How to Care for a Shih Tzu Dog
If you share your home with a Shih Tzu, you have a loveable little companion. His small size and modest exercise needs makes the Shih Tzu a good choice for apartment dwellers and others with limited space.
Caring for your Shih Tzu is relatively straightforward, unless you choose to keep him in a long coat. Then, you’re in for a lot of daily coat maintenance.
The Shih Tzu
Your little dog’s ancestors didn’t hunt, herd or guard. They were strictly companion dogs for Chinese aristocrats, and they performed that task very well. Your Shih Tzu will do the same for you, as this breed loves nothing more than being with his person.
He’s a charming, trusting little guy who usually gets along with older kids, other dogs and cats. While lively, he’s not particularly high energy.
Shih Tzu Feeding
The American Kennel Club breed standard for the Shih Tzu calls for a weight range of 9 to 16 pounds and a height of 8 to 11 inches. Keeping your dog at the right weight is key to proper feeding. It doesn’t take too many treats to make your Shih Tzu overweight.
Feed him a high-quality dog food designed for small breeds. Your veterinarian can recommend the best food for your pet. Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water.
Shih Tzu Grooming
If you show your dog, you need the services of a professional groomer to keep the long, flowing coat in proper shape. If your Shih Tzu serves primarily as your best buddy, grooming is much simpler. You can keep your pet in a short, “puppy” cut, but he still requires regular brushing to prevent matting. You’ll need to comb out his top knot and facial hair every day.
Figure on bathing your pet approximately every three weeks or more often if he gets dirty. Of course, it’s important to keep him up to date on flea and tick preventive. Start brushing your Shih Tzu’s teeth daily as a puppy, using canine toothpaste.
Exercise and Training
Shih Tzus don’t require a great deal of exercise, but they need regular playtime with you. Overall, training isn’t difficult, since the Shih Tzu is a smart little dog. Your pet aims to please you. If you like competition, the Shih Tzu can hold his own in agility and obedience events.
Potty training, however, can take some time. Shih Tzus can be somewhat stubborn about that, but keep your cool. With time and patience, your dog will please you in that area, too.
Shih Tzus are prone to eye problems, including cataracts, corneal ulcers and progressive retinal atophy, the latter leading to permanent vision loss. As a brachycephalic, or short-nosed breed, the Shih Tzu’s head shape and shallow eye sockets predispose him to breathing difficulties — especially in hot weather, eye infections and dental issues.
Intervertebral disk disease is common in the breed, leading to back pain and possible paralysis. Surgery in affected dogs is often necessary. Like many small dogs, Shih Tzus often suffer from slipped kneecaps, which require surgical repair in serious cases.
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