Friday, March 8, 2013


This breed of dogs comes from China.  Scientists who tested the DNA of the Shih Tzu found out that it is one of the oldest of all dog breeds, just like basenjis are.  Ancient breeds like us have genes that are close to wolves' genes, and our DNA has been found in skeletons from the same places where people lived 10,000 years ago.  There are paintings of Shih Tzu from as long ago as 1500, which is another way to prove that it is a very old breed.

In Mandarin, Shih Tzu means "lion dog."  The proper way to say it is sheet-soo.  If you say it wrong, you might end up saying a bad word for "poop."  The name of the breed can be either singular or plural, so you don't have to bother putting an "s" on the end of it.  In England in the 1930s, people gave these dogs the nickname of Chrysanthemum Dog because of the way their hair grows up from their noses and around their faces in all directions.  Sometimes they are also called Tibetan Lion Dogs.

Nobody knows exactly how the modern Shih Tzu got to be the way it is.  Probably it was bred to look like the lions that guard Chinese temples.  And this might have been done by crossing Pekingese dogs with Lhasa Apso dogs.  Shih Tzu were favorite lap dogs among the ladies in the Chinese court.

The first Shih Tzu dogs arrived in England and Norway in 1930.  They began to spread through Europe and were brought to the U.S. at the end of World War II by returning soldiers.  In 1969, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in the Toy Group.  All major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world now recognize the Shih Tzu.  And in international, FCI dog shows, it goes in the Companion and Toy Dog Group, Section 5, Tibetan breeds.

Photo by Mary Bloom
Shih Tzu have a double coat that is worn long for shows.  But Shih Tzu that are just family dogs usually get their coats cut short.  Here are some of the colors that Shih Tzu can be:  gold, white, brown, black mask gold, black-and-white, solid black, solid liver, liver-and-white, brindle-and-white, and gray-and-white.  Also a Shih Tzu can sometimes be solid blue in color.

Shih Tzu are 10"--11" tall, weigh 9--16 pounds, and live 12--16 years.  They are compact and solid, sweet, playful, and friendly.  They are not really meant to be watch dogs, although they may tell you if somebody is at the door.  But as soon as that person comes in, they will likely want to make friends.  Because it is so friendy, the Shih Tzu usually gets along well with other dogs, with cats, and with children.

The AKC ranks Shih Tzu at number 11 in terms of how many registrations there were in 2011 and 2012.  In 2007 the breed was number 9, and in 2002 it was number 10.  What these little dogs do best is sit in your lap and be companions, which is just what they were bred to do.  They are very sweet and very smart.  They do well in obedience classes, and they also are good at things like agility competition.  They don't need a whole lot of exercise, so they make good apartment dogs, but it's best to take them out for a walk every day.


Because Shih Tzu have short muzzles, they do not tolerate heat very well.  Also they may snore and wheeze and have other respiratory issues.  Sometimes they have back problems because of their short legs and long backs.  And if their hair gets in their eyes, it might cause irritation and infection.

But in general, this is a very nice breed of dog.  Mom has met some Shih Tzu at the Humane Society, and she says she liked them.  Usually they get adopted soon because a lot of people are big fans of the breed.  I told Mom that maybe we should get one, but she said she does not want any more dogs right now, especially not until she pays all of Nicky's vet bills.  So I guess we will not be getting a Shih Tzu.


  1. I think the Shih Tzu is such a cute dog....but I'm NOT saying they are cuter than Basenjis!! When I lived in CA, the Shih Tzu seemed to be "the dog of choice." I've never seen so many families with the Shih Tzus as the family dog! At that time, we had the Shi Tzu owners kind of looked at us a little odd! :)
    Love, AP

    1. Mom and I think Shih Tzu are really cute, too, and we like the fact that they are not high-energy dogs like viszlas. But I think the best dogs have short hair and long snouts, like basenjis and viszlas. Mom thinks so too. Mom says a Shih Tzu would have to get clippered all the time or else its hair would be too long. Also it would probably snore, and Mom says my snoring is enough for her to listen to right now. LOL
      Love, Piper

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