The Shih Tzu, a dog of great spirit and amazing courage, was bred for Asian royalty. Over the years, they seem to have grown accustomed to sitting among the kings and queens in and consider themselves the very essence of regal canines. Their carriage is proud and fearless, head held high, ready to take on the world. The Shih Tzu is a close relative of the slightly larger, often more active, Lhasa Apso. Most believe that the Shih Tzu was a breed that came from the Lhasa Apso and Pekignese originally. All three of these breeds were common among nobility and share many traits.
One of the smallest breeds of dog, the Shih Tzu has a flat face that holds large, expressive eyes which are framed with very long eyelashes. The tail is curled up towards the back and the at the opposite end, the ears are floppy with silky fur covering them. This little lap dog’s coat is its crowning glory, when properly cared for. It is usually worn long and flowing to the ground, having protective oils naturally in the fur. The Shih Tzu is typically white with variations of brown or black markings. There is almost always a “saddle” of color going over the back. The breed is beautiful, no doubt, but it is not the ideal breed for just anyone. In fact, this special dog requires a special owner, as well.
I will admit that I am not one of those “perfect Shih Tzu owners” and although I like dogs and even this one in particular, I would not get another in the future. I will tell you about my experiences with little Keisha and hope that anyone considering one of these animals will really do their homework and understand what is needed for their upkeep and happiness. Keisha came to me when I married her owner, an airline captain who is gone four days of the week, leaving much of her care to me. Being used to large breed dogs, such as my own Great Pyrenees, I had no idea what was coming with this tiny bundle.
The Shih Tzu is used to attention, not just a little bit, but an enormous amount. If she is not getting enough attention, she will exhibit less than desirable behaviors, such as getting into the trash or chewing the furniture. She requires as much time as a child for her entertainment and affection. She is intelligent and stubborn, knowing the rules but following them only when she feels so inclined. If there is a treat in it for her, she is the smartest animal in the world. If not, I just have to see if she wants to do what is asked of her.
She is primarily a one person dog, although she is friendly to everyone in the home. It is obvious, though, who her true owner is. He is the one that she listens to and is on her best behavior for. In his absence, she gets upset and potties inside. When I tried diapers on her at night, it was even worse as she used them, got them off, and then chewed them up and drug them through the house. What a mess! When my husband is home, none of this goes on.
In order for these dogs to look their best, they will require regular grooming. Their fur gets matted incredibly easy and once a mat is more than a day old, it is very difficult to get out. The eyes must be cleaned daily as they can be oozy. Keisha does not produce tears which is fairly common among this breed, so she must have two different prescription eye drops twice per day in addition to the constant cleaning of her eyes. She also requires baths every three days with a prescription anti-fungal shampoo as she is overweight and gets various infections that give her an unpleasant odor if the bathing is not done as often as it needs to be.
You might have figured out by this time that she spends alot of time at the vet. I have had many dogs and never have I seen one with more medical care. She is now ten years old, so this has not always been the case, but at ten she may very well only be slightly past middle age. She is on a diet, but eats anything she can find anywhere and steals the food from the other dogs. We have had several tumors removed, the last one cancerous, as well as warts that were on her body. The anal gland must be kept clean or she begins her “scooting” on my carpets.
This breed should only be part of families or with people who truly are in love with them and willing to spend the time necessary to give them a healthy and happy life. My husband is one of these people. He loves lap dogs of all sorts, but the Shih Tzu stole his heart. Keisha had even been life flighted not once, but twice, when she has gotten things stuck in her tiny throat. That is when you know her owner loves her and was prepared to meet her every need. The breed is very special and deserving of homes that understand their needs from the start. If you are one of these people, you will surely find the dog a joy. If you are not, you will wind up with a destructive, neglected animal that you tire very quickly of. Neither you, nor the dog, will be happy with that.