Average Height: 9 – 10½ in
Average Weight: 9 – 16 lbs
Average Life Span: 12 – 15 yrs
Coloring: All colors and combinations are accepted
Area of Origin: China
Similar Breeds: Lhasa Apso, Havanese, Maltese, Japanese Chin, Pekingese
History and Origin:
One of the oldest dog breeds, the Shih Tzu is one of only a handful of breeds with genetics closely resembling those of the wolf. Believed to have been developed as early as 800 BC, the exact origins of the Shih Tzu are unknown. However, it is likely that it was developed by crossing the Pekingese and the Tibetan Lhasa Apso, producing a dog slightly smaller and more refined than the Lhasa Apso – a perfect companion dog. Like the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso, the Shih Tzu was held in such high esteem by the Chinese royalty that it was never bought or sold; royalty and nobility would gift a dog to a person they deemed worthy of owning such a treasure. Arriving in Europe in the 1930s, the Shih Tzu was originally classified under “Apso” along with the Lhasa Apso, and only declared a separate breed five years later. After the Chinese Communist Revolution of the 1940s, nearly all Shih Tzus in China were destroyed. Due to this, the ancestry of every Shih Tzu alive today can be traced back to fourteen dogs, most of which were the original imports to Europe. It was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1969.
Personality and Temperament:
The Shih Tzu, is an energetic, loving, and vibrant little dog, gentle with children and extremely loyal to its owner. It can be a fantastic watch dog due to its wariness of strangers and sudden noises, however its primary goal in life is to be a devoted companion. As a small dog, the Shih Tzu has the tendency to develop Small Dog Syndrome, and it is essential to maintain strong but gentle leadership with it to avoid stubbornness or bossiness. It can suffer from separation anxiety and become destructive if left alone for period of time; socialization from a young age will ensure the Shih Tzu becomes a well-adjusted and confident dog. Due to its generally happy-go-lucky and calm nature, the Shih Tzu is a fantastic choice for the nervous or first-time dog owner.
Exercise & Training:
While small, the Shih Tzu enjoys daily walks and play time to keep it happy and healthy. It is an active dog, and providing it with plenty of activity will minimize potential behavior problems due to pent up energy. While it does have a tendency to bark, the Shih Tzu is well-suited for apartment or small home living. It is quite intelligent, and can be trained with ease using positive reinforcement techniques; the Shih Tzu does not respond well to harsh or overbearing training methods.
The Shih Tzu’s long, soft coat needs daily brushing to prevent matting and to keep the skin healthy. It is typically considered to be a “hypoallergenic” breed, and sheds very little. Many owners who do not show their Shih Tzus prefer to keep the coat clipped short for ease of maintenance, and a visit to a groomer’s three or four times a year will help keep the Shih Tzu’s appearance neat and tidy. Avoid over-bathing as the skin can be sensitive and is prone to drying out.
The Shih Tzu is likely a product of a Lhasa Apso and Pekingese mix, and shares many physical and temperamental qualities with these two other companion dogs. It has also likely been used in the development and re-establishment of breeds such as the Havanese and Maltese, which, due to over breeding or war, had nearly become extinct in the first half of the twentieth century.
Interesting Facts about the Shih Tzu:
1. The Shih Tzu is also known as the “Chinese Lion Dog”, “Chrysanthemum Dog”, and the “Xi Shi Dog”, as a woman named Xi Shi was one of the “Four Beauties” of ancient China.
2. Currently, the Shih Tzu is the 15th most popular breed in the United States, according to American Kennel Club registrations.
3. An ancient Buddhist legend reveals that the Buddha traveled with a Shih Tzu, and when a band of robbers attacked the Buddha, the dog turned into a lion and chased the robbers away. After turning back into a dog, the Buddha kissed it on the head. Many Shih Tzus now have a white spot on their heads; it is the kiss of the Buddha.
4. Documents and artwork from the seventh century AD clearly depict the Shih Tzu dog.