shih tzu

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Shih Tzu
The descendant of regal dogs of China, the Shih Tzu
makes a loyal and lively friend.

Vital Stats
Dog Breed Group
Companion Dogs
General: 9 inches to 10 inches tall at the shoulder
General: 9 to 16 pounds
Life Span
10 to 16 years

Breed Characteristics

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based on 6 ratings

Health & Grooming
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All-around friendliness
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Exercise needs
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His name means little lion, but there's nothing fierce about this dog breed. The Shih Tzu is a
lover, not a hunter. Bred solely to be a companion, the Shih Tzu is an affectionate, happy,
outgoing housedog who loves nothing more than to follow his people from room to room. In
recent years, however, owners have started taking the Shih Tzu off their laps and into dog
sports, training him for obedience, rally, and agility competitions.
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Coat, Color and Grooming
Children and other pets
Rescue Groups

James Mumsford, an American teacher and composer, perhaps described the Shih Tzu
best: "Nobody knows how the ancient eunuchs managed to mix together: a dash of
lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court
jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old man, a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of
monkey, one part baby seal, a dash of teddy bear, and, for the rest, dogs of Tibetan
and Chinese origin."

The object of Mumsford's colorful description, the Shih Tzu (pronounced SHEED
Zoo, SHID Zoo, or SHEET Sue), is a small, regal dog with long, abundant locks; a
distinctive face that melts many a heart; and a friendly attitude. The breed can boast a
classy background: he was originally kept by royal Chinese families during the Ming
With his flowing hair sweeping the ground and his topknot elegantly tied, the Shih
Tzu does appear snobbish, suited only for lying about a palace on silk pillows.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Shih Tzus are beautiful, but they
are also friendly, lively, devoted companions.
The Shih Tzu personality is enormously appealing, and even grudging dog observers
find it hard to resist this breed. The Shih Tzu simply doesn't allow anyone to ignore
him. He was bred to be a friendly companion — he doesn't hunt, herd, or guard —
and that's what he is. He loves nothing more than to meet and greet friends and
strangers alike. Count on a Shih Tzu to make friends wherever he goes.
Not only is this member of the Toy Group good-natured and friendly, he is highly
adaptable. He is as well suited to apartments in the city as to life on a country farm.
He loves children and gets along with other animals. However, although the Shih Tzu
is a sturdy dog, his small size puts him at a disadvantage. Adults should always
supervise interactions between children and dogs, and this is especially important for
the Shih Tzu, to prevent him from accidentally getting hurt during rough play.
Interestingly, the Shih Tzu is sometimes called the Chrysanthemum Dog, a nickname
that describes the way the hair on his face grows out in all directions — he looks like
a flower with a nose for the center.
One unique characteristic of the Shih Tzu is his undershot bite. His lower jaw is
slightly wider than the upper, and the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth, rather
than outside, when his mouth is closed.
Legends regarding the Shih Tzu abound. One says that Buddha traveled with a little
dog fitting the description of a Shih Tzu. As the story goes, one day, several robbers
came upon the Buddha with the intent of robbing and murdering him. The little dog
changed into a ferocious lion and ran off the robbers, saving Buddha's life. The lion
then turned back into a fun-loving little dog, which the Buddha picked up and kissed.
The white spot on the heads of many Shih Tzus supposedly marks the place where
Buddha kissed his loyal friend.
Many also believe that Fu Dogs, the guardians of Buddhist temples, are
representations of the Shih Tzu.



There is no such breed as an "imperial" or "teacup" Shih Tzu. These are
simply marketing terms used by unscrupulous breeders use to indicate a very
small or large Shih Tzu.
Shih Tzus are difficult to housebreak. Be consistent, and do not allow a
puppy to roam the house unsupervised until he is completely trained. Crate
training is helpful.





The flat shape of the Shih Tzu's face makes him susceptible to heat stroke,
because the air going into the lungs isn't cooled as efficiently as it is among
longer-nosed breeds. He should be kept indoors in air-conditioning rooms
during hot weather.
Be prepared to brush and comb the Shih Tzu coat every day. It mats easily.
While Shih Tzus are trustworthy with children, they're not the best choice for
families with toddlers or very young children because their small size puts
them at risk for unintentional injury.
The Shih Tzu tends to wheeze and snore, and can be prone to dental problems.
While all dogs eat their own or other animals' feces (coprophagia), the Shih
Tzu seems especially prone to this behavior. The best way to handle the
problem is never let it become a habit. Watch your Shih Tzu closely and clean
up poop right away.
To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill,
or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic
health conditions and good temperaments.

The Shih Tzu's origins are ancient, and steeped in mystery and controversy. A recent
study revealed that the Shih Tzu is one of the 14 oldest dog breeds, and dog bones
found in China have proven that dogs were present there as early as 8,000 B.C.
Some believe the breed was developed by Tibetan Monks and given as gifts to
Chinese royalty. It is also speculated that the Shih Tzu was developed in China by
crossing other breeds with the Lhasa Apso or Pekingnese. Regardless of where the
breed was developed — Tibet or China — it's clear that the Shih Tzu was a treasured
companion from the earliest times. Paintings, art, and writings from the China's Tang
Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) portray small dogs similar to the Shih Tzu. References to the
dogs appear again from 990 to 994 A.D. in documents, a few paintings, and carvings.
In the 13th century, Marco Polo reported that the Mongolian Emperor Kubla Khan
kept small "lion" dogs with trained hunting lions — not as prey, but to keep the lions
calm. Some believe these dogs were the Shih Tzu.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Chinese royal families kept Shih Tzu-type
dogs, and the "little lion dogs" or "chrysanthemum-faced" dogs were mentioned in
several documents from that period. They were reportedly small, intelligent, docile
dogs that strongly resembled lions.
There isn't much mention of the dogs in documents from the 1700s to the early 1900s,
but many pieces of art from that period depict small, shaggy, happy dogs.
In 1861, the Shih Tzu became popular in the Imperial Court after a royal concubine
became the Empress of China. One of Empress T'zu Hsi's first royal edicts was that
anyone caught torturing palace dogs would be put to death. Empress T'zu Hsi had a
great love for animals and carried out extensive breeding programs under the direct
care of palace eunuchs.
During Empress T'zu Hsi's reign, the Dalai Lama gave her a pair of magnificent Shih
Tzus, reportedly the source of the imperial palace's little lion dogs. It's said that the

Shih Tzus had their own palace and were trained to sit up and wave their front paws
when the Empress visited.
After her death in 1908, many royal families competed to produce dogs of the finest
coats and colors. Because of the competition, breeding practices were kept secret.
Poor-quality dogs were sold in the marketplace, and good-quality dogs were often
smuggled out of the palaces and given as gifts to foreign visitors or Chinese
In 1928, the first Shih Tzus, a male and female pair, were brought to England from
Peking by Lady Brownrigg, the wife of the quartermaster general of the north China
command. In 1933, a Mrs. Hutchins brought a Shih Tzu from China to Ireland; this
dog was eventually bred to Lady Brownrigg's. These three dogs formed the
foundation of Lady Brownrigg's kennel.
Maureen Murdock and Philip Price, her nephew, were the first to import and breed
Shih Tzus in the United States. There were three Shih Tzu clubs by 1960: the
American Shih Tzu Association in Florida, the Texas Shih Tzu Society, and the Shih
Tzu Club of America. In 1963, the Shih Tzu Club of America and the Texas Shih Tzu
Society merged to form the American Shih Tzu Club. In 1969, the breed was
recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the Toy Group.

Males and females alike stand 9 to 10 1/2 inches tall and weigh 9 to 16 pounds.

All dog breeds have a purpose. Historically, the purpose of the Shih Tzu was to be a
companion — and that's just what he wants to be. He simply desires to be with you.
So don't expect him to hunt, guard, or retrieve; that's not his style.
Affection is his dominant characteristic, and your lap is his favorite destination. He is
happiest when he is with his family, giving and receiving attention.
That said, the Shih Tzu is not a total couch potato. He's alert and lively and may bark
at newcomers to his home. Don't worry, though; he'll make friends with your guests
the minute they walk inside.

Shih Tzus are generally healthy, but like all breeds of dogs, they're prone to certain
conditions and diseases:

Allergies are a common ailment in dogs. There are three main types: food
allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog's diet;
contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such
as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, or other chemicals; and inhalant
allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, or










mildew. Treatment may include dietary restrictions, medications, and
environmental changes.
Canine hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can cause
pain and lameness.
Patellar luxation, which means dislocation (luxation) of the kneecap
(patella). The knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place,
causing pain. This can be crippling.
Juvenile renal dysplasia (JRD) is a genetic defect of the kidneys seen in
young dogs. The dog is excessively thirsty and urinates frequently. He loses
weight, vomits, and lacks vigor. Currently, there is only one definitive test for
the disease that can be performed on breeding dogs — a wide-wedge biopsy of
the kidney, which is very invasive and carries a lot of risk. There have been
swab tests developed by geneticists, but, to this date, none of them appear to
be 100 percent reliable.
Bladder stones and bladder infections can be caused by many factors, such
as excessive protein, magnesium, and phosphorus in the diet, or long periods
of time between urination. Bladder infections can be caused by bacterial or
viral infections. If your Shih Tzu needs to urinate frequently, has bloody urine,
seems to have difficulty urinating, or suffers a loss of appetite, take him to the
vet for a checkup.
Eye problems are not uncommon among Shih Tzus because their large eyes
bulge. Disorders include keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea that can lead
to a corneal ulcer and blindness; proptosis, when the eyeball is dislodged
from the eye socket and the eyelids clamp behind the eyeball; distichiasis, an
abnormal growth of eyelashes on the margin of the eye, resulting in the
eyelashes rubbing against the eye; ectopia cilia, a condition similar to
distichiasis; progressive retinal atrophy, a degenerative disease of the retinal
visual cells that progresses to blindness; and dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis
sicca), a dryness of the cornea and the conjunctiva. Contact your vet right
away if you notice any redness, irritation, or excessive tearing.
Ear infections strike the Shih Tzu because his drop ears create a dark, warm
ear canal — a perfect environment for infection. Check and clean the ears
weekly to avoid problems.
Retained baby teeth and tooth and gum problems are not unusual because
the Shih Tzu's baby teeth may remain intact when the permanent teeth emerge.
Sometimes it is necessary for the veterinarian to extract the baby teeth.
Because of the Shih Tzu's undershot jaw, he also can have missing or
misaligned teeth. It's important to brush puppy teeth regularly and report
dental problems, such as bad breath and loose teeth, to your veterinarian.
Umbilical hernias are common among Shih Tzus. Quite often, these are
caused by delayed closure of the abdominal midline. If the hernia is small, it
may close as the puppy matures. Sometimes surgery is necessary to correct it,
usually while the puppy is being spayed or neutered.
A portosystemic liver shunt is a congenital abnormality in which blood
vessels allow blood to bypass the liver. As a result, the blood is not cleansed
by the liver as it should be. Surgery is usually the best treatment.
Snuffles mayplague the Shih Tzu because teething tends to be difficult. At
about four months, the gums swell; since the gums are directly under those
pushed-in noses, there isn't a lot of room. Puppies may snort, snuffle, snore
loudly, or wheeze during this time, and may even have a clear nasal drainage.


Reverse sneezing occurs when the dog is overly excited, gulps his food too
fast, or allergens are present. Nasal secretions drop onto the soft palate,
causing it to close over the windpipe. The dog makes a wheezing sound and
may become alarmed. Talk soothingly to him and try to get him to relax to
shorten the episode. Some say that pinching the nostrils closed, so the dog is
forced to breathe through its mouth, is the quickest way to stop the reverse

The Shih Tzu doesn't really mind where he lives, as long as he's with you. He's a very
adaptable dog who can be comfortable in a small city apartment or a large suburban
or country home. He is definitely a housedog and should not be kenneled outside,
though he enjoys a bit of backyard play.
The Shih Tzu is content with short walks each day. He is not an extremely active dog;
he's content to sit in your lap, wander around the house, play with his toys, or run to
the door to greet visitors.
Like other breeds with short faces, the Shih Tzu is sensitive to heat. He should remain
indoors in an air-conditioned room (or one with fans) on hot days so he doesn't suffer
from heat exhaustion.
No, the breed cannot fly; but owners commonly report that their Shih Tzu thinks he
can. It not unusual for a Shih Tzu to fearlessly jump from a bed or a chair. While they
may not seem high to you, these heights are towering to the small Shih Tzu. And,
unfortunately, these jumps often end in injury. The breed is front heavy and crashes
forward, causing injury or even a concussion to the head. Be very careful when
carrying your Shih Tzu. Hold him securely and don't let him jump out of your arms or
off furniture.
Even though he's naturally docile and friendly, the Shih Tzu needs early socialization
and training. Like any dog, he can become timid if he is not properly socialized when
young. Early socialization helps ensure that your Shih Tzu puppy grows up to be a
well-rounded dog.
Shih Tzus are often considered difficult to housebreak. Most important is to avoid
giving your puppy opportunities to have accidents inside — you don't want him to
become accustomed to using the carpet. (Some Shih Tzu owners teach their dogs to
use a doggie litter box so they don't need to walk them in bad weather or rush home to
take them out.) A Shih Tzu puppy should be carefully supervised inside the house
until he has not eliminated indoors for at least four to eight weeks. Crate training is
helpful for housetraining and provides your dog with a quiet place to relax. A crate is
also useful when you board your Shih Tzu or travel.

Recommended daily amount: 1/2 to 1 cup of high-quality dry food a day
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism,
and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the

same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need
more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a
difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog
and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
For more on feeding your Shih Tzu, see our guidelines for buying the right food,
feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

Coat, Color and Grooming
The long, silky Shih Tzu coat is gorgeous, and it comes in many colors: black, black
and white, gray and white, or red and white. A white tip on the tail and a white blaze
on the forehead are highly prized.
Keeping the Shih Tzu coat gorgeous is demanding. Daily brushing and combing is
necessary to prevent tangles, as is frequent bathing (as often as once a week). In fact,
many a Shih Tzu lover gives up and hires a professional groomer to clip those long
locks short. Gone is some of his beauty, but so is the chore of daily brushing. If you
trim the coat short and want to keep it that way, plan on grooming appointments every
six to eight weeks.
If you do groom him yourself, make the experience as pleasant as possible for both
you and your Shih Tzu, starting during puppyhood. (After all, you're going to be
doing this a lot.) When brushing, you want to make sure that you brush all the way
down to the skin. Most experienced Shih Tzu groomers teach the dog to lie on his side
while they brush the coat in sections; it's easier to brush that way and more
comfortable for the dog.
At about 10 to 12 months of age, the Shih Tzu coat changes from puppy fluff to a
silky adult coat. During this stage, you'll probably think the coat mats faster than you
can brush. Don't give up! This is temporary, lasting for about three months. Once the
adult coat comes in fully, brushing gets easier.
The Shih Tzu's nails should be trimmed monthly, and his ears checked once a week
for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. Wipe them out weekly
with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent
problems. Hair grows inside the Shih Tzu's ear canal, and this sometimes needs to be
plucked if the dog gets a lot of ear infections.
The Shih Tuz's face, like a toddler's, also needs daily attention. He gets dirty after
eating, and his eyes tear up readily, so it's necessary to wipe his face regularly with a
soft cloth dampened with warm water.
Many small breeds are prone to dental problems, and the Shih Tzu is no exception: it's
important to take good care of his teeth. Regular tooth brushing with a soft toothbrush
and doggie toothpaste will keep his gums and teeth healthy.

Children and other pets

The Shih Tzu is a wonderful family pet. He gets along with other dogs or animals, and
his docile personality makes him a good companion for children. Kids should sit on
the floor to play with a Shih Tzu puppy, however, so there is no risk of carrying and
dropping him. Children should also learn to keep their fingers away from the Shih
Tzu's prominent eyes, which can be easily injured.

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