The Shih Tzu line is recognized as one of the oldest recorded dog breeds. It was developed in Tibet and China at the beginning of the 15th century. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969. Shih tzus are loving and loyal pets that are usually good with children, but they are high maintenance dogs with special grooming, health and training requirements.
Shih tzus are small dogs. As adults they become about 11 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 9 and 16 pounds. Shih tzus are a brachycephalic breed, which means that their noses are flat and they often have trouble breathing, especially in hot weather. Shih tzus are designed to be indoor companions.
Shih Tzus require daily grooming. Some owners keep their dog’s hair cut short in a teddy bear cut, but others grow long, silky coats with top cords that have to be tied up above their heads to keep their hair from falling into their eyes. Shih tzus have hair instead of fur and very little shed, so they may be overlooked by some people with dog allergies. The Shih Tzu Club of America notes that this breed is available in a wide variety of colors. Their coats can be red and white, silver and white, gold and white, black and white, or brindle and white, among others. There are also solid-colored cultivars that range from solid red to solid black.
Shih Tzu puppies are active, loving, stubborn and often demanding. The American Shih Tzu Club notes that young puppies should be taught that they cannot demand attention, especially when they are being trained. This breed is hard to break and should not be left unattended indoors until they are fully house trained. In addition, Shih Tzu puppies should not be left unsupervised while teething due to the devastation they can wreak on furniture, shoes and other household goods. It can also be difficult to groom.
According to the Canine Inherited Diseases Database, Shih Tzus are genetically predisposed to developing a disorder called senile exposure syndrome. This disorder affects dogs with blunt heads with large, prominent eyeballs that do not close completely. Dogs with this disorder are unable to blink completely, so their eyes are often dry and irritated. The condition can be treated temporarily with tear substitutes, but surgery is usually required to correct the problem.
Shih tzus may also develop brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome, a disorder caused by having narrow nostrils, an elongated soft palate and a small trachea. Dogs with this syndrome often have difficulty breathing and tire easily. They can overheat easily and can develop stomach problems because it is difficult for them to eat and breathe at the same time. The condition can be treated with corticosteroids, but may require surgery in the long term.
By Stephanie Ellsworth
Dog Breed Information Center: Shih Tzu American Shih Tzu Club: Color Examples American Shih Tzu Club: When You Bring Your New Home Shih Tzu Dog Inheritance Disorders Database: Shih Tzu Pet MD: Shih Tzu