Picking the best dog food for your shih tzu

1 Mar

The first time I walked into a local pet store to find a dog food brand, I saw three aisles of different dog foods from dry food to canned. I didn’t know where to start and what to choose since all the popular dog food brands had mixed reviews and the other brands didn’t have a lot of information about them. What I wanted was dog food that was inexpensive, appetizing, and, most importantly, healthy for my shih tzu.

So I went home and did some research before buying anything and I found that picking out dog food is not as easy as it looks.

When choosing your shih tzu’s dog food, you need to choose a brand that provides him/her with all the necessary nutrients and calories. Each day, Osi runs up and down the stairs at least 10 times and sprints after squirrels in the backyard. Without a good quality brand of food, Osi would probably get tired after chasing the first squirrel.  All active adult shih tzus (weighing around 30 lb) need about 922 calories a day and 25g of crude protein. Shih tzus need about 14g of fat and several vitamins and minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium and Niacin.

Many people only look at the nutritional label before buying the bag of dog food, however, the ingredients are just as important. The first ingredient should always be meat or a type of meat meal. The brand should also identify what kind of meat is in the food. I usually pick beef since my shih tzu loves beef more than any other kind of meat.

Also, avoid meat by-products (liver, kidney, bone) since some dogs have trouble digesting them. After giving my shih tzu Osi liver once, he had really bad gas and stomach pains, forcing me to take him to the vet. I never gave him liver after that.

Grains should be near the middle or end of the ingredient list. Grains are usually used in dog food to save production costs and act more as extra carbs for your shih tzu. According to Dr. David Kronfeld, adult dogs do not need carbohydrates to survive since their liver is able to create their own types of carbohydrates.

Also, make sure to avoid any chemical preservatives such as BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole, and BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene). The better choice is natural preservatives such as topherols and citric or ascorbic acid.

After taking the time to research the different ingredients and nutrients to look for in dog food, I ended up going back to the pet store, but this time with Osi. Picking the best four brands and pouring each into a bowl, I let Osi decide which one he wanted. Osi ended up shoving his face in all of them and eating half of each, but I picked the first bowl of food he went for.

Some other helpful tips:

  • Remember to look at the manufactured dates on the bag to guarantee freshness
  • Avoid dog food with many chemicals or ingredients you don’t know about in them
  • Some ingredients your shih tzu may be sensitive to are corn, dairy products, and eggs
  • Pick a brand that has awards or certificates from recognized pet associations

Source 1: Rancho Coastal Humane Society, How Does Diet Affect Behaviour in Dogs?,  http://www.rchumanesociety.org/_files/How_Diet_Affects_Behavior.pdf

Source 2: Lew Olson, Anatomy of a Carnivore, http://www.lhasa-apso.org/articles/general/carnivoreanatomy.html

Source 3: National Research Council of the National Academies, Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs, http://dels-old.nas.edu/dels/rpt_briefs/dog_nutrition_final.pdf

Source 4: Pet food Association of Canada, Learn More about Pet Food, http://www.pfac.com/learn/importance/index.html


Understanding your shih tzu

1 Mar

Some days I wish I could speak dog language and talk to my shih tzu Osi. It would give me a chance to ask him why he always runs away with my socks or why he always pees on every single stop sign, pole and fence. The other day he bolted after a squirrel 20 metres away, dragging me with him, only to end up barking at the animal for 10 minutes while it hanged out in the tree. My boots were muddy and wet from the puddles we ran through and I now had to give Osi a longer bath because of the chase.

But knowing the wish will never come true, a better solution is to understand dog language rather than speak it.  According to American Humane, dogs primarily communicate using their body instead of their mouths. To show happiness, shih tzus will usually wag their tail or roll over. To show playfulness, shih tzus will stick their rear end up in the air and push their front down while wagging their tail. Osi tends to do this while barking at me to get me to play with him. He will also grab a toy and drop it at my feet to give me the message.

From head to toe, shih tzus will communicate with you using their whole body. Beginning from their face, when a shih tzu enlarges his/her eyes, it could mean he/she feels threatened or frightened. Dogs who shrink their eyes could be in pain or feel stressed.

With their mouth, shih tzus can communicate happiness or aggression. Osi tends to communicate fatigue by leaving his mouth open after a long walk or uneasiness when he licks his mouth persistently. Other mouth communications include a slightly opened mouth to show relaxation or a closed mouth with lips slightly pulled back at the corners to mean submission or fear. If your shih tzu is showing teeth, most of the time it is a sign of aggression, however, some dogs show submission by displaying their front teeth.

Even though, Osi likes to send messages through his face, most of the time he will make his point with his whole body. A frightened shih tzu will try to make his body look small by lowering his body and putting his tail down. Assertive dogs will try to make themselves larger by standing erect and sometimes on their toes. He/she will be leaning forward to intimidate the other dog.

A shih tzu’s actions can also tell you what he/she is trying to say.  If your shih tzu tries to mount another dog, he/she might be asserting dominance. Very rarely does mounting have to do with sexual appetite. Whenever Osi stood on top of another male dog, I always wondered if he was confused about his sexuality, but in reality, he wanted to show authority over the other dog.

Although Osi and I will never be able to communicate in English with each other, understanding his language will help tremendously. After just a bit of research, I found out that Osi likes to steal my socks because of the texture and scent and he likes to pee on everything to mark his territory. As for why he chases squirrels, it’s in a dog’s DNA to chase after small rodents.

Some more fun facts about dog language:

  • Shih tzus with their ears pointed back and their head low with eyes averted could mean he/she is afraid
  • Shih tzus who lift their paws may be saying he/she wants attention
  • If a dog’s ears are pricked up or his/her body is tense, your shih tzu is alert and attentive.

Source 1: American Humane, Understanding dog body language, http://www.americanhumane.org/assets/pdfs/animals/pa-dog-posturespdf.pdf

Source 2: ASPCA, Canine body language, http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/canine-body-language

Source 3: Matthew Hoffman, Reading your dog’s body language, Dogs the Ultimate Care Guide

On the road with your shih tzu

1 Mar

On a warm beautiful day, I love travelling with my shih tzu in the car around Toronto, taking in different views. Osi will be sticking his tongue out and wagging his tail, staring at every passing car on the road. Sometimes he’ll stand on his paws and lick the window on the side of the car or leave a mark with his nose.

Some of my best moments with Osi have been taking him to the beach, the park and downtown in the car because of the thrill he gets in seeing all the buildings and sites. However, travelling with your shih tzu in the car can be unpleasant if you don’t prepare.

Before travelling anywhere in the car with your dog, make sure to let him/her go to the washroom. The last thing you want is your shih tzu to paw on your arms when you’re in the middle of traffic or on the highway.

Another important tip is to have chew toys, water and treats packed beside you. The best place to put it is hidden at your waist close to the car door nearest you since your shih tzu may sniff and scratch at it. Osi can always sniff the bag the moment he’s settled into the car, so I always hide it where he can not get it.

During a long car trip, your dog may get nauseous. To avoid him/her vomiting in your car, you can pull over and walk him for a bit or turn on the air conditioning and point it towards him. When Osi gets car sick, I give him water to drink or chew toys to distract him. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it’s best to just stop the car and let him get some fresh air.

Though most dog owners let their pets do it, Priscilla Stockner, executive director of the center for Humane Education in California says owners should prevent dogs from sticking their heads out of the window because the wind can contain harmful particles and make their eyes dry and irritated. If you don’t want your shih tzu to miss all the outside action, you can open the window slightly to let your dog feel the wind on his forehead.

Travelling with your shih tzu can be a lot of fun if you make your pet comfortable. And the reward is having a friend next to you on the way home. After a long day at the beach with Osi, I’m usually wiped out and dreading the ride home, but with Osi, he keeps me company while listening to the radio.

More tips for travelling with your dog

  • Do not leave your dog inside the car during very hot days since your shih tzu can suffer from heat stroke in a short time
  • If your dog is anxious about getting into the car, let him sniff it first and get acquainted with it
  • Have your dog on a leash during the whole car ride to prevent any accidents

Source 1: Matthew Hoffman, Taking a Car Trip, Dogs the Ultimate Care Guide

Source 2: ASPCA, Car travel tips, http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/car-travel-tips.aspx

Source 3: Dog Tip: Partnership for Animal Welfare (PAW), Car Trips and Car Safety, http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_CarSafety.php

Dealing with Doggy breath and Doggy teeth

1 Mar

We all love it when our dogs run down the hallway to lick our cheeks and say hello as soon as we get home. Most dogs get so excited, they lick our whole face and leave us in dog drool and slobber. Every time I arrive home, my shih tzu Osi jumps on the couch near my door to lean closer towards my face and plant kisses. He’ll whine and bark until he says hello properly. However, behind all the charm and lovability, Osi can sometimes not have the best smelling breath, making his hellos something to avoid.

Many of us often cringe and grimace when we smell our dog’s breath and notice it doesn’t smell peachy and great. Though some of us think the smell came from something our shih tzu ate, in reality, bad breath is the result of bacteria-lade plaque in teeth. When owners don’t brush their shih tzu’s teeth, plaque begins to form and leads to gum disease, giving off a foul odor.

By brushing your dog’s teeth twice a day (just like humans) you can easily get rid of the smell. When I first noticed Osi’s breath, I couldn’t stand it, so I got him chicken-scented toothpaste and a toothbrush. I also bought breath spray to finish the job. Osi squirmed every time I used the toothbrush so I ended up buying a finger brush (a toothbrush you can put over your finger) to wipe his mouth.

Giving your shih tzu dental treats and chew toys can also help eliminate bacteria from his mouth. Also, if you can’t find a tooth paste your shih tzu likes, you can always make your own. With baking soda and water mixed together, you can clean your shih tzu’s teeth and leave it smelling fresh.

If you notice that your dog’s breath has still not gone away, then it may be time to see the vet. Foul breath is also a symptom of kidney disease, liver problems and diabetes. Also, if you have trouble brushing your shih tzu’s mouth and taking the plaque away, then you can visit a local dog dentist to clean your pet’s teeth. The average cost for the procedure is $250.

Nowadays, I brush my shih tzu’s teeth once in the morning after I brush mine and once at night when he’s finished eating his food. The result is I don’t push Osi away every time he tries to lick my face. The only problem now is getting him to stop slobbering over me.

More useful tips on dental hygiene:

  • Do not use human toothpaste to brush your shih tzu’s teeth since it can irritate your dog’s stomach
  • To get your shih tzu used to having his/her teeth brushed, massage his/her lips with your finger then move on to her teeth and gums.
  • Brush using small circular motions, and brush harder around the teeth that touch the cheek.

Source 1: ASPCA, Ten steps to your dog’s dental health, http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-care-dental-health.aspx

Source 2: HowmuchIsIt.org, How much does dog teeth cleaning cost?, http://www.howmuchisit.org/dog-teeth-cleaning-cost/

Source 3: ASPCA, bad breath, http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-care-bad-breath.aspx

Source 4: Matthew Hoffman, Bad Breath, Dogs The Ultimate Care Guide

Best Winter products for shih tzus

7 Feb

Shih tzus may love the snow, but they don’t always love the cold, dry weather. My shih tzu Osi loves running through the snow and playing with his other friends, but he can never stay in the snow for long because of the clumps that form in his fur. One time, he was running all around the park, but stopped after 10 minutes and began to limp, holding his small paw up in order to avoid the chilly snow. I had to give him a warm bath to get rid of the snow stuck in his paws and comb him to get rid of the knots. The whole ordeal took longer than I wanted, which is why I rely on several products to keep Osi warm, clean and healthy.


Source 1: Sewing and Craft Alliance, Paw Protectors and Winter Dog Boots, http://www.sewing.org/html/paw_protectors_boots.html
Source 2: Chilly Dogs Inc., Trail Blazer, http://www.chillydogs.ca/index.php/product/index/44
Source 3: BagBalm.ca, Usage, http://www.bagbalm.ca/bagbalm.ca/english/usage.asp
Source 4: Vetinfo, Paw Wax for Dogs, http://www.vetinfo.com/paw-wax-for-dogs.html
Source 5: Treadwell Pet Products 2012, Musher’s Secret, http://musherssecret.net/products.html
Source 6: tearstaincenter.com, Shih Tzu Tear Stains, http://www.tearstaincenter.com/tear-stain-remover/shih-tzu-tear-stains/
Source 7: WiseGeek, What is a slicker brush?, http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-slicker-brush.htm
Source 8: Susan Paretts, The Best Dematting Spray for dogs, http://www.ehow.com/info_12245861_dematting-spray-dogs.html
Source 9: Laurie Semple, Clipping your shih tzu nails, http://americanshihtzuclub.org/clipping_nails
Source 10: Admin, Dog Skin Problems Treating, http://www.evolutionsupply.com/blog/dog-skin-problems-treating/

Best indoor activities for shih tzus

7 Feb

Shih tzus are hyper and energetic dogs that need at least 30 minutes of physical and mental exercise each day. Though walks are the traditional way to give your shih tzu exercise, the weather may be too cold or too hot for your shih tzu. My shih tzu Osi holds his paws up when he’s had enough of the cold weather, but as soon as he gets home, he is still restless and active. He will bark at strangers from the window sill, he will chew shoes and jeans lying on the ground, and he will run around the whole house if you don’t tire him out. With alternative indoor activities, you will avoid excessive barking, chewing and hyperactivity.



Source 1: Partnership for animal Welfare Inc., exercise benefits, http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_ExerciseBenefits.html
Source 2: APCA, Exercise for dogs, http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/exercise-for-dogs
Source 3: Dogs in Distress, Exercise and play, http://www.dogsindistress.org/adopta-dog/health-wellbeing/exercise-and-play/
Source 4: ASPCA, Teaching your dog to play hide-and-seek, http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/teaching-your-dog-to-play-hide-and-seek
Source 5: The Humane Society of the United States, Dog Toys, http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/dog_toys.html
Source 6: SFCPA, Tug of War, http://www.sfspca.org/sites/default/files/tug-of-war.pdf
Source 7: National Missing Pet Register, Best Ways to Train your dog and the benefits, http://www.nationalpetregister.org/pet-articles.php?id=20
Source 8: Jess Hamilton, The sport of dog tracking, http://www.juliespetportraits.com/articles/dog_tracking_training.html
Source 9: Jennifer Messer, Brain Boosting Games, http://www.moderndogmagazine.com/brainboostinggames

Things I find annoying about my shih tzu….

21 Nov

On a relaxing Saturday afternoon when I like to sit down and watch cartoons, I can always count on my lovable and warm shi tzu to ruin the peace. Osi will be sitting on the window sill, watching the cars pass by and resting his head on his paws until he sees an owner and their dog. As soon as he sees the dog, Osi jumps up and starts barking aggressively, waking up everyone in the whole house and creating a ruckus. I’m always up and off the couch, trying to pry him from the window, sometimes getting scratched and bitten. And as soon as he calms down, he runs over to the window sill to lie down again. Only to go crazy the next time he sees another dog.

I’d be lying if I said I love everything about Osi and his many quirks because Osi always finds a way to annoy me some days. The barking episodes are just one of the many things that annoy me.  Sometimes, he’s very territorial about his things, he’s too excited at times and he doesn’t like to listen. According to Canada’s Guide to Dogs, a shih tzu is known for his stubborn attitude and defiant personality, which explains why I always have to be patient and persistent with Osi.

After four years with Osi, here are ways that he annoys me:

He doesn’t like to be left alone

I remember when Osi was small and he would cry and whine every time I left him alone at night in the basement to sleep. I would lay his red fluffy bed right beside the couch and stay with him for a few minutes until his brown eyes closed. Slowly and quietly, I tip-toed out of the room and closed the door, but the second I stepped out of the room, he would scratch the door and bark, thinking that I was never coming back. Even to this day, Osi doesn’t like to be left in a room alone and will get up and find someone to sleep next to or sit beside. I think it’s cute at times, but having a shih tzu who wants to be around you all the time doesn’t leave you a lot of time for yourself.

He always excited

When my mom first got Osi he was the only dog in the room who liked playing and jumping around. He would jump on top of other dogs and lean over them to get their attention before running off. He enjoyed playing tag and hide-and-seek with his friends. Osi socializes with many dogs and tries to be their friend; however, he never stops being excited even after 30 minutes of play time. As soon as I take out his leash in the afternoon, he starts to jump on me and whine for me to hurry up. He can never sit still while I’m putting the leash on him. As we’re walking, he will always tug the leash, dragging me along until he reaches the park. I’ll stay with him and the other dogs and get them to play with each other, but after 30 minutes, when it’s time to go, he’ll refuse to go back home. He’ll bark and yank all the way to the house to persuade me to go back, but I stand my ground.

He hates baths

I always assumed all dogs like water and enjoy warm baths, but Osi hates them. He tenses up when he gets close to a sink or a gardening hose. And as soon as he is wet, he’ll run to the carpet and roll over it to get dry. My family and I realized early on that Osi did not like water when he refused to stay still in the bath despite its warm and refreshing feel. The first time I put him in the bath he whined and squirmed, splashing the water everywhere. My clothes got soaked (now I have to wear pyjamas every time I bathe him) and my hair became frizzled. Osi pushed against the sink to get away from the water, creating an even bigger mess on the ground that I would have to clean up. When the bath was over, he shook his whole body, spattering water drops everywhere. With the towel, I dried him while he fidgeted the whole time and as soon as I put him on the ground he ran everywhere in the house, trying to dry himself. Giving Osi a bath is one of the hardest things to do on a daily basis. Sometimes, I’d rather he stay dirty than wash him.

He doesn’t like big dogs

Osi gets along perfectly with children, and small dogs, but he cannot get along with big dogs. Whenever he sees another dog that’s bigger than him, he runs over to the dog and barks until the other dog and him fight. The hardest part is prying the two apart afterwards. When Osi was three years old, he snuck out the front door and sprinted towards the husky that lives right outside my house. The husky was huge with a large, furry coat and straight, pointy ears while my dog was small with short, stubby legs and floppy ears. Osi ran up to the husky and stared at it before barking loud and egging it on. My dog resembled a rabbit trying to attack a wolf, which never ends well for the rabbit. Luckily, I arrived out of breath, picking Osi up in my arms and trying to calm him down. I disciplined him afterwards and make sure to back him away from the door whenever I go out, but he still hates bigger dogs and doesn’t look like he’ll get along with them any time soon.

He’s too territorial

Osi pees on everything. He pees on fire hydrants, trees and sometimes even people. Unfortunately, one time, he peed on an unsuspecting owner and the owner’s dog ended up peeing over it again. I was standing at the park talking to the other owners while Osi was playing with his friends when I noticed him sniffing around one of the owners’ shoes. I didn’t think much of it since Osi always does this, but as soon as I looked away I saw him at the corner of my eye lifting his leg up and before I could stop it, Osi had peed on the poor, unsuspecting owner. I felt guilty afterwards and scolded Osi while the owner said not to worry, but not too long after, the owner’s dog lifted his leg and peed over her shoes again. I could tell Osi was tempted to pee over the shoes again, but I put his leash on and took him back home before anything else could get peed on. His territorial habit is also common in the house. Whenever there is a new package or new boots that comes inside the house, Osi just can’t help, but pee over it to claim it as his own. Just yesterday, he peed on top of package that was supposed to be a gift to my brother. Unfortunately, that’s not my brother’s gift anymore.

He doesn’t listen

As a puppy, Osi was a good listener. When I said to drop a toy, he would drop it or when I said to go to the washroom, he would go to the washroom. Now at age 4, Osi will not listen unless you give him a treat. If you don’t have a treat, Osi ignores you. If you pull on his leash to listen, he ignores you. I still remember the time when he somehow managed to get out of the house and ran all throughout the neighbourhood while my dad and I tried to catch him. Once he got out of the house, he ran to the fire hydrant, two houses down, peed on it, and then ran after a squirrel. As my dad and I panted after him, he chased the squirrel up the tree. Terrified he might hit a car, we kept shouting his name to call him back. My dad who is a soccer coach and regular jogger couldn’t keep up with Osi and was panting by the end. Finally, while Osi was peeing on some grass, my dad scooped him up and scolded him. My dad and I were both red in the face by the end and we were exhausted. Nowadays, we’re very careful with letting Osi near the door since we don’t want to run another race.