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Monday, April 23, 2012

Shih Tzu Dogs: Starr and Bandit

Shih Tzus

The American Kennel Club breed standard gives the following description of the Shih Tzu breed as a “sturdy, lively, alert toy dog.”  Other attributes described include “a highly valued, prized companion, proud of bearing, with a distinctively arrogant carriage.” Originally from China and Tibet, the breed was bred to be companion dogs.

They do most certainly have an arrogant carriage.  In fact, my two Shih Tzus are almost snobbish at times, ignoring me when they choose, and equally demanding, depending on their desires.  They are affectionate, happy, friendly and with most people, trusting.

If the luxuriously soft double coat of hair is left to grow long, the owner can expect to spend many hours grooming the animal.  Most owners, however, if not desiring to use the creatures as show dogs, are content to keep the coats kept at “puppy length”, with very good results.

Color-wise, the Shih Tzu can be several different colors: white with black, gold, silver, or chocolate markings, but also may be solid in color, ranging from deep black, red, or charcoal gray to pale silver or gold.  My two Shih Tzus are white, with gray, tan and just a touch of black around the eyes and ears.

Shih Tzu dogs were developed with one purpose in mind: to be a companion.  And they are very good at it, too. They take their jobs very seriously.  They make good watch dogs, with excited barking when a stranger comes to the door.  They will make low growling noises if the visitor is not someone they trust, but they are not a vicious breed, and are easily won over by treats or a non-threatening pat on the head.

They love to be pampered.  My two dog, Starr and Bandit, love to have their tummies scratched, and will jump up on my lap or chair, and roll onto their backs, presenting their tummies for a massage.  They are very affectionate, and love to give their owners tongue baths. 

They enjoy constant attention.  Starr and Bandit follow me everywhere around our home, and while I am at work, they sit by the front door and wait patiently until I return, even if I am gone far into the night.

They do not like rules.  They have short attention spans and very selective short memories.  Housetraining is an almost insurmountable challenge to Shih Tzu owners.  They can be trained to use newspapers or pads much easier than they can be trained to go outside.  They will even disobey on purpose if they are not happy with you for some reason.

I got two dogs (both from the same litter) for a reason: to keep each other company while I am working away from home.  Shih Tzu dogs do not like being left alone.  Having two of them is quite entertaining, as they play like puppies, and frolic around the house, making adorable little fake growling noises and  high pitched whines at each other while they are wrestling.

Don’t expect Shih Tzu dogs to do chores, or regular “exercises”.  They get plenty of exercise during their play.  They are not good candidates for obedience school, because they will invariably misbehave during class and if anyone laughs, the dogs feel rewarded, and will remember to do that particular trick the next time they are “performing” for a group.  They are natural-born entertainers.

You don’t train Shih Tzus..Shih Tzus train you.  You will soon learn several things to remember when dealing with your dogs.  Flexibility and compromise are very important.  Your dog may follow your rules for a short time, but only as long as the reward is satisfactory to them.  It all depends on how much your dog wants the payoff at the end of the exercise.

You must exercise firm kindness and always keep a good sense of humor. These dogs are the family clowns.  Their adorable little faces with big black eyes and expressive features will make you laugh just to look at them.  They love to sit or lay on your lap or at least by your feet.  If I want to take a nap in my recliner, I am certain to have both dogs lying on my lap or my feet and taking naps with me.  The warmth of their little bodies is usually quite welcome to me.

As I sit here typing this article, I have Starr sleeping on the floor by my feet, and Bandit is lying across my lap, with her little head resting on my left forearm.  She is quite content to stay that way as long as I am content to leave her there.  Sometimes I do see a little jealousy between the two dogs, who both want to be on my lap at the same time.  At those times, I must be firm and stop their quarrels at once.

They are small dogs, standing 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulders, and weigh approximately 10 pounds.  They are good with my grandkids, and with most people. They usually live between 12 and 14 years.  They love to run free, but need to be kept on a leash to prevent them from chasing and running in front of cars.  They do tend to jump up on people if not trained that this is not acceptable, and even then, in their excitement they sometimes forget.

I love my Shih Tzus, and don’t know what I’d do without them.
I hope to write future articles about each of my two little doggy clowns. 

Do you have a favorite breed of dog or cat?  I’d love to hear about them.


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