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The Shih Tzu is dubbed as the chrysanthemum dog in the UK, whilst he is known as the Lhasa Lion Dog in China. The Shih Tzu origin involved being primarily bred as a lapdog and bred as a gift for a Chinese emperor and various nobles.
Grooming-wise, the Shih Tzu’s double coat does not shed so much, making him a good match for people with dander allergies. Still, the dog requires regular grooming. This brachycephalic (flat nose and muzzle) dog breed is originally bred as a family companion.
The Shih Tzu thrives in affection and returns it a hundred folds. On the downside, the Shih Tzu can also be a skittish creature and may not be tolerant towards toddlers if not raised with them whilst young. Regardless, the Shih Tzu is a delightful lapdog. This dog has a lifespan of 11 to 16 years.
Are you thinking of getting a Shih Tzu? Here is a brief background of this charming pooch.
The Shih Tzu origin has varying theories. According to a recent study, he is one of the oldest dog breeds whose ancestors existed since 8000 BC. His DNA analysis indicates that he is a close descendant of wolves.
The Shih Tzu breed is believed to have developed by Tibetan monks in China by crossing the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso. Lions are usually associated with Buddhism, but since they were not indigenous in China, they bred the Shih Tzu, which literally means ‘lion dog.’
In a legend, a Shih Tzu-like dog is said to accompany Buddha throughout his travels. At one point, the small dog suddenly changed into a ferocious lion to scare off robbers who wanted to harm Buddha.
After the incident, the Shih Tzu-looking dog turned back into his miniature form and received kisses from his human companion as thanks. It is believed that the white spot on Shih Tzu’s head were the marks left by the kisses of Buddha.
There many existing Shih Tzu myths. Some believe that the breed is an incarnation of a mischievous household god. Others say that he transported the souls of lamas who are yet to achieve nirvana. Another story depicts the Shih Tzu as the guardian of Buddhist temples, which were known as Fu Dogs.
These ‘lion dogs’ with chrysanthemum-like faces were given as gifts to Chinese royalty. Unlike other dog breeds that were mainly bred for hunting or guarding, the Shih Tzu’s main function is to be a cherished companion or a lapdog by the nobles.
Various paintings and writings during China's Tang Dynasty show small dogs with the same features as the Shih Tzu’s. Carvings and paintings of these dogs appeared again between 990 and 994 AD.
Around the 13th century, Marco Polo stated that Kublai Khan, a Mongolian emperor, have diminutive ‘lion’ dogs housed together with trained hunting lions. These canines, which were thought to be Shih Tzus, were said to keep these large predators calm and relaxed.
In 1861, the Shih Tzu dog became popular in the Imperial Court because of Empress T'zu Hsi, who was an animal lover. She developed extensive breeding programmes and received a pair of high-quality Shih Tzus from the Dalai Lama.
Royal families competed secretly to produce Shih Tzus of various coats and colours after the Empress's death in 1908. As the breeding was kept secret, poor-bred Shih Tzus were sold in marketplaces. Meanwhile, well-bred ones were smuggled outside the palace and served as gifts for Chinese nobles and foreign visitors.
The first pair of Shih Tzus arrived in England in 1928 through Lady Brownrigg. Another Shih Tzu was transported from China to Ireland in 1933. He was owned by a woman named Mrs. Hutchins. Her dog was then bred to Lady Brownrigg's Shih Tzu.
Three Shih Tzu puppies were birthed from the mating and they became the foundation of Lady Brownrigg’s kennel. The Shih Tzu Club of England was founded in 1934. Later on, the breed was officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1940 and by the American Kennel Club in 1969.
The Shih Tzu is a confident- and sturdy-looking pooch. He weighs 4–7 kilos and stands 20–28 centimetres at the withers. A Shih Tzu puppy becomes fully grown once he reaches 9–12 months of age.
The Shih Tzu has a broad and round head with large dark eyes and big ears. He is known for his beautiful beard and whiskers. The hair on his muzzle grows upwards, giving him a chrysanthemum-like face.
The small Shih Tzu dog is distinctively known for his long and silky coat that comes in various colours and colour combinations.
According to the specific breed standard, the Shih Tzu coat usually comes in black, black and white, gold and white, brown and white, liver and white, and red and white. Merle is considered highly undesirable.
Does a Shih Tzu malt? Yes, but his fine and soft coat sheds less compared to other breeds, making him hypoallergenic. But beware of Shih Tzu puppies that are about to turn one-year-old as they tend to shed heavily. Fortunately, this phase only lasts for about three weeks.
Maintaining the Shih Tzu’s gorgeous locks takes a lot of work. Owners need to brush his hair, which should be done in sections, a few times a day to avoid tangles. Be sure to brush his moustache and topknot too.
Bathing the Shih Tzu should be done at least once a week. Before bathing the Shih Tzu, always brush his coat until the mats are removed. If you fail to do so, the mats will bunch up once they soak up water. After washing your dog, make sure to fully blow-dry his coat to prevent it from getting cold.
Consider keeping the Shih Tzu’s long coat short to make grooming easier. It is advisable to take him to a professional groomer that knows how to handle his hair needs. Should you decide to clip the coat short, it should be done every six to eight weeks.
Remember to keep the hair around the Shih Tzu’s genitals trimmed short. This will prevent urine and faeces from sticking on his coat.
The Shih Tzu’s silky coat locks may require full attention but his nails, ears and other parts also need a little dedication. His nails should be trimmed regularly, ears checked weekly for dirt or signs of infection, and teeth should be brushed at least twice or three times a week.
The Shih Tzu is one of the dog breeds that are prone to tear stains. Keep the fur surrounding his eyes short or tied into a topknot to avoid irritating his eyes. Use a dog-safe eye cleaning solution and a soft damp cloth or a cotton ball to remove the stains.
Since the Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic or flat-faced breed, he cannot handle hot weather well. He is prone to heatstroke, as his flat snout prevents the air from entering his lungs from cooling properly. For this reason, the chrysanthemum dog should be kept indoors often.
During the hot season, there should be sufficient air conditioning in rooms to keep the Shih Tzu safe from overheating.
Aside from the Shih Tzu’s charming appearance, he is quite popular because he is a loving, devoted, and affectionate companion.
Compared to other toy breeds, the chrysanthemum dog is not a barker and requires less attention.
Whilst the Shih Tzu loves being in the presence of his owners, he will be fine on his own for a few hours, provided that he has toys to keep him entertained.
As an adaptive breed, the Shih Tzu can live in an apartment or a suburban home. The breed also makes a wonderful canine companion not only for families but also for seniors. That’s because he isn’t high-strung and would rather snuggle with his owners than go for a walk outside.
The Shih Tzu is an indoor dog and should not be kennelled outside or left for long periods as he can get depressed. He is a great family pet that loves children. Make sure interactions with very young kids are supervised so the dog won't be dropped or injured.
Unlike most toy dogs, the Shih Tzu is alert and may bark at strangers. Nonetheless, he is not a guard dog, so he will easily make friends with visitors.
A Shih Tzu that lacks socialisation tends to become easily spooked in the presence of strangers. For the dog to grow up as a sociable and confident canine, early socialisation is key.
The Shih Tzu dog is intelligent but tends to be stubborn when it comes to training. He can be difficult to house-train. Moreover, the breed is known for being mischievous. Consistency and positive reinforcement consisting of praises and treats during training will help break bad habits and quickly instil new commands.
Since the Shih Tzu is not a naturally active dog, his training should focus on basic commands and socialisation. However, the breed is prone to obesity, so make sure to avoid giving the Shih Tzu excessive amounts of treats.
A Shih Tzu puppy requires ½ to 1 cup of dog food per day. These meals should be divided into smaller portions to prevent him from gorging. It will also help him maintain stable levels of energy as Shih Tzus cannot hold ample amounts of energy.
A typical serving for an adult Shih Tzu is 1/2 to 1 cup of excellent-quality dry dog food per day. However, like in every breed, the amount of food depends on his age, size, build activity level, and metabolism.
As a dog owner, see to it that you understand the basic nutritional needs of your Shih Tzu as a breed whilst still considering his individual characteristics.
Typical calorie needs of an adult Shih Tzu per day:
Since the Shih Tzu tends to become obese, his diet should have fewer carbohydrates and more protein. A lean source of protein for the Shih Tzu is fish, which has good fats for a healthy coat. Complex sources of carbohydrates, such as oats, barley, sweet potatoes, and rice, are your best options to maintain his healthy weight.
The Shih Tzu has a sensitive stomach, thus he is known to be a finicky eater. Avoid regularly giving the dog high-value treats, and do not share human food with him, if possible. Let the Shih Tzu adapt to his regular dog food instead of introducing a new food.
The Shih Tzu, like most small dogs, has an average lifespan of 12–16 years. He is generally healthy but predisposed to certain health conditions, which include:
The Shih Tzu breed is highly prone to developing a myriad of ocular disorders. These include keratitis, proptosis, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and retinal dysplasia.
The causes of these conditions can range from environmental to genetics. To prevent eye problems from developing, clean the Shih Tzu's eyes regularly.
It is also important to purchase your Shih Tzu puppy from a reputable breeder whose dogs are health-screened for eye problems. Potential parent breeds that are more likely to develop the disease should not be bred.
Joint and Bone Issues
Hip dysplasia, intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), and patellar luxation are very common diseases in the Shih Tzu breed. Without proper treatment, these health problems can cause extreme pain and, in severe cases, can lead to permanent lameness and immobility.
Fortunately, all these diseases can be treated, especially if diagnosed early. Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. It can range from medications and diet changes to surgery and therapy.
Since the Shih Tzu toy breed is brachycephalic, he is more likely to develop breathing difficulties caused by the collapsing trachea and stenotic nares. These health issues can be corrected through surgery.
Some dogs with a collapsed trachea can eventually get used to the condition as long it doesn’t disrupt their breathing. With that said, the disease should always be checked in case it might suddenly get worse.
The Shih Tzu has minimal exercise needs. To maintain a healthy body and mind, have a 30-minute walk or a game of fetch in a fenced backyard with him every day. It is best to divide the dog’s exercise regimen into short sessions rather than long ones.
Do not leave the Shih Tzu outside for too long because as a short-faced dog with a thick double coat, he is prone to heatstroke. Choose a well-fitted Y-shaped harness for your dog. It wraps around his chest than his throat, so it prevents putting pressure on his airway.
If you plan to take the Shih Tzu for a dip in the sea, you have to know that he is not a natural swimmer. Before you let him wade in the water, provide him with a doggy life jacket. Make sure that it properly fits the dog to keep it from accidentally slipping off his body.
Constantly supervising the Shih Tzu whilst he is swimming is also important. This will allow you to give your dog assistance if he starts having a hard time in the water.
Purchasing a well-bred Shih Tzu puppy will cost you £800–£1,800 depending on the breed’s quality.
To ensure that the Shih Tzu stays healthy at whatever age, be ready to spend £30–£40 a month on high-quality dog food. You also need to factor in the initial cost for dog accessories and equipment such as food bowls, lead, collar, and bed. These may cost you approximately £200.
When it comes to the Shih Tzu’s healthcare, veterinary consultations, initial vaccinations, boosters, and neutering or spaying fees can rack up to £800 for the first year.
If you choose to obtain pet insurance for your Shih Tzu, a time-limited cover can cost £18 a month, whilst a lifetime one can cost up to £39 a month. Roughly, you will be setting aside £60–£90 a month for recurring expenses, depending on the type of insurance cover that you’ll choose. This estimate is also exclusive of dog walking or grooming services that you might want to use at times.
Are you sure the Shih Tzu is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.Dog Breed Selector Quiz
Still not sure if a Shih Tzu is for you? Take our quick Pet Finder for other suggested breeds that suit your personality and lifestyle.
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