Shih Tzu: Training, Breed History & Other Information


People seem to love dogs with lots of personality. If that’s you, you might find the Shih Tzu to be your ideal pet.

The Shih Tzu breed is known for being extremely close to their human pack, and for loving attention, pampering, and special privileges.

As independent as they can be, you should begin puppy socialization the moment you bring your Shih Tzu puppy home. This will be a lot of fun, and will pave the way for obedience training to begin very soon afterward. The Shih Tzu will be smart enough to follow along with this immediate leap into learning the pack’s expectations, and their brains will crave the stimulation. House training is a little bit less of a joy, but with patience and a consistent schedule, coupled with crate training, you’ll be set for a good friend for life.

Jump to: About the Breed, Social Temperament, Health Issues, or Shih Tzu Training.

About the Breed – Shih Tzu

Although they are toy dogs, they’re not flimsy delicate flowers.

The Shih Tzu dog breed arise in Tibet, and is the Tibetan people’s oldest recognized dog breed. Chinese Emperors favored this breed for their abilities as a watch dog, their distinguished “regal” appearance, their affection, and their air of confidence and privilege.

That kingly look earned them the name “Chinese Lion Dog.” Everything else about them has earned them a place among the top dog breeds by popularity, the world over.

In appearance, a Shih Tzu is small, with a dense body structure, short nose, and large eyes that show plenty of emotion.

Their coat of fur is adorable, and it grows around their face, a major factor in that “regal” look. The fur should be brushed daily to avoid matting, but the good news is that they don’t shed much.


Social Temperament – Shih Tzu

I can’t really tell you about the “average” Shih Tzu mentality, because there is nothing average about these specimens. They’re very individual dogs.

The important thing to note is that, with the right puppy socialization and obedience training, a Shih Tzu will be perfectly civil and friendly towards both humans and other pets. They deeply enjoy both play, and relaxation, so long as it’s with you or someone else in the family.

A few outstanding notes about the Shih Tzu persona that are common:

  • Many Shih Tzus see themselves as being the boss of any young children in the family. If they don’t like the way your children are behaving, the dog may try to correct the child.
  • They demand to be the center of attention quite a lot of the time. They love making friends.
  • Part of the Shih Tzu charm is their outgoing, independent personality – but they’re not so independent that they can be left alone for long periods. The Shih Tzu is prone to separation anxiety.
  • Shih Tzus are alert and protective, and they serve as fine family watchdogs.

Because the personality varies so much in this breed, you need to find a good Shih Tzu breeder in order to guarantee a personable dog. Buying from a puppy mill is almost guaranteed to result in an unruly Shih Tzu, whereas good breeders who deal in this dog breed will know how to handle all their quirks.

Unique Health Problems – Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu has a strong constitution. Once you’ve ruled out common hereditary problems by buying from a responsible Shih Tzu breeder, you should enjoy a life relatively free from doggie health problems. Still, there are a few things to be aware of:

  • An obese or overweight Shih Tzu is very likely to have numerous health problems. No matter how much they love to be spoiled, don’t overfeed them or encourage unhealthy snacking.
  • Another diet-related issue – for whatever reason, Shih Tzus pick up the habit of eating dog poop more often than other breeds. Read about how to get a dog to stop eating dog poop.
  • A Shih Tzu’s eyes should be cleaned and checked for build-up regularly, because their eyes protrude and can be damaged by common build-up.
  • The shape of a Shih Tzu’s nose can lead to breathing problems. They often wheeze and snore.
  • Renal Dysplasia, a hereditary kidney defect, is somewhat common in Shih Tzus.

Shih Tzu Training Advice

The Shih Tzu training process is no problem. They want to learn whatever their alpha needs them to.

So, as with any dog, just be patient, and follow a proven obedience training program. Use positive rewards, never punishments. Start with easy things such as “sit,” build your way up to more advanced commands like “heel.”

If you’ve heard that Shih Tzu house training is a pain, ignore that. Any dog instinctively thinks that the right place to relieve himself is, “wherever.” Shih Tzus are, of course, often more willful than others, but not to the point where it’s much more challenging in the long run to house train them.

If there was anything important to note about obedience training and Shih Tzus, it’s this: some dogs in this breed have periods of total impatience. Don’t force the issue, if the dog is normally a good student but just “isn’t in the mood” for a certain session, I recommend you just let it go for the moment and pick it up later.

Like all dogs, the right way to perform Shih Tzu Training is to reward the right behavior, be consistent, and be aware of the amount of time you should invest before expecting any results. The only kind of punishment a dog ever needs for “getting it wrong,” is a few moments of being ignored. The contrast between that, and the heaps of love they get for “getting it right,” is the best way to get the job done.

There’s a specific “Shih Tzu Training Manual” out there, which is both comprehensive and specific to the breed. I recommend it for anyone planning to raise a Shih Tzu at home.

Learn about dog training, or get help choosing your ideal dog breed.

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