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 © 2000-2018
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.
Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.
- You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Shih Tzus have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
- If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
- Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Shih Tzu to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 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...
- 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 short "sheared" cut – it requires minimal brushing and makes a Shih Tzu look like a cute puppy throughout their life.
- Shedding. Despite what some breeders will tell you, Shih Tzus are not hypoallergenic dogs. Shih Tzus have a double coat (an outer coat plus a wooly insultating undercoat). Each hair has a "life cycle" where it lives, dies, and falls out, to be replaced by a new one growing up from below. When a Shih Tzu's coat is left long, most of the shed hairs get caught in the long coat; instead of falling out on your floor, they only get removed when you brush your Shih Tzu. If you clip your Shih Tzu into a shorthaired dog, now there is no long coat to catch the shed hair, so it will fall onto the floor, furniture, clothing, etc.
Thus, 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.
- Health problems. Many Shih Tzus live a good long life. But unfortunately they can suffer from serious kidney and liver diseases, knee problems, eye diseases, itchy skin allergies, and more. Read more about Shih Tzu Health.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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....
Instead, 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." Read more about Shih Tzu Training.
To help you train and care for your dog
Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.
The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.
To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.