Caring For a Shih Tzu; How to Keep Your Pup Healthy and Happy

Shih tzu on leash

Descending from the line of Tibetan mountain dogs, the Shih Tzus are Chinese breeds that were once exclusively owned by members of the imperial family. The name “Shih Tzu” means “lion dog,” and these little dogs were believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits. Today, the Shih Tzu is one of the most popular breeds in the world. The American Kennel Club ranks them the 19th most popular breed in the United States.

Shih Tzu puppies are beautiful, loyal, and loving dogs that make great companion dogs. They are also fairly easy to care for as long as you know what you’re doing. Once Shih Tzu owners learn the ropes, they quickly realize that these dogs are actually relatively low-maintenance. All they really need is good food, minimal exercise, and lots of love.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about caring for a Shih Tzu puppy, from grooming to feeding to exercise. We have also gathered some helpful tips from experienced Shih Tzu owners to make your life easier. So if you’re thinking about getting a Shih Tzu or already have one, read on to learn everything about your new furry friend.

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1) Grooming and care

Shih Tzu is known for their long, flowing coats requiring regular grooming. If you don’t keep up with the grooming, your Shih Tzu hair coat can become matted and tangled, which can be painful for the dog. Regular brushing is important for your Shih Tzu’s coat, especially the areas around the eyes, ears, and mouth where tangles are most likely to form.

Does Shih Tzus shed?

If you think this much combing and brushing will shed your dog’s coat all over the house, you’ll be happy to know that Shih Tzu actually doesn’t shed very much. Because what you see as the outer coat is made up of two types of hair – a long, silky topcoat and a short, dense undercoat – the hair doesn’t fall out as easily as it does with other breeds.

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Additional grooming needs

In addition to daily brushing, you’ll also need to give your Shih Tzu a bath once every three weeks, depending on how dirty he gets. Be sure to use a gentle, dog-specific (anti-itching) shampoo to avoid irritating your dog’s skin.

After the bath, you’ll need to blow dry your Shih Tzu’s coat. This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. The best way to blow dry your Shih Tzu is to start with the undercoat, using a low setting on the dryer.

Once the undercoat is dry, you can move on to the topcoat using a higher setting. Be careful not to hold the dryer too close to your dog’s skin, and always point the dryer down the hair shaft to avoid damaging the coat.

Many dogs are initially nervous with the dryer, so use low settings.

Clip the nails every four to six weeks and wipe the mouth, preferably after each meal, with a damp cloth to remove any food debris. Inspect the ears weekly and clean them with a cotton ball dipped in gentle ear cleaner if necessary.

Dental hygiene for Shih Tzu breed

Shih Tzu puppies are toy breed dogs, which means they’re susceptible to dental problems. That’s why using dog-specific toothpaste is important to brush your Shih Tzu’s teeth at least three times a week.

Poor dental hygiene can lead to some problems, including bad breath, gum disease, and tooth loss. If you’re unsure how to brush your dog’s teeth, ask your veterinarian for a demonstration.

Misaligned teeth are common in Shih Tzus, so you may also need to have your dog’s teeth checked and cleaned by a professional every year.

You can use a gauze pad or your finger wrapped in gauze to rub the insides of your dog’s teeth in a circular motion. Canine toothbrush kits are also available, making brushing your dog’s teeth easier. However, be sure to avoid the back teeth, as they’re more likely to harbor bacteria.

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Paws and Nose care

Shih Tzu dog has relatively short legs, so its paws can be susceptible to injury. Be sure to check your dog’s paws regularly for any cuts, scrapes, or other injuries.

If you live in an area with a lot of snow and ice, you may want to invest in a set of dog boots to protect your Shih Tzu’s paws from the cold. Sometimes dog booties are also necessary to protect against the hot pavement in the summer.

Use a paw wax or balm to keep your dog’s paw pads soft and supple.

Then comes the nose. This is the most sensitive part of your dog’s body, but dog owners often forget to take care of it. For instance, in the summer, put sunscreen on your Shih Tzu’s nose to prevent burning. In the winter, use a balm to keep the nose from getting dry and cracked.

Regular groomer visits

Even if you’re comfortable doing all the grooming yourself, it’s still a good idea to take your Shih Tzu to a professional groomer every four to six weeks for a bath, nail trim, and coat trim. This will help keep your dog’s coat healthy and looking its best. Also, the professionals know how to properly care for all the different areas of your Shih Tzu’s coat, so you can be sure your dog gets the best care possible.

Professional advice on how to care for and groom your Shih Tzu is always best. This will also help prevent painful mats or tangles in your dog’s coat.


2) Feeding and nutrition

Dog with owner

I favor all-natural diets for dogs, which I recommend for Shih Tzu. The best diet for a new puppy is one that is made up of high-quality, human-grade ingredients, herbs, and supplements.

Avoid processed foods and stick to fresh, whole foods whenever possible. This means feeding your Shih Tzu a diet of cooked meats and vegetables. However, just feeding natural, whole foods is not enough. You can opt for brands that make all-natural, holistic foods specifically for dogs.

There are a lot of great all-natural dog foods on the market, but my personal favorite is Orijen. Orijen comprises 80% meat, 20% vegetables and fruits, and 0% grain.

This premium pet food uses fresh, raw, and high-quality ingredients. Refrigeration is the only preservation method utilizing fresh ingredients that are kept at their best condition by freezing them. ORIJEN’s dog food recipes include only the most nutrient-rich and succulent parts of the prey, making it an ideal meal for Shih Tzus of all ages.

Supplements for Shih Tzu dog

In addition to high-quality dog food, Shih Tzu needs to be supplemented with fish oil and vitamin E. Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, essential for healthy skin and coat. Vitamin E is also essential for skin and coat health and can help reduce shedding.

For instance, probiotics are also a good idea. Probiotics help to maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, which is important for overall health. If Shih Tzu is going through any stress, such as a move or a change in routine, probiotics can help to reduce the number of stress hormones in the body.

If you opt for store-bought supplements, read the ingredients list carefully before feeding it to your Shih Tzu.

Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on the best food for your dog. One brand that I recommend is CESAR Small Breed Dry Dog Food Filet Mignon Flavor with Spring Vegetables. This food is made with high-quality ingredients and is free of fillers, by-products, and preservatives.

This top-quality dog food features real beef as the first ingredient, promising your pup a delicious and nutritious meal. CESAR provides the 26 vital nutrients small dogs need to stay in good health, all while tasting delicious.

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Filtered water

You might not think the water you give your dog is essential, but it actually is. Shih Tzu is prone to urinary tract infections, and one of the best ways to prevent these infections is to give your dog filtered water.

Filtered water will remove impurities and toxins from your dog’s water and make the water taste better. This is important because Shih Tzus are very sensitive to the taste of their water. Once you switch to filtered water, you’ll notice that your dog drinks more and that his coat is shinier and healthier.

There are a lot of great water filtration systems on the market, but my personal favorite is the Berkey Water Filter. This filter removes over 99.9% of impurities from water, and it’s very easy to use. You can filter your dog’s water right from the tap, and you’ll never have to worry about your dog’s water being contaminated again.

3) Exercise and Socialization

Shih Tzu is not a high-energy dog but needs daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. A good way to exercise your Shih Tzu is to take him for a daily walk. Walking is a great way to get your dog’s heart pumping and his muscles moving.

In addition to daily walks, you can take your Shih Tzu to the park to play fetch or Frisbee. These activities are not only great exercise, but they’re also a lot of fun for both you and your dog.

Socialize your Shih Tzu puppy early and often

Another important part of the exercise is socialization. Socialization is important for all dogs, but it’s especially important for Shih Tzu. This is because Shih Tzu are a breed prone to separation anxiety.

The best way to socialize your Shih Tzu is to expose him to as many people, places, and things as possible. Let it meet other dogs, humans, and different types of animals.

Expose him to different environments, such as the beach, the park, and the woods. The more he experiences, the less likely he will experience anxiety later in life.

The more he experiences cars, traffic, noise, and other stimuli, the less likely he is to be fearful or anxious in these situations.

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4) Training and Behavioral Problems

Shih Tzu is generally very difficult to train, and they can sometimes be stubborn. However, with patience and consistency, most Shih Tzu can be trained to do basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come, and down.

Training a Shih Tzu puppy

A Shih Tzu puppy needs training that is different from other dogs because of their independent and stubborn nature. Because they were bred to be companion animals, they are not as motivated by food or toys as other breeds.

This means you must find other ways to get their attention and reward them for good behavior. One way to do this is with positive reinforcement, such as praise or treats.

Another important part of training a Shih Tzu is socialization, which helps them to become comfortable around people and other animals. Start socialization early on by taking them to places where there will be lots of people and animals, such as the park or dog beach.

Use positive reinforcement instead of punishment.

When training your Shih Tzu, it’s important to use positive reinforcement instead of punishment. This means rewarding your dog for good behavior instead of scolding him for bad behavior.

Punishment will only make your dog anxious and stressed, and since Shih Tzu is already a breed prone to anxiety, this is the last thing you want.

If you use positive reinforcement, your dog will learn that good behavior is rewarded and will be more likely to repeat it.

You can also use training clickers and treats to help your Shih Tzu learn new commands.

For instance, if you want your dog to sit, you can click the training clicker and give him a treat when he sits down.

This will let him know he’s doing the right thing and will be more likely to do it again.

I have written an in-depth article on clicker training if you want to learn more about it.

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How often to bathe a Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzus must be bathed regularly to keep their coat in top condition, but how often is best? The answer depends on several factors, including the dog’s age, activity level, and skin condition. For most Shih Tzus, once or twice a week is sufficient.

However, puppies and elderly dogs may need to be bathed more often, while those with dry skin may benefit from washing less frequently.

Regardless of how often you bathe your Shih Tzu, it’s important to use a gentle shampoo that won’t strip away the natural oils in its coat.

Following these guidelines can help keep your Shih Tzu looking and feeling their best.

Common health problems in Shih Tzus.

Shih Tzus are generally a healthy breed, but like any small dog, they are susceptible to certain health problems. Some of the most common health problems seen in Shih Tzus include allergies, respiratory problems, and joint problems.


Allergies are one of the most common health problems seen in Shih Tzus. They can be caused by various things, such as dust, pollen, and certain foods. Symptoms of allergies include itching, scratching, red eyes, and a runny nose. If your Shih Tzu is showing any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them to the vet to rule out other possible causes and get treatment.

Respiratory problems:

Respiratory problems are also common in Shih Tzus due to their short noses. These problems can range from mild to severe, including snoring, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

Joint problems:

Joint problems are common in small dogs, and Shih Tzus are no exception. These problems can include arthritis, hip dysplasia, and Luxating patella (floating kneecap).

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Heart disease:

Heart disease is another common health problem in Shih Tzus. The most common type of heart disease seen in this breed is congestive heart failure, which is caused by the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently. Symptoms of congestive heart failure include coughing, difficulty breathing, and exercise intolerance.


The most common types of cancer seen in this breed are lymphoma and leukemia. Symptoms of cancer can vary depending on the type and location of the tumor but can include weight loss, lethargy, and vomiting.

Bladder or kidney stones:

Bladder or kidney stones are a common health problem in Shih Tzus due to their small size. These stones can block the urinary tract and cause pain, difficulty urinating, and blood in the urine. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them to the vet for treatment.

Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s):

Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s disease, is a condition that occurs when the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include increased thirst and urination, weight gain, hair loss, and lethargy.

Dental abnormalities:

Teeth asymmetry, overbite, and underbite are common dental abnormalities seen in Shih Tzus. These problems can be caused by a variety of things, such as genetics, poor nutrition, and trauma. Tooth misalignment can lead to a number of problems, such as difficulty eating, pain, and gum disease.


Ear infections are common in Shih Tzus due to their long ears. These infections can be caused by various things, such as allergies, bacteria, and yeast. Symptoms of an ear infection include itching, redness, and discharge. Ear mites are another type of infection that can occur in Shih Tzus. These mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canals and cause itching, redness, and irritation.

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Eye problems:

Shih Tzus are also susceptible to various eye problems, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and corneal ulcers. These problems can be caused by a variety of things, such as genetics, injury, and age. Symptoms can vary depending on the problem, including redness, tearing, and blindness.

As you can see, there are a variety of health conditions that can affect Shih Tzus.

Fortunately, treatments are available for all of Shih Tzu’s health problems. Your pet can enjoy a long and healthy life with proper care and regular vet visits.


Is Shih Tzu high maintenance?

If you’re considering getting a Shih Tzu, you might wonder if they’re high maintenance.

The truth is, it depends on what you’re looking for in a dog. If you want a low-key companion who’s content to lounge around the house all day, then a Shih Tzu is probably not the right breed for you.

However, if you don’t mind spending a little extra time on grooming and are looking for a friendly, affectionate dog, then a Shih Tzu may be the perfect fit. Keep in mind that Shih Tzus require daily brushing to prevent tangles and mats and must also be groomed every few weeks.

But if you’re up for the challenge, then a Shih Tzu can make a wonderful addition to your family.

Can Shih Tzu be left alone for 8 hours?

Shih Tzus can actually be left alone for up to 8 hours without any problems. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should never spend time with your Shih Tzu – they still need plenty of love and attention. But your Shih Tzu will be fine if you have to work or run errands for a few hours.

Just make sure to provide them with food, water, and a comfy place to sleep, and they’ll be happy as can be.

Is dog health insurance worth it?

As a pet owner, it’s important to consider your dog’s health and how you will pay for unexpected veterinary costs. While some pet owners choose to self-insure by putting money away each month, pet health insurance is another option that can help cover the costs of unexpected illnesses and accidents. Some policies even cover preventive care, such as vaccinations and routine check-ups.

While pet health insurance isn’t right for everyone, it can be a valuable tool for pet owners who want to financially protect their furry friends.

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Dog ownership isn’t easy, especially when it’s a high-maintenance purebred dog like Shih Tzu. The best way to care for a Shih Tzu is to provide him with plenty of exercise, socialization, and training. These things are important for all dogs, but they’re especially important for Shih Tzu.

With patience and consistency, you can train your Shih Tzu to do basic obedience commands and expose him to different people, places, and things. This will help him to be a well-rounded and happy dog.

Especially if you live in an urban area, it’s important to ensure that your Shih Tzu gets enough exercise. A daily walk is a great start, but you can also take your dog to the park to play fetch or Frisbee.

By following the tips in this article, you can ensure that your Shih Tzu lives a long and healthy life.

Remember, your Shih Tzu is a lifetime commitment, so take good care of him, and he’ll be by your side for many years to come.

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