Before taking a close look at the Shih Tzu temperament it only make sense to have a general understanding of the Shih Tzu breed. The Shih Tzu is a very small size dog that was bred in Tibet as a lap dog and for royal companionship in ancient china. However the Shih Tzu can now be seen participating in agility competition and dog sports.
The Shih Tzu is a purebred that is recognized by kennel clubs such as the American kennel club (AKC). It weighs between 4-7.5 grams and 8-11 inches tall for both the male and female; life span of 10-16 years. The Shih Tzu has a long flowing double coat consisting of a long silky top coat and a feathery under coat that will simply not stop growing. The Shih Tzu coat grows very quickly flowing all the way to the floor and if not brushed regularly it will easily tangle. A show dog Shih Tzu must keep the flowing long coat and may only be trimmed for neatness otherwise the coat may be cut short which is popularly referred to as a puppy cut.
According to the AKC, the Shih Tzu comes in a wide variety of coat colors and markings. Coat colors include black, blue, brindle, gold, liver, red, silver and white. Markings include black, white and tan markings.
The Shih Tzu is an ideal breed for apartment living and perfect for the first time dog owner. It does not fall into the category of the low sensitive breeds which means that the Shih Tzu may sometimes react to it environment in similar circumstances where a thick skinned, low sensitive breed may over look or tolerate. The Shih Tzu also does not do very well when left to himself and may quickly show signs of separation such as excessive chewing, barking etc.
The Shih Tzu is not an easy breed to groom and may require the skills of a professional groomer. It also has the tendency to gain weight if its appetite is given free reins. While it is not uncommon for dogs to eat feces (both theirs and of other dogs), the Shih Tzu appears to be prone to this behavior and therefore should be watched to ensure that this tendency does not develop into a habit.
The Shih Tzu is also not among the easiest dog breed to train and are particularly difficult to house break. The Shih Tzu will require a consistent and dedicated attention in order to produce the well trained dog. It is however an intelligent breed with a high tendency to chew/bite on things and a high prey-drive which makes it difficult for the really smaller animals to stay within the reach of the Shih Tzu. When it comes to barking, the Shih Tzu tends to vocalize above the average which makes the breed an excellent watch dog.
A good understanding of the temperament of dogs holds a lot of benefits for dog owners and breeders alike. It provides an insight into the dog’s behavior, its strength and weaknesses. A sound understanding of the temperament of dogs such as the Shih Tzu will help dog owners in making the right decision regarding the suitability of the breed for the intended owner.
Understanding of a dog’s temperament will help to answer questions such as: will the dog’s temperament be suitable for a family with young children? How about an older person? Will the dog’s temperament make it easier for the owner to train or will it require a more experience handler? Will the dog’s temperament make it possible to serve the owner’s intended purpose and provide its owner some measure of joy and comfort or will it become a burden? Such questions and much more can be resolved by a sound understanding of a dog’s temperament.
The most prominent aspects of a dog’s temperament include: friendliness, aggressiveness, shyness, instinct for self preservation when faced with danger, protectiveness of its territory and toward its owner.
But what exactly is temperament? There are various definitions of temperament viewed from different angles, some of which include:
“The sum total of all inborn and acquired physical and mental traits and talents which determines, forms and regulates behavior in the environment”
“The general attitude a dog has towards other animals and people.”
“Temperament is inherited but can be modified or enhanced by the environment.”
“The dog’s suitability for a specific task or function; there is no good or bad temperaments, only suitable and unsuitable ones.”
“The physical and mental characteristics of an individual dog, made evident through its reaction to stimuli in its environment.”
From the above definitions it can be said that a dog’s temperament is:
- Primarily a function of the dog’s genetic makeup.
- That the temperament is inherited and therefore fixed at the moment of conception and cannot be altered, eliminated or transformed to another type during the lifetime of the dog.
- Socialization, environment and training can help to modify the expression of a dog’s temperament but they cannot change nor eliminate it. A dog cannot be separated from the temperament with which it was born and will die with it.
Temperament can be broadly classified in to 2 groups: sound and unsound temperament. Therefore a dog can either have a sound or unsound temperament.
Sound temperament: a dog with this type of temperament is self assertive and confident. He is so sure of himself and investigates what he is unsure of. He is self assertive and handles his environment without fear. His general approach to his environment is investigative, assertive and curious. If he is startled by his environment, he recovers quickly from the fright. Perhaps the most challenging traits of a dog of sound temperament are dominance and independence.
These wonderful traits of a dog with a sound temperament makes him an excellent pet and a great worker when under the management of a firm and secure pack leader; however if left unchecked, these traits can easily lead to serious management problems. It therefore becomes evident that a dog of sound temperament will thrive better in the hands of a secure and assertive pack leader.
Unsound temperament: a dog of unsound temperament does not exhibit any of the traits of a dog with sound temperament such as calmness, self assertive, dominance, independence, confidence and non-fearful behavior. A dog of unsound temperament will exhibit the following traits: submissiveness, shyness, over aggressiveness, hyperactive and temperamental.
Every individual dog will either be of a sound or unsound temperament or a mix of both temperaments. This mean that every individual dog will fall into one of the 3 groups based on the 2 broad classifications of the temperaments of dogs.
In the first group are the dogs of sound temperament which are generally referred to as the Alpha dogs or front line dogs. These dogs naturally want to provide leadership for the pack which including their handlers. These dogs exhibits independence of mind, dominance, over protectiveness, pushy, extremely smart and will refuse to be led by anyone that is perceived to be weaker minded than they are.
In extreme situations they may exhibit aggression towards other dogs and humans because in their own perception as the self anointed pack leader, the survival of the pack depends on them. Without strong leadership these dogs are too willing to step in and provide leadership both for other dogs and humans. To provide leadership for these dogs, you must earn their trust and respect. The size of the dog has nothing to do with the temperament of the dog, from the small sized Chihuahua and the Shih Tzu to the large sized Rottweiler and German shepherd the same attitude of the sound temperament are exhibited. The toy sized Shih Tzu of sound temperament will rule the extra large dog and their human counterpart because the power is in the mind and not in the size of the body.
In the next group are the dogs with a mix of both the sound and unsound temperament. These dogs exhibit the traits of both the sound and unsound temperaments. For instance they do not have a natural tendency to lead but in the hands of a weak human handler, they will easily step in and take leadership of the pack. These dogs are referred to as ‘middle of the line dogs’ and are the easiest to train.
Without firm leadership they can easily become stressed, anxious, over excited or bored resulting in hyperactive and temperamental behaviors or even outright aggressive and destructive behaviors.
In the last group are the dogs of unsound temperament which can be referred to as ‘back of the line dogs’. These dogs exhibit all the traits of the unsound temperament such as nervousness, timidity, shyness and fearfulness. These cautious and sensitive dogs can easily be stressed out if they do not get assurance that a secure and assertive pack leader is in charge. They will not step in to take leadership because they do not feel that they have what it takes to lead the pack.
Easily seen traits of this group include alarm barking, fear aggression, shyness and submissive urinating.
Shih Tzu temperament
The Shih Tzu was primarily bred for companionship and as a house pet. This means that the Shih Tzu temperament must enable him to adequately fill this role; by this the temperament of Shih Tzu must be friendly, affectionate, lively, gentle, happy, playful, active, outgoing, trusting towards adult, kids and even strangers. However this lovely toy breed also referred to as the lion dog packs additional traits that makes the Shih Tzu temperament a delight and a source of joy to its owner.
The Shih Tzu is clever, loyal, devoted, intelligent, courageous (or even out rightly spunky) and its alertness makes this breed a good watch dog even though it was not bred for this purpose. Also locked within the Shih Tzu temperament is its love for personal attention and unsurprisingly its demand for it if he is given the free reins.
The temperament of the Shih Tzu shares a similarity with the Siberian husky: their friendliness toward everybody including strangers and intruders.