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Dog Breeds: Shih Tzu

A small, majestic dog with a lot of fur - that's what many people know about the shih tzu dog breed. Many of us love them, so many that they are one of the most common breeds today! They are great family dogs, as they love to socialise and play, but they also have plenty of personality under the large amount of fur.
Dog Breeds: Shih Tzu

Facts about Shih Tzu

Size: may not exceed 27 cm
Average Shih Tzu lifespan: 13-14 years 
Weight: 4.5-8 kg 
Color: Popular colours – white, black, brown, blue, liver, red, silver 
Characteristics: Happy, independent, easy to learn, playful and affectionate. 
Common diseases and injuries: Eye and skin problems and retained baby teeth 
Breed group: Companion and toy dogs (group 9) 

Where does a shih tzu come from? 

The Shih tzu breed originated in Tibet where, according to Buddhist belief, they were sacred and often found in temples to protect against evil spirits. They were also given as precious gifts to the Chinese court during the Manchu dynasty in the 16th century. The little dogs were considered lucky talismans. The Shih tzu breed was developed for many years in Tibet and China, but at the beginning of the 20th century the breed came to Great Britain, where a more structured breeding program was initiated. The breed has since become popular throughout Europe. Shih tzu is said to mean little lion. 

Shih Tzu's temperament 

A shih tzu is a playful, affectionate and happy dog that truly loves being with its family. They often form strong bonds with their humans. They are lively, attentive, outgoing and also love to snuggle on the sofa or armchair. This is a truly loyal friend for life that you can take on walks and snuggle with. 

Although gentle and soft-spoken, a shih tzu can be quite independent and can even seem a little arrogant at times. Most of the time, however, they only have positive energy and are happy to greet strangers and dogs and maintain good contact with the dog handler during training. 

Like other companion dogs, Shih Tzu dogs are a very social breed, so being left alone at home is not always a hit. They can learn to be by themselves but not for long hours. You need to prioritise a positive introduction to being home alone soon after Shih Tzu puppies move in. It can take many weeks to teach a small companion dog to be comfortable being alone. So, clear your calendar and train your new best friend so it's not miserable when you leave it at home. With its handy size, it is easy to take with you and it loves to be accompanied. 

The breed generally gets along well with other dogs. However, this assumes that they have good experience with other sociable dogs from the puppy stage onwards in life. If you want your shih tzu to get the most out of interacting with other dogs, make sure it has canine companions that match its size and build.


The appearance and size of the Shih Tzu


Shih tzu is a small dog with a majestic appearance and a lot of fur. They are a maximum of 26.5 cm in height at the withers and weigh between 4.5-8 kg. They have a distinctive head with large round brown eyes. 


Care of Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu's coat is long and smooth with a dense undercoat. This breed has a lot of fur, so daily brushing is required to keep the coat nice and free of tangles. Especially during the dog's younger years, the fur can be extra demanding, but it becomes (a little) easier with the years. 

With such a long coat, regular bathing is necessary, otherwise the coat will get dirty. After your shih tzu has been bathed, be sure to blow dry it completely to avoid skin problems caused by a damp coat. If you do not cut the fur, the breed should put the fur up in tassels above the eyes, otherwise it can be difficult for the dogs to see because of the long fur that falls over the eyes. You have to get used to all of this early, otherwise it can be a struggle to keep the beautiful coat. The breeder has probably already started the work, but it is important that you continue training so that the dog sees brushing, bathing etc. as a pleasant activity from an early age. 

In bad weather, a blanket for your dog may be necessary to avoid bringing in too much dirt, sticks and gravel, which are even more difficult to remove when wet. Even snow can accumulate in large clumps in the coat, which then disturbs the dog on the walk. 


Shih Tzu Training

When training a shih tzu you need to be loving but consistent. This is a dog on the more independent end of the companion dog spectrum, so you both need to agree that you know best. You'll have a fast learner who learns both good and bad habits from his buddies (and from you if you're not fast enough). If you're good at training, you'll get a tenacious dog that's quick to learn new things and likes to show off what it can do. 

The Shih Tzu thrives on long walks around the neighborhood and in places where the grass is short, but if your Shih Tzu has full adult fur, it is not the ideal dog to take out into the woods, as its fur will pick up everything on the ground. Instead, try regular obedience training, nosework or perhaps agility - precisely because it both moves and jumps quickly.


Shih Tzu's Health


At Agria, we collect statistics on all dog breeds that are insured with us. It gives us unique injury and disease statistics that provide insight into which diseases and injuries affect specific breeds. The statistics, which are based on Agria's injury statistics with over 1,500,000 Swedish dogs. 

Just like any other dog, a shih tzu can get into trouble or get sick. That's why we haven't included the things that generally affect dogs regardless of breed. Instead, we have found the three most common breed-specific diagnoses:

  • Eye problems (misdirected eyelashes causing corneal ulcers)
  • Skin problems
  • Persistent baby teeth 


What we love the most about Shih Tzu dogs


The Shih Tzu is easy to love and in many ways the perfect family dog. Of course, there are a few things we love a little extra about the breed: 

Loves its people: A Shih Tzu is sociable and knows nothing better than to spend time with its family. They are ready for indoor or outdoor play but are just as happy to snuggle up on the couch. You will certainly get a wonderful friend if you choose a Shih Tzu. 

Energy level where most people can join: They are lively and like a good walk, but it's not at a level where you have to free up half the day for exercise for you and your dog. At this level, most people can join and yet it never gets boring. 

Friendly and outgoing: Here is a dog that not only appreciates you, but is also friendly with strangers - people, dogs and other pets alike. It is usually only appreciated if there are guests, playmates or craftsmen come to visit.

What you need to know when choosing a Shih Tzu 


Nothing is perfect - not even a Shih Tzu, and although they have many qualities, there are a few things to be aware of when considering getting one: 

A lot of grooming: There is a lot of fur on this breed and it will take time. Therefore, you need to be willing and have time for fur care several times a week. It can be a cozy moment if you put a little extra time and effort into it. 

Prefers to avoid being alone:  Due to their very social nature, shih tzus do not like to be alone. This is something you have to take into account in yours so you don't end up with an unhappy dog that doesn't thrive. 

Stubborn: Despite the breed's soft, friendly nature, they are stubborn and can take charge if you don't. 

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