AKC Dog Breeds: Shih Tzu

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Toy Group
Height:10-11 inches   Weight: 9-16 pounds  Color: all colors

A compact and solid dog, the Shih Tzu’s long, flowing double coat is its most distinctive feature. The word Shih Tzu means "lion" and although this dog is sweet and playful, he is not afraid to stand up for himself! One of the most popular dogs in the United States, this portable pooch has a distinctively arrogant carriage with his head well up and tail curved over the back. Cherished by Chinese royals as prized house pets for over a thousand years, it is believed to have descended from crossing the Lhasa Apso or Tibetan mountain dog and Pekingese. The Shih Tzu was the house pet for most of the Ming Dynasty and was discovered by soldiers in England during World War II. The breed was registered with the AKC in 1969.

General Appearance
This small sturdy Shih Tzu, like the Lhasa Apso, is covered over with an abundant double coat of long hair lined with a woolly undercoat. This proud looking little dog has hair above the nose growing upward, creating a "chrysanthemum" face. The head is rounded, with a profuse beard and mustache, short hairy muzzle, and black nose. There is a definite stop. The eyes are large, round and wide-set, dark on most dogs but lighter on liver and blue colored dogs. The pendant ears are so covered with hair that they blend right into the body coat. The teeth should form a level or undershot bite. The topline is level and the body is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The heavily plumped tail is curled over the back. Any color is acceptable, though white on the forehead and tip of the tail is preferred by most dog show judges.

A lively, proud, and confident breed, the Shih Tzu is a dog that loves to play and perform tricks, but is also very loving and gentle. Some may appear to be a little on the arrogant side, but these are actually sweet natured little dogs who love to cuddle and enjoy their creature comforts. With property, early socialization the Shih Tzu boasts a stable, friendly personality and disposition, and is a peaceful creature. The Shih Tzu thrives on affection and attention, and is not the right breed for those with little time to devote to a pet. He is an excellent choice for those that cannot get around much, such as the elderly, and is intelligent and responsive, which makes him less of a challenge to train. The Shih Tzu is suited to both experienced and inexperienced dog owners, and makes a great family pet as well as a very loving companion. The popularity of these dogs has soared over the years, reflected by the Shih Tzu's top ten position in the AKC popularity listings. Although the Shih Tzu gets along well with children, he is a small dog that cannot really handle tough handling. He is therefore best suited to families with gentle, older children. He gets along well with strangers, as well as with other animals. Housebreaking the Shih Tzu can prove problematic in some cases, and some can be a little stubborn and haughty at times. However, by and large, the Shih Tzu makes a wonderful addition to the household, and is living, gentle, peaceful, trusting, and entertaining. His exercise demands are low, and he will fare well with a safe and secure place to play and run around in. This is a dog that will love to spend cozy nights in snuggled up with his owner and receiving plenty of pampering. Although friendly, the Shih Tzu will generally bark to raise an alarm so can make an effective watchdog.


Much of the elegance of the Shih Tzu is owed to its beautiful flowing coat. In order to maintain this elegant trademark, grooming needs to be done each day. Although 15 minutes a day can sound like a lot of work, if your Shih Tzu learns at a young age it can be easily done and just part of their daily routine. Brushing the hair will keep mats from easily forming. When properly groomed the Shih Tzu is a low shedder, and therefore may be well suited to those with allergies. You should also check his eyes for signs of injury or infection regularly.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
The Shih Tzu has a life expectancy of around 10-14 years, and there are a number of health issues to look out for with this breed. The Shih Tzu can have respiratory problems from snoring, wheezing, or infection. They can be prone to ear infections if not cleaned accordingly. Spinal disc disease is something to watch out for since they have such short legs and a long back. This breed can grow to be overweight if not taken care of. It is important to keep up with teeth cleaning in order to prevent periodontal disease.

Activity Level

The Shih Tzu breed is an up beat playful dogs. Short walks around the block, is a great way to keep them fit. They love to play games and can be kept inside for activates. They can tend to lie around a lot and it is a good idea to keep them fit and active. Given a sock or other convenient "enemy" your pet Shih Tzu will stalk his prey and quickly run with the prize to another area, often to lie on his back with a sock between his front legs, snatching playfully at the prey with his small jaws.


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