Characteristics of Shih Tzus

The shih tzu line is acknowledged as being one of the oldest recorded dog breeds. It was developed in Tibet and in China beginning in 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.


Physical Characteristics

Shih tzus are small dogs. As adults they grow to be approximately 11 inches 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 difficulty 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 trimmed short in a teddy bear cut, but others grow long, silky coats with topknots that must be tied on top of their heads to keep their hair from falling into their eyes. Shih tzus have hair rather than fur and shed very little, so they can be tolerated by some people with dog allergies.
The American Shih Tzu Club indicates 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 varieties ranging from solid red to solid black.

Behavioral Traits

Shih tzu puppies are energetic, loving, stubborn and often demanding. The American Shih Tzu Club indicates that young puppies must be taught that they cannot demand attention, especially when they are being crate trained. This breed is difficult to housebreak and must not be left unattended indoors until they are fully house trained. In addition, shih tzu puppies should not be left unsupervised while teething because of the destruction they can wreak upon furniture, shoes and other household goods. They can also be difficult to groom.

Health Concerns

According to the Canine Inherited Disorders Database, shih tzus are genetically susceptible to developing a disorder called exposure keratopathy syndrome. This disorder affects brachycephalic dogs with large, protruding 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 temporarily treated with tear substitutes, but surgery is usually needed 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 easily overheat and may develop stomach problems because it is difficult for them to eat and breathe at the same time. The condition can be treated by using corticosteroids, but it may require surgery in the long term.

By Stephany Elsworth


About the Author
Stephany Elsworth holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in fine arts/curriculum and instruction from Texas State University and a Master of Education in reading education from Grand Canyon University. She enjoys gardening, arts and crafts and spending time with family.