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taking care of a shih tzu puppy

caring for, ultimate guide, shih tzu

Shih Tzus may come with a fierce name (the word Shih Tzu comes from the Chinese, meaning little lion), but there really is not anything fierce about this breed, except for maybe their fierce ability to be loving and loyal. They are not hunting dogs, but are bred solely for companionship. If you find yourself one of these little balls of joy, you will have a little lionhearted friend at your heels for a good many years.

If you have not gotten one and are considering it, or if you already have one, here is everything you need to know about caring for your Shih Tzu.

Caring For My Shih Tzu Dog

Weight: 9-16 pounds

Height: 9-10 inches at the shoulder

Life Expectancy: 10-16 years

Personality of the Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus have a very warm personality; they have been bred for centuries to be companion dogs and that is precisely what they want to be. They do not typically have strong drives to hunt or guard. They prefer to follow you wherever you go and find comfort in your lap whenever possible. They tend to be very social, experiencing excitement whenever guests come to visit. They can also be fond of other dogs and sometimes even cats. As with most dogs though, it is wise to socialize them with other dogs and pets from a young age to avoid any potential issues.

Do not assume that Shih Tzus are lazy or couch potatoes. They enjoy adventures and going on outings with their humans, and can also have a mischievous streak. If you find one of your shoes missing, your Shih Tzu may be carrying it about and might be looking to play a game of keep-away. They may like a good game of fetch on occasion as well. They also can be a little stubborn, though it is not a key characteristic of the breed. Give them the care and patience they need – especially in training – and they will be likely to get over any stubborn streaks.

caring for, ultimate guide, shih tzu

Energy Level of Shih Tzus

Though they can have intense focus and a spunky personality, Shih Tzus do not have a particularly high energy level. They require healthy amounts of exercise just like any dog (they do great with a walk every day and some good play time), but if you are looking for a dog that is cool with taking things easy, watching movies with you, being toted about, and going on simple strolls, Shih Tzus are a good option.

Are Shih Tzus Good With Children?

Shih Tzus do have a history of being good with children. They can sometimes be a little touchy if their tails are pulled or if they are overwhelmed, but typically they enjoy the company and playful nature of children. The more exposure they have to children as they grow up, the better. It is important to note, however, that if you do have small children, supervision is important to prevent your Shih Tzu from getting unintentionally injured during play.

Shih Tzus, Good With Other Dogs?

Shih Tzus have also been known to be good with other dogs. They have social tendencies and can enjoy a fun play mate on occasion. They can become especially attached to dogs they are raised around as well, which is why frequent socialization can be beneficial.

Shih Tzus and Shedding

Shih Tzus are among one of the few breeds that has hair (like humans) rather than fur. Though the shedding might not be overwhelming, their hair can fall out just as frequently as human hair might.

Grooming Needs of Shih Tzus

Just as human hair needs frequent care, so does Shih Tzu hair. They are very fashionable dogs that will become a raggedy mess without the proper care and grooming.

The length you would like your Shih Tzus’ hair is up to you, just as long as you make sure he does not develop any mats and severe tangles. It is suggested to brush the coat daily and to bathe your Shih Tzu frequently (as often as once a week). Be sure to brush out the tangles in their hair before each bath, as the knots will only grow tighter once wet. After each bath, blow dry the coat to prevent your Shih Tzu from getting too chilled.

It is important to note that around 10-12 months of age, Shih Tzu coats will change from “puppy fluff” to sleek hair. Grooming can become a little more challenging during the 3 or so months it takes for that transition, but if you stay on top of it, it will become manageable again in no time.

Shih Tzus grow hair on the top of their head that will often get in their eyes if not taken care of. It’s suggested to brush it daily and keep it in a topknot on the top of their head using a safe latex band, hair clip or dog bow (rubber bands will break the hair).

Nails should be trimmed monthly, ears should be checked often (to avoid getting too dirty or infected), eyes should be checked and wiped off whenever necessary (they have a tendency to become runny) and teeth should be brushed regularly (to prevent any future dental issues). Tear staining on the face can be managed with daily cleansing using grooming wipes for eyes.

Tips: if you are grooming your Shih Tzu yourself, make the grooming process something fun and rewarding for your Shih Tzu. Get them used to it from a young age and make it something for them to look forward to. Frequently handle their paws, ears and tail to prevent them from gaining sensitivities overtime. Treat the toothbrush as a game when they are very young until they get used to it and then transition into brushing.

If you require further assistance or would rather have their grooming done professionally, find a trustworthy grooming service and make the appropriate appointments.

caring for, ultimate guide, shih tzu

Barking Level of Shih Tzus

As with most lap dogs, Shih Tzus can develop a big habit of barking. Though they may not be great guard dogs, they still can have a tendency to be vocal about everything. Training them from a young age when it is and when it is not appropriate to bark can take care of this problem and keep it from becoming a notable issue.

Trainability/Tips For Training a Shih Tzu

As mentioned, Shih Tzus can be a little stubborn, making them difficult to house train. As long as you are patient, consistent and do not let accidents slide, it is definitely possible. Be sure to not leave them unsupervised until they are fully trained. Crate training can be helpful, especially during the house breaking phase.

Beyond house training, Shih Tzus can be fun to train when it comes to tricks. Make it a rewarding game for them and they will become little show offs in no time.

How To Feed My Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus have a reputation for being “picky eaters.” It may take a little trial and error finding what food your Shih Tzu likes best, but in this process there are definitely some tips, suggestions, and cautions to keep in mind.

For your Shih Tzu (and every dog breed really), you want to be sure you are giving them raw, natural biologically appropriate dog food. They are living beings with digestive systems that stem from their “wolf” heritage. Processed foods do more harm than good for them over time.

Raw food tastes better to them. Its ingredients are simple, it is good for their health and keeps their coats nice and shiny. Raw dog food keeps them satisfied and happy and ultimately it saves you money (a pretty good perk)! For more information on how to provide your dog a good, safe, raw food diet, check out our page here.

For dog food in general (especially if you insist on sticking to bagged, kibble food) you want to be sure healthy meats are the highlight ingredient and that the food is not stuffed with additives and ingredients you cannot even pronounce. You especially want to avoid grains and artificial flavorings, as well as chemicals, meal products, and split ingredients. Just as you want to be careful with what foods you are putting in your body, so should you also be for your little furry companion.

Feeding Your Shih Tzu Puppy

In general, when your puppy is 8-12 weeks old, he likely will be needing to eat at least 3-4 times a day. You want to be sure you are feeding your puppy the amount he needs, but also not too much. You should be able to feel, but not see their ribs and they should have a visible waist when you are looking down at them.

For a personalized feeding plan made just for your Shih Tzu dog or puppy, contact TruDog by emailing [email protected] or calling a Happiness Concierge at (800) 476-8808.

caring for, ultimate guide, shih tzu

Feeding Your Adult Shih Tzu

By 6 months you will want to start reducing the amount of food you feed your Shih Tzu to fit an adult Shih Tzu feeding plan (about 2 meals a day). Make it a routine, feeding your Shih Tzu around the same times every day. You should be feeding your Shih Tzu 1/2-1 cup of food a day, split between the two meals. It is recommended to avoid giving them table scraps and “people” food, as this can cultivate begging habits and a tendency for weight gain and health problems. This is a rule that should be implemented from the very beginning and be understood by everyone in the family and members of your social circle who spend time around your Shih Tzu.

It should be noted that the amount of food you feed a dog ultimately depends on their size, weight, age, build, metabolism and activity level. Be sure you know your Shih Tzu and his individual needs, especially when it comes to feeding.

Health Concerns For Shih Tzus

Every breed of dog has its own health concerns and issues it’s prone to. Shih Tzus are no different, though if you give them the proper attention and care, most health problems can be avoided. Some of the most common health concerns Shih Tzus are prone to include:

  • allergies
  • hip dysplasia
  • pateller luxation (when the knee caps slide out of place)
  • juvenile renal dysplasia (a defect in the kidneys)
  • bladder stones and infections
  • eyes problems
  • umbilical hernia (caused by the delayed closure of the abdominal midline)
  • snuffles (can occur during the teething phase)

Some specific allergies that can occur in Shih Tzus are food allergies, which may mean certain foods need to be eliminated from the Shih Tzu’s diet; contact allergies, which are cause by reactions to substances such as bedding, powders, shampoos, etc.; and inhalant allergies, which are cause by airborne allergens such as pollen, mildew and dust.

Canine hip dysplasia is a condition where the dog’s hip sockets form abnormally and cause pain and potential issues with walking and other common motions. Being sure that your Shih Tzu is gentle on his hips especially as a puppy can help with the hip development (not letting him barrel down the stairs, leap off chairs and couches, etc.), though it’s definitely something you want to check for with veterinary professionals. Giving your Shih Tzu Free Me daily can help support normal joint and connective tissue. It also contains natural pain relievers to help treat existing hip dysplasia in dogs.

Certain eye problems that Shih Tzus specifically have been known to develop (because of their naturally bulgy eyes) are karetitis, which is when the cornea gets inflamed and could lead to blindness; proptosis, which is when the eyeball gets dislodged from the eye socket; distichiasis, which is the abnormal growth of eyelashes; progressive retinal atrophy, which is a degenerative that often results in blindness; and dry eye, which is a dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva.

Small dogs like Shih Tzus can also be prone to breathing problems like reversed breathing, which can be caused if they get overexcited, gulp down their food too fast or are experiencing allergies. This can sometimes cause them to panic and they may need some help calming down. You also need to be careful that your Shih Tzu does not suffer from heatstroke, since Shih Tzus are sensitive to heat.

If you take the proper care of your Shih Tzu and make sure to get him frequent medical examinations from a trusted veterinary professional, many of these health issues can be prevented.

caring for, ultimate guide, shih tzu

Frequently Asked Questions About Shih Tzus

Q. Will Shih Tzu hair grow back if I cut it?

A. Yes, it takes about 6-8 weeks for Shih Tzu hair to grow back, depending on how much of it was cut.

Q. Can Shih Tzu eat rice or bread?

A. Bread is generally safe for Shih Tzus to eat in small quantities and on occasion, as long as they do not suffer from any allergies or sensitivities. Rice is also safe and can potentially help aid their digestion if mixed with their food.

Q. Can Shih Tzu eat apples and bananas?

A. Yes, apples and bananas are fine for Shih Tzus to eat, though they should only be given in small quantities and only on occasion. Be sure to be wary of other fruits that are NOT safe for Shih Tzus or other dogs to eat, such as grapes, raisins, prunes and avocados.

Q. Can Shih Tzu swim?

A. Shih Tzus are capable of swimming, though they are not known as strong swimmers. They can struggle with it since their hair can become heavier when soaked with water.

Q. Where does the Shih Tzu come from?

A. Shih Tzus are an ancient breed whose heritage is a little controversial. Most people are convinced they come from China while there is also evidence they came from Tibet.

Q. Why is my Shih Tzu eating poop?

A. This can be a result of the Shih Tzu experiencing a lack in nutrition. A lot of commercial dog foods are actually lacking in the nutrition value that dogs need to thrive. Transitioning to raw dog food as described above can remedy this and get your Shih Tzu the nutrition he needs.

Eating poop can also be a compulsive or behavioral issue that might stem from a medical problem. If you feel your Shih Tzu is properly nourished and is still exhibiting this behavior, consult a veterinary professional.

Q. Why do Shih Tzus shiver?

A. This might not always be because your Shih Tzu is cold. Shih Tzus can also shiver or shake if they are experiencing stress, fear, or anxiety, if they are suffering from pain, if they have toxins in their system (like if they have eaten chocolate or other unsafe foods/substances), or if they are overly excited. If it is due to stress, figure out what your Shih Tzu’s triggers might be and do what you can to make the proper adjustments. If you feel your Shih Tzu is shaking and it isn’t simply because they’re cold or happy, consider consulting a veterinary professional.

Q. Why is my Shih Tzu always sleeping?

A. It’s fairly normal for lap dogs like Shih Tzus to sleep a lot, though if you feel it is excessive, there is a chance your Shih Tzu is experiencing depression or a sleeping disorder. Consult a veterinary professional if you feel this is the case.

Q. Are Shih Tzu non-shedding?

A. Not necessarily, Shih Tzu hair can fall out just as often as human hair can. The amount of hair can depend on how long or short you keep your Shih Tzu’s hair.

Q. How does my Shih Tzu communicate?

A. A Shih Tzu communicates just as any dog would communicate (barking, whining, whimpers, mannerisms, eye contact, etc.), though every Shih Tzu has its own personality and habits and ways it wants to express himself and his needs. It’s really just a matter of getting to know your own Shih Tzu and how he communicates with you.


Shih Tzus are a very popular pick for a lap dog companion and for good reason. They are spunky, affectionate, loyal little lionhearts that will stick by your side no matter what.

Have any additional questions? Let us know, we would love to hear from you!

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