Shih Tzu dogs are, in my opinion, the most interesting and
appealing breed of dog. Their unique history has resulted in
intelligent, special companions, capable of understanding dozens of human
expressions and even recognizing and responding to their owners' moods.
They don't shed, and Shih Tzu are the only small dogs that rarely bark.
Shih Tzu (pronounced Sheed Zoo) are small but sturdy, compact dogs with heavy
coats in many varieties of colors. They are extremely playful, even as
adults. Each dog will exhibit a unique personality and establish its own
method of communicating its needs and desires. Beginning as puppies, these
dogs study their owner and quickly learn numerous verbal expressions such as "go
for a ride in the car", "ready to go outside" and even "I need you to pee-pee".
They easily learn family members' names and will consider themselves true
members of the family.
While there are many positive attributes to the Shih Tzu breed, naturally there
are also some drawbacks. Shih Tzu aren't the dogs for people not prepared to
spend time with their dogs. They have been bred for hundreds of years
explicitly to be human companions. They will not be happy if left alone
all or even most of the time. Also, while Shih Tzu don't shed, their
hair will grow just like a human's hair (as opposed to most dogs having fur),
and will get dirty and matted if not properly maintained. As
puppies, their hair typically doesn't mat, but as adults they need baths every
few weeks, and either regular haircuts or routine brushing and combing.
And finally, Shih Tzu can be independent and sometimes stubborn dogs. Like
any dog, they are easily trained to obey their masters. But without that
training, they often interpret owners' commands as mere suggestions.
Anyone considering purchasing a Shih Tzu should consider what characteristics
they want in a dog and whether these special dogs are compatible with those
desired characteristics. While Shih Tzu may not be appropriate if you want
a watch dog that will happily stay outside, they are ideal if you want a small
buddy that sleeps at your feet and will try and make you feel happier at the end
of a tough day. These characteristics are the result of a long and
fascinating history, summarized below.
A Brief History
While the origin of this breed is uncertain and
debated, some believe the breed originated in Tibet and, from there, was
introduced to China, perhaps as a gift from the Dalai Lama to the Chinese
emperor. Shih Tzu and the Tibetan breed Lhasa Apsos share similar
Shih Tzu (which roughly translates to mean "lion dog") were bred for centuries
in China. Prior to the Chinese communist revolution, Shih Tzu were
carefully bred by palace eunuchs to be companions for emperors and their
families. They were bred to be loving, mellow companions that would
not yap constantly and would be outwardly friendly and gentle towards everyone.
During the communist revolution in China, the Shih Tzu was almost completely
lost as a distinct breed. Because of their long time association with the
Chinese aristocracy, revolutionaries ordered these symbols of the past
destroyed. A few British visitors to China were able to salvage fourteen
Shih Tzu, from which all of today's special dogs are descendent.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) admitted Shih Tzu to the miscellaneous class in
1955, but there was some confusion due to cross breeding Shih Tzu with Lhasa
Apsos. The breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1969. Today
Shih Tzu are one of the most popular breeds in the world, and is consistently
ranked in the top ten popular breeds in the U.S.
To learn more about Shih Tzu, please see
The Shih Tzu (2006) by Deborah Wood, published by T.F.H.
Publications, Inc. Information regarding Shih Tzu colors can be found at
The American Shih Tzu
Club. Also see AKC.org for more
See dog.com for additional breed information
and for pet merchandise.