Popular Dog Breeds: Shih Tzus

The Shih Tzu originated in China where it was cherished by members of the royal family for over 1000 years. Always a house pet and companion, these compact dogs have a beautiful flowing double coat. They are one of the most popular breeds of dog in the United States today.

History
The Shih Tzu is an old breed, developed in China more than 1000 years ago. It seems likely that they were originally a cross between the Lhasa Apso (or the Tibetan mountain dog) and the Pekingese, two very ancient breeds. Information and images of Shih Tzu date from documents, paintings, and objects of art all the way back to 624 AD. The dogs have been associated with the Chinese court and royals for hundreds of years. They are the oldest and smallest of the Tibetan holy dogs. They were housepets during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 A.D.). In the 19th century the Dowager Empress kept an important kennel that included Shih Tzu but following her death in 1908 the dogs were dispersed and breeding mostly stopped. All Shih Tzu today can be traced back to 14 dogs, some of which were brought to England. In England the dogs were first mistaken for Lhasa Apsos but they were soon sorted out and serious breeding began in 1930. The Shih Tzu Kennel Club of England was formed in 1935. They were admitted to the AKC in 1969.

Temperament
Shih Tzus are outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly, and trusting toward everyone. Although they look arrogant and proud with their long coat and their head held high, they are very sweet, loving dogs. They have always been kept as companions and house pets and that is still their function today. Although they don’t require a lot of exercise, they are lively, alert dogs and they are quite playful. The breed is very loyal and they love to be with their owners. They usually get along well with children and other pets. Although they are a small dog, they can stand up for themselves.

Appearance
The Shih Tzu is recognizable by its beautiful long, flowing double coat. The dogs usually have a topknot on their head to secure their hair out of their eyes – either a bow or a barrette. The dogs have a distinctive, arrogant carriage with their heads held high and their tails curved over their backs. Their coat can be any color. The luxurious coat does require daily brushing unless you choose to keep it cut short. They are sturdy, lively, alert dogs with a proud bearing.

In terms of height, the Shih Tzu is usually 9 to 10 ½ inches tall at the withers. They should not be less than 8 inches tall nor more than 11 inches tall. Mature dogs usually weigh between 9 and 16 pounds.

The dogs also have large, dark eyes and a short muzzle. Shih Tzus have an underbite.

Shih Tzus are often called “chrysanthemum-faced” dogs because of the way the hair grows around their faces.

Although Shih Tzus do not shed as much as some breeds, they are not considered to be a “hypoallergenic” breed.

Health
Shih Tzu tend to be a long-lived breed. Many dogs live between 10 and 20 years. A health survey for the breed in the UK puts the average lifespan at 13 years and 7 months.

As with other breeds, there are some health issues found in the breed. Some of these issues include: hypothyroidism, intervertebral disc disease, portosystemic liver shunt, hip dysplasia, and, occasionally, epilepsy.

The Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic breed (short-hosed) so they do not do well in hot weather. Do not leave your Shih Tzi outside when the weather is hot and do not force the dog to take part in strenuous exercise. Shih Tzu may also have problems breathing at high altitudes or in airplanes. They do best in cooler climates or in air conditioning.

Training
Because of their small size Shih Tzu are not usually trained for dog sports but they should learn some basic obedience and good manners. It’s a good idea to start training your dog as a puppy. Like many small dogs, a Shih Tzu can become quite bossy and badly-behaved in the home if you do not provide some training. Good socialization is important for a Shih Tzu, so be sure to take him places and let him meet other people and dogs when he is young.

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