Shih Tzus have a noble history. Originating in monasteries, their name translates to little lion dog, and is pronounced shee-tzoo. Their true origins are a mystery, but it is thought that they come from Tibet, like their counterpart, the Lhasa Apso.
Both dogs were bred to resemble the guardian lions of China, and were guard dogs for the monastery.
This misunderstanding of their background can lead people to expect a harmless lap dog when in fact the Shih Tzu is a guard dog, and should be trained as such. Their long hair was meant to help keep them warm during long Tibetan winters, and they can be as aggressive as a larger breed since they were also bred for protection. This misunderstanding can cause unfortunate problems, due to the inherent aggressiveness of the breed. However, if treated and trained correctly, the Shih Tzu can be a loving and wonderful companion dog.
Shih Tzu Puppies
Shih Tzus are some of the cutest, clumsiest puppies of all the breeds. During their chrysanthemum stage, when they are first getting their hair and look like a little explosion of fluff, makes for some adorable puppies. It's important to remember that they are still guard animals, regardless of their appeal. Keep a firm hand when training them. Given an inch, they will take a mile. A Shih Tzu is not an animal to take lightly.
However, they are extremely receptive to training and are even excellent search and rescue dogs. They are very dedicated to their owners and usually bond with one person over the rest of the family. Be sure to temper this behavior as it can lead to biting and aggression if it is not stopped early. Their stubbornness can also mean they are not an easy breed to house train.
Shih Tzus need to be brushed daily because of their long hair, unless you frequently get their coat buzzed. They should visit the groomer's at least once per month. They also need a lot of exercise and attention to keep them from getting bored and developing behavioral problems. Remember that Shih Tzus are not traditionally lap dogs and should be treated the same way you would treat a much larger breed.
Teacup Shih Tzu Puppies
The teacup Shih Tzu is also known as the Chinese Imperial. Unlike many other teacup varieties, the Chinese Imperial has the same lifespan as its breed standard counterpart. However, this is not a breed standard dog and breeding these animals so small is looked at as an unscrupulous tactic from breeders looking to make money. It is probably for the best if you stick to a breed standard dog, as teacup varieties can often have serious health problems. The puppies usually have to be birthed by Caesarian section because the mother is too small to give birth in the natural way. A healthy pet is something we all want, and contributing to the breeding of 'teacup' varieties does nothing to help this cause. Although the puppies can be disarmingly cute, there's no replacement for having a dog in good health or supporting ethical breeding practices.
Buying and Adopting a Puppy
Remember to take your brand new pup to the vet to check for possible health problems as soon as you bring it home. As always, do your research and make sure you are buying from a reputable breeder. If you absolutely must buy your puppy, there are channels you can go through to vet a potential breeder. Avoiding puppy mills is a good way to ensure a healthy animal and know that you are not contributing to the proliferation of mills. Doing your research before you buy will prevent a lot of heartbreak in the end.
The alternative to buying a puppy is to adopt one from a local shelter or Shih Tzu rescue. Often, people need to surrender their pets for one reason or another, and adoption helps give a dog a new lease on life. Additionally, it can be much less expensive to adopt a dog, and you'll be able to see whether your personalities mesh because a dog is already old enough to have been trained. If you don't absolutely need a puppy or a young dog, consider adopting a senior and giving it a comfortable home for its last few years. Adopting a senior dog can be fulfilling for both human and dog, giving them both a wonderful time to share together. However, if you must have a puppy, you can find them at rescues too. Sometimes, disreputable breeders will drop off their puppies that have passed the cute 'sell-by' date. Regardless, they are still little Shih Tzus, and you can adopt one to give it a forever home.