Shih Tzus have a luxurious, long, flowing coat that comes in any and all colors. The double coast is dense and may have a slight wave. Common coat colors include red and white, gold and white, solid red, solid liver, black mask gold, liver and white, black and white, solid black, blue and white, silver and white, and brindle and white. The eyes are large and round, the ears are hanging and large, the muzzle is square and short, and the tail curves over the back. These dogs have a tuft above the nose, known as the breed's "chrysanthemum." Shih Tzus measure 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 9 to 16 pounds.
Shih Tzus require a great deal of grooming. That is probably obvious from one glance at their long and flowing coat.
Lively, friendly, alert, and trusting, the Shih Tzu is an ideal house pet. These dogs crave and give a lot of attention and affection, and they love nothing more than to play and spend time with their human family members. While this breed does not require much exercise, the Shih Tzu's coat needs daily brushing and a lot of care.
The name Shih Tzu means "lion." This ancient breed is thought to have been bred by Tibetan lamas to look like miniature lions, because of their association with Buddhist mythology.
Sweet and playful dogs that are never afraid to stand up for themselves, Shih Tzus make wonderful companions and low-key houseguests, provided they get enough attention and affection. They are lively, alert, and energetic, and they greatly enjoy being petted and pampered. These dogs are just as happy watching TV with their family members as they are running around in the backyard.
Shih Tzus get along very well with older children and other dogs. They are not ideal for very young kids, because they cannot be handled roughly and are short on patience. They are very affectionate, not especially suspicious of strangers, and may or may not tolerate cats. These dogs make decent watchdogs, despite their small size and tolerance for unfamiliar people. They will bark loudly and passionately when strangers approach their home.
These dogs do well in apartments, but they need a cooler climate. A daily walk is usually sufficient to satisfy the breed's exercise needs, but extra playtime is always appreciated. Shih Tzus enjoy playing with toys and benefit from short, but vigorous, play sessions in the yard.
Shih Tzus are prone to certain genetic illnesses and health problems that can negatively affect quality or length of life. Congenital hip dysplasia, inguinal hernias, luxating patellas, portosystemic shunts, and von Willebrand's disease are all seen in the breed. The breed is also known to suffer from ear infections and several eye conditions, including entropion, trichiasis, dry eyes, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, distichiasis, and corneal ulcers. Additionally, these dogs may suffer from protruding eyes, or proptosis, that makes them vulnerable to injury.
Some Shih Tzus may develop kidney infections or other kidney problems, such as renal dysplasia and renal cortical hypoplasia. The breed is also prone to missing or misaligned teeth, tooth crowding, periodontal disease, and cleft lip/palate. Because Shih Tzus are a Brach cephalic breed, they often suffer from respiratory issues. They may also experience problems with breathing during drinking, as their noses are centrally located.
Routine veterinary care, timely vaccinations, daily exercise, and a well-balanced diet help ensure Shih Tzus live a long life of 10 to 18 years.
Shih Tzus are very intelligent dogs that enjoy learning. They can definitely be successful at training and learning commands, but they may take a little more time and require a patient owner. Housebreaking, especially, may be challenging. Shih Tzus can be stubborn, and anyone training them must be firm, consistent, and willing to devote a lot of time and effort to the process.
These dogs will try to get away with a lot. They tend to be picky eaters, love to chew on furniture and shoes, nip more than they should, and lick compulsively. They also growl and bite when they feel their food or toys are threatened. These behaviors cannot be tolerated, and the Shih Tzu must learn this early in life and be reminded of it frequently.
Early socialization goes a long way toward ensuring these dogs grow into tolerant, confident, and calm adults. Being around other animals and unfamiliar people starting in the first months of life helps prevent aggressive behavior, nipping, and growling. Puppy kindergarten, walks around town, and trips to the dog park are all great ways to socialize a Shih Tzu.
Shih Tzus require a great deal of grooming. That is probably obvious from one glance at their long and flowing coat. These dogs require daily brushing and frequent trimmings to avoid tangles and mats. Short cuts are easiest to manage, but these are only appropriate for pets; show dogs should have long coats. A wire brush and a stainless steel comb are excellent grooming tools to keep on hand, and the breed's mustache and topknot should be combed daily. Shih Tzus shed a lot when they change coat at about a year old; fortunately, they shed little dander, which makes them a good choice for those with allergies.
Because a dirty coat mats quickly, Shih Tzus should be bathed any time their coat becomes dirty. It's essential to comb tangles out before bathing, and to use only pH-balanced, canine shampoos. Rinsing and blow drying thoroughly are also important.
These dogs should have their teeth brushed every day to prevent cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Their nails should be clipped as often as necessary to keep them from snagging, breaking, or clicking on the floor. Also, weekly ear checks to look for wax accumulation or signs of ear infection are necessary.
Shih Tzus have been prized as wonderful house pets and cherished by royalty in China for more than a thousand years. These dogs likely developed from crossing Tibetan mountain dogs or Lhasa Apsos with Pekingese. Paintings from 6th century China show dogs similar to the Shih Tzu, and documents from the same period claim the dogs were gifts from the Byzantine Empire.
Although the breed's exact origin is not clear, genetic testing confirms these dogs are some of the most ancient in existence. The breed likely originated in Tibet, where Tibetan lamas created the dogs to look like tiny lions. After presenting the dogs to Chinese rulers, the Chinese imperial court offered the name Shih Tzu, which means "lion dog" or "little lion." The breed is also called "chrysanthemum dog," because the hair on the face grows in all different directions, similar to the petals on a chrysanthemum flower.
Most of the dogs were lost at the end of imperial rule in China; fortunately, a few dogs were given away to foreigners. All of today's Shih Tzus descend from only fourteen dogs. The breed made its way to England in 1908, and from there to Europe and Australia. The Shih Tzu became popular in the United States in the 1960s.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Shih Tzu in 1969.