How should I care for a rescued Shih Tzu? How can I provide the best home?
The goal will be to provide the best care and environment possible without sheltering the dog so much that he or she does not gradually get to experience the possibility that his new life can offer. In other words, you want to provide a safe, caring home but do not want to coddle the dog so much that he is stifled and unable to grow and learn about his new world.
Here is a list of ways to care for an adopted Shih Tzu:
1) Offer a super-comfortable private space.
Ideally, you will want to have a gated off area with the entrance left open when you are home. It should be centrally located yet off to a quiet corner. The goal will be to allow the Tzu to have a private retreat but also still feel close to his new human family and not feel isolated.
Once the Tzu gets accustomed to this area, it will be his place to be when left home alone; and if he can associate this with good feelings, he will be more apt to handle being there when no one else is home.
Within this area, you'll want to have a quality dog bed and baby blankets. Rescued dogs often need additional comfort and warmth. Lying on top of a bed - even if it is the best dog bed in the world - can make a rescue dog feel exposed. Supplying him with at least two baby blankets can give him the ability to nest and create a resting spot that feels just right.
2) Slow introductions.
There is no limit to new experiences; however make this gradual. One of the most wonderful elements about taking in and providing care for a rescued Shih Tzu is the gift of making the world available to your new canine family member. What was once a limited world has now expanded to any size that you choose. And it should be a big one.
With this said, all introductions to new elements -people, places and situations - should be gradual. While it may be tempting to show off your new Tzu to your friends, extended family and neighbors, this is best reserved for at least a month or so in and one person at a time. Meeting too many people at once can be exceedingly overwhelming.
Give your Shih Tzu plenty of time to become accustomed to the house before exploring new places. You can make a list of all the places that you want to bring your adopted dog… the park, outdoor markets, pet stores, for rides to the beach… as many places as you want. And take them on one at a time and in small increments. Five minutes the first time, then ten the next… if things go well, twenty the next visit.
3) You need time to learn your new Tzu's personality.
Dogs in shelters will behave very differently than they will behave once at their adopted home. It takes time for new owners to learn what a dog does and does not like and the dog's particular personality. You'll learn his preferences and what he will need to be socialized to and what may trigger anxiety so badly that it should be avoided.
Many rescued Shih Tzu will be set in their ways to a certain extent. If there is a deep-seated fear of other dogs or a fear of the car, know that this may not be able to be overcome. You will need to decide which elements you can slowly socialize your dog to and which - if they are really not 'musts' can be taken off the list of what you will expose the dog to.
4) Feeding issues.
It is not uncommon for adopted Shih Tzu to be underweight. In addition, years of either inconsistent feedings or limited feedings may have caused the stomach to be sensitive. Home cooking
is recommended since this will eliminate artificial coloring, preservatives and other elements that a sensitive stomach may have intolerance for. If not, you will want to carefully choose a high quality manufactured brand that does not contain fillers. The goal will be to have a gradual weight gain over time. Don't overfeed, as this can cause cramping, gas problems, digestion issues and even vomiting. Spread meals throughout the day; most rescued dogs do best with 3 meals per day plus healthy snacks.
Follow normal guidelines in regard to giving the Shih Tzu his own private dining spot that is away from foot traffic. There may be a strong overprotective behavior of the bowls; you may need to wait until your Tzu is in another room to wash his dishes.
5) Proper exercise.
When you are caring for a rescued Shih Tzu there may be a need to build up muscle before the dog can handle normal duration and pace of walks. This is often due being caged for long periods of time; inactive muscles will weaken and there is often a certain degree of muscle atrophy. Before you take home your new Tzu, it is best to discuss this with the shelter and find out to what degree the Shih Tzu has been inactive.
If there has been a history of lack of exercise, you'll want to begin a routine right away to set the foundation for which you will then build on. Start with a slow 15 minute walk twice per day, building up to 20 minutes after the first week. You goal will be two, 25 to 30 minute walks.
In addition to this, other activity such as climbing stairs and running (playing fetch) will allow a different set of muscles to be put to work and this should be gradually incorporated as well.
6) Coat care.
If the coat had to be shaved down to skin level, do not expect the Shih Tzu to be able to grow a long show coat. At any rate, the grooming that is involved with a long coat is often too much for a rescued dog to handle.
There can be dry skin issues and also some sore spots that still need to heal. Normal grooming techniques should be used. The only element that may need to be added is to use a super-luxurious coat and skin healing treatment in any cases of a thinning coat and/or severe dry skin. In this case, you may wish to look to 'Grooming' in the Shih Tzu Specialty Shoppe where we have listed the exact products to care for a vulnerable, damaged coat and severe dry skin.
7) House training.
Many adult dogs that were living lives of neglect and/or abuse never came close to being properly house trained. Normally, puppies with weak bladder and bowel muscles are given the opportunity to slowly learn how to control their needs on a steady, incremental basis. Adult dogs that were not properly trained often have very weak bladder and bowel control.