With their fabulous hair and small stature, they certainly gain themselves a lot of admiring attention wherever they go.
Let’s look at whether this distinctive little dog came from, and what sort of a family might welcome one into their home.
Shih Tzu are thought to be one of the oldest breeds of dog, with their origins stretching back to Tibet or China.
They are born and bred lap dogs, and have been that way for generations. With a breeding focus placed on their highly characteristic looks.
Shih Tzu fans love the breed for their loyalty and warmth to their owners. They are affectionate and loyal, but not without a spirited side.
Being bred as lap dogs and companions, the Shih Tzu is at home having a fuss made of him. And if properly socialised they should be happy to wander up and greet friends and strangers alike.
However, without proper socialisation some Shih Tzu have been known to growl or even snap when bored with physical affection like stroking. They are therefore not always the most reliable breed to have around children who are not yet old enough to understand when to give them space, or the need to handle such a small dog with care.
This said, if you have your Shih Tzu from 8 weeks old and make sure he is used to being throughly handled, then the likelihood of this problem will be reduced. Crate training can also help you to keep your Shih Tzu separate from the unwelcome, prodding fingers of guests.
Remember, that just because a Shih Tzu looks like a cuddly toy, it doesn’t mean he has the personality of one. Teach children to be respectful and always supervise their interactions, as kids are not as good at spotting warning signs that the dog has had enough.
Being a small breed they do not require huge amounts of exercise, and can be just as happy living in a flat as in a big house with a garden. Like any dog though, they do enjoy having somewhere to run around outdoors and benefit from regular training. In recent years people have begun to enter them in miniature agility, and demonstrated that they can be more than just a pretty face.
This appealing little dog has a regal look, which makes sense when you find out that he was once the property of Chinese royalty.
They are small and stocky, with flat faces that give the expression of being rather cheerful.
Their bodies are slightly out of proportion for a dog breed, with shortened legs and a lengthy spine. They are covered from head to toe in long silky hair, which is often tied up on to allow them a clear visual field.
Shih Tzu coats are not for the faint hearted. They are long and require regular grooming and care. It’s vital that your Shih Tzu is used to being groomed from a young age, unless you are prepared to pay regular visits to your local groomer for some serious clipping.
You will also need to take care to keep their long head hair from obscuring their vision or causing irritation to their eyes.
The Shih Tzu coat does however have definite positives, if you are happy with its maintenance. Although long and shaggy in appearance, it is actually relatively low shedding. Which means that you are less likely to be troubled with allergies, or constantly hovering up after them!
They are also very distinctive and a lot of people find them very appealing, and enjoy making them up with bows and ribbons.
Shih Tzu can suffer from a few serious conformation related problems.
They have short muzzles and snubbed faces, resulting in breathing difficulties. Although not all of them are severely affected, they can suffer from brachycephalic issues to the extent that they require surgery in order to breathe easily and freely.
Although it is often disguised under their long and silky coats, Shih Tzu can be afflicted by the spine related disorder Intervertebral Disk Disease. This is caused by the dogs back and legs not being correctly proportioned. The spine is essentially too long to be properly supported by the shortened legs. This can result in severe back pain, co-ordination problems and even paralysis.
There are some health issues that affect other pedigree breeds too that should also be looked out for, including hypothyroidism, epilepsy and hip dysplasia.
The Shih Tzu is a companion dog, perhaps best suited to an older family or couple.
They don’t require large amounts of space or extreme exercise, but do still require regular walks and benefit from obedience training.
Their coats are long, and you must be happy to keep on top of their grooming for their lifetime.
When you choose you puppy make sure that you are shown copies of clear health tests from both parents, and ideally meet them both to. This will help you to ensure that you are happy with the likely temperament of the puppy you choose.
If you choose the right puppy, your Shih Tzu will give you many years of loyal and affectionate companionship.