Raising a  Shih Tzu Puppy

Congratulations on the purchase of your new puppy!  Over the next few weeks and months, both you and your puppy are going to become very close.  There are a few things you can do to help make the transition from nursery to pampered house puppy easier.

Most of the things I’m going to discuss are basically common sense issues.  There are a few other things we will mention that will be breed-specific tips for Shih Tzus, but in a next post, I’ll tell you all about raising and training German Shepherd puppies.

FOOD
It is important to know what puppy food your breeder is feeding your puppy.  It is imperative that your puppy is on a high-quality puppy food.  (If your puppy is on a high-quality food, it isn’t necessary to supplement the diet with vitamins and minerals.)  A good diet will help to ensure that your puppy will grow strong and healthy.

Most people aren’t aware but Shih Tzu’s tend to be sensitive to soy products.  If your puppy is experiencing puzzling skin conditions, read the ingredient listing on your dog food.  Don’t be surprised if you see soy listed.

TREATS
We view doggy treats like junk food; a couple is fine, but don’t overdo it.  We prefer all natural treats and, on occasion, feed Iam’s Puppy Biscuits.  Again, make sure the ingredients don’t include soy products.

VACCINATIONS
Vaccinations are very important to keep your puppy healthy. I have made a special page dedicated to help educate you on the changing protocols on puppy vaccinations. Read also Teddy’s story how he got attached to and save the life of his puppy dog.

SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS
We know puppies are cute and they are going to cry if you leave them alone, but you must remember most puppies are not housebroken so it wouldn’t be a very good idea to let them sleep in your bed until they earn the privilege.  It would be wise to consider purchasing a pet taxi that will double as a crate to help potty training.  We usually place the pet taxi next to our bed so we can lean down and comfort the puppy throughout the night.

If you are using a pet taxi make sure it’s comfortable with a soft blanket or towel.  Whatever you use, make sure it can be washed.  Also, take into consideration that the towel or blanket isn’t too big for the pet taxi.  A small puppy would have no trouble crawling under something big and get lost.  An approved chew toy would be acceptable to give something for the puppy to do while it’s waiting for your return.  It may take a night or two before the puppy learns not to cry.

POTTY TRAINING
We’ve heard numerous ways on how to housebreak a puppy.  Over the years, we’ve found that the “crate training” method works the best.  Most people don’t know it but puppies can’t “hold it” until they are at least 10 weeks of age.  Frequent potty breaks is a must.  Any time the puppy wakes up from a nap or eats, it should go outside to the same place. That also applies to our German Shepherd puppies, all the same routine!

The puppy will soon get the message quickly.  It also helps to praise, praise, and more praise when they successfully go outside.  We find you make major milestones if you use positive reinforcement instead of playing I’m the master, you the puppy and you got to listen to me.  If you have an older dog, that’s great.  Little puppies want to grow up to be big puppies so they love to emulate their new best friend.  We also find a little bribery now and then don’t hurt.

WEATHER
Since Shih Tzus have short muzzles, they are very sensitive to hot weather.  We find our Shih Tzus don’t particularly care for very hot or very cold weather.  During the summer season, we let them play outside early in the morning and late in the afternoon. If you have a German Shepherd puppy, you can let it play outdoors much longer than a Shih Tsu puppy.

Always make sure you have plenty of water available on hot days.  If it’s very cold outside, make sure you don’t let ice build up between the pads on the feet.  Also, it isn’t a good idea to let your Shih Tzu go on walkways where salt or some other ice melting ingredients have been used.  Make sure you thoroughly wash and dry the feet of your little furbaby if they happen to walk on any de-icing ingredients.

GROOMING
The reason why people tend not to be allergic to Shih Tzus is they have “hair” and not “fur.”  Shih Tzus and cocker spaniels need a daily brushing to keep their hair from matting.  It is wise to invest in a good long-pinned brush like a Chris Christensen Systems (they offer a lifetime guarantee) brush. Shih Tzus and long-haired German Shepherds need to be trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks. Read also this post on how to raise a German Shepherd puppy.

The length of the coat should be dependent on the weather – short for summer, longer for winter.  If you are looking to keep your puppy in the long coat; a clean coat grows faster than a dirty one.

Also, we found that white hair is the fastest growing hair color.  Bathing should be done weekly.  If your dog is greasy or very dirty, we use original Dawn Dish Soap (blue bottle) or a good mild shampoo.  Another benefit we found using Dawn is that fleas hate it!  (I hate using chemicals to control fleas!)  We’ve recommended Dawn to several people who were experiencing flea problems when nothing else seemed to work.  Again and again, we hear their amazed voices telling me the fleas were literally jumping off the dog while bathing!

When you wash your puppy, start with the head and work your way back.  When fleas sense water, they quickly try to hide in the ears.  A good conditioner like Pantene is great for keeping the hair silky soft.  When brushing a dry coat, always spray a little conditioner on the hair to prevent breakage.  Make sure you routinely pull all hair in the ears, squeeze the anal glands, and clip the nails.  We don’t know if it’s a doggy thing, but we find my dogs seem to “strut” on the leash after being groomed.

EYE CARE
Since Shih Tzus and Imperials are considered a “bug-eyed” breed, they have a higher risk of injury to the eye.  Don’t let the hair on the face grow too long to prevent you from easily seeing the eyes.  If you notice any discoloration or a blue hue to the eye, contact your veterinarian immediately.   The sooner you start treating the eye problem, the better results you get.  An infected eye can easily lead to blindness.  Also, tearing and staining seem to affect the bug-eyed breeds.  We found, quite by accident, a possible way to reduce or eliminate tearing.  One 400 mg Folic Acid pill daily seems to reduce or totally eliminate tearing problems. You can find this diet supplement at Wal-Mart.

There are many good books on the market today concerning grooming and training to help you better understand your breed. Check also the website of the American Shih Tzu Club. 
Good luck on raising your puppy – your new best friend!