The Shih Tzu: A Complete Guide

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Are you looking for a dog that is lively yet small? A dog that has a cute face, an elegant coat, and simply loves cuddle time?

The aloof and noble breed of Shih Tzu is the breed you should be seriously considering.

The Shih Tzu was once the favorite breed of the emperors of China. And, even though an entire millennium has passed since then, they still have the same status.

However, even though this dog looks like he thinks he is the center of the universe, you will rarely find a Shih Tzu that is aggressive or arrogant.

Now, we know that finding a high-quality purebred pup can be tricky, especially when dealing with such a popular breed such as the Shih Tzu.

Many mills offer poor quality and questionable breed pureness pups for a low price.

So, for you to get a healthy pup from purebred parents and without any hidden genetic health issues, you need to be extremely careful in your breeder selection.

That is why we decided to give you an in-depth insight in this breed so that you can, first, see if the Shih Tzu is the right pet choice for you, and second, to learn what to pay attention to and which questions to ask so that you are sure you are getting a great puppy.

Let’s start our Shih Tzu guide with some important facts about the whole puppy buying process.

The Shih Tzu Puppies – Before You Buy…

A white and grey Shih Tzu resting its head
Shih Tzu is a great breed.

To start off, we will talk about the important things you should consider before buying a Shih Tzu puppy.

There are a few important questions you should ask yourself before making the final decision and those are…

What price are the Shih Tzu puppies?

Keep in mind that this is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world and if you want a purebred pup, you will have to pay a price that is a little on the steep side.

For example, for a pup with good health and genetic heritage, the average price range goes from $1K to $2.5K.

Of course, if you are dealing with a serious breeder that has pups from a champion bloodline, you can expect the price range to increase significantly.

How to find reputable Shih Tzu breeders?

Lots of small Shih Tzu puppies
Shih Tzu is adequate for both people who live alone and for families with kids.

When it comes to breeders if you see an ad where a breeder posted pictures of a Shih Tzu pup but calls them Teacup or Imperial Shih Tzu, you are most likely dealing with a backyard breeder that doesn’t have pups that are within the standard size but are significantly smaller.

These pups are more likely to have health issues because they are not meant to be that small, and their bloodline might not be of good quality.

This is just one of the red flags when it comes to breeders, and it is clear that you should carefully choose from whom you buy your puppy.

Another red flag can be the lack of the breeder’s knowledge of the breed.

This means that he is probably in it just for money and doesn’t care about the breed nor the pups. In most cases, such breeders are in a hurry to sell the pups and they don’t invest much in their health nor the food.

This can only mean an unhealthy puppy and plenty of potential health problems later.

The biggest red flag and the one that you definitely shouldn’t ignore is when the breeder doesn’t have health test clearances for the pup’s parents.

If this happens, avoid buying a pup from that breeder because there’s no way that you can know what to expect from your pup, as well as if the parents were sick and if some of those illnesses were genetically transferred to the puppy you want to buy.

A reputable breeder is easy to spot right from the start. You will immediately notice his love for the breed and all of the dogs in his home.

He will also provide all the necessary health test clearances, as well as give you tons of info on the breed and useful advice about taking care of your Shih Tzu properly.

Such breeders are not in this business primarily because of the money, but more for their love and care about the breed, and their main goal is to find good homes for their pups.

See our reviews for the: Top muzzles for Shih Tzus

3 Little-known facts about the Shih Tzu puppies

Here are some little-known facts about the Shih Tzu puppies that will crystallize your opinion on this breed and most likely make you fall in love with them even more.

  • Chrysanthemum Puppies

Shih Tzu pups are also called the Chrysanthemum puppies because while they are young when the hair around their faces starts to grow, they resemble this pretty flower.

  • They get a new coat after 7 months

Adult Shih Tzu dogs have a double layer of hair.

The inner coat is soft and feather-like, and the outer layer that is thicker and more resilient to the outside elements.

However, while they are still pups, they don’t have the outer layer. They get it only after they are 7 months old. This is why the pups are not meant to be outdoors during the winter.

  • They can be stubborn

Shih Tzu pups are known to be quite stubborn and they can easily refuse to participate in the training.

However, with positive encouragement and persistence, they will eventually soften up and turn out to be extremely well-mannered dogs.

See the top: Shampoos for Shih Tzus here!

Physical Traits of the Shih Tzu

A Shih Tzu wearing a turquoise bow
Shih Tzu looks like he thinks he is the center of the universe.

Okay, now that you’ve learned about the important “before you buy” facts and questions, it’s time to deal with the physical traits of the Shih Tzu.

How big is a full-grown Shih Tzu?

As you have surely guessed by now, the Shih Tzu is a small breed.

They were bred to be lapdogs in the Chinese courts and having a huge dog sitting in your lap every day wouldn’t make sense, right? Therefore, they had to make it small.

The average Shih Tzu goes from 10 to 11 inches in height and has a weight range of 9 to 16 pounds.

As you can see, this is a small breed and if there wasn’t for their fluffy coat, they would seem even tinier.

What is the life expectancy of the Shih Tzu?

When it comes to how long these dogs live, well, you will be happy to know that they can live pretty long.

A healthy Shih Tzu can live up to 20 years, but the average year range goes from 15 to 18.

So, plenty of time to fall in love with your pet, though you will do that the moment you see it for the first time.

Intelligence, Temperament and Personality Traits of the Shih Tzu

The first thing you need to know about Shih Tzus is that wherever you go, he will want to go with you. Of course, if it isn’t too much of a trouble for him.

So, when you clean your fridge or watch TV, or when you need to take a nap, he will be there and keep you company or gladly snooze alongside you. That is how devoted they are.

But, the Shih Tzu is not a needy dog and if you have to go away for work, all you have to do is leave him his toys and he will play until you come back home.

Shih Tzu won’t make a mess because he knows you are coming back and he knows that he will get your love from the moment you enter that door.

Furthermore, the Shih Tzu is great with kids and other dogs and he loves play dates.

Some can even like cats and get along with them quite nicely, but that depends on the personality and it’s not a general rule.

They have a playful spirit and can sometimes be mischievous. You can expect your Shih Tzu to steal your shoes on occasions and make you chase him, but he means no harm by it and just wants to play.

When it comes to intelligence, this is a highly intelligent breed, but they tend to stubborn sometimes.

However, even if he happens to refuse to cooperate during the training sometimes, it isn’t something that will become a regular thing.

When that happens, he is probably just not in the mood for training. You just have to be patient and try a few more times when he seems to be in a better mood.

On the other hand, when you hit the perfect timing, you will be surprised how smart these dogs are and how fast they absorb what you show them!

They are great for agility exercise and will follow the commands perfectly.

The best time to start with the training is between 10 and 12 weeks of “age”, and we do recommend signing up your pup into puppy kindergarten classes and plenty of socialization from the moment you have him.

All in all, the Shih Tzu doesn’t come perfectly right out of the box and you will need to invest your time to have a well-mannered dog. But then again, the same goes for any other breed, right?

But, if you are patient and determined to train him, and you offer him nothing, but love, your Shih Tzu pup will grow up to be a role model dog, with an imperial origin.

The Shih Tzu Diet

When it comes to your Shih Tzu’s diet, we recommend a raw food diet.

This way, you will have better control over your dog’s weight control, proper muscle mass building, condition boosting, and the overall state of its skin and coat.

Furthermore, such a diet will allow your dog to have cleaner teeth, which means less dental problems.

As for what to feed your dog with, ideally, the diet should contain 50% high-quality protein.

To provide that amount of protein, you should feed your dog with organ meats such as kidneys, liver, and heart, muscle meat as well, and eggs and certain dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese.

How much Exercise does a Shih Tzu need?

Since the Shih Tzu is a toy breed, meant for relaxing in your lap the whole day, it doesn’t need huge amounts of exercise.

A short walk each day will do just fine, combined with a bit of running with the other dogs in the park.

But, if the weather is bad outside or you simply don’t have enough energy to take him out for a walk, the home furniture will serve as an exercise track perfectly. But, don’t let that become a habit.

Shih Tzu Health and Conditions

Just as any other small breed dog, the Shih Tzu can suffer from health problems that are associated with such breeds. And, it does have certain health issues that are known to “hit” this breed.

For example, they are known to have missing or misaligned teeth. This happens because the Shih Tzu has a small mouth and the teeth can easily get overcrowded.

This can cause periodontal issues and regular vet visits are a must. Another issue that can bother your Shih Tzu is his kneecaps.

Due to its relatively fragile body constitution, the kneecaps can dislocate rather easily, and this condition is called the luxating patellas.

Furthermore, you should also be aware of this breed’s problems with renal dysplasia.

This is a health issue that your dog can inherit from its parents, and it means that the kidneys aren’t developing properly.

For this reason, you need to ask the breeder for a renal dysplasia test clearance for both parents.

The last thing you need to worry about when it comes to your Shih Tzu’s health condition is genetic eye diseases, such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts.

Again, ask the breeder to show you test clearances for this disease as well.

My final thoughts on the Shih TzuA Shih Tzu resting its head

With the Shih Tzu’s possible health issues, you have reached the end of today’s guide.

Now, what did you learn about this really old breed? This is a breed that is meant to be a companion and not a hunter or a watchdog.

The Shih Tzu gives love unconditionally and lives to please you.

They are also trusty dogs and they will bark if someone new enters your home, but as soon as they realize it’s a friend, they will come and greet him.

You also need to remember that your Shih Tzu comes from a really intelligent breed and that he can easily soak up the training if he wants to at the moment, that is.

So, you need to arm yourself with patience, but the final result will be worth the invested time because once they are properly trained, Shih Tzu’s will show their royal background in the best possible light.

All in all, the Shih Tzu is a great breed that is equally good for people who live alone or for families with kids.

Also, they can live in an apartment, but also won’t have a problem living in a house in the backcountry.

Your Shih Tzu does “come” from a palace, but he doesn’t need it, he needs a loving family and a home.

Okay, now it’s your turn to share. Do you know something about this breed we didn’t include in the guide? Feel free to share your experiences and knowledge of this breed in our comments section.

Thank you for reading our guide and share it on social media if you think that your friends will also find it useful and interesting to read.

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