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Origins of the Shih Tzu


So while the origins of the Shih Tzu are not fully clear, there is evidence that the breed was developed by Tibetan Monks who offered the temple dogs as gifts to the emperors of China.  The name Shih Tzu means "lion dog"; the breed's lion-like facial features were revered in Imperial courts.  These little dogs became the Holy pets of the palace. During the Ming and Manchu Dynasties, the little lion dogs were bred and raised by palace eunuchs and were considered the exclusive property of the royal court.  They were rarely seen outside the palaces and anyone caught owning one could be sentenced to death.  These beautiful heavy coated Shih Tzu were sometimes carried inside the robes of noble women and were even used as bed warmers and placed at the feet of the emperors and empresses to generate heat.  This breed has always been a close companion, house dog and lap dog, never having been bred for any other known purpose.  This is perhaps why to this day, the Shih Tzu is one of the most pampered and popular companion dogs out of all the toy breeds. The Shih Tzu are great dogs to be used as therapy dogs or emotional support dogs.


Seven dogs and seven bitches comprise the gene pool of all existing Shih Tzu today. It was not until 1930 that the first pair was exported to England.  Then three Shih Tzu were imported from China in 1932, and eight additional were imported to England between 1933 and 1959.

The fourteen foundation dogs include a  Pekingese dog used in an admitted cross in England in 1952.  So far as is known, the breed became extinct in China after the Communist revolution.


Returning military personnel brought some of the first Shih Tzu into the United States during the 1940s and 1950s and began breeding programs.  The unique beauty and outstanding temperment of the Shih Tzu quickly made this breed so popular and what we see today. 


The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1969.

Did You Know?

There are physical and mental benefits to owning a dog.

  • Dogs can help you to stay physically active
  • Dogs can help you to stay social
  • Dogs can help lower your blood pressure
  • Dogs are great company and help prevent loneliness
  • Dogs can help teach children responsibility
  • Dogs can help you develop a stronger immune system
  • Dogs can help us with emotional support and well being as well as give comfort to those who are grieving

Bred for companionship​​

Although the Shih Tzu is prized for its beauty, small size, flowing coat, and intelligent mind, they are bred for one thing and they do it well:  They are companion dogs who give love to everyone they meet.  Even though their name means "Lion Dog", there is nothing fierce about this dog breed.  The Shih Tzu are total lovers not hunters.  Oh, they will  bark to alert you that someone is at the door, but once whoever it is comes inside, they quickly want to become friends.  So don't count on your Shih Tzu to guard the house, he would probably greet the burglar with open paws.  They are a very trusting breed.


Bred solely to be companions, Shih Tzu are affectionate, happy go lucky, outgoing house dogs who love nothing more than to be underfoot following their humans from room to room.  This breed has been bred for one thing - to be companion dogs.  Since ancient times, the Shih Tzu have made themselves comfortable on the laps of everyone who meets them.  They have a huge desire to be with their humans. In fact, they crave human companionship and love nothing more than to cuddle, kiss and sit on your lap.  Because they are so attached to their humans, the Shih Tzu are susceptible to separation anxiety when left alone for long periods. The Shih Tzu is a very social dog and tends to require a large amount of personal attention each day.  Because, they are prone to separation anxiety, Shih Tzu are best in homes that have someone home for most of the day.  Having another Shih Tzu for company is advised for those who have to leave their dog home for work as they can keep each other company and may help to reduce any anxiety and boredom. 


Before you rush out and purchase a puppy, it is very important to think it through very carefully. Caring for a puppy is hard work and a lifetime commitment.  Your puppy will be relying on you for many years to come.  Make sure as a family you sit down to discuss how a new puppy will affect your family, schedules, responsibilities and lifestyle.  Be sure everyone is on board to include the new pet in your home BEFORE contacting a breeder ie: spouse or significant other, landlord, parents, roommate, etc.


Grooming Requirements: 

If you want to keep your Shih Tzu in the  long beautiful flowing coat, be prepared for some serious daily grooming time.  Most pet owners resort to a short "puppy" clip which is much easier to care for.  Your Shih Tzu will need to see a professional groomer about every 6-8 weeks to maintain the shorter coat. The Shih Tzu is a great breed for those who suffer with allergies because of their hair like coat.  However, there are no 100% guarantees that everyone will not experience an allergic reaction.


Health:

Shih Tzu are known for their longevity as they can live on average from 10-16 years.  Even though they are a pretty healthy dog breed, it is important and up to you to make sure your dog lives a long and healthy life.  One of the most important things you can do to keep your dog healthy is to make sure that you regularly visit your vet for routine check ups and vaccines in order to stay on top of any illness or conditions that can arise.


Some very common things to be aware of are eyes and ears.

Ears:

Shih Tzu are predisposed to developing ear infections because of their floppy ears an lots of hair in their ear canals. All of this hair and a floppy ear can become a warm perfect environment for breeding bacteria.  Signs are head shaking, rubbing or scratching at the ear and a bad odor coming from the ear.

Eye problems:

Shih Tzu have large round eyes and a shallow socket making the breed susceptible to eye injuries. 

Common eye issues can include:

Epiphora which is an overflow of tears that can stain white fur below the eyes, Retina dysplasia, Corneal ulcers, cataracts, entropion and eye infections.

Allergies:

Shih Tzu can be afflicted by allergies. Symptoms can include itching, licking of the paws, rubbing of the face, frequent ear infections. 


Exercise

Since the Shih Tzu was bred to be a house companion, they require minimal  exercise.  Short daily walks or indoor playtime will satisfy the activity needs of this small cuddly companion. 


Training

Oftentimes, owners will find the antics and fun personality of their Shih Tzu amusing.  But don't be mistaken, this breed needs training like all other breeds.  If left to their own, a Shih Tzu owner can find themselves frustrated as the Shih Tzu can sometimes be notorious for being an independent stubborn breed and can sometimes take a bit longer than other breeds to housebreak. Consistent, gentle, positive training methods are needed for this breed.  They thrive on human company and enjoy being the center of attention.  Provide them with lots of love and attention and they are very food motivated too, so small treats are also a great training tool. Never give this breed a harsh correction, they respond best to patient, gentle and positive reinforcement.


Housebreaking:

The Shih Tzu have very small bladders.  As a result, puppies are not able to hold their urine for more than a 2-3 hours at a time so frequent restroom breaks are needed to prevent accidents.  Give them a treat every time they use the potty pad or go outdoors as a reward.  Never yell or scream at your Shih Tzu for having an accident. This is a very sensitive breed and that will only make your Shih Tzu fear you and cause anxiety.


Socialization:

Because Shih Tzu are bred to be companion dogs, it is very important to make sure that you spend lots of hands on time training, exercising,  playing with and safely socializing your puppy to other dogs, children and people after you complete all your puppy vaccinations.  Gradually take them to lots of different places to increase their exposure to lots of different sites, sounds, people and stimuli.  Some signs and symptoms of an improperly socialized dog  are excess anxiety, a shy and insecure dog, excessive barking, fearful of strangers, may nip or bite out of fear, acting out and showing aggression to other dogs. 


Standard weight range: 9-16 lbs.

Longevity:  10-16 years of age

Correct prounciation of the name is:

SHEED-zoo