Shih Tzu:  The Lion Dog

Shih Tzu (pronounced “Sheet-soo”) 

The plural and singular form of the name is the same.

If split personality could describe a small dog breed it would be this breed—laid back, couch potato, perfectly content to nap on your lap all day OR, speed demon, happy to run at top speeds around your home or yard. 

As fearless watch dog, this breed tends to bark loudly when someone comes to the door, but then greet the visitor enthusiastic with kisses and affection. 

Other than the occasional bark when visitors arrive, he is not as yappy as some other small breed dogs.  This is a loyal, friendly, gentle dog that loves people and will bond with all members of the family. 

For those who love a dash of color, the Tzu breed is eager to please, coming in a wide array of colors, all of which are permitted under the standard. 

From the traditional black and white, gold, and brindle come exotics such as reds, chocolates, and silvers.  There's a color pattern for every taste. 


Even though the standard size is between 9 and 16 pounds, some adult dogs are much smaller than the AKC Standard. 

Called Chinese Imperial or Imperial Tzu, these smaller versions of the dog are not identified as a separate breed as may be the case in the Poodle. (i.e. Toy, Miniature, Standard), but are nonetheless miniature versions of the normal sized Shih Tzu dogs.

Quick Facts

  • Other Names Used:  Lion Dog, Chrysanthemum-faced dog

  • Affiliation:  AKC:  Toy, UK:  Companion, CKC: Group 6, Non-Sporting

  • Size:   

    Height:  9-10.5 inches         
    Weight: 9-16 pounds

  • Coat Type:  Long, dense, smooth, flowing

  • Colors:   Gold, White, Brindle, Chocolate, Cream, Black, Red—Orange, Gray and combinations of 2 and 3 colors. For a thorough discussion of Shih Tzu Colors, please check out Coat Colors page.

  • Country of Origin:  China

  • Activity Level:  Low to moderate

  • Life Expectancy:  10-15 years

  • Good with Children:  Yes

  • Good with other pets:  Yes

History

Black Shih Tzu

The known history of the breed breed dates back to antiquity. 

The exact date of origin of the Shih Tzu is not known, but evidence of its existence has come to us from documents, paintings and objets d'art dating from A. D. 624.

During the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.), the King of Viqur gave the Chinese court a pair of dogs said to have come from the Fu Lin (assumed to be the Byzantine Empire).

Another theory of their introduction to China was recorded in the mid-17th century when dogs were brought from Tibet to the Chinese court. These dogs were bred in the Forbidden City of Peking.

The smallest of these dogs resembled a lion, as represented in Oriental art. "Shih Tzu" means "lion".

These dogs are reported to be the oldest and smallest of the Tibetan holy dogs, the lion being associated with the Buddhist deity.

These dogs were bred by the Chinese court and from them the dog we know today as the Shih Tzu developed.

They are also called "the chrysanthemum-faced dog" because the hair grows about the face in all directions.It is known that the Tzu was a house pet during most of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 A.D.) and that they were highly favored by the royal family. Dowager Empress Cixi (T'zu Hsi) kept an important kennel of Pugs, Pekingese, and Shih Tzu.

After her death in 1908 the dogs were dispersed and breeding mostly ceased. When the Communist Revolution occurred in China the breed became almost extinct.

Every member of the breed today can be traced to fourteen dogs - seven bitches and seven dogs - some of which were imported to England where breeding of the Tzu began in 1930.

There the breed was first classified as "Apsos" but after a ruling by the Kennel Club (England) that Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus were separate breeds, the Shih Tzu Club of England was formed in 1935.

From England members of the breed were exported to other countries in Europe and Australia. American soldiers stationed in these countries brought the breed back to the United States thus introducing them to this country.

The breed was admitted to registration in the American Kennel Club Stud Book in March, 1969 and to regular show classification in the Toy Group at AKC shows beginning September 1, 1969. 

So there, in a nutshell is the history of this breed.  The breed continues to evolve as breeders strive to improve the breed. 

Personality

TraitsRating
Grooming Requirements
Affection Level
Friendliness Towards Strangers
Good with Children
Good with Other Dogs
Cold Tolerant
Heat Tolerant

He is sociable but not as outgoing as some breeds.  He needs people so he is not likely to be happy alone for extended periods of the day.  His exercise requirements are minimal. 

He enjoys a romp in the yard or home and a daily walk.  He especially enjoys being with you so he is likely to want to jump in the car when you go out. 

He is not an outdoor dog, so never leave this breed outdoors unattended, nor in a locked car.  He tolerates the cold better than the heat.

This little dog is rarely aggressive and gets along with children and other pets.  Some have a jealous streak if he lives in a household with multiple pets. 

Shih Tzu Puppy

He does well with older children but may be a little fearful of younger toddlers therefore, Dogs of this small breed make better pets for families with older children.

Small dogs of this breed are intelligent and can be trained although there tends to be a stubborn side to his personality.  

He responds best to gentle positive approaches to training.   

He can be hard to house-train, so he does best with a very patient owner who is consistent and calm.


James Mumford described the breed, in the American Shih Tzu Magazine as...

 “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 (Chinese),

a bit of beggar,

a tablespoon of monkey,

one part baby seal,

a dash of teddy bear and the rest dogs of Tibetan and Chinese origin.” 

Health Concerns

Shih Tzu Health Concerns

Some of the most common health concerns in the Shih Tzu involve the eyes because they are big and protruding, but also because the Shih Tzu's coat hair continues to grow.

Hair that is not removed or tied back can iritate the eyes causing many different problems. 

Other Common health concerns include liver shunt, renal dysplasia,  allergies, hip dysplasia, thyroid disorders and Von Willebrand’s Disease. 

For a discussion of health concerns specific for this breed, check out a separate page,Shih Tzu Health Concerns

Grooming Requirements of  The Shih Tzu

Contrary to what the photo to the left would have you believe, the Shih Tzu coat should be long, dense and straight. 

No hair curlers required, but a little hairspray and a flat iron could help!

Most people are attracted to the lovely double coat that comes in a variety of colors.  But with this heavy coat, there comes the responsibility to groom regularly. 

If you've ever seen a Shih Tzu Show dog in his full regalia you know the beauty these dogs possess.  But to achieve this requires much more time, money, and effort than the average pet Shih Tzu lover cares to expend. 

This is a breed that requires much grooming especially if you decide to keep the coat long.  If not, you will need to learn to groom him yourself at home or budget for visits to the groomers every couple of months.  

Some of the grooming challenges for this breed include keeping the coat brushed because the thick double coat tends to tangle and mat easily. 

Eye care is important because eyes can be injured easily.  Keeping the hair out of the eyes and wiping them daily will help keep them healthy.

Light haired dogs are also prone to tear staining.

Ears need care too as hair continues to grow inside the ear canal.  This hair should be removed and ears cleaned periodically. Hair grows continually between the pads of the foot and this can mat easily if not clipped and removed.  For an in depth look at grooming  please visit D.I.Y. Grooming.

Resources

Need more information about the breed.  We've hand picked a few books from Amazon that we think are worth checking out.  Also, please visit our sister site for more information on the Shih Tzu Dog.

Do You Already Own a Shih Tzu? Please Share

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I have a 8 month baby girl, she is my slice of heaven! But I'm having a very hard time potty training her...... Please help!! ----------------------------------------- …

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Baggins was our beloved little buddy for over 13 years; a loyal companion who loved to squeeze into the easy chair beside us, who bounced along on walks …

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Buff is a female Shih Tzu, age 11 (she will be 12 in June 2016) We have had Buffy since she was an 8-week old puppy. I picked her up and she licked …

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I have had dogs all my life, Never had more then one at a time. I have never studied breeds before, I always got what I liked at the moment. Puppies …

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