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The 101 Guide To Shih Tzus: Personality, Training & Health Concerns

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Shih Tzus (translating to “mini lions”) are toy dog breeds from Tibet in the 1600s, where they were deemed holy animals. They’re known to be one of the oldest dog breeds in history. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Shih Tzus gained recognition and popularity worldwide. 

You can quickly identify a Shih Tzu by its short snout, floppy ears, large round eyes, and stout posture. In this guide, we’re focusing on all the need-to-knows of Shih Tzus to give you a comprehensive idea of what to expect from owning a Shih Tzu. 

Are Shih Tzu dogs smart?

Yes, Shih Tzus are bold, confident, and intelligent dogs. That being so, they can be trained to learn any tricks, from playing fetch to jumping through hoops. As obedient dogs, Shih Tzus usually enjoy learning and obeying your commands to get your attention. However, their traits of resilience may sometimes translate to stubbornness.

Other than that, Shih Tzus are domestic dogs that make a perfect family companion. They’re incredibly affectionate and friendly towards those around them, including young children and other house pets. Nevertheless, it’s not recommended for you to leave dogs and young children alone together without adult supervision. 

How to house train a Shih Tzu puppy? 

It’s rather easy to potty train Shih Tzu puppies because they are interested in learning and pleasing their owners. You can start house training Shih Tzus as young as eight weeks old, and it may take anywhere from 2 to 4 months for Shih Tzu puppies to be fully potty trained. 

Here are three steps you can take to ease the process of potty training your Shih Tzu:  

Choose a designated area

It’s always a good idea to keep a defined potty area indoors and outdoors for your puppy to pee or poo. Make sure that the designated area is spacious and easily accessible. This will help your pup learn precisely where to go to void and prevent unnecessary accidents elsewhere. Avoid frequently changing your Shih Tzu potty area, as this may confuse it. 

Use cue words 

Using common cue words such as “potty time” or “toilet time” will help remind your pup that it’s time to void. While your puppy voids, use encouraging words or phrases such as “good dog!” to provide positive reinforcement. This will allow them to establish the link between voiding in the potty area and receiving praise. 

Offer training treats

Rewarding your dog for learning is the key to effective potty training. Once your Shih Tzu puppy has peed or pooped in its potty area, offer its favorite dog treat together with praises. You can also take it out for long walks or have some extra playtime after it has voided. 

So how often do you need to take your Shih Tzu out to potty? When potty training a young pup, it’s best to set a schedule for regular voiding. For example, you can bring your Shih Tzu puppy for potty times after meals, before bedtime, and immediately after napping or waking up. This helps to establish a routine for your puppy, making it easier for them to learn. 

It would help if you also kept an eye out for signs your pup needs to void. If you notice your puppy sitting by the door, sniffing or making circles, they likely need to use the bathroom. Do not scold your puppy for soiling your rug or other places at home. Remember that it takes time to successfully potty train dogs, so be patient when teaching your Shih Tzu. 

Do Shih Tzus bark?

Yes, Shih Tzus have a tendency to bark or howl, especially when left outdoors for long periods. This is because Shih Tzus are likely to get bored when left alone, making them frequently bark at anyone or anything coming across them. Contrastingly, when Shih Tzus are around people, they may not bark as much.  

In short, you should expect your Shih Tzus to bark. If you live in an apartment where barking is prohibited, or you are usually at work all day, there may be better dogs for you than Shih Tzus. 

Do not punish the barking behaviors of Shih Tzus; instead, find a warning word that will prompt your dog to keep quiet. Alternatively, you can create distractions to draw the attention of Shih Tzus and stop it from barking.

How to bathe a Shih Tzu puppy?

Bathing Shih Tzus at least every three weeks is essential to ensure optimal coat and skin health. Shih Tzu puppies should be slowly introduced to bath time to allow sufficient time to acclimate to bathing. 

Firstly, set up a bathing area with a clean bathtub or sink and a towel spread out on the floor of the bathroom. Bring your Shih Tzu puppy into the bathing area while reassuring them using a soothing voice to keep them calm and quiet. 

Next, wet your Shih Tzus body with low-pressure lukewarm water. Avoid their face and ears, as you should clean them separately later. Gently rub dog shampoo over their body (except their face) and give them a good massage. Give them plenty of verbal praise throughout the process to provide a positive bathing experience. Consider using a conditioner on Shih Tzus since they typically have long and silky fur. 

Finally, rinse the shampoo off your puppy's coat with lukewarm water. Make sure there's no shampoo residue, as this may cause itchiness. Clean your Shih Tzus ears and eyes with a clean cotton ball. Once you're done, dry your Shih Tzu with a towel and let them shake off some water. Keep the blow dryer at the lowest heat setting to prevent heat damage.   

How to take care of a Shih Tzu puppy?


Shih Tzus have a double-layered coat that’s dense and lush. Fortunately, they shed minimally, making them hypoallergenic breeds suitable for pet parents allergic to fur. Shih Tzus are also recommended for those who wouldn’t want to clean up a lot of hair sheddings. Nevertheless, Shih Tzus should be groomed regularly to avoid their long, straight hairs tangled up and matted. 

Exercise requirements

Although Shih Tzus are better off indoors, they should still have access to outdoor environments. This is because Shih Tzus have high energy levels and need plenty of exercise (at least 20 minutes a day). That being so, Shih Tzu pet parents should bring them outdoors to walk, play or run around regularly. 


Small-sized dogs such as Shih Tzus have a fast metabolism rate and require a higher energy supply. However, their small stomachs can only accommodate limited amounts of food at any given time. Considering that, Shi Tzus should be fed in small quantities in frequent intervals. You should also consider dog foods specifically designed for small sized dogs. These dog foods contain appropriate levels of essential nutrients and they come in smaller sizes to make it easier for small dogs to chew with their smaller mouths. 

Common Shih Tzu health problems 

Shih Tzus lifespan ranges from 10 to 16 years. Unfortunately, Shih Tzu breed puppies are predisposed to a few minor and major health ailments. Let’s look closely at the three most common health issues in Shih Tzu dogs. 

Ear infections 

Shih Tzus have floppy ears that cover their ear canals. This keeps their ear canals warm and dark—a suitable ground for the growth of bacteria. Shih Tzus of all ages are prone to ear infections, and the common symptoms include ear odor and jumpiness when there are loud noises. Shih Tzu ear infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Weekly ear cleaning is necessary to prevent recurrent ear infections.  

Eye disorders

Eye-related disorders, such as keratitis (cornea inflammation), proptosis (eyeball dislocation), and progressive retinal atrophy, are common in Shih Tzus. These conditions require early interventions and surgeries to avoid progression to blindness. Therefore, you should regularly bring your Shih Tzu to the vet for a complete check-up. 

Luxating patella 

The small body frame of Shih Tzus increases their risk of experiencing patella luxation, a condition in which their kneecaps dislocate and slips off. This condition mostly starts in Shih Tzus at the age of 4 to 6 months. The obvious symptom of a luxating patella is limping, unusual posture, and leg stiffness.  

When left untreated, this condition worsens over time, leaving the pup in immense pain and discomfort. Henceforth, it’s best to check your Shih Tzu pup’s knee health regularly with the vet to assess for the need for knee surgery or appropriate treatment. 


Shih Tzus are a bundle of joy, and they love nothing more than spending quality time with humans. While it's easy to say your pup is healthy now, you shouldn't be quick to dismiss that they may suffer from health issues someday in their lives. 

A good pet insurance plan is a smart way for you to prepare to give your dog the care they need at any age. Oyen Pet Insurance is one of the best pet insurance in the whole of Malaysia. Contact us today to discuss the best plans for your pup!  
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