Shih Tzu (or more properly, Shih Tzu Kou) means "lion dog," designating the breed as one of the most esteemed animals in China because of its association with Buddhism. Even though the Shih Tzu is most often associated with China, it probably originated in Tibet as early as the 17th century, where it enjoyed status as a holy dog. The Shih Tzu, as it is known today, developed most distinctively in China during the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi (Tz'u-shi, 1861 – 1908). The Shih Tzu and Pekingese share similar histories
AKC Ranking: 9
Family: companion, herding
Area of Origin: China
Date of Origin: 1800s
Original Function: lap dog
Today's Function: companion
Avg Size of male: Height: 8-11 Weight: 9-16
Avg Size of Female: Height: 8-11 Weight: 9-16
Other Name: chrysanthemum dog
Shih Tzu (or more properly, Shih Tzu Kou) means "lion dog," designating the breed as one of the most esteemed animals in China because of its association with Buddhism. Even though the Shih Tzu is most often associated with China, it probably originated in Tibet as early as the 17th century, where it enjoyed status as a holy dog. The Shih Tzu, as it is known today, developed most distinctively in China during the reign of Empress Dowager Cixi (Tz'u-shi, 1861 – 1908). The Shih Tzu and Pekingese share similar histories; however, the Shih Tzu can usually be differentiated from the Pekingese in Chinese art by the presence of bumps on the tops of the head, denoting a topknot, or pien-ji. The Shih Tzu was a favored house pet during the Ming Dynasty and was highly prized by the royal family. When the British looted the Imperial Palace, most of the dogs were lost, and the breed suffered a great setback. The Shih Tzu was first exhibited in China as the Lhassa terrier or Tibetan poodle. In 1935, it was exhibited as the Lhassa lion dog; by that time, it was becoming very popular. A similar state of confusion existed in England, where the Lhasa apso and Shih Tzu were both lumped together as the apso (meaning shaggy). In 1934, soon after the apso was first shown, it was divided into two separate breeds, with the smaller, wider-skulled, shorter-nosed dogs from Peking dubbed Shih Tzu, their colloquial Chinese name. In 1952 a single Pekingese cross was authorized to improve certain points, but such crosses have never again been permitted. In the United States, the breed began to become extremely popular in the 1960s, leading to AKC recognition in 1969. Its popularity has continued to grow, and it is one of the most popular toys.
The spunky but sweet Shih Tzu is both a gentle lap dog and a vivacious companion. It has an upbeat attitude and loves to play and romp. It is affectionate to its family and good with children. It is surprisingly tough and does have a stubborn streak.
Despite its small size, the Shih Tzu needs daily exercise. Because of its small size, it can meet its requirements with vigorous indoor games or short frolics outside or with short walks on leash. It does not do well in hot humid weather, and it should never be expected to live outdoors. Its luxurious coat needs brushing or combing every other day; puppies should be taught to accept grooming from a young age. Pets may be clipped.
• Major concerns: none
• Minor concerns: renal cortical hypoplasia, entropion, trichiasis, PRA, KCS, CHD, otitis externa, portacaval shunt, inguinal hernias
• Occasionally seen: vWD
• Suggested tests: eye
• Life span: 11 – 14 years
Form and Function
Compact, yet slightly longer than it is tall, the Shih Tzu hides a sturdy body beneath its mantle of luxurious hair. It has a smooth, effortless stride with good reach and drive. Even though its function is that of companion, it should nonetheless be structurally sound. Its expression is warm, sweet and wide-eyed, imparting the impression of trust and friendliness. The long, dense coat is double and fairly straight.