This breed needs exercise, but not much more than a daily walk around the neighborhood, or a run though the park. It can even be suitably energized with fetching games inside when the weather does not permit outdoor activities. This is a walking dog rather than a jogging dog, but owing to its size, it can also make an enjoyable biking companion, given a comfortable bike basket from which to settle in to catch the wind in its face. Because of its short muzzle, the Shih Tzu cannot tolerate high temperatures.
Another consideration regarding its nose is the tendency for water to get into the nostrils. Some owners use water bottles (the sort used for small cage animals) for their Shih Tzu to avoid this problem. This dog gets along better as an indoor dog rather than an outdoor dog. This arrangement is highly recommended, in fact. This is not only to protect your dog from temperatures, but because the hair tends to get dirty and matted as it grows.
The plush coat requires combing or brushing on alternate days, everyday if it is kept at show length. It is essential to teach puppies to accept grooming while young so that they look forward to this activity with you. Make no mistake, if you choose to grow the hair long on your Shih Tzu, you will need to commit yourself to an intense grooming schedule; the hair can get out of hand quickly. Some owners who do not plan to show their Shih Tzu, but have the breed for companionship only, will choose to keep their pet in a teddy bear cut, or an abbreviated long style that is easier to manage.
Another option is to keep the tail, ears and “beard” long, with the feet fluffy, and the rest of the hair on the body trimmed to an inch or shorter, or to keep the hair on the undercarriage long so that it blends with the legs, giving the hair the appearance of a skirt. Whatever cut is chosen, the hair around the eyes should be kept trimmed to avoid mishaps or gunk build-up, but just long enough to keep dust from blowing into the eyes.
Another reason to keep your Shih Tzu inside is that it has a tendency to bark, sometimes for long stretches of time. Even if it is kept indoors, this breed will bark frequently, at anyone, or anything, going by. It gets bored when it is alone, and this explains its behavior to some degree, but keep in mind that the Shih Tzu was bred as a palace watchdog, and it will continue to carry that instinct if it is from a pure line. This quality makes it a particularly good choice for an alarm system, but maybe not a good option for someone who lives in an apartment and is at work all day — although there are solutions for this type of situation. When the dog is with people it can be distracted from barking as much, but this trait must be expected and appreciated, rather than taken as an annoyance that must be trained out of the Shih Tzu. Rather than punishing the barking behavior, find response words that will work quickly to quiet your dog, or distractions that can be depended on to draw its attention away from what is going on outside the window or door.