Shih Tzu Breeder Round-Up

Shih Tzu Breeder Round-Up

In creating the book The Complete Guide to Shih Tzu Dogs” (written by Molly Weinfurter and available on Amazon) we interviewed 17 of the top Shih Tzu breeders in the country.  We used their advice and expertise to help make the book the best possible guide book for a new Shih Tzu owner.

But… there was so much good advice in those interviews that we couldn’t fit it all into the book.  So we decided we’d compile the best answers to each question and present them here.  If you are thinking of getting a Shih Tzu, or are a current owner, the advice that follows will be invaluable to you as you proceed on your ownership journey.  Enjoy:

Question #1:  What are your tips for choosing the right Shih Tzu from either a breeder or rescue?

Picking out a Shih Tzu PuppyConsensus:
 In general, Shih Tzu’s are naturally loving and outgoing, but each personality is unique. Those who choose a rescue dog may not have the opportunity to meet the dog’s parents, but those going through a breeder should meet the dam and sire if possible. Visiting the breeder or rescue that you are considering will give you a better idea of what the pup’s environment is like before they make the transition to your home. A good breeder will ask prospective owners a lot of pertinent questions to ensure the right fit and will be happy to answer questions in return.

Best Quotes:

Shih Tzus are so loving and outgoing. They just love everyone young and old. I find a lot of times the puppy or dog will pick you. If you have the chance to go to the breeder’s home or the rescue center I would highly recommend it. This will give you a feel for the environment they are raised in. Meet the breeder or rescue workers who have been caring for the canines and make sure the dog looks healthy. The breeder or rescue group should be willing to answer as many questions as you have without hesitation. People who are reluctant to answer all questions probably have something to hide.”
Mollie Doucette-  Tatnicland Shih Tzu

I’m a small breeder, so from a breeder’s perspective I’d want to meet the parents. I also would like to see where the puppy is coming from and if he or she was socialized. Another concern is that they leave with their first vaccination and that they are wormed appropriately.”
Kathy Mullett-  That Puppy in the Window

Visit the breeder. See the sire and dam, or at least the dam. Observe their environment and how they are kept. They must be inside and they must be clean. A good breeder will ask the potential buyer a ton of questions because they want the best home for their pups. The breeder should take dogs back at any age if a buyer cannot keep the dog. Have a contract to stipulate what you expect from the breeder. Have the breeder ask you questions so they can choose the best pup for your home dynamics.”
Marion Starr-  Starrme Shih Tzu

Those looking for a Shih Tzu should start by researching the breed to find out what characteristics you are looking for in your new canine companion. Find a Breeder or Rescue that is willing to answer all your questions and will work with you to find the perfect fit for your home. The breeder or rescue should be willing to work with you once the Shih Tzu is in your home and should be knowledgeable about the breed.”
Monica Cox-  Maple Lane Pups

Question #2:  What are some of the most unique characteristics of the breed?

Shih Tzu Tips and TricksConsensus:
Although the Shih Tzu is most easily recognized by their long, flowing coats, most breeders characterize them by their personalities instead. They were originally bred to be watchdogs, so they are naturally energetic and alert to their surroundings, but they are also companion animals, so they tend to be outgoing and sensitive towards others. They tend to be exceptionally loving, both towards their owners and towards strangers, and have lively, playful temperaments, but they don’t require much in the way of strenuous exercise. This makes them ideal as therapy dogs or as companions for children and seniors.

Best Quotes:

Shih Tzus originated from Tibet as watchdogs so they like to watch their owners. They will usually pick someone in the family to follow around. They have soft hair coats and do not shed which makes them a very popular breed. Shih Tzus are great with children.”
Kathy Mullett-  That Puppy in the Window

One of the things I love most about this breed is their disposition. Many of them make wonderful therapy dogs or emotional support animals. While they can be lively, especially when they’re puppies, they tend to be a very laid-back breed overall.”
Nancy Lawson-  Hill Family Shih Tzu and The Family Dog Grooming

They have a sweet and loving temperament and are excellent companions and lapdogs. They also like to be treated like little kings and queens.”
Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

Question #3:  What do most people not know about Shih Tzus that would surprise them?

Shih Tzu Personality and TempermentConsensus:
 Individuals not familiar with this breed might think that Shih Tzus are delicate little dogs, but they tend to be a lot sturdier than they would first appear. They can thrive in many different living situations and are surprisingly adept at dog sports such as agility training. New Shih Tzu owners may also be surprised to find out that their puppy may change color as they mature, with solid color pups often transforming into dogs with two or three distinct colors.

Best Quotes:

They are big dogs in little packages. They are tough and sturdy, not a delicate breed as their show coat might indicate. They are surprisingly good in obedience and agility and are mischievous clowns with a great sense of humor. I am a “ giant breed” dog lover, but the Shih Tzu is my absolute favorite smaller dog.”
Marion Starr-  Starrme Shih Tzu

It’s an interesting fact that Shih Tzu’s will often completely change colors. People who buy a Shih Tzu based on color may be disappointed in a few months to find the dog looks completely different. It is common to see a solid dark chocolate Shih Tzu puppy become a milky gray or cream-colored within the first year.”
Twila Severance-  Devine Design Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are an adaptable breed that does well in many different living situations. They are full of personality and each one is unique.”
Monica Cox-  Maple Lane Pups

Question #4:  How would you recommend people prepare their home for the arrival of their new puppy?

Bringing a Shih Tzu HomeConsensus:
 Preparing your home for the arrival of a new puppy is an important and enjoyable task. Make sure that you pick up anything that could be dangerous for your pup to chew on, such as any cords or any small items that could present a choking hazard. Provide your new canine companion with a safe space to spend time in when you are not actively watching them; crates and baby gates are great for this purpose. Ensure that your dog’s safe space has plenty of safe toys to play with and a nice, cozy spot to sleep in.

Best Quotes:

Be prepared so that the transition can go as smoothly as possible. Have on hand the items needed to get your puppy off to a great start. Have a game plan when getting ready for your new little one to join your family. Puppies can easily learn bad habits so starting on the right foot is the best key for success in training. Bring home a Shih Tzu puppy is very much like bringing home a toddler. You need to have a sleeping area prepared whether a crate or playpen set up. Puppies can easily get into trouble so you need to have your home puppy-proofed.”
Monica Cox-  Maple Lane Pups

Remove, secure, or hide all cords, and make sure there are no small objects on the floor or within the puppy’s reach. Plan to keep your pup in a playpen or a room with a hard surface and use a child gate.”
Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

You’re basically bringing home a baby. You want to make sure that cords and other things that could either be destroyed by chewing or harm the dog be out of reach. I highly recommend keeping the puppy off of areas with rugs until they are potty trained as their nose will keep leading them back to that spot to pee.”
Nancy Lawson-  Hill Family Shih Tzu and The Family Dog Grooming

I tell my new families to have a spot in their home that is just for the puppy, with toys and a soft spot to lay down. A crate or a corner of your room will work well. Anywhere that the pup can call their own. Lots of love, handling, and attention.”
Heidi Johnson-  1980

Question #5:  What are some unexpected things a new Shih Tzu owner might encounter in the first few weeks?

New Shih Tzu PuppyConsensus:
 New pet-parents are often surprised to find that their new charge seems uninterested in eating for the first few days, even when they seem otherwise happy and carefree. It is important to ensure that your Shih Tzu eats, even if they are reluctant, as this small breed is prone to drops in blood sugar. Shih Tzus also tend to have narrower nostrils than average, leading to snorting, snoring, and more labored breathing. While this may require medical intervention for some Shih Tzus, most will eventually develop wider nostrils as they mature.

Best Quotes:

Low blood sugar is always an issue. Understanding, preparing, and taking preventative measures is always key. Labored breathing can happen due to tight nostrils and teething. Although this is usually normal, some things can be done to help. Education is key. Look to the breeder for knowledge and current products that are on the market to ease these issues.”
Twila Severance-  Devine Design Shih Tzu

There is always a chance that pup or adult may not want to eat; that they will be confused and afraid even if they act happy. It’s the new owner’s job to make sure they eat well. Hypoglycemia can set in fast. I recommend adding a little cut chicken, broth, or cottage cheese to their meals to get them to eat. There is always a chance they may get diarrhea, an abrupt change of diet will do that.”
Debbie Heuston-  Debbie’s Darlings

Poop eating, which is common in this breed. The new owner will also need to be very patient and consistent with potty training.”
 Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

Question #6:  What house-training advice do you have for a new owner?

Potty TrainingConsensus:
 Shih Tzu’s, like many small dogs, are considered challenging to housebreak. This is in part due to their smaller size. A smaller dog has a smaller bladder, which requires more frequent emptying and provides more opportunities for accidents. Shih Tzu owners who are attentive and consistent will have the most success with their training methods. Utilizing a crate as a housetraining tool is not recommended for this breed, as they will simply learn to tolerate being dirty.

Best Quotes:

Consistency is the best thing. Keeping them confined in small areas is the best thing especially when you can’t watch them. Even when they seem to be doing well. They will seem to be doing good for a while but when they start teething that usually will start having some house training issues again. May last for a couple of weeks but then they’ll start being good again.”
Lisa McKinney-  Mr. Foo’s Shih Tzu

They do not generally house break until they are ten weeks old. You must be consistent. They do not crate break. They will potty in a crate and learn to tolerate being dirty. They do not train themselves and you must be committed to starting training when they are just ten to twelve weeks old.”
Karen DeAngelo-  Glory Ridge Shih Tzu

People believe Shih Tzus and other small breed dogs are hard to housebreak. I don’t believe this at all. I tell people they have to stay on a small breed puppy more then you would with a larger bred puppy. At twelve weeks old the Shih Tzu puppy has a bladder that is about the size of a small lime or small plum; a larger breed dog’s bladder is twice that size, so they can hold it longer. Shih Tzus need to be let out more often. To me, they are not hard to train. They don’t want to disappoint their owners.”
Mollie Doucette-  Tatnicland Shih Tzu

Be very consistent, and use positive feedback. It may take weeks or months for them to be fully trained. If you want an “easy” dog to train, you may need to be looking at a different breed.”
Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

Question #7:  What tips do you have for socializing your Shih Tzu with other pets?

Shih Tzu BarkingConsensus:
 This breed is naturally friendly with anyone that they meet and are likely to enjoy interacting with other friendly pets, but their small size means they can be easily injured by larger animals. For introductions to other household members, let more established pets set the pace and ensure that you are close by to handle misunderstandings. It is a good idea to delay introducing your Shih Tzu to dogs outside of your household until they have completed their puppy vaccinations. Interactions with other dogs should be supervised, especially when your dog is young and overly exuberant.

Best Quotes:

First, I would not take my puppy anywhere around any dogs other than those in my own home until the puppy has had all of their shots. Until they have grown some they should not be left alone with another dog. Dogs can have disagreements even if they generally get along and a large dog can accidentally hurt a small one.”
Nancy Lawson-  Hill Family Shih Tzu and The Family Dog Grooming

When bringing home your puppy, allow time for the other pets to become accustomed to the new addition. Allow established pets to take the lead and your new puppy will learn how to behave from your other pets. Shih Tzus love friends and are very social by nature. If your current pets seem overwhelmed by the pup’s energy, allow them to have one on one time with you separate from the puppy. Allow the dogs to become acquainted and in time they will become best friends.”
Monica Cox-  Maple Lane Pups

They usually socialize easily. I would never let them play with any other animals without supervision until they’re older in order to avoid any accidents— especially with larger pets. You never know when the other pet will just get tired of the puppy wanting to play.”
Lisa McKinney-  Mr. Foo’s Shih Tzu

Question #8:  How much exercise does a Shih Tzu need? What are some good exercise habits to develop?

Exercise Shih Tzu how much do they needConsensus:
Shih Tzu breed dogs have a lot of exuberance and energy, but they don’t require a great deal of exercise to stay fit and healthy. These little dogs have enough energy to participate in more robust activities such as agility training, but can easily be satisfied with short walks, indoor games of fetch, and play sessions in the backyard. Due to their shortened faces, these dogs do are not well equipped to handle either high temperatures or extended exercise sessions like long hikes.

Best Quotes:

Minimal exercise. Taking short walks is a very good form of exercise. Since they are a flat-faced breed, they will not tolerate heat for very long. Limit exercise sessions during times of heat to a few minutes. Taking your Shih Tzu for long hikes or long walks is something they won’t tolerate well. A Shih Tzu will have enough exercise just playing with you in the yard on a daily basis.”
Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

Because Shih Tzu’s are super small, they do not need major daily walks like big dogs. Shih Tzu’s typically do not overeat either. So this is all good when it comes to overall health. You do not need to walk them daily, but it is good for their heart and joints to get in 4-5 walks a week. These little Shih Tzu’s should be leash trained on a harness only. Everything is so close to the surface in their faces and their necks are so small, a collar could cause damage to their throats or their collar bones.”
Stefanie Marie Peacock-  Peacock Shih Tzu Puppies

A good walk daily or a play session in the yard is fine. Shih Tzu dogs are surprisingly adept in agility training. They enjoy cuddling with you, but they are by no means couch potatoes.”
Marion Starr-  Starrme Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are not a breed that needs lots of exercise. They don’t typically need daily walks. They can play in your home by fetching a toy or a small ball down a hallway. They are low maintenance with exercise. I still encourage new owners to get them outside daily, at least to play in the yard and get some exercise and sunshine.”
Mollie Doucette-  Tatnicland Shih Tzu

Question #9:  How easy or hard are they to train? What advice do you have for a new owner?

Training a Shih TzuConsensus:
Training the Shih Tzu can be a bit of a challenge, not because the dog isn’t bright enough to learn, but because this breed tends to have a bit of a stubborn streak. It is important to persevere when training your new canine companion, however, as pet parents that fail to train their Shih Tzu are likely to end up with a very demanding little dog. This breed generally responds well to consistent and positive training techniques but tends to respond poorly to training based on any form of punishment.

Best Quotes:

There is one thing I always tell people when they purchase a puppy from me. This is a dog. This may sound strange but so many people get a small breed dog and treat him like a child in a fur coat or like a stuffed toy. They often want to let their dog get away with things they never would let their children get away with. Being a dog is a wonderful thing but they are not human. They often see things differently than we do. Not understanding this difference is what causes most problems between humans and dogs.”
Nancy Lawson-  Hill Family Shih Tzu and The Family Dog Grooming

They can be spiteful and stubborn but respond very well to consistency, LOVE, and praise.”
Karen DeAngelo-  Glory Ridge Shih Tzu

They can be hard to train. Read books and research training techniques before you take your puppy home. Utilize a trainer, basic obedience, or puppy kindergarten classes. Use positive reinforcement only-scolding and punishing is not for this breed.”
Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

Consistency Consistency Consistency. Whatever trick or habit you want them to do, be prepared with a treat to reward them the second they do it! I think untrained people are shocked how long the process of dog training takes, but if you will persevere, the rewards will last a lifetime.”
Joel Clark-  Puppyloveshihtzu.com

Question #10:  What are some of the unwanted behavior that a Shih Tzu might display, and what advice do you have for dealing with them?

Two Shih Tzu FightingConsensus:
In general, these little dogs are delightfully clownish companions who can adapt to many different situations, but like any breed, they are prone to a few problem behaviors. The most commonly cited behavior attributed to Shih Tzus was coprophagia, or the eating of feces, usually their own. This can be avoided by giving your dog medication to make their stool unpalatable or by promptly picking up and disposing of any feces. Other unwanted behaviors exhibited by this breed can include chewing, humping, and marking activities.

Best Quotes:

One unwanted behavior is that Shih Tzus can show too much interest in their own feces. Regular pick up of stool can curb this issue. Training and some OTC meds developed to make stools unpalatable will aid in the prevention of this bad habit.”
Marrion Starr-  Starrrme Shih Tzu

Unwanted behaviors can include marking in the house. Both male and female mark, but getting them spayed or neutered early, before six months old, usually keeps that from happening. Another unwanted behavior includes humping on people or other dogs. Humping behaviors after they have been fixed, are a sign they are trying to dominate, not a sexual act. Immediately tell them no and stop the behavior with a distraction.”
Debbie Heuston-  Debbie’s Darlings

Poop eating, (coprophagia) is common in some lines. It is best to pick up waste immediately when you are walking your Shih Tzu. During puppyhood, chewing is also common. Have chew toys available, but do not use rawhides.”
Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

Question #11:  Do Shih Tzus make good travel companions? Why or why not?

Shih Tzu looking majesticConsensus:
 By all accounts, these little dogs make fantastic traveling companions. They are compact, making it easy to bring them along, and they are typically quiet and well-mannered. These are small dogs, however, so they may require more bathroom breaks than their larger counterparts. Due to their snub noses, Shih Tzus are more prone to breathing problems and overheating than other dogs so they should never ride in the cargo area of an airplane and extra caution should be taken when you are traveling through warmer climates.

Best Quotes:

The BEST! They are infinitely patient and hardly ever bark, enduring hours in a kennel cage without complaint.”
Joel Clark-  Puppylovesshihtzu.com

Usually they make good travel companions and love to go with their owners. They are happiest when they are with you. If you are flying, they must be able to fit in a carrier under your seat.”
Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

Shih Tzus are bred to be companions so they love to be with you. They truly enjoy adventure and experiencing new things. Start them off while they are young going on short trips so that they are used to car rides and introduce them to many different sights and sounds. In general, Shih Tzu dogs do great when traveling but you do have to be careful with overheating. The Shih Tzu, being a snub-nosed breed, can overheat easily so they need to be watched carefully when traveling and should never be left in a warm car.”
Monica Cox-  Maple Lane Pups

Excellent— they do not shed and are they are little. Many truckers have purchased a Shih-Tzu pup from me due to their great traveling ability.”
Karen DeAngelo-  Glory Ridge Shih Tzu

Question #12:  Do they have any specific dietary needs or differences from other breeds?

Feeding a Shih TzuConsensus:
 For the most part, any high-quality kibble is suitable for these little dogs, but there are some Shih Tzus who develop allergies which generally manifest as dry, itchy skin or frequent ear infections. The most common food allergens for Shih Tzus are chicken and corn, but any food can become an allergen. If your canine companion shows signs of food allergies, you may want to try an elimination diet to determine which food they are reacting to. Small and toy dogs should be given food with small kibble sizes as larger kibble can become a choking hazard.

Best Quotes:

We always recommend high-quality food for our adults and puppies. Some Shih Tzu can have food allergies. The common ones are Chicken and Corn. If your Shih Tzu is having itchy skin, frequent ear infection any other allergy symptoms try eliminating these two to see if symptoms improve.”
Monica Cox-  Maple Lane Pups

Shih Tzu breed dogs require a smaller bite puppy food as they could choke if you feed them larger bites. They need water 24 -7, but all puppies need water. I wouldn’t feed wet food as that makes puppies poop smell bad.”
Sheila Spink-  Emerald City Shih Tzus

A nutritionally balanced good kibble is fine. A safe chew toy is a given. I often offer my pups whole carrots to chew on or a slice of apple.”
Marion Starr-  Starrme Shih Tzu

Question #13:  What grooming tips do you have?

how to groom a shih tzuConsensus:
 The long, flowing coat of the Shih Tzu is made up of hair rather than fur, and while no dog is fully hypoallergenic, dogs with coats of hair instead of fur are less likely to set off allergies. This unique coat does require daily brushing to prevent tangles and mats from forming and should be trimmed every two to three months. It is particularly important to keep your dog’s hair from irritating their eyes as this breed is prone to developing ulcers on the eyeballs.

Best Quotes:

Shih Tzus have natural long flowing coats that need a lot of care. Daily brushing is a must. Most pets are kept in a puppy cut, which reduces hair care. A good groomer once a month keeps dogs in good shape as long as you brush them in between. Routine ear and eye cleaning is also necessary.”
Marion Starr-  Starrme Shih Tzu

They usually need to be taken to a groomer every four to six weeks to be groomed. I recommend that people get them used to being groomed at home— especially around their faces. This helps to make it easier on the groomers and it’s nicer for the dogs if you can learn to keep their faces cleaned and keep the hair around their eyes combed.”
Lisa McKinney-  Mr. Foo’s Shih Tzu

These are very high maintenance pets. They need to see a groomer every 3 months and brushed daily. This is because their hair is so human-like that it can get matted very similarly to our hair.”
Heidi Johnson-  1980

You will need a wire brush. Keep the hair from their eyes as they can develop eye ulcers if they get scratched by the hair. Eye ulcers can cause your dog to lose their eye. The Shih Tzu breed needs to be groomed professionally every eight to ten weeks. They don’t shed but they need haircuts.”
Sheila Spink-  Emerald City Shih Tzus

Question #14:  What kind of shedding should an owner expect? Any advice?

How Much to Shih Tzu Shed?Consensus:
 Dogs that produce hair rather than fur, like the Shih Tzu, do not shed the same way that many other breeds do, and they drop very little hair. They are more likely to drop more hair when they are transitioning from puppyhood to adulthood and when they are pregnant or nursing. It is important to remember that non-shedding is not the same as hypoallergenic and although this breed is less likely to induce a reaction, it is not a guarantee.

Best Quotes:

The Shih Tzu is not a shedding breed. What this means is they do not have a shedding cycle and the amount of fur they drop is minimal. If the dog is not brushed and kept groomed they are more likely to start dropping some fur. Shih Tzu breed dogs are less likely to cause allergic reactions in people that are allergic however there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog. If a person in the household has broken out in the past from a dog I would get them around a Shih Tzu first before deciding to buy.”
Nancy Lawson-  Hill Family Shih Tzu and The Family Dog Grooming

Not very much shedding at all. They are considered hypoallergenic and have hair instead of fur. You don’t need a roller on hand at all times with this particular breed.”
Stefanie Marie Peacock-  Peacock Shih Tzu Puppies

Minimal to no shedding. You can expect a little bit of shedding when a puppy transitions from their puppy coat to adult coat. This is a good time to put them in a puppy cut or modified cut.”
Lisa Meyer-  Puppies on the Prairie

Shih Tzus are a low shedding breed. They have hair rather than fur and only lose a small amount. Regular grooming, bathing, and brushing will help to keep their coats clean and free from mats. Comb out any mats before you bathe them and use a shampoo and conditioner formulated for long-haired breeds. Fully dry their coat using a blow dryer on cool.”
Monica Cox-  Maple Lane Pups

Question #15:  Can you speak to some of the genetic health concerns associated with Shih Tzus?

Shih Tzu Common Health ProblemsConsensus:
Shih Tzus are fairly healthy little canines, but there are a few health concerns that run in the breed. Like most small breeds, these dogs are more likely to develop patellar luxation, when the knees pop out of place, often aggravated when the dog jumps on or off of furniture. Due to pinched nostrils, these dogs can have difficulty breathing and may snort and snore. Most will grow out of this problem within the first year, but some dogs may require surgery. The eyes of the Shih Tzu are also extremely delicate and can easily become ulcerated or otherwise damaged.

Best Quotes:

There can be problems with knees popping out of place; a lot of jumping on or off furniture can trigger this. Providing steps for your dog is a great preventative measure. Breathing problems associated with pinched nostrils as a puppy is a common issue. Vets may suggest surgery to correct it. In many cases, if you give it a year they will grow and the nostrils will open up.”
Debbie Heuston-  Debbie’s Darlings

All Shih Tzu should be watched for eye problems. The position and genetic makeup of their eyes leads to problems. The best advice I can give to new owners is to check the eyes twice a day and look for any redness in the white of the eye, squinting, watering, discoloration, cloudiness, or indications of pain. Consider eye problems to be an emergency. Stop what you are doing and go to the vet. In the case of a Shih Tzu’s eyes, minutes count. Eye problems for this breed often require instant attention and should be considered an emergency every time.”
Twila Severance-  Divine Design Shih Tzu

The most common are umbilical hernias and stenotic nares. You see this a lot in the breed. It is very common. Really nothing to be worried about either as you can have both easily fixed (if needed) by your vet. The umbilical hernia is a bubble of fatty tissues and liquid that got trapped inside while the umbilical cord was closing. Stenotic nares are when the nostrils are pinched, causing the Shih Tzu to snort and breathe out of their mouth. In most cases, as the pup grows their nose does too, but there are cases when they will need to go in and open those nares surgically.”
Stefanie Marie Peacock-  Peacock Shih Tzu Puppies

They can have genetic eye issues and kidney issues. Most good breeders have done testing on their dogs and know their backgrounds and can tell you if there are any problems with their lines.”
Lisa McKinney-  Mr. Foo’s Shih Tzu