Breed of the Month: Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

Description: The Shih Tzu is a short dog with thick legs. The level body is longer than it is tall with the tail, covered with hair, held curled over the back. It has a double coat which comes in all colors including a blaze of white on the head being very common. It has large round dark eyes, a short muzzle with an under bite, and large pennant ears which hang low and are covered with hair.

History: There are many theories about where the Shih Tzu can find its ancestry but, what seems to be most agreed upon is that the Shih Tzu came from a cross breed of the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso.

It is largely unknown as to the exact date of when the Shih Tzu first emerged. Judging from evidence from various paintings and art of the Tang Dynasty in China, experts think the first Shih Tzus were bred in 624 C.E.

The Shih Tzu was a very famous house pet during the Ming Dynasty and popular among the royal court of the time.

Every Shih Tzu can trace its ancestry back to fourteen dogs that were being bred in England in 1930. At that time they were being bred as Lhasa Apsos but, in 1935 the English Kennel Club declared Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso as two different breeds. In 1969 the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Size: Males: 8–11 inches at the withers, weighing 9–16 pounds. Females: 8–11 inches at the withers, weighing 9–16 pounds.

Temperament: As the Shih Tzu was bred to be a companion dog, these dogs are very happy, loyal, and spunky as they love to play and be with their human pack. The Shih Tzu is a very affectionate dog and is generally tolerant of other pets.

The Shih Tzu may require more patience when receiving training. This breed may also be slightly difficult to house-break.

This breed can become willful if they feel they are the pack leaders. They need consistent leadership from all humans to help them realize their place in the pack. Having a proper pack order in place will prevent behavior issues in the Shih Tzu such as snapping, guarding, biting, and constant barking.

Grooming: Shih Tzu’s have two coats and is usually styled in either a show cut or puppy cut. With a show cut, the fur is left to grow long and requiring a top knot tied on top of the dogs head to keep hair out of the eyes. A puppy cut is a practical style where daily brushing isn’t required. The Shih Tzu is a light shedder.

Shih Tzu’s also need their eyes to be cleaned regularly to avoid tear stains.

Health: The Shih Tzu is prone to many of the same congenital disease seen in all small dogs. Seen more commonly in the Shih Tzu are patellar luxation, also known as a dislocated knee cap, hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, and periodontal disease, due to a small mouth crowded with teeth.

Intervertebral Disk Disease is another ailment common to the Shih Tzu. Intervertebral disk disease is when the fibrocartilage cushioning between the vertebral bones of the spinal column breaks down. This degenerative disease can cause symptoms of mild pain to paralysis. 

Shih Tzus, along with other brachycephalic breeds (pugs, Boston terriers, bulldogs, etc), are susceptible to stenotic nares which are characterized by pinched or narrow nostrils. Stenotic nares is a congenital condition which can be remedied by a simple surgery to widen the nostrils.

Exercise: While play will alleviate most of the Shih Tzu’s exercise requirements, a daily pack walk is needed by every dog, regardless of breed.

Lifespan: About 11 to 16 years.

Trivia: While the breed was flourishing in Europe in 1930’s they were known as the “chrysanthemum dog” due to way the hair grows on the face, resembling a chrysanthemum flower. The Shih Tzu is also known as the “lion dog” as they were bred to resemble a lion. Famous owners of Shih Tzu dogs include the Hanson brothers, Nicole Richie, Queen Elizabeth II, Paula Dean, Bill Gates, and Judge Judy.