Shih Tzus are sweet, loving little companion dogs. That said, they're not quite perfect. The breed is prone to certain hereditary health problems, as well as some less-than-desirable behavioral traits. Before bringing a Shih Tzu into your home, research the good and the bad about the breed.
Like many dogs with short muzzles, eating and drinking can be difficult and sometimes downright dangerous. Always watch your dog when you feed him, and keep water in flat pans rather than bowls. Clean his face thoroughly after he eats because food particles can get caught in the facial hair. You might have to resort to hand-feeding for both safety and cleanliness.
While most Shih Tzus are good-natured, they can develop some annoying behaviors. Nip these problems in the bud with good, consistent training. While your little friend can be a decent watchdog, he can sometimes go far beyond that role with constant barking. Don't let him become possessive, growling to protect his food and toys from others. Basic obedience training can help the two of you with these issues.
There's no way to sugarcoat it -- Shih Tzus can be hard to housebreak. Patience is surely a virtue when house training your Shih Tzu, along with consistency. While you'll eventually get there, "accidents" may still occur in the future with this breed. You might want to confine your Shih Tzu to certain parts of the house when you aren't home to contain any possible damage, or you could consider crate training.
These little dogs require a lot of grooming. If you can't brush your dog every day or take him to the groomer every month or so, you should probably choose a different breed with lower maintenance requirements. Their ears require regular cleaning to prevent infections.
Like most purebred dogs, the Shih Tzu breed is prone to several specific hereditary ailments. Many Shih Tzus have eye issues, including cataracts; dry eye, due to inadequate tear production; progressive retinal atrophy, which eventually causes complete blindness; and proptosis, in which the eyeball protrudes out its socket with the eyelids behind it. Shih Tzu puppies might be born with renal dysplasia, leading to kidney failure early in life. As with other short-muzzled breeds, respiratory issues may plague them. Shih Tzus, like other small dogs, may experience luxating patellas, or slipped kneecaps. In hot weather, limit your walks and the time the dog spends outdoors. Shih Tzus don't do well in the heat, again because of the short muzzle.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.