Life span 10 – 16 years
|Litter size 1–8|
Origin China, Tibet
|Other names Chinese Lion Dog
Coat See Coats section below
FCI Group 9, Section 5 Tibetan breeds #208
Temperament Playful, Affectionate, Lively, Outgoing, Loyal
Height Female: 20 – 28 cm (Adult, At the withers), Male: 20 – 28 cm (Adult, At the withers)
Colors Black, White, Brindle, Liver, Black & White, Liver & White, Blue, Dark Brown, Gold, Light Brown
Similar Maltese, Pomeranian, Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua, Poodle
A Shih Tzu (English: /ˈʃiːtsuː/; Chinese: 西施犬; pinyin: xīshī quǎn), also known as the Chrysanthemum Dog, is a toy dog breed, weighing 10–19 pounds (4.5–8.6kg) when fully grown. The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but it is thought to have originated in Tibet and then been developed in China.
- Shih tzu facts
- Coat colors and quality
- Intervertebral disk disease
- Breathing problems
- Eye issues
- Health issues
- Life span
- Kennel club differences
- The AKC American Kennel Club Shih Tzu
Shih tzu facts
The Shih Tzu is a sturdy little dog with a short muzzle and large dark eyes. They have a soft and long double coat. A Shih Tzu should stand no more than 28 cm (11 in.) at the withers and with an ideal weight of 4.5 to 8.6 kg (10 to 19 lbs). Drop ears are covered with long fur, and the heavily furred tail is carried curled over the back. The coat may be of any color, though white and with blazes of grey are frequently seen. The Shih Tzu is slightly longer than tall, and bigger dogs ideally should carry themselves "with distinctly arrogant carriage". A very noticeable feature is the underbite, which is required in the breed standard. The traditional long silky coat, which reaches the floor, requires daily brushing to avoid tangles. Because of their long coat and fast-growing hair, regular grooming is necessary, which may be expensive and should be taken into account when considering adopting one of this breed. Often the coat is clipped short to simplify care. For conformation showing, the coat must be left in its natural state, though trimming for neatness around the feet and anus is allowed. The shorter cut is typically called a "puppy cut" or a "teddy bear cut" when the puppy cut is accompanied by a fuller, rounder face, resembling a stuffed animal.
Although an individual Shih Tzu's temperament varies from dog to dog, the breed has a personality and temperament that is loyal, affectionate, outgoing, and alert. Training and proper socializing must start at a young age for the Shih Tzu to obey basic commands, for the Shih Tzu is prone to stubbornness when it comes to training. While the Shih Tzu is an excellent watch dog because of its alert and active nature, it was not specifically bred for this purpose. Unlike the Lhasa Apso, which was bred to be a sentinel dog that enjoys high perches and is wary of strangers, the Shih Tzu prefers to be close to its companions and will often offer strangers its affection. Because of its friendly nature, the Shih Tzu tends to interact well with other dogs and with children and adults. Composer James Mumsford described the Shih Tzu as "... a dash of lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old man, a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of monkey, one part baby seal, (and) a dash of teddy bear."
Coat colors and quality
The Shih Tzu comes in a range of colours that include various shades of gold, white, brown, and black. Other colours include black mask gold, black and white, solid black, solid liver, liver and white, brindle, white, red and white, and grey and white. Thus, when two Shih Tzu mate, there is a possibility that their offspring's coat will be similar to the sire's color, dam's color, tricolor, or a mix of both parents' color in one classification. An interesting point (and often a point of confusion) is that while the coat color of those with black pigmented skin (nose, lips, pads, also referred to as "leather") is determined by the color of the coat itself; the coat color on dogs with either liver or blue pigment is categorized by the color of the pigment. Thus, a parti colored (white and another shade) Shih Tzu with blue pigment is a "blue and white" regardless of the tint of the hair which might very well appear similar to a gold and white or other colors. The same principle applies to solid blue, silver, and silver and white. Sometimes you might see dark brown pigments near the shoulders and between the armpits.
The typical fine, straight, and silky Shih Tzu coat has also been listed by many popular dog information websites as being hypoallergenic. In comparison with many other breeds, Shih Tzu do not shed to the same degree, only losing small amounts when bathed or brushed. It is the dog's dander and saliva that trigger most allergic reactions. Allergists do recognize that, at times, a particular allergy patient will be able to tolerate a particular dog; but they agree that "the luck of the few with their pets cannot be stretched to fit all allergic people and entire breeds of dogs." The Shih Tzu coat is said to fall out only when brushed or broken, or just said to shed. The coat may also be wavy or coarse.
The name comes from the Chinese language word for "lion" because this kind of dog was bred to resemble "the lion as depicted in traditional oriental art." (The Pekingese breed is also called "lion dog" in Chinese.) "Shih Tzu" is the Wade-Giles romanization of the Chinese characters 獅子, meaning lion; this romanization scheme was in use when the breed was first introduced in America. In contemporary China, Pinyin is the predominant system of romanization, which renders it as shīzi. The Mandarin Chinese pronunciation is approximately SHIRR-dzə. Though the Wade-Giles system is often regarded as less intuitive, "Shih Tzu" is a useful linguistic example of both of two cases where the Wade-Giles scheme reflects the use of a syllabic fricative after a corresponding consonant cluster (retroflexes and sibilants) in modern Mandarin. This is a unique phonological feature that does not appear in any other known modern language in their standardized form. Indeed, though the exact classification is still debated (and dialectal variants exist), linguists generally agree that these sounds cannot be represented by conventional symbols in the IPA; hence why an unorthodox approximation "SHIRR" was used earlier in this paragraph. However, the use of a syllabic fricative is often observed in informal English with the paralinguistic expression "Shh!", which may serve as a guide to the pronunciation of "Shih".
In modern Chinese language, the Shih Tzu is generally known as the "Xi Shi dog"; Xi Shi was regarded as one of the most beautiful women of ancient China. The alternative name was adopted to avoid the confusion that stems from referring to the breed as a lion. Shih Tzu were nicknamed the Chrysanthemum Dog in England in the 1930s. The dog may also be called the Tibetan Lion Dog; but whether the breed should be referred to as "Tibetan" or "Chinese" is a source of both historical and political contention, as the subsequent section notes. A book on the breed states that "dog historians tend to have very strong opinions" on the subject.
DNA analysis placed the ancestors of today's Shih Tzu breed in the group of "ancient" breeds indicating "close genetic relationship to wolves". Another branch coming down from the "Kitchen Midden Dog" gave rise to the Papillon and Long-haired Chihuahua and yet another "Kitchen Midden Dog" branch to the Pug and Shih Tzu. It is also said that the breed originated in China, hence the name "Lion Dog", in 800 B.C. There are various theories of the origins of today's breed. Theories relate that it stemmed from a cross between the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso, a Tibetan dog gifted by the Dalai Lama to Chinese emperors near the end of the 17th century. Dogs during ancient times were selectively bred and seen in Chinese paintings. The dogs were favorites of the Chinese royals and so prized that, for years, the Chinese refused to sell, trade, or give any away. The first dogs of the breed were imported into Europe (England and Norway) in 1930 and were classified by the Kennel Club as "Apsos". The first European standard for the breed was written in England in 1935 by the Shih Tzu Club, and the dogs were recategorised as Shih Tzu. The breed spread throughout Europe, and was brought to the United States after World War II, when returning members of the U.S. military brought back dogs from Europe, in the mid 1950s. The Shih Tzu was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 in the Toy Group.
The breed is now recognized by all of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world. It is also recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale for international competition in Companion and Toy Dog Group, Section 5, Tibetan breeds. In the United States, the Shih Tzu ranked the 15th most popular breed in 2013, falling slightly in popularity since 2012, when it was placed in 11th position.
In 1934 the Shih Tzu Club of England was founded and the breed was officially recognised by the Kennel Club (UK) on May 7th. 1940 when it became eligible for Challenge Certificates, none were awarded until 1949.
A number of health issues, some of them hereditary, have been found in individual Shih Tzu, and are listed below.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland malfunctions and stops producing a hormone responsible for proper metabolism. This malfunction is commonly attributed to immune system problems. It usually affects middle-aged dogs and is seen in all breeds. Symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, muscle loss, and lethargy. This disease is usually diagnosed through blood tests. It can be effectively treated with drug therapy.
Intervertebral disk disease
Intervertebral disk disease in the dog is a common chondrodystrophic disorder manifested by acute back pain, loss of coordination, paresis, and loss of the ability to feel deep pain sensations. IVDD commonly occurs in certain toy breeds, such as Dachshund, Pekingese, French Bulldog, Beagle, Basset Hound, American Cocker spaniel, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, and Welsh Corgi.
Shih Tzu have a number of respiratory problems related to the shape of their face and head. Brachycephalic syndrome is a common problem and mostly affects dogs with short noses (brachycephalic breeds). An obstruction in the upper airways causes the dog to have laboured breathing. Not every brachycephalic dog will develop respiratory problems, but most will to some degree. Severe problems may require surgery.
It is very common for Shih Tzus to develop eye problems at any age, and even more so once they are older. Most veterinarians will recommend eye drops to assist with any eye irritations. Some dogs have allergies which causes excess discharge around the eye. Older Shih Tzu's are known to develop cataracts which can be corrected with surgery. If not treated, the dog may become blind in the eye that has the cataract. The distinctive large eyes can easily be scratched which may cause an ulcer. The dog will normally have the injured eye closed or half closed and may have excessive tears.
Some health issues in the breed are portosystemic shunt of the liver and hip dysplasia in standard sizes. There have been cases of Shih Tzu being epileptic, which in turn may lead to shortening of the life span of the Shih Tzu if untreated. Many Shih Tzu dogs are also prone to ear infections.
The Shih Tzu may be more prone than other breeds to get a blood disease called immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, which causes their immune system to attack itself and kill off their blood cells. This can be found through blood tests but among the signs are yellowing of the skin/gums, tiredness, loss of appetite, and loss of balance that occurs over two days.
The UK Kennel Club survey puts the median life span of a Shih Tzu at 13 years and 2 months, with most living 10–16 years
Kennel club differences
There is a difference between the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club (UK) Shih Tzu: