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Shih Tzu Breed

The history of the Shih Tzu breed is still somewhat obscure. We know that in Tibet it was kept as a sacred dog where it was known as "little lion dog." That name was given to Shih Tzu not only because of the profuse golden hair, but also because the little dog was worshipped, along with the lion, in the land of Tibet. Records show that it was occasionally given to the emperors of China as a sign of great honor. In China, Shih Tzu were carefully guarded and cared for. There was still some confusion in the 1930s about the true origin of Shih Tzu as a pure breed. Some experts believed that Shih Tzu developed as a cross between the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. Eventually, the "little lion dog" traveled to Europe where it was recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1938. In the United States, Shih Tzu gained popularity in the 1960's when many Shih Tzu were imported from England and Europe. In the United States, Shih Tzu was shown for the first time as a separate breed in the Toy Goup in 1969.

The breed has paved the way to dog lovers' hearts all over the world due to his winning personality. The Shih Tzu is a lively and alert dog, very proud of himself, and a very friendly companion for both children and other household pets. He is a "people dog": he thrives on attention both from his family members and guests. These dogs will make friends with anybody who comes to their homes. As compared to other toy breeds, the Shih Tzu is not overly demanding dog. He is often content to lie during the day in a corner snoring softly, or, given a chance, to doze on a lap of his owner. Shih Tzu can come in a variety of colors. Gromming for you Shih Tzu is very important. You should make it a point to clean your Shih Tzu's eyes once a day. Also make sure to brush it thoroughly once a day. Shampoo it once a week with designated cleaners.

Shih Tzu Puppy
A Shih Tzu puppy at 5 months of age.
Photo courtesy of des Merveilles d'Océane

Here is a brief outline of the Shih Tzu breed standard:

Other Names: In earlier days it was known as the Chrysanthemum Dog, or the Lhasa Lion Dog

Country of Origin: Tibet

Utilization: Companion dog

Registration FCI Classification: Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs; Tibetan breeds (without working trial); AKC Classification: Toy Group

Size: Small 99-11 inches at shoulders)

Colors: All colors permissible, white blaze on forehead and white tip on tail highly desirable in parti-colors.

Litter Size: 5

Life Span: 9-15 years

Grooming Requirements: Shih Tzu need daily combing, eye cleaning, weekly bathing and overall professional grooming. His coat is a little softer than the Lhasa Apso. To fashion the Shih Tzu topknot, part the hair from the ear on both sides of the head. Next, gather up in one hand the hair in the middle and slip on a latex band at the base. The band may have to be wrapped around twice to make it secure, but the topknot should not be drawn so tight as to cause the dog discomfort. Finally, a ribbon or barrette may be attached to the latex band, but this point is purely optional.

Shedding: Moderate

Personality: Quiet, intelligent, independent, affectionate, playful, and eager to learn.

Social skills: The Shih Tzu gets along with other animals when properly socialized from puppyhood.

Suitability for Children: Patient with children of all ages if introduced at an early age.

Exercise Needs: Shih Tzu is happy with house activities but a 20 minutes walk will do good.Train Ability:Can be hard to house break, stubborn.

Health & Behavioral Issues: Shih Tzu have several serious health problems. The most common are eye ulcers, knee dislocation, bleeding disorders, heart strokes, kidney disorders and high susceptibility to colds.

Puppy or Adult Dog?

If you decided that Shih Tzu is the right breed for you, it is time to start attending dog shows and talking to Shih Tzu breeders. You also need to decide whether you need a pet-quality Shih Tzu dog, a show dog or a dog for breeding. There are some differences between male Shih Tzu and female Shih Tzu in size and temperament. Buying a Shih Tzu puppy has some obvious benefits, but an adult Shih Tzu might be a better choice if you have small children in your family. In this case you should buy a Shih Tzu puppy of at least four months of age that would be able to defend himself from children who like rough play.

If you want a show dog, remember that six months is the earliest age for the breeder to select a show prospect from a litter, and nobody, even an experienced breeder and exhibitor can predict with 100 percent accuracy that a particular puppy will excel in the show ring. You also should be prepared to deal with some Shih Tzu breed specific ailments. It is extremely important to buy your Shih Tzu dog or puppy from a reputable Shih Tzu breeder, not from a pet store or a puppy mill. A good source for primary characteristics of a reputable breeder can be found on many web sites.

Housebreaking Your Shih Tzu

Housebreaking is your first training concern and it should begin the moment you bring your Shih Tzu puppy home. Puppies should be taken outdoors after meals, as a full stomach will put pressure on the bladder and colon. The puppy should be encouraged to use the same area for "his business" and he will soon get used to it. Indoors, sheets of newspapers can be used to cover the area where the puppy should relieve himself. These should be placed some distance away from his sleeping and feeding areas, as a puppy will not eliminate where he eats or sleeps. The puppy should be praised after he has used this particular part of the room. Each positive reinforcement will increase the possibility of his using that area again. You must be patient, tolerant and understanding. Never rub his nose in his excreta, never punish him with your hand. This will make him "hand-shy" and fear you.