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Shih Tzu Service Dog - Everything You Need to Know

While Shih Tzus may not be as large as some traditional service dog breeds, their affectionate and gentle nature makes them well-suited for emotional support roles. Their small size also makes them suitable for individuals with limited space or mobility challenges, providing comfort and companionship to those in need.

Kristi Carignan
January 12, 2024
June 6, 2023
5 minutes
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Grant FiddesGrant Fiddes
SEO Associate
June 6, 2023
August 18, 2021
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If you have a disability that impacts your daily life, you may want to consider a Shih Tzu service dog as your next companion.

Known as “little lion dogs,” Shih Tzus can make fantastic service dogs thanks to their affectionate and loving dispositions. Due to their small size however, they won’t be suited for every type of disability. In this guide we’ll explore their best qualities and the disability-related tasks they’re able to perform.

We will also unpack the meaning of service dogs, the various laws that protect them and examine the difference between service dogs and emotional support animals.

Shih Tzu Service Dog

Shih Tzus are ideal service dogs for psychiatric and intellectual disabilities. Their affection and snuggly nature will make them brilliant companions to their handlers and their high intelligence means they are easily trainable.

What Are Service Dogs?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are seen as working dogs rather than as pets. As of 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals. They are defined as follows:

“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

They can perform many tasks related to disabilities. For example, a service dog could offer mobility assistance by pulling a wheelchair, alert a deaf owner to the presence of a new person or protect a handler who is having a seizure.

Under the ADA, any breed or size of dog can be a service animal.

Are Shih Tzus Good Service Dogs?

Yes. Provided that they are required for a suitable disability, they can make brilliant service dogs. Shih Tzus are smart, affectionate and loving. The proverbial lapdog, they’re brilliant for psychiatric disabilities and a range of sensory and intellectual disabilities. They can also be excellent service dogs for kids with psychiatric, intellectual or sensory disabilities.

Since they are so small however, they aren’t suited to tasks like pulling wheelchairs or retrieving large objects.

Here are several characteristics that make them great service animals. 

They Are a Smart and Trainable Breed

They are an intelligent breed, and this means that they can be trained to perform a variety of disability-related functions. These might include:

  • Diabetic support: Alerting a diabetic owner to changes in their blood-sugar levels.
  • Seizure support: Letting a handler know that a seizure is oncoming.
  • Hearing support. Alerting their owner to the presence of someone or something and guiding them towards the sound through touch. 
  • Psychiatric support: They can support owners through panic attacks or social anxiety.

They Are Highly Adaptable

Thanks to their small size, these dogs are adaptable and can easily slot into a variety of dwellings (like apartments and studios). They are also great companions when shopping, traveling and exploring the world thanks to their adaptable size.

They Are Friendly and Affectionate Dogs

This breed is exceptionally friendly and loving, making them an ideal companion and service dog. They are incredibly affectionate with the whole family and especially good with kids. Their loving nature makes them brilliant emotional support animals.

What Tasks Can a Shih Tzu Perform?

Shih Tzus can perform a number of disability tasks to aid owners. These include:

Deep Pressure Therapy

Using bodily weight and body warmth, they can apply deep pressure on owners. This can diminish psychiatric symptoms and offer great comfort and support.

Tactile Stimulation

Through tactile stimulation or touch, Shih Tzus can ground their owners and bring about support and calm. Service dogs can also be trained to alert owners to sounds or oncoming medical conditions through touch.

Danger or Intruder Notification

Shih Tzus can certainly alert owners to intrusion by barking or picking up on potential danger and alert their handler.

How To Get a Shih Tzu Psychiatric Service Dog

If you want to equip your dog with the training tools and knowledge to become a brilliant psychiatric service dog (PSD), why not consider our online PSD training certificate? Just complete the steps below:

Take Our Assessment

Take our quick, 3-minute assessment so we can understand your needs and offer you the best program.

Get a Psychiatric Service Dog

To obtain a Shih Tzu service dog you can either purchase a fully trained animal or train a Shih Tzu yourself. If opting to train your own service dog we recommend you seek the help of a professional trainer or enroll in an online training course.

Complete Training

In order for your Shih Tzu to be recognized as a psychiatric service dog it will need to be fully trained. Training is far easier with the help and knowledge of a certified dog trainer. With our online PSD training program, you get access to video lessons guided by a professional service dog trainer. Complete them at your own pace and train your own loyal PSD.

Can I Teach My Shih Tzu To Be a Service Dog?

Yes. You can train your Shih Tzu to become a fantastic service dog or psychiatric service dog.

What Disabilities Qualify for a Service Dog?

A wide range of disabilities qualify for a service dog, including:

  • Physical disabilities: Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injuries and Cerebral Palsy 
  • Psychiatric disabilities: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Panic Disorder
  • Sensory disabilities: Deafness, blindness and low vision
  • Intellectual disabilities: Down Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Service Dog Laws You Should Know

There are three important service dog laws that handlers should know about:

  1. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The overarching service dog law falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under this act, service dogs must be individually trained to aid a specific disability. They are seen as medical aids and not pets and can be any breed of dog.
  1. The Fair Housing Act (FHA): The Fair Housing Act protects the rights of owners with service dogs by ensuring that housing complexes make reasonable accommodations for service animals and do not unfairly discriminate against them.
  1. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA): The Air Carrier Access Act stipulates that all service dogs, regardless of their size or breed, can accompany their owners on flights.

What's the Difference Between Psychiatric Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs?

Psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs, or emotional support animals (ESAs), both support their owners through a range of psychiatric symptoms. PSDs, however, are individually trained to perform a specific function that is related to a disability. ESAs, rather, comfort and support owners with their physical presence and the routine and safety they bring to owners’ lives.

Meet the author:
Kristi Carignan

Kristi Carignan is a seasoned freelance writer with over 20 years of experience crafting copy for global agencies and brands. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her furry companions, Sugar the PomChi and Rudy the Shiba Inu, and indulging in hobbies like crafting and home renovation.

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