How to Take Care of a Shih Tzu

This post is a tribute to the best dog anyone could ever have owned. Charlie was my Shih Tzu and he was the sweetest, most adorable dog. Like all Shih Tzus, he loved being with humans and he didn’t know he wasn’t one of us. The Shih Tzu is a very special dog and in this post, I’ll share some information on how to care for a shih tzu puppy.

Shih Tzu Hair Care

When you first get a Shih Tzu puppy, you should ask a groomer to show you how to properly brush your new baby’s hair. The hair can get matted very easily and you won’t notice it until it’s too late.

At first, Shih Tzu’s hair was very short and I could brush it without any problems, but, as it grew longer, I didn’t know that I had to brush the hair in layers. In the picture directly below this section, you can see that Shih Tzu looks “puffy” or “chubby.” That is because the hair under his coat was completely matted (“stuck together”) since I was, foolishly, only brushing the top coat.

The next picture shows the consequences of my ignorance about brushing Shih Tzu’s hair – his first haircut. Shih Tzu was very embarrassed by his baldness, and the groomer advised me to treat him with sensitivity. When we arrived home, he hid under the bed and it took quite some time for me to coax him from his hiding place.

To properly brush a Shih Tzu’s coat, buy a good bristle brush at a reputable pet shop and each day begin by lifting the top hair and brushing the lowest layer of hair (the hair closest to the dog’s body) first. After the first layer is smooth and free of knots, start on the next layer and keep brushing one layer at a time until you are finally at the top layer. By the time you finish brushing your precious one’s hair, all layers should be free of knots and tangles and you should be able to draw a comb through all layers of the coat. The amount of time required to brush your Shih Tzu’s hair will depend on the thickness of the coat.

Note that it is not advisable to have your Shih Tzu’s hair cut short since the coat provides natural protection for the dog. The third picture below, the one with the hair bow, shows how pretty, and thin, baby Shih Tzu looked when his hair was properly groomed.

Feeding Your Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu had a long life and he lived to be 15-1/2 years old. I had an excellent veterinarian for most of that time, and he always advised me on what to feed Shih Tzu. He warned me to never give Shih Tzu bones since small dogs, like Shih Tzus, have problems digesting bones. He also cautioned against too many table snacks from my plate.

The best food for a Shih Tzu is quality dog food, and although the veterinarian often recommended Science Diet, Shih Tzu preferred Kibble and Bits. The food should always be fresh and it is usually not a good idea to leave the food out all day for your Shih Tzu, especially in the summertime.

Shih Tzus can have sensitive stomachs, especially when they are very young, and your puppy’s veterinarian might suggest that you prepare special foods for the pup. Shih Tzu had terrible stomach problems for the first year of his life and I had to boil hamburger and rice three times a day for him. However, only prepare these kinds of meals on the recommendation of a reliable veterinarian.

Shih Tzus love treats and most of the top dog food companies produce yummy dog treats that your Shih Tzu will enjoy. Avoid sweets, however. Just as sugar is not good for your body, it is also not good for your dog.

Shih Tzus Need Love

Shih Tzu dogs need love and friendship

Shih Tzus are very social and they need plenty of love and affection. They are “lover dogs” and most Shih Tzus enjoy sitting on laps and hugging necks. if you give your Shih Tzu hugs and care, you’ll get loved in return.

Shih Tzu liked to “talk” on the phone and he would get very excited when he heard my sister’s voice on the phone. He would bark and then start licking the phone receiver to let my sister know that he was happy to hear from her.

Shih Tzus are very intelligent dogs and they learn to recognize people by their names. For example, whenever I told Shih Tzu to look for “Grandma” or “Grandpa,” Shih Tzu would run to the window and wait there until my parents arrived.

Shih Tzu dogs also enjoy the company of other animals. Shih Tzu was particularly fond of my sister’s cat, Kitty, and we often found him hugging and kissing her.

Shih Tzus Need Quiet Time

When you have a Shih Tzu, you’ll probably want to play with your puppy because Shih Tzus are so cute and loving. But, just like you, your Shih Tzu needs quiet time, too. If you see that your little Shih Tzu is tired and doesn’t want to play, it is best to just leave him or her alone. When your baby is rested, he or she will come to you for attention and love.

Toys for Your Shih Tzu

Your Shih Tzu, like any child, needs toys and playtime. But you don’t need to spend much money to entertain a Shih Tzu. Common items that Shih Tzus love include tennis balls, towels, pantyhose, and old shoes.

In addition to providing toys, you should take time each day to play with your Shih Tzu and give him or her plenty of exercise. This play and exercise routine can be outdoors (for example, playing a game of catch with a tennis ball) or on colder, rainy days, you and your puppy can have a great tug of war with pantyhose.


Rebecca simply adores her Shih Tzu, and has spent years raising and breeding them.

4 Responses

  1. Jossete says:

    I have 3 Tzus. Two of mine have eye stain problems. I use eye envy to keep them tear stain free. It is a common problem especially when they are teething. sometimes its from allergy caused by food or outdoor pollens. Tzus have eyes that are set forward and they don’t hold their tears too well. Sometimes a tzu can have a condition that where their eyes make no tears and they need drops to keep them moist.

    • Rebecca says:

      Many factors can contribute to tear staining, ie, food, allergies, minerals in water, etc. But, its genetics (bloodlines) that predetermine tear staining. My Maltese, Cody has a flawless, white as snow face. He can eat anything. I’ve never had to do anything to keep his face perfectly white. Look at the parents/grandparents. Joseys breeder has a beautiful solid white Shih Tzu, that is perfect white everywhere, she doesn’t do anything special for her. Its in her genes.

  2. Tracy says:

    Last Saturday I picked up a Shih Tzu, estimated at 2-3 yrs by my vet, who had been at the shelter for over three weeks. He was perfectly sound when I got him, though matted to the skin and filthy. In the last week he has become increasingly reluctant to walk and my vet has seen him three times without a diagnosis. I have an appointment with a dog physical therapist on Tuesday to see if she can figure out what is wrong but in the meantime I am hoping someone familiar with the breed perhaps has an answer. This is long and detailed; I hope you have the time to read it.

    According to shelter staff there was nothing unusual about Elmo when he was there. I looked at him on Friday the 8th and he was a bouncy little dog. I picked him up on Saturday and on Sunday morning got to work with the clippers. I had to take him all the way down all over as he was such a mess. Both before and after I clipped him he trotted around smoothly, in fact moved nicely, like a breed dog. He played with toys and generally was a normal dog. On Monday he started occasionally whipping around to look at his rear as though bitten by something. He seemed to be looking at his tail or where the root joins the back. I checked him and couldn’t find evidence of fleas or a clipper burn. The behavior increased until he was doing it frequently and then started occasionally yelping when it happened. He was not scratching, scooting, licking or biting any area.

    I took him to my vet on Wednesday morning and he expressed the anal glands as he couldn’t find anything wrong. That didn’t help at all. Elmo started to get increasingly uncomfortable; what he does with his rear end when this happens makes him walk in a U shape. He brings his rear around toward his front, like a dog that has an itch for a moment. He does it either way, to left or right, fishtailing.

    We gave him some Metacam and Tramadol with no effect. Now Elmo didn’t want to move much and was trembling if he did move. He wanted to be picked up constantly. My vet saw him again on Thursday afternoon and checked his prostate, which was normal. He thought it had something to do with Elmo’s hormonal status which I disagreed with. Just because Elmo was ‘excited’ at the vet didn’t seem the reason to blame hormones as at home he was relaxed. However, I sometimes see or feel a twitching from the perineum area down his penis (not an erection) and do wonder if there is some kind of a stricture in that area?

    Elmo was neutered on Friday and had his hips and spine x-rayed. Both areas are fine as are his patellas. My vet was convinced that once the hormones died down Elmo would recover.

    Now Elmo only moves a few steps at a time then does the curling of his body toward his head and looks at his rear (rot of his tail area). If he moves too fast he cries out. He is roached a lot now and tends to just sit watching the other dogs. He does not seem to be in discomfort unless he moves though sometimes I see the curling slightly as he sits there. He pees and poops normally though he is reluctant to move around to find a spot. The issue may be slightly worse just before defecation but I’m not sure about that.

    Interestingly on first getting up in the morning, he comes out of his crate moving straight and free for about thirty feet before crying and doing the curl thing. He jumps up on chairs and I even caught him in the middle of my dining room table (the better to see out of the window) so he is still able to jump.

    On the advice of an experienced rescuer I gave him Prednisone and Benadryl (she thought it might be a reaction to having the hugely matted coat removed) last night and this morning with no visible improvement so far.

    I am at my wits’ end to help this poor little dog. In a week he went from an active, retrieving pup to a dog that doesn’t want to move . The pain killers not doing anything makes me think it’s mechanical but the x-rays being normal and his lack of lameness per se puzzle me. Some suggestions from others have been a pinched nerve or a foxtail inside that hasn’t formed an abscess yet…. Someone else suggested that people in the breed might know if there are any odd genetic diseases with these symptoms.

    Any advice or ideas would be appreciated. Other than the appointment tomorrow with the physical therapist/accupressure person I don’t know what to do next.

    Sorry this is so long!

  3. Amber says:

    Sorry to call it this I know it sounds like If I’m writing a blog but to tell you the truth I wish I was a vet because there are so many things I don’t know about dogs specially shih tzu’s and there are so many things I want to do to alleviate the pain of my lil girl. Right now shes asleep next to me on the couch ( i sure love my dog) but as soon as she gets up she goes crazy scratching her sides and to make matters worse she always has a flea or two … thanks to our beloved cats of course . As you seen in some pictures she loves playing with them and wellllllll…. you know its hard to bath cats specially with their awesome claws and we have decided not to put lula on flea medicine because to tell you the truth I dont even think it works… but she scratches her sides like a maniac and we always put a cone on her because we don’t want her to chew her side off but I know that us as humans when we have a bite we want to scratch it so i cant even imagine what shes going through…. Is there something to help soothe the itchiness… we tried some tea tree solution that we bough at our local pet store to soothe the itchiness but that doesnt work then we spend over $50 for a bottle of vetericyn but I dont think it works. To tell you the truth I think its water like gatorade without the sugar with electrolytes or something… So i dont know what to do… its driving me crazy and im getting tired of searching on the net for a solution if here anybody on this board that might be able to help me out.. Pls I would really appreciate it.. I just want her to not scratch her sides or try to chew her tail off all the time.. I know she suffers and damn fleas are doing a good job on her … so once again PLS HELP!!

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