By Susan Kilgore
Many Shih Tzu seem to believe that they have wings attached to each side of their bodies. They think they can take flying leaps through the air from high places with the greatest of ease and safely land as if there is an invisible net below. Jumping from one piece of furniture to another or to the ground may become a favorite activity.
Amusing though these antics may be, please don’t laugh at or otherwise encourage your canine high flier. Shih Tzu simply don’t land on all four paws as cats do. Instead, they all too often land on their heads and faces. Because Shih Tzu are heavier in the front than in the rear and have a lower jaw that extends beyond the upper one, the fragile lower jaw is all too often the first point of impact.
All too often Shih Tzu attempt to leap to destinations well beyond a safe distance. Depending upon the height from the point of take off and the composition of the lower landing surface, your Shih Tzu may sustain a concussion or broken bones, particularly fractures of the lower palate. Such injuries may well be severe enough to require immediate veterinary attention and/or repair.
Awareness of the potential for such accidents is the first step towards prevention. There are many things that can be done to preclude injury. Be sure to always keep a firm yet comfortable grip on your Shih Tzu when carrying him or her. (Young children should NEVER be allowed to carry your Shih Tzu about.) When you put him down, place him gently very close to if not on the floor; do not let him struggle, slip out of your grasp, and fall to the ground. Try to refrain from placing your Shih Tzu atop high furniture, counters, or tabletops. If you absolutely need to, as when grooming (or waiting to enter the ring at a dog show), please DO NOT leave him unattended. When your Shih Tzu is well above ground level, particularly if your floors are made of tile, wood, or other hard surfaces, it is best to keep a hand on him at all times to provide the necessary restraint should he get the urge to take a flying leap. If your bed, couch, or vehicle is higher than would be safe for your Shih Tzu to negotiate unassisted, there are pet steps that you can buy. You can also make a ramp with a skid-free surface to make it easier for your Shih Tzu to go up and down. In your vehicle, a crate or special car seats or seat belts designed for pets can prevent injuries if you are in an accident or must stop suddenly. If you are teaching your Shih Tzu to go up and down stairs (or to use the teeter-totter or A-frame in agility training) remember that he may panic (or simply be in a hurry) and try to skip the last few steps or jump off the side of a piece of equipment when he is halfway down. Be prepared to catch him.
Broken jaws and concussions are no fun. The next time your Shih Tzu tries to become a flying ace, you now know how to keep him safe.