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The Shih Tzu’s Changing Coat Colors

close up of shih tzu

A good rule of thumb when choosing a Shih Tzu puppy is never to base your decision on color. That's because the breed is well known for changing coat colors as he enters adulthood. In fact, by the time your Shih Tzu celebrates his first birthday, he may be a completely different color than he was when you brought him home.

For example, a puppy that has gold hair at birth may turn orange and one that is blue at birth can turn gray by his first birthday—and those born black may lighten over time. The only coat color that remains true is the black-and-white combination.

What accounts for these shifts in shade? Very simply, it's a matter of genetics. Two distinct genes determine whether a Shih Tzu's coat will lighten or gray over time—and what his ultimate color will be.

Fading: If a Shih Tzu carries the "G" gene, his coat will fade as he gets older. You will notice fading in puppies as young as a month old. Fading will continue until the dog reaches his first birthday.

Graying: If a dog carries the Chinchilla gene (CH series) he is likely to change colors as well, but not in the same way as fading. Instead, the dog's coat will turn a rich, silver color.

While it has not been proven, some breeders think that environmental factors such as climate, stress, and diet can trigger changes in coat color, too.

The good news for those who plan to show their Shih Tzu is that any and all colors are equally valued and recognized by the AKC. And for those who just have a Shih Tzu as a family pet, what matters most is that you have a healthy, loving companion—no matter what his color.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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