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The origins of the Shih Tzu is obscure but the best information indicates that they
originated in Tibet. They were kept in Temples and where known as the Sacred dog.
Occasionally they were given to the emperors of China during the Manchu Dynasty
(17th Century). In that country they quickly became known as "little temple dogs"
and were carefully guarded and cared for by the court eunuchs. The Empress
Dowager, know to have personally supervised the breeding of these dogs, were lost
when she died, little is known about what happened to the breed. Some were
probably given away to Chinese families and when the Peking Kennel Club was
formed in 1934 there was confusion as to the difference between certain small
The Shih Tzu's first arrived in the United States in the late 1930's due due to the war
and the rarity of the breed there were little over 300 dogs recorded by 1963. During
the 1960's the breed gained popularity again and many dogs were imported from
England and Europe. In 1969 the Shih Tzu were permitted to be shown as a seperate
breed in the Toy Dog Group. By the mid 80's there were over 85,000 registered Shih
Tzu's with the American Kennel Club. The Shih Tzu has been placed in the top 25
most popular breeds of dogs.
The general appearance of the breed is that of a small, compact, sturdy dog with
luxurious coat, upright head, jaunty step, and plumed, curved tail flowing over the
back. Ideal height is nine to 10.5 inches at the withers, but ranges from eight to 11
inches. Ideal weight is nine to 16 pounds, depending on height. The head is round,
broad, and wide between the eyes, and in balance with the rest of the dog. The dark
eyes are large and round; the ears are natural and heavily feathered; the muzzle is
square, short and unwrinkled, and flat; lips and chin should neither protrude nor
recede. The jaw is undershot -- the incisors of the lower jaw overlap the incisors of
the upper jaw. The Shih Tzu body is slightly longer than tall, its legs straight and
muscular, and its feet firm and well-padded.
Personality and Temperament
One of the strongest characteristics of the Shih Tzu is its personality. they are
friendly, non-agressive that is a good companion for both children and other breeds
of dogs. They are know for their fun-loving play, romping around an apartment or in
the country-side. The shih tzu is a people-oriented dog, they cherish nothing more
than the love and affection of people. They will sit patiently, gazing on your face.
They however are not a one-person dog, they are happy to entertain any stranger
once accepted into the house. They make friends wherever they go, as if taking on
the role of ambassador for the rest of the breed. The Shih Tzu has a 'lap dog'
personality, they are not highly strung or demanding. They are content to lie down
with their legs stretched out behind them, however they would much prefer to be
curled up on the owner's lap.
Grooming and Healthcare
The Shih Tzu's coat is one of the characteristics that exemplifies its truly regal
nature. The coat comes in a range of colors from total black, black and white, grey
and white, gold and white and total gold. A white blaze on the forehead and white
tip on the tail are considered highly prized. The beautiful coats require care and
attention. Daily grooming is necessary, otherwise the coat becomes matted and
tangled and may require cutting. It is a good idea to get the dog used to the daily
brushing, a puppy needs little time but as the old grows older, more care is needed.
Grooming the face should start at an early age, the dog will get used to it after a
while. Basically healthy, the Shih Tzu is subject to a kidney disease called renal
dysplasia and to slipped stifles or kneecaps. His slightly protruding eyes are prone
to injury, and his short muzzle often produces slight wheezing problems. Nostrils
closing in can also produce snorting.