Pien Ji Shih Tzu

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Shih Tzu Information

I have tried to put a lot of information here- if you don't see what you are looking for, e-mail me and I will try to add the information!

  • Where to get a pup
  • Feeding
  • Snacks
  • Supplements
  • Water
  • Poop Eating
  • Color
  • Blue & Liver

You would be well advised to buy ONLY from a show breeder. (This is true of ANY pedigreed dog, by the way.) That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But there’s a VERY good reason for it: ALL breeds have genetic problems. In Shih Tzu, while there are several, the problem most to be concerned about is Renal Dysplasia (kidney disease). Some dogs live with it, some show no symptoms, some die of it. A study of RD (Renal Dysplasia) in Shih Tzu found that 85% of Shih Tzu show some effects of kidney disease!  The show breeder knows generations of history behind his dogs.  Your likelihood of getting a sick dog from a show breeder is GREATLY reduced.  Your chance of getting an affected dog goes down so much among show breeders because they are very careful about what they are breeding. They are in this for the long haul, not just breeding pets for money- and they know generations of their dogs' history.   If you hear people say they have had all kinds of problems with purebreds, it is likely their purebreds were from someone who bred their little pet to the one down the road with no knowledge of the genetic backgrounds.   

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to feeding and nutrients. This is an attempt to clarify some of it. I am NOT a nutritionist, but what I have learned I will gladly share with you. This is all accurate TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE. Please use this as the starting point it was meant to be, and explore more on your own.

Why I Am Concerned With Nutrition

I had a Rhodesian Ridgeback that I loved dearly.   Solo died at 15, he had cancer for about five years. It seems to me we are seeing more and more cancer in dogs today.  So what are we doing different?  To me, it seems the major difference is that we are feeding our dogs more crap- chemicals and carcinogens.  So I started looking around for information. I found an EXCELLENT resource: What’s Really in Pet Food   DO take time to read this so you understand where the problem is.

We’re Being Sold a Bill of Goods!!!

Now, having read What’s Really in Dog Food (link above), think about what the dog food industry tells us:

Feeding table-scraps is bad- they won’t get a balanced diet

No doubt we should go on feeding the chemicals and toxins they cook into their product!

When you had dogs growing up, didn’t you feed table scraps? And probably, for the most part, your dogs did fine on that diet. Here’s how I see it- if you aren’t going to take time to find a quality dog food, you’re probably better off using the scraps and just using a good vitamin supplement. At least they’re not all full of toxins and carcinogens!

Be an informed consumer! Read labels!  EXPENSIVE DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN GOOD (though inexpensive usually DOES mean bad!).  No BY-PRODUCTS!

Puppy Food. Do you feed your baby extra high protien baby food when they wean off milk? No- they get all the nutrients they need out of regular food. Puppies DO NOT need puppy food, either. In fact- the high protien can actually deform their legs! Put your puppy on a good, balanced adult food right from the start!

By-products are bad. Meal isn't as bad, but they have to process it at such high heat that it is nutritionally compromised. So if you can find a decent pet food with no meal- bonus! Less poop because they need less because it is more nutritionally dense.

Avoid corn and wheat. These are the highest causes of allergies, and are added to dog food for one reason only- they are CHEAP. They do not provide the nutrition your pup needs.

A really decent food is the Kirkland brand small dog food from Costco. No corn or wheat, and meat is the first ingredient. It is easy to get and a remarkable price for such a good food!

Feed twice (or more) a day if you do not always have food available -I prefer leaving dry always available. Little guys burn energy quickly!

Canned food:  I like giving my Shih Tzu some canned food. I DO NOT like their faces in it!  I spoon-feed from the can right into the little gaping mouths. They love it- it’s funny- their faces stay clean and dry- and I’m not washing a sink load of dishes twice a day.  Again, I make sure to find canned food with no by-products.  It is given more as a treat than a food.

Raw Feed

Mixing/cooking for them yourself can be tempting, but isn’t a good idea unless you REALLY know nutrition. Feed a good quality, balanced dog food. Vitamins are usually included, and you can easily deprive your dogs of something they need in their diet.

There’s a really good program for comparing dog foods on the Innova website. You might want to check it out.


Snacks to Avoid

Grapes (and raisins) are bad for your dog.  They are kidney toxic to dogs.

Onions are toxic in large amounts and not recommended at all. 

Chocolate is bad for dogs. 

Beet pulp in food is suspected to be a cause of red staining on the face.


Good Snacks

Try raw vegetables!  Most Shih Tzu like them.  I get the mixed veggie bags that have broccoli, carrots, and green beans.  They enjoy all of them.   If it’s something tough to chew, be careful until your dogs are used to getting such food. Bob especially likes snap peas- he loves the way they crunch.  Fruits are good- bananas are a real favorite, as are pears, strawberries, and blueberries.  And cranberries are very good for urinary tract health- you can buy bags of crasins at Costco.

Shih Tzu have a tendency to forego chewing and swallow anything they think they can get down- and they are often overly optimistic in this area. Either cut small enough to be swallowed whole, or give them pieces too big to just swallow.

And don't forget yogurt- a good source of digestive enzymes!

A Bit on Supplements

Digestive Enzymes: These are NOT vitamins.  Enzymes aid the body in the processes of digestion. Without enzymes, you would not process the foods you eat or the vitamins you take, because they would not break down in your system. It can be beneficial to add enzymes to increase dietary efficiency. Keep in mind: enzymes are NOT VITAMINS.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Increase immune response, are thought to be beneficial in reducing cancer risks, and likely have positive effects on existing cancers. Available from fish (DON'T feed your dog raw salmon! The blood is VERY toxic to dogs!), flax oil, wheat germ oil, or soybean oil. Many supplements developed for dogs contain Omega 3’s. There is a Brewer's Yeast supplement with Omega 3 and garlic at Walmart- this is what I give mine three times a week, plus Salmon oil for more Omega 3s.   My dogs take it right out of my hand and eat it (nice dogs, but not too bright!).  I ask, "Who wants pills?" and there they all are!

Antioxidants:  These are your cancer fighters.  Primarily vitamins A, C and E.  Make sure your food contains these! 

Get rabbit bottles! Your dog will be much more lovable when you do away with the soggy kisses, and it helps keep the face dry, which will minimize staining.  A damp face is a good place for yeast to grow- if your dog's face smells musty, a damp face is likely the culprit.
Unfortunately, many Shih Tzu are known to do this. There's even a name for it- Coprophagia.  Not charming. Increasing the amount of meat-like substance (canned food or even real meat!) in their diet can help, but there’s nothing better than regular upkeep in their living areas. There are commercial preparations available to put in their food to make the poop taste too crappy (excuse the pun!) to eat- I get mixed reviews on these from people who used them. They didn’t work on my dogs, but try them- if they work for you, it’s an easy fix. Some owners have had success in stopping this behavior by supplementing their dog's diet with one spoonful of canned pineapple, a couple of tablespoons of tomato juice,  or a teaspoon of spinach  (these also are to make the poop taste bad).  Some people advocate feeding Accent (MSG).  I am not a fan of feeding carcinogens to stop unpleasant behavior!  MSG  (monosodium glutamate) is a known carcinogen.   A friend of mine followed her puppy and sprayed the feces with bitter apple- that worked for her and would probably work better than most of the other ideas above, but try them- they're cheap and easy.

My personal joke is:  All Shih Tzu are Gold and White.  This certainly isn't true, as we know, but it is more true than perhaps it should be.  Sophia is a very neutral tan and white- in the horse world, I would have referred to her as being 'Liver Dun.'  There is liver on the registration papers- shouldn't she register as liver and white?  Absolutely not.  Liver, as I found, has nothing to do with coat color and everything to do with SKIN pigment.  All Shih Tzu are either basically black,  liver or blue pointed ('points' being eye rims & nose).   A liver dog has a liver or reddish colored nose, and no black hair anywhere- liver does not support any black pigment.  Sophia is, of course, gold and white.  What else?  For more on how the skin pigment works, see the page on Blues.

Fading: You will see many dogs in the ring that are very light gray or tan and white.  Are they registered as silver and white?  Usually not- usually they are (what else?) gold and white.  We have another neat gene in the breed that fades color (the G series).  What will start out as a darkly colored pup goes light gray in about a year.  It's still gold and white or, perhaps, red and white- and for registration purposes, you can only register the pup as the color it is at the time of registration.   My boy, Bob, started out deep gold and white, now much of the gold has gone a light silver. 

Greying:  This is different from fading.  In fading the color lightens and fades, this gene changes the color to a silver as rich as the original color.  The gene for this is called the Chinchilla gene (CH series).  It will be a while before you know if you have this gene, they can still be close to the normal color at well over a year. 

 Banding: This is a fairly well ignored gene series, I have not found a lot of research on it.  It may just be a variation of the agouti (wolf color- and sable is agouti) gene that provides the lovely black tipping (see below). My boy Bob started dark gold.  Then the hair started coming in light silver.  Right behind that came a band of copper penny color.  His coat just changes color as it grows- all the colored hair at once in bands.  He is registered as gold and white, and as an adult, his gold is more tan, and he has a lot of silver (he also has the fading gene).  The hair behind his ears is still gold, and that is a good place to check for the 'true' color. The banding gene is cool in cut downs- every time they get a haircut, they seem to change color!  

Brindle:  Many people confuse banding and brindle.  They are quite different.  Banding is along the hair shaft- all change color at once.  Brindle is on the skin, the colored areas are in patches of different colored hair.  This can be hard to see in a grown-out coat, as the hairs mix together, but easy to see in a cut-down, whereas with banding, just the opposite is true.  In a cut-down, you are unlikely to see banding in action, but on a long coat, you will see the stripes of different color that have grown out. Smoke is a silver brindle and MUCH prettier as a cut-down.

Blue and liver are about skin pigment, and not hair color, but they are on different genes.  The dog is basically black or liver (the B series), and blue (the D series) modifies either one when present.  Bob and Mun Kee are blues (also referred to as Maltese dilute- it dilutes the base color to a blue gray) over black (vs. liver).  Bob produced a blue over black (Mun Kee) in his first litter.  His SKIN is blue, his coat Gold and White.   In Blues, you have to look really close- they can produce VERY dark gunmetal- to the point that it looks black until you get them up against a true black or out in the sun. They don't explain that on the registration.  When you see a lavender cast to the lips, it's a trigger to look very closely at the color of the nose and eye rims.   There is a lot more about blues and recognizing them on the Blue & Liver tab.

Black Tipping is when all of the colored hairs (not the white) have black tips. This is the normal effect of the agouti (wolf color) gene. This is very dramatic and attractive.  Dark tips on the ears are not black tipping, as the color goes to the root of the hair.  Eye stripes, also are not black tipping- the color goes to the roots.  The dog will always have eye stripes and dark ear tips, even after cutting.  Black tipping is on body hair, and once you cut it, it is gone.  One of the most stunning dogs I have seen was a black mask gold with black tipping.  As it grew, the coat was all gold, but at the ground was this lovely black fringe.  It was so attractive! 


Solid is dominant- so two Partis cannot produce a solid.  Two solids can, however, produce partis, as they may well each carry a recessive parti gene, and can carry that gene for many generations. 

Fading is dominant, so a fading dog with Gg can produce non-fading offspring unless the fading gene is double GG, in which case it will produce only dogs that fade.

Black points are dominant to liver points, so two black pigmented dogs can produce black or liver points, depending on what they carry- BB will look black pointed and produce only black points, Bb will look black pointed, but can produce liver if bred to a liver bb or another dog that carries liver.

Blue dd is recessive, and pops out every now and then.  This happens when your non-dilute dog carries the blue gene Dd.  Non-dilute dogs that do not carry the dilute gene DD will never produce it. 

When you have something pop up in a litter that neither of the parents show, you know that the trait is carried on a recessive gene and that both parents carry the recessive gene.  In the reverse, when you have a dog with an unusual trait that none of it's offspring carry, that is a recessive trait, and since the dog that shows the trait must carry two genes for the trait to show up, 100% of the offspring carry the gene from the dog that has the trait. Line breeding will likely pop the trait out, good or bad.  It is much easier to breed out a dominant trait than a recessive one, as the recessive trait can be carried for generations before it crops up.

Environmental Factors on color- just to confuse things a bit more! A friend of mine had a clear red and white girl grow a band of DARK silver gray- it then went back to red.  It was so odd!  The normal pattern is for the hair to band in colors like Bob did, and keep doing it, or for the body color to fade to gray mixed to some degree with the base color.  Her red is clear- she doesn't seem to have the gene that grays out colors, and she doesn't continue to get color bands. Many people think that environmental factors can trigger color changes. These factors include climate, stress, and diet.  Environmental changes seem to crop out once, then revert to normal. 

So, you see color in Shih Tzu is not an exact science- you just come as close as you can.  It is best to use the birth color, as that is the underlying color, even if it grays out. 

Normal Pigment, Livers & Blues in Shih Tzu

There is a lot of confusion regarding dogs of normal pigment, livers, and blues. For the purpose of this discussion, we are going to concentrate on two gene series- B and D. We are discussing skin pigment, not coat color. The genes in this discussion are NOT determined by coat color, though there definitely is some impact.

B Series

In Shih Tzu, the points (eye rims, nose, lips) are always first controlled by the B series gene. The B series has two color possibilities- Black (B) or no black (b- liver). BB (the homozygous state for black, homozygous meaning two of the same gene) is black points and can only produce black pointed offspring because B is dominant, and all offspring will carry a B (the other side of the gene pair will carry a gene from the other parent). Bb (the heterozygous state) will be black pointed, but can produce either black or liver pointed offspring. bb (again homozygous, but this time for liver) is always liver pointed. The offspring can be liver or black, but ALL will carry b (liver) and be able to produce it.

The skin of the bb, or liver, dog cannot support black pigment. This dog will have a liver nose, varying in intensity from red-tan to chocolate, and there will be no black on either the skin or coat.

D Series

The Dilute (D series) gene modifies the base color- black or liver- with a grayish blue like you see in Russian Blue cats. The dominant side of the gene (D) is actually non-blue-dilute, and does not affect pigment. DD will not have blue-dilute pigment, nor will any of the offspring be blue-dilute. Dd does not affect pigment, but a blue-dilute offspring may be produced. dd is blue-dilute pigmented, and will always pass a blue-dilute gene to offspring, so they will either be blue-dilute or carry it.

B/D Interaction

Here’s where it gets interesting! When you see a dog that is a clear, easily to identify blue, it is likely that the blue-dilute gene is active over liver- one gene pair being bb and another dd. When blue-dilute is active over black points (BB with dd or Bb with dd), it becomes much harder to distinguish. Many people confuse the transmission of blue with that of liver, and think that a blue dog cannot support black pigment, and this is true, to a point. Remember that when you have blue-dilute over black, the black will be diluted to blue. Over good, black pigment, dilution can produce a strong gunmetal color in the hair that is VERY difficult to distinguish from undiluted black, and for all intents and purposes appears black, though you notice it shines blue in the sun!

How Do I Recognize Blue when it is over Black?

This can be a very difficult task! Many a blue with excellent pigment for a blue is mistaken for a normal pigmented dog with poor pigment, and left out of the points for no reason! First, look at the pigment on the lips. In a blue over black, this will take on a lavender tint. When you see this, look CLOSELY at the nose. On a normally dark pigmented dog, the nose will look normal until you really look. There will be a blue-gray cast to the skin on the nose, sometimes so dark that it is difficult to see until you are out in sunlight! (If you are judging inside and in doubt, ask the owner- they should know! Remember blues are legal and no preference should be given for color!) The rims of the eyes will have the same lavender cast. Do not be fooled by eyelashes or eye stripes that look black- they may be a gunmetal color so dark you will not spot it except for the blue shine produced in direct sunlight.

Hopefully this will help clear up some confusion!