the back, and well-plumed. The ears are large and drooping, the eyes are large, dark and well-spaced, and the nose is black. Shih Tzus generally weigh between 4-7kg and are about 9-11 inches tall.