Perky and happy, the shih tzu tends to require a large amount of personal attention. Because it thrives on human company, it can easily become spoiled.
To maintain the Shih Tzu's long flowing coat, the owner must be prepared for serious grooming time.
Brachycephalic (squashed face), floppy ears (naturally)
Energy Level: Average
Life Expectancy: 11-14 yrs.
Tendency to Drool: Low Tendency to Snore: Low
Tendency to Bark: High
Tendency to Dig: Moderate Social/Attention Needs: High
Colours: Any color permissible
Overall Grooming Needs: High
AKC Classification: Toy
UKC Classification: Companion Dog
Shih Tzu are classified in the toy group in most countries, with a height of 20-30cm and weight of 5-10kg.
As with most toy breeds, shih tzu are quick to mature, reaching adult size by about 10 months.
The Shih Tzu is often slightly longer than tall, with a sturdy body and a good-sized head. The muzzle is quite short, with an undershot bite. The head is rounded and the eyes are quite prominent. The tail is carried curled up over the back. The gait is long and swift for such a small dog.
The Shih Tzu is covered with luxuriant, long, straight hair. This double coat does require a fair amount of upkeep, especially if left long on these short dogs so that it sweeps the ground. Any colour is acceptable for the coat, but dark pigment is preferred around the eyes and on the nose. Shih Tzu tend to be fairly hardy little dogs and often live to 14 or 15 years of age.
Shih tzu are renowned for their perky, happy temperaments. They are lively and friendly. Shih tzu tend to get along well with people of all ages and with other dogs as well as other pets of different species. Rarely you will find a snippy shih tzu, but most are very sweet.
With their short muzzles, shih tzu are not big chewers, but they do enjoy digging and some indulge in nuisance barking. They have a big desire to be with people, whether that is sitting on your lap or taking a hike through the park.
Shih Tzu are very easy to keep and quickly become obese if given too many treats. They do not need or want a mile hike every day, but they do enjoy walks and should be kept fit. Shih tzu do compete in obedience and agility with some success. Beware of exercising a shih tzu in hot, humid weather with the short muzzle, the breed is prone to heat stroke.
Hair is a four-letter word when it comes to the shih tzu. Most pet owners resort to a short year-round body clip, which looks quite nice and is very easy to care for. If you wish to keep the long flowing coat, you must be prepared for some serious grooming time. These dogs require weekly baths with oiling of the coat to help keep matting down and daily grooming to keep any foreign objects from catching in the coat. Dogs with the correct texture of coat do not mat nearly as much as those with a soft coat.
The Shih Tzu tends to require a large amount of personal attention each day. They thrive on human company and can easily become spoiled. They enjoy training and learning tricks, making them the centre of attention. Shih Tzu should be socialised with children early on, but they enjoy people of all ages. Do not count on your Shih Tzu to guard the house; he would probably welcome a burglar with open paws.
The Shih Tzu originated in Tibet, probably back around the 7th century, and they may have simply been the smallest of the Lhasa Apsos there. Given as gifts to the Chinese emperors, the breed developed into the dog we recognise today. Fanciers speculate about crosses with Pekingese to shorten the face as well as selection for the smaller Lhasa-type dogs. The name Shih Tzu means "lion dog" in Chinese, which further confuses the ancestry because lion dog usually denotes the Pekingese.
The Chinese royalty kept and bred shih tzu and, when the British arrived, the breed made its way to England and then on to the United States. Unfortunately, the Communist takeover in China wiped out most of the native stock.
No one disputes that these charming little dogs were intended as companion dogs. Their primary function right from the start appears to be acting as delightful company.