The Shih Tzu is a small breed, longer than it is tall, with a sturdy appearance, very distinctively coated with abundant hair and a vaguely lion-like face. The Shih Tzu is one of the Oriental dog breeds characterized by a broad, round head, beard and whiskers. Hair grows upwards on the nose and gives a distinct chrysanthemum-like upshot. It has a short, square muzzle which is flat and hairy, a black, level or tip-tilted nose with wide open nostrils, large, round eyes that are dark in colour and set wide apart, and large, heavily coated sagging ears which blends perfectly into the hair on the neck. It has a broad and deep chest with a level back, efficiently supported by short but straight and muscular front legs and similarly short but muscular back legs. The legs are cushioned to the ground by rounded, firm and well-padded feet with abundant hair. The tail is palm-like; heavily plumed which is carried well above its torso. The Shi Tzu has a silky double coat is long and dense with abundant undercoat that comes in all colours.
The Shih Tzu is a small breed that originated in China. The name “Shih Tzu” is according to the Wade-Giles system of romanization. The breed is thought to be the oldest and smallest of the holy dogs that originated in Tibet, revered for its lion-like appearance which is associated with the “Gangs Senge,” the Tibetan Snowlion (a celestial animal of Tibet that symbolizes fearlessness, unconditional cheerfulness, east and the earth element.) It was bred as a companion dog to the Chinese Emperor that possesses a great charm and barks when people or animals approached. The Shih Tzu is believed to be a cross between the “Bei-jing gou” (Pekingese) and the Lhasa Apso (a Tibetan breed.) The breed is also sometimes called the Tibetan Lion Dog or the Chrysanthemum Dog mainly because of its appearance that resembles the flower. The Shih Tzu is also one of the oldest breed as recently identified through advances in DNA analysis (Science, Volume 304, May 21, 2004.) It was a highly esteemed breed in China and favored by Empress Dowanger Cixi, often distinguished by a topknot. Many Shih Tzu were bred and raised during the Ming Dynasty but were destroyed when the British invaded China, but some found their way to England. The breed was initially shown in Chinese dog shows as the Lhassa terrier or Tibetan poodle and became known as the Lhassa Lion Dog in 1935. In the West, it became known as the Shih Tzu.
Like the Tibetan description of the Snowlion, the Shih Tzu is similarly a cheerful breed. It is a gentle lap dog and a very energetic companion. The breed is royally dignified; it expects to be treated as royalty and can sometimes be arrogant. It has a stubborn streak but will typically respond well to patient and consistent guidance. One of its original function is to be an alert watchdog for the Emperor of China, hence, the Shih Tzu is usually quiet when indoors but has a tendency to bark a lot when outdoors. It can be snappish if surprised.
The Shih Tzu is a stubborn breed that needs consistent and patient training from a gentle handler. Socialization at an early age with other household pets is recommended as well as early training not to bark excessively.
The Shih Tzu has a very broad grooming requirement, it has a very luxurious coat requires a good daily grooming using a firm bristle brush to prevent tangles and remove loose or dead hair that gets trap in the coat. A topknot should be tied with a bow to enable the dog to see properly. The round eyes are very sensitive and must always be kept clean and free of obstructions. It sheds little hair and makes a good pet for those suffering from allergies.
The Shih Tzu is a hardy breed with an average lifespan of 12 to 16 years. It is considered to be a brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dog which makes it very sensitive to high temperatures. There are few minor medical issues surrounding the health of the Shih Tzu including:
von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) – a bleeding problem
The Shih Tzu will do best on a diet with a mix of poultry, pork, barley, rice, soy and wheat.
It has a moderate exercise requirement where short walks on leash or a session of play in an open but secured area will be enough to meet its daily exercise needs. It is suitable for an apartment life and must be provided with proper physical and mental activities. It loves playing outdoors but doesn’t do well in humid weather condition and must be kept indoors.
The Shih Tzu has a playful attitude and gets along well with older children. This lively little breed is generally good with other household pets.