The Shih Tzu , pronounced “sheet zoo”, is a breed from Tibet. The very ancient breed with long silky fur originated in China. The dog may also be called the Tibetan Lion Dog.
A small dog with a short muzzle, large dark eyes, and a long coat, the Shih Tzu stands no more than 10 1/2 inches with an ideal weight of 10 to 16 lbs. Dropped ears are covered with long fur, and the heavily furred tail is carried curled over the back. The Shih Tzu comes in a range of colors that include various shades of gold and white, and red and white. Other colors include black mask gold, solid red, black and white, solid black, solid liver, liver and white, blue and white, brindle and white, and silver and white. Though not as common there are also solid blue Shih Tzus. A blaze of white on the forehead and tail-tip are frequently seen. The Shih Tzu is slightly longer than it is tall and dogs ideally should carry themselves with distinctly arrogant carriage. Often times, a noticeable feature is very crooked bottom teeth. The traditional long silky coat that reaches the floor requires daily brushing to avoid tangles. Often the coat is cut short for easier care. For conformation showing, the coat must be left in its natural state, although trimming for neatness around the feet and rear is allowed. Owners often tie strands of hair from the Shih Tzu’s head into a pony tail that sticks up. The Shih Tzu was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 in the Toy Group.
Shih Tzu are short-muzzled dogs and are very sensitive to high temperatures. Many airlines that ship dogs will not accept them for shipment when temperatures at any point on the planned itinerary exceeds 75 °F. The life span of a Shih Tzu is 12-16 years although some variation from this range is possible.
The Shih Tzu is a friendly lap dog that at one time was bred to be a companion dog for Chinese royalty. Some say living in the imperial palace gave the Shih Tzu an arrogant quality. They are not afraid to stand up for themselves and tend to be sweet, playful, and trusting as well. They should be introduced to small children at a young age. A number of health issues, some of them hereditary, have been found in the breed. Some of which include portosystemic shunt of the liver, hip dysplasia and luxating patellas. Dental disease is also very common.