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Shih Tzus: the most honest dog breed review you'll ever find about Shih Tzu temperament, personality, behavior, traits, and characteristics.

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Shih Tzu dog breed

Shih Tzu Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em

Shih Tzu Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2016

Carrying himself with a proud, arrogant bearing, yet possessing a happy, sweet-natured temperament, the Shih Tzu is less demanding and less yappy than most other toy breeds.

Though he is solidly built and lively and loves to play in the yard, he doesn't need much more exercise than that. A lover of comfort and attention, he enjoys cuddling on laps and snuggling into soft pillows. He makes a terrific pet for senior citizens.

Most Shih Tzus are friendly (or at least polite) with strangers, though socialization is necessary to develop this trusting temperament. Shih Tzus are also peaceful with other pets.

Though he has an aristocratic demeanor, a stubborn streak, and definite likes and dislikes, the Shih Tzu doesn't tend to get into much trouble, and even when he doesn't obey very quickly, he's easy to forgive. Training will actually go very well if you rely on consistency, praise, and food rewards. The most difficult thing to teach a Shih Tzu is housebreaking.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is small, yet sturdy and strong
  • Doesn't need much outdoor exercise
  • Is less yappy than many other toy breeds
  • Is usually friendly (at least polite) with strangers
  • Is peaceful with other pets
  • While not "hypoallergenic", sheds less than many other breeds

A Shih Tzu may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • A mildly stubborn "What's in it for me?" attitude
  • Notorious housebreaking difficulties
  • Frequent brushing and combing, or regularly shearing the coat short (which looks adorable)
  • The health problems resulting from the unnaturally short face

A Shih Tzu may not be right for you.

But you can avoid or minimize some negative traits by
  1. choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
  2. or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
  3. training your dog to respect you
  4. avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy

More traits and characteristics of Shih Tzus

If I was considering a Shih Tzu, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Grooming. Without regular brushing and combing, Shih Tzus become a matted mess. If you can't commit to the brushing, you have to commit to frequent trimming/clipping to keep their coat short. Personally I love the sheared cut – it requires minimal brushing and makes a Shih Tzu look like a perpetual puppy.
  2. Minimizing the problems that can be caused by their short face. Read about these special health problems and make sure you're willing to take extra steps to care for your Shih Tzu:

    • His respiratory system is compromised, so don't smoke near him, don't use chemical cleaning products, and keep him away from allergenic pollen and freshly-cut grass.
    • Make sure your vet uses only the most modern anesthetics (such as isoflurane) and insist on a heart and blood pressure monitor. Many vets are NOT careful enough when anesthetizing short-faced breeds.
    • In hot or humid weather, minimize his outdoor activity and keep him in an air-conditioned home. Short-faced dogs have a high risk of heatstroke because they can't pant vigorously enough to lower their body heat.
    • Walk him in a Y-shaped harness that wraps around his chest, not his throat. A collar puts pressure on his windpipe and makes it harder for him to breathe.
    • Wash and dry the folds of skin on his face after every meal.
  3. Housebreaking. Like most small breeds, Shih Tzus have a small bladder that takes a long time to develop to the point where they can "hold" their urine for more than a short time. Read more on housebreaking your Shih Tzu
  4. Stubbornness. Most Shih Tzus are sweet-natured, yet also moderately stubborn and manipulative. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. Food is a great motivator with Shih Tzus, but if you give too much you'll end up with a fat Shih Tzu who listens to you only when you have a treat in your hand. Instead....

    You must teach your Shih Tzu to respect you. A dog who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No."

    My book Teach Your Dog 100 English Words, gives you a unique vocabulary to use with your dog AND teaches my Respect Training Program. Your dog will look at you when you speak and do what you say. Not just when he's hungry for a treat or feels like it. But all the time. Because he respects you.
  5. Shedding. Shih Tzus have a double coat (an outer coat plus a wooly insultating undercoat). Both of these coats SHED, because every hair on a dog has a life cycle where it lives, dies, and falls out, to be replaced by a new one growing up from below. (Just like in people.) When a Shih Tzu's coat is left long, most of the shedding hairs get caught in the long coat and instead of falling out on your floor, get pulled out when you brush your Shih Tzu. If you clip your Shih Tzu into a shorthaired dog, now there is no longer coat to catch the shedding hair, so it will fall unimpeded onto the floor, furniture, clothing, etc. So a long coat has the advantage of making your Shih Tzu appear to shed less, while a short coat has the advantage of being easier to brush and staying cleaner. It's a trade-off.
  6. Finding a healthy one and keeping him healthy. Many Shih Tzus live a good long life, but unfortunately they can suffer from serious kidney and liver diseases, knee joint problems, eye diseases, itchy skin allergies, and more. To avoid these problems, you need to buy your Shih Tzu from a person who can pass the "14 Family Companion Guidelines" in my book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams. If they're not following these guidelines, it's a big risk to buy a puppy from them.

    book coverOnce you have your puppy home, you need to keep him healthy by following the 11-Step Health Care Program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

    If you want your dog to live a long, healthy life and seldom need to visit the vet, this is the book for you. How to prepare healthy meals, getting only the right vaccinations (not the ones that are either useless or risky), preventing fleas, ticks, and heartworm safely, getting dangerous (to dogs) products out of your home, healing or improving current health issues, and much more. This is my best book, and bargain priced, too!