Welcome to Lhasa and Shih Tzu Mania! Your independent resource for breed history, behavior, and training information! I hope that the articles posted will be of help to you if you Live-with-a-Lhasa or Share-Space-with-a-Shih-Tzu! When I make reference to appearance and disposition of these breeds, I have the American Kennel Club (AKC) Breed Standards in mind...read them at the bottom of the page here. When I am speaking from opinion, I will be sure to make this clear, to distinguish more BLOG-like/anectdotal content from reports on research and facts. FOR THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT UNDERSIZED/DWARF DOGS--SEE OUR INFORMATIVE ARTICLE--CLICK HERE! The Tibetan Lhasa Apsos is one of the original forms of domesticated dogs in the world! This can be seen in many individuals that have almond-shaped eyes and a wary disposition...I've found that more than 50% of Lhasas (usually males) will howl very authentically when lonely! Both males and females, whether they "Rooo" or not are extremely responsive to recordings of Wolf vocalizations, responding 100% correctly to the kind of call heard. I consider this breed the Graduate-Level Course in Dog Ownership and Cohabitation. In short, this breed is NOT for everyone...they can be clingy with one Chosen Person if spoiled, stubborn and independent unless trained with their special intelligence in mind. They can learn the Wrong Trick just as easily as the Right Trick: begging and over-protectiveness are frequent complaints from novice owners. See my article about aggression for some more details.
Gifts of Lhasas were sent from the Dahli Lamas to Chinese Emperors. The Chinese eunuchs in charge of the palace breeding kennels crossed these wild-type guard dogs with the petite and hilarious Pekingese...voila, the Shih Tzu was born! Sense of humor and physical hardiness resulted. The Shih Tzu is a Real PET critter that is compatible with many types of people and other animals. Tiny bladders and colons in 'Tzus at the lower end of the Breed Standard (9 pounds) can delay house training somewhat; some dwarf dogs may never develop full control. Unscrupulous breeders increasingly market dwarf Shih Tzu puppies as "special", but this is a practice that reputable programs decry...any male or female less than 9 pounds, or showing obvious signs of dwarfism should not be used for breeding, and certainly should not be sold at an inflated cost!
Because these breeds are related, health concerns overlap somewhat, specifically in relation to kidney, heart, vision and spinal cord problems.
Both Lhasa and Shih Tzu pups are enthusiastic CHEWERS...they require toys that are well-contructed and checked often to make sure they are not torn or leaking stuffing. Large rawhide, rope toys and cow hooves are favorites...all edible chew items should be discarded once they wear down to not less than 2 inches! Teething puppies and dogs with separation anxiety may appreciate chew toys that have been refrigerated or frozen ahead of time. Please note: "pressed" rawhide products are only produced overseas (and may not be safe to consume)...for an expanded discussion about chews and treats, visit our Puppy Info Page.
I have recently had an experience with what I personally feel is thimerosal-related immunoneurologic breakdown (mercury vaccinosis) in a Lhasa pup that was terrifically Intelligent and developmentally Normal until after he was routinely vaccinated against rabies. This situation is very hard to establish clinically (symptoms and onset vary), but has lately been gaining more attention in regard to both human and veterinary medicine...pet owners and professionals need to be more committed to reporting adverse health events that seem closely related to the Timing of vaccinations. I do urge all Lhasa and Shih Tzu owners (as well as all pet caregivers in general) to discuss the availability of thimerosal-free rabies vaccine with their veterinary office of choice.
Since vaccines are known to help control and prevent disease and death, we do need to keep using them sensibly as part of our pet care routines, but other solutions need to be considered and implemented. See "Five's Story".
If you are confused about what to do with your pet's diet and wellness care, talk to someone online who cares and can give you reliable information:
Research is an important way to help your furry companions...BUT please consult qualified medical professionals for every case of disease prevention and treatment! These articles are NOT a replacement for your veterinarian's advice and services.
What is the Difference Between a Shih Tzu and a Lhasa Apso???
The Tibetan Lhasa Apso is one of the oldest breeds of domesticated dogs in the world...genetic research has traced their development to well before the Bronze Age! Shih Tzu DNA has been verified as related to the Lhasa genetic heritage, putting a large part of their history finally to rest (Lhasas, 'Tzus and Pekes are all confirmed genetic relatives of wild wolves).
Anyone living with both breeds can tell you they are very similar in many ways, but they do have fundamental and individual characteristics that good breeders work hard to maintain...be sure you have selected the right match for you!
Lhasas still retain much of their wild heritage: they are muscular, athletic, instinctively wary of strangers, bond closely with other dogs they are raised with, and misread many common human behaviors as either "prey" or "aggression". They make snap decisions, can be quick on the defense, and may temporarily freak out if features in their "territory" are moved without their knowledge (like trash cans or furniture!). Experience is needed to smoothly guide young members of this breed through all the unpredictable side effects of humanity's presence. There are few young children who are compatible with this breed. Although some pups are born ready and willing to be patient with novice humans and youngsters, most are happiest living with someone who already speaks fluid Canid and keeps a peaceful environment. Prone to independent thinking, a collar and leash are a must outdoors. Their intelligence can defeat fences and the like, so they should not be put outside unattended.
That being said, Lhasas can be very cuddly and sweet when they feel comfortable and safe...they can learn to look forward to grooming, and many mimic human embraces: prefering to "kiss" as equals with the lips (instead of slurping submissively with the tongue). Once accustomed to the habits of their people, they make excellent house pets for many many years. Lhasas from good genetic stock should aspire to a 15+ year lifespan.
Size at maturity can vary, some "wolfier" males can be quite a bit larger than proper show dogs (even exceeding 20 pounds in careless breeders' hands), but most males sold as pets average 15-17 pounds; females should remain around 13 pounds, and have a softer, "girly" shape and aspect.
The Shih Tzu comes to us courtesy of the ancient royal palaces of Tibet and China. Gifts of Lhasas were sent to China and mixed with the diminutive Pekingese. Special eunuchs in charge of the care and breeding of royal dogs kept exhaustive records. It behooves breeders to follow their example, and give great care to their blood lines!! Serious health problems can result from casual crosses.
The proper Shih Tzu is above all a Loving Clown!! Although some individuals can show the pushiness of the Lhasa, these compact friends can cuddle for hours on end without feeling the urge to take advantage. Since they've been physically miniaturized even further, they can have specific environmental needs...high heat and humidity can be deadly. It is easy to overfeed and overindulge with treats, but a dog that is even 2 pounds overweight can be at high risk of not achieving its full lifespan potential (20 years is not unreasonable!). Since they're only thinking about fun, fun, fun, a collar and leash (or a harness and leash for those with breathing problems) must be used outdoors to prevent loss or accident.
Males may reach 16 pounds, and females can be as small as 9 pounds.
Since they are relatives, these dogs can look similar (especially if they have been mixed)...for the official American Kennel Club breed standards on appearance, visit Potala Palace Dogs.
Lhasa pups are born with "smushy" faces and grow their boxy snouts as they mature...you really need to know who the parents are to know what he'll end up looking like, and to know how he might behave! It is a Bad Idea to purchase a puppy unless you can visit the family that raised it.
What is a Tiny, Mini, Teacup, Stained Glass, Fist, Sleeve, Imperial, Dwarf Shih Tzu???
Shih Tzu pups can be born with genetic dwarfism...this is NOT rare or special or desirable! There is no such thing as an Imperial, Stained Glass, Mini, Fist, or other "cute name" Shih Tzu...these are fanciful names adopted by breeders who are not well-acquainted with the true history of the breed, and who have jumped (often unwittingly, but sometimes intentionally) onto a popular marketing bandwagon. Dwarf dogs are disqualified in the AKC show ring and can carry many other health problems (skull, brain, joint, nostril, heart and kidney defects, just to name a few). No Shih Tzu under 9 pounds should be used for breeding...quality breed lovers do all they can to eliminate aberrant dwarf genes from their breeding lines, and never charge higher prices for dwarf pups than for normal pet dogs (they should therefore NEVER cost more than show-quality pups!). The deliberate propagation of dwarf genes is a certain risk for the future of the Shih Tzu breed as it was intended. Unfortunately, Lhasas are now becoming victims of this kind of under-sized propagation and marketing.
How Long Can a Dwarf Shih Tzu Hold its Bladder???
An adult Shih Tzu weighing only 8 pounds is considered a dwarf...undersized dogs can have problems with many body systems, including their bladder and bowel capacity. Puppies may need to urinate every 15-30 minutes during all growth phases...and they may need to be taken outside once or twice overnight up to the age of two years! Adult dwarves may need to relieve themselves as soon as 45 minutes after a meal, and as often as every 1 1/2 hours during normal waking hours. They may be able to "hold it" for up to 6 hours overnight once full frame size has been achieved (and if the kidneys are healthy enough to run at a "Maintenance" level), but many wear "pants" overnight just in case.
These are guidelines, so an individual may have more or less control, depending on their overall kidney health, diet, bladder tone and sensitivity of bladder muscle nerves.
If you have questions about an undersized dog in your care, please ask them now:
One of our favorite wolfie Lhasa Apso friends...muscular, confident, attentive, intelligent, direct, thoughtful, snow-loving and camera-ready! If you earn their respect, these dogs are delightful and devoted.
Do Lhasas and Shih Tzus Shed????
The simple and quick answer anytime someone comes to me looking for a "no-shed puppy" is this: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A NO-SHED ANIMAL OF ANY KIND!!
Unless a critter has absolutely NO active hair follicles, it will shed its fur a bit at a time every day, and the entire coat several times a year. The texture and other characters of an individual coat will determine what this shedding experience is like for any one housekeeper.
If a "breeder" advertises that their lines do not shed, this is a marketing scam that should send you running for the hills! Only bonafide Hairless dogs do not shed.
While Lhasa fur tends to be more like a people-hair weight, and can ball up on carpet if not brushed clean every day, Shih Tzu undercoat--according to the breed standard--should be plentiful and plush. I equate it to Persian or Himalayan cat fur: fly-away and a bit sticky.
I have included some grooming tips below that apply to both coat types, but in my experience, both of these dogs are really happy when kept in a shorter style that better accomodates their free-wheeling energy! Most People find short styles more convenient as well.
Finding a qualified groomer who is precise and patient with these breeds can be difficult in some areas...your veterinary office, local shelter or breed club may have a directory of recommended professionals you can interview.
NEVER drop your pet off at a facility:
That you were not invited to tour ahead of time during normal operating hours,
That is excessively Noisy (many dogs do bark when excited or confined, but this sound should be happy and alert, not desperate and hoarse),
That doesn't tell you a definite time to confirm pick-up (a pretty good indication that they overbook!),
That smells sour, or appears dirty in any way (there may be a bit of a Wet Doggie undertone, but a well-ventilated and cleaned shop will not be humid or dank).
Grooming Tips for Lhasa and Shih Tzu Owners!
Many new puppy owners want to try their hand at keeping a long and lusterous coat. The Shih Tzu, when bred to adhere to the AKC standard, possesses a double coat consisting of a straight over coat and a super-plush undercoat. It can take some time to get the "hang" of how to handle this specialized hair! Lhasas have somewhat easier hair to manage...it is more the consistency of "people" hair, but should still have a thick undercoat.
The most important thing I can tell you is: Do NOT ever brush or comb this hair while it is dry! Like a very young child's hair, both these hair types on this breed are very fragile and prone to breakage and splitting when handled dry, and with rough equipment. You will need a conditioning spray labelled for daily use.
If the hair fluffs out with static-electricity...it is TOO dry to continue.
You will need a brush with loose pins (with rounded tips) on a soft cushion. Some may be comfortable using a "slicker" style brush, but care must be taken with the soft fur and skin. Choose a slicker that is meant for use on long-haired cat breeds.
A double-sided comb will help tease out tangles and shed hairs after an initial brushing to distribute the coat conditioner.
When you "hit" a snag of knotted or shed hair, gently back up to tease it loose (or trim it out).
You can also cruise your local library for books about dog grooming that have photos to help with your technique. You basically start at the back and work forward in small pieces...just like styling very long hair on a pre-teen girl!
A very active pup with long hair may require twice-daily touch ups.
One final note: at about 9 months of age, the entire undercoat will begin to shed out! Many folks choose this time to begin taking their Lhasa or Shih Tzu for regular maintenance at a professional groomer's shop. Make sure that you look for someone now who can provide you with references that you can check to make sure they are familiar with these breeds and humane in their handling techniques.
Anal Sac Information
Mammals have what are considered vestigial scent glands on either side (about 10 & 2 o'clock) inside the rectum...in dogs we call these Anal Sacs.
Inside these sacs a stinky (old-fishy smell) fluid is stored...its purpose is thought to be individualized scent marking of stool. When functioning normally, they squeeze out the fluid during a BM. It is also possible for the glands to express during a time of extreme fear or surprise.
Dogs in general, and Lhasa/Shih Tzus in particular, have difficulty with either NOT being able to express the fluid (it builds up and can become infected), or with (less commonly) fluid leaking or expressing inappropriately, such as during sleep.
To find out what to do if your pet has a problem, please speak to someone who is experienced and caring:
Swollen Ear Flap/Pillow Ear/Ear Hematoma
An ear flap hematoma can be thought of as a giant blood-blister inside the ear flap. It is usually caused by a lot of head shaking or ear scratching...infection of the deeper ear canal is the most common original cause, with generalized allergies a close second. It is also possible that another condition that interferes with blood clotting or blood vessel integrity could be involved.
To find out more about this condition and what to do about it, please ask an expert:
Ear Care Tips:
1) Keep hairs growing around and out of the ear canal opening trimmed short.
2) DO NOT pluck or pull hairs out of the ear opening...this can damage sensitive skin cells and increase susceptibility to inflammation!
3) Use a gentle ear cleaner...your vet's office will be able to give you the name of the best brand available in your area.
4) Consult your vet immediately if your pet scratches too much, cries while scratching or has evidence of a yucky odor or discharge from the ear canal.
Back in 1988, when I graduated from Douglass College (Rutgers University) with a B.A. in Neurophysiology and Behavior, we had ONE brain physiology textbook!
This was a pretty big volume, but had many blank pages with just a brief note that not much was known about this-or-that part of the human (or animal) brain.
A good great deal has changed since then!
Pet owners can even consult with specialists in Veterinary Neurology when their general practicioners confront brain conditions that resist definition and/or treatment.
Although we still have practical limitations (new conditions are being described all the time), there is a lot more that we can do for our pets when they suffer from injuries, organ dysfunction and autoimmune problems that adversely affect brain function.