What Is A Shih Tzu?
Shih Tzu is an ancient dog breed known for its small size, long coat, and friendly personality. It is one of the most popular pet breeds in the world because of their playful nature and loving disposition.
Shih Tzu are easy to train, making them ideal for first-time pet parents. With proper care and attention, they can become wonderful companions that bring joy and happiness into any home.
The Shih Tzu is a small, fluffy dog with a distinctive appearance. It has long hair on its face, ears, tail and legs. Onthe stomach and chest areas, they have either silky or curly hair.
They may look arrogant, but they aren’t. Your perception depends on whether the dog is prepped for a Show or preparing to join you on the couch to watch your favorite show. They are very lovable and loving.
An adult Shih Tzu will weigh between 8 and 16 lbs. and stand from just under 8 inches to as tall as 11 inches. Their coat colors are black, white, brindle, liver and white, dark brown, light brown, black and white, blue, and gold. Once you find your Shih Tzu, you can expect to be together 10 to 16 years.
Shih Tzu are lively and friendly, renowned for their perky, happy temperaments. And they get along well with people of all ages, with other dogs, and with pets of different species. It is rare to find a testy Shih Tzu. Most are just sweethearts. At the same time, Shih Tzu are highly independent, so they are not considered the most obedient breed.
Urgent, Important Request
PLEASE obtain your new family member from a shelter or a reputable breeder.
Origin and History
Bred by Tibetan monks over 1,000 years ago as companion dogs, the Shih Tzu are highly regarded as sacred animals. The breed is believed to have been a result of cross-breeding between two older Tibetan breeds, the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese.
Shih Tzu means Lion, and the dogs have been referred to as “Little Lions.” In the West, the name Shih Tzu is pronounced “sheed-zoo” or “sheet-su.” The Chinese say “sher-zer.” Generally speaking, the word “Shih Tzu” is both singular and plural, but some do use “Shih Tzus.”
The Lhasa Apso is a lavishly coated, thousand-year-old breed that acted as sentinels inside palaces and monasteries high in the Himalayas, while mastiffs guarded the exterior. Simultaneously, Lhasas are smart, confident, and a little stubborn, while being family comedians that are regal and aloof with strangers.
Less that twelve inches tall (at the shoulder), they are small and hardy. Weighing in at 12 to 18 pounds, this intelligent breed can be a family member for 12 to 15 years. As might be expected, Lhasas require a lot of grooming; brushing 2 or 3 times a week. You might not expect that they are fine with being home alone, and that they tolerate cold well. They are comfortable living in an apartment.
The Lhasa Apso is known for its long, dense coat that requires regular grooming to prevent matting and tangling.That beautiful coat comes in a variety of colors, including gold, cream, and gray.
In my opinion, the image of the Lhasa Apso is thoroughly exotic, elegant, and beautifully well balanced.
The Pekingese is a compact Toy companion that is one of several breeds created for the ruling classes of ancient China. Pekes are undyingly loyal. Indeed, these small dogs are charming and confident companions. While they can be tremendously independent and opinionated, they will develop a very close relationship with their favorite human.
Pekingese tend to tolerate children, but they put on the brakes when it comes to rough-housing.
The Pekingese coat is very long at the neck and shoulders, so it kind of looks like they have a lion’s mane. Weighing up to 14 pounds, they make good watchdogs.
Between 1300 AD and 1600 AD, Shih Tzu were reportedly the favorite family pet of most of the members of the Ming Dynasty. Said to have been raised in the Forbidden City and the Palaces, sadly, we have only word-of-mouth history. Most of the “hard” evidence was destroyed during the Communist Revolution in 1911 because the Communists didn’t like dogs. They thought they were frivolous creatures. As a result, dogs with Chinese histories were almost all lost during that period.
Thankfully, some were smuggled out of China and brought to other Countries: England, Scandinavia, the US, and Canada.
It was not until the 1930s that the breed was reintroduced to the Western world. In 1935, the Kennel Club of England recognized the Shih Tzu as a breed.
The Shih Tzu breed was considered so special that they were often given as gifts to Chinese emperors, who in turn gave them as gifts to other rulers and nobles throughout Asia.
As time passed, the breed spread throughout China and became popular among the wealthy and noble classes.
By the time World War II ended, the breed had spread throughout Europe, and GIs brought Shih Tzu and other breeds home to the United States in the mid-1950s.
What Makes Shih Tzus Different From Other Dog Breeds?
Shih Tzu are blessed by Buddha – and the markings on their heads and bodies prove it.
Shih Tzu are considered to be sacred beasts that are blessed by Buddha. According to legend, Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom, was accompanied by a Shih Tzu.
Buddha’s blessing of Shih Tzu is reflected in a form called the “Start of Buddha.” also known as “Buddha’s Kiss.” Thisrefers to the white patch of hair on top of the dog’s head. In addition, proving that Buddha used to ride the dog in its lion form, there are markings on the dog’s back which are said to be the saddle Buddha used.
Some forms of the legends say that the mark on the dog’s head are where Buddha blessed the dog with a kiss. Other legends are that Buddha blessed the dog by laying his finger on the dog’s forehead.
In either case, Shih Tzu is no ordinary breed of dog.
As previously mentioned, Shih Tzu is referred to as “the Little Lion,” because it is said to resemble a lion. The lion is very sacred in the Buddhist religion. The Pekingese is also referred to as “the Little Lion.”
In 1930s England, Shih Tzu were also called “the Chrysanthemum-faced Dog,” because the dog’s face sort of resembles the flower.
Finally, it is said that, in contemporary Mandarin, the breed is known as the “Xi Shi dog.” This speaks to the breed’s beauty, because in ancient China, there were four “most beautiful” women, one of whom was Xi Shi.
American Kennel Club, Article: Shih Tzu History: How the Royal Tibetan Dog Was Saved From Extinction, by AKC Staff, Published March 23, 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/shih-tzu-history-royal-tibetan-dog-saved-extinction/
Britannica, Article: Shih Tzu, Written by Caroline Coile, Fact-checked by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Last Updated March 30, 2023, https://www.britannica.com
Daily Paws, Article: Lhasa Apso, by Molly Brown, Updated, August 11, 2021, https://www.dailypaws.com/dogs-puppies/dog-breeds/lhasa-apso
Hill’s Pet, https://www.hillspet.com
Image – Shih tzu with untrimmed hair covering eyes, which generally needs to be tied up in a top knot to avoid this issue. Mandoo1234, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0> via Wikimedia Commons
Image – Chrysanthemum flower, uploaded on 21 February, 2014, Photographer: Jayasudha, License: CC0 – Free to Use, Attribution Optional, https://pixahive.com/photo/chrysanthemum-flower/
Image – Lhasa Apso – Dekoempfer, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons,
Image – Pekingese Puppy – Flickr user iolaire, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0> , via Wikimedia Commons