The name Shih Tzu means “little lion,” but these love bugs are anything but fierce and ferocious. This breed is one of the best all-around breeds: they can live in any sized home, get along well with other pets, are excellent for families, single people and make ideal companions for the elderly; they are generally well behaved, are fairly easy to train and are cute as little buttons with their unique underbite. Shih Tzu owners love this quote by American composer James Mumsford, which they think accurately depicts the Shih Tzu, “... a dash of lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old man, a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of monkey, one part baby seal, (and) a dash of teddy bear.”
Shih Tzus are lap dogs and are by no means active, outdoorsy dogs. A simple walk around the block and some romping time in the yard or at the park are enough to meet their daily exercise requirements. They much prefer clowning around the house or curling up on a lap to a rigorous cardio workout. Their size makes them ideal for apartments and condominiums, but they can be just as happy in sprawling estates.
Shih Tzus can be a handful to train, but once they realize there are rewards involved, generally come around rather quickly. They can stubborn and won't do anything unless they know what's in it for them. Training should begin early, sessions should be kept short, and activities should be varied in order to keep the dog interested in what is going on. Lots of excited praise and treats can help motivate a Shih Tzu to learn new behavior.
Housebreaking a Shih Tzu can take six to eight months, or longer depending on the dog. Crate training can help speed the process, but some owners prefer the breeder housebreak the dog before bringing him home.
Shih Tzus make excellent watchdogs. They are alert, vigilant and will reliably bark when someone approaches his house. If not properly trained, however, a Shih Tzu's barking can quickly get out of hand. Training must include lessons on obeying commands to cease barking.