Shih Tzus are a small dog breed with a big sparky personality. They’re outgoing and playful and are sure to keep you on your toes.
Contrary to their ‘little lion’ nickname, Shih Tzus are furry balls of energy that are gentle and affectionate. These dogs can easily adjust to any environment.
If you live in the city, a Shih Tzus is the ideal pet for you. Although their descendants were once pets for Chinese royalty, Shih Tzus aren’t very high maintenance and don’t need a lot of exercises either.
All they really need from us is love, patience, and companionship.
However, there are some things you need to know before bringing a Shih Tzu puppy home.
So keep reading to find out how to feed, groom, train and care for your Shih Tzu puppy.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- How to Raise a Healthy Shih Tzu
- Exercise Needs of a Shih Tzu
- Grooming a Shih Tzu Puppy
- Training a Shih Tzu Puppy
- Creating a Shih Tzu Puppy-Friendly Environment
- Shih Tzu Puppy Health Concerns
- Bottom Line
How to Raise a Healthy Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus need a diet that is rich in calories but low in volume. Their meals should be high in protein and fat.
The general rule is that a Shih Tzu puppy should be served an ounce of food for every pound of body weight, while an adult Shih Tzu should be served half an ounce for every pound it weighs.
You can feed a Shih Tzu both commercial and homemade food. However, you have to make sure that your dog is getting the right nutrients.
You should also be keeping an eye on your Shih Tzu’s weight by giving it a properly balanced diet and regular exercise.
How to Feed Your Shih Tzu According to its Age
Shih Tzus have different diets based on how old they are. Here’s a general guide you can follow to feed your Shih Tzu –
8 -12-Week-Old Puppy
If you have a puppy that’s 8 – 12 months old, you should ‘free feed’ your puppy. This means you should keep fresh food out for your pup all day and let it eat whenever it wants.
This is because Shih Tzus are more prone to get hyperglycemia when they’re puppies.
3 – 12-Month-Old Puppy
When your puppy is 3 – 12 months old, you should start feeding it three times a day. There’s no compromising on this.
Leave food out for your puppy even if you’re out. Don’t worry about them overeating – it’s not a problem at this stage. You just have to make sure that your pup gets its regular meals.
Adult Shih Tzu
An adult Shih Tzu should be given two meals per day, but for those that are often left at home by themselves, three meals are recommended.
Always check the ingredients used in the commercial food you buy for your dog. The ingredients should be wholesome and natural, such as meat and vegetables.
Avoid packages with fillers such as corn, soy, and wheat. You should also stay away from artificial sweeteners and food coloring.
Commercial food can be wet or dry. Both of these have their pros and cons but the best option would be to give your Shih Tzu a mixed diet of both.
Although wet food is a doggy favorite, and very hydrating, it is not always the best diet to rely on. It isn’t convenient to carry around or fill into toys. It’s also not very good for your dog’s teeth.
Dry kibble is very good for your dog’s teeth as well as their stool. It has less moisture content, but that’s what makes it convenient for everyday purposes as it’s less messy.
Shih Tzus can get their protein from chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish. As for carbohydrates, you should opt for sweet potato, barley, oats, and rice.
You can also feed your Shih Tzu things like baby carrots, liver, and whole yogurt.
Stay away from human food like chocolate, caffeine, soda, grapes, raisins, and onions. Feeding your dog fruit seeds or salt can be toxic.
Break up the treats so that your Shih Tzu puppy doesn’t overeat. Try to keep a variety of bite-sized treats available as they can lose interest if they are given the same thing too regularly.
Exercise Needs of a Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus are usually indoor dogs, but these little puppies have a lot of pent up energy that needs to be released.
That being said, they don’t need intensive exercise. Playtime and their constant running about the house or garden should be enough activity for them when they’re little.
It’s best to take your Shih Tzu puppy on short daily walks. This way your puppy will have less behavioral problems later in life and will be in a better mood.
The general rule is to take your dog out for 30 minutes of walking per day, ideally split into two walks. In other words, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon.
Games like fetch with frisbees and balls, hide and seek and tug of war can be good mental stimulation for your puppy as well as physical. Another trick for keeping your dog entertained and happy is to give it an ice cube.
Winter Time Tips
When it’s very old outside, you should limit your Shih Tzu’s time outdoors. If there’s snow, your dog should not stay outside for longer than 15 or 20 minutes.
Make sure that you constantly keep an eye on your dog the entire time and wipe its paws when it gets inside.
You should also clear the snow off the areas where your dog plays and ensure that the roads aren’t too slippery when you go out for a walk.
Summer Time Tips
Shih Tzus can get overheated rather easily. The signs are quite obvious as your dog will be panting constantly, confused and unhappy.
During hot summer days, it’s best to take your dog out for walks in the early mornings and the late afternoon when the sun is setting.
Avoid afternoons as this is when the sun is at its hottest. Always carry water with you for your dog to drink.
Grooming a Shih Tzu Puppy
The Shih Tzus breed is famous for their unique look. To maintain its fabulousness, you need to put in a lot of effort.
Your Shih Tzu should always be well groomed. Not only is this great for the dog’s appearance but, it also has a few health benefits. Plus, it’s great for bonding too!
1. Bathing a Shih Tzu
A Shih Tzu needs a bath once every three weeks. Puppies need even more frequent baths because they get dirty easily with their playful antics.
Never use your own shampoo because it will irritate your puppy’s skin. Buy special canine shampoo and conditioner and before make sure you give your pup’s coat a good brush first.
You should always place cotton balls in your puppy’s ear to keep the water out of them. The bathing process can be difficult, but with time your puppy will get used to it.
Start by turning on the tap and getting your puppy used to the sound of running water.
Then let your puppy smell all of the bathing products before putting anything on them so that they can familiarize themselves with the new smells.
2. Keeping your Shih Tzu’s Face Clean
The face is where the Shih Tzu’s real cuteness lies. How well you take care of a Shih Tzu’s face can change its entire look and say a lot about you as an owner.
Your Shih Tzu’s face is covered with hair which can accumulate food, moisture, and even eye discharge. The facial hair can also stain very easily and get discolored. The hair can also become rough and dry.
This is why you’ve got to take extra care while grooming your Shih Tzu’s face. Wipe your dog’s face regularly with baby wipes and dry it off with a soft towel.
Make sure that you wipe your Shih Tzu’s face with gentle eye wipes at least two or three times per day. You can even get special tear stain wipes that will lighten any dark coloring around your Shih Tzu’s eyes.
However, if you do notice tear stains, the first thing you should do is get your puppy checked for allergies and remove any of these triggers from their environment.
Even a Shih Tzu’s nose needs plenty of care. Noses can get sunburnt or chapped due to the cold. For a dry nose, you should apply a good quality nose balm every week.
3. Shih Tzu Hair Care
Shih Tzus are a hairy breed and they need a lot of grooming in this department. Their haircare routine involves combing, brushing and spritzing.
You should comb your Shih Tzu’s hair before and after brushing. The first comb is to separate the hair strands and work out any knots or tangles.
The second combing gives your Shih Tzu’s coat a good finished look. You need to comb your Shih Tzu regularly, paying special attention to its facial hair.
Shih Tzu hair can become dry and difficult to brush and as the hair becomes brittle, it may break. This is why you should spray a little moisture on your dog’s hair as you groom it.
This will also keep your Shih Tzu smelling great. You can even get spritzers that offer UV ray protection and prevent split ends.
However, if you’re using a conditioner spray, don’t use too much or your dog’s coat will become sticky.
Brushing is the main way to groom your dog and should be done every day. Not only does regular brushing keep tangles away, but it also gets rid of dirt and distributes your Shih Tzu’s natural oils to make it nice and shiny. Brushing also gets your Shih Tzu’s blood flowing.
4. Shih Tzu Dental Care
It is extremely important to brush your dog’s teeth every day. If you don’t take care of your Shih Tzu’s oral hygiene, it may cause infection, plaque buildup, and bad breath.
Buy a doggy toothpaste and brush that is specifically made for smaller breeds. Ease your dog into the brushing process gently instead of forcing it.
Getting your dog used to this new procedure is going to take time and patience. Start by taking some toothpaste on your fingers and running it across your puppy teeth and gums. This will get your puppy used to the taste.
After a few days, you can move onto a hand brush, and then gradually a toothbrush.
There are also other products you can use to improve your dog’s oral hygiene, such as dental rinses you can add to your puppy’s water bowl and dental chews.
Related Read: Best Chew Proof Dog Beds- A Complete Buying Guide
5. Paw Maintenance for a Shih Tzu
The paws of a Shih Tzu are quite sensitive. They walk over many different surfaces which can have an impact on the health of their paws.
So what can you do to take care of your dog’s paws? Apply a high-quality paw wax on your Shih Tzu’s paws as protection, every one to two weeks.
If your Shih Tzu’s paws are cracked or dry, then apply it more frequently. Paw wax is a great healer.
As for your dog’s nails, they should be trimmed every six weeks. You don’t want your dog’s nails to grow too long as they might end up with an ingrown nail that can be painful for your Shih Tzu.
Electronic nail filers are the most hassle-free option for keeping your dog’s nails under control.
Make sure you have another pair of helping hands as you don’t want your dog wriggling about and hurting themselves. You could even hire a groomer to maintain your Shih Tzu’s nails.
Training a Shih Tzu Puppy
Training a Shih Tzu puppy is no easy feat as they can be stubborn and energetic. They love their owners but they’re not as eager to please as other breeds.
Use positive reinforcement with treats and praises to encourage your Shih Tzu to follow commands.
Switch up the rewards regularly as your Shih Tzu might not want the same treat every day This works much better than reprimanding your dog.
Start by training your dog with basic commands like ‘sit’, ‘come’ and ‘heel’. Normally a Shih Tzu takes two to three weeks to fully get a good grasp of a command. Remember, the key to training your Shih Tzu is consistency and repetition.
1. Crate Training
Start by placing some toys inside the crate. Or let your puppy discover the crate by placing a treat inside.
Don’t close the crate gate for the first few days. Once your puppy gets used to it, you can start closing the gate and gradually increase the time they spend inside the crate.
Never give in to your puppy’s barking and whining by opening the gate immediately. Try to speak to your dog in a comforting voice and distract it with toys. Only open after two to three minutes.
Crate training will be difficult at first but once your Shih Tzu is crate trained, it will have less separation anxiety and it will be easier to potty train.
2. Potty Training
Shih Tzus are notoriously difficult to potty train. It might take them as long as eight months to master the art of pottying in the right place.
First of all, you need to designate an area in your house or garden for your puppy to potty and make sure that he can identify it. Outdoors is the best option but this could also be indoors on a litter box.
Puppies have very small bladders and have to go to the bathroom very often. Observe your puppy’s behavior. A puppy that is sniffing, circling and squatting is most likely getting ready to potty.
Set alarms every 30 minutes for an eight-week-old puppy and take it to its potty spot. Wait until your dog finishes their business; don’t leave it all alone.
After a few weeks, let your puppy follow this routine by themselves. Every time they use the correct potty spot, treat or praise your dog.
3. Leash Training
Leash training is very important for Shih Tzus because if they’re not properly trained, they night strain their necks or limbs when wearing a leash.
A harness may be a good option at first to get your wriggly puppy used to the idea.
Shih Tzus tend to get hyperactive so if your dog is causing a commotion when you’re about to clip the leash, want until your Shih Tzu calms down.
Ignoring your energetic Shih Tzu will be hard, but it will save you a lot of trouble on the walk.
If your Shih Tzu pulls on the leash, stop immediately. This will show your dog that you are in control.
4. Socializing your Shih Tzu
Socializing your Shih Tzu is very important. Although this is a friendly breed, you still need to make sure it knows how to interact with other people.
Walks are a good way of teaching your Shih Tzu social skills. This will make sure that your dog becomes accustomed to different sounds and smells, as well as different people.
You can also arrange for play dates or visits to the dog park so that your Shih Tzu learns how to interact with other dogs.
Generally, Shih Tzus prefer one-on-one human interaction. They need boundaries and don’t like to be overwhelmed. This is something young children might not understand.
So if you have kids younger than three years old, you should keep them away from your Shih Tzu, or opt for another breed.
Creating a Shih Tzu Puppy-Friendly Environment
You need to ensure that your puppy can run freely in your house without getting hurt.
This is a stage where your Shih Tzu is extremely playful and curious and it should be able to play in a safe and secure environment.
1. Lock and Hide
- Install locks on the cabinets and cupboards as puppies have a way of getting into everything.
- Don’t keep your food in places that are easily accessible. If you’re eating candy or chips, put it away immediately after you’re and don’t leave it lying around. Remember, this can be very toxic for your pup!
- If you want to save your shoes from being torn apart, it’s best to hide them from your puppy’s line of sight.
- Keep your bins covered and out of reach.
2. Other Household Changes
- Install baby gates to fend off areas you don’t want your puppy to get into.
- Don’t leave small objects like coins, strings, and needles lying around.
- Remove any plants that may be toxic to your dog.
- Consider installing cameras to keep an eye on your puppy, especially when you’re out.
3. Important Purchases
- Before bringing your puppy home, make sure you buy some stainless-steel food dishes.
- If you’re not at home during the day, you should invest in a treat dispenser so that your puppy can get a surprise treat.
- Buy the right sized collar and leash. It has to be sturdy and adjustable. Don’t go for fancy collars with rings because they might choke your puppy.
- Buy your puppy lots of fun, chewable and durable toys to keep it entertained.
Shih Tzu Puppy Health Concerns
Shih Tzus live an average of 10 to 16 years. Due to their small face and tiny structure, they can suffer from certain health issues. Some health concerns of a Shih Tzu puppy to look out for include:
1. Ear Infections
Shih Tzu pups have really floppy ears that are prone to ear infections as they are a great place for bacteria to breed.
If your Shih Tzu’s ears smell a bit strange or your Shih Tzu is more sensitive to loud noises, they may have an ear infection.
To prevent this, you should be regularly cleaning your dog’s ears regularly. You should also and protect their ears from coming into contact with water.
If you think your dog may have an ear infection, you should take it to the vet. They will prescribe the correct antibiotics for treatment. You may even have to do a professional ear clean.
Hypoglycemia is a common problem faced by small breed pups. This is when your puppy’s blood sugar levels drop rapidly.
To prevent this condition, you have to feed your puppy very frequently. This is why the free-feeding period mentioned earlier on is so important.
You should dab a pea-sized amount of Nutri Cal on your puppy’s tongue three times a day to ensure that it gets the calories it needs.
In an emergency, use honey, jam or syrup instead and immediately take your puppy to the vet.
3. Short Face Problems
The Shih Tzu has a very small face which makes it prone to eye and breathing problems. It is also more likely to suffer from heatstroke.
This is why you have to take care of your Shih Tzu’s face and keep it clean. Get its eyes checked by a vet regularly.
Don’t give your Shih Tzu puppy too much intensive exercise. Make sure it is eating all the right nutrients it needs.
Also, leave water out throughout the day and keep reminding your puppy to drink. Always take a water bottle with you during walks as well.
Shih Tzus are a great house pet as they are playful, affectionate and easily adaptable.
These puppies are known for being fun companions and giving unconditional love to their owners, making them a universal favorite. So if you want to bring a Shih Tzu home, go ahead!
Just make sure you know what your responsibilities are so that you can give your Shih Tzu the proper care and love it deserves.