The sweet and lovable Shih Tzu is one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S., and it’s no wonder since anyone who’s ever met one of these little “lion dogs” comes away smitten with them for life! While many dog breeds were created to help us with tasks like hunting game, guarding property, and pulling sleds, the Shih Tzu was bred to be our loving companions, a job these affectionate little guys do very well! Interested in learning more about the adorable Shih Tzu? Read on…
The Shih Tzu is an ancient dog breed, with the earliest records of its existence dating from around 600 A.D. The exact origins of the Shih Tzu are up for debate. Some experts say they originated in Tibet and eventually made their way to China, others say China is their place of origin. Either way, they quickly became a treasured lap dog of Chinese royalty.
The name Shih Tzu can be translated as “little lion” or “lion dog”—a nod to their furry heads and faces. They are also called “chrysanthemum dogs” because of the way the fur on their faces grows out from their button noses every which way, like the petals of a flower!
Imperial China couldn’t keep the irresistible Shih Tzu a secret in the forbidden city of Peking (now Beijing) forever. This dog eventually made its way to the U.K., and then to America, where it consistently ranks as one of the AKC’s most popular dog breeds.
Some experts speculate that the Lhasa Apso and possibly the Pekingese went into creating the Shih Tzu. In fact, in its early years in England it was originally classified as a type of Apso, but became a totally separate breed in the early 1900s.
Shih Tzus are adaptable, fun-loving dogs who are eager to please their human companions. They make good apartment dogs and also love to be around children. Remember that their favorite place is by your side, so be prepared to have a permanent snuggle buddy!
You’ll see Shih Tzus at dog shows with long, flowing silky hair, but grooming the full coat takes a good amount of work, and many Shih Tzu parents prefer to give their dogs a “puppy” cut to make grooming more manageable. You can still gather your pup's trimmed hair into a little topknot like the show dogs, just be sure to use a band made for this purpose.
If you’re interested in getting a little lion of your own, be aware that there is no such thing as a “teacup” or “Imperial” Shih Tzu. The Shih Tzu is a toy breed that should weigh between 9 and 16 pounds. A dog that’s marketed as any smaller than that is below the healthy size for the breed and can have medical issues. Don’t buy Shih Tzu puppies from pet stores or online ads, chances are these dogs came from a puppy mill. Check out the American Shih Tzu Club to find reputable breeders (and for lots of great information on the breed), or find a Shih Tzu rescue organization near you for adoptable pups in need of a good home!
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