The Shih Tzu, pronounced as “sheed zoo”, is a dog breed that is known to be affectionate, playful, and outgoing. They are one of the best companion dogs that most households have today. Many dog lovers are in love with Shih Tzus because of their cute faces and big dark eyes that looks at you with a sweet expression. They are known to be lovers and not hunters. Let us know more about the Shih Tzu breed.
The origins of the Shih Tzu are ancient and are full of controversy and mystery. Based on a study, it revealed that the Shih Tzu breed is one of the oldest among the 14 dog breeds and some dog bones found in China have proven that they existed as early as 8,000 B.C.
There were some who believed that the breed was developed by the Tibetan Monks and they were given as gifts to Chinese royalty. And some speculated that the Shih Tzu breed came from the crossing of other breeds and the Lhasa Apso or Pekingese.
Whether the breed was developed in Tibet or China, it’s clear that Shih Tzu’s were treasured companions from the earliest times. There were also paintings, writings, and other arts from the China’s Tang Dynasty that shows small dogs that are similar to the Shih Tzu.
During the 13th century, the Mongolian Emperor Kubla Khan was reported by Marco Polo to have kept small “lion” dogs with train hunting lions not as prey but to keep them calm. Some people believed that the small “lion” dogs in that story were the Shih Tzu.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), Shih Tzu-type dogs were kept by Chinese royal families and they were mentioned in some documents from that period. They were described as small, intelligent, and docile dogs that resembled lions.
The Shih Tzu became popular in 1861 in the Imperial Court after a royal concubine became the Empress of China. One of the first royal edicts of Empress T’zu His was anyone caught torturing palace dogs would be put to death. She had a great love for animals and with that, she carried many breeding programs under the direct care of place eunuchs. She was also given a pair of magnificent Shih Tzus by the Dalai Lama during her reign. These dogs had their own palace and were trained to sit up and wave their paws when the Empress visited.
In 1908, the Empress died and after her death, royal families competed in producing dogs of the finest coats and colors. However, this competition led to selling poor-quality dogs in the market and good-quality ones were smuggled out of the palaces and given as gifts to foreign visitors.
In 1928, a pair of male and female Shih Tzus were brought to England from Peking by the wife of the quartermaster general of the north China command named Lady Brownrigg. Then, in 1933, a Shih Tzu was brought by a Mrs. Hutchins from China to Ireland and it was eventually bred to Lady Brownrigg’s Shih Tzu. They had one puppy and the three dogs formed the foundation of Lady Brownrigg’s kennel.
The first to import the Shih Tzu breed to the United States were Maureen Murdock and her nephew Philp Price. By the 1960’s, there were three Shih Tzu associations such as the Shih Tzu Club of America, the American Shih Tzu Association in Florida, and the Texas Shih Tzu Society. Two of the clubs merged in 1963, forming the American Shih Tzu Club. The Shih Tzu breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 as a member of the Toy Group.
Characteristics of a Shih Tzu
Average size: 9 inches to 10 inches tall
Average weight: 9 to 16 pounds
Both male and female Shi Tzu dogs can grow from 9 to 10 ½ inches tall and can weigh 9 to 16 pounds. They can live from 10 to 16 years. They have long, silky coat that looks gorgeous and comes in various colors such as white, gray, black, black and white, red and white, and gray and white. They are also called the Chrysanthemum faced dog because they have hair around their face and head that grows in all directions, resembling the flower.
Shih Tzus were known to be bred for the purpose of being a companion, therefore, you should not expect them to be hunters, guards, or retrievers. Being affectionate is dominant in their characteristics. They always want to cuddle with you and your lap is their favorite destination.
Caring for Shih Tzus
The Shih Tzu is a very adaptable dog and he does not mind where he lives as long as he’s with you. But they are housedogs and should not be kenneled outside because they are sensitive to heat. They are also not extremely active and they will be contented with just short walks every day.
Their gorgeous coats need extra care to prevent tangles and keep them looking clean. Brushing and combing them daily can help and frequent bathing, as often as once a week, is needed to keep them clean and fresh. It’s better to take them to professional groomers to clip their long locks, trim their nails, and clean their ears. It’s also important to take good care of their teeth by tooth brushing them regularly.
When feeding the Shih Tzu, the recommended daily amount is ½ to 1 cup of high quality dry food a day, depending on their age, size, activity level, and metabolism.
The Shih Tzu dog breed is best for those who are looking for toy dog companions at home. They can also be great companions for those who loves to travel, like going on long drives.